Billy Martin (docbrite) wrote,


When I hear about the recent controversy surrounding Michelle Shocked -- whose music I've not listened to, but who used to live in New Orleans and was reportedly a fan of my books -- I can't help but think of my former friend Thing. She was never particularly comfortable with sexuality or gender labels, but she was female-assigned at birth, identified primarily as female, and had dated several women. She'd lived a very hard life: serious illness, depression, abuse by parents from a fundie cult background. She'd converted to Catholicism a few years back, but so did I, and it didn't make me any less queer/trans/tolerant; she seemed to take a similar nonjudgmental outlook. She hated the place where she was then living, and loved New Orleans more than anywhere else in the world. She had given me a lot of emotional support in my own hard times and I thought she deserved some happiness, so I helped her to move here by letting her stay with me while she found a house and lending her money for a deposit.

Everything was fine until I started testosterone in 2011. She'd known I was FTM and had previously been supportive of my decisions, but once I actually got on T, she just didn't seem to like me anymore. Maybe my sense of humor got cruder. Maybe I seemed more aggressive. I was definitely trying out a lot of new things, and hey, nobody has to like me. It made me sad that she didn't, but I could live with it. What I couldn't live with was the stunt she pulled while I was in Amsterdam that summer. I was relaxing, getting high, taking a vacation from pain, and most definitely not checking my e-mail ... until Thing sent me a text saying, essentially, "Are you mad about that e-mail I sent you?" Well, I logged on and found this MULTIPAGE SCREED about what an asshole I'd turned into, how it was a terrible idea for me to be taking testosterone, how she'd had another FTM friend who started on T and subsequently committed suicide, so I was probably going to kill myself pretty soon too, and gee, she'd just hate to see that happen, and also I smoked too much pot, and by the way, she had taken it upon herself to speak to my mother about all these things. Yes, while I was out of the country, she went to my 73-year-old mom and told her testosterone was probably going to make me kill myself. What a pal, right?

We didn't talk much after that, but since she was living in the neighborhood, I still saw her quite a bit. I also saw her car, which now sported two new bumper stickers: I LOVE MY "GERMAN SHEPHERD" POPE BENEDICT and YOUR MAMA WAS PRO-LIFE, DAWLIN'. There were always groups of people around her house with similar stickers on their cars. The last time I saw her, they appeared to be helping her move out of her house, and she was wearing a T-shirt that said I ♥CHIK-FIL-A. (This was at the height of that chain's push against marriage equality.)

I couldn't bring myself to speak, but I still couldn't hate her either. She'd tried to kill herself twice, she'd had enough misfortune in her life to drive any ten people crazy, and it was obvious to me that her main problem was self-hatred. More than anything else, it's sad to see people flailing away at their own identities like that. The religious right often refers to trans folk as "those poor confused people," but I'll take my kind of confusion over Thing's brand of certainty any day.

Crossposted at Dreamwidth. Comment here or there, as you will.
Tags: amsterdam, ftm, music, queerness, religion, testosterone, transgender
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