Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Boxes

(By Brianna Austin)

Fear can singularly be the most debilitating emotion we as humans experience. And, to bare one’s soul may be the most frightening of all human endeavors. Fear is instinctive. We sense it when we are in immediate danger. But what about long term danger, do we sense that? For most of my 47 years, my life was molded by a quiet, undetectable force of expectation – both my own and others. Are the goals we strive for really our own? How do we know? And, what if you dream of what your life should be, only to wake up one day to find out that what you’re living is not it? Can you change who you are, should you?

I’ve been transgender since - well, long before I ever knew what that meant. Slowly, I’ve come to learn what certain meanings represented, only to realize that being transgender means much more than the box people tried to get me into. After a lifetime of internal conflict, I began to recognize certain truths that were about to change my life in profound ways. Like many, my wanting to experience “being” a girl, was overwhelming – compulsive, a need I had to fulfill. The word “compulsive,” conjures up images of someone out of control. It screams of Anthony Perkins in psycho: a schizophrenic who can’t control the demons within. But the truth is, for most of my life crossdressing was compulsive. But, rather than releasing the raging demon within, it brought out a fun-loving, happy, free spirit, and I found a sense of balance in the process. The “box” that the media built, didn’t represent me. In more recent years I transcended the act of dressing and simply lived how I felt from day to day, androgynous much of the time.

After decades of repeat and purge, I first began to actually think about and understand elements of what I was struggling with. The fear had subsided, and with it came a clarity that was just as overwhelming as crossdressing at an early age was. Over the years four questions kept coming to mind:

1. What would it be like to be a girl,
2. Could I become a girl,
3. Would I prefer to be a girl, and
4. Should I be a girl

For a group of people (TGs) that don’t completely understand themselves, it would be almost impossible for outsiders to accurately identify and define the varied characteristics from one group to another. But yet, they try. I referred to myself for years as a drag queen, ignorant of what that really meant, and that the label was inaccurate. As we entered the new millennium, there are now so many boxes to choose from: transvestite, drag queen, crossdresser, she-male, transsexual, t-girl, and the all-inclusive transgender. Boxes, boxes and more boxes - are any of them accurate? They seem to be a double-edged sword. For some they serve as a beacon of light to lost souls in search of a safe haven of like-minded individuals, while at the same time they divide, isolate and confuse others.

I was in Boston, covering the Tiffany Club’s First Event Convention, when I became engaged in conversation with a young, handsome and outgoing F to M transsexual named Robbie. I learned that Robbie avoided discussions about sports with other F to M transsexuals. He never liked sports growing up, yet all the transsexuals he knew, did. “Maybe I don’t fit into this group,” he thought – because the description on the box didn’t fit. It would be logical that many M to F transgenders (a catch all name) experience this as well. They want to belong somewhere, and if the group has a slightly different identity, they disguise or hide it. How sad is it that people can come out, only to still be in hiding.

Do you have the courage to pursue who you should be, rather than who you could be? Knowing who you want to be, and who you should be, are not necessarily the same thing. That distinction may reveal itself in the final leg of the discovery journey. But in finding yourself, you have to consider many things. I once gave a piece of advise to my friend’s daughter, who was just entering NYU as a freshman. I told her, “Find your passion – that in which you enjoy the process as much as the result. Then, find the core of who you are and fulfill your life outward from there.” U Thant, co-founder of the United Nations, was once quoted as saying, “You can’t know how you want to live your life until you know how you want to be remembered.” So, how do you want to be remembered?

In trying to discover who you are and what you’re about, are boxes helpful, or do they pigeon hole us in the eyes of the mainstream, and each other? Feel free to write me and let me know what you think.

http://mail.yahoo.com/config/login?/ym/Compose?To=brianna@briannaaustin.bigstep.com or post at

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/brieannaaustin/

Brianna Austin is a contributing writer at Transgender Forum, TG Community News, Lady Like Magazine, the NY columnist for Girl Talk Magazine, and editor of Girls Club Reporter.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think that everyone of us, not matter the either self-imposed or externally-imposed "labels", has something to hide from the rest.

I mean, it is great of course to come out, but does not every person is hiding some part(s) of his/her life?

Maybe boxes are useful during the first stages of the gender identity formation process. But as people go through more and more fully vivid experiences of their own in their true gender identity and role, they tend to be each day more unique and special.

It is a realization for themselves to notice such a big accomplishment in respect of how they want to live, and how they want to be remembered as Brianna puts it.

Love and kisses,
Monique
gldelao@yahoo.com

Alexis Rene said...

Boxes....Fits so many of us...Transgendered or not...From the guy who sells bread at a local market to the very busy career woman. We all have our cells of authoritarian we feel traps our being. So boxes are kind of like a blanket for the world over...'Cept they are not the warm and comfy fav's we may snuggle up to watching a movie...

Brianna thanks much for writing and sharing this with us and after reading it several times I had to go back and read another blog a sister within wrote titled: "Have u seen my box???" (by Rhenaiya Jesson)

There are obvious similarities noted in both and some contrasting. I think the defining moments of both processes of thought is more a theme likened to mentally seeking a justification for freedom of expression in a complete texture or proper script, With the soul and mind strained by the dualities in nature defined with many facets that were previously damned up tightly. Also it lay heavy in the structure of question(s) defined...or more appropriately the exact questions asked.

I remember dwelling on the various "Why me" scenarios years ago in metaphoric or maybe mental purges of trying to prove to myself who I was and that I were born properly, Allocating that this transgendered notion felt was all an illusion for a more profound thing hidden within. I was trying to outthink or over think the basis for what was there. Thusly creating a more astute and complex frame of mind.

The questions you laid out in your writings are great starters and I emplore anyone that feels the weight of being buried in a restrictive box to break down the questions and simplify things in a language that can be identified with on a personal level. Only then can you phrase the questions of self and answer them based on honesty and know in your heart where you stand at. Afterwards one can take the "box" to a proper recycling center and dispose of it...As it will be broken at every fiber that held the constrained. :)

An old friend gave me an acronym I thought I would never use...K.I.S.S. "Keep it simple stupid"...And yes I look in the mirror saying the "stupid" phrase repetitively as I reflect on the years past.

Lauren Thomas said...

Brianna,

In response to your question, "In trying to discover who you are and what you're about, are boxes helpful, or do they pigeon hole us in the eyes of the mainstream, and each other?"

My response to this question would be that in the beginning I was grateful to find a box that fit, and at the time the box was for me almost a perfect fit based on the definition, and based on how I saw myself. My box helped me to understand who and what I was; and to realize that I was not alone in the world. That was many years ago, and although I still identify with that box, that box by definition really no longer has that perfect fit because I have grown, and I have changed.

What many of us have come to understand is that we as a group, meaning Transgendered are very diverse, and as you have stated; even we don't completely understand ourselves. Boxes always pigeon hole the individual or group, but like other boxes when we interact with others and listen, the box often disappears as we come to know the person, and who they really are. Use the box in the beginning, but don't let the box restrict your growth or change.

With Love and Respect,

Lauren

Brianna Austin said...

Monique,
Well you're very right in that the article was a concept to jumpstart the brain in asking more questions with everyone finding their own answers as everyone's will be diferent.

The difficulty of being transgender is that we do wonder why am I different, why me, etc. I sometimes think we are not different, we are simply visable. Doesn't the young kid who parents have detailed his distiny at some point in his life look in the mirror and say "Who Am I?" Doesn't a person who takes a wrong turn in their life do the same; whether it is them questioning career, relationship, sexual orientation, religion etc?

I'll post a new article I had written called "And THey Burned Witches Too" soon, which kind of goes more into the spiritual questions of Why Are We Here.

------

Lauren,

So true, I can't tell you in my travels how often people would get past my gender early on and it was just never an issue. I took the Girls Club to yet some other club one night and we ended at our local diner where we went every weekend. A guy came over and invited us to have breakfast with them. "Thanks, but we already ordered and the food is coming right now" I said. "Then we'd like to pay for it and have you come sit with us hen you're done." We did, and the five guys were mixed; one gay, two T-friendly, one not sure what to expect and the other dowright afraid of us.

We sat and drank wine, then coffee till 10:Am before some of the girls left. Four of us hung out another hour or two. When we finally parted, the guy who was so afraid gave me a big hug and I said, "I thought you were afraid of us," to which he responded, "I was, but you're all really cool."

I think they expected something else. We were business people, teachers etc, and as such enaged in interesting and thought provoking conversations and totally transcended gender. I have experienced in all my travels -- especcially with the mainstream