i spent time talking with my counselor today, and i realized whilst doing so that i don’t let myself think about being transsexual very much. when my kids are around, i think about all the wholesome and wonderful things i want to do with them, and how to foster their growth, and how to create a strong, healthy bond with them. none of which should be incompatible with the fact of my trans-ness.

and yet i do feel horribly split from that part of myself, so much so that often it is almost like there is Katie-the-good-mother and Katie-the-woman-who-is-also-transsexual. i carry a lot of shame that i don’t let myself feel. there are a lot of uncried tears for the daily indignities (and worse) that i or my trans sisters suffer.

i cried some of them today. that was a hard sentence for me to write. in fact all of this is. i can picture so clearly the well meaning statements mama friends of mine might make when and if they read this: “oh, i don’t think about you being trans!” or “i don’t think it makes you less of a good mother!” or a dozen or so other things when really most of them speak from a position of relative comfort as people who are not daily seen as an abomination.

when i spend time in public spaces with children, i have to worry that people will think my presence is inappropriate, or a threat, even though those who know me will speak up and say i am a “good mother.” i remember that even if no one around me consciously thinks that, they could think that and there are people who would think that legitimate. a too long stare at our co-op from a new person makes me wonder… is my very existence unsettling?

that’s just the surface manifestation. all my life i have been split apart. as a young child, before i came out at 13, there was my public face that garnered a certain level of social acceptance (i was considered a sissy though) and then there was what was going on inside: i wanted so badly to be seen as the girl i was, even as i knew that that desire made me aberrant on two levels. valuing girlhood and femininity was uncool, and being a trans girl was disgusting. once i came out, all of this was on display, and the trauma of the constant judgement and disgust and fear and hatred is something that i still touch only from a cold, withdrawn distance. the girl i was at 13 is so hurt that it feels like approaching too close is dangerous. so she stays alone. when i discovered feminism shortly after, and became a riot grrrl and later a lesbian avenger, it seemed there was hope for finding acceptance and love for the girl i was, but i quickly discovered that even there both my femininity and above all my transsexual girlhood was incredibly suspect and even sketchy/disturbing to people. i was often provisionally accepted as a “good” transsexual girl, but this always meant keeping my mouth shut while other, older, less “passable” trans women were bad mouthed… all of which hurt me, too, because if they were disgusting or “smelled like boys,” what were my “friends” not saying about me (to my face)? aren’t i guilty by association?

in adult life i have gone through so very many phases where i’ve ignored my transness. this works to a point, in that by identifying strongly with what is perceived as good and normal (in queer woman spaces or out in the straight world), i don’t have to be actively experiencing my own reviled status. but it can never be even close to perfect. not only do i have the wounds i carry inside, but there are many little things that happen that remind me of my place within any social milieu as fundamentally an outsider. i can attend shakespeare in the park with friends, and be confronted with raucous laughter at the portrayal of a female character by a man: funny because femininity itself is ridiculous to so many, but doubly funny because there is nothing more shameful and silly in this society’s eyes than someone assigned male at birth attempting to embody that femininity. i am always the only one not laughing. and i know always that i am “over-sensitive.”

and so i push the feelings away and divide myself again.

when i sit down to write, i am faced with another dichotomy: if i write about this stuff, if i write about being a trans woman, or about characters who are, i know that i should expect the reputation i earn by doing so to affect me both socially and in my writing career. i can’t imagine a world in which the writer who explores this stuff (and the much deeper things that need expression) is allowed to be the same writer who writes and publishes the things i write for my kids, and potentially for all kids. There is no intersection of Beverly Cleary and Kate Bornstein (and, yes, fellow trans women, i know kate is a controversial figure at the moment… i’m just trying to pick someone who epitomizes bravely writing openly about one’s life experiences as, for lack of a better term and in society’s eyes, a “freak”).

i usually try not to ramble so much in my blog posts (that’s what my ‘zine was for!), but i don’t have the heart for editing today. it takes a whole heart to give a shit and for too long mine has been split apart. there is no glue but a total recreation of our society to eliminate trans misogyny. since that’s not going to happen, we must be brave of heart with whatever part of our heart is left to us.

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for the single mothers.

July 16, 2011

sometimes the washing machine is broken and the pipes in the basement have decided to rain shitty water on the dirty clothes and who knows what else and the reality is that those clothes must get washed and dried by hand or we will have a Public Health Situation on our hands, or the car is doing that thing again where the engine just turns off and we’re in the middle of traffic and i remember why we went car-free for so long but the reality is that with my two kids and my girlfriend’s three kids and my girlfriend’s busy job and my sometimes desperate scramble for money anywhere i can find it, two single mothers sometimes need a car. even if one of them is opposed to cars and car culture and breathing exhaust (or making others breathe it) and a frenetic lifestyle…

sometimes other mothers laugh and say they would love the break from their kids and joint custody sounds about right to them but the reality is that even two days a week can be too much when you aren’t asking for it and it doesn’t come at the time that works for you or your kids and maybe you need childcare some other time and there’s this event you want to take your son to on the weekend but those are the two days a week the Powers-that-Be have you on record as agreeing to, and you wouldn’t want to seem uncooperative, now would you? no one likes an uncooperative single mother.

sometimes your friends see those two days a week (or one, or three, or a weekend a month, or whatever), and they say “wow, s/he is so involved, you are so lucky, isn’t it wonderful that he pays for that class, isn’t it wonderful that she took her to the park or that birthday party” and nobody says “oh, wow, you are so involved, yr ex is so lucky to know the kids are taken care of, you pay for all the basic needs and then some, isn’t it wonderful you go to the park so much and play seven rounds of chess and go to every birthday party humanly possible, even the ones at Flashing-Lights-Loud-Sounds-and-Animatronic-Monster-Animals-Pizzeria” because that’s just what you do. you are the single mother.

on the rare occasions someone does try to valorize you, to praise you, there will be a voice raised to remind everyone that you get help, “support,” breaks… whatever it is. the speaker doesn’t know: it could be $9.35 or it could be $0 or a trip to court and you’d better pay for and bring your own lawyer. never mind that if a storm comes and your roof caves in you handle it alone for your kids. never mind that if the car breaks down and your kid has school/a doctor’s appointment/a homeschooling playgroup it is you who figures out how to get there or how to break the news… on the weekend it is rarely time to say “i’m sorry, we can’t make it because of this problem or we can’t buy that because of a lack of money or our values around consumption.” weekends are for leisure and during the week shopping has been done, for necessities and for presents.

behind many a stand-up-guy there is a single mother being told to sit down or sitting herself down in order to assemble dollhouse furniture for $1 a perfectly completed piece. working from home means you are so lucky! you set your own hours, and there are a lot of them.

you will do what it takes because that is what you do, and sometimes people will see what you were willing to do and they will judge you from the comfort of their almost-totally-owned townhome with the two kids and the two parents and maybe a dog whose shit no one wants to pick up, but just keep on keeping on, girl… it’s just what you do.