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.