Genderation X

You can change your body with surgery and hormones, but what happens after that might surprise you

The sweetness of this scene -- like a queer Norman Rockwell painting, late-morning light streaming in the front windows, curling the corners of fliers that have hung too long in the sun, the older women with windmilling hands and intense voices, unaware of the fondness of the younger women's gazes -- makes me wonder how Matt can bear to leave dykedom for the man-eat-man world of the Lone Star. It seems depressingly allegorical that we've been banished to the dark-as-a-Dutch-landscape patio, where the steady mist of a gunmetal gray February sky occasionally marshals enough energy to splatter us with a few drops of rain. But the real story is more pedestrian: We've relegated ourselves to the back yard 'cause the third member of our party, Jonathan Weiner, wants to smoke.

I've never met Jon before, though I've seen Matt around dyke events since he arrived in San Francisco in '91. At age 26, after two years of hormones, Matt looks bigger, huskier, and more settled in a body that never before seemed to fit him. He was an uneasy woman who often dealt with her awkwardness by letting others take the lead; now it's as if he's heaved a sigh of relief and let himself spread out into the psychic and physical space he craved without knowing it.

Jon, at 24, looks five years younger, and, with his crew cut, like he just stepped off the bus at boot camp. A clown and a rebel, he's the one who'd drive the drill instructor around the bend. Jon recently discovered he loves to dress in drag; he calls what he was doing before -- when he was a woman -- "reluctant drag." The two bump shoulders, spar like overgrown puppies. Jon defers to Matt, who is both calmer and more sarcastic. Matt seems to have taken charge of his life in a way he had not earlier, but his face is as open and mobile as ever.

Four years ago, at an International Mr. Leather contest, Matt bumped into several FTMs (female-to-male transsexuals), including Shadow. Matt had never heard of FTMs, but he immediately understood that these men held a key to the puzzle that was Matt.

"You know how you get one of those moments of clarity? It was seeing them that put that mirror to my face, showing me people on the outside who looked like what I felt on the inside. They were people who could talk about feelings in a language I didn't have. I followed them around the whole weekend like a puppy dog."

Within months Matt had moved to San Francisco, changed his name, and begun attending FTM meetings. "I was still living as a dyke, a dyke called Matt, and I had a girlfriend. I considered myself a dyke. I was very male-identified, but I was a boy dyke, you know how that exists now? I kept going to the meetings and talking about it for a long time. I needed to be sure I'd made every attempt to live my life the way it was set up. But the longer I was aware of the difference between my body and my identity, the more difficult it became to live my life."

While Matt was wrestling with his identity, other people were wrestling with Matt. "They'd say, 'You don't want to be a man! Eww, yuck, you'll get hair on your back!' I'd say, 'I'm not a man, OK? I'm very male. I am not a man.' When I did make the decision to start hormones, people asked what it meant to me. I said it meant I was going to make my outside match my insides a little better."

He didn't expect a perfect fit. "In a lot of ways I still feel like a dyke. I didn't feel like a man, or that whole sexist bullshit of what a man is supposed to be. My identity as a man is something that's developing very gradually, still coming into existence. That was something I didn't foresee."

"So your body didn't feel right?" I hazard. He certainly seems more at home in this bigger, blunter, paradoxically more graceful Matt. But my keying on physicality diminishes what's far more important -- Matt as social being. "I'm not a transsexual whose issues are with my genitals," he explains. "It was with my gender role and how I was living in the world, how people perceived me, the way I interacted with people."

"So the stereotype of being a man trapped in a woman's body didn't fit you at all?"

"No, it wasn't that clear. I was a little butch girl. I was very eager to please my mother, and I wore dresses when she expected me to. There were no role models for butch women when I grew up. There were gym teachers, so of course that's what I wanted to be."

"Or a Girl Scout," Jon puts in with a smirk.
Matt rolls his eyes. "Jon is such a nelly freak."
"Becoming a man has gotten me more in touch with my feminine side," Jon quips, referring to his foray into drag shows, where, he notes dryly, "I don't have to stuff my bra and I don't have to tuck."

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