Wavy Gravy, Transsexual Role Model
Last update 19 December 2001
Wavy Gravy made me a transsexual.
Well, he didn't actually make me a transsexual, but he inspired me to be one. More accurately, he provided a model that helped me understand my transsexuality. Let me try to explain.
Like many people struggling with gender issues, I first became familiar with the idea of the classic "type 1" male-to-female transexual. This would be a person born with the mind of a woman and the body of man. From her earliest memories, this person knew she was a woman and that a terrible error had occurred, leaving her with a male body. Her sexual fantasies always had her in the woman's role. She cross-dressed at a very early age, and kept on doing it except possibly during her teen years. Maybe she tried to make it as a man, joining the marines, getting married, having kids, and so on. But it never felt right, and she always knew she could never be happy except as a woman.
I did not fit this model. It never occurred to me that I might prefer be a woman until mid-life. I made love as a man just fine, thank you. I didn't cross-dress much until I was 35. I have trouble defining exactly what it means to be a woman or a man at some sort of fundamental level, much less to classify myself in such a system. Yet here I was, living more and more of my life as a woman, and feeling very very good about it. How could this be?
I attended my first transgender conference, Southern Comfort 2001, in September. I met Dr. Anne Lawrence and subsequently discovered her web site www.annelawrence.com, which is full of helpful medical and other information about transgender issues. Browsing this resource, I found some scholarly papers Dr. Lawrence had written on the subject of autogynephilia (drawing from the work of Ray Blanchard). In brief, autogynephilia describes a man who is sexually excited by the idea of himself as a woman. Dr. Lawrence asserts that this is a form of gender dysphoria and proposes that sexual reassignment may be an appropriate treatment for extreme cases. (Please read Dr. Lawrence's papers for a much better discussion of these issues. You could start with www.annelawrence.com/autogynephilia.html.)
I thought about it and decided that I was not autogynephilic myself. But Dr. Lawrence's papers changed the focus of the questions I was asking my self. I had been getting nowhere contemplating, "Am I fundamentally a woman at my core, and what exactly does that mean?" Indeed, these questions may simply be un-answerable. Now I decided the more relevant question was, "Is living my life as a woman what I need to do in order to be happy?" Or, twisting it around slightly, "If I choose to live my life as a woman, will that increase my ability to build a happy life?" I felt that I could answer these questions with a confident, "Yes!" based on my experience spending time as a woman. And I felt that Dr. Lawrence's papers on autogynephilia supported the idea that if I truly felt this way, then transitioning to living as a woman full time is a medically legitimate and appropriate course of action.
But in my gut, I was still worried. Can I be a woman just because I want to be? Is it reasonable to ask the world to accept and respect me as a woman just because I say I am?
That's when Wavy Gravy hit me. Well he didn't actually hit me--but if he had, it would have been with a big floppy bladder that went ffffffffttt!! and it would have been very funny. What actually hit me was the fact that Wavy Gravy lived his life as a clown. Now certainly he was not born a biological clown, so he must have transitioned to it. Apparently he decided somewhere along the line that presenting himself as a clown was the best way to express his true self. It allowed him to do things he could not do--or do as effectively--as a mere man. He was able to live a happy, productive, meaningful life only as a clown. So that's what he did. He did it so sincerely, and lovingly, and thoroughly, that the world accepted and respected him as a clown. I'm sure it was not an easy journey, but he undertook it enthusiastically. I wonder if he even considered it a choice, or was it simply what he needed to be?
And what life that clown has led! He and the Merry Pranksters liberated the minds of a generation with the Acid Tests in the '60's. Wavy was a familiar face in the Peace movement which stopped the Vietnam war. He hosted BOTH Woodstock concerts. He formed Seva to bring much needed medical care to third world countries. These days he runs Camp Winnarainbow, teaching performing and circus arts to kids of all ages and economic backgrounds. You see, being a clown is not what Wavy Gravy is all about, it is just what he is.
So there you have it. If Wavy Gravy can be a clown, surely I can be a woman! And if I do it sincerely, lovingly, and respectfully, then I am confident the world will accept me.
Thank you Wavy, you are my hero. I only hope that what I do can be inspired by your example, as well as what I am.
Lannie Rose, 12/2001
Addendum: I never met Wavy Gravy. I really don't know much about him. This essay is based on my concept of Wavy Gravy, not his! I did check out Wavy's web site, and there is very little mention of clowning at all. That makes sense.. when my transition is completed, my web site will not need to mention that I am a woman!
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