In 1976, the Seattle Seahawks were born as an NFL expansion team, and their first home was King County Stadium- better known as the "Kingdome." For the mid-70s, it was an architectural marvel. It was the largest concrete domed structure in the world, and it would allow the NFL's Seahawks and then the Mariners of Major League Baseball to avoid playing in the near-constant Seattle drizzle. In 1983, when I was eight years old, I went to my first Seahawks game at the Dome. I was absolutely intoxicated by the entire experience. The Kingdome was awe-inspiring to my young eyes, and I buried the visiting New England Patriots in noise every time they touched the ball, along with 65,000 other Twelves (that's what us Seahawks fans call ourselves). My favorite player scored a touchdown, the Seahawks won, and they clinched the first playoff berth in franchise history. I was hooked, and I thought I'd be going to games in the Dome for the rest of my life.
At that time, I had no real understanding of my true gender identity. I knew I was "different" from other boys, but that was about it. I was a sensitive, emotional kid. I had soft features and shaggy hair, but it didn't really bug me when I was mistaken for a girl... But I didn't KNOW I was girl at that point. As I grew up the Seahawks sunk further and further into the mire of mediocrity, and the Kingdome became notable only for its ability to concentrate crowd noise and confuzzle the enemy. The Dome itself was a dim, dank place with narrow hallways, cramped restrooms, and uncomfortable bench seating. It was a spartan, practical facility with absolutely no charm beyond the home field advantage it gave to the Hawks.
The Seahawks were one of the few interests I shared with my father and the rest of my family, so it was encouraged aggressively. I was allowed to skip church to watch the Seahawks, and eventually the rest of the family stopped going and joined me in the One True Faith of Twelvedom. During the season, I was allowed to turn the basement/TV room into a Seahawks shrine. Beneath that veneer of normalcy, I was holding onto dark secrets. I would raid my Mother's wardrobe (along with those of my older sisters) during the long stretches when I was left home alone. I would try on their clothes and make-up, and then try to put them back EXACTLY as I found them before anyone came home. I didn't know WHY I needed to do that. I didn't understand what it meant. I was simply compelled.
As I hit puberty, I realized that I was attracted to girls- But I also realized that transgender women existed (sadly my introduction was via blisteringly transphobic daytime TV shows), and I became utterly obsessed with everything about them. In the early days of the internet, I dove into the transgender message boards on Prodigy. It was another unspeakably dark secret that had to be hidden at all costs. When I left for college, I told myself "You're just a little freaky-deaky. Yeah, you kinda like wearing women's clothes. You are attracted to trans women. But you can't be trans. Nah."
Meanwhile, the Seahawks were hitting rock-bottom. They had a stretch of abysmal seasons in the early 90s, and attendance at the Kingdome plummeted. They also had been bought by a California real-estate developer named Ken Behring, who stumbled into a huge opportunity: A few of the insulating tiles clinging to the inside of the Kingdome's roof fell after an earthquake, and Behring used it as an excuse to attempt to move the Seahawks to Los Angeles (claiming the Dome was unsafe). At about the same time in my personal life I was recovering from falling in love with my best friend and being rebuffed. Later on I'd realize that the intensity of my feelings for her were (to some degree) rooted in the fact that I wished I WAS her. I also started furtively dating trans women, while denying to myself that I was actually trans. Of course, I was living vicariously through the trans girls I was dating and/or hooking up with. My rationalizations were legion...
"You can't be trans. You like football, video games, sci-fi flicks, and girls."
"You aren't trans. You just like occasionally dressing like a girl and you are attracted to trans women."
"You can't be trans. You don't hate your penis enough."
"You can't be trans. You would have known when you were 4 or 5 years old."
And on and on and on. On top of all that internal sturm und drang, I was stressing about my Seahawks abandoning Seattle. Thankfully, Microsoft Billionaire Paul Allen stepped in and offered to buy the team- With the stipulation that a new stadium be built in the space the Kingdome currently occupied. After a statewide referendum narrowly approved the new stadium, the Dome was slated for demolition in March of 2000. And fairly spectacularly, it imploded:
Years later, I would finally admit to myself that I was indeed trans, and that I needed to transition. I was crippled by an overwhelming sense of fear. I was afraid of losing my family and friends. I was afraid of being left by myself. I was also strangely afraid of what I assumed becoming a woman would mean: That I would have to remake myself into an entirely new person.
The funny thing was that I never really enjoyed all that crossdressing I did back then. It never made me feel better. It felt fake. It felt like artifice. I was afraid that actually transitioning would mean doing that ALL the time. I was worried that I'd need to wear dresses and heels and grow my hair out longer than I wanted to. I was afraid of swapping out one mask for another.
Then salvation arrived via a couple of fronts. I read Julia Serano's essential text "Whipping Girl." Beyond all the knowledge Serano provided, she also gave me a blueprint for the kind of transition and life that I actually wanted. Serano wore jeans, tshirts, and sneakers. She liked sports. She dated women. She eschewed surgery. I felt struck by lightning: "Wait.... YOU CAN DO THAT?" I truly didn't even know that was on the menu.
My mind also kept wandering back to the destruction of the Kingdome. I remembered reading that 90% of the Kingdome's rubble was recycled for use in the construction of Seahawks Stadium. The Dome was largely a dim monument to drab 8-8-ness, but now it had been transmogrified into the most modern and beautiful venue in the NFL (and on a personally significant note, the new stadium now hosted my new duo of favorite sports: Football and soccer. Just as the Stadium supplanted the Kingdome, soccer had replaced baseball as my 2nd favorite sport). It also became the LOUDEST, giving the Seahawks an almost insurmountable home field advantage. In their new home, the Seahawks finally, gloriously became Champions.
If the grey cavernous Dome could be recycled into a Catherdral of Victory... Why couldn't a sad, miserable guy be recycled into happy, authentic woman? Why couldn't I keep the things I LIKED about myself, and change the rest?
This cartoon has been floating around online for a while. I had an epiphany the moment I saw it. I didn't want to look or dress like the trans woman "after." I wanted to look and dress like the trans guy "before." And... Holy shit... That pretty much nailed it:
As I make more and more progress in my transition, I've noticed a curious phenomenon: as I get more confident about how I look, I'm deciding that there are some traditionally feminine things I just flat out don't get psyched about doing. Painting my nails? Meh. Wearing earrings or jewelry? Feh. Going out in a skirt? Really only when it's super hot and/or I wanna show off my blindingly pasty legs. Wearing high heels? Hard pass. Hard pass. If I felt I could do it without opening myself up to a spike in misgendering, I'd probably want to cut my hair even shorter than it is now.
I'm a femme tomboy. I'm Sporty Spice. And I know, finally, that this is the REAL me.
My point is that if you are trans, you don't need to adhere to the expectations of others- Not even those of other people in the trans community. You don't need to abandon your pre-transition interests because they don't conform with what people associate with your authentic gender identity. You don't need to femme it up or butch it up (unless that is what you sincerely want). You get to choose your own adventure.
What do y'all think? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!