Obligatory Thanksgiving Post

I’ll start by saying this – I’m not ungrateful. I am thankful for many things in my life right now, as challenging as it is. But I’m certainly not looking forward to Thanksgiving Day this year. I wished I was working so I’d have an excuse, but both jobs are closed.

So here’s the cast of characters:

Aunt D. – she lives next door, and is the only one who has seen me week to week wearing feminine clothes and makeup. She’s a hardcore republican who sends emails about how Obama and democrats ruin everything. On halloween I was wearing lipstick. She thought it was a costume. Her boyfriend is much the same.

Aunt K. – The most levelheaded and liberal of my aunts, she is the one I get along with most. And possibly the only one I actually like. Her boyfriend is also similar.

Aunt L. – She’s a fairly conservative biker with a biker husband. They’re fairly educated, and very opinionated and blunt. PC is not part of their vocabulary. He’s an immature pain in the….yeah…sometimes, but under that they both mean well.

Uncle R. – He talks like an Italian gangster. He is not above pointing out flaws and making fun. And “faggot” and “n***er” are words that are not uncommon for him. Not a holiday goes by without a gay joke. Not purposefully mean, but totally inconsiderate.

Grandma – soft spoken, quiet, 92. Enough said.
I haven’t seen these people in about a year. The last time, I wore an earring in one ear, my hair was only a few inches long, and i was wearing men’s clothes. I got comments about the hair and shaved beard.

This year I’ll be sporting pigtails, a pair of earrings, some makeup, and androgynous, feminine leaning clothing. And a mysterious gender-based tattoo.

I won’t correct my name. I won’t correct my gender. I might quip back if someone says something about how I look, but I’ll tolerate it. I won’t make a scene. I won’t make this Thanksgiving “that Thanksgiving when…” But if someone calls me out, if someone whips out “you look like a girl,” after a couple glasses of wine, I’ll have no choice. “That’s the idea.”

I have to come out to them eventually. But the later the better. The more established I am, the more legal documents in place (the name change is in progress), the better.

My girlfriend is coming this year. Only Aunt D and K have met her. Hopefully that will be enough of a distraction. Hopefully they’ll be tame with her there. But probably not, if history means anything.

So keep the wine coming. Keep the food coming. And keep the clock moving. At least Christmas is hosted at my house. And yes, I am hanging a Natalie stocking. Whether my mother takes it down or not, well…
Today is also the Transgender Day of Remembrance, where all the lives taken by murder or suicide are recognized and mourned. I think this is a super important part of the community. 40% of trans people attempt or commit suicide. 1 in 12 are murdered. I wanted to make an event, but unfortunately I couldn’t find one that fit my schedule, so instead I’ll take my own moment to reflect on the victims of transphobia today. I hope you do the same.

So I’ll be back and posting again the week after Thanksgiving. I deserve a week off from blogging, right? Rest assured, when I come back, I’ll still be fighting like a grrrl.

– Natalie

The Place, Not The Guy

We got off the Subway and landed on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. It was the last stop of the day before a four hour ride back home, and my heart was jumping in my chest a bit.

Tuesday was my second trip to NYC, and the one thing I really wanted to see, previously just a historical unicorn in my mind, was about to come unto view. 57 Christopher Street. 55 Christopher. 53. There it was. The Stonewall Inn.

The friend I went with had to look it up the night before. My girlfriend didn’t know what Stonewall was. But this place felt like Mecca to me. I turned to face it, walking on holy ground.

And I looked for a minute. I kept in my mind what had happened there, on the spot I was standing, forty-five years ago. Rainbow flags and a heart banner were hanging above my head. “Where pride began,” the words on the banner proclaimed.

In 1969, gay bars were illega.l. Gay acts were illegal. So the bars were run by the mob. Periodically, the police would raid, confiscate booze, and lock the doors on the way out after getting a kickback. They would reopen, and business as usual. Stonewall was no exception.

June 28, 1969. The bar had been shut down the week before. But the police were back. They went in not expecting a problem, but the patrons were sick of it. Wearing the opposite gender clothing was illegal, and the trans people were being searched to determine gender. The people allowed to leave started to gather in front of the bar, and the crowd started to get a little bit rowdy. The arrests started. An officer shoved a trans woman who then hit him back. The crowd started throwing coins, a symbolic gesture of the payoffs the cops got. Sylvia Rivera, another trans woman, allegedly threw the first bottle. And then the riot started. The patrons trapped the police in the bar until reinforcements came and the crowd dispersed. And the LGBT rights movement kicked off. But too often the gay movement is cited, and the trans part once again overlooked.

Sylvia went on to fight for trans and gay rights literally until her death. But she felt betrayed by the gay community for letting the trans community fight for their rights, and then cutting them out of legislation later when it would benefit them. We’re on the cusp of those trans rights that Sylvia was fighting for right now, almost half a century later, but still far from where we need to be. If you want to know more about the trans rights movement, I can’t recommend enough researching this woman.

And there I was. Where she had been so long ago, fighting for the same rights that we fight for today. I may have looked like a tourist to my friend, my girlfriend, anyone else, with a camera strapped across my shoulders, just checking out another landmark. But I felt so much more.

So I stood against the brick as my girlfriend snapped a couple photos of me. The light was terrible. We were all tired. And even though those pictures didn’t come out very well, I look forward to the day I get to show them to my kids and explain what the mean to me.

And then we went inside. It felt like entering a church for me, though I’m sure to everyone else it was just like walking into any other dark hole-in-the-wall bar. I didn’t sit and order a drink. I didn’t even sit. I just walked around for a minute and took it in. And that was enough for me. Standing where Sylvia Rivera stood. Fought. Stood up for her right to be who she was, and for her LGBT brothers and sisters to do the same. And I felt reverent. And I felt proud. And I felt strong. And I felt so glad that that piece of my history, the story I read so many times in so many places, a place I thought of the way I think about things I read about in a history book in school, fascinating, but far away, still existed. And is proud of it’s history.

And so after a few minutes, we walked away. The brick building faded away, and I didn’t look back. But I did take part of it with me, in my heart. And I walked away feeling prouder. And more connected. And more willing to stay my course.

I am transgender. I am a lesbian. I am a human being. I am Natalie. And because of Stonewall, I am more willing and more able to fight like a grrrl.


How Being Transgender Led Me To (And From) The Church

One of my earliest memories of wanting to be a girl was around 7 or 8 years old. I was raised in the Catholic Church, so First Communion was a no brainer. As part of the classes leading up to it, we received a workbook with a shiny silver cover. And in that workbook somewhere is a young girl kneeling in a gown and praying at the side of her bed. I flipped to that page so many times in the many years I’ve had that book that it’s a wonder it doesn’t open to that page automatically.

I didn’t know why at the time, or for many years to come, but I wanted to be that girl. Something about that gown spoke to me on a deeper level. I used to equate it with the prayer if forgiveness printed next to that girl. I thought what I needed to fit in and feel right was forgiveness and salvation. I didn’t realize that I didn’t really want to be that girl in particular, but any girl.

So I become devout. I surrounded myself with religion and tried to make myself a “better person”. To gain the inner peace I was looking for. I went to churches and youth groups, on mission trips and volunteering. And it worked. Until it didn’t.

I was still unhappy with who I was. My life was collapsing around me in a sea of my own depression, and I still didn’t know why. The boundaries of religion weren’t enough. As I started to pull from the church, some of the people I thought were my friends took their stands. They had nothing to talk about with me anymore.

By then I had started to explore gender a little bit. I was painting my nails an almost-acceptable goth black. On a bet, I painted them pink once, though to be honest I put up no resistance to the idea. I loved it. I started to try on the skirts of a girl I was dating in high school, playing it off as a joke. But I loved that, too. It wasn’t long after that I began dressing and buying my own clothes. I told nobody. At all. It felt wrong to be doing it, but when I had my wig on, and pulled up my thigh highs, I felt so right. And I didn’t know how to feel about that. I was ashamed, and I knew religion and crossdressing couldn’t both have a place in my life. It was an easier choice than it should have been, but I picked the one that honestly made me feel better about myself.

I was delving into Wicca by then, and almost out of high school. I was drawn in by the women in positions of power, and the feminism of the religion. The ritual robes that resembled dresses didnt hurt, either. But it wasn’t for me. It still didn’t fill that hole in my heart. I was searching for something external, but that wasn’t what I needed.

Everything started to make sense. That girl in the gown, the phase where I would ask for Barbie dolls so I could do their hair as a child, my own desire for long hair, the need to play a female persona online, and the feeling of never feeling quite right with who I was, and wanting to alter my body. It took years, but by the end of college I had it figured out. But then I didn’t know what to do with it. I was still ashamed, and at this point not at all religious. I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere.

Like many trans people, religion wasn’t the answer for me. Transition was. It took me another three years or so after college to accept that. I tried so hard to fit in somewhere I never really feel I belonged, and sometimes I wonder what would’ve happened if I realized why I wanted to be that little girl so many years ago.

I don’t mean to say that transgenderism and the church can’t coincide, but for me, it never felt right.

But all I can do is look into the future, and use what I know now to help me fight like a grrrl.