Yesterday was New Year’s Day and for me it really was a new year. 2015 was the biggest and hardest year of my life thus far. I had begun it knowing that I wasn’t a man, but I was still presumed to be a cis man by everyone I knew, and I was unsure of how to proceed. By the end of it I was fully recognized as a feminine soul by all the world around me. I had faced so many of my biggest fears in life and though not unscathed I had come through it all a stronger and happier person. I was relieved to have that behind me and excited to begin my first full trip around the sun as myself. Only promise lay ahead.
Then, an hour or so before the end of this first day of my new year I got an email. A painful echo from my past. It was from a friend, one of the five people to whom I had come out in person. She had helped so much in the past few years as my life fell apart. She was there supporting me as I got sober and as I came out as asexual. She was one of the first people I came out to for a reason. But there had been a snag…
I had had a problem for a very long time. When I was a kid I always had at least one good female friend. Another tomboy to hang with, go outside and play pretend with and be goofy with. Somewhere around the second grade that stopped and for a while the other girls wouldn’t talk to me. Somewhere around the fifth grade that changed again, I was paid attention but it was of a kind that I couldn’t comprehend. It was often cruel and mocking. Then, in my first year of high school, in my favorite class (Creative Writing) I got a friend again. She was cool and smart, a couple years my senior, I figured I could learn from her, we started bonding. But she started to get awkward and one day turned her back on me. I then saw her with a boy her own age, being romantic and realized that was what she wanted from me, not friendship. I was not an equal, I was a potential mate, a guy. That began a long and painful string of such relationships. All I wanted was a friend, all the women I met wanted was a man. So before it happened again in my early twenties I asked out my best friend. I had been told by my other bestie (a guy as I always have a guy friend too) that she had a crush on me. I ended up in that relationship for eight years trying desperately to be the man everyone wanted me to be. It nearly destroyed me and hurt her to no end. I will always feel bad about that. She had been my third girlfriend, I had expected the relationship to last as long as the first two, less than a month. I had also told myself that I would face my fears on the other side of that relationship. In our darkest times she would often ask me why I wouldn’t leave her, I couldn’t answer her but the truth was that I was so very scared.
So here in 2016 I got a message from this friend, a sister tomboy. She was a good friend, a source of hope. We were the same age and had grown up in the same part of New Jersey. My father had known her in school in his capacity as a substitute teacher. We had worked for the same museum. She knew some of the people I had known going all the way back. She wrote to tell me that I only mattered to her as a man. She had tried to accept my transition, even gave me some of her old clothes. But as my transition had progressed she saw that the man she knew was gone, that whatever she had hoped for from him was never to be. She hadn’t allowed herself to see that his best qualities were mine and that I was still here. I was not the man she wanted anymore. So she told me that she could not be a part of my life anymore.
Even though I had seen it coming for a long time it still hurt, it saddened me. But it was okay too. It finally put to an end that long string of women with whom I wanted to be friends but who could only see a man to date. One of the other people I had come out to face to face was a former roommate, another tomboy, with whom I had had a glancing friendship. I was always worried about how she saw me. Our friendship has been growing since I came out, she says that I “make sense now”. So all is good and right.
I slept on all of this, feeling oddly at peace with it but when I woke up today, the 2nd of January, there was a nagging doubt. After watching a couple videos about a dead rock legend and comedy super star I realized there was something else from way back when that I had as yet to face. I had used comedy and punk music to suppress my true self and I realized it had all begun with one band. I had their genre of punk tattooed on my forearm. I had done the tat myself in a drunken rage during my last drunk winter five years ago. A winter I had barely survived. It was the music of the British skinhead branch of punk known as Oi! The band were a jokey laddish bunch of blokes known as Peter and the Test Tube Babies. I still had a couple of their songs in my playlists but there was one song that I had been avoiding for years.
It had haunted me since I first heard it. One of my buddies from Creative Writing back in high school had started a punk band with his friend and they needed a singer. I had the equipment, the love of the stage and a good loud shouting voice. I didn’t know much about punk except for what I had learned from corporate music television so I asked my new bandmate who looked very punk and tough, to make me a mixtape, so I could learn what was expected of me. On it was this song by the Test Tube Babies, “Transvestite”. In it the oaf of a singer describes bringing a girl home for the night singing “I am gonna screw the arse off you!” It quickly devolves into shock, revulsion and horror at the physical discovery that the girl to whom he had directed his lust was assigned male at birth. The song finishes with the jeering chants of “I’ve been cheated tonight, transvestite!” and “Is this some kind of a joke, you’re really a bloke?” I had already learned that the world hated folks like me but upon that first listen I learned my friends hated me too. If I was going to survive I had to be the manliest man around, so I became that jeering skinhead. I held desperately onto that image, the anti-racist skin, until I finally put down the bottle in my early thirties in a punk house somewhere in Lower Allston, MA. Not such a long way from suburban North Jersey.
Now, back in Jersey, in my Mother’s home, I turned to an internet video site and looked up that same song that had taunted me for so much of my life. At first, my morning dose of estrogen still melting under my tongue, I started to weep. But then, just as with the letter from my friend, I got angry. I stopped letting the world hurt me just for existing, for wanting to be who I am. I listened to the whole tune and felt a source of strength, of self confidence and worth. I pressed the “dislike” button. I was the only one who had. I then went back to the search results and went through every other iteration of the song on that site, pressing “dislike” I was the only one on every version and the only rater on many of them. I saw the lads, and heard their hateful crowd, I heard the transphobic rants they introduced the song with and sneered back at them. Cowards. When I was done, having disrespected every piece of it I could find on that site I went to my own music library, to the two of their songs left in my possession, I had listened to them recently, trying to look past the hate I knew they felt toward me. It was just jokey punk right? No, hell no! I gleefully pressed delete.
I have no space in my life for those who hate me or those who can’t accept me. I am a proud aromantic asexual transsexual non-binary tomboy trans woman. I am worth just as much as any of you and I have a hell of a good year stretching out before me. One hell of a good life too. I hope you all enjoy this trip around the sun as much as I plan to. This is your life, live it freely and joyfully. Never forget to give others the same chance because we all deserve to know and love ourselves. Happy New Year!