It’s complicated. I can live with that.
This is the story of my name, my rebirth, my conception perhaps. I was 46 years old and although I’d spent the majority of my life trying to figure out what it means to be a man, it wasn’t until I realized that I’m not one, that I finally understood why it was such an elusive answer. You see it wasn’t hard for me to figure out how to be a woman. I didn’t realize all those years before that you don’t really have to try so hard when you know who you are.
I thought I had finally worked it out, what it means to be a man, right before I realized that I’m a woman.
Wait, let me back up. I was trying to buy a men’s shirt. There wasn’t really anything wrong with the shirts I had. I just hadn’t had a new one in a while. I shopped in stores. I shopped online. I looked and looked and found hundreds of options…just. Like. The. Ones. I. Already. Had.
It was aggravating to say the least. After getting tired of driving around the city to shop at stores, I finally resigned the search to online shopping only. Amazon could offer more frequent, accessible suggestions than I could do shopping in person. When even online shopping became a burden, something shifted. What I took more notice of, were all the suggestions that had nothing to do with my simple search criteria. A car tire here, a women’s shoe there. It seemed random as hell but at least it was interesting. I noticed that more and more often, women’s clothing was the random result.
I started noticing that if I had been shopping for a women’s top, the choices would be practically endless. I gave up. I never bought a men’s shirt. I bought a pair of blue, strappy, spike heels…Out of spite.
Keep in mind that I still thought I was a man. I was a man who had zero interest or experience wearing women’s clothing. I had no intention of ever wearing those shoes. The day they arrived, I had even forgotten that I’d bought them. It was kind of amusing really, being reminded of it. I opened the box, saw that they looked just like the photo and put the cover back on the box. I really had no desire to break my neck trying to wear those things. Later, I was sitting on the bed, the shoe box near me. I decided to try them on. Why not? I’d bought them. I was safe sitting on my bed. They fit perfectly, which I didn’t know for sure until after spending a half hour fumbling with the tiny buckles. I was about to take them off when I had the thought, “If I fall down, I’ll just fall on the bed.” I figured I’d suffered through so much wasted time trying to find that elusive men’s shirt, I should take advantage of having these things on my feet, at least enough to stand up and fall down safely. I didn’t fall. I sat back down, feeling relief that I was unscathed. I was going to take them off before I got stupid and got hurt. Besides, I had to pee and there was NO WAY in hell that I was going to try and walk all the way to the toilet and stand there and pee. I really had to pee. I couldn’t spend another half an hour fumbling with those straps. I was still safe trying to take a step. I’d still just fall onto the bed. I took a step. Another. I felt like a baby having its first steps except I wasn’t wobbling like babies do.
I was…a natural.
I was also excited now. I had something new and interesting. I was entertained. I live in the “gayborhood” and had been entertaining myself by going to drag shows. I thought maybe I’d try doing drag. I figured at the least, I wouldn’t be looked at strange for wearing these outfits when I went to watch the shows. A whole new world of entertainment was at my feet. Baby steps. I started small. I went to watch a show in all my guy clothes except that pair of heels. The only person who said anything about it was a girl sitting next to me. She was excited because she has the same ones. It put my mind at ease. I got bolder. Not any smarter. I still didn’t know I was a woman. Sometimes I feel pretty. Other times I feel pretty slow to catch on for being a smart person.
I went to shows more frequently. I bought more clothes. One Tuesday night, at a show I’d been to for several weeks, the hostess spent a very focused amount of time between performers, focusing on me. At first I was simply flattered. She said she’d been noticing my outfits getting better and better each week. I was particularly happy about this one getting recognition. I’d been piecing it together for weeks. It was an all white affair. White knee high boots. White corset and jewelry. Remember, I like to coordinate. She asked me what music I like. I thought she was going to perform to a song of my choosing. Nope.
She asked the DJ to find some Meghan Trainor music. He wasn’t finding any. I was so relieved, because you see, she wanted ME to get up on stage!!!
Let’s back waaaaay up and say that I have no issues with being on stage. I can’t dance.
I quietly escaped to the front patio area when the music didn’t come through. Everyone else stayed inside to watch the show. I went outside to get some fresh air after feeling the suffocating sensation of my corset, coupled with a threat of making a fool of myself trying to pretend I could do drag. Those people rehearse. The have talents that I do not possess.
(channeling my best Rod Serling)
Picture if you will, an old Western movie. Tumble weeds blowing down the street. That’s the sensation I had as the hair on the back of my neck stood up, right before the doors were flung open to the patio. The hostess was up on stage, microphone in hand, saying to me, “Get back in here bitch!”
Nope. I shook my head. I waved her away. I had escaped. I was free and clear. Then, the entire bar started chanting for me to get back in and up on stage. I hung my head in defeat and made it up on the stage without even falling off. Good so far. The music started and I did my best to wiggle around as though I was trying to dance. I was really just trying to not have a heart attack. I probably looked like I was having a seizure. People were eating it up. Dollar bills being handed to me left and right. When my hands got full, I stuffed the money down my corset. The music stopped. The crowd cheered. I felt like passing out.
Honestly, I have no idea how much money I made. As I walked down the steps off the stage and the hostess waited to get back up on it, I grabbed the money and shoved it at her saying, “Never. Again.”
I am many things. A drag performer is not one of them.
What does all this have to do with my name?
When I got home that night, as I took my corset off, I found a single dollar bill that I’d failed to grab for my “payoff” to the hostess. It’s a simple enough thing right? A dollar. Not worth much these days. I could not stop obsessing over that dollar. I have Attention Deficit Disorder. I can get distracted by anything. Why couldn’t I let this go? What was it about that dollar that demanded my attention?
I didn’t have the “ah-ha” moment other transgender people talk about. I was not happy with my realization that I too, am a woman. No. This was not possible. No. No. No. No. No. No.
Sigh. It turns out, you can’t really argue with yourself. My life went from a high glow to a glum low in a split second. What was I supposed to do now? The only women’s clothing I had looked like drag costumes. I didn’t know how to put on makeup. I would need it too. Lots of it. I was going to be the ugliest woman in the world. Please no. No? Damn. Sigh.
To make this long story short, people in my immediate circle of friends were very supportive. They asked what my name was going to be.
“Michael?!?” I had no more idea about another name than I did about makeup and so many other things. One day not long after, my ex-girlfriend had come back into my life again. She was nearby and heard me when I stood there in my kitchen grumbling to myself, “ Why’d you have go and make things so complicated?”
“Okay, Avril.” You could hear her eyes rolling as she said it. My immediate thought and next words…
“I can live with that.”
By the way, that drag show where I was dragged on stage? The name of the show was “Girls Like Us” …an all transgender female show.
I had no idea.