What Happened, Don Ennis?

Update 4/4/2015:  recently, i have become internet acquaintances with ms. ennis. i find her to be a very friendly, likable woman who is devoted to her family, but i’m letting this blog entry stand so as to represent where my mind was at the time. no disrespect intended, dawn; thank you for being a role model!  XO  

There are certain transgender people I look to for guidance and inspiration – Laura Jane Grace, Eden Lane, but also Don Ennis, who, for a short time, publicly announced that he no longer wished to be known not as Don but Dawn, only to revert back a few days later.  Don blamed his mistake on transient global amnesia, “a temporary but almost total disruption of short-term memory.”

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Well, if fucked-up feelings about your sexual identity are no longer a mental disorder according to the DSM-5, Don, you’re not helping anyone’s case.  I read what you wrote when you came out:  You said that you and your wife had struggled with your sexual problems for years and had come to the mutual decision you had no choice but to live as a woman, so you show up at your job at ABC in a dress and announced that everyone was to call you “Dawn”.  You started a Facebook page and a Twitter feed for Dawn, posted pictures of your new self, and enjoyed the vocal support of many hundreds of people.  You wrote of a transgender person’s right to happiness, and of your satisfaction with your decision, yet there you were two weeks later, disavowing everything you had said, blaming your momentarily lapse of reason on amnesia and being fed female hormones as a child.

I can’t know for sure, Don, but I don’t think you’ve been completely truthful about what made you revert.  My suspicion, my deep fear, is that once the novelty of coming out wore off and you had to get down to the daily tedium of living as a woman, you said, “Oh fuck, this is hard!”  Once the rain of praise slowed to a drizzle, you thought to yourself, “Hey! I am not going to be constantly rewarded and reinforced by my friends, colleagues, and internet allies!  The strength I need to live this way needs, in actuality, to come from within!”  You concluded you didn’t have that strength, that it would be easier to live they way you’ve lived all your your life – conflicted and unsatisfied, but at least with a loving spouse to take care of you.  Why would any rational person throw that away?

I’m not mad at you, Don.  If fact, I’m grateful for the reminder that crossing over – A) would be hard as all fuck, B) means a lot more than just a opportunity to be the center of attention in the realm of social media, and C) is fraught with negative consequences.

A Man Needs (to be) a Maid

maid3My need to be as much of a woman as possible is, in part, a product of my sympathy for women and the guilt I carry for the way men have treated women, historically. I had a huge gender dysphoria flare-up five or so years ago when my family and I were staying in a cabin in the Shanendoah National Forest on the way home from seeing the sights in Washington DC. Hanging on the inside knob of the cabin door was one of those vintage “maid service, please” tags. On the tag was an image of a maid – pretty, pouting, and put-upon. I wanted to steal the tag and take it home, but I just stared at it for a good thirty minutes, took pictures of it, and photoshopped it instead. I have tried to find this classic image on the Internet, but have not been able to, so, if you like it, you better steal it from me.

This image speaks two thousand words. First, it reminds me of how uniforms, up until very recently, used to be such a common way to define roles.  I have never had occasion to wear identifying dress, and I long to, for I am a person who feels so much more comfortable in social situations where roles are clearly defined: teacher/student, waitress/customer, maid/lady-of-the-house. In the nebulous world of parties, mixers, and meet-and-greets, I am lost, hopelessly awkward because what people see when they look at me is not what I see or feel when I look at myself. I used to have a uniform of sorts, a beard, which helped me tremendously, defining me as a manly man, but I have shaved it off, determined to lose that crutch.  Also, this image reminds me of the role typically taken by the female – the servant, the helper, the come-behind – the role in which I feel much more comfortable.  Lastly, the dejected “I-must-accept-my-role”expression on the maid’s face makes me swell with sympathy and identification.

Gender dysphoria never leaves me alone, but sometimes it completely consumes and overwhelms.  My therapist said controlling your thoughts is key to controlling your emotions, but I have tried to stop pushing down thoughts like I did that day in the cabin in Shenandoah National Park.  I can’t fight it anymore.  I don’t wish to.

my name is laura

What follows is a fictional autobiography.

My name is Laura, and I am 21 years old today.  In four months, I will have my journalism degree.  My mama and daddy are so proud of me, as I am the first person in our family to graduate from college.  I’ve lived with my parents all my life, but, soon, I will break out on my own, and I’m quietly thrilled at the prospect, even though I love my parents very much.  Will they be as happy when I am gone?  I worry, for I am an only child.

Writing is my passion now. I put the same energy into it that I used to put into ballet when I was small, and to playing the viola in high school.  Pirouettes and pizzicatos have fallen by the wayside for me; now, I want to go to Washington and cover the political beat.  The Equal Rights Amendment is gaining momentum in Congress now.  That’s pretty exciting, but still I wonder sometimes, is the way the world is changing for women the way I want to go?  In my heart, I know that I’m still a fairly traditional girl.

My father, finally, got a desk job at Coca-Cola after driving their trucks for almost twenty-five years.  He is a gentle, hard-working man with a stubbly, sharp jaw who likes watching football.  He and I have probably watched the Jets play a hundred times, though I would be happy just watching Joe Namath.  I could enjoy his handsome face a lot better if he’d just take off that blasted helmet!  I don’t think my father has made a great deal money working for Coca-Cola; perhaps he could have done better, but college wasn’t really an option for him.  I’m sure he must be proud of our middle-class life, considering his hardscrabble existence as a child.

I’m told my mother used to be a librarian before she married my father, but her work since she married has been being the best wife and mother any two people could ask for.  She is a fairly meticulous lady who takes great pride in her appearance, and I have to admit her habits have rubbed off onto me a good bit.  Even though the sofa and easy chair in our den are the same ones I crawled behind and hid when I was five, it’s still in good enough shape to keep, because mom has kept them clean over the years, and even fixed a broken sofa spring, once.

Mom dresses nicely, not only for herself, but for my daddy, too.  When he comes home from work, he would often find Mom cooking in heels and pearls.  Then, later, when she brought him his drink, he’s pull her onto his lap and tickle her middle.  She’d laugh and pretend to struggle to get away.  They’ve always seemed to be playfully in love.  I hope my husband will be sweet to me like that.

Mom taught me everything she knows about looking her best.  Her wardrobe is the size it is because she makes most of her own dresses.  She doesn’t even use patterns from the fabric store, much – she just imitates the outfits she sees in fashion section of the Sunday paper.  Jackie Kennedy still holds sway in my mom’s eyes, believe me, even though she’s not the First Lady anymore.  She’s made a lot of my clothes, too, and has tried to get me involved in making them, though I lack her talent.

I remember my boyfriend Lance Hastings took me to the Senior Prom, so we worked together on a dress made of apricot silk taffeta.  I was complaining, “Mom, please don’t make me wear a homemade dress to my Prom!”  But, when I saw myself in it, I had to admit that I looked pretty stunning.  Prom went wonderfully and, afterward, Lance took me out for coffee instead of going with his gang of friends and their dates to the lake for God-knows-what.  While I was busy stirring my fourth tablespoon of cream into my cup, he slid a small box wrapped with a pink bow over to my side of the table.  Inside was a ring with a tiny chip of Safire.  He put it on the ring finger of my right hand and said he wanted me to be his girl even after he left for college in the fall.  And so I was his girl, for almost two years.  He’d come home from school to see me, weekly for awhile, then every other week, then monthly, then he stopped coming, to my house, at least.  He broke up with me without breaking up with me, if you know what I mean.

My father always said, “Never trust a boy!”, even though he seemed to like Lance.  Lance and I used to go back to that same coffee shop and sit at that same booth, and we’d make plans for our future together.  More and more women were working outside the home, but Lance wanted me to be a housewife and a full-time mother for his children, so I fantasized about being a woman like that.  Later, in his car, Lance and I would go “parking”:  He would kiss me, and I would kiss him back.  He would touch my breasts, and I would let him.  He would put his hand between my legs, and I would open them to him, because it felt so wonderful.  I don’t regret having sex with Lance, even though my parents would be very disappointed in me if they found out.  What I do regret is believing him when he said were forever.  I guess daddy was right, never trust a boy.

I know, though, that I can take the lessons I’ve learned and the love my parents have given me and be successful on my own.  Women can do anything they want these days, but still, secretly, inside, I don’t think I’ll ever change from being the girl I was raised to be.  Feminist?  Possibly.  Feminine?  Always!