Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Trans Man Who Loved Me

Most of the stories I write are made up. This one isn't. This one's true.

A long time ago -- in the early '80s, to be more exact -- I lived in a resort area and worked at a country inn that had a casual but quite excellent restaurant. (See, this is the kind of job you end up with when you have a couple of useless degrees and decide the corporate world isn't for you.) One of the cooks was from a nearby city. He was a gay man, the one I mentioned in my post, "Don't Want No Corvette Cocks," at the Chicks and Dicks blog. I think I called him Billy. Two or three of Billy's gay friends would often visit him on weekends. One was, technically, bi. I'll call him Carl. He was rather effeminate and had a decided preference for men, but once in a blue moon he would crush on a woman. I became a member of that exclusive club. And, believe me, it was pretty damned exclusive. Carl figured he'd had about 500 male lovers and maybe 10 or 12 who were female. (HIV-AIDS hadn't yet, by the way, made a significant incursion into that part of the country.)

This resort area in general and the inn owners in particular were rather laid back and liberal. So Billy and his circle of friends had no real problem finding acceptance. Except for one buddy, Sal, who was a talented silversmith. He had a great sense of humor and was every bit as much fun as Billy's other friends. Problem was, Sal was perceived as a "bull dyke" instead of a man. Because he was born female.

Testosterone injections and sex reassignment surgeries were as expensive then as they are now, and a whole lot harder to come by. There was no way a humble artisan could afford either one. Public understanding was even more elusive. Not much press had been given to transgender persons.

When Sal became infatuated with me, I didn't know what to make of it. When Sal became jealous and resentful of my relationship with Carl (because Sal considered himself far more masculine -- and, in many ways, was), I became even more confused. In an attempt to understand, I visited Sal at his jewelry shop. We had a long and enlightening visit. It was the first time I'd heard anyone talk about being born into the wrong body, about feeling a severe and disturbing disconnect between his physical person and the one who was trapped inside him. I got it, though. His sincerity was impossible not to get.

Sal kept telling me, "Try it; you'll like it" (his exact words). He meant having an intimate relationship with him. The appeal left me dumbstruck. I was 75% straight woman and 25% gay man. That mix didn't allow for attraction to Sal. In fact, I wouldn't have been attracted to Sal, except as a friend, had he been born a heterosexual male. I didn't want to say that, though, because I didn't want to hurt his feelings. All I could say was, "I don't think it would work," and apologize.

It was an intensely uncomfortable situation all around. I had a mostly gay lover (and dealt with over-the-bar snark and scorn from one of my former straight-dude hookups because of it). I had a transgender "admirer" who was hung up on me and stared daggers at Carl whenever we were together. Poor innocent Billy didn't know what to do, since we were all his friends. I was guilt-ridden as hell and had no idea how to make any of it better. So I just rode it out.

Six or seven years later, I wrote a novel called Every Long Season in which there's a main character modeled after Sal. It was pretty good but pretty grim, and I never submitted it anywhere, because back then, nobody would have wanted it. In a way, the story was my apology to Sal for feeling his pain and not being able to do a damned thing about it except try to comprehend it. I couldn't change who I was any more than he could change who he was.

So what's my point? I guess it's this. Regardless of our open-mindedness and good intentions, we can't be everything to everybody. Guilt is pointless. We can (and should) be understanding and sympathetic and supportive, we can (and should) try to fight the good fight or help others fight it, but at some level we're immutable. We can't alter the essentials of who and what we are. From our prenatal lives onward, a host of forces shape us. Tastes and opinions can and often do change, but we can't simply morph from one mindset into another or replace an aversion with a preference because we or other people would like us to. And that isn't bad, unless it's . . . BAD. Like mean-spirited and destructive. Like abusive-partner and serial-rapist and mass-murderer and child-molester bad; like con-man and Somali-pirate and Westboro Baptist Church bad. However, if someone is simply trying to do the best he can with the hand he's been dealt, he's doing okay, as far as I'm concerned. It's all about the Golden Rule.

I couldn't help being reminded of this chapter in my life when Jessewave got thrown into the centrifuge. We writers and readers of m/m romance aren't narrow-minded numbskulls. Hell, we wouldn't have anything to do with this genre if we were. But we can't be everything to everybody -- no matter how warmly we embrace the rainbow in our hearts and, whenever we can, in our daily lives. That doesn't make us "stupid" or "juvenile" or "despicable." It sure as shit doesn't make us any kind of "phobic." And we aren't "oppressors." Lordie, people, think about the meanings of words before you start flinging them around like toxic confetti!

I wish there weren't so many blame-throwers around, so many self-appointed arbiters of righteousness. What the hell is with that? Do they think they can read our souls? I wish people who routinely got on their high-horses would fucking dismount once and for all. Can't all these sniffy, judgmental individuals see that most of us aren't shit-for-brains ignoramuses or evildoers? Can't they see we're not trying to hurt or disrespect anybody before they go into full-tilt, finger-pointing boogie mode?

Guess not. But it would benefit the human population a whole lot more if they targeted the true and frightening enemies of GLBTQ people. There are a Million Moms out there, for starters, to fuel their disgust.


Chris said...

Wise words, KZ.

K. Z. Snow said...

Thanks, hon.

LJ or Star. said...

Wonderful, thought-provoking post. Thank you for sharing.

K. Z. Snow said...

You're welcome. Just had to get my thoughts down lest my head explode. :)

K. Z. Snow said...

Oh . . . and thanks for stopping by!

LJ or Star. said...

Just had to get my thoughts down lest my head explode.

I know that feeling. :)