Genderation X

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

"Some might call this is a long trip around the world to come back to the same place," I observe.

Matt chuckles. "That's what the guys at the bar say. 'Why didn't he just stay a girl?' "

"But I'm not a girl, I'm a drag queen," Jon says, smiling at the guys' dimness. "I was always a drag queen. Now that it's not expected of me, it can be fun." He pauses to light a cigarette with half-soaked matches, an operation that takes three of us. "Being a dyke and then being a gay FTM challenges things," he says after we reinvent fire. "You don't have credibility with a lot of people 'cause they're like, 'How can you be a dyke and now you're gay?' And I'm like, 'I don't know. I'm as confused as you are.' "

"Thank you," Matt tells Jon, presumably for acknowledging the confusion he too feels. "I remember when I liked nothing better than chasing around the club after cute dykes. But something changed."

"It must have been a shock," I say.
"It was."
"Were you upset?"

"Yeah, 'cause I really loved my girlfriend." He ponders. "I don't see women as being any different from me, but women see me as being different. And I have to respect that." Which means he can't come as close, both physically and emotionally, and it's clear from Matt's tone that this lesson has been wrenching. "There's this whole part of me that's really involved with taking care of a woman. That's how I was brought up in the dyke community." He had expected lesbians to accept him as he saw himself, as non-gendered, fluid Matt. "But why should dykes be different from anyone else?" he asks. There's pain in his shrug.

"Does being a gay man mean sleeping with men?" It seems like a dumb question, but I have to ask. I'd seen Matt back when with women in those clubs, and it was one arena where butch Matt cavorted with both confidence and unadulterated delight.

"Yeah. And you know, I've had so many people say to me, 'I wish you were a real boy, 'cause if you were, I'd marry you in a second.' Finally I said to one guy, 'How would you feel if I said I wished you were white?' What they're saying is I'd be OK if I'm something I'm not and that I'll never be. So how do I find someone who's evolved enough to not only understand my structural differences but be able to appreciate them?"

The two engage in a spirited discussion of where to find these exalted beings. Jon thinks straight men are the answer: "If they're straight, they won't have a problem with my body ... possibly." Even Matt seems to agree: "Straight people are so respectful." But finding true love (or maybe even a date) sounds harder than hard; in other words, scarier and more difficult than it is for any old joe out on the street, who's having trouble enough, thanks, without conflicted gay men (men Matt has dated are pressured by their pals -- "Whatsamatta, can't you find a real man? Are you straight now?"), abusive dykes (one woman, upon being introduced to Matt, yanked on his tit and said, "He looks like a she to me"), and the effects of raging hormones (Matt: "Your body is going through puberty and menopause at once, and your brain is on a completely other track where you're traveling a zillion miles an hour trying to adjust to the differences in your social and public and personal interactions").

All that's before anybody even climbs into bed. "Having sex for me is much more emotionally involved than when I was a dyke," Matt says. "When I was a dyke, I had sex all the time and it was fun. Now there has to be a much deeper level of intimacy before I can take my clothes off with another person. I need to feel safe and supported for who I am."

He shakes his head. "In a way I'm still gender dysphoric. When people used to look at me, they'd see a woman, and that's not what I felt like on the inside. Now when people see me, they see a guy, but that's not about my past history. When I realized that -- " He lifts his hands and makes a silent shriek, The Scream in Matt-face.

"But isn't it like that for everyone?" my confrontational friend asks. "No one sees anybody's past." Exactly. What it really means is that altering our gender rips away the blinders that hide how little any of us are ever seen -- and how little we see. It's a moment of clarity most of us would rather forget.

How many FTMs become gay or bisexual men? That question was answered in a graphic way at mid-August's first FTM Conference of the Americas, held in San Francisco, which attracted some 250 FTMs and another hundred interested parties, among them significant others and those considering the change. A board and pushpins were provided along with a map of two axes: male-identified to female-identified on the Y axis, straight to gay on the X.

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