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Through the Brick Wall...and Back Again

April 05, 2009, 11:37 AM

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine told me about a concept album the band Of Montreal put out called “Skeletal Lamping,” which featured a character, the lead singer’s alter ego, called Georgie Fruit.  Georgie is a person who has been through multiple sex changes, from man to woman and back again many times.  Predictably, my employer walked by and said that she couldn’t understand that at all.  To her, “it’s like make up your mind already!” she said.  It would be entirely lovely if things worked out like that, wouldn’t it?  If every decision we made was right for us forever?  But just saying that now gives me a good laugh.  Things don’t always go that way.  The decisions we make are based on what has happened to us in the past and what we desire for ourselves in the future.  There’s just too many variables to predict a set outcome.

As I learned about Georgie Fruit, I was of course reminded of Hedwig from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”  There are two characters in that story that choose to reverse their transitions.  Hedwig’s sex change from male to female is botched and though s/he lives as a woman, Hedwig begins to feel lost in the definition of gender.  The question is raised:  did s/he even still have the possibility of being a man again if this surgery left him/her with nothing but an “angry inch?”  The people who first screened that movie for me said that it was all about being okay with yourself at the present moment in time.  I still agree with that.  How can you live with the idea that your choices leave you with no choices?

Probably because my idea of heaven is a world where magic is real and I am a wizard, but whenever I have heard Jo talk about people who have been touched by the magical world, whether they are a squib or someone who has married a muggle and lives in the muggle world, like the Snapes, I always feel really sad.  The concept of someone going through that brick wall, only to come back and live without away from all that wonder and possibility, well, I have trouble seeing the good in that sometimes.  In many ways, transitioning reminds me of Harry’s introduction to magic.  You learn about different ways to see the world and your scope of what is possible just broadens remarkably.  Personally, I’ve felt privileged to be someone who as the ability to go down such a path, to see what I’ve seen.  But I think the most dangerous thing I could ever do is to lock that door behind me.  The concept of living like Mrs. Figg on Privet Drive with a million cats or like Filch, who is surrounded by magic, even has magic cast upon him, and yet cannot be that magic, is scary.  And the idea of having long hair and showing my curves?  That’s positively nauseating to me.  In fact, the idea that I would ever transition back seems so ludicrous and unlikely, it feels almost not worth thinking about.  But what if I did?  If I chose to live as a woman again, what kind would I be?  I’d be the kind who had seen another side of the coin, had lived it, and I’d be a more understanding person for that, and how could that ever be a bad thing? 

We can learn much from fiction, from the Georgie Fruits, the Hedwigs, the Harrys, but nothing rings true like a true story.  The novel Stone Butch Blues is a semi-autobiographical account of the life and transitions of Les Feinberg, definitely the single most important figure in the movement for transgender rights.  Stone Butch Blues is the story of Jess, a transgender who is born female and transitions using gray market steroids in the sixties, in part because living as a man allowed him/her to escape persecution as a butch, and then back again after Stonewall became the first real tangible success of the Gay Rights Movement.  Today, Les, nearly sixty, prefers to use the gender neutral pronouns (“hir” and “ze.”)  It’s hard not be completely in awe of Les’ bravery and honesty, and it’s tempting to idolize hir, but ze has never invited that.  When you read Stone Butch Blues, you get the distinct sense that this is a person who has understood something many have run from ever even thinking about and that that has given Les some sense of freedom.  Being an incredibly powerful writer, Les probably said it better than I ever could:  “I have shaped myself surgically and hormonally twice in my life, and I reserve the right to do it again.”  No fear.  No remorse.  And really, no brick wall at all.

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Blogger Bio


Name: Jon
LeakyName: abandonedboyjon
House: Hufflepuff

Jon is a filmmaker, writer, and transgender activist, who has been a Harry Potter fan since the age of eleven. In 1999, he had the honor of meeting Jo and still can't believe it happened. He is very much like Ron and often wishes he, too, had a Deluminator. His patronus is an eagle.

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