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August 2007

(Names have been changed)

There have only been two times in my life when I've told an outright lie in regard to my gender history. Both times were in response to the question, "What sports did you play in high school?" Both times I answered that I played baseball, which is more than a little stretching of the truth that in reality I played softball.

The first time I told this lie was a year ago while I was tossing a football around with my friend's 15 year old brother. The question caught me off guard and I wasn't prepared with a better response. I wanted to be able to connect over being a student athlete, and it wasn't the time or place to explain anything deeper in that moment. Just last week I found myself in an almost identical situation, only this time it was in conversation with John, my supervisor at the farm where I worked over the summer. Something about telling what may seem like a little white lie has been surprisingly difficult for me on each occasion.

John a former state wrestling champ and pretty straightforward dude, at times somewhat of an overgrown frat-boy, but well intentioned. Working with him has been a cool experience, because for all the chest thumping and bravado and the incessant joking about balls and girls that flew around him and the two younger guys we worked with, there have also been times when he and I were working alone together and the conversation took on a more serious tone. We talked about our relationships with our partners and our fathers, our career and educational ambitions, race and class and on more than one occasion, our thoughts about "gays." Of course I am not out as trans to him, or anyone at the farm. This is the first friendship I've developed with a straight non-trans guy who has no clue about my own history.

Now, I'm not going to give in to the "it's so hard to be a straight white guy" line, because it's not. That said, there is a lot of pressure to conform to a certain standard of masculinity as such a man. I've been affected by that pressure in my own life, but I think coming from my particular female and queer history has left me better prepared to sort through it than most non-trans men are. Maybe something about coming into manhood as an adult has given me more perspective than most boys have. I've caught John in brief moments of letting that guard down, like while appreciating a sentimental song on the radio, or the time he talked to me about feeling deeply connected to the animals he hunts. He's always very quickly covered up for anything that may have come across as overly emotional when it's happened. What's been even more interesting to me is to listen to his thoughts and responses toward gay men. He has such deeply rooted homophobia, in the truest possible sense of that word. Not so much a prejudice and definitely not a hatred of gay men, but a feeling that really is most accurately described as the fear of the feminine or homosexual aspects of another man, or even worse, of himself. It's pretty sad to see.

As we became closer over the course of the summer, I started feeling conflicted about not being out to him. It has been great to just be able to be a regular dude without all the explanations or justifications... to just be accepted as another guy who wants to talk about sports and science and whatever else comes up. Being that way is just as true to myself as being loud and proud at some tranny rally somewhere. These days it feels even more so. The average Joe redneck shtick that I've been working has felt less and less like a show and more like just another part of who I actually am (I guess that's a whole different entry for another time). Still, the reality is that I was born female, I do have a unique experience that has in a huge part shaped me into the person I am now. Has it been deceitful of me to let my girlfriend's family, or everyone at the farm just assume that I was born male? I'm nearly positive that if John had gone into things knowing my full history, we would never have become as close and he would not have been as frank with me as he has been. Added to that, not being able to fully discuss my own history has left my side of the friendship at a standstill, but if I were to disclose at this point, I can't help but think he'd feel lied to and maybe even tricked or violated in some way. It's frustrating me to know that any new friendships I make in my life are going to have this issue to contend with.

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