Hi All! I'm really excited to be taking a writing workshop for Transgender Adults, offered by Write Around Portland! They're a great organization, with some really awesome, friendly people! I sort of fit into their mission with "...others who may not have access to writing in community because of income, isolation or other barriers." I actually didn't really know about the organizations' purpose or focus; I simply heard general details about a writing workshop for trans people. I wanted to reconnect with my creative (writing) spirit, and hopefully also connect with others in the community.
I'm actually writing this in March, a little over a month after we started. I realized I had my writings only in my little book, and wasn't saving them anywhere else, nor sharing them w/anyone except my wife. Not that my writings are necessarily worth sharing. Nor do I presume that anyone besides me (and my wife ;-) will see this page.
It's interesting how having a short ten to fifteen minute session to write focuses my writing. You will probably notice that these writings are very short, and fairly unfinished. That's partially the nature of a short writing burst, and also of my ability to think and write at the same time. ;-)
Please realize that, while it may be obvious for some of my writings, they are not necessarily autobiographical nor necessarily factual. I definitely took the license for fiction a few times, and also some fact a few times too.
So, anyway, not all of my writings are good, though some are, I think. I will leave it to you to make your opinion, and hopefully you will enjoy my short little writings.
[Editor's Note: I've added some things in brackets ("[" and "]") since the original writing, that I think clarify my intent. So I'm 'cheating' a little with presenting to you the writing exactly as I did it.]
My name is Kimberley. It comes from Cyneburgh Leah, the green space or field aroudn the castle. At least that's what I read, though you can't always believe what you read, can you? Well, my name is Kimberley, you can believe that. You're maybe wondering why you wouldn't believe that, I bet. [After all, I look like a woman, and Kimberley is a woman's name, yes? Well, I am a man.]
How many men are named (first or given name, mind you) Kimberley?! Not many. In fact, I don't know of any others. Kim's, sure. A few 'old folks' like me.
Right about the time I was born, Kim became pretty exclusively a "girl's" name in the USA. I suppose Kimberley always was a girl's name [as it was always a both name at least]. Then again, my parents named their son Kimberley. [So it's a boy's name too, yes?] They didn't know the impact that might have. How could they? Their baby naming book said it was a fine Celtic name, suitable for boys. I've seen that book; yes, I asked [for proof].
Yes, I also asked them why. [Why did they pick a "girl's" name for me?] I mean, after the hundredth (thousandth, ten thousandth) time of saying "No, I'm not kidding. That's my name." [you can perhaps see why I asked "Why?"] [I get that reaction] simply when I tell people my name is Kim. When I tell them my name is Kimberley, well... The reaction is always interesting.
There's a curse in China (or so I hear) that says "May you live in interesting times." So 'interesting' reactions are far from fun, at least for a man named Kimberley.
A friend's son remarked (not to me; later to my friend) upon hearing my name, "Now there's a complex waiting to happen." If it were only that simple. [After all, here I am in front of you, looking like a woman.] What's in a name? For a man named Kimberley, a lot.
The world seemed different after I realized that it doesn't hate me. Well, that that it could literally hate me; I have a hard enough time getting the world to notice me, let alone hate me. Besides, it's not 'The World' that hates others, it's people. People hate people, and that sucks.
I guess, when it comes down to it, most people don't hate me for being transgendered. When I'm 'lucky' people don't even know I'm a trans woman. They don't take any particular notice of me; I'm one of the 250 million people in this country. One of many billion [in the world].
So maybe I don't want people to notice me. Not always, at least. I've had to become hyper-aware of other people and how they react to me. Will I be laughed at, insulted, physically threatened, spit upon, beaten up,... The list of possibilities goes on, the nasty things that might happen. Yet here I am, out in public, hoping that no one is noticing me in this different world.
[So that's it for workshop #1. Fairly generic writing, I guess. Still finding my footing... maybe it's these high-heeled boots. ;-)]
Things I've Lost:
My world is bigger than my kitties'. They know my house & what they can see out the window. Our house backs to greenspace, so we get to watch squirrels & birds & raccoons & so many animals go by. For my cats, this is Kitty TV. They'll flatten down, do a little chirrup meow-growl when they see a clase-by squirrel they want to pounce on. Not that they'd know how to catch it or eat it; or maybe intinct is more powerful than domestication.
I enjoy Kitty TV too. I watch the animals live their lives, the trees sway in the breeze... or the evergreens stand steadfast, barely & almost imperceptibly moving. The trees that were there before me, and will likely be there after me.
I enjoy when nothing is on Kitty TV. In the mornings, I stare out at the calm outside my window. Nature is quiet, or maybe waking up like me; slowly, increasing pace, getting ready to face the day's challenges & wonders.
I know that there's many things I simply don't notice out my window. I know too there are so many more things happening beyond what I can see out my window. My neighborhod, my city that's beginning to breathe hard & faster, with cars moving like so many blood cells through its veins. My state, with its cancerous growths of humanity, in splotches. My country being the same. Then there's my world. This Earth, a tiny speck at a distant corner of a vast galaxy in a vast universe.
Maybe sometimes being a Kitty & only living in my little world & watching Kitty TV would be comforting. For me, though, I like being able to 'see' beyond what's out my window.
[Preamble/Prologue: Oh, God(dess) help me... I have to write about my emotions. I'm learning to be my emotions; to drive back the analytical & simply feel & be. I think (See? Analytical. That's me) that I'm afraid.]
Fear. I have to believe so many before me have written eloquently about Fear. I can feel my heart pounding hard, pulsing my body. The thump, thump, thump in my ears as the fear spreads through my body. I grow cold & start to shake a little. How can warm blood racing through my body make me so cold? I can begin to smell my fear through the cold sweat developing. My vision narrows, & blurs at the edges; I'm so overcome by the Fear that I'm focused on something, anything, to hold on to with my eyes.
The Fear eats at my brain. I can hear it cackle as it begins to consume me. The foul stench of its breath as I stare into the gaping hole that is the mouth of fear. I can almost taste the sulphurous stench of hell through my Fear. The icy fingers, tightening around my soul, starting to rip it out of my body; leaving nothing to live for in the face of this beast.
Someone once said "All we have to fear is fear itself." Yeah, right.
If I were weather, I would be so many things. Iwould be an intense sunset, colors exploding in the sky. Colors so intense you can hear the 'boom' of the fireworks-like explosion. I owuld be the calm, quiet, dry stillnes before the storm. I would be the storm, full of wind and rain and rage; and yet raging because I am stormy, not because I am agry. I would be the monsoons, the heat, the Earth.
The things I carry as a woman are different than what I carry as a man.
As a woman, I carry the 'girly' things 'necessary' for the kind of woman I am. I carry a purse with lipstick, lip liner, a small wallet (with 2 credit cards, ID, & cash), my mobile phone (not in a case), a pen to jot down friends' contact info or other important things. A purse is really handy; I can carry so many more things than a man's wallet can... The funny thing is that I usually don't carry that much in my purse. I could. I don't. Maybe it's because I'm afraid of losing my purse. I don't forget it much anymore, but when you didn't grow up carrying one, or expected to carry one, it's easy to forget.
As a man, I carry a wallet with many cards, ID, cash, receipts, etc. The mundane things that I don't bother to transfer to my other identity.
My purse carries my femininity in a way. It's a 'trapping' that says 'woman' in the USA. It reflects my personality and mood. Is it a cute little thing to go with the outfit or event, or a utilitarian cargo tanker to carry the easy signs of my femininity?
[Author's note: The following is a bit stereotyped at first. I've decided to leave it here basically as I wrote it, but really this is probably way too stereotyping of a 'cowboy,' and comes some from the emotions that sparked this story. Let's simply say it's based on true life]
My buddies and me were hangin' out at our favorite waterin' hole, shootin' pool, drinkin' beer, flirtin' with women. It weren't really any different from a normal Saturday night. I reckon like the ones I've had most of my life.
Then all of a sudden a bunch o' them faggots walked in. I couldn't believe it! At our place. I'd heard that the big drag queen-faggot convention was in town, but what where they doin' here, at my place?! We don't need that kind here, comin' in to our place, and ruining our normal fun.
One of them had the nerve to stand next to us, after talkin' with the local girls, & then his other friends. I spit on him.
He whirled around, and glared at us. He didn't know who did it, but you could tell he was angry. Yup. Angry. That'll teach him...
Why didn't he fight? A sissy. He's a sissy, that's why. A man dressed like a woman. With hot legs, looking fine in those heels...
Oh God. Am I gay? Sh**. Did my friends notice me lookin' sideways at him? I'm so confused. I like women, & he looks like a hot woman. Sh**. What am I gonna' do?
Miss Petra let a barely perceptible sigh escape her lips. Joey was pestering the girl next to him again, and she had told him to stop once already today. What would she say to get through to him? What could get into his Seven Year Old brain? Money? No, not money...
Money. Money makes the world go 'round. Greases the skids of commerce. There are so many platitudes about money, but a lot of them are true. Money would make things easier.
She wouldn't have to work. She would have to deal with bratty kids who don't listen. She could relax...
"But I love this job" she thought. "I guess the Joey's come with the territory."
Miss Petra unconsciously reached for her desk drawer, and the tool for her handling kids like Joey. It waited patiently inside
Suddenly, Miss Petra realized what she was doing. She was reaching for those damn Twinkies in her desk drawer! Why is food so attached to comfort, she thought. She blushed a deep, crimson red.
"Joey Thresher! You stop bugging April and get to the Principal's Office right now!"
Darn. Darn. She lost her composure. She really needed that Twinkie now.
[p.s.: I chose Teacher & Twinkies]
[Note: Below is the final version of this piece that I submitted, to the anthology that is being published, as one of my 2-3 pieces. This one was chosen. Which is nice, because I'm pretty sure it's my favorite. It's very similar to the original piece]
You want me to do what?! Go outside? As in public? I don't know if I'm ready for that. I mean, I go outside every day. Not like this. I go out dressed like a man, not dressed like a woman. Being a man, that comes 'naturally.'
'Naturally.' Ha! What's natural? Is it 'natural' that it's only supposed to be women who wear high heels, or makeup, or all those 'girly' things? Is it 'natural' that we even wear clothes at all? Prudent, yes. Particularly in Oregon, in winter. No clothes? Brrr.
So it's not 'natural' for me to go out in public trying to be a gender that wasn't assigned to me at birth. Or is it?
Is it in my nature to express the feminine literally? Is it natural to express the woman within? Does 'wearing' the title and appearance of 'woman' tell the world who I am? Or at least part of whom I am?
What makes a woman? If "Clothes make the man," then do they make the woman? If so, what sort of man do these "women's clothes" make me?
You want me to do what?! Go out? In public? Okay! I can do that. I can be who I want to be, and face the world as I am. Whoever that is.
[Note: This is also the final version of the original. Still pretty much the same... :) It's one of the ones I submitted too...]
[Prologue:] I was lying there, warm all over, & relaxed. A massage from a great Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) is heaven. My stress and aches had been pushed away with every soothing stroke. The perma-knot in my shoulder had unraveled a little. My mom had given me a great massage; my friends say she's the best LMT they've been to. Why is it that I always have to emphasize the LMT part before saying the masseuse is my mom? We're a repressed society when it comes to bodies, let alone sex and sexuality. Nothing sexual happens in a massage, but I feel obligated to imply that anyway. Nothing Oedipal going on.
I was amazed my mom didn't notice. I mean, how normal is it for a man to shave all his body hair, & even be a bit stubbly all over? I was nervous about what she might say or ask.
"Hey mom, guess what?"
"Well… I don't know how to say this. I'm nervous."
"What is it?"
I turned a deep, blushing, crimson red. Heck, I probably went through every shade of pink, magenta, red… I was a virtual light show.
"Mom, I'm a crossdresser. I like to wear women's clothes. I…"
I couldn't finish. I was watching the expression play across my mother's face. I didn't know what she was thinking, yet somehow it looked like a familiar story was being told on her face, without words. My mom was silent for what seemed like forever.
"Didn't you notice that I shaved my body hair?"
"No, I didn't."
On any other day that would have seemed odd. Not today…
"Hello, my sweet, wonderful baby. I'm so happy to be your mom. I'm so happy to be bringing you into this world. I can feel your little legs kick, going through growning pains, testing your world. I'm so happy to be your mom."
"Kick." The baby kicked, as if in response.
"What's that? You're happy too? Or are you simply kicking because you can, because you're alive?"
"" No response.
"My sweet baby, I hope you're healthy. I hope you come into a world that's less of a mess than it is now. I want tyou to be healthy. I don't care if you're a boy or girl, or something in-between." "Oh. what if you're not healthy? What if..."
"Kick!" The baby kicked hard, as if to say "Mom! Stop worrying. You're making it unpleasant in here."
Just then, amidst the pain, a rumbling, undulating, storm of gas rolled up her throat, tearing at the back of her mouth, and esaping loudly.
"Ow. Oh dear. You're right. I'm worrying again, aren't I? I love you, my dear, sweet child. I'm so happy to be your mom."
The text was as ancient as the culture. Simply seeing it reminded me of so many things I associated with the culture: Wonderful food, subtly spiced with the local flavors and traditions. Noisy marketplaces, selling so many things, and also providing community; a gathering place to visit with neighbors, and to conduct business. A style of building, in stone, that provided a permanence that speaks of how ancient the place and culture is. The people, beyond those in the market; those with their style of dress so different than mine, their skin darker than mine can attain & remain healthy, the universality of their laughter. The laughter that brings joy and relief. The release of so many tensions.
I wish I could read the ancient-looking text. I wish I knew for sure what language it is. It doesn't matter in the moment, it has sparked my imagination.
I've been asked to write about the most bizarre thing I've seen. There are so many things that could apply to this. The man in the Cirque du Soleil show that can twist himself into a human pretzel, and then roll around or fit in a box smaller than some purses seem to be. The sight of me, standing in front of a mirror, looking more-or-less like a woman mere moments before, & now my bald head, chest hair, made-up face, and 'etc.' causing cognitive dissonance so extreme it's no wonder that psychologists call it Gender Identity Disorder or Gender Dysphoria. [I wanted to insert more examples, but there was no time in the short write. Now, as Monty Python says, "for something 'completely' different"]
For me, though, those bizarre things pale in comparison to our nation's policies and actions in war. Whether that's against Native Americans, the Hawaiians, or with invading Iraq. The utter destruction of war. The cost in human lives. For Iraq, the cost of over $500 Billion. For what? To combat 'terrorism'? We're less safe now, & we did not 'get our man.' We were lied to. It feels dirty & bizarre.
[Okay, so maybe this very external thing didn't quite cause as much sense of the bizarre, but the reasons and costs of war are really puzzling, maddening, disheartening,... so many negative things to me.]
I reached into the bag, not knowing what I'd find. This was exciting! A little like a special event. A birthday, Christmas. The thrill of the unknown.
I felt a card. A string. My fingers absent-mindedly wandered, and then something new grazed my consciousness. Round. Round & soft. A disc. A button? An earring?
How easy it is to take sight, or any of the senses, for granted. Here is some object Iv'e been instructed to feel & not look at, and it evokes feelings of excitement, curiosity, pleasure, frustration. Whatever it is, I hope I get to see it; and I don't, then at least I was able to feel it and imagine...
I smiled as I reached into the bag. A shell! A smooth Nautilus shell, with spiky bumps here and there. I imagined the spiraling cross-section. Nature's perfect little house for a creature, tied to Mother Earth and to the Fibonacci sequence. How can it be so natural and yet so mathematical?
The shell, when sliced perpendicula to its length, that reminds me of the tri-spiral on the ancient tombs at Drogheda outside of Dublin, Ireland. A civilation that disappeared about 5,000 years ago, yet so advanced that their special tomb was designed to light up only on the Winter Solstice.
How can something so little like a shell remind me of so much? The wonder of nature, that we're all connected to. We're less directly connected than our ancestors were, and connected still the same.
I'd never seen a knit elf hat before, much less felt one. Ironic that it was Saint Patrick's day, and here I whad in my hand a pointy little elf Leprachaun hat! At first I thought it was a baby's sock, or maybe a Barbie doll sweater, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
I was walking through the park near my house in Oregon. A rare sunny Saint Patrick's DAy, the gray and gloom of Ireland staying there for a change. I was walking slowly, engrossed in the leaves, feeling a gentle breeze on my cheek, soaking up the sun like a starved plant. I was happy for the nourishment of my soul.
Suddenly I tripped! I stumbled, regained my balance, and as I lurched to a halt I noticed it! A colorful, tiny little knit thing. What is that? It's... It's a... hat?!
Against the wall of the schoolyard. My throat being squeezed hard, crushing the air, the hope, the life from me. Fear so thick, I can feel it in the air. My fear. His fear.
The wild, unthinking look in his eyes. He must be driven to be crushing my throat by some demon within. Some deep pain, some emotion he'd rather direct at me than face himself.
This thought doesn't help me. I am dying. I am suffocating! I can't breathe, and my mind racing with useless thoughts is only suffocating me more.
Wait! He's saying something! Maybe he's not crazed. Maybe...
That's when I blacked out. I woke up 3 days later, in the hospital. I don't remember. I don't remember what happened next, and I don't want to. Please. Please don't tell me...
[Content coming soon :)]
[Content coming soon :)]
[Content coming soon :)]
[Content coming soon :)]
Hopefully coming soon... ;-)
This is the piece I read at the release party; placed here until I get the various pieces posted here:
Simply By Seeing
You can't tell by looking that I'm a father, a college graduate, a democrat. You also can't tell, most of the time, that I'm a cross-dresser. You can't tell by looking what my sexuality is (No, I'm not telling you ;-). There are so many boxes I can place myself in, so many categories, yet I am not transparent about many things that make up who I am.
What if we were transparent? Instead of blood, muscle, and bone, you could see instead all the boxes people place you in, or that they place themselves in? I think there'd be so many itty-bitty boxes that you couldn't tell any details of what labels were on them. So even if we were transparent, and we could see the boxes, it wouldn't make a difference.
We make judgments about someone based on how they look, and maybe what little we've heard or even smelled. Why is it that we do not look beyond someone's appearance, beyond their exterior, to see who they really are? So we are not transparent, nor are others, but we can still seek to understand the whole. We can make an effort, you and I, to try to see beyond what our eyes tell us. See beyond what society tells us we should see about someone. Pull away the boxes, pull off the labels you placed on someone (and that are placed on you), and see what you can. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you see.
I shared with some of my local trans friends information about another Write Around Portland workshop for transgendered adults that's happening afte the one I took. One of my friends responded to my email by saying, essentially, 'Why would I attend a special workshop that brands me as something other than female?' [I did not quote her because I have not yet asked her permission to do so. I do feel okay paraphrasing her words though, particularly since I'm not saying who it is ;-)]
My response is as follows, and is excerpted from my blog/diary page for May of 2008:
You have a point. At a minimum, you have every right to do, or not do, what you want-- as long as it doesn't hurt others, and your abstaining from this workshop doesn't hurt anyone. You also have a point about this workshop for Transgendered Adults causing the participants to be labeled as 'trans.' There could be negative things that come from that; a sense of stigma in being labeled. Attending the workshop will cause the attendee to be labeled as 'Transgendered' (TG), though primarily by oneself. Those that attend workshops like these then implicitly accept the label of TG. The fact is that some of us, including myself, can embrace being labeled TG as part of who we are.
I am not a transsexual woman, so it is different for me. I am not working to be accepted in the world by 'everyone' as simply a woman, vs. a TS woman. There are those that don't want to join a trans group because if they have to be labeled as anything, they simply want to be labeled as the women that they are. The fact is that you're a transsexual woman, but that fact isn't important for anyone except for you, and perhaps some of those you love, to know about. So while I suspected you wouldn't want to take this workshop, I figured I'd let you (and my other trans friends) know about it, in case you did want to. Knowing about it and deciding not to go is easy; not knowing about it, wanting to go, and finding out about it after the fact is harder.
Being transgendered is part of who I am. I am okay with being labeled TG. It is true, I am transgendered. In fact, it is a label like black, gay, woman, or a myriad of other terms that have needed legal protection because of the discrimination against those who are labeled as such. I do work to 'pass' as a woman to make my life easier; to avoid the harassment or assault that all too many in our community have suffered from. If I don't pass, though, I'm working on not caring about that as long as I'm safe from physical harm. I would point out that attending a workshop for Transgendered Adults is not likely to cause physical (or even emotional) harm.
A writing workshop for Transgendered Adults is a chance for trans people to connect to others in the trans community. It is also an opportunity to do a free writing workshop, one that provides motivation to write weekly. Perhaps more importantly, it is a chance to be in a supportive environment that can help focus one's time to writing. It's a chance to share that writing in a safer environment than a non-trans workshop, one where the other people know you're trans. I believe that writing about my trans experience, and sharing that with others and getting constructive criticism, happened more effectively in a a supportive environment; in a trans and trans-supportive community. A workshop with those that likely have similar experiences. Not that writing about being trans is the only thing I wrote about, nor is it the only thing I want to write about. I do have the freedom, though, to share my trans experiences with less worry, by sharing my writing with others in the trans community.
This workshop is also a chance for those, as the WAP website says, "...who may not have access to writing in community because of income, isolation or other barriers." The reality is that many trans people are living in isolation, or dealing with other barriers. I deal with barriers in my life because I am trans, and I experience a certain amount of isolation too. Perhaps small compared to some, but isolation regardless. So these reasons aren't relevant to you, as you clearly don't feel the desire for the workshop. They are the reasons that some of my trans friends, and certainly some of those in the broader trans community, may indeed have for attending this workshop.
If we connect in community, share our stories, see each others' talents, and are reminded of our diversity and common bond, perhaps we would be stronger as a community, and have a voice beyond the sensationalism of daytime talk shows. Yes, that is a broad hope, and is pinning a lot on a simple writing workshop. However, I believe every positive action helps. Every time we bond in community, we help grow understanding and respect.
Simply by participating in a WAP workshop I have also had the chance to connect to others in, and beyond, the trans community. So beyond what it has done for me personally, I certainly hope it has created some positive change in others too. In fact, I'm fairly certain it has, as I have received some nice compliments from those outside the trans community that I've interacted with as a result of this workshop.
As a result of this workshop, I will have the opportunity at a party to stand in front of a room of many other people and read one piece of my writing. That one piece is a hint, a facet, of what it's like to be trans. A lot of the people listening won't be trans. Fear of the unknown is a powerful thing. Understanding is also a powerful thing, and it comes with knowledge. Knowledge comes most powerfully with having first-hand experience of something. I will have a chance to show them I am a person, one that can hopefully write and express herself/himself well. I'll have a chance to show them that I'm perhaps not as strange or scary as some of the people who've been sensationalized by the talk shows, or not as scary as the people they've imagined. I may even be simply exposing them to a trans person for the first time, and I believe that I am enough like other people that seeing me won't scare them too much. :)
The party I mentioned is a book release party. I will have my work published in an anthology of the writing that came from many workshops that occurred during the same time. This gives my one piece the chance that more people than those who attend the book release party will read my writing. My one little piece will hopefully leave a positive impression about people who are trans. If there is even one more person in the world who comes away with a positive opinion of being trans, understands that trans people are more like them than unlike them, or even simply has a more open mind, then it is worth it.
I've been talking about the reasons why a trans person might want to attend a WAP workshop for trans people. However, the benefit I have gained from attending a workshop goes beyond those I've already mentioned. Not only will others' perspectives be broadened, mine will too. I will have the opportunity to hear others' writing, beyond those in the workshop I attended. I will have a chance to have my perspective broadened, and to understand the perspective of others who have participated in a different WAP workshop. While some of the pieces may have nothing to do with the label they accepted by attending the workshop-- "veterans, women with metastatic cancers, adults living with disabilities, at-risk youth,... and many others"-- their writing is undoubtedly influenced by their experiences. I look forward to hearing, and sharing in, their experiences and broadening my world.
(Kimberley Anne McNelis, Transgendered woman)
This page last updated on 18 February, 2008.
©2008 (1964-onward) Kim McNelis. All Rights Reserved (No images, text, etc. may be copied w/out Kim's consent. Thank you).