Lonely Champion

Lonely Champion 

“When did you start transition?”  The most commonly asked question and misunderstanding

When people find out I am trans they usually ask “when did you start transition?”  The answer to that question is much more complicated than people realize.  If society never told those of us who are transgendered that anything was wrong with who we are, I don’t believe anyone would need to go through surgeries, hormones or other treatments to change our bodies and appearance.  I was fine with my body and who I was until society started putting me in their categories.  Such as, I should not want to play with certain toys because I had a vagina and I should want to play with baby dolls because I had a vagina.  That I had to get in this group or that group because of my genitalia even if that is not the group I related to at all.  Transition, to me, starts when society shows us where we are supposed to neatly fit and some of us realize we just don’t fit there; when we feel that society is telling us there is something wrong with us and then we begin the struggle to figure out how and where we can fit.  I began my transition when I was four or five. While playing with other kids, I changed my name and told them I was Matt Dillon.  I dressed like the good sheriff and told them that was who I was.  This was not a phase, I constantly used boy’s names whenever I could as a kid in any play situation I could, and was always the guy who would rescue the girl.  I was desperately trying to tell others who I was in a way that a four or five year old can communicate.  Asking when you started transition is like asking someone “when did you decide that you were gay?”  People do not just decide these things one day;  we go through a process of figuring out how to be who we are in a society that in many ways does not allow room for our diversity.  Then we have to figure out how to communicate who we are.    

Transition does not begin when we start medical treatment.  Transition begins when we are struggling to find a way to fit in a society that does not make room for those of us who are not at one end or the other of the gender spectrum.  If we don’t fit on the ends of that scale it makes people uncomfortable, therefore they do all they can to pressure us to conform and fit into what is more comfortable for them. This causes many transgendered people to sink into depression and withdraw.  Tragically, 47%  of transgendered individuals have attempted suicide due to this pressure.  No other minority in the world has as high percentage of a depression and attempted suicide rate.   To hold ones head up and walk through this world when everywhere we turn people and society are telling us “you do not fit” is very challenging.  I believe this societal pressure also slows down the process we go through of totally discovering who we are.  Most young people go through life discovering themselves without constantly being told they are wrong and don’t fit.  Of course all young people go through times of not fitting in, but it isn’t the day to day experiences of not fitting in that transgendered people experience.   

Things are changing, but it is slow.  Even though science has proven that gender is a spectrum or a continuum, it takes a time for that knowledge to change the hearts and minds of people who have been brainwashed for so many years that there are only two types of gender and all of the proper behavior that comes with each of those.

 Here are just a few places where you can learn more about the gender spectrum: 

·        http://www.gender.org/

One of my partners said to me “it was probably easier for you because you were an athlete, a jock.”   In some ways yes, I had a place, I could be tough and it was sometimes celebrated.  It was also the most constant reminder that people put me in a box that I did not feel was mine nor where I fit.  In competition they had gender categories and I had to be in a female category because of what they perceived was in my pants even though they had not seen what was in or not in my pants.  They did not test my chromosomes or my hormones levels.  These people thought I could only compete in a category with other people who they thought had vulvas.  I guarantee that the vulva’s did not all look alike, nor were our hormone levels all the same and now that we know there are over 60 variations of chromosomes I am sure those were not all alike either.    I did not fit well into the group they put me with.  When I was put in women’s groups in sports I was constantly told back off, you are too much,   too aggressive.  I was also told consistently “Wow you are so strong for a girl.”  I hated that!  I could not seem to get away from the reminders in the world of athletics, especially in competition, that I was different and I was never what they understood me to be.  When I announced that I was officially transitioning one friend and a fellow high ranking martial arts instructor who is female, said “you should not transition because you will not be as special and as big of a fish as you are as a male martial artist.”

Yes, much of my fame as a martial artist has been due to the fact that I was born with a vulva. 

 My own instructor would feature me in demonstrations and shows because it was so phenomenal what I could do as a “girl.”  This got me on the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” show, the Discovery Channel and more.  Most people never knew how hard that was for me inside.  Why couldn’t they just understand that I was good?  Why did they need to constantly say I was amazing for a “girl?”  Even though it was very difficult and I did not like being put in a category, I always chose to look at the positive and I am glad that I could walk that journey and hopefully help show the world that one’s athletic performance, strength, persistence and drive is not a due to one’s genitalia.  All of this attention was due to the fact that I was not just what they called a “girl” but an exception to all of what they knew as “girl” made it harder for me to say what I really felt inside.   How could I explain to them that, no, I am really not a girl?  I didn’t feel like a girl and never had.  I felt like I was playing a part in a movie and that almost no one really got who I was.  It was a very lonely place to be because people were so SET in their perceptions. 

I am proud that I feel I have walked a journey in the world of sports and martial arts that has hopefully paved a better way for women.  I am proud I have shown that people born with a vulva can do more than those born with penises ever realized  or understood and, and even more than many born with vulvas thought.  I have had many women walk up to me and tell me I have inspired them that they can do more than they had previously believed and that is a positive that I can keep.  I do have a unique understanding for what many women face all the time.  Perceptions they face because of the load of crap our society feeds us about gender and gender roles.  Because of this experience, I will always be a guy who lives and works to help empower women and break those archaic perceptions of gender and gender roles.   I also have to be myself and gender is about how we are in our hearts and minds.  Science has also proven through mapping the minds of transgendered people that our minds are wired and work the way of the gender we feel we are inside.  Which is no surprise to me; because I have always known that my mind is wired on the male side of the gender spectrum. 

My experience has taught me so much.  I feel at times that I played a part in a movie and in order to do what I loved, I could not fully and openly be myself.  I also know that walking that journey has made me, in the long run, a better man with much more understanding for all who face discrimination, societal pressure and who are struggling for the right and freedom to be openly and fully who they are.  I don’t show emotion easily and as I am writing this there are tears streaming down my face because I have never really talked about what was going on inside of me while being the famous martial arts champion, expert and master teacher.  It was bitter sweet.  Many thought I was great; I had it all.  I was talented and yet I was struggling for the strength to be fully true to who I am.  I was always concerned what would they think if they knew?  Would knowing take away my career, friends, and support?    Where would I fit?  Here is one of the ironic things about my relationship with my soul mate, the martial arts, on one hand I believe it saved my life.  Coming from the totally fucked up childhood as I did, I found the martial arts at six years old and it gave me something healthy to put the boundless energy I had into and it gave me an alternative and more healthy family to be a part of.   I also used it as an escape and a way out from my fucked up family life.  In doing that I put all of my identity into it and into what I accomplished and therefore became a crazy overachiever, while at the same time not feeling understood or that I could be who I truly was.  Finally, I decided I could not hide any longer and I feel more at peace inside then I ever have before.  I also was finally secure enough to realize that those who really cared about me would want me to be happy even if they did not fully understand and I was willing to risk losing some people that I cared about to be true to who I am. 

The best gift we can give those we care about, those who we call friends is the freedom to walk whatever their journey is and even if we don’t fully understand it be supportive.  Give them the freedom to be true to their hearts and do not expect people to live a lie or hide a part of themselves just to make yourself more comfortable. 

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A Regular Guy

A Regular Guy

Recently, someone called me “a regular guy,” I chuckled.  There has never been much that is regular about me, but it actually felt nice in the context that It came from to be called just a regular guy.  Not sure how you would actually define a regular guy but the intent was “someone I can talk to and relate to”.  When a person transitions it affects those around them and each person who knows them even casually has to adjust and is challenged by this change in some way.  I think the reason this has such a far reaching affect is due to the heavy brainwashing that goes on in our society regarding gender roles.  From the time we are old enough to understand anything we are told, and shown, that things are different if you have a vulva than if you are born with a penis; even to the extent of the toys the child should choose to play with or not.  What does a penis or vagina have to do with that?  

Those who met me or knew me before any medical part of my transition and before I said publically I am transitioning of course have a different perspective from those who have meet me and gotten to know me since.  The ones who have meet me since say they cannot even imagine any hint of female.  The funny thing is those who knew me before always said things to me like “you are not like any girl I know,” and “you are more masculine then most men I know.”  These comments were before any hormone treatment of medical procedures.  Some of those same people from the past have had a hard time with me moving forward with transition and others say it makes total sense.

I have the privilege, as some of you know, of singing in the Seattle Men’s Chorus with two-hundred and fifty wonderful guys.  This last concert series we did had a big affect on my relationship with some of the guys in the chorus.  We did a version of the Beatle’s song “Imagine”, they asked a few of us in the chorus to come out as disenfranchised people and hold a sign.   I stood out in front of thousands holding a sign that said “Transgendered.” Not all of the guys in the chorus knew, so I was outing myself, yet again.  As an activist I do this often even though I don’t have to.  This made many of the guys step forward and be more vocal about their support or to talk to me about it.  One of my fellow singers, who I’d never had a chance to spend time with before, grabbed a snack and drink with me before the concert.  He had always been friendly but we had never chatted before, other than saying “hi, how are you.”     We chatted for about an hour, laughed and had a good time, at the end of the conversation he said to me “Mac, may I tell you something?”  I of course said sure.  He said, “I never really knew what to say to you before and was afraid I would say something wrong that would offend you so I kind of avoided talking to you other than saying hi, but you are really easy to talk to and a fun, nice, regular guy.  I am really glad we have had a chance to talk.”  I have thought about that conversation a great deal since and wondered how many others feel something similar — worried about slipping on a pronoun or saying something offensive or concerned that they don’t know the lingo.  The way I am, if I know your intent is good then I figure we all make mistakes.  I don’t expect you to be perfect or know it all.  While some people in the GLBTQ community are quick to chastise people who don’t understand all of the lingo, I don’t believe this helps make positive change. 
Tips to help you talk with a Transgendered person

§  When not sure what pronoun to use ASK

§  If you slip – Apologize

§  If you don’t understand something ASK

§  No one transitions to offend you or make your life more difficult

§  We don’t bite unless asked nicely 😉

§  You can’t catch it

§  You will most likely never completely understand this if you are not transgendered

§  Have compassion

§  If you don’t understand something ASK
As transgendered people we also have a responsibility to help create positive change; like being understanding and forgiving when people make a mistake.  If we must correct a person do it with grace and a smile.   I don’t believe most people’s intent is to hurt or offend.  No matter how many times we have been hurt or offended if we choose to look from a positive perspective and not a negative one; things will change for the better.  We can control our own attitudes –starting with removing the chips off our shoulders!

We are all people first, let’s never forget that.  Then all the other labels represent pieces of us.  Uncle, lover, partner, brother, son, friend, artist, activist, athlete, singer, homosexual, heterosexual, bi-sexual, man, woman, transgendered, intersexed.  I could go on and on with the many labels we are dealt or give ourselves but really I am just a regular guy with various labels.   No one label is better than the other; they just represent a little piece of the pie of who we are.  Some days I am just a regular guy, who likes to hang out with my friends and puppies and have good beer.
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