It started with The Go-Go’s. I was ten and their debut album “Beauty and the Beat” came out and hit the radio. I LOVED “Our Lips are Sealed” and the few others on the airwaves. I loved their music but, I never really got into the albums. I’m not much of a music lister and I never really got into buying albums. Funny thing was, every time I heard one of their songs I knew, I would get this little voice in my head saying things like “you’re a bigger fan than this” and “they deserve better from you”. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. This never happened with anyone else I listened to.
So, I would answer back, “what the hell does that even mean?” and “where is this coming from?” Did I listen? No. For decades I put up with this guilt trip I played on myself. To be honest, I don’t come to new music easily. Whenever I’m listening to music, I’m drawing (im a cartoonist) or I’m driving and all I want is familiarity. But, one day I decided to finally give The Go-Go’s their due respect. So, I put on Beauty and the Beat. It started strong with Our Lips are Sealed and How Much Moore. Great! But then I got into unfamiliar territory with Tonight, Lust to Love, and This Town.
If you’re not familiar with The Go-Go’s, these songs have a DARK tone. I wasn’t ready to hear this from a group I had always perceived as just cotton candy. I turned it off. I didn’t like what I heard. And that BOTHERED me. But why? Had I let them down? This hung on for a week, all the while I asked why this is bothered me. Shortly after, I saw on YouTube a trailer for their new documentary. I still admired the hell out of them so I watched it. It’s in this Jane Weidlin says how at their heart, their music is punk. PUNK! I needed to hear this. So I go back and start over.
From that moment, it was like hearing them for the first time and I LOVED it!. I couldn’t get enough. How do you listen to something so wrong? I was elated and felt fulfilled in becoming the fan that little voice told me I was. At this time I’m deep-diving into all their music and I’m learning all the lyrics. I love to sing but I’m too shy to do it in front of anyone so, I sing in the car alone. I’m embarrassed to admit that when I do, I pretend to be on stage singing. So, doing this to The Go-Go’s was no different. I was having a blast. But something happened. Organically. At some point, I realized that in my little singing fantasy, I’m a woman. This never happened. Ever. So, I paused and said, “what the hell is going on?” I couldn’t think of an answer so I put it out of my head.
It happen again later. And again, I asked myself the same question. Now I feel I should mention I was never raised in an environment that taught me being “gay” was bad. Because of this, it was easy for me to push it out of my mind, guilt-free. No questions asked. No asking “what’s wrong with me?” I would later realize this was something I did all my life and got very good at. I decided to go with it. It was fun. It made me feel good. It was harmless. It was really nice to escape into this fantasy. But it didn’t take long for it to become a detriment. It started to HURT to turn off the music. That’s when I said “OK! WHAT’S GOING ON?! Why does seeing myself like this make me so… HAPPY?” So happy. And it was around here I had what I call The Dream.
In it I was in a boutique. My wife, her friend, and (to keep the go-go’s theme strong) Jane Wiedlin were bringing me shoes to try on. And if it’s not clear, women’s shoes. I couldn’t get over how these made me feel. How beautiful. How… right. None of the women spoke but, there was a sense of inclusion, belonging… sisterhood. That it was ok to feel this way. And I knew, inherently that it wasn’t a cross-dressing thing. (something i have never done) It wasn’t a feeling of “it’s ok for a man to wear women’s shoes and clothes”. No. It was “it’s ok to BE a woman. To finally be YOU.” I woke from this with the most beautiful, warm feeling I have EVER felt. It was so real, it was palpable. And all I had to do was close my eyes and just FEEL it and live in that moment. But the worst part was to lay there for a period of about an hour and have that feeling just fade away into memory. It was painful. And again, “what the hell was THAT all about?”
The next days I had this internal dialogue about whether or not I should tell my wife. About a DREAM! I felt like I did something wrong and I had to come clean. I actually had a tug-of-war with myself on this. Eventually, I did. Out of the blue, I said, “hey, haha, want to hear a funny dream I had?” She said that seemed sweet and was happy I had such a nice dream. I felt like a great weight had been lifted. But it didn’t stop the thoughts. At this time I’m also starting to experience a few disconnections. Things that were heading to the same point I didn’t see at the time. First was my connection to the only two things I contributed to my masculine identity. My mustache and my pipe smoking. These things made me feel masculine. The only things. And, I wanted them. I really did. But the things that centered me were now growing distant.
I started to hate the way my mustache felt, looked, acted. I started to have thoughts of shaving it. Something I NEVER thought of before. Hell, my wife had never even seen me without it. How could I even consider it? And my pipe? It was a source of Zen-like meditation. I LOVED to sit on my porch and enjoy a bowl. Now, I couldn’t even bring myself to do it. And when I did, it didn’t feel right. The time between smoking went from days to months. All the while I asked myself why is this happening and why I was feeling this way about something I loved for over twenty years. Something that DEFINED me.
The other weird thing was one day I was sitting on a bench, people-watching. It became obvious to me that I was only watching men and that I had this expression on my face. One of disgust. It shocked me when I realized it but thought, “I see NOTHING of myself in these people. At all.” I have never been the manliest of men but I always felt I was a member of the club, if, for nothing else, by association. Not any more. And now I’m starting to panic. Why am I feeling this way? What does this mean? Am I trans? No, I’m not trans… how could I be? I’ve never had a trans thought in my life… That’s when I said “Oooooo-kay… past things all of a sudden make a hell of a lot more sense now…” I realized that all my life, I would play this game where if I saw a girl that had something I wanted, something feminine, I would say “gee, I would wear my hair like that… if I were a girl.” Or “I would wear makeup like that… if I were a girl.
But I’m not” and push it away. Then I said “SHIT! I’m still doing that NOW!” When growing up (70’s, 80’s), I NEVER saw anyone like me. And the biggest factor was, I LIKED GIRLS! If I ever saw any kind of trans representation it was always a flamboyant gay man transvestite. (always gay) If someone just told me I could be a cat-glasses and mom-jean-wearing woman that LIKES WOMEN… This began self-analyzation as I have never done before. Remember what I said about how I felt about keeping that dream from my wife? I was now having that same tug-of-war about telling my wife about THIS. And it’s WAR! A war between my heart and my brain.
My heart is saying “TELL HER!’ and my brain, “DON’T TELL HER!” Do I say something? How can I? How can I not? It all came to a bursting point on Father’s Day (and yes, im a father) of 2021. It’ was a little after midnight and I and my older son are still up. I say “I’m… I’m feeling restless. I think I’m going for a drive.” I NEVER do this. So, I got into my car, got out on the freeway, blasted my Go’Go’s playlist, and SANG! For over three hours, back and forth on the freeway. I have NEVER felt my heart breaking like that. I had resigned to burying this deep and I was dying for the woman I realized I was but could never be.
I was singing my swan song. I limped home, throat raw, and unable to keep my eyes open. I climbed into bed but I didn’t sleep. At all. It was about 7 am and I couldn’t take the war inside of me and the stomach knots. I got up and sat in the quiet. My wife got up about an hour later and immediately knew something’s wrong. She sat and asked if everything was ok. I squeaked out the most pathetic “yeah” I have ever said. Now she REALLY knows something is wrong. “What’s wrong?” she asked. Again, I squeaked “nothing.” If ever there was a time to tell a convincing lie, this was it. Then, after what HAD to be 30 of the most awkward seconds of silence, I had THE MOST out-of-body experience in my life.
I started to feel words come up my throat and they’re not the words I wanted. Again, my heart was saying “TELL HER!’ and my brain, “DON’T TELL HER! YOU’LL RUIN EVERYTHING!” I literally watched myself, totally on autopilot, say “I want to be a woman…” I looked over at her and her response was, “really?” I just spilled everything. And for an hour she listened. There is more nuance to this but, that’s when I, when Dartti began. And it all started with The Go-Go’s. Those five women allowed me to see me as MYSELF when it seems all other avenues from my sub-conscience to my conscience were blocked. It saw its “in” and took it.
They mean EVERYTHING to me. They’re like oxygen. I often wonder what I would say to them but, what does a captive say to their liberators? For nearly twenty years, I was slowly dying inside and couldn’t figure out why. I pushed people away and isolated myself. My emotions died as well. Except for anger, of course. I mastered being an island in a sea of people. I never fit. I never spent a single day comfortable in my clothes, my skin. Until now. Now, I’m Dartti. And I have never been happier.
My advice to you is don’t ignore the little voice in your head. And stop gas-lighting yourself. This is you we’re talking about. You really do know who you are.
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