Aside

The Existential Woman OR A theory of sex and everything from a transgender filmmaker

I’ve been getting back into screenwriting again, and the rush of adrenaline from listing all the short films I want to make and the ineffable tug of the Muse that comes with it sent my soul hurling into a space of… shall we say: inspiration. What follows is a stream-of-consciousness meditation that may become the narration script for an art film.

THE EXISTENTIAL WOMAN or A THEORY OF SEX FROM A TRANSGENDER FILMMAKER – I think there are two trinities. One with an uppercase T, another with a lowercase. There is only 1 Trinity, but 2 trinities. The first is Father, Son And Holy Spirit, the second is universe, mankind, and the human soul. The first is beautiful because it is the lover, the second is beautiful because it is loved. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This seems so intangible, so subjective. But when the beholder is Divine, the beheld becomes real. Gender is not just performance – it is relationship. There is something so horribly sexist about saying that woman exists primarily in the eye of man. Yet there could be a truth here that defies misogyny, usurps heteronormativity. It is this: that we aren’t just figments in another’s imagination, nor are others figments in ours, but that we become real when we are seen. The problem with our world is not that woman is seen, but that she is not. The problem with pornography isn’t that woman is under the scrutiny of a beholder, but that she isn’t. SHE doesn’t exist; only a simulacrum of another’s pet sexual peeve remains. We so desire to be seen, to BE. I desire so much to be. I want to incarnate, to solidify, to apparate into a space where other people exist alongside me. I want to end this long loneliness. People ask me why I went for transition. Why subject myself to the horrors of knife and pill? Aren’t I conforming to some narrow feminine ideal? Is my pleated skirt and brassiere now the sum of my existence? These things are strained sometimes, fought for too hard, admittedly. But the straining is toward something beyond, something needed, something realer than real. Gender identity: this is my relationship with myself. Gender expression: this is my relationship with others. And we are only real with others. | I hate to sound corny, but I’m already sounding pretentious, so allow me yet another sin of expression. I think it just might be all about love. How is sex love? It is relationship. There was this guy who once said that the greatest love is to lay down your life for another. Why is this love? It seems so far from the desire-driven panting of this world’s amour. To lay down your life for someone is relationship. By laying down your life, you tell someone that they are real. That they are more real than pain, than suffering, than sacrifice, than all the myriad of potential pleasures and anxieties that might come later. And in making someone else real: this is when you yourself become alive, become real, become incarnate in flesh and spirit and not just simulations of impulse or survival. Is this idealistic? Hardly. The point is that we cease to deal with ideas when we love: we deal with something that is for once real. For a moment a breeze comes in from higher country, and we smell sea salt and freshly cut grass and every other smell of a life more tangible. The long loneliness becomes short, temporary, a thing of the past, and we dwell in something eternal and present. Sigh Talking about it makes me want to crawl out of my skin. So… much… desire… sensual panting  and what to do with it. Homeless desires, shipwrecked agony and ecstasy. Groan We all need something more. We can’t deal with how much we need from this life, so we duck into any shop that will sell us a moment of distraction. We dare not face our desire head-on, for that would pull us toward an eternity, a reality, that might not exist, God forbid. We are cowards. | After reading some smug articles from a collection of what philosophy calls Existential writing, I began to call myself an existentialist. I’m not sure what it means – I’m not sure anyone who calls themselves an existentialist really knows what they mean by it. Because it’s not a syllogism or a path to the Good Life. It’s a gut feeling, an ongoing experience of displacement, no, of… of something we can’t slap a name onto. It tugs at your heartstrands while cutting them loose, with a sharp twang like a violin string being severed. There is a divine disconnect in the human heart, like an ever-frustrating green light or red sign that represents everything there is and isn’t, and everything in between, and all we desire from it. God, take me up in flaming wheels like Elijah, take me away like Enoch, take me to a place where we touch reality and it responds. | People ask me why I would transition. I don’t really have a good answer. My answer is shit, but at least it’s honest and true. I would transition not to escape, not to conform, not to medicate or anesthize, but to live. To get down in the muck with sleeves rolled up and learn what it means to give everything and make maybe just one person’s life real. And then maybe I can be real for a moment, and so can that other one, and then maybe there will be something real that’s more than this or us or here, a relationship that is harder than granite, that you can knock against like a fist against wood, like a God against the universe. With a gigantic Bang, something might expand and grow and hurl forth, and the universe might be born again.

Sometimes I just despise gender

gender_answer_1_xlargeWhile I’m certainly on the transsexual, female-identifying, binary-switched end of the transgender spectrum, the truth is I don’t understand gender in the slightest. People ask me what I think the relationship between masculinity/femininity and male/female is, and I try to come up with answers, but the truth is I haven’t the slightest clue. I don’t understand how these boxes work. I don’t know what makes a person one or the other. I don’t know why it matters.

Let me be clear: ideologically I take a pretty moderate stance about gender. I don’t want to tear down the entire male-female dichotomy or create a gender-liberated world of androgyny.

It’s just that when I’m honest with myself, I really have no clue what I’d be tearing down or defending if I were to take a more militant stance on it.

And as far as being Catholic is concerned, I always try to see the good thing that the Church is trying to defend in its teachings, even if I struggle to understand the peculiarities of specific teachings. So while I really struggle to see how its teachings on same-sex relationships are internally coherent with the rest of its philosophy, I can quite clearly see how it is fighting for good things – marriage, fidelity, openness to life – and I can join it in that fight. Similarly with gender, even while I haven’t the slightest clue why most Catholics hate transgender people, I can still see the good thing the Church is afraid of losing: that mysterious romance, that vague yin-yang which we call gender.

That being said, I really don’t have the tiniest clue about any of it. Sure, intellectually I can build up a castle of reason to take everyone else’s assumptions and try to make sense of them. But it’s hard to make those assumptions mine. My own experience of life simply doesn’t gel with these mountainous presuppositions that everyone has about gender and sexuality. I just don’t get it. My mind draws a blank; I blow a fuse when I try to really see things from other peoples’ perspectives.

Again, this is coming from someone solidly in the “MtF transsexual” part of the transgender spectrum. I don’t feel particularly androgynous or bi-gendered or two-spirit or third-gender.

At the same time I do. It’s hard to explain. Maybe it’s because while I feel a whole lot more like girls I’ve met than guys I’ve met, and even my relationship with my body seems, for lack of a better term, something akin to “a girl in a dude’s body,” I’m still trapped in this world in between worlds. I’m still always transgender. I’m still an enemy to a system that utterly bewilders me. I’m outside the gender dichotomy whether I like it or not.

I guess the crux of the issue is that at the end of the day I’m just me. My relationship with myself isn’t particularly complicated. My feelings aren’t particularly complicated. This whole transgender thing, this reality of feeling like what people call a girl and having a body that other people identify as male, is certainly difficult at times. I mean, I experience body dysmorphia like other transsexuals, including pain regarding those damnable nether regions. But on the whole, I just am what I am. It’s really that simple. I don’t need to ‘understand’ myself when it’s just a matter of my existence. Existing is a fairly simple affair: you either exist or you don’t.

But then I find that my existence requires an expression. That expression itself is fairly simple. I mean, Anna does as Anna is, and Anna is as Anna does. There is a natural flow that can happen. I can wake up in the morning and just live, without examining every gesture I make or over-thinking simple things like whether to paint my nails or not.

But then I find that this expression requires relationship. We don’t live in a void. In fact, as a Christian I believe the whole point of life is right (loving) relationships with others. This is where it becomes complicated. All of a sudden expression becomes the most complicated and painful thing in the world. All of a sudden there are all these demands about how I behave and assumptions about who I am that make no sense. And I desperately try to make sense of these demands – I fake it ’til I make it – but all the while feeling utterly mystified about what is really being demanded of me and why.

So there are days like today that I despise gender. As central as it has been to my life, I want no part in it. Sometimes I really wish there was no such thing as ‘man’ and ‘woman.’ It’s not because I want to recreate the world in my own image. It’s not because androgyny would be better. It’s just that I don’t understand why these walls are erected. And the ironic thing is that I think if there was no idea of gender, people would be more genuinely gendered. A man with a genuinely strong masculine identity would be more genuinely manly if he acted masculine because it’s his personality and not because it’s how people with xy chromosomes are supposed to be.

Please, can I just conscientiously object to the gender war? Can I just lay down my arms and live life? Do I have to make sense of this bizarre and intricate system of categories? It makes no sense…