Someone close to me; someone who is gay, told me once that I didn’t understand what it was like to be gay because he had no choice about being gay, whereas I had a choice about whether to be George or Georgia. He may be right about being gay. I assume he is, but he is only half right about our choices … in both cases.
We always have choices. Frequently we don’t like the choices that we’re faced with. So what else is new? I believe my friend was correct when he said that he had no choice about being gay and he was correct when he said I had a choice as to whether or not I was George or Georgia, but what he totally missed was the fact that we both have a choice about our visible expression … what we share with the world.
Being trans- or dual-gendered or gay is not a choice. We are what we are. But, we all have a choice about whether or not we express it visibility. We all have a choice when it comes to when, where, how or if ever, we express on the outside what is on the inside. If you could ask one question of anyone in my corner of the world, that question should be, “When are you happiest?” You might think the answer would be, “When I’m expressing who I am.” But, you would be wrong in most cases. The answer would most likely be, “When I’m accepting of who I am.” And it’s always visible in the fortunate few who are able to reach that level.
They’re happy … and it shows in their smile.
How many times have you seen someone who exudes happiness? Happy people smile … a lot; in fact nearly all the time. You want to be around them, to be in their circle. On the other hand people who are unhappy are like social porcupines. They walk around with personality quills sticking out all over their beings. When I see people like that I want to run, but then I’m nearly overcome with a desire to walk up to them and say, “I’m sorry all of your puppies died.” Or more the point most likely … “I’m really sorry life didn’t turn out like you wanted it to. Did your lover leave you for someone who smiled a lot?”
Dad was fond of saying that when life gives you lemons it’s lemonade time. Early on in our lives sexuality and or gender identity is like a whole bushel basketful of lemons. It’s our choice as to whether or not we choose let them sit there and first get moldy, then rotten, then dry up into a hollow shell like the lemons on the roof of my carport which fell from my lemon tree. That bushel basket full of lemons still on the tree has the potential of making gallon upon gallon of very tasty lemonade if we will just take the time to squeeze them, and add a bunch of sugar and lots of water.
The issue that most us of deal with is trying to explain ourselves, especially to people we love, people who share our lives on a daily basis in hope that they will understand. The fully accepting family is rare. A wife, for instance wants the man she fell in love with, not some wanna-be girl with a five o-clock shadow. Children want a dad; a dad who protects his princess and comforts her when Prince Charming turns out to be a gremlin. A boy wants a dad who can pitch a ball, throw a pass, or enjoys a rodeo. It’s really hard, if possible at all, to make lemonade out of that bucket of lemons.
When I’m speaking to a college class about what life has been, and is like for those of us who are gender-variant, the closest I can come is this: For the boys in the class I draw attention to their natural likes and dislikes. I point to the clothes they wear, the beards on many faces, the shaved heads in just as many cases and the fact that they can sit there like slugs, slouching in their chairs and feel perfectly comfortable. Then I ask them how they would feel, if in spite of possessing all these natural traits society said, “We don’t care how you feel inside we don’t care what makes you feel whole and comfortable. You have to shave your legs, your armpits, wear makeup, skirts and high heels because that’s what our society dictates.”
Then for the women I turn the table and ask them what life would be like for them if society said, “We don’t care what makes you feel whole or feel inside. You cannot wear makeup, cannot shave your legs or armpits, wear makeup and let your hair down. In short, you have to be a slug, drag your knuckles, burp and belch, because that’s what our society dictates.”
If you can put yourself in that frame of mind for even a moment, you might have some notion of what it’s like for gender-variant individuals most of their lives. And … that is where our experience differs greatly with the gay and lesbian community. You see, who they sleep with is not a visible part of their lives. They can go about their lives unaffected by their sexual preference because for the most part, gay men especially, is not vividly apparent in their appearance. In other words, it doesn’t take as much sugar to make lemonade out of their predicament.
There was a point when I was transitioning and it was looking as though I may have to make 4-5 day visits to Mom’s every other week to help out when I said. “Okay, it will be Georgia, not George who is there helping. If there are brief occasions when Mom really needs her son, okay.” My openly lesbian sister called to tell me that maybe that would be okay but she didn’t want to see Georgia at Mom’s funeral when the time came. My response to her was, “Fine. In that case I will expect you to show up in a black dress accompanied by a loving man.” The subject hasn’t been broached since.
The bottom line to this diatribe, which some will see as belly-aching, is that yes, life has planted a lemon tree in our yards, what we do with the lemons is entirely up to us. Personally I like mine with an extra slice of lemon, a sprig of mint and lots of ice, kind of like the ice tea my neighbor is drinking.