Tuesday, December 2, 2008


On Sunday evening I had what, sadly, is now a rare treat. I picked up one daughter from the iconic Pasadena bookstore where she is clerking while studying art, then drove to Burbank to pick up her elder sister who was flying back from Oakland. We drove her to her apartment in Santa Monica and then returned the other to San Gabriel where she lives with her mother. All told, it was a sixty-mile loop through Los Angeles.

The drive? We live on freeways here; it was negligible. The company of these two vivacious, intelligent and eccentric young women? Priceless. And all the more precious because I don't get to spend much time with either of them. (And when I do, it is not in "Gillian" mode.)

We raised our girls on a diet of good literature, classic films, vulgarity, sarcasm, and Monty Python, and they have turned out to be exactly the kind of young women that I am proud to claim as mine. They have also turned out to be exactly the variety of young woman I would have liked to have been. Of course, there is the dilemma: had I allowed myself to be such at their age, they wouldn't be here now. If I had been more honest with myself at the age of 23, their mother at the age of 21 would not have consented to marry me. Be my friend, yes; be my life partner, no.

One of the many things I love about my daughters is that they love to talk, particularly about books and film. I was treated that evening to hearing the Twilight series and film soundly panned in stereo. (I ask you: vampires that shimmer in daylight and drink animal blood? They're the UNDEAD, dammit! Vampires are NOT having a good time!) I also got a critique from my younger daughter regarding Thanksgiving at her aunt's house and her uncle's ill-behaved nieces. My daughters and I agreed that, as a family, we may be judgmental, but at least we know how to behave. The younger said that she observes other people's behavior and decides what she wants to avoid, thus coming off polite. The elder has always been gregarious but with the caveat that she feels that everyone hates her, so she is also especially nice to people. I know where they both got this behavior: the apple does not fall far from the tree. We are a family that is true to its British heritage: we're nice to the point of neurosis.

I think this, more than anything else, is the reason I don't push the dime about being myself in front of them. I've nicely asked if they could handle it, and they've nicely said that it would make them uncomfortable. And since it's not imperative, they've not met me.

I add to this the fact that I had Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant with my father. You remember him... the guy who'd have the coronary if he knew. A recurring thought has struck me about him: what if he were transgendered? The universe lurches. It took me years to accept myself, and I can visualize just about anybody - even J. Edgar Hoover - but this image does not come within the widest boundaries of conceivability. No shame. No judgment. Just no way. So if I'm not insistent with my girls that they go out and do mother-daughter stuff with me, or that my ex, who is still my best friend go to Nordstrom's with me when I want a new chemise, it's because of that image of my own father that won't fit into my universe.

As I said, we're a polite lot, which brings to mind this quote from Emily Post: "Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use."

There are some of us whose very being depends upon a totally authentic representation, and I can do no less than honor and respect that. I can survive in a dual existence. I could survive, though miserably, in exclusively male mode. So if I can keep their universe intact, I shall. It would be nice if they invited me (this me) into their world, but I'm too polite to pressure them.


Abby said...

But what about your own comfort, Gillian? Survival is not living. Do you not deserve the same comfort, the same peace and joy you wish for your daughters and your father? If we allow other people's feelings to dictate our behavior, we become slaves to their whims. It is possible to be both polite, to be considerate and respectful of others, and still be authentic, still have the same chance for happiness as everyone else. We are not responsible for the discomfort of others. We cannot protect them from their own feelings. We cannot guarantee their happiness by denying our own.

I trust that you will make the decisions that are best for you, and I support you in your choices.


Gillian said...

Bless you too, dear friend.

I see it as a matter of degree. Desires, for example, are subordinate to needs. If my desires conflict with the needs of another, then my desires must yield. If my desires cause discomfort in another, then, again, the desires must yield. However, if I have an absolute need, then that must take precedent. I can't be comfortable if I am acheiving my desires at the expense of another person's needs, especially if that person is someone I love. Being my authentic feminine self in the company of my daughters is certainly a desire, but if that is something that is going to alienate us, then I will pass on the desire. If, on the other hand, I absolutely needed to transition, then those around me would have to adjust.

I don't see their reticence to see me en femme as a whim. I had a long talk about this with my younger daughter, and she reminded me that my ex and I had taught them to be open-minded and accepting. They have met and embraced transgendered friends of mine. But at this juncture, to meet this part of me would be a traumatic experience for them. So, since it isn't vital to my existence, I don't push it.

All three of us agreed, by the way, that our courtesy stems from the fact that we are all neurotic.

I'd write more, but I'm beginning to get a bit punchy. I think I'd better turn in.

All love,

Shauna said...

I remember being you Jill, really, and I was so miserable. Not saying your not but I couldn't take both lives anymore that mirror was not helping.

Well you know as well as anyone what a baby I am. But your right too, the world as you know it is quiet and that is nice too.

My father whom I love more than he knows thinks I am crazy for wanting my girl self more, he is very ignorant and shallow to my feelings but at 74 who is he going to argue with anymore, not me I moved on.

I just hope one day you will say F&%K it and be who wish to be because I do love Gillian, she is the coolest lady I know of.

Your friend

Gillian said...

Shauna, the amazing thing is that I'm NOT miserable -- at least not about my gender. I'm over-extended with work and outside projects, I'm up to my ears in hock, and I'm at the mercy of ADD to the point that I am constantly reminding myself what I'm doing, but as far as my gender identity goes, I'm really right where I want to be. I embraced my duality years ago and have come to see a spirituality in it. Having two personae can be inconvenient and expensive, but it is where I'm comfortable. My major sources of discomfort are mostly unrelated.

Bless you for your sweet and good heart.

Lori D said...

You seem to "suck the marrow out of life," whether through your children or in anything else. I only wish that I could cope with anything less than what I personally feel is a necessity to represent myself authentically with the rest of the world. You seem to find a peaceful middle ground, and it's that peace that we all seek ultimately.

Gillian said...

I'm pretty thankful that I've reached this plateau, that's for sure. It's herding the rest of my cats that's driving me nuts.

As for you, Lori, I have faith that things will even out for you too.

Samantha Shanti said...

Wow. Just Wow. Nothing wrong with being British luv, not one bloody thing. Have your self a cup and a crumpet on me, for sore as the day is long, I'll be doing the same once I post this.

Ha, post this. Funny how words take on new life and meaning over time eh?

I lived as you do for a goodly number of years. I know how and why you do, and what it means to you, and them. In the end, I couldn't take it.

My Dad? Wow, no matter how he was, the only place he really belonged in the 'verse or came close to fitting was around me Mum. When we lost her, we lost him too. Took him a goodly number of years to pass, but what few redeeming qualities he had as a person evaporated into this air.

I fear however my dear that Abby makes an excellent point. What of you Luv?

Might I suggest, speaking of literature, you read as soon as possible, "Life Lessons For Women" by Stephanie Marston. It's inexpensive, but life affirming and changing if you let it. Don't read it for me, read it for you. You'll be glad you do!

One last thing, I LOVE the title of this blog! Rock on girl! Oh and one last thought, you actually pass as male looking like that? Wow. Rock on then!

Gillian said...

Hi Samantha! I just had a cup of vanilla tea and some Russian teacakes (I'm getting the little buggers out of the way before starting on the diet and exercise regimen I promise myself this time every week.

Thank you for the book tip. I'll pick up a copy.

What of me? For right now, I'm comfortable right where I am. As I get older, I'm not so sure. I'd rather be an old woman than an old man... but I'm ok with being both.

As for that crack about the picture, I have half a notion to fly out to Cincinatti and kiss you. Of course, the picture of me as Kali, down at the bottom of the page is just a little more accurate - if you discount the third eye.