Hello all. I want to begin by thanking my avid readers for suffering through my whine-fest of a post yesterday. I did actually feel a great deal better afterwards and even went through the rest of the day feeling substantially more positive. Sometimes I guess you just have to unload your negative thoughts into text to exorcize them and move on with your life.
I am still feeling the positive effects of that decision even today, although as the hour approaches (5:30 to be exact) for me to begin my journey into the news spotlight I am definitely feeling nervous. If you can believe it, the thing I’m most nervous about is how egregious my 5 o’clock shadow is going to be by time Liz Collin (yep I’m breaking the silence on who is interviewing me) shows up at my house, and I have been fretting over whether or not I want to try to shave a second time before she arrives. Will I have time? Should I just use the electric razor to trim things down or should I go full razor + shaving cream? If I go with option two am I going to have to wash my makeup off and then reapply it? Will there be enough time for that? Will there be any sort of makeup person arriving with Liz to help me look my best, or is it up to me to not look like a troll?
I know that all probably sounds so trivial and silly, but one of things I feel the most dysphoric about is my facial hair. It’s always there, contradicting the gender presentation I’m trying to offer. I suspect that more often than not it is that very facial hair that draws so many of the stares and looks of confusion I receive on a daily basis. The last thing I want to do is to go on TV looking like the bearded lady. I still haven’t decided what I’m going to do and probably won’t know until I’m home and can determine how much time I have before they arrive.
The next thing I’m worried about is my voice. My poor wife has had to suffer through nearly a week of me doing constant voice exercises in the car ride to and from work, all in an effort to better practice and become more accustomed to my female-range voice. Again, this is probably so silly but I don’t want to be on TV sounding like James Earl Jones the lady. I did record my voice yesterday and believe that I have made a great deal of progress at creating a gender appropriate voice, but the problem is that I have a hard time maintaining it for long periods of time without accidently slipping down to the male range. I don’t want to be recorded jumping all over the place in voice pitch because I’m afraid it will detract from the overall message.
I will report that I have discovered which method of voice training seems to be the most effective for me. For the longest time I tried to do it the way Violet explained in her youtube videos (https://www.youtube.com/user/violet4151/videos she was my first transwoman youtube subscription, who has actually started following ME on twitter, which is so damn cool, but I digress). Basically she just progressively raised her voice little by little over a few months until eventually it just clicked and she could manufacture that range without warming up (she even talks in her sleep in that voice now). I wanted so badly to do it that way because I was afraid that the opposite method, which I’ll discuss in a moment, could possibly damage my vocal cords and undermine my entire effort. I’m sad to say this method didn’t really work for me. I only ended up sounding like I was talking in the stereotypical gay-boy voice, which was NOT what I wanted.
Over the last few weeks, however, I have started trying the second method where you begin in falsetto and talk like that for a little bit until the cords are warmed up, and then you drop your voice down from there. I have had much more effective results with this method and can, with enough practice and warming up, manufacture a standard range, believable female voice. As I said before it’s not easy and I can only do it for a short time before I feel the strain on the vocal cords (which is potentially harmful) but I suspect that within a few more weeks I won’t have to go into falsetto at all and can just speak in that pitch/tone without struggle.
Unfortunately I still have to warm up quite a bit and there is the potential for my voice to not cooperate with me at all (having a hoarse sound), as has happened a few times over the last two weeks or so. I think the only thing I can do is to try to keep my voice nice and happy all day and just warm up on the car ride home. Hopefully that will be enough and things go well, but it’s impossible to know right now.
Before now my attempts and usual failures to display exactly the gender presentation that I’ve been seeking after have been relatively risk free. If I forget to speak in the right voice, if my mustache hair (/shakes fist) shows through, or if I don’t quite look the way I’d like, there has been no real risk of mass humiliation. Only my wife or possibly a staring stranger were the only people who might notice my inconsistent presentation, which generally didn’t mean all that much humiliation. If things go poorly tonight then there is the potential for 10’s of thousands of people to eventually witness me messing things up or presenting differently than I want to. Most of my concern is simply for myself and is likely a product of my own vanity, but I cannot deny that I’m worried about the image I’m going to display for the trans* community in my area. I want to be perfect, even though I know perfection is hardly attainable. I want to be graceful but also a bit rebellious. I don’t want to play too much into the narrative of cisgender/binary norms about gender (aka the transgender mystique) but I also don’t want to come off as being a complete anarchist either. I want to tip toe as carefully as I can the fine line between being a gender outlaw and being digestible for the primarily cisgender audience who will see me. I want to push the boundaries while at the same time not breaking them completely.
If I come across as a gun spinning, whiskey drinking, spur wearing, wild-west gender outlaw I not only worry that Liz Collin won’t air the story, but that people will feel I’ve done the trans* community a disservice if she does air it. If I come across as a conventional, binary loving, passing-concerned trans woman (two words) then I risk portraying the exact narrative that’s already too restrictive for most in the trans* community. I may be Caucasian, educated, socially privileged, and relatively passable, but I am not Caitlyn Jenner, the local edition. I am a non-binary transwoman (one word) who believes that contradicting and undermining gender norms/expectations is good for the human spirit, but how do I express that without falling into either of the two categories above?
If/when Liz asks me if I’m a woman what am I going to say? Should I say, “that’s a complicated question with an even more complicated answer. How far down the rabbit hole do you want to tumble?” or should I just practically lie and say yes? I’m not a woman. I’m not even just an I, I am a we, and we are something entirely more than just male or female. Will our identity be something the public can digest or is it still too far ahead of its social acceptance that it would be better to just portray a singular female identity?
Do I risk looking like I’m totally insane if I start discussing how I am a we, and we are a dual-spirited consciousness with a non-binary gender identity? How do we explain our decision to wear clothing and makeup typically associated with the female gender without risking delegitimizing ourselves in the eyes of others? What compromises are we willing make in order to sacrifice authenticity for acceptance or understandability? Do we risk doing a disservice to others by introducing a non-binary gender identity, or will we be providing a service to a group of people who are, as of yet, still under-represented in the transgender movement?
We are inclined to believe that it would be better to try to be as digestibly authentic as possible, and yet, we are not in control of this story. We are not able to predict what questions will be asked or how the conversation will progress with Liz Collin. We believe that it is her intention to portray a positive story about the importance of transgender lives, but until the work begins there is no telling how accurate our assumption about her motivations are. We want to keep a positive expectation and think of her in the best possible light that we can, but we must also be prepared for anything.
And what of the ultimate response to this story? How will that manifest? With increased visibility comes increased scrutiny and increased resistance. Right now I’m (reverting back to singular form) a relatively unknown person, operating in the long shadow of the transgender mystique, appealing to the masses of those who are like me or those who are already interested in this subject, but I’m about to be thrust in front of many people who do not know any transgender individuals and who may not be familiar at all with the transgender plight. Many of them will likely find me and my “lifestyle” deplorable or inherently sinful. I expect that the hate mail is going to increase and my objective safety in anonymity will disappear.
How hard is the cross of public visibility to bear? How heavy does it weigh down on a person who willingly picks it up? I could have just as easily said that I wasn’t interested in being in the news, in being so publicly displayed as being transgender. I could have easily chosen to maintain anonymity for the sake of my own family’s safety and decided to try to just pass as a woman instead of an openly non-binary transwoman. I expect that many transgender individuals would have passed on the opportunity, fearing the reprisal that might come from being so public about their gender identity, but I didn’t. I decided to do this. I decided to willingly put myself in the public spotlight despite the possible negative effects it might have on me personally. Will I regret this decision? Will I regret achieving that level of visibility? Will this make my life worse instead of better?
These are all the things that are on my mind as I anticipate meeting with the reporter. I step ahead, unable to see the whole staircase above me, hoping that my faith will carry me through. I proceed with the faith that I’m doing the right thing and that the God-force of which I am a just a part has set this into motion for a reason. I trust in my gut feelings that only good will come from this, that only positive changes in my life will result from my decision to step out of the shadows. I stepped out of the dark of my closet into the shadows of the transgender mystique and my life got so much better. Now I’m stepping out of the shadows of the transgender mystique into the bright and possibly burning spotlight of public scrutiny, but will things get better again? I can only hope that time will reveal this to be a wise decision.
I know I might be making too much of this news story and that there is the potential that it will amount to exactly no change in my life. I may just have 15 minutes of temporary fame and then fade back into obscurity, but something inside of me says that won’t be the case. Perhaps I’ve always been more of a dreamer than I should have been but I’ve always felt that I was going to amount to something special. I’ve always envisioned my life taking an eventual turn into the realm of distinction or renown. For a long time I thought that turn in the road of my life might come from my fiction novels, but the more this blog progresses and my audience grows, the more I believe this is the thing that will lead me to that place I’ve been waiting for all these years. This is the path that will lead me to achieving my goals, aspirations, and dreams.
Only time will tell if I’m just a hopeless dreamer, or if I’m actually the visionary I hope that I am. No matter what happens I will make this promise: I’ll never forget where I came from or who I used to be. I’ll never forget the people who stood by me when I was a nobody and a nothing. I’ll never forget to repay the kindness that I’ve been so lucky to receive over the years. I remember everyone who supported me, helped me, and gave me encouragement when I needed it, and I vow to make good on their time and love. I promise that if I ever achieve any degree of significant social power or influence, I will use that influence to better the lives of others, especially transgender individuals.
We are Emma, we are going places, and we are bringing you all along with us. As we always say, we aren’t going to just change the world, we are going to rock it! So, stay fabulous and stay tuned.