On The Calm Before The Cute Pills
Say what you want about Americans but we understand capitalism. You buy yourself a product and you get what you pay for-
-Max Payne 3
I kinda liked that line a whole lot, of all the goofy self denigrating anti-noir that the game was. That sardonic understanding of the American condition relative to outside observers, and the arrogance inherent in our personal and financial lives being nearly one and the same.
Maybe I read too much into shit.
That said, I feel like while a benevolent act simply left as is fine, there has been so much continuous support emotionally, and uh financially that I feel guilty often times not going into great depth (and uh, CLEARLY stating why) that I’ve come to realize explaining the hows and whys, and the philosophical reasons would help you better understand why I asked, why I’ll keep asking and uh, why I’m not ashamed.
You bought it, you’ll get what you paid for.
Chances are, if you have known me in any capacity these last few years you’ll know I’ve been back and forth between the Pacific Northwest and Michigan. Some of you may not, or know me peripherally through some of my friends I’ve met on the internet.
Since this went as far as my family (outside of a few scattered, shall we say, uh older members) it makes sense to just go ahead and introduce myself as Michelle. I was born Matthew James Perez. Right now I identify as transgender and have been going by that name and female pronouns in my household, and a birthday party as a means of gauging my comfort with being a woman.
If you asked me if I’d felt the same way a year ago, I’d tell you that while I know many in the LGBTQ community whom I consider great friends, I’d simply say I was queer if you straight up asked me.
It was hard even getting to that point, internally.
You have to understand that I grew up in the Michigan. Middle child of three. Dad is a former boxer and shift manager at a plastics factory, and my Ma is always doing something in a nurse or social work capacity. These people busted their ass on a constant basis with little to no reward financially while taking care of three kids. They lived in a world where that reality was like the goddamn mirror battle of Enter The Dragon, in which so many of their coworkers, neighbors and family were in the same instances.
There I grew up in typical, God Fearing, homophobic and racist rural shitholes. The upbringing was full of observed strife, and conflicting information. As much as the parents take credit for a lot of how I am, TV raised me too. My critical abilities formed early on, observing the Batman Animated Series, where good ol’ moral compass Batman acted as a contrast to reality. As a kid I wanted to do the right that and be big and strong. I also got into an unusual amount of fights. There were a lot of other things I saw in my escapism as a child.
For example, Batgirl. I loved her big fuckin goofy eyes and her red hair, and I liked that she stuck it to Serious Ass Batman. Her agency and capability kinda prefer her to Robin.
In keep and total seriousness, the other more well prominent and often remembered instance in which I think back and wondered had to be after seeing Chun-Li after playing Street Fighter at a really young age. Ma had this big green sweater that, across my frame was like a skirt. I vividly remember spinning on my head at kicking a teddy bear, knocking over various dresser top fixtures. Ma, not understanding who Chun-Li was, simply told me I was not a martial artist and that I was gonna bump my head if I didn’t stop. I wore it as my pajamas up until the age of seven, all the while pretending I was Chun Li.
Pop culture shit and sincere enjoyment regardless of gender is totally something that happens. That’s fine, and doesn’t have to have necessarily huge implications. I played with Barbie dolls as a kid alongside my cousin because looking back I liked the idea of the domestic toys and role-play. Did that all the damn time. Hell, if patriarchal norms weren’t so God awful I’d encourage all parents to let their kids do that shit unabated. It ain’t bad if your son or daughter or genderless kid wants to imagine elaborate pink jetski situations ending in a nice plastic spaghetti dinner. Fuck you if you feel otherwise.
As I grew, make believe and role-play and imagination took a backseat to masculinity, fulfilling that role and my escapes becoming less analog and more digital. As the fights got meaner and had more blood and shattered teeth, the words grew more harsh. I clashed with teachers, students and at some point The Law.
In a more rural setting than earlier years, I was surrounded by farmer’s kids in a tiny school. From 7th to 11th grade I started from lunch fights to basketball court fights to simply attacking people in regard to the word usage I often encountered.
A lot of the time, if not exclusively, fag was uttered.
“School” fag, is used nonchalantly from rich school to porn school as the child’s epithet of choice. To this day, fuckhead extraordinaire “Tyler The Creator” makes bank off it. Eminem basically introduced us all to it on a mass scale. Fag this, fag that. I don’t understand what you’re saying? Must be some kind of stupid fag. Oh wow, you actually made me look like an idiot with your reasoning. What a smart faggot.
Almost without exception I struck people in the face for that word. It seemed to bother me more than the racial shit people bring up when your last name is Perez.
If I did anything or said anything contrary to the rigidly enforced status quo or simply acted as I did normally it was met with cruelty.
Jumping back into role-play, I played the psycho. I ran and jumped into walls, head first at lunch period. It kept people away. I played the class clown, it placated the kids and left the door open for interaction I craved. It opened the door for friends I made, and to conversations with those who I thought were creative and worthwhile of my tastes.
I dived into video games and Jesus Christ forgive me, fan fiction writing as digital interaction came into the forefront. I always longed to be someone other than who I was. In the sexual confusion of that age, there was a desire to have sex with women as a woman. In rural Michigan, that wasn’t a conversation I could have aloud, let alone reconcile in my mind in even private moments.
I dismissed it enough times on a sexual level because it was a confusing times. I started to bury it when it came to thinking about being seen as a woman, or even imagining minute interactions as a woman.
If you have next to no information of the outside world outside of straight up TV, you have to hunt for it on the internet. I looked for identity, and conversing with like-minded people. Outside of writing my garbage fan-fiction, I lurked the Penny Arcade boards in their non-atrocious years (relative terms here) and after years and Ventrilo interaction I met these people on and off in my post high-school years in person.
I’d gauge my comfort in the idea with discussion through others. Make no mistake, I don’t discussion with other people through misleading or false pretense. I felt I was brought to the point given my lack of understanding and education, and after a lot of long, sleepless nights it seems like it’s been a lot of denial.
I’d crossdressed after a really hard day of work and got drunk, and recieved a call from my mother after posting a photo of me in dress/makeup that was a lot of drunken and confused explanation to my mother where she was asking if I was okay, and if I was transgendered and if so that was cool.
I didn’t really think about it until a roommate helped my crossdress the following day, and I put on breastforms. I was really fixated on the weight more than say the outward appearance. After gauging roommate comfort with just walking around and crossdressing for a while I had something of an epiphany. I thought of the discomfort with the idea of doing that in a previous relationship I’d since severed in Oregon and then really, my life in general and just thought about getting into character in so many instances. What exactly was I hiding?
There was a night during a long drought of unemployment wherein I had something approaching a fever dream. I wrote it down hurriedly the following morning. It was an indeterminate point in the future looking out at my hands in the first person, checking my Facebook wall and the name was different. People were doing awkward congratulations and I had achieved something and people referred to me in female pronouns. It was as though I’d never been thought of as a man and the interaction reflected it, as though we were in some sort of alternate universe in which I’d been born a ciswoman.
I called my parents after nodding off and drooling all over my long hair which windshield washed me awake after falling off the bed. I spoke to my father first, telling him I think I might be a woman. I then almost instinctively asked my mother if she would be freaked out if could have her name on the pretense she was the strongest woman I know.
Since then I’ve been living as questioning and more recently, as a woman within my household and outwardly in public. I still fear any public knowledge of this leaking into the workplace, as its male dominated and fucking horrible.
Cumulatively, people have come out of the woodwork to help me. There’s a sentiment among people that if you put as much time as you do into looking for people to help you as you should into helping yourself you’d be way better off. I constantly search for better work, better avenues and am often asked to return home to a family who loves me and would take care of me. Being out in this world and fighting for my place in it has been what brought me here and something approaching satori.
I owe a lot of that to anybody who might be reading this who helped me along the way. Despite numerous odds and a great effort expenditure on my part I’ve had hard times and people came out in force to help me get where I needed to be so that I might continue this journey and see it through. Strangers, longtime friends and my family have seen firsthand what this world does to people and with nothing to immediately gain they wouldn’t let that stand. I’m grateful for each day longer you essentially bought me.
That’s what the money from previous crowdfunding efforts and the new one essentially have done. Each time that money basically broke even and went into food, clothing and bills. I live pretty spartan yet have gotten that much closer to autonomy. It has shaped and colored a vastly different idea of people’s character I hadn’t had for some time. It’s gotten me to a place where I can say that even though I’m behind on rent, I can see a counselor, and eventually begin medically feminizing myself.
People helped me save myself. Despite all our achievements, this is the greatest act we can do for one another.
That said, I’m still at the precipice of frightening change. I’m still going to ask for help not out of a sense of entitlement but out of real material need. There was a time I would’ve felt ashamed about this, but after everything that’s led here, I feel as though this is by design.
I’m a religious person. It’s cool if that isn’t your bag. I think, God wants me not to be put through the wringer but to learn about the nature of being stubborn for the right reasons, and the wrong reasons and not to discount people. To help when I’m in a place to help. If I can’t help someone financially when I don’t have money I try to find other ways, or simply give my time. To experience and cultivate something new, out of a comfort zone.
We all got me here, so in some small way if it sounds like I’m mythologizing the people who helped, I am. I feel you’ve done something akin to a Holy Act. That’s uh, it.
Thank you for your time.