Genderation X

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

"Like it's coming from more of a real place?" I ask. By which I mean how it would be if nine-tenths of you had been locked behind a wall -- when that wall cracks, there's so much more of you to see and to feel and to be.

"Yes, exactly," he says. "And I am a pansexual. I use that word because I don't like the word 'bisexual,' which assumes there are only two genders. But I'll tell you, sexually these days, men turn me on more than women do. In terms of what I fantasize about and look at on the street, I look at men."

David, who sells subscriptions for the San Francisco Ballet, is the creator of the theater piece FTM, which opened here in the spring of '94 and then traveled to Santa Monica, Minneapolis, and Saskatoon in western Canada, where David's family emigrated when he was 12. He hopes to stage the play in San Francisco again this spring. "I love acting," David says. "I went to acting school when I was 19, and I learned how to play women. It was really bizarre. Even though I looked feminine, I couldn't link it up. It was very difficult for me."

"What did that mean to you?"
He shakes his head. "It had nothing to do with being transsexual for me." At the same time, David came out as a lesbian. "During the late '70s I was into lesbian paganism, really getting into my body as female and doing a lot to accept my body as female. I never disliked my breasts as flesh. What I disliked was that I had no choice in the matter."

"You didn't feel connected to them."
"Yes. I had nice breasts, but they would have looked better on somebody else. We used to joke with the MTFs, maybe we could trade some things."

About 10 years ago, David trained for a sex information hot line and met his first transsexuals. He became lovers with two male-to-female transsexuals -- "at different times," he hastens to add. "Vicariously, indirectly, I began to deal with some of my gender stuff through being with these two people." He describes the process as opening a big, black box that had sat padlocked in an attic for a very long time -- opening it for a second and then slamming it shut again. "It was much too scary to even think I could be that way."

During that same period, David was working as a dominatrix -- "a very femme top," which became the subject of his first play, Permission. "I'd go to these sessions wearing a garter belt, stockings, corset, the whole deal. It was totally acting. And I'd think, 'These guys actually believe I'm a woman.' " He still sounds astonished, as if the shock will never wear off. "Part of me was standing outside thinking, 'This is so absurd and funny and ridiculous.' I liked the sexual energy, but I never had a boyfriend. I could never get into that. There's something about same-gender relating that has always not only been a major turn-on, but in here, up in my head, it just makes the most sense to me."

Then one evening ("Winter solstice, actually; Dec. 21, 1989," says David) David's world turned upside down, when he went to see Kate Bornstein's play Hidden: A Gender, about Bornstein's experiences as an MTF. Thinking it terrific, he went backstage and introduced himself. It was the start of a 4 1/2 year relationship. "Kate made it really safe for me to look at my gender. I was so terrified. I have never been so terrified of anything in my life. I would have these dreams, go through these bouts of feeling ... physically weird in my body. I'd wake up expecting to see a male body, feel a male body.

"Over a period of some months I had between 50 and 75 dreams about waking up and having had the surgery and what I would look like. More dreams about the chest stuff than having a penis. This is something a lot of people misunderstand. It's not an intellectual change. I was kicking and screaming and fighting it. I did not want to be a man in this culture, but my psyche was pushing me in that direction."

Part of why he fought so hard was that he was worried Kate would no longer be attracted to him. And shoved way underneath was the fear that he would no longer be attracted to Kate.

"That it wouldn't be homoerotic? That you would change?"
He nods. "That I would be attracted to men."
"Though your sexual orientation had always been toward women."

"Yes. And it was the shattering of a ... for me it was a shattering of illusions. When we met each other it was like, thank god, where have you been all my life? Here was this relationship I always wanted, and then we both changed. It's like, now what? I'm a new person, I'm attracted to men. I don't know if what I wanted before is even applicable."

"Because you feel so different?"
"Yes." He sighs. "Kate was hip to it before I was. I just don't know anymore. My sexuality keeps changing."

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