Posted by: sarahswati | March 8, 2010

The World Needs A Sarah Who Looks Like Me

I am Sarah; Sarah is me.

One of the things I struggle with, as a transgender person finding her way, is how I want to appear to the world. My “public face”, as it were.

I have a lot of barriers to transitioning at present. Some physical, some financial, some mental. As I’ve mentioned before, I look very masculine, though I feel quite feminine inside. Before taking on a somewhat reasonably female appearance (never mind “feminine”… I know I’ll always only be feminine in my head, but that’s not what it’s about anymore.), I need to lose a lot of weight. Electrolysis, hormones, and therapy are expensive and I certainly can’t afford them, unemployed as I am. The mental aspects I’m sure you’ve figured out. You can read between the lines.

I am not perceived or treated the way I want to be right now… the way I feel I could be. It’s something that makes just going out into the world painful. The way we are treated is so dependent upon on how we look. It’s sad, but true.

But, agonizing over my barriers isn’t going to make me any happier. I know this. So, how can I feel better about myself now, in the present, regardless of whether or not I decide to transition in the future? (Or when… yes, yes, when…)

Speaking of appearances, one thing that has often annoyed me about the transgender public sphere, is that it seems like those trans people in the middle don’t get enough publicity. There is a lot out there about the “successful” end of the TG spectrum… those who have transitioned to a point they feel comfortable with and can more or less blend in with the rest of society most of the time. There is very little about those who are either somewhere near the middle ground between the gender binary poles of “male” and “female” or who aren’t, but you wouldn’t know it by looking. This balance needs to be redressed because the latter groups of people are a significant part of what it means to be transgender.

These thoughts have been sloshing around in my mind lately and it suddenly occurred to me:

The world needs a Sarah who looks like me!

While where I am is not where I want to end up, I am in a perfect position to help publicize the plight of “hidden trans people”… those who haven’t transitioned or won’t transition and aren’t always “obviously trans”, whatever that is supposed to mean.

I don’t know how I will go about this yet… it may simply be just being who I am and letting others know I am trans. It may be something more. I know where I can start, however. I am submitting some poetry to a contest sponsored by Nils Peterson, Poet Laureate of Santa Clara County, California, my home county. I will be submitting my poetry as “Sarah Leigh Graham”, my erstwhile nom de plume. On the off chance that one of my poems is selected and I am asked to read at their public reading, then I will go as my own, true, present self, by the name of Sarah, and just be me.

And that will be that.

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Responses

  1. Congrats! I’m currently working on a novel, and one of my main characters is a TG woman who’s in the middle of transition. My challenge is to present her as BOTH a person with all the usual challenges (job demands / scheduling difficulties / why don’t they ever stock my favorite ice cream) and a person struggling with specific TG issues (how do I present myself in public / how do I avoid creeps / how do I educate new people in the intricacies of my own TG experience). The thing that has struck me most in my research is just how individual the whole TG journey is.

    Best of luck to you!

    • Thank you, JM! Sounds like you’ve got an interesting story started there. Good luck to you, as well!

  2. Hi Sarah,

    I found my way by browsing Facebook. Long story, starting by looking up old Tarot friends.

    I knew part of your story when still part of the tarot scene, of course and have good memories of you. Do you remember the tarot haiku?

    You have a beautiful, sensitive face. I wonder why you want to change your appearance as I have sometimes wondered about other transgender people. Isn’t gender just a social construct?

    I partly understand but not completely. It seems that the things that you mourn not being able to have because of lack of money are at their most beautiful in terms of qualities of spirit – which you have in full measure.

    Just some thoughts. I merely ask the question and seek no harm at all. If I was ever to meet you, your appearance would not matter to me.

    By the way, I found your poetry book also. Some very good poems there. All the best.

    Kate

    • Hi, Kate!

      It’s so good to hear from you! I’m so sorry for this late reply. Somehow I missed your response (and obviously I’ve been neglecting my blog in general lately.) I remember the haiku very fondly. You inspired me to write more poetry and to try to get it published and for that I will always be very grateful.

      There is something to what you say about the desire to transition, in that gender is internal so there is an element of “so what?” to it. If I were living in isolation or were able to have everything (including the way others interact with me) my own way, I probably would not have a desire to transition. However, the way a person is treated is heavily dependent on their apparent sex. For me, being seen as male and treated as male is repugnant to me and antithetical to how I am. I know that doesn’t really explain it well, but i’m not sure how else to put it yet. Something I should work on for a future blog post, I suppose.

  3. Hi Sarah- Backtracked from your “like” on my comment about the airport scanners and TG folks on Jen Cole’s status. I’ve been training as a sex educator and my interactions with new friends in my SFSI course has made me even more aware of the struggles that exist for people whose body and brain don’t match. One transman, who hasn’t had bottom surgery, gets very upset in training when we talk about “male-bodied people” and “female-bodied people”. He points to himself and says “THIS is a male body.” Sounds similar to you at the moment! Best wishes with your transition and the roadblocks that seem to be in the way!

    Does your poetry talk about TG issues/sexuality? If yes, I’d love to include some when I teach Human Sexuality next semester. Please direct or recommend…

  4. Hi Anne,

    I can empathize with your fellow student about the “male body” comment. I feel that way myself about my “female body”. It’s frustrating how our society still confuses physical sex and gender, especially how the concept of gender itself gets so frequently derided and swept under the rug.

    I had to look up the SFSI, as I had never heard of them before, but I applaud you for getting involved in such a project. It sounds like you’re doing wonderful work.

    Thank you so much for your interest in my poetry. :) I’d be honored if you decide to use my poetry in your class. I’m not prolific by any stretch, but I have written four poems that touch on gender and/or the LGBT condition in some way and they all appear in my poetry book, “Breathing Into The Sunlight”. The link to the e-book version at Smaswords (in the right margin of this blog) will take you to a page where you can download a free copy of the first half of the book, which contains three of these poems, “Butterflies”, “What I Need”, and “My Hair”. If you’ll send me an e-mail address, I’ll be happy to e-mail you the other one, “Safe House”, too. :)

  5. Sarah,
    My name is Jay, I am transgender. I was born a boy , however I have felt like I was a girl since I can remember. I was raised in a Christian racist home. Not until I went to college did I understand truly who I was. I look in the mirror everyday and she the woman that resides in me, however quickly reality sets in and the chiseled jaw line screams out, knocking my eyes to the massive(and I mean Massive amounts of chest hair-I can not afford laser or electrolysis, so shaving is out of the question, cause that sh** grows back ten times faster. Then upon almost having a heart attack from that, I then see what lies between my legs, and realize that I a man, not a woman as I feel and see myself on the inside. Thank you for sharing. I now know that there is another that shares my pain. Peace, Light, and Love.

  6. Hi, Jay,

    Thank you very much for your insightful, caring comments on my posts. I don’t know if I will be getting back to my blog any time soon, but I wanted to let you know I appreciate your thoughts a great deal. :)

    — Sarah

    • That is a shame. But, I understand. I look forward to your return and hope all the peace, light, and love for you possible and impossible. Many blessings sister Sarah. :)


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