Dreams of My Beard

I used to dream of facial hair. The dreams were not, however, about facial hair. They were about a multitude of ordinary and non-ordinary situations, are dreams often are, but written into the subtext of these dreams was my facial hair. Usually, I would catch sight of it in a reflective surface as I passed; perhaps I would wake in my dream morning to look at my sleepy face in the mirror and note how my stubble was filling in. There was sometimes pleasure, but more often than not, the presence of the hair was merely ordinary.

When I would awake from these dreams each morning (for I had the dreams almost every night), I felt nothing amiss. Then I would make my way to the bathroom to wash my face or brush my teeth, and catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror. No hair. Not even a solitary bristle. Smooth, even, blond peach fuzz, barely visible, covered my jawline and where my mustache should go. There was not only no hair, there was no hope of hair. Dejected, disabused of my casually joyful but ultimately erroneous understanding of my own hairiness, I began the day in mourning. Mourning for my lost beard.

I am transgendered, on what is called the female-to-male spectrum. The world (people, mirrors, the realm of the senses) tell me, in every which way, that I am a female, born to an XX-coded body, and thus a girl or a woman. Yet I veered away from developing into the woman I was expected to be, and in my mid teens began to live as a boy. My dreams of my beard lasted for only a few years during my late adolescence. During other times of my life, I have dreamed of flat chests or body hair. I have dreamed of having a penis between my legs, but it merely hangs unobtrusively: my dreams are usually not about using it. I live a second life in my dreams, and in my dreams I am beyond male or female. I know just who I am, but there are no words for it. Maybe someday, someone will tell me what I am to name myself.

When I say in my writing that transgenderedness is a state of being that represents the intersection of dream and reality, I don't mean any offense to other transgender people. I can see how offense might be taken, though, when transgender is associated with dreaming. In our culture, we privilege reality over dream to a great extent. We have spiritually cut ourselves off from our own dreaming selves. The outlets that might have been formed and nurtured culturally in order to allow passage of dream into reality and reality into dream-- myth, ritual, dance, storytelling, possession, trance-- have been relegated to the fringes of society. Those who try to explore these areas now often do so outside of a meaningful cultural context, and their interests are labeled, somewhat derisively, "new age." Gender-blending rituals, transsexual priestesses, female-bodied warriors: these things are lost to a hundred tribal pasts.

Yet those passages, of myth into life, of life into myth, serve a function that is essential, as essential to human life and spiritual health as dirt and sun and green growth are to the earth. They permit the trans-permeation between the outer and inner self individuals, and of a people. They exist to erase, briefly perhaps, the dysphoria of living in a stubbornly stable physical world, one that does not always change as our dreams and desires mutate to their next form. It is not only transgender people who experience this frustration, but we have come to symbolize this contested meeting place between reality and dream. Our frustration is keen and powerful.

And these dream selves: they are not to be taken more lightly than reality, as dreams are often taken in our culture. Dreams are not fantasies, nor are they idle, unproductive, or unimportant wanderings of the brain. Dreams are, in the most literal sense possible, the unseen: the force that comes from within the world, moving toward the physical. Dreams, though they come from within the world, change it in sudden and strange ways. The character Mandy, in the Todd Haynes film Velvet Goldmine (a very dreamy production) has an interesting quote about the way that change comes about. To cope with this evolutionary paranoia, she says, strange people are chosen, who through their art can move progress more quickly.

Avatars of change, conduits of dream. Do we have a responsibility to make our secret dreams known, to birth them into the harsh light of this unforgiving world? And if so, how do we begin? Perhaps first, we could together build nests for our secret dreams, soft places where they can exist undisturbed. I imagine that there are a thousand beards in those secret places, beards for women and female-bodied people who have not yet dreamed that they might want to wear their silky, rough or kinky hair upon their cheeks.

First printed in Femme a Barbe #1.


Popular Posts