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Tristan

June 1998

"Words have always been my face, for my very flesh betrays my soul. I am a shadow man, a shade of grey searching for existence in a world of black and white. Not by choice, I've become a traveler upon Fate's twisting path, clutching a roadmap where the distances are unknown and the stops along the way are not marked."

Such is the beginning of my home page. It's garnered a remarkable number of hits in the few weeks it's been up, though I have my doubts if any of you have seen it yet.

Why? Because I'm transgendered, FTM.

Oh, I don't believe I'm being scorned or ignored. That'd be awfully presumptuous and arrogant of me. I just believe that my particular slice of queer is simply neglected due to ignorance. Hell, I myself didn't stumble across those cumbersome terms -- "transgendered" and "gender dysphoric" - until three years ago. When I first got online.

Which is why I've decided to write for Oasis. I am not alone. No one should be. Though gender identity and sexual orientation are two different animals, they at least belong in the same zoo, as it were. (I dislike the analogy, yet it's far too accurate with frequent "on display" freak-show portrayals.) They're often confused for each other, giving all of us reason to reach for that bottle of aspirins more often than we should. To complicate matters, many transgendered people initially think they're homosexual when they "merely" identify as a heterosexual member of the opposite sex. Some transgendered people just happen to be gay, or lesbian, or bi. And all shades of everything in-between.

Most important of all, trans and gay folk alike are confronted with an integral aspect of our psyche that is still very much a taboo. It's something we don't find as a choice, yet our society belittles it, often with shocking cruelty. We all spend a lot of time in that closet.

Of course, we're different in many ways, and I'd like to eventually examine that as well. I believe that transgendered people are faced with a unique opportunity of a return to anonymity. Transition, then fade away. Some take this route, while others proudly admit their transsexual status. In my personal experience, many trans people treat their state as a sort of birth defect, waiting to be corrected through hormones and surgeries. I've thought there has always been a greater sense of community among the GLB folk because you view yourselves as a rich addition to the tapestry of life.

But here I am making sweeping generalizations and putting words in your mouths. I'll apologize right now. I resolve to stick to what I know.

And what I know is often severely limited. I'm a bit introverted and the eschewed view of trans people (especially the near invisibility of female-to- male persons like myself) has made me resort to books and articles for guidance. It was a twist of Fate that caused me to stumble into a transsexual newsgroup during a routine purge on my college account. So I can only guess how other questioning people are faring. We're the not-quites of the queer spectrum. I grew up not-quite female, am currently not-quite a lesbian, and am facing battling the perceptions that I'm not-quite a man.

I seem to be one of the few transgendered voices here, if not the first. I don't know how much a novelty I'll be; I'm more than willing to answer inquisitive e-mails. I've never met another trans person face-to-face, and have stumbled across less than a dozen FTM sites online, so I can only imagine what my reception currently is. Just to clear matters up, I identify as a heterosexual man. I've just turned twenty-one and am studying to be a classical musician. I'm not out yet, but plan to drop the bomb before I return to college for my senior year. I'm rather androgynous physically and I have the vague notion that some people perceive me as a lesbian. I may be attracted to women, but I don't consider my self to be one. There you have it, short and woefully inadequate.

I maintain an FTM focused web page, Face of Words, over at http://members.aol.com/~menestrier/ It features my online journal (different from these articles I am planning) and a growing list of resources. Even if you're firmly established in your gender identity, I urge you to pop in for a bit. Though I am not an active member, I've drawn a lot of strength from the GLB community. We have a lot to offer each other. And if I can manage to turn on a few lights for other transgendered people out there, all the better.

Tristan
Menestrier@aol.com

Tristan, not to be confused with another Oasis columnist of the same name, is currently under the meager guise of his birth sex, at home in central Florida for summer vacation. He is in avid role-player, especially Dungeons & Dragons and the online GemStone III. He is a voracious reader and dabbles in the graphic arts. He also enjoys horseback riding. By the time he's twenty-six, Tristan hopes to have his doctorate in music performance, the degree bearing his heartfelt, true name.


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