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What's In A Name? (100 Followers Or Else!)

Trans Artivist/Writer/Humorist ~ co-host of "Full Circle (The Podcast) with Charles Tyson, Jr. & Martha Madrigal." Rarely shuts up.

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100 Followers OR ELSE!

I got an email from Medium saying if I don’t have 100 followers by 2/23 they’ll stop sending my 20 cents a month. I’ve not tried to build a following, published only a very few articles, and can’t even seem to manage a decision on Who to write As. But those few cents a month are more affirming than I first realized. Those tiny deposits represent being paid as a writer. And I have always wanted to call myself a Writer almost as much as I wanted to call myself the woman I have always been.

I sat pondering the notion that a pen name could help my writing flow.

I have this circular internal dialog about identity and what it means for my writing and my own transition.

I’m a fifty-something trans woman closing in on two years of my second (and far more welcomed) puberty.

I’ve had to unpack a lot around the idea of (just maybe) being authentically femme even if I stand at 6’ tall and weigh in around 250.

I can still square off if needed, even though the very idea of physical violence disturbs me deeply.

“I Gotta Be Me” runs through my mind a lot these days.

I’m only “out” (as in Confirmed to be what you think I am) to my intimates, a half dozen or so folks who share my days pretty often. Our broader circle is quite aware my appearance has changed, but they’re graciously waiting for a gender reveal or something.

And they can wait.

It took 52 plus years to seek HRT, another year to get my first dose, and I began taking my “lady juice” in the middle of a pandemic.

A pandemic where I lost my business, sold my home in the city, and moved back to the suburban house where I grew up, 20 minutes and several realities away from the City I called home for more than 30 years.

I still don’t have a job, and the money I managed to hold onto is all but gone.

It cost me a lot to own and lose a fledgling business, but I am richer nonetheless.

I have invested heavily in this house and not so much in my transition.

I have some “knowing” (or perhaps delusion) that this place is the foundation for all those things I want to be and write and do.

And this old girl (the house, ahem) needed some major sprucing up when we first took this plunge back to Mayberry.

My grownup kids don’t know-know about me, you see.

Or at least I have not confirmed anything to them, and we rarely see one another.

Since coming out as queer and introducing them to my boyfriend (now fiancé) almost 10 years ago, the distance they seem to prefer has been palpable.

“The Talk” is yet another thing on my list of things to attempt unpacking once I’ve fully unpacked the physical boxes — another looming task on a long dusty list.

Parts of my life are fabulous,

parts of my life are quite stuck,

and parts of my life feel like tattered old photographs I can’t stop staring at for clues, but neither can I sharpen the focus to un-blur the faded images.

And I STILL smoke cigarettes like they are my only real friends despite knowing better. I am a messy work in progress.

I can’t even decide what I’d like to be called.

I have an occasional inclination to keep the full name I’ve had all these years, while a big internal part of me is certain I will somehow further embarrass the children I raised — even as I have lived a life where being honorable and decent were always my first priorities.

They’re not bad kids — they’re amazing adult humans. I raised them to be independent thinkers who care for and about themselves, and I can’t be mad when they do.

I worry so much about being a potential burden that I am likely responsible more for the chasm between us than they. With one I have infrequent, brief exchanges via text. With the other, no contact at all for 6 years by his choice, not mine.

I know I desperately want them in my life, but not at the expense of living finally on my own terms.

I’m scared.

Once the bell is rung and all…

And I suppose there’s comfort in the not knowing which I’ve been more or less content with, even as I ache for the closeness we once shared.

I am a conundrum.

So what does one call all of this magic wrapped in a rather large yet amusing package?

Dare I suggest my Dear Ones learn a whole new name for me?

Do I make peace with the name I’ve carried?

What about the surname — I am one of very few left, and the last one of my family of origin. Or do I let go of that name that caused me angst and shame, the name my children still carry, so as not to further embarrass them with my “antics?”

For the purpose of this writing exercise, I’m settling on the nickname given me by my fiancé as we began to settle into this house in late 2020.

“Martha Madrigal.”

An amalgam of Martha Stewart and Anna Madrigal that explains itself to queers of a certain age.

I love to cook. I love to entertain. I enjoy tending my small garden.

And I can decorate almost anything anywhere and make it feel warm and special.

That’s the Martha part.

We owned a little neighborhood bar for 5 Odd years, and while it was never intended to be a gay bar of any sort, it was a welcoming and affirming space for Everyone who found themselves comfortable there.

So we were surrounded by musicians, artists, dancers and writers. Folks who came in all shades of skin color, orientation, and gender found a “home” with us.

I will treasure the conversations that took place around that bar for the rest of my life. I’m even (finally) outlining a book, and I shall call it “The Worst Gay Bar Ever”.

It is the gathering of souls, the healing that often takes place around us, and the energy created when a healthy mix of misfits come together to be their best selves — that led my partner to compare me to Anna Madrigal, the fictional owner of 28 Barbary Lane in Armistead Maupin’s “Tales of the City.”

Anna and I have a LOT more in common than throwing a great party…

We even have an outdoor wooden staircase leading to a second floor apartment here in the place we now call EAST Barbary Lane, since we are far east of the original, I adore the sentiment, and the name fits this place well. So that’s the Madrigal part.

At least in my efforts to write more often and keep those pennies coming in, and in an effort to preserve a bit of our privacy as I slog my way through transition, I have settled on referring to myself in print as Martha Madrigal.

I treasure things given to me in love, and this affectionate nickname certainly came from a loving place.

I am fortunate to not live in isolation. Since my first murmurings about my trans identity to my favorite trans women, my then-boyfriend (now I have a ring!) and my closest girlfriends, I have been surrounded by love. I will find the courage to tell the folks who I’m scared to tell. I will find the courage to “get on with it already” — but for now, this awkward time belongs to Me.

For now, even as my mind knows what my heart must have and do — there are layers upon layers of imposed shame to examine and heal.

It has been a curious gift to return to the very house where I was born and raised to believe I didn’t know or understand my Self.

I grew convinced — here within these very walls — that I could not trust my own mind.

My own being.

My own essence.

I can paint the walls and replace the furniture and burn all the sage in the world — but what is steeped within the wood and plaster — and set deep within my bones — are the echoes of a sobbing child desperate to be loved instead of “toughened up” — and a childhood spent navigating the casually cruel and the mentally ill — looking to belong somewhere she never did fit.

Until maybe now.

I tend to do my best thinking by writing. So detached from myself have I been for so very long that there is something “more real?” in seeing my thoughts and emotions in written form.

Life can be hilariously funny, sometimes ridiculous,

deeply hard,

yet always precious.

I’ve been steeped in the LGBTQ+ community long enough to have buried Dear Ones who wouldn’t bear the journey any longer.

Each time I attend a special event, get up to speak, or visit a favorite haunt, I wear a necklace containing bits of a friend’s ashes in a tiny, jeweled cylinder. I curse at her as I rub it between my fingers, and vow to do whatever I can to keep myself and more of us — here.

There is no “right” or “wrong” way to be trans. Despite what you may have heard, you aren’t doing it “wrong” and there are no rules left worth following. Be you. I’ll be me, and if we are moving toward our most authentic selves, we are doing it deeply Right no matter what anyone says.

I hope to gather a few new readers.

I hope we can inspire one another, as I have so often been inspired by trans writers here.

And I hope that seeing bits of my winding journey will entertain or amuse you now and again.

I promise to post more, engage more, and share more of the rattling in my head. When I’m not busy napping or fretting.

Peace, Lovelies

-MM

© 2022 Martha Madrigal

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