My name is Seda. I grew up on a ranch in Wyoming among the last of the old cowboys who formed the macho basis for the Marlboro Man myth. Those folks were my folks; those people, my people. The first time I remember snitching and wearing my sister’s clothes, I was maybe six years old.
I’ve read plenty of accounts by other transwomen that they knew from their childhood that they were girls. I never had that sense growing up. Everyone around me bombarded me with the message, “You’re a boy,” and like so many children, I never questioned the parents and adults and peers who defined my world. I did know from the earliest age, however, that there was something wrong with me. I didn’t fit in. I just thought it was my mind and spirit that were fucked up. From the perspective of forty years of experience, now I realize it was my body.
Given the deep inner knowledge that there was something lacking in my manhood, perhaps it’s no surprise that I joined the Marine Corps shortly after graduating from high school. Four years failed miserably to fulfill their promise to ‘Make a man out of me.’ I traveled the country, working in construction, logging, and other jobs for four more years, then signed on with a commercial fishing boat, where I racked up over three years of sea time. The photo above was taken while fishing for pacific cod in the Bering Sea in January, right after I’d worked several hours at the rail, my face lashed constantly by howling wind and freezing salt spray. The ice is, indeed, salt water ice.
I got married. I had kids, two boys. I had nightmares, indigestion, depression. And one night a house fire began the process that would change my life forever. In the aftermath of that fire, losing our house, nearly losing our lives, middle-age closing in around me, I took the opportunity of my wife’s and kids’ temporary absence to purchase a bunch of second-hand women’s clothes. For the week they were gone, I spent every second I was home in drag. And one night, dancing in joy down the hall, I looked down at the skirt swirling around my legs, and I knew – this was me. The scales of denial having fallen from my eyes, I could not turn back. Eighteen months of therapy didn’t affect the growing needs for unity and self-expression, for integrity, for understanding and being understood, seeing and being seen, that had been suppressed for so long.
I am a year into hormone therapy now, and the tender buds of my breasts are starting to show. My beard is mostly gone, along with the depression and nightmares that plagued me. My ears are pierced, my hair is growing, and I spend each day living a life as close to that of a woman as I am able. I like myself, I respect myself, I have finally found a way to live with truth and integrity. All it cost me was my wife, a few friends, my career, my privileged white-male status, dependable medical care covered by insurance, and almost my last surviving brother (but not quite, thank God). My relationships with my boys have improved, and I am still best friends with the woman who was my wife.
I do not regret, nor do I want to discard, my past as a male. But I am not a male. Neither will I ever be completely female - anatomy and 40 years of male socialization conspire against that. I am not man nor woman, but a little bit of both. I am something in-between – a transwoman. What the hell, didn’t God “male and female created he them?” (Italics mine.) Yes, Virginia, God made us transfolk, too, and She made us this way for a reason, though I’m damned if I have a clue what it is.
In her autobiography, Conundrum, Jan Morris said, “I never did think that my own conundrum was a matter of either science or social convention. I thought it was a matter of the spirit, a kind of divine allegory, and that explanations of it were not very important anyway. What was important was the liberty of us all to live as we wished to live, to love however we wanted to love, and to know ourselves, however peculiar, disconcerting or unclassifiable, at one with the gods and angels.” I don’t know about the divine allegory; unusual gift, perhaps. But the rest of it resonates with the deep truth of a life lived with the same challenge that dominates my presence. Regardless of my genetic makeup, my most earnest desire is to live my life, closely connected to my family and to society, in complete acceptance of my role as woman. I am not a man. My heart and my soul beat to the rhythm of my womanhood, and when the sexes separate, that is where I want to be.
Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
Reading List for Information about Transpeople
- Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
- Conundrum, by Jan Morris
- Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
- My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
- Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
- She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
- The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
- Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
- Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
- Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
- Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
- True Selves, by Mildred Brown
- What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
- Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano