Ellen Andersen

On loose teeth and transitioning

Filed By Ellen Andersen | March 06, 2008 2:29 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: child care, Indiana, loose teeth, transgender, transitioning

It's been an exciting email day chez moi. I've rather been dreading emails lately, since they seem to presage either bad new, unhappy students, or bureaucratic bs I should have attended to yesterday. But today I got two pieces of wonderful and unexpected news tinged with just a frisson of sadness.

I learned first that my five year old daughter finally lost her first baby tooth, something she's been dying to do for, oh, about a year now. Her teacher took several photos, uploaded them, and emailed them to us. (Have I mentioned that I love my daughter's school?) She's so proud, and I'm really thrilled for her. I'm a little sad too, because I wasn't there to be part of the hoopla. I've been out in California for the past two months, leaving my family behind in Indiana. And who'd've thought that she would have picked these two months to start reading and lose her first tooth? I wish there was a way to slow it all down and make it last longer.

My second piece of great, slightly sad news? A friend of mine has decided to transition from male to female. And I'm really thrilled for him. Um, her. (I'm dealing with a bit of pronoun confusion and name-change-itis at the moment. Give me a day and I'll get past it.)

I'm also, frankly, the teensiest bit jealous, because I've now seen some photos and she's got cheekbones to die for. But I digress. I'm really happy for her, and at the same time a little sad, because she's carried around the burden of a disconsonant gender identity and physical appearance ever since I've known her, and I. Had. No. Clue. So much for my queer-dar. I could have been in her corner, cheering her on. I could have been loving her, rather than loving him. So I'm sorry I didn't know then, but I'm glad I know now.

Yep, it's been an exciting email day.

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That *is* an exciting day! I wouldn't feel too bad about not knowing about your friend's internal gender struggles. In my experience, some people who later identify as transsexual are completely horrified by the thought earlier on. They do everything possible to hide it and be "normal", and if anyone notices anything different about their gender, it shames them and drives them deeper into the closet. I was like that. So it is entirely possible that, if you *had* noticed, and had, perish the thought, said something "encouraging," your friend might have flipped out. So I wouldn't be so quick to get down on yourself. And how lucky your friend is to have you now. Supportive friends like you are going to be *very* important in the coming days and years.

Expanding on Jill's thoughts, try to make note of the number of MTFs who tried to 'hide it' with facial hair.

Growing up, I was mistaken for a girl 99% of the time. My solution? As soon as hair started appearing on my face I let it stay there. So, of course, the one time I had a job that mandated no facial hair I was miserable - and *not* merely because it was at a fast-food place - and scared. It took almost a decade after *that* for me to actually begin the physical transition process.

Pass along my best wishes to your friend.

I think "trans-dar" is different from "gay-dar," Ellen. I'm the transitioner in question, and I would hope (at least I used to hope) that I had buried every single trace of what I felt was a horrible secret, and probably would have been mortified if you had asked me, during one of our wonderful get-togethers on the plains, "Say, boyname, I bet you're transgendered. Am I right?"

I sort of wish you had, though -- 'cause I feel I skipped lots of great conversations and love and sharing and all sorts of authentic interactions with you because of it.

Darling, I think this is the beginning (or the re-beginning) of a beautiful friendship.


Michael Bedwell | March 6, 2008 2:01 PM

Goddess speed your daughter, Ellen, and you, too, Joyce.

"Questions I have many, answers but a few
But we're here to learn, the spirit burns, to know the greater truth
We've all been crucified and they nailed Jesus to the tree
And when I'm born again, you're gonna see a change in me

God made me for a reason and nothing is in vain
Redemption comes in many shapes with many kinds of pain
Oh sweet Jesus if you're listening, keep me ever close to you
As I'm stumblin', tumblin', wonderin', as I'm travelin' thru

Oh sometimes the road is rugged, and it's hard to travel on
But holdin' to each other, we don't have to walk alone
When everything is broken, we can mend it if we try
We can make a world of difference, if we want to we can fly." - lyrics and music by Dolly Parton

Ellen Andersen Ellen Andersen | March 6, 2008 3:10 PM

Hi Joyce! Welcome to Bilerico! And thanks Jillian and Kat for your thoughtful and supportive comments. I realize that I'm having a pretty darn complicated reaction to learning about you, Joyce.

There's a soupcon of professional pride being tweaked (this is the most mortifying admission, so I thought I'd get it out of the way first.) It goes something like this: I write about LGBT issues! I teach about them! How could I have missed it?

There's some tristesse about the conversations we could have been having on those long evenings out under the stars.

I'm also awestruck and humbled by your courage to make such a radical change in your life. I lack courage, sometimes, and consequently I admire it all the more in others.

I'm really proud of your wife for deciding to take this ride with you. I realize that my being proud implies a kind of ownership of her actions that doesn't belong to me, but really, this big old grin keeps breaking out on my face every time I think about it.

And finally, I'm just so angry that you've had to carry around this tremendous burden for your whole life. I'm angry that we live in a world that polices gender and sexuality so adamantly that people who transgress one or both boundaries feel ashamed of who they are. These aren't new emotions for me, of course, but your revelation has brought them back with a fresh ferocity.

And I'm still jealous of the cheekbones...

To have someone in your corner, showing care and love is a powerful thing. For a child it is the brick an mortar that builds a strong life. And for some one transitioning it is a support to keep every foundation from caving in.

For most transitioning, particularly MtF's, the lost of family, career, and friends is almost 100%. When someone who suddenly discovers the truth and not only accepts, but embraces Transsexuality and the decision to transition, the effect can be life saving. And yes, most people would never have guessed or had a clue. One day it just comes as a surprise, transition, or a lost tooth.

I second that hearty welcome to the Project, Joyce! Welcome to the family!

...I skipped lots of great conversations and love and sharing and all sorts of authentic interactions with you...

I feel the same way about Ellen now. I miss having her around to hang out with. There's nothing better than meeting Ellen at Vic's for a good chat. :( She needs to come back home soon!

And you, of course, are always welcome to give a jingle and we'd hang out too if you're in Indy. :) But you're always welcome to hang out here too!

Love to you both!

Thank you for your article, Ellen.

Your friendship for your gender variant friend is very important to her at this moment. She needs as many understanding and supportive friends as she can find.

It is only natural that you described yourself as
feeling sad at the news of this friend's transition. Allow yourself a brief moment to grieve the loss of the person you knew, but when that process is over, you will have a new and loving person in your life.

Lastly, please give her a hug for me. This is not an easy life for anyone, but she should know that she does not travel on her journey without
a lot of support from folks here at Bilerico and lots of other places.