y si quieren saber de mi pasado, es preciso decir una mentira, les dire que llegue de un mundo raro, que no se del dolor, que triunfe en el amor y que nunca he llorado…
When I look in mirror I sometimes don’t recognize myself. I mean literally, I don’t recognize myself. Recently, I have actually begun to notice that my face is literally changing and I see my apa’s look circa the early/mid 1960s. Feelings that consume me when I look in the mirror range from confusion and sadness to awe. There’s nothing you can do to prepare yourself for a moment in which looking in the mirror means meeting a person you knew only in fantasy. Each morning I greet the familiar stranger that looks back at me in the mirror and I prepare myself to start my day..
Every now and then my dad calls me mijo on the phone. My parents for the most part still refer to me with female pronouns and use my birth name – this is something I’m totally fine with because they asked me what name they should call me when I first came out to them as trans. I told them that they should refer to me in the way that they feel most comfortable, I wanted to ease them into things and certainly didn’t want to create a dynamic in which they felt guilty or bad for getting things wrong. My transition as it relates to my family, has never been about them recognizing me as male, it was more so them understanding that despite the fact that they have always known me and understood me to be female that I did not in fact always see myself as such. Nonetheless, my heart flutters a bit in the moments in which my dad calls me mijo on the phone and also when my mom confessed to me that when strangers ask her if I’m her son she says yes. The intimacies I share with my parents are not bound to a gendered recognition via language in the form of (he, him) I feel that as they see me continue to change, and witness the way I move through the world as a man, they understand more and more the hidden torment I endured as a child (by torment I mean bullying and a prolonged sense of dispair that was inarticulable) and my propensity to being secretive about my personal life. I feel as though I’ve been a much better son to them than I have been a daughter. This is not to say that being a good daughter means fulfilling normative ideals related to girlhood/womanhood, I fulfilled all of these expectations and more. When I say I was not a good daughter, I mean to say that I was not present – I just couldn’t give the love or appreciation they deserved from me because I was always psychically and emotionally elsewhere. So when I say that I’m a good son, I mean to say that I am present in their lives and bound to them in a way that is generative and finally fulfilling for both of us.
I’m at a moment in which my outward appearance closely resembles the person I’ve spent a lifetime conjuring and creating in my inner world. This at times fills me with intense narcissism, a narcissism I’m not apologetic about and that I indulge here and other spaces (Read Raquel Gutierrez’s essay on radical narcissism here – which is a huge source of inspiration for me these days). I don’t write or share much about this psychic process of becoming, coming into manhood, it is one thing to look in the mirror and see a grown man looking back at you and another to be interpellated by the world at large as such. If that is not already complex, I live and work in Arizona – a state in which laws (SB 1070 and HB 2281) “license bald racism from the public” and the newly proposed “Bathroom Bill” (SB 1040) which targets trans* and gender non-conforming folks and certainly foments virulent transphobia. For example my mobility is largely dictated by where I feel safe to use the restroom. I literally ask myself if I’m going to be in close proximity to restrooms that are safe before I decided to consume large amounts of liquid, I think about this every. single. day. I’m a survivor of sexual assault and hate motivated physical assault, I will always carry those memories and such experiences frame the decisions I make about assuring my own safety no matter how much I may pass, no matter how intelligible my masculinity. Intelligibility and recognition does not protect me from violence, it only take one slip, one slight of that intelligibility. Passing and intelligibility as male comes with an entirely new frame interpersonal contact loaded with textured subtleties and nuances related to masculinity that I didn’t know existed and for me those nuances, social cues are largely organized by race. My relationship with white men and men of color are markedly different yet equally tenuous and delicately complex. I’m out to most of my students and all it takes is a quick google search to figure out that I am trans* and a scholar of transgender studies. I made the choice to be be out and while at times it can be difficult because I often find myself exhausted by the intensity of living a life in which I’m consistently vulnerable, it is indeed a beautiful life.
As I continue to (mis)recognize myself each morning, I’ve reached a point in this journey in which I have decided to move forward with top surgery. When I first began my transition I wasn’t quite sure if surgery was something I wanted to do. Nowadays, I can’t seem to stop thinking about it. I’m not quite sure what prompted shift from indecision to certainty, but I do know that this is something I must do. Despite feeling so compelled to do this, I am afraid. Fear, however, is much more about the fact that this is the first decision I’ve felt completely certain about in a long time and since taking testosterone it is a decision about my body that I’ve made for no one but myself. Meaning, past decisions about my body were always in relationship to others’ expectations and desires. There is something a bit scary, about feeling so certain about something.
My body, specifically my relationship to my body has played a large role in shaping my identity. For a long time, and still to a certain extent I was extremely shy. That shyness and vulnerability stems from traumas endured in childhood and young adulthood. I’ve always been kind of a dreamer and committed to the fantasies of my imagined worlds, that have long served as survival mechanisms to deal with the physical world. Now I find myself in a place where my imagined worlds, my imagined self has begun to make appearances in the physical world, in those brief moments when I look in the mirror each morning. The lines between the world I have always needed to create an escape from and the world in which I have created a portrait of the person, the man I’ve always longed to be have become blurred. This marks a moment for me, when I can feel the pieces falling into place after years of struggling to get myself out of bed in the morning. I know that I still have much work to do as I continue to craft what I like to think of as a brown, queer, trans masculinity. I have been blessed to have many friends that have been with me over what seems like a beautiful, yet tormented journey that’s really been on-going since I was a kid. I mindfully acknowledge that those I love are an integral part of shaping the familiar stranger I see in the mirror and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.
My dear friends, loved ones, readers, passerby-ers, I ask you to continue to support me in the next chapter of what seems like a series of transition(s). I will be having top surgery in San Francisco on June 26th – I ask for your love and your blessings and hope that you will continue to move with me as I enter this next chapter of growth. I love you all more than you could ever know.