Ever since my Tedx UCR talk was posted online a few months ago, I’ve received a lot of nice comments. And I’m totally flattered. That evening, and all of the work that led up to it, represented a real highlight for me in 2015 as well as a major milestone in my personal life.
Now, a few months down the line, my friends and coworkers often tease me about the talk’s central theme. Usually in lighthearted joking, but sometimes in more serious conversations. To the point where, in certain circles, I became known as, “The Girl Who Said Own It.”
|I was not the girl who said, "Own it."|
But that’s not true at all. In my talk, I tell of my first time out in the general public at a Las Vegas casino. But I was not the girl who said, “Own It.” My friend was. She was the one who gave me the advice. So, in a sense, I wasn’t the girl who said, “Own it,” I was the girl who heard, “Own it.”
We’re a fairly close community here in Southern California. There are times when it feels like everyone knows everyone else. And everyone else’s business. So people immediately started guessing who my unnamed friend might be. I’ve heard a variety of different guesses – all good friends of mine from the trans community. All good friends from whom I’ve received a lot of great advice.
But I didn’t know any of them when I first started out. I had chatted a little online, but I hadn’t made any close friends in the early 00’s. Those bonds didn’t form until later in the decade when I became more involved in different chat rooms and, of course, when I started going out on a regular basis.
So, no, the girl who said, “Own It,” wasn’t a trans girl. She wasn’t a WildSide girl (My first walk through the casino happened about 5 years before the first Viva WildSide event.) She wasn’t a fellow club goer or party girl. She wasn’t a longtime online confidante. I met all those wonderful people later on.
The girl who said, “Own It,” was my Wife.
I left that detail out in the Tedx Talk… and in the original blog that inspired the talk… for a very good reason. I wanted to keep the focus on the speaker’s journey. My journey. That might sound self-absorbed – and it probably is. But to discuss the nature of my marriage and the complicated, rewarding, relationship I’ve had with my wife, Kira, for over 20 years would take a lot more time than a simple blog or a 12-minute talk.
|My wife, Kira, on our way to a Fetish Event in the late 2000's.|
Quite simply, if it wasn’t for my wife’s encouragement and support, CiCi wouldn’t exist. Kira was there for my first time out, and many other nights out during the first few years of CiCi’s existence. Back when I didn’t have any friends and desperately needed a companion in this new adventure, Kira was there for me.
And I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have done it without her.
I was thinking of all this as I watched the beautiful and compelling new film, The Danish Girl. The Danish Girl tells the story of Lili Elbe -- one of, if not the, first people to undergo gender affirmation surgery. There is a lot to like about this new film and I’m sure there are scenes and lines of dialogue that will connect with many in the trans community.
But what I admired most about the film was that it focused on Lili’s wife’s story (Gerda Wegener), as well as on Lili’s story. I just wish it had gone into more depth.
Why was Gerda so accepting when so many others are not? Why did Gerda remain in the marriage for so long – when so many others do not? And what did she really think of all this? Today, such transitions are becoming more common. Surely, in the 1920’s when few dressed openly and no one had yet undergone surgical procedures, that would be a question worth pursuing.
What did Lili’s wife really think?
I asked my own wife this very same question after I had been dressing for several years and had started going out on a regular basis. I knew that many others in our community had not met with much support. Or much encouragement. I was one of the lucky few. So, in a reflective moment, I asked Kira what she really thought of me – particularly back in the beginning.
And what she said blew me away. She said, “I accepted before I understood.”
That meant the world to me. That simple statement meant that she loved me, she trusted me, and based on that combination of love and trust, she was willing to grant me the space to explore the many sides of my identity.
Her answer really spoke volumes to me about the definition of trust. As if she was saying: Okay, so this thing you’re doing is kinda weird. It’s definitely not the norm. And very little that I know about you has led me to suspect that this was a part of you. But despite all of that and despite the fact that I don’t really understand this yet… I’m going to help you. I’m going to accept you. I’m going to embrace you.
There were actually times, moments, when she was probably more accepting of CiCi than I was.
Now, many years later, through thick and thin, her support for me has never waivered. Obviously, I know my wife pretty well, I understand a little about her history and her feelings about life and love in general. So I know where she’s coming from when she speaks.
I just wish more time had been devoted in The Danish Girl to let us get to know Gerda in the same way.
Because that is something we all could learn from. And something our society desperately needs to learn. How to embrace those we love and respect even when we do not necessarily understand or agree with their actions or opinions.
Unfortunately, without more context, without more depth of conversation and feeling, Lili comes across as self-absorbed and selfish. While Gerda seems acquiescent to a fault. And from what I know about the history of these two amazing women, there had to be much more to both of them than that.
What does remain clear however… with both Lili and Gerda and me and my wife – is the importance of allies. Close friends. Family members. Partners. People who were at one time close to us and who decide to remain close regardless of how we present or identify.
It is something we ache for.
My wife was the girl who said, “Own It.” And for that I will be forever grateful. And to reach a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in life, I think we all have to do just that. Own it. But, wow, it sure is much easier and more rewarding when the people around you – in your family, in your community, in the world -- have the strength of spirit to own it with you.
Take care out there.
Be safe. Be smart. Be sexy.