Fading Away

21 October, 2018

Trump Administration Eyes Defining Transgender Out of Existence

4 November, 2020

I feel the pull of the ethereal plane. I’m already so transparent I’m forgetting to open doors and hunger is but another fading memory, just as I am.

At first, I didn’t notice the change. I still got up every morning, took a shower, and brushed my teeth. I paid my taxes. I played with my kids. But day by day, I began to fade.

It showed up first in my shadow. The usual fuzzy halo at the edges was fuzzier, the black center just that much lighter. I brushed it off as scaremongering. There was no way the state could define me out of existence. It’s unpossible.

But then there was the day I urgently had to go to the bathroom when I was shopping at WalMart. I had given up using public restrooms entirely after the 2018 elections; it had simply become too dangerous. My identification had been forcibly changed in 2019 and I couldn’t use it to scan in anywhere that wasn’t allowed by public policy.

I tried to tailgate in the door after another woman, but she looked at me like I was some sort of demon and I had to shamefully use the other bathroom. Luckily I was able to avoid the men, but it scared me. It wasn’t until I was home that I realized there was the slightest shimmer emanating from me, like a heat wave.

My evaporation accelerated when my passport disappeared. One day it was there and the next day it wasn’t. When I went to reapply, I was told I couldn’t dress in costume for my photo. Costume! I didn’t know what they meant so for my re-takes I wore stud earrings instead and pulled my hair back. But like a vampire, I didn’t appear in the photo no matter how much the person fiddled with the camera.

That really shook me.

I realized there were places I couldn’t go even if I could leave.

There was some sort of test I could take to prove I existed, but I’d heard it didn’t always work, and then there was the issue of the government having access to my genetic record. The thought of failing the test scared me even more, because then I’d disappear in an instant.

Even though I’ve accepted my fate, it’s my kids I worry about the most.

They’ll have no body to bury. My name is already unpronounceable to them and I have become a wraith. They’ll be kids with a single parent, like Jesus, and that will make filling out forms in the future a hell for them as they explain, no, really they only have one parent.

My works have also be decaying to nothing, the same as the other disappearing. When I read the news and hear of trains crashing, computer systems going down, music and movies fading from the record, I nod my head knowingly. The world itself is becoming thinner and easier to tear.

At least no other generation will suffer this genocide, as we will be the last, because those that don’t exist cannot be erased because they never existed in the first place.

Farewell.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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Waiting Room

My navigation app guides me north from San Jose to Burlingame on the 101. My appointment is at 3 pm and even though traffic is light, I’m concerned I might be late because I dawdled at my hotel. I speed up to 80 mph. The rental Mazda hums along the California concrete without the rattles and road roar of my ancient Subaru back in Seattle. I should make it on time.

I mentally kick myself for not leaving earlier. I’m almost always early so when I run late it’s because of extenuating circumstances or resistance born of anxiousness that makes me dawdle.

I’m anxious as fuck. Feeling like I’m running late takes it up just that one more notch and I practice my meditative breathing as I drive. Deep inhale. Pause. Exhale. I repeat this four more times while hurtling down the highway and the irony of the juxtaposition is not lost upon me.

I shouldn’t be late for my surgical consultation. It’s the last step before gaining something I’ve desperately wanted since I was fourteen, maybe even younger. I should be early like I usually am for things that are important to me. Maybe I have an unconscious need to make this step hard to prove to myself I’m really trans. Internalized transphobia sucks.

I’m almost there and construction cones and detour signs send the navigator into a series of, ‘Turn left here’, ‘Make a u-turn here’, and ‘Turn right here’-s before I shut it off. I see the building. I’m not lost. Street parking is easy and free and I walk back in the warm afternoon sun.

The front of the building is blocked off so I follow a sign and then a hedge-lined path to the back entrance. The lobby is spartan and nondescript. There’s no furniture, not even a plant. Only a directory board and doors with large, brass plates. None of the offices has windows that look out on the lobby.

I wonder if I’m in the right place. The door I think I’m supposed to go through looks like it might lead to a private space not an office. I check the directory again. There are no other listings so I enter. It’s 2:55 pm. The door slams loudly behind me as it shuts.

It’s the right place.

There’s a young woman, maybe in her late teens or early twenties, waiting with her parents and another woman waiting by herself. They look like they might be anxious too, but maybe I’m projecting. So there’s going to be a wait.

The receptionist tells me they’re running about forty-five minutes late. She doesn’t look happy about it either and alludes that something happened earlier in the day to throw the schedule off. I don’t have to be anywhere at any time so it doesn’t matter to me so I take a seat in the corner next to the door.

The single woman is called back around 3:15. I’m reviewing my notes when a woman walks in and there’s something about her that has a familiar air to me. I can’t see her face and she sits down across the door from me and rummages in her bag so I only get a partial profile.

Then my brain clicks with who she reminds me of and I dismiss it as preposterous. There’s no way a woman I went on a couple of dates with years ago in Seattle, WA could just happen to have an appointment time overlapping mine in Burlingame, CA. But her voice, her shape, how she moves sure seems familiar. I tweet about it to distract myself and think how silly I’m being.

The daughter and her parents are called back. I wish I had parents to come with me, too. I envy her and then let it dissolve into happiness for her.

The woman across the way shifts over to the corner next to me so she can plug in her laptop. I get a clear look at her face. It’s her.

‘Excuse me, are you from Seattle?’

‘Um, yes,’ she replies. I re-introduce myself and she remembers me. As we’re catching up two women come in, and we find out they are married and from Minneapolis. They’re chatty and there’s trans small talk of surgeons and surgeries. The family leaves and I’m finally called back. It’s close to 4:30.

I undress below the waist and wait, sweating into the thin paper sheet on the exam table. After a bit the doctor comes in, trailed by a resident learning the ropes. I’m asked familiar questions about who I am and what I’m about.

When did I first have cross-gender feelings? When did I start hormones? When did I transition? What’s my story? What questions do I have?

I have a printed list organized by type: SURGICAL, WAITING LIST, PAPERWORK/BILLING, and MISC. I obtain the dubious notoriety of asking two questions she’s never been asked before.

The first one, (do you use a surgical checklist,) has her look at me like I’ve dropped a turd on the floor. ‘Yes.’

The second, (what do you wish more people had a deeper understanding about pre- or post-surgery,) elicits a more positive response. ‘One: the necessity of dilation, and two: it won’t make sex better.’

The latter point leads to an interesting discussion about expectations, knowing your pleasure pathways to begin with, and her expressed fear that trans kids may struggle in the future because they have little to no sexual experience prior to surgery.

Probing where I was on the waiting list was the main reason I was having the consultation. My surgical date is in 2021(!) but I’m on the waitlist and I was hoping to get a sense of how fast that list moves so I can plan accordingly. The good news is that while she couldn’t commit to a date, there’s a glimmer it could happen in 2019 and that 2020 was more likely.

This is huge progress as far as I’m concerned and it made the whole trip worth it.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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Shut up, anxiety

I am up before the sun, before even the furnace awakens from its slumber to heat the house and I have slept maybe four hours. My anxiety, which procrastinated away last night’s hours in a movie, laundry, dishes, updating my phone, and playing my guitar before agreeing to participate in packing stares back at me from the mirror and worries. I want to cry, but I don’t have the time. I have to take a shower and get going.

The sun breaks above a dark cloud deck hovering over the city like an ominous alien spacecraft. The light pierces my tired eyes as I walk to the bus stop. Crows and pigeons take flight at my approach and for some unknown reason take laps around a mature Douglas fir until I pass. My dread grows and anxiety whispers beyond my hearing of today’s possible fates.

The light rail is uncrowded and I ignore the man who follows me on and sits down right behind me when there are many other open seats. This is a threat I understand, with probabilities and known outcomes. My anxiety notices the threat and passes it along to vigilance because it has a bigger fish on the line.

After I arrive, I head straight for the bathroom. It’s important to have an empty bladder in case there’s a problem because if something goes wrong, my anxiety tells me I have no idea when I’ll be able to use one again.

I adjust myself and both pairs of underwear to smooth any lines. My tight, stretchy jeans bind some in the crotch and cling to my legs. My shirt is loose and hangs down to hide my muffin top. My anxiety tells me revealing pants and a loose shirt are good.

I remember I forgot to put makeup on so I stop by the mirror near the door and swipe on some concealer and mascara. I groom my eyelashes and primp my hair.

I am not over- or under- dressed or made up. My anxiety tells me it’s good to do all these things.

I put my identification in my pocket and take a deep breath. It’s time.

I judge the lines, scanning for a woman, preferably a woman of color. I end up in a line stationed by a white woman. It’ll do. She stops me before checking my documents. It’s a general stop. It’s not me. I practice my breathing and my bored, disinterested look. My anxiety worries.

The line starts moving again and the first hurdle is past with no incident. I worry about the white supervisor directing people to lines and get lucky when he moves away to groom the lines at the other end.

I study the lines. It looks like I’ll have to pass the gauntlet. I resign myself to this and practice my request to opt out while looking for a line that’s mostly single people and less kids. My anxiety tells me the longer I wait in line, the longer I’m looked at.

The line at the end appears to be all single travelers. A supporting column blocks the view of the X-ray area and it isn’t until I’m in line that I see there’s no scanner. There’s only a metal detector.

I smile. My anxiety moves into background but doesn’t go away. All of us in line wait for a white techbro who’s slow to get all his stuff in trays because he’s not prepared. The agent tells him he also has to take off his belt. The techbro looks surprised. I wait with my laptop out and shoes already half-off.

I’m waved through and wait for my bag. They pull the bag of the man in front of me. He’s brown. I hope he doesn’t get too much hassle and I also feel guilty because I know if they’re busy with him, it’s less attention put on me and my bag.

My bag comes out and as I’m waiting for my shoes, a white guy gets in my personal space. I take a step to the left and he moves forward. Dude, chill out. The belt is slow. I retrieve my shoes, slip them on, and head to my gate.

My anxiety reminds me I’ll still need to fly home.

Shut up, anxiety.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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Adventures in Dating – User Experience

I’ve been thinking about dipping my toe back into the dating pool so I skimmed through a matchmaking site. The user interface is abysmal.

I discover a profile that looks interesting.

She says: ‘I have a way of immediately putting people at ease and if we were meeting in person I would greet you with a warm hug…,’ and, ‘I tune into people and I am interested in really seeing and appreciating them for who they really are,’ and, ‘…nobody has it all figured out. We are all just humans doing our very best with what we know at any given moment. This understanding has made me a very non-judgemental and compassionate person.’

Sounds great so far!

I read on:

‘I’m a CIS woman seeking ONLY GAY CIS Women for meaningful connection.’ (Emphasis hers.)

Oh.

Where’s the check box for, ‘Don’t show me people who don’t want to date trans people,’ because that’s some industrial-level bait-and-switch on that profile and if they don’t want to see me, why would I want to see them?

 


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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RIP Chris Cornell

The partially tied, empty boots are at the bottom of the glass case. Above them a headless dummy wears jeans below and layers up top; a white t-shirt, a hoodie, a jacket with ripped cuffs. A thick metal chain with dog tags hangs down to complete the look.

Depending on your viewpoint, it’s a costume, or a uniform, or an outfit, or just clothes. But like the boots, they’re empty now. The man who wore them belongs to the past, not the present.

It feels like part of my past is in that case.

Hazy alcohol and pot-fueled nights of decades past, dried up and pinned like a bug. The mosh pits, the crowd surfing, the parties with trampolines and pumpkins and machetes. Things I can’t and wouldn’t do today. Everything’s so far away it’s like looking through the telescope of time backwards.

A screen bigger than a building reflects pictures of the past. Young and old. Quiet and loud. Intimate and public goods. The young ones get me about the throat. Was I once that young too? Did I share the smile of youth? Was I that hungry?

The concert video starts. It’s slickly produced and corporate branded throughout. Am I here to mourn or am I here as part of a marketing campaign? I can’t tell. The music as always moves me and the crowd around me cheers and claps along with the recorded crowd when songs end. It’s intercut with interviews of band members. We watch and listen.

More songs. A woman next to me sings along, unrestrained and with joy, and I wish I had her voice and felt what she was feeling. I feel empty. A dude next to me talks to his friend too much. It’s annoying. I move away. The band plays on. The crowd cheers.

I’m restless. What did I expect? I expected more, but I don’t know what. I realize a dead man owes me nothing, nor does his family or his band mates. I owe them. Is being here enough? I don’t know.

I want to sign the condolence book, but what would I say? Thank you for sharing him? I’m sorry for your loss? I’ll miss him forever? He died six weeks after my mom and I know a part of your grief? Why did it have to be May 18, now entwined in my head with Mt. St. Helens and visiting the courthouse to file probate on my mom’s estate ? He makes me think of friends I’m no longer friends with and the good times we had? My handwriting sucks anyway and I’m not sure I can bear to read other people’s grief.

The bathroom is playing hip-hop and it’s jarring. It sounds good, but feels out of place.

I go back to the video and listen to another song and I feel lonely. I go to leave and on my way out I see the VIP party in the bar. It’s the rest of the band and friends and family, maybe twenty people. I hear some laughter as I descend the stairs.

I exit to a light rain. It’s chilly out. The titanium panels glisten in the streetlights. On my walk back to my car I see a rat dart towards the Armory. The fountain is fountaining and I think of my kids in the summer, drenched and happy as they dodge sprays. Vendors are packing up from BrickCon, loading their unsold wares into a minivan.

Encased in my own steel and glass case, I drive home, my boots full.

 


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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I Believe

I stare at the spreadsheet and wonder which cells I’ve set to be too optimistic or pessimistic. Underestimating expenses and overestimating income is usually the way, so I dial estimated sales even further back and increase overhead and miscellaneous expenses by another twenty percent.

The runway, the number of months left until cash out is greater than available cash, shortens. There’s no retirement fund left, no more possible inheritances, no net. It’s sink or swim.

I’ll just have to work harder and use the fear of failure to drive me forward. Failure means no flexible schedule, not being around for my kids when they need me most, and a job hunt as an aging trans woman.

I can’t fail. I won’t fail. Not after everything I’ve been through.

Starting a business is believing in yourself. So is transition.

I believe.


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

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The Work of Being Trans

Being trans is work, no matter where you are in your transition journey.

Pre-transition, I spent vast amounts of energy attempting to compartmentalize away being trans and when that became impossible, juggling my inner and outer lives while going to therapy.

During the part-time phase of transition, I had to keep track of who I was out to while learning to navigate in a new life.

Post-transition, it’s been mostly name change cleanup, dealing with the random misgenderings and transphobia, and getting my surgical stuff sorted out. I can see the outlines of post-surgical life and the work it’ll take to maintain the physical changes.

There’s a ton of stuff I’ve glossed over in each of those phases, but the gist is there’s a bunch of unavoidable stuff to deal with if you’re trans.

But some of that work has been fun! Discovering my style. The sublime pleasure of just being myself. Being recognized and seen as who I self-define myself as. The company of other women. Not carrying around a boulder of self-doubt about myself has freed me in ways that were unimaginable pre-transition.

If my transition was about anything, it was about the work of overcoming anxiety and fear. Overcoming the anxiety of what-might-happens and the fears of the what-will-happens. As it turned out, most of the might-happens never came to pass and the did-happens, while not always a bed of roses, made me a stronger person for coming out the other side.

I’m glad I did the work.

 


©Heather Coldstream

Please consider supporting my writing by sharing it with others with attribution and linking back or buying one of my poetry collections from the Kindle store. Thank you!

2016: Poems from a Year of Change

Uncertain: Poems About Gender Transition

Posted in gender transition, LGBT, mental health, observations, personal history, self-acceptance, transgender, transition | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment