A Report from the Front Lines

One of my favorite authors is P.J. O’Rourke. When he writes about something, he goes there, spends time, learns in-depth, in person. He talks to the people who matter. When he writes about the Middle East he’ll go talk to the Israeli soldiers and the Palestinian youths who are throwing half-bricks at the soldiers. In a world of second-hand, regurgitated information, he is raw, real, direct, true, engaged, reliable, believable. Without diminishing objectivity, he also blends into his fact-based writing a lovely sense of humor and a formal acknowledgement of his own quirks.

And so, here I am, starting to understand the transitioning process, the trials and tribulations, of real-world t-girls, up close and very, very personal in a P.J. sense.

Sure, some years ago I’d been to t-girl clubs and chatted with a few girls. I had read somewhere that some of us fall apart and sink into despair and desperate situations where life is like a losing chess game and it’s all going downhill. But, all that was like seeing it from a distance, almost as if on TV. I was detached and clueless as to the raw pain of the real world.

I used to hand out flyers at meetings saying I’m happy to mentor t-girls, implying I knew what I was doing. Maybe I was, maybe I wasn’t, but either way, my perspective was lofty and not grounded in dirt, blood and guts. I thought I was involved and in touch, but I wasn’t.

What changed? In the last x months, I’ve traveled much, and folks have traveled to me. All of it was with a view to me mentoring t-girls. Since my finances don’t enable leisure travel it was always intertwined with business travel. I have met up close and personal with t-girls from the UK, the Bible Belt, the American North-East, the American West.

The one thing that really hit me hard is how damn painful the journey of a t-girl is, and how soul-wrenchingly difficult it is for the t-girls I’m mentoring. Some make it to my hotel room and fall down on my bed and cry. Some don’t even make it to my hotel room. Some of us do better, some of us do worse. Regardless, I get to see first-hand that it is really, really, really, really damn hard for so many of us.

The least of our problems are the awkwardness we feel, and the pettiness of assholes who make mean comments, or are dangerous. It’s the self-doubt, the self-loathing, the being buried under the emotional rubble of having tried and failed in living as a boy, and wondering why we would not also fail at living as a girl. It’s the cumulative damage of the vast amount of abuse that we’ve tolerated from evil people around us, thinking we’re exceptions to the rule that people should be treated fairly. However badly we got hurt by strangers, that was a mere scratch compared to the deep wounds we carved in ourselves, or the wounds that we allowed evil people close to us to inflict.

If I wanted to rescue people, I’ve had ample opportunity in the course of my travels. Instead, I’m hard-assed. I tell the t-girls I mentor that even though they might well have reasonable cause to feel terrible about life, it’s still not going to get better until they get off their asses and stand up and fight for their rightful place in their own lives. And yes, they’ll get knocked down and beat up. And then I’ll be there, suggesting they get up yet again. I know that if they just lie there and give up, one day at a time … they fail. If I condone that, then I fail.

I’m like the t-girl version of General Patton, telling them it’s fine to lie there and cry, for a few minutes or hours or days, whatever it takes. After that, I advise them to go get up again, goddammit, and go get back in the fight. When I do that, my heart secretly bleeds for them. I feel for every t-girl who doesn’t wanna crawl from her tear-stained bed to the door and go fight another day; she wants to crawl under the bed, curl up and go to sleep and never wake up again. However, I’m outwardly Ms. Hard-Ass. If I weaken, if I tell them it’s OK to be weak, then I have let them down. And that, I’m not willing to do.

So how come I’m not the one lying on the bed crying? I don’t know. I’ve certainly had my own battles. I’ve certainly faced difficult times. Sure, I’ve seriously considered killing myself off, and once I came so close that I almost couldn’t reverse the process. I don’t really know why I’m not a basket case. Perhaps it’s because I’m lucky. Perhaps it’s because I had wonderful people mentoring me at a time when I was fragile. I really don’t know. But I’m happy to be who I am, deeply and fundamentally happy.

Even so, you might look at my life and shake your head at what you see. My car’s driver side door doesn’t have any upholstery, and the door doesn’t even lock. The A/C doesn’t work. My apartment is in an ancient building and you can’t walk on the living room floor without tripping over used auto parts that I buy and sell. I rinse dusty auto parts off in my bathtub. Ostensibly, my life is a mess. But, part of the reason why my car and home don’t look nicer is … I really don’t care. I’d rather focus on my own looks and health, and build my business. Once that succeeds I might once again go to Hawaii nine times a year, buy two Mercedes-Benz sports cars on the same day, and live in a very, very, very swanky place. But, there’s no rush.

What’s more important to me now is that I can look at my body in the mirror, or my legs under the steering wheel of my car, and feel good about my body, and how I look. Socially, I feel like the girl in a perfume ad. I seem to exude the happiness and confidence that I feel. People are for the most part super-nice to me, and life is good.

How I look to myself in the mirror also depends on my self-respect. I have navigated difficult situations in a way where, though I screwed up royally in so many ways, I can still basically feel good about myself ethically. So when I look in the mirror, I can like and respect the girl who looks back at me.

And that is a feeling I’d like to inspire others to also experience.

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