Standing Up: I Suppose This is My Fight Song
I’ve spent my life guarding her fiercely. Protecting her from a world we were certain would kill her if they got a glimpse of her.
I don’t generally think of myself as more than one Soul. I have just the one. But in much the same way children learn public nudity is wholly unacceptable in polite society, so it was with my femininity. My very essence. My life force.
It wasn’t a thing I’ve ever fully hidden, or could, but from early on it was given a tablecloth, a doily and a lamp and told to stay hidden in a dark corner.
I have lived with a cloudy understanding of myself, long suppressed. A vibrant and curious little girl no one wanted to know. I remember glimpses of her from the age of two nearing three. I often wonder if others (truth be told there are very few left) remember her, though I’m certain it isn’t with the same fondness I hold.
Upon my mother’s death, and especially during lockdown, what I came to know as I explored the next chapter for my life is this: I am a writer, and I am a communicator. I’m also many other things, but these two I return to again and again. They bring me fulfillment. They spark my joy. But I cannot do either well while hiding behind a weary translator.
Writing from deep within requires exposing what is really there, as it is, not as it was told to be. Like most women on the planet, I understand most men better than they understand themselves because I’ve had to study them. They are largely foreign, still. It’s been important to know them because I have long feared them, even as I desired their attention. Much of the attention I’ve gotten has been violent, and yet, I love men.
Let’s get not all men out of the way. Of course it isn’t “all.” Nothing is “all.”
I spent two marriages not living up to expectation because I wasn’t the thing I felt I had no choice but to portray. I didn’t have the wherewithal to understand that roleplay wasn’t enough to offer. I tried so very hard to live up to my own commitment to show up as a man. I just wasn’t one. I’m certain that came as a disappointment, even as I adored the women I married.
And while I am deeply attracted to some women, (both wives, for sure) I do not idolize or fetishize them, I am simply wired as one.
I admit I have always found the male form more intriguing and visually appealing. Yet, born in a body with all the attributes I find interesting, it never made sense for me to inhabit it. I wasn’t born in the wrong body exactly, I am just a human whose wiring never matched the plumbing, existing in a world that said they must match in a very certain way. Mine do not and never have.
It took me years to Know you cannot change human wiring. It is immutable. Plumbing, not so much. You can change the plumbing pretty easily. We can make alterations to so many physical things, and many of us do, gender identity notwithstanding. Hair color, cup size, facial organization, hell, even eye color with some cheap contact lenses.
But the wiring? You can try to rip it out, I guess. Lobotomize it away. They’ve done that to people like me in the not so distant past.
Many of us try hard to drug it away with alcohol or chemicals or religion, which is a drug for sure.
But it remains, unchanged, looming, waiting for a sober moment to remind us who we are.
I remember my nightly prayers, begging to be different. Asking to wake up with the correct girl parts, or to wake up feeling like a boy. Later to wake up not desiring boys. Later still begging to not hate myself so much -this final prayer being the only one ever “answered.” The answer? I could learn to love myself, but first I had to learn to cherish myself. As-is. “God” doesn’t change that which is perfect as created.
The word courage comes up a lot for me. I’ve called myself a coward for most of my life. But was I? Objectively, didn’t it take hella courage to face each day navigating the expectations of manhood, suppressing the certainty of my womanhood to the point I’d convinced myself it must have been an illusion, believing — and I mean believing hard -that I had no real choice? I had actually convinced myself there was a nobility to my “sacrifice.” A cross to bear. Or something. What utter horseshit.
It was religion that solidified my belief that I must follow “biology” (clearly without understanding the word or the facts, as so many don’t to this day) and deny my wiring. Let the plumbing dictate how we organize the house, as God intended! Because I believed with my entirety that no one could know me and also love me, I had to include myself in that twisted little game. What I’d once thought I knew myself to be was an obvious misunderstanding, right? Had to be. Except it wasn’t.
Love was conditional and rationed in my childhood. It was based on the acceptability of my behavior, and my agreement to “behave” as a boy. It takes a long time to grow away from that shit.
Even as I did my level best to tell my children I love them unconditionally and forever, I wrestle with whether or not I was too insistent on polite behavior.
For the first time in my life I am in an intimate relationship where I am fully accepted. I’ve had deep and lasting friendships for a long time, and I am beyond grateful for them — but I am not someone who functions best without a partner. I know I wouldn’t be here at all without my man solidly by my side these past ten years.
It has taken all of 56 years to stop apologizing for the space I take up.
It has taken all of 56 years to come to this place, out loud, ostensibly naked, and insist there is no going back. I’ve torn the last closet door from it’s hinges and thrown it on the fire. YES, this is real. YES, I’m sure and NO this isn’t a phase. I’m so fucking tired of coming out.
I don’t need to be the best trans woman who ever transed. I don’t need to be perfect at or in anything anymore. I’m tired. Bone tired. I do not owe anyone excellence to be valid or to be loved. I have striven for and not attained perfection for my whole life. I’m going to fashion the fragments and broken pieces into something even stronger, perhaps ugly to some, yet intrinsically beautiful to me. I’m finally telling myself I matter.
And I’m not gonna waste breath or time on anyone who feels “betrayed.” I WAS FUCKING BETRAYED! I was betrayed by the people who brought me into this world and kept me alive on their very strict terms. I was betrayed by a society that STILL likes to show me how much they hate people like me. I was betrayed by the religionists who proclaim GOD doesn’t even like me when -if I know anything at all- I am EXACTLY as “God” made me! So if anyone anywhere feels that all my years of following “ the” rules is somehow a personal betrayal? They can adjust, or fuck off. Blunt, I realize, but I’m not seeking permission to exist. Not any more.
I often say “have some or don’t.” It’s a useful little phrase born one day at a free event at our local library. I was a volunteer coordinator, and the man providing free juice from his nearby juice bar had stepped away to the restroom. An attendee asked me about the two flavors of juice, unlabeled. I said, “I honestly don’t know, but its free, and there are cups right there. You can try each.”
She seemed befuddled. “I’m sure he’ll be right back,” said I.
“But what are the flavors?” She insisted.
“Oh,” snarked me as I pointed to each glass container,
“Have Some, or Don’t.”
A friend overheard me and ducked behind a wall, doubled over laughing. “I have to remember that. It’s a great philosophy for hosting free events” said he.
Indeed. It’s a useful phrase when being a big old trans broad, too.
And that’s where I am today. Have some or don’t. I adore people, truly I do. But I can’t get on with things if I can’t simply see and be seen without the costume of manhood and maleness. It’s been like trying to play volleyball in a spacesuit. It’s kinda possible, but it sure as hell isn’t comfortable or easy. And I’m done asking myself to do it.
Look, there will be days I just don’t feel like shaving. There will be days I refuse any makeup at all. This isn’t about my appearance. This isn’t about the superficial. This isn’t about “passing” as anything beyond authentic. Pretty is as pretty does, and inside I find myself to be fucking gorgeous. You may not, and I’m good with that. I’m a lot, I know.
My maleness, or at least my sexuality, has always been whispered about when it wasn’t being directly mocked. I got over this a long time ago. I tried being “part of your world” and most often came up short. So I’ve been creating and enjoying my own world for some time now. I don’t think it’s fair to say I ever wore any more of a mask than the majority of Americans wear — just perhaps a different one.
Most humans have various situational persona, but the fun thing about getting older is that as we age we tend to drop them, one by one. It’s especially heartbreaking when one believes there would be nothing left without the show masks. The public reputation. The acquired labels.
The good stuff is the tender stuff we keep hidden. I want to focus the rest of my time on this planet exploring my good stuff. There are a few folks out there I hope will eventually join me again, but that really is their decision, not mine. I will love them even if they prefer never to see me.
I’m going to spend my time using my voice, and whatever platform I am blessed with, to keep trying to untangle mess. Everything happening in America right now around “protecting children” is only about protecting little straight white cis children.
We say they are the only ones worthy of protection when we erase the stories of all the others. I was there. I went through school never hearing about anyone like me. It’s lonely. It’s isolating. It makes it very difficult to find self esteem through education when what you are is too repulsive to even mention.
I want us to protect all children the way republicans want to protect those certain white kids.
You’re not pro-life or pro-child when only certain lives matter.
You’re not pro-life when only certain histories matter.
You’re not pro-life when only certain identities matter.
And you’re certainly not pro-life when only certain skin colors matter.
You’re also not pro-family if only certain families have a voice, and only certain families deserve recognition and respect. We must do far better if we are ever going to live up to the promise we were sold as America.
My work, as I currently see it, is in joining the chorus of voices that rightly insist all LGBTQIA+ identities are real, valid, and worthy of the same rights and respect as the rest of the humans.
Religious ideology will never trump lived experiences. If you choose not to “believe in” my trans identity, that’s like saying a) you think you know me better than I can know myself — you do NOT; and b) I am not a “real” human in your eyes.
That leaves us at an impasse, and I invite you to live and be well -over there. But if you decide to legislate against me and mine, of course we will fight you, point out your hypocrisy, your inconsistent “logic” and your fear-based mean spiritedness. You called this fight, not us.
I quite like it when we live and let live, in a world where we do our best to drop our illusions and celebrate all actual humanity, not just the white cishets.
There’s nothing “wrong” with being a white cishet, you were born that way. You can’t help it, poor things. I would appreciate it if you’d stop throwing it in our faces, though. Ramming it down our throats, as it were. We don’t care what you do in private, but you keep bringing your bedrooms into the street and it really is unseemly. Think of the children!
I haven’t written in a while because I was busy putting on my big girl pants, creating a brand new Facebook profile, and sharing our work with a broader audience of Dear Ones. But I’m back. I’m queer magic. And in so many ways, I’ve only just begun.
I am Martha Fucking Madrigal, and I want to thank you if you’ve decided to join me on this journey.
Have some or don’t.
Originally published at http://iammarthamadrigal.wordpress.com on April 30, 2022.