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Jul 24 2015

Walking into the Future

This post is a tangent from another post. In Life Happens Quickly, I spoke about changing many things about myself. I watched and changed nearly everything that would hint that I was a girl inside. Many were subtleties that nobody would notice. Some were more obvious. Many were innocuous but there were some very large things about myself that I was forced to change to fit in with normal male society. Why would society force me to change things about myself? I changed because bullies told me to. Being a part of society as a teen in the early 2000s was a lot like communism. You could not stick out; you could not be unique… You have to be ‘normal’ what normal means for your social circle. This is the story of roughly 40 little light switches in my head that I could flip on and off and each controlled a way I filtered my personality and myself. However, three is one particular light switch that I wish to concentrate on…

Everyone has expectations. Everyone has expectations for everyone around them. At work, people expect me to work out various technological problems or quandaries in an efficient and effective manner. I can meet that expectation. There are some expectations in my life, that no matter how hard I tried, I was never able to meet. People expected me to act a certain way, live a certain way, say certain things, to do certain things, to want to do certain things and interact with society in a way that is natural for a male of my age. I was never successful in meeting expectations that revolved around the role for a normal male.

When I was a child I walked a lot more like a girl, there was a natural hip sway and not a whole lot of motion above the waist. During 6th grade, I received bullying based around the way I walked. Kids are mean… It forced me to think about walking, going so far as to make me think and investigate every way my body moved. I observed for a long time how people walked. I began to study the any documentation I could find, in my free time. I studied the physics, biology, and medicine of walking. I saw patterns. The waist is a dividing line. A woman will be more fluid below the waist and more static above. A man will have the inverse. There will be more motion above the waist. In some movies and videos, people use hyperbole if they want to make a point about how people walk. Take this example from the Birdcage; Nathan Lane’s character is a gay, feminine man. Robin Williams’ character is trying to teach him how to ‘be a man.’

The last line, slightly cut off, is “Actually, it’s perfect. I just never realize John Wayne walked like that.”

This clip and my life is just one example of how women and men are different. They walk very differently. They move differently. They sit differently. I am not sure most people notice, or care, in fact I would think that most people do not think about how they walk. Walking is just that, walking. Who thinks about how they walk? Who thinks about how their body moves? Who thinks about the interpretations of their most subtle motions? I did. Bullies forced me to, so that I would ‘fit in’

Women are a lot more mobile in the way they walk and move below the waist and men are more mobile above the waist. I challenge everyone reading this to think about and then subsequently change how they walk… It is not as easy as most people think. Most women have a hip sway, most men ‘walk with their shoulders.’

Looking below the waist first, remember the waist is not the hips. For me most of the motion happened lower, as it does with most women and girls. There was a side-to-side sway of the hips and the knees did not come as high as the forward motion occurred. Feet were more likely to drag or scuff on the floor. For men and boys the hips were far more static and the knees came higher. It was almost like the bottom of the leg and the top of the leg were static based on the joints. The only movement/bending for a man occurred at the specific joints. From what I can tell physically, a woman when walking will put more stress on the hip because it is a more fluid and large range of motion whereas men will put more stress on the knees because there is more bending lifting and overall motion there. In the clip the hip sway never really goes away, most men do not even sway that much.

Above the waist, men are far more mobile. Men seem to ‘walk’ with their shoulders. Each time a foot comes forward, the shoulder on the other side has a tendency to move forward as well. The more aggressive or confident the man is the more likely they are to have this kind of shoulder walk. Women are far less mobile and most do not move much above the waist at all except for maybe a slight sway. Usually most of the motion in a woman’s walk is around the hips. Personally, I am noticing the reason for that is motion above the waist leads to motion in the chest, which can sometimes be uncomfortable.

Overall women have much more fluid walks and have a smaller overall range of motion for each moving part and generally smaller strides regardless of height. I find that feminine homosexual males will walk more like women and masculine homosexual females will walk more like men. When people say they have a ‘gay-dar’ it is these subtleties they are noticing to make those kind of intuitive guesses. In addition, these subtleties will mistakenly out a transgender person who is trying to go stealth.

When I was a child, from as long as I can remember until 5th grade, I absolutely walked like a girl. I had a very fluid one-motion walk. It was almost like waves on a shore. If someone stopped me mid stride I would trip and fall frequently because it was such a fluid stride, there was no good place to stop. In sixth grade, people noticed the way I walked. Up until then nobody had ever judged the way I walked, but all of a sudden, something changed. Bullies made fun of me. The way I walked was one of the many things that made people call me girly or gay. It was the most frequent target and the first thing to change. How do you change the way your body moves after 10+ years of walking? It took a lot of work more than most people I think ever realized.

I did a lot of work in school; I could never tell anyone about it. I had to make time for all the work that I had to do to fit in with society. I had to work at being a teenage boy. It took more work than I think people ever knew. I quickly ended up determining that homework should be the thing that I neglect. At first, I tried to talk about doing homework as an impossibility because I was unintelligent. That did not last long; everyone knew I was smart enough for the homework. I started saying I was lazy. That excuse worked for a very long time. I was able to get though 6th, 7th, 8th grade and all of high school with ‘laziness’ being a reason to not to homework and pass… That collapsed in college… but, the real reason I was not doing homework is much more complicated. It is not that I was lazy. It is not that I was having trouble with it. I was tackling my own problem….

The next song I knew I was going to use on my blog at some point. From the day I started the blog I knew I was going to use this song… I have been looking for a respectable video since December. A lyrics video is the best I can do to show the song that to me represents 10 years of my life. I guess that’s good since the lyrics are hard to understand anyway. From 1997 to 2007, I lived a life alone. It was a life, which I can only describe in one way. Those ten years were a life spent alone. A life spent by myself. I was so afraid of letting my guard down… I was so afraid of someone seeing though my façade. I started hiding myself; I was living a life of loneliness and sorrow. Every second of every day, I watched over my shoulder to see if anyone had seen though my daily façade. I was more afraid of someone seeing though my false identity than anything else. In a heartbeat, all my childhood fears vanished and I replaced them by a fear that someone would see inside me. Every time someone tried to get close, I pushed him or her away. I could not let them in; I chose to live a life by myself. If any song describes those ten years of my life, it is this one.

In 1997, I began a new life. I started making people call me ‘Joe’ instead of ‘Joey.’ I became a new person… It was my transition from child, into male teenager. This life all started because I started filtering who I am. The first change I started working on around October of 1997. The first filter I had to put in place to ‘fool’ all the boys that I was one of them was simple in theory but very difficult in practice. I had to get rid of the hip sway. I had to begin to change the way I walked. I do not think many believe it is even possible to change how your body moves. The way it moves is just one of those things that is natural. Let me say, anything is possible. With enough work, and dedication anything is possible. To change the way I walked, specifically to get rid of the hip sway was tough. It was the first major thing about me that I changed. It took over a year. It took over a year just to get rid of the hip sway.

I spent the first couple of months just trying to walk differently and researching all I could. Trying to push myself to walk differently was not possible. I kept forgetting and falling back into the way my body naturally moved. I had to dedicate time to relearning… Therefore, after school I would lock myself in my room and walk. Three hours a day I walked circles around my room just thinking about how I walked. I believe this is how I got my habit of pacing if I was in deep thought while standing. After another couple of months of this, I learned that as long as I actively thought about how I walked while I walked it was okay. The hip sway had gone but people had noticed I was ‘walking funny.’ At times, my mom thought I was limping and questioned me. I blamed it on hitting my hip or knee on something. However, because I was do distracted while walking it leads to difficultly communicating while walking or really doing anything that engages the mind. Walking became a task in and of itself. This inability to do anything while walking made me stick out in society even more… Nevertheless, the walk had started to blend in… I needed a new solution; I needed a solution where I did not have to think at the same time as walking.

I needed a solution where I could just walk and not have to think about it. I went back to the drawing board. After a couple of more days analyzing what was different between the two walks I found that the hip sway had the expected side to side but also an up and down angling component. I was able to use that to provide a way for physical correction. I felt like I was forcing myself though rehab. I found two wooden planks and strapped them to the outside of my hips using belts. I made sure when I was standing straight they both touched the floor perfectly. As I walked, they physically prevented my hips from swaying. I spent another 4 months practicing this in my room both thinking about it while I walked and not. I spent multiple hours per day engaged in this ‘correction’ activity. I figured out as my mind wondered the hip sway naturally came back. However, the wood planks kept it in check and forced my hips into line. Through this method, about six months later, it was fall again and I was able to walk ‘properly’ without the ‘supports.’

The hip sway was now gone, a year after deciding to remove it. It was no remove consciously and subconsciously. I had change the way I walked. It was now seventh grade and the bullies were starting to leave me alone a little. In fact I was not being bullied at all anymore for the way I walked. This was the positive reinforcement I needed that changing things about myself will help me fit in with society. So I continued on changing whatever about me that would cause bullies to go after me. It caused many changes within myself. Over the next two years, during seventh and eighth grade and a little bit into high school I changed a great deal about myself. I changed more about the way I walked; I added the ‘shoulder walk.’ I changed many things about how I spoke. I changed the way I cross my legs, as well as how I hold myself while standing/sitting etc. The sitting was always hardest for me. However, the hip sway was harder to keep away than I thought.

In late seventh grade, I joined a Boy Scout troop that was also a marching band. When part of marching band you cannot walk like a man. If the upper body moves while marching with a bugle, you could bite your tongue or cut your lips. With a drum, upper body motion causes the drum to move around which can make you hit the wrong area of the drum muting the sound or causing the snare to make extra sound messing up the rhythm. Therefore, boy scouts had to teach boys how to walk in a fluid motion. Boys in marching bands walk with lower body movement and less upper body movement. For me, it was easy. I just let go of my filter while holding my drum. However, the filter had to come right back when that drum was gone. The filter that changed my walk had now developed an on/off switch.

The walk was just one way that Jo found acceptance in boy scouts under Joe’s nose. Skills I wished to learn were easy to learn in the boy scouts. Some of these were skills to grow up into a good person, regardless of gender. Some of these skills I saw as vital skills to run a household, and some of them I chose to fit in with the ‘boys.’ The one preprinted into the form are the ones every Eagle Scout is mandated to do. The ones typed on manually are the ones I chose to do. In my mind, each one fits each of those three categories. You are welcome to guess which badges go into which category. Maybe I will give the answers out in a later post.

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I had now constructed a filter for my walk. I could turn it on and off. All of my future filters likewise had an on off switch. Each filter had a default state. Meaning that for my walk the default was ‘on.’ If I wanted to turn off the filter on my walk, I had to think about resuming my more feminine walk. That caused me distraction while marching and caused me to not play as well marching. I was much better at playing the drum while standing still practicing then while actually marching. Each other filter I constructed had developed in exactly the same way. The filter on my walk was the first one to be constructed but it was the last one to go away.

Between the years of 1998 and 2005, I built all my filters. Each one started the same way, noting that I acted naturally in a way that someone saw as odd or unacceptable by someone of my race, age, and gender. Each one had an on off switch and a default state. Depending on who I was around the actual state of these filters at the time would change. If I wanted to more of my true self to people, I turned off filters. For some people, like my mom, I kept more filters up more of the time. To this day, I feel bad. I feel bad about filtering, and whom I kept filters up to. To an extent, filtering is healthy. I struggled for a long time figuring out what filters to keep and which need to go for me to be a happy and healthy person. There were 240 possible combinations of 40 filters. There were 240 potential personalities and people inside me, only one would end up being Jo.

People have asked me when my transition started. When did I start to realize? When did I know? Well, in 2007 I started looking at these filters, one by one. Moreover, I started trying to turn them off. Some created problems when off some made me feel more comfortable when off. I started turning them off one by one an experimenting. At the end of 2013, after five years of experimentation, I was down to just a one more filters to test. There was one switch I did not dare touch… That first switch I made, that first filter I created I could not touch the filter on the walk. At this point, some had stayed and some had gone. I was growing an identity as a ‘feminine gay man’

At the beginning of 2014, I decided I would not filter anymore. I started flipping off that switch in front of others. I did not care who was around when I turned it off. People instantly noticed that I was walking differently and started treating me in a more feminine manner. I do not know how to express how much change the way I walk made. It was easier to play up the feminine parts of my personality, and start feeling more comfortable and open. However, since the default state of the filter was on, it was something that took conscious effort to turn off. As the months went on in 2014 it became easier to turn off, it slowly became more natural again to walk in a more feminine manner. When I went to Japan, I left that filter on the plane. I lived through my trip to japan with no filters anymore. That was the summer of 2014. When the remainder of them, including the filter on the way I walk came back… It was so demoralizing. It was so depressing. I felt like I was so close to being myself. I was so close to being open with everyone around me. I lost myself in work, and the rest is history.

I feel like I have written pretty deeply about my transition so far. The biggest thing for me lately is that it is finally gone. Even until now July 2015, I have been struggling to get that filter away from my walk. It only remained at work, until a couple weeks ago. So now, I think it is gone. I hope it is gone. For the last couple of weeks I have not once thought about how I walked or my body moved. That is a change and a miracle. I have filtered out so many of my natural motions of my body. I am back to where I was as a kid, unfiltered, and excited to grow up.

To me, this completes phase one of the transition. Phase one was tough, phase one was growing down. Getting rid of all the filters and being myself again was the first step. From here, I can grow up as everyone else did. Most people do it during high school – I have to be a working responsible working adult. I have quite a bit further to go but I am getting there. Into phase two, which is growing up.

Here I stand, back to my happy childhood. I am back to a place where I loved myself. I am in a place where I can walk into my future not his. I can walk into the future with my walk not his. I am in a place where I people do not judge me anymore and if people do judge me I can just say – I am on the right track; I was born this way. I was born in the form I am in this moment.

About the author

Josie

I’ve never been good at writing about myself. I’ve never been good at ‘talking up my strengths’ but at least I should try…

I am a 30 year old (gasp), woman. To me, it is just that simple. My life is slowly coming together into a form where I can be proud to call it my life.

Who am I? I’m a strong, loving woman that was assigned male at birth and is finally correcting that egregious error by biology. For most women if they have an urge like wearing a sundress, they just do it. For my first 29 years on this planet, that wasn’t a possibility.

I write to heal, then publish to inform. I hope my journey can make the journeys of people that come after me just a little less painful.

I also have a ‘day job’ as a Data Center Technician. I do an incredibly physical job lifting fixing and moving servers. I daily, walk into and then maintain ‘the cloud.’ Servers are still quite a bit larger and heavier than your desktop at home. So much so that I am the only woman on my team of 20 and one of 5 in the entire building of about 75. Technology is without a doubt a male dominated industry. Which makes me quite sad.

I wish I could better express who I am. I don’t feel like I’ve done justice to my history, my life, and my story, but for now, this will have to do. To me the most beautiful thing in the world is understanding and empathy. If we can have only one thing for each other person on this planet, I choose empathy.

2 comments

  1. Marcy Browning

    I am so proud I am getting the chance to get to know unfiltered, natural Jo! I love you.

  2. Dorothy Bollman Browning

    Very interesting article, Jo; especially since my Mom taught me as a child to walk without letting my hips move from side to side. I grew up wondering how girls could walk with that movement because it just didn’t feel “natural”. Hmmm, maybe at 77 years of age, I’ll experiment with “loosening” my hips a little.
    Good article. Love you.
    Grandma B.

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