Enough already. I used to blog about way more interesting (and varied) topics.. topics and themes that hinged on my opinions and my perspective and which centered around unique experiences that ranged from conversations with orthodox Jews in Mountaindale, New York (in the summer of 2010) to a debate on Reese Witherspoon in cinema with a random stranger that I encountered at a local public library in Alabama. I’ve been caught up in the constantly unraveling newsreel regarding my gender identity/sexual orientation for about 9 months now (fun fact: that’s the standard length of time that a woman carries a child), and in the past week alone, I have made significant strides in de-shrouding the mystery of it all and have made a pretty striking discovery/decision as well. So.. are you ready to find out the gender, ladies and gentlemen? Is Jace a boy or a girl? Scroll below for the answer and please try to conceal your surprise.
The answer: I am neither.
What I am is sitting on a leather couch at Saturn right now, and showtime is starting in just 8 minutes, so this is going to be refreshingly brief. Let me explain.
Setting the stage: Through internal dialogue, external conversations, song-writing, journal and blog entries and ugly-crying, I’ve been hopelessly toggling – for 9 months now – between what APPEARED to be my only (2) options in life:
A. Identifying as a lesbian woman (there’s nothing wrong with that at ALL, except.. is it really an accurate portrayal of me? My identity entails so much more than just my sexual orientation.)
B. Becoming a fully-transitioned transgender boy (aka the dream, which will never, ever happen because I refuse to fuck with my body’s natural chemistry)
I would spend mornings, afternoons and evenings (hours and days and weeks and MONTHS) deliberating between the two. “Which is it going to be, Jace? Identifying as a lesbian will be a lot easier for you and everyone around you; the word ‘transgender’ is far less known and a little too out there.. people fear what they don’t understand. Plus, you’ll never, in this lifetime, LOOK like the guy you “feel like” on the inside. One out of every thirty people might see it, and the ones who do will probably be very young children or people who are so old that they just can’t see clearly, even WITH prescription eyeglasses on. So. What’s it going to be? You’ve got to make a decision. This is driving you and me crazy.”
And then, I realized that I did have another option. Before I deliver the quick summary that you’re scanning for – the one that will finally end this 9-month theme – let me share a few conversations that have helped draw the truth out and that have led me to this conclusion. Each person’s name has been changed, but if they read this, they’ll know who they are.
- Lance and I are sitting in a — you guessed it! Coffee shop. This is our first time meeting in-person. When I ask what kind of drink he’ll be ordering, he mentions that he doesn’t really drink coffee much.
“Anything you’d care to recommend?” He raises his eyebrows at me inquiringly, smiling. He’s got a sweet fo-hawk, a glistening lip ring, warm brown eyes, and he’s wearing a black, green and neon pink band-t with smooth gray jeans and skater shoes.
“Well, I got the white mocha latte last time, and it was really good,” I offer. He says that it sounds good to him and he orders one, and then we’re sitting beside each other in matching brown recliners, making small talk (jobs, social circles, general life backgrounds). Eventually, we get down to the brass tacks of sharing the similar experience in our separate journeys.. transitioning.
“Before I started transitioning, there were days when…” he paused. “I, just.. I didn’t even realize I was doing it, but people would say that I was being quiet. Really quiet. That I hadn’t said much that day. And I started to realize, then — to notice that entire days would pass where I wouldn’t really say anything out loud. I just couldn’t stand hearing my own voice at that pitch. I hated it.” His voice, now, as he was relating this to me out loud, was deep and masculine. Pleasant. Very fitting. I peered into his face while he wasn’t looking, taking in the stubble growing above and beneath his lips, his marked jaw line. I smiled. I felt so happy for him.
“Things are really nice now,” he continued, looking happier. “I’m able to live my life and focus on it, RATHER than on how I think other people are perceiving me and worrying about whether or not they’re seeing me the way I see myself. I know they do. I don’t have to wonder.” Wow, I breathed inwardly. I can’t even imagine how incredible that would be.
- Sky looked me in the eye one afternoon, shaking her head from side to side and seeming tired. “So what are you going to do, Jace? We’ve been talking about this together for months now. If you aren’t going to transition, what are you going to do? How are you going to be okay with being a woman?” I looked at her from my location (about eight feet away; I was leaning against the doorway, my arms crossed and my head resting lightly against the door jam). I held her gaze and shook my head. There were no words. I had no clue.
- We were sitting outside of Rojo last Saturday, sharing a table, chips, and house-made guacamole when I told her for the first time: I am transgender. “Transgender?” Her voice raised (in pitch) by about an octave. Marley’s eyebrows became furrowed and her face crinkled with confusion. “Baby, what does that mean? That you like to skateboard and ride a motorcycle and keep your hair cut short? Honey, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.. that you have to be a boy.”
I smiled at her and laughed a little. I knew she loved me, and that she was trying to understand.
“I know, Marley. It’s just.. it’s more than that. It’s not how I act, or who I like.. it’s how I feel. It’s intuitive, and it’s so obvious to me. I’m around women, and — since MIDDLE school — I’ve always felt like something OTHER THAN them. Around guys, on the other hand, I have always felt perfectly like a dude, until I’d see the way they were looking at me.” I took the last bite of my burrito while she watched me. We talked a little more and then things got quiet.
“You know Jesus loves you, right baby?” I looked up at her and cracked another smile. Oh Marley. You know I’m agnostic.
“Baby,” she continued, searching deep into my eyes, “you KNOW he loves you, RIGHT? I don’t care what ANYONE says. You’ve got to tell me that you KNOW he loves you.”
“Yes, Marley; I know he loves me.”
“Baby.. you PROMISE me you know.”
I sighed inwardly. Hypothetically, I thought to myself, if Jesus did exist, I’m sure he would love me. Sure; he’d have to send me to hell for being gay, but he’d still really love me.
“Yes, Marley. I promise that I know.”
- We’ll call this one Clyde. Clyde and I went walking at the park together on Sunday. I was toting my skateboard around and he was carrying a bag full of delicious Chipotle burritos, and we were in the process of finding a place to sit.. a spot that would be near the water and that would also offer a pretty good view of passing trains. As we walked, we conversed, and at one point, he said something that sent a mighty, mighty shock wave through my freaking soul.
“My transition has pros and cons, of course. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that I had decided to transition – not for me – but.. for others. For everyone else.” He paused, nodding towards a bench for us to park ourselves at. He continued. “I realized, then, that I had chosen to transition because I wanted other people to see me the way I saw myself.. it was that important to me.. and now, they do.I succeeded. The con is that, now, I have to take these hormones every day for the rest of my life, and according to certain medical studies, my lifespan could very well be shortened because of this decision.” He shrugged good-naturedly and smiled at me.
“Now Clyde,” I responded quietly, “you may have, in a way, done it for them, but look at how you’ve benefited from your decision — you’ve got substantial facial hair, bigger muscles, a masculine profile and that deep, sexy voice..” my voice trailed off and he laughed as I slipped my arm around his waist, leaned in, and kissed his cheek. “You are gorgeous,” I whispered into his ear.
Okay; so his name isn’t Clyde. It’s Charlie. And we’re back together. More on that soon.
- I was returning home from a hike with my German Shepherd on Sunday evening. I called my mom (who I fondly nicknamed Sierra in the 7th grade) and she answered cheerfully. “Hey there, Rose! What’s up?”
We caught up on the events of the past week and then, as with many of our other conversations, the topic of my identity (re)surfaced.
“You know Rose,” she started out slowly (she still calls me Rose), “I’ve been thinking about it, and I feel like.. maybe.. you aren’t transgendered. Maybe you’re gender fluid. Have you ever heard of that?”
I watched a car pass on the left-hand side of the road, still cupping the phone against my right ear, and smiled off into the distance. I pictured Sierra engaging in online research earlier on that day, using Google searches that involved phrases like “what is a transgender person”, “my transgender daughter” and then suddenly stumbling upon the term “gender fluid.”
“Yes Sierra,” I responded. “I have heard of that. And you know what? I’ve actually been thinking about that term a lot recently. How it might pertain to me.” My sneaker accidentally knocked against a stone, capturing Sheppy’s attention as it skipped across the concrete. I tightened my grip on his leash. “Honestly? I think that’s the direction I’m heading in. Viewing and introducing myself as gender fluid. There are, admittedly, certain feminine aspects that I embody.. character- and personality-wise.. and honestly? I’m okay with that. I am okay with those. I’m not resentful of them, and I’m not trying to extinguish them. Now, with that being said, I’ll always be 80% boy and 20% girl, but, I’m realizing that.. there’s nothing shameful about being a biological woman, and that my beef ISN’T WITH my body. It’s with how people perceive me in this body and how, the second, the very instant, they take in my outward appearance, they immediately slap an entire collection of stereotypes onto me that are nothing like me.” I paused briefly and then she listened along, silent, as I continued to think out loud. “I’ve been upset, for almost a year now, that people don’t see me the way I view myself, but.. it’s okay. 9/10 people will look at me and see a girl, because I am one. 1/10 will see a boy. Those people make my day, every time. But whichever type of person they see — it doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t change anything about me. It doesn’t change who I am, and it doesn’t need to change my opinion of myself, either. The truth is, by nature, self-evident, and perception doesn’t factor into it. At all.” I blinked and suddenly realized that I had already arrived back at home. I was automatically opening the garage door and Sierra was still hanging on the line, connecting with me, via telephone, from a small, rural town in Tennessee. She was probably wearing a skirt at this very moment and had her Bible within arm’s reach, I’m sure. My new lifestyle was, I knew, bizarre to her, and contrary to everything she believed in, but she still cared, and she was trying, very diligently, to understand and to help me in any way that she could.. in whatever way her conscience would allow. I smiled. “Thanks for listening, mom,” I whispered into the receiver. “I appreciate you caring about me and I do think that you’re right. I think that gender fluid — or gender neutral — is the way to go.”
And there you go, folks. If you ask me and you don’t want the obvious answer (OA: I am a biological woman) or the weird answer (WA: I am a cool dude trapped inside of a woman’s body), I’ll give you the most honest answer.. the one that has, recently, given me an overwhelming sense of peace and contentment: I am gender neutral. I don’t want, or need, to choose a class of people to belong to.. a gender to cling to and perfectly identify myself with. I am somewhere along the spectrum. I have girlish aspects and I have boyish ones, and while I still have a lot of ongoing work to do on my character and many more shocking life discoveries to make, I am happy with who I am today. I’m ready to re-set my focus outward (I’ve been gazing inward for what has felt like far too long.. but really, it was for just long enough), and I’m excited to simply exist without analyzing the categories and labels and adjectives that make up my existence. I am fundamentally me. I am not constructed out of words; I am not built upon categories, layered with adjectives, or glued together by labels. I am – in this lifetime, at least, and – I hope – in the next one.. gender neutral. Androgynous. Free.
And oh — yeah. Btdubs, Charlie and I are together again. My “year hiatus” (announced in my previous post) lasted a mere week (hey; Biblically speaking, some speculate that a year is sometimes synonymous with a week), and it was exactly what I needed. Time and space to breathe; to gather information from the outside, and then to carry it inside and examine it in light of who I am as a person. “Who am I?” I asked myself. “And WHAT am I? What do people see and feel when they’re around me? What do they think of me? On a related note, what will they think if it looks like I’m dating a BOY? Will that make me seem less stable and authentic if I’m claiming to be gay/lesbian/transgender? AND AM I ALL THREE OF THOSE THINGS OR CAN I FREAKING PICK ONE?”
Once again, I was miserably caught up in stressing over the perception of others. It’s good to care about what people think, you guys. It’s important to be honest with people (and with yourself), and it’s good to be a thoughtful, considerate, and overall respectable human being.. but you can’t let your self-consciousness consume you. I definitely let it get there, and it was so unhealthy for me. It – that exaggerated, domineering self-consciousness – was literally dictating my daily movements; erecting walls and defining boundaries without me even realizing it was even happening because I had, subconsciously, granted permission for it to happen. Insane. I lost myself in the eyes of the crowd. I’m mindful of it now, and I’m done allowing it to happen. I know who I am now (not fully, but much better than I did before), and I also know that I love Charlie. Should anything else really matter? Should peoples’ false perceptions or “expert opinions” stand in our way of being together? As Charlie would say, hell to the naw to the naw naw naw. He’s pretty adorable.
And with that all of that finally settled (A. Jace is gender fluid and B. Jace is totally in love with Charlie), it’s time to add my name to the open mic sign-in sheet, tune my guitar, and step onto the stage. I’m wearing my NASA shirt and rainbow Vans. They make me feel comfortable. My hair is short, the way I like it, and I’ve got just one of my ears pierced.. and when I sing, I’ll definitely sound like a girl. I’m cool with that. Pretty sure everyone else will be, too.
Signing off with two fantastic quotes.
- “Instead of seeing two-spirit persons as transsexuals who try to MAKE themselves into the opposite sex, it is more accurate to understand them as individuals who take on a gender status that is different from both men and women.”
- “At some point, I realized that I’m personally more interested in breaking down the gender binary than in jumping from one side to the other.” Ahhh.. yes. Now we’re getting somewhere.
Singing, strumming and smiling all the way along the spectrum,