Through the Brick Wall…and Back Again

Apr 05, 2009

Posted by abandonedboyjon

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me about a concept album the band Of Montreal put out called “Skeletal Lamping’ which featured a character, the lead singer’s alter ego, called Georgie Fruit. Georgie is a person who has been through multiple sex changes, from man to woman and back again many times. Predictably, my employer walked by and said that she couldn’t understand that at all. To her, “it’s like make up your mind already!” she said. It would be entirely lovely if things worked out like that, wouldn’t it? If every decision we made was right for us forever? But just saying that now gives me a good laugh. Things don’t always go that way. The decisions we make are based on what has happened to us in the past and what we desire for ourselves in the future. There’s just too many variables to predict a set outcome.

As I learned about Georgie Fruit, I was of course reminded of Hedwig from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” There are two characters in that story that choose to reverse their transitions. Hedwig’s sex change from male to female is botched and though s/he lives as a woman, Hedwig begins to feel lost in the definition of gender. The question is raised: did s/he even still have the possibility of being a man again if this surgery left him/her with nothing but an “angry inch?” The people who first screened that movie for me said that it was all about being okay with yourself at the present moment in time. I still agree with that. How can you live with the idea that your choices leave you with no choices?

size=”3″ style=””>Probably because my idea of heaven is a world where magic is real and I am a wizard, but whenever I have heard Jo talk about people who have been touched by the magical world, whether they are a squib or someone who has married a muggle and lives in the muggle world, like the Snapes, I always feel really sad. The concept of someone going through that brick wall, only to come back and live without away from all that wonder and possibility, well, I have trouble seeing the good in that sometimes. In many ways, transitioning reminds me of Harry’s introduction to magic. You learn about different ways to see the world and your scope of what is possible just broadens remarkably. Personally, I’ve felt privileged to be someone who as the ability to go down such a path, to see what I’ve seen. But I think the most dangerous thing I could ever do is to lock that door behind me. The concept of living like Mrs. Figg on Privet Drive with a million cats or like Filch, who is surrounded by magic, even has magic cast upon him, and yet cannot be that magic, is scary. And the idea of having long hair and showing my curves? That’s positively nauseating to me. In fact, the idea that I would ever transition back seems so ludicrous and unlikely, it feels almost not worth thinking about. But what if I did? If I chose to live as a woman again, what kind would I be? I’d be the kind who had seen another side of the coin, had lived it, and I’d be a more understanding person for that, and how could that ever be a bad thing?

We can learn much from fiction, from the Georgie Fruits, the Hedwigs, the Harrys, but nothing rings true like a true story. The novel Stone Butch Blues is a semi-autobiographical account of the life and transitions of Les Feinberg, definitely the single most important figure in the movement for transgender rights. Stone Butch Blues is the story of Jess, a transgender who is born female and transitions using gray market steroids in the sixties, in part because living as a man allowed him/her to escape persecution as a butch, and then back again after Stonewall became the first real tangible success of the Gay Rights Movement. Today, Les, nearly sixty, prefers to use the gender neutral pronouns (“hir” and “ze.”) It’s hard not be completely in awe of Les’ bravery and honesty, and it’s tempting to idolize hir, but ze has never invited that. When you read Stone Butch Blues, you get the distinct sense that this is a person who has understood something many have run from ever even thinking about and that that has given Les some sense of freedom. Being an incredibly powerful writer, Les probably said it better than I ever could: “I have shaped myself surgically and hormonally twice in my life, and I reserve the right to do it again.” No fear. No remorse. And really, no brick wall at all.

8 Responses to Through the Brick Wall…and Back Again

Avatar ImageThe Silver Doe music says: This is very interesting. And I'll be the first to admit that I do have a little trouble grasping the idea. When I read "She's Not There," the autobiography of a transgendered person, the way that she described it was that her whole life she had associated and felt like a woman even though she was a man. So I suppose it's confusing to me why you would switch back again. But I think it is good that there is more literature and information becoming available now.Avatar Imageabandonedboyjon says: you bring up an interesting point. it's true that many trans people feel as though they were born in the wrong body, or that they knew they were really a boy or girl. but there are many others including myself who dont really identify with that phrasing. I think it has a lot to do with how I was raised, never really experiencing the pressure of gender roles in my early youth. I didn't start to feel that unhappy until puberty, and I couldn't have told you what that meant back then, in fact it took me a good decade to figure out what that meant. also, there are many who view the trans and gay movements more as a fight for general gender and sexual expression. we embrace the gray, do not believe in binary gender, and acknowledge that trans culture has existed for an extremely long time and in all kinds of societies across the world. so there can be no set definitions really, but if you find strength in identifying with a certain group, there's no lack of choices. there are men who see themselves as men but dress as women, there are people who believe they have two spirits of different genders, there are butches who like to be called he but take pride in being women. and so it can be a very long process to understand and define yourself. many people end up custom designing their own phrase for 'what they are.' but I think the best way to deal with that is to live like it's your last day and not be afraid to believe in what your feeling. possibilty is nothing to be afraid of. Avatar ImageDorisTLC says: I love how you allow me (and everyone else) to see into your feelings. While I'm always supportive of choices - reading your thoughts have made me more aware of your struggle while you make those choices. I walk away from each post with a newfound awareness. Thanks for enlightening me --Avatar ImageSirEdwardsGuardian says: I have to agree with Doris. Thank you for enlightening so many of us and thank you for raising awareness.Avatar ImageMaryam7552 says: I think that this idea is very interesting. This type of information really makes you think about choices. Avatar ImageMRC316 says: This is a topic I didn't really know much about, but now I'm somewhat interested in learning about it. Thanks for sharing your experiences and feelings.Avatar ImageNargleCatcher says: Wow, this is very interesting. I thank you for informing me :]Avatar Imagedead_not_sleeping says: god, nearly every time i read your blog i'm impressed with the depth of your understanding of these issues and your compassion and understanding for the people involved. plus, you have really good taste: of montreal and hedwig and the angry inch are both on my "awesome things" list. (not to mention harry potter. of *course* harry potter.) i had a boyfriend once, a pretty straight guy, and we were having this conversation about identity. racially, he's kind of in between: from two very americanized hispanic families, one mexican, one puerto rican. he speaks no spanish, looks "white" (however you define that), and has (as far as i know) never been to puerto rico at least, but he identifies strongly as latino. we were also talking about geekhood: i am a geek and proud of it, and though others have tagged me with this negatively, i embrace the label as my own. he, however, has many geeky attributes (reads comics, loves kevin smith movies, etc) but doesn't really think of himself as a geek. and i, being feminist, bisexual, and somewhat gender-uncertain (and basically just fascinated with lgbt/queer issues in general) challenged him with some questions about his own gender. cause beyond the ambivalence of his race and his geekiness, he struck me as somewhat contradictory gender-wise, yet not aware of it. on the one hand, his friends in high school were mainly girls, and he's very sensitive (loves silly romantic comedies and listens well to your troubles), and he avoids conflict and tries to mediate things, like a lot of girls instinctively do (because they've been raised to be "nice"...leading to all sorts of passive aggressivenes...but i won't get into that). but then again, he makes fart jokes with the best of them, and is pretty butch in appearance, and does the chivalry thing to a fault. there were many components of his personality that seemed typical of both genders, and in much more equivalent proportions than i usually see. so, i asked him about it as we were talking about the rest of this identity stuff. and he said that he pretty much had decided in high school that he was a culture of one, a race of one, that he'd created this identity...and that included his gender. i *loved* that idea, that you could create your own race, gender, etc. all these things that our culture puts pressure on us for, and it just sort of rolled off him. he wasn't really all that interested in lgbt issues because it had never really mattered to him what other people saw him as, and he was, after all, biologically male and interested in girls, so no problem there. but creating your own gender...i think that's a pretty enlightened idea. not everyone has to be male, female, or strictly transgendered. nobody creates brick walls except yourself, in the end. society just makes you *think* they're really there. on a related note, there's this novel i'm reading about a kid who goes back and forth between genders. the author does a very good job of writing the main character as a boy at the beginning, then as he (the character, at this point, still mostly uses male pronouns for himself, so i shall as well--mostly) starts getting more into his identity as "valerie" he seems more and more like a girl (which is sort of indefinable and definitely fluid) at least when he's using that identity. and for a long time, he doesn't want to be forced to choose one identity over the other, because they both are valuable to him. they both have advantages: as tuck, he is comfortable with his geeky tendencies, doesn't get glanced at twice in a computer store, and can hang out with "the boys" as one of them; while as valerie, she has fun babysitting, goes on dates with her boyfriend, and is accepted as "one of the girls" among his female friends. the novel downplays political correctness and concentrates on how *this individual* navigates gender in his own life, but the author's pretty good about putting in some nice epiphanies about the nature of gender and sexuality, and how much or how little they factor into one's personality, one's value as a person, how one is treated, and the decisions one has to make in life. it's a good novel, so far, and available online (actually i don't know if it's even in print); the writing's not particularly elegant, but the characters feel real, and their ups and downs are compelling. it's called (somewhat jokingly i think) "the saga of tuck." very blog entry, once again. keep it up; i'm all ears. (or is it eyes?)

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