The Fox, the Grapes, the Dog, the Ox, and Me

One of Aesop’s fables that I remember the most is the tale of the Fox and the Grapes.  In this tale, a fox stumbles upon a low-hanging branch bearing beautiful, succulent grapes.  The fox reaches for the grapes, but finds that they hang too high.  So, he tenses his hind legs and takes a great leap toward the branch, but still he cannot reach them.  The fox backs up , taking a running start and jumps toward his prize, but he merely fell into the dirt, the grapes still eluding him.  Finally, he gives up and scowls, exclaiming, “Those grapes look sour anyway,” and trots off.

The moral of the story, according to Aesop: “It’s easy to despise what you cannot have” (The Fox and the Grapes, Palica).  And the truth of that statement shines through quite clearly.  Matt Kailey, of Tranifesto, answered a reader question regarding perfection and transition.  Similar to the questioner in Mr. Kailey’s blog, I constantly wondered, “Should I bother to go through with hormones if they can’t get me all the way there.”  I struggled with that concept a lot before coming out and early on in my transition.  It still plagues me today, but to a lesser extent.

I first realized I was trans during the Fall semester of my second year at Oberlin.  I spent my days in the library, desperately reading transgender facts and memoirs of those transitioning.  I was, at once, elated and terrified.  Reading the changes that testosterone could incur exhilarated me.  Even sitting cross-legged on my dorm room bed, I could feel my heart beating wildly.  But I was so deathly afraid of some aspects of transition, and, most of all, of the limitations of transition.  I knew I could never have sperm or produce testosterone on my own.  I would never have an Adam’s apple, nor would I ever grow tall enough to reach the cereal in my parents’ kitchen.

So I said to myself, “What is the point?”  If I could not wake up one day a man, down to my very genetic code, what point was there in pursuing this half-formed pipe dream?  And, like the fox, I lifted up my nose and pretended I didn’t want the grapes.  I took care to ensure my friends that I wasn’t transgender.  I even went so far as to scoff at some of the other students exploring their gender identities — moments that, now, I am truly not proud of.  I attempted to insulate myself in my daydreams, crushing the faint hope I had fostered of watching those dreams become a reality.

 I had a lot of trouble spending time with other guys during this time.  I enjoyed hanging out with other men, but it was always bittersweet.  Every moment of camaraderie came as well with deep pangs of jealousy and resentment.  Even when I was happy, I found other guys to be a constant reminder of my dysphoria.

There’s another Aesop’s fable, the tale of the Dog in the Manger, which depicts a dog hiding in an ox’s manger.  The dog curls up on the ox’s hay and tried to sleep, but he couldn’t because the straw stuck him so.  The ox returned, wanting to eat some of his hay, and woke the dog.  The dog, enraged, barred the ox from eating its hay, and the two animals reached a stand-off.  The dog could not fall asleep, but it would not allow the ox to eat the hay.  So the ox left.  Aesop’s moral: people often grudge others what they cannot enjoy themselves (The Dog in the Manger, Fong).

During the time that I could not bear to believe in my trans identity, I resented both cis- and trans- men for, on certain levels, having what I dreamed of every day.  I thought I could never make it to the end of the road to find a self with whom I could be happy.

And, you know what?  I am not going to find perfection at the end of this road.  Frankly, that is quite impossible.  But does anyone find perfection, really?  I just get a sneak preview for the trouble in paradise.  And I have the opportunity to go into life with those imperfections in mind, trying to work through the issues I know I have with myself.


On an unrelated note, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who was so supportive of my impromptu pseudo-coming out yesterday.  I got a flood of Facebook messages and emails and “likes” of the post, and I really appreciated all of it.  So, thank you, to all of my friends and family who have made this process so much better than I thought it could be.


*drawings by Ann Palica and Edwin Fong at the University of Massachusetts.

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4 Responses to The Fox, the Grapes, the Dog, the Ox, and Me

  1. Kat says:

    As an English major, and a transwoman, this entry pushed a number of my buttons. I love your idea about blogging about a different Fable each day, and can’t wait to see where you go with it if you do :). My “What’s the point?” moment was a bit more brief; there was an extremely short amount of time in which I thought it might be okay for me to just tell a few “safe” friends that I was really a girl, and not go through transitioning. Now, my experiences with that have moreso been along the lines of other people rather combatively telling me that it “won’t be perfect” and expecting that that means I should stop trying to transition, and not understanding that A) I know that already, and B) I want to do it anyway.

    I really like hearing what you have to say about this :). I have several trans friends to share experiences with, but it’s also nice to see well-thought-out blog entries, especially ones that relate the experince to literature, hehe.

    • Isaac K. says:

      As a “reformed” English major, I very much appreciate your compliments :). I’m hoping trying to focus on Aesop’s fables will allow me to refocus on relating what I have to say to myths, etc. For a while, there was so much going on, I really just preferred to get it out there than to wait until I thought of a fairy tale to relate it to. We’ll see how it goes.

      Interestingly, I don’t think I’ve had anyone object to my transition because it wouldn’t be “perfect.” Most objections came from people who were afraid I would regret it. I guess maybe some implied that it could never be “perfect,” but they never quite came out and said it.

      • Kat says:

        Yeah, most people didn’t seem to be objecting exactly, they just seemed to be under the impression that I was somehow not aware of what it looks like in real life (like I wouldn’t have put any thought or research into it… ha… yeah, it’s only my life, why would I bother looking into it ;))

  2. Smash Brown says:

    I share so much of how you felt. It’s so nice to hear someone else having the same feelings. And to be depicted in such a creative way – the fables! Can’t wait to read more either.

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