Marco, as you probably know, is our beloved tech goth, and we want to treasure and support him in his transition, with our love but also with our money, so here is an opportunity to toss a few shekels towards top surgery.
When I came out to myself as trans two years ago, one of the first things I said was that while maybe I preferred men’s clothing and haircuts, I (probably) wasn’t “trans enough” to want surgeries or to change my pronouns. Two years later and I’m counting down the days until top surgery and telling people they can call me Marco, and that she/her doesn’t really refer to me anymore, if it ever did. To explain this change, I’ve had to get to know how much we can lie to ourselves in the name of protection from our deepest desires. I’m marveling at how, despite this, the universe, God, Fate, whatever you want to call it, will ask you to awaken to yourself over and over, and how that process is never what you’re expecting. It’s impossible to forecast that type of joy.
Growing up gender non-conforming meant arriving at school, exiting my mom’s car, and immediately hearing a chorus of teasing voices calling out in sing-song unison: “Are you a boy or a girl?” This happened virtually every day from kindergarten to seventh grade, when I developed large breasts that, I guess, answered the question. In all those years, I never had anything to say back and was sort of stumped by the question, if I’m totally honest. In retrospect this fact would become one of hundreds of entries in a circular file called “Definitely Have Been Trans Forever.” Nowadays, I feel like those kids knew something about me, something it would take me 25 more years to figure out, and I now know what my answer would be. These days, when pre-teens stare and jeer and point and laugh, I flip them off, pointing at each in turn saying “Fuck you, fuck you, specifically you.” I’m not sure this is a victory, but it feels better than the stoic silence that was really my own confusion and pain.
Before I was trans, I understood basically nothing about Trans-ness. When I’d see other (visible) transguys, I’d understand them as Queer-like-me-in-some way, and try to offer the same extra friendliness I always extend whenever I see someone in one of my minority in-groups. But privately, transguys made me Nervous. They made some part of me vibrate the same way I’d vibrated in the past when I’d see lesbians in a movie or Ally McBeal making out with Lucy Liu in that one episode. But whereas lesbianism was a complicated morass of feeling both represented but also still weirdly invisible (if turned on) transguys made me nervous in just the opposite way. This wasn’t erotic attraction — though in my internalized transphobicness, I was hoping for a never-to-materialize into-butches phase. It was something else. It was as if their visibility called out to me in a way I couldn’t answer yet, so instead I just got really awkward and had to run out of the coffee shop. It wasn’t a good look.
I wish I could say I suddenly educated myself, or came to my trans-ness through pure self-enlightenment or something, but, in actuality, the Universe still had to drag me along. When my now ex-girlfriend started dating a person she’d probably been cheating with (sorry!), I was extra extra toasted by said person’s gender queerness. I was roasting alive in the fires of jealousy, and finally it got hot enough for me to get serious and ask myself what the heck was really going on. After all, I’d been cheated on before, by people I’d loved more (not sorry!), but this was a whole ‘nother layer of hell. Fortunately, I’d been doing a shit-ton of meditation and inner growth shit, and for the first time in my life I knew what the something else was – it was ENVY! Waking up and throwing up every morning for the past six weeks had suddenly been worth it because I *understood* that I wanted what *redacted* was, not what *redacted* had.
You might think this is when I came out, but you’d be wrong! Despite realizing this, I still refused to identify as trans. I thought that if Trans had been an option to me back in 1997, maybe I would have chosen that instead of Gay, but as it was I was too old and too late for the party. This argument lasted a shockingly long time for such spectacularly shitty logic. It wasn’t until six months later when a dear friend told me about their transition and I heard so much of my story in theirs that something shifted. Maybe I wasn’t too old, maybe I should try?
I wish I could say I suddenly educated myself, or came to my trans-ness through pure self-enlightenment or something, but, in actuality, the Universe still had to drag me along.
Change still came slowly. On a dedicated shopping trip, I crept to the men’s clothing section, remembering how as a teenager I’d been super stoked about men’s Old Navy t-shirts with gaudy, masculine emblems, and how I’d consciously turned away from them when a girl I liked in college called me a “fat, ugly lesbian.” In the men’s section of my local Target, I’d think of things to say to people’s interrogating glares, not out loud, just to myself – “don’t worry, they’ll think you’re shopping for your boyfriend” or “they’ll just think you’re gay.” These thoughts were a comfort and a cut, and made me see how far I’d have to come to learn to actually live with myself.
I spent most of my first year of transition wondering a lot about what it “meant.” As a practicing Buddhist who subscribed to concepts of no-self, non-duality, and universal impermanence, spending so much time fretting that people could see my boobs seemed silly and un-enlightened. Still, it resonated when I read Buddhist mythology referencing Nagas — powerful protective creatures known for their enlightenment, and, oh yeah, tendency to genderbend. As I developed a genuine sense of compassion for myself, a curiosity about myself followed. How could I claim to really want to know myself and deny this kind of lurking truth? How could I ever have the type of relationships centered on connection and seeing one another, when I couldn’t see myself?
Every big step I’ve taken in my transition was a leap of faith that felt like an experiment, with the results always bringing me further into focus to myself. I can’t describe the feeling of seeing myself after each of these changes — men’s clothing, binding, cutting my hair — except to say that it’s the purest, most relieving sense joy I’ve ever felt. It’s made me able to understand why people are happy to be alive with themselves for no reason other than the pleasure of their own company. It’s also highlighted the ways in which the picture is still blurry.
When I found out that I’d be eligible for insurance to potentially cover top surgery next year through my partner’s insurance, I was overwhelmed with joy. I was also intimidated by the process of actually accessing those services, which required a process of getting a letter from a therapist and then, somehow, connecting with the surgeon and other doctors I’d need. I began working with a therapist, a requirement for many insurance covered physicians and was relieved that thanks to updated care standards my non-binary identity was a non-issue. What I didn’t expect was for the only doctor covered by our insurance to have horrifying online reviews, and the nightmare results photos on Transbucket, a website for trans people to share surgery results, to back them up. Most of the men who had worked with him wanted revisions and even posted dire warnings – “don’t make the same mistake I did.”
In a move of feigned curiosity that was rife with actual intention, I responded to this bad news by contacting the best surgeon I could find – I loved his results on Transbucket and had first heard of him through good reviews from other nonbinary guys. I figured I had nothing to lose since insurance was out of the question, and maybe somehow it’d be cheaper than I was expecting. When we met on Skype a few days after I contacted his office, he was friendly, thorough, and efficient – exactly what I look for in a surgeon. I was a good candidate, the surgery would most likely not exacerbate my other conditions, and yes, I could have it in two and a half short months. The only downside – the surgery itself was over ten thousand dollars, would not be covered by insurance, and a required a three week stay 2,000 miles away. Faced with the choice between an indefinite postponement that felt like watching a vision of my imagined life shut down like an old-timey projector powering off, and the crystal clear, if impossible to finance, alternative, I baulked and slipped back into a familiar depression.
Growing up in rural poverty and then developing several autoimmune diseases in early adulthood gave me a lot of salty wisdom and also a lot of debt. An adult lifetime of three-times-a-week doctors visits, emergency room copays, and a thousand dollars a month in medical expenses on a good cycle, have eaten whatever disposable income I imagine one uses for creating a savings account. Somehow, even with my negative net worth, I’m still financially better off than many people in my community and I’m damn lucky to even have the jobs that give me money and credit to finance myself into the poor house. But I also know no matter how many times the credit offers I get stress I’ve entered an upper echelon of consumer, with my superior credit score, only one of us is getting rich off a 14% interest rate. Still, no matter how often I’d cite Suze Orman, and how she’d certainly tell me “I could not afford it,” my attention would return again and again to planning, applying for lower interest rates for loans, and cutting expenses. One fateful car drive, when I do all my best thinking, I knew a big part of what I had to do next, and I knew it scared me more than the scalpels. I had to ask for help.
One of the things I didn’t expect about transitioning was how much the process would demand that I let others in. In fact, given Toxic Masculinity (TM), I’d expected just the opposite. For me becoming the transmasculine person I need to be means asking for help – from the Universe, from those who love me, and from those who maybe have never met me but hear something of themselves or a friend in this story. Asking for money doesn’t come easily to me, so I give much gratitude to my friends whose questions hinted perhaps I should make a fundraiser, because, perhaps, they’d like to help.
Trans people are surviving in a world that sends a message that we aren’t wanted here, in a million ways, a million times a day. We’re denied healthcare, literally kicked in the back, mocked in public, and denied service — and that’s all just shit that’s happened to me in the past three months. While so many of my fears of what life as a visible trans person is like have been proven true, I never could have imagined the joy I’d feel in being accepted for myself by those who love me. Each time someone affirms my identify by liking my masculine profile photos, using gender neutral or male pronouns, or shuts down transphobic bullshit people are throwing at me, I’m reminded of one of my favorite tumblr posts:
“concept: the universe hears you crying and sings a little song for you. the universe hopes you can hear it”
I want to call back “I can hear it and I am here.”
Marco is the Official Toast Web Goth. You can help him fundraise for top surgery at youcaring.com/marcomaria.