I spent the better part of forty years trying to be one, but I never got there because I'm just not a man. And for all those years I struggled desperately to meet society's definition of it, I had no fondness or appreciation for them as a whole whatsoever. I always liked and admired my few male friends very much, but only because we had shared interests in other things, not because I was in any way impressed by their masculinity.
Masculinity represented all the things that made my life a living hell as a closeted transgender woman. It was like repeatedly failing a test for which I just didn't have the answers, and it was the only test I was allowed to take. In many ways, I grew to detest men because everything seemed so easy for them. I became very feminist in my ideals and personal convictions. I could man-bash like a real pro because I had unique insight into their realm.
Isn't it funny how hormones work? After nearly six months of estrogen, I am now starting to see men in an entirely new and, for the most part, less-unfavorable light.
Being a man is no picnic. I know, I tried for a long, long time. They shoulder tremendous burdens and swallow their emotions while remaining steadfast in their adherence to narrow societal gender roles. Men must have good jobs, strong bodies and large readily-erect penises. They must be tough and sensitive, aggressive and kind, competitive and nurturing. Our expectations of men, especially in this day and age, are very high. And as women attain more social status and financial independence, essentially becoming less reliant upon them, many are no doubt struggling to find their place in the mix. The days of hunting and battling warring tribes for food, territory and resources are long gone, rendering a man's physical prowess and aggressive nature no longer necessary to society. So what does he do with all that latent, penned-up masculinity?
Two of my best long-time male friends embraced their masculine natures and became awesome family men. One has grown children with successful careers in public service and the other adopted his own infant grandson when authorities removed him from an abusive/neglectful home. I really didn't acknowledge either of their goodness as men before. But now I can see just what terrific guys they are. I have so much respect and admiration for them both, as well as for all men who do right by the ones who rely on them so.
I find a good man much more impressive now than I did when I was futilely trying to be one.
Oh, but If only all men were so good...
As I was leaving the grocery store one day, I was catcalled. "Hey, darling, where ya goin'?" some fucker shouted from somewhere nearby in the parking lot. I ignored it initially because it's not something I'm yet accustomed to. But I looked around, noticed no other women, and saw them, four guys in the crew cab of a late-model F-350, staring at me in a way that men never used to. I was wildly flattered, disgustingly offended and a little frightened...all at the same time.
When I told my wife about it, I thought she was going to ground me. She spent the next several minutes preaching to me about how dangerous men are and to avoid them at all cost. "They only want one thing," she reminded me, "and you don't even have one yet."
It's true. If an attacker tears my clothes off and discovers that I'm still sportin' Uncle Willie down there, he's likely to take his frustrations out on me in other, perhaps worse ways. "If, God forbid, you ever find yourself in that position," my wife said to me, straight in the eye in a very matter-of-fact tone, "overpowered with a gun to your head or a knife to your throat, get on your knees and suck his cock. It's awful and you'll probably catch something, but it may well save your life."
I can't think of anything weirder than my wife of twenty years suggesting that I perform oral sex on a man, but I'm so glad I have her to tell me these things. Living as a man, I never developed a woman's sense of caution or fear of being molested. I went around fearless, never having to consider my own safety. But now, thanks to my wife's blunt honesty, I am much more aware of my surroundings at any given time, and I now carry pepper spray.
I'm cautious of men now, at least enough to steer clear of them if I feel threatened.
(Disturbed singer, David Draiman, appearing on TBS's Conan)
I was flipping through the TV channels one evening and stumbled upon the band Disturbed performing their cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence," a song I've always loved and known very well. Singer David Draiman, his voice, his eyes, his presence, his clothes, everything about him, grabbed my soul and squeezed it as tightly as possible. I was absolutely enamored. I told my wife, "For a serenade, I'd give that man anything he wanted" - and I meant it in the sluttiest way possible. Before the hormones, I would never have had such thoughts - and even if I had, I most certainly wouldn't have admitted to it...and to my wife, no less!
I don't know if most women find David Draiman to be as sexy and irresistible as I did at that moment. He doesn't really fit the stereotype of a male heartthrob, but there was something about him and that performance on TV that rendered me absolutely giddy with a sort of adolescent crush that I don't remember ever experiencing in my youth. It wasn't a matter of mere admiration. It was an uncontrollable emotional reaction that had nothing to do with logic or reason. At that moment, for reasons I can't possibly fathom, he seemed to me like the type of man who'd protect me and never stand for those creeps catcalling me in the grocery store parking lot. It was a fleeting juvenile crush on a rock star, brought on by my love of music and rising hormone levels comparable to those of a 13-year-old girl.
When I decided to transition from male to female, I was overjoyed that I would now get to live as the person I've always been on the inside. I no longer had to keep hiding or pretending. But I also felt a strange sense of abandonment, as though I was giving up on an extended family - changing teams, switching sides...or whatever such metaphor you choose to employ. I felt a little like a defector, or as though I were exiling myself. I didn't even know if the other team would accept me, but it didn't matter. Accepting myself is, and will always be, more important than whether or not others do.
When I said goodbye to my former male self, I thought that my perspective and opinion of men would only further deteriorate. I was never a big fan of men, even when I was trying to be one, and I thought those feelings would only intensify during my transition. Instead, I've found the opposite to be true. Despite developing a healthy fear of them for my own safety, I've come to admire them even more as providers and protectors, fathers and husbands.
I don't know how much longer our society will remain a "man's world," but I'm certain that good, dedicated, devoted men will continue to play a key role in it without sacrificing the things that make them men.
Thanks for reading!