Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Happy Holidays

I'm home for the holidays, without much internet access, but so glad and thankful to be home surrounded by my loving family. Merry Christmas to all!

Monday, December 18, 2006

gym vole

Got out on my fire escape for a little while on Sunday, it was so nice and warm. Or eerily, unseasonably warm, I suppose. Still, felt good to be out in just a tank on a mussed, lazy, unshaven sunday afternoon. Later that day (see below) it got cool and very blue just after sunset. It was hot hot in my room- overactive radiator- so it felt good to lean against the chilly glass. You can see my scars are fading.

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I think I'm emerging from what was a rather sedentary autumn, and thinking that it might be nice to hit up the gym for a while. I'm starting to get just a touch of a spare tire 'round my middle, and while there's a big part of me that thinks I'd look just fine as a hairy little cub of a bear with a cute little belly, there's also a part of me that wants to see if (now that I've got all this lovely testosterone slapping muscle on my frame) I couldn't make something of a musculature for myself this winter. There's no good reason not to go to the gym- no time, maybe, but I spent less than an hour there today, and I feel good about it. It'll give me more energy, too, I hope.

I try not to be self conscious when I'm there. I don't worry about being read as male- my flat chest/sideburns/etc pretty much take care of that for me. I'm still conscious of the fact that I don't look like most of the guys there, though, in terms of body shape. I'm still short, wide-hipped, soft edges where plenty of them (and not just the studly hardbodies, but the relatively ordinary looking guys, too) have hard edges.

Didn't have any worries with the locker room- just kept my boxer briefs on and figured that no on would look too close and notice the lack of a bulge. Though that didn't stop me from (as I often, perhaps comulsively sometimes, do) rehearsing things to say in the event that someone not only noticed but actually mentioned it to me. "Traumatic childhood prank gone awry...don't really want to talk about it...just promise me you won't ever mix firecrackers and a wetsuit, okay?"

It helps to get out of my head sometimes and remember- as was especially evident at the gym, once I really looked around- that everyone else is equally trapped inside their own heads, and generally are NOT constantly measuring and evaluating and judging me. I may be a slightly pudgy, short dude puffing away on the elliptical machines (and the only guy on the ellipticals!) but that's fine. No worries.

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This gym-going might be part of a bevy of 2007 self-improving habits. Learn how to self-inject, start doing my shots weekly; go to the gym, get some muscles; start washing my face with something so as to try not to look quite so much like an acne-riddled teenager; keep shopping at farmer's markets and cooking with the seasons and eating nicely; give away clothes that are too big or too small for me; learn how to trim my sideburns into something a little more interesting than these standard rectangles- perhaps finally grow out those muttonchops I've been threatening?
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Last but not least, I'm going to leave you with a pair of silly, exhibitionist items.

My voice has been dropping again, and you can check out my last few exceedingly goofy voice posts [click here] Also, I believe I said something about belly hair? Not that you can really see it, and not like I was tryng to be all Casanova in open white shirt, and not that I can actually believe I'm actually photographing my body hair for internet consumption, but...there you have it.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

the gimper

This past tuesday I got my shot of testosterone at Callen Lorde, and instead of getting it in the butt as usual, the nurse injected me in my right thigh. We'd been talking about injecting , and coming to the clinic to get my shots as opposed to maybe starting the process of self-injecting. As it stands, the party line for the youth clinic is that you need to come in and receive your shots from them for the first year, after which you can be trained to administer them yourself and do them at home.

There are plenty of reasons to self-inject, not least of which is the ability to control one's own dosage schedule, as well as avoiding the necessity of going down to C-L every other week and waiting in the office for my appointment. It's not as much of a hardship as all that- only takes me 30 mins to get down there from home or work, and when everything's running smoothly it's only a 15 minute interaction. However, it is an extra trip to Chelsea every two weeks on top of my usually weekly visits to see Amy, my therapist, whom I see early enough in the morning that the clinic isn't open to give me my shot at the same time. Also, the clinic is perpetually busy and running behind and overbooked, which means getting an appointment can be difficult, I can only be on a biweekly schedule, due to said appointment scarcity, and I often end up waiting 45 minutes in the waiting room for a 7 minute clinical encounter. Which can be frustrating.

So this Tuesday, while we talked about that, the nurse said she'd inject me in my thigh, since that's where they teach patients to self-inject. Apparently it's a three-part tutorial, where the first time they go through all the motions slowly and deliberately, showing you each part of the process (how to draw up the T into the syringe, how to swab down, where to place the needle, etc) but still do it for you. The second time, they let you try it yourself, but still step in to guide when necessary. The third time, they have you do it all by yourself while they watch to make sure you're doing it right, and if you are, then you pass, you get needles and your bottle of T and you're sent off into the wild blue yonder with instructions to come back every once in a while for old time's sake (and bloodwork). She also told me that they teach you to inject in the thigh since you can't twist around and see your butt very well by yourself, and so there's a greater danger of doing it wrong and hitting a nerve or something equally dreadful.

So she had me sit down, and jabbed me in the right thigh, and it was fine! The first time I've ever seen the needle actually going in, and it was easy- she moved it slowly slowly towards my leg, and carefully stucj it in, pulled back a bit to make sure she wasn't in a vein/artery, then plunged the T in. Kinda neat, and totally painless...I didn't feel a thing at all.

Sweet! I thought. The butt is reputed to be less painful, but while plenty of my butt shots have stung a tiny bit, this shot hurt not one whit.

Famous last words.

Getting on the subway a few minutes later, I noticed that I could feel a little bit of cramping in my thigh, felt like normal muscle soreness, as though I'd worked out too hard the day before. Nothing too bad, though, until the next day when I woke up and my leg was afire with crampy stabby pain. It actually seemed to be lower than where the injection had gone in, and was weirdly centered around my knee. In fact, it felt scarily similar to the pain I'd had a few years ago when I busted up my knee playing basketball and had to wander around with a brace and crutches and a prayer for my over-stretched medial collateral ligament.

I don't think intra-muscular shots can affect ligaments, so I don't think it was anything troublesome, especially since there was no redness or swelling or heat. I'm pretty sure that it was just the T painfully being absorbed by my quad muscle, which is in no way used to having a viscous, slow-disolving liquid forced into and through it, and that (since the quad is what makes my knee work) is why it hurt like the devil to bend my knee all day Wednesday, and hurt like the dickens all day Thursday, and hurt only a tiny little bit on Friday. Today, Saturday, it doesn't hurt at all until I bend my knee alllll the way back, like I'm stretching. Wednesday, when it was the worst, I stuck a heating pad on it for most of the night (and Ben brought me ice cream) that that helped.

Still, I don't know what that was all about, exactly, but it sucked. A lot. There is no way that I'm going to deal with that much pain every other week, let alone every week, which is what I'd planned- if I switch to self-injecting, I'd like to try going weekly. I know plenty of guys self inject into their butts, and they don't all have nerve damage, so it must be possible to safely do. And I know plenty of guys inject into their thighs every week without crippling, limp-inducing pain for three days. Maybe it's just the first one that hurts the worst? Maybe that was just an unlucky shot?

Also, I've been reading about more and more guys switching to subcutaneous injections, so just under the skin instead of all the way into the muscle. It's a lot easier, since you don't have to go as deep, and you can use shorter, thinner needles, and there are more possible injection sites. It's also newer, so less understood/tested, with possible unknown effects, as well the possibility of less effective absorption.

I dunno. Maybe I want this to be easier than it is? I don't want the hassle of going to C-L for shots, and I want to be able to do them weekly, but I don't want the sort of pain that came with this thigh-shot method. Hopefully, easier ground can be reached.
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That being said, I haven't done any of the sort of body part breakdown of T effects in quite a while, but needless to say, everything is still as expected and going well. Maybe if I can get my belly hair to show up on my camera I'll post a few shots here. Lucky you!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

flesh and blood

A little piece of community parlance that's recently been getting very much under my skin is the term "bio-" as a prefix, as in the term "bio-boy" to distinguish non-trans men from the trans folks. I know it's common usage, along with "genetic girl" and other (often alliterative) such terminology, but it really annoys me, similarly to the way that I'd be annoyed if someone said "Wow, Eli, you look like a real guy now that you've got such bushy sideburns!" Invalidating and hurtful, right? I am a real guy. I am real.

Likewise, I'm a 'biological' guy, too...I've got a body, and everything that goes with it, and to distinguish me from other men by calling some of them 'bio' makes me feel a bit like a freak, and I don't need it. All of our identities and bodies are medicalized anyway...where do you think the lines come from the demarcate men from women? They're not as firm as everyone would have you believe, and I know that all masculinities are constructed, so I don't need to feel like mine is a cyborg variety and others have the "real" deal when that privileges non-trans men in a way that I'm at all comfortable with.

I'm not saying that lines cannot be drawn- I'm not asking anyone to turn a blind eye to the differences between my experience and that of a non-trans man, or to try to pretend that we're the same, when we're not, and I wouldn't want to be.

I'm fine with terminology like trans and non-trans, and I quite like (no doubt because of the neat chemistry allusion) transgender and cisgender, like the cis and trans bits of molecules that align in different ways to create different substances. And I'm pretty okay with xx-guy and xy-guy, though I think dividing us up by our chromosomes can be an odd thing when most folks have never had their chromosomes tested. I assume that I'm xx, but I really don't know, for sure.

I just don't like the use of bio-guy because it sets up a dichotomy that posits me as non-biological, so not-real, not-alive. I am very much alive.

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Likewise, a frustration with folks who admire trans folks and feel the need to preface the compliment with their non-trans status, as though in a misguided attempt to make it a better compliment. I'm thinking in particular of various online communities (of which I may or may not be a member *ahem*) that exist essentially as vanity exercises, like ftmundressed or what have you, wherein transguys post pictures of themselves (in this particular instance, in various states of undress) and then other folks can comment appreciatively.

While I'm under no illusions as to the self-aggrandizement and ego-boosting that these communities are essentially centered around, I do think they provide a couple of useful purposes. I don't know if I can speak for all transfolks, but I have to say that there's a lot of negative self-image shit that has come along with being trans for me, much of it bound up very specifically in my body. Pretty much the only self-esteem issues I've ever had have been explicitly connected to being trans, and so a little ego-boosting now and again can be a good, soul-nurturing endeavor. Level the playing field, a bit, you know? Some positive feedback to combat all the negative stuff that is generated internally and also fed through society's representation of transness.

Also, it's a great thing to see other trans guys looking happy and health and sexy- it's a great way to get a good idea of the breadth of transmasculinity, and the possibilities and options of transition, and get some reassurance that being trans doesn't equal unhappy, ugly, unsexy, busted. From a research-into-transition options perspective, it's nice to see what T or surgery or whatnot has done for other guys, to make my own process less mysterious/daunting.

And it's just a great all-around reclaim our bodies as sexy and positive instead of varying degrees of uninhabitable, which seems to be the party line that most trans folks start at.

Although it's worth noting that there is a whole other set of issues that I am trying hard not to develop around being part of such a community- namely, feelings of inadequacy with regards to being "trans enough", or having had the right kind of surgery, or whether my sideburns are coming in as quickly or thickly as the next guy, etc. It's a little ironic, perhaps to come away with more and/or new insecurities from a group that theoretically is for the good of my self-esteem, but there are moments (his scars are less noticeable than mine! he's got such awesome abs! he's so well-endowed!). Usually, though, such moments are few and far between, and the body-positiveness of such places shines through in a great way...particularly because the feedback is almost always enthusiastic, plentiful and very positive.

Which leads me nicely back to the place where I started off on this whole thing in the first place, which is the annoyance that flares up when a non-trans commenter gives feedback along the lines of "Wow, you're so hot! I'm a gay bio-guy, and I'd totally jump you in a second!"

I'm sure said commenter meant well, but what I hear is "i'm surprised, because despite the fact that I've been led to believe that trans guys are really just unattractive mannish women, you look enough like my idea of what a real man is supposed to look like that even I, an actual man who's usually attracted to other actual men, am attracted to you! because I can pretend that you're really a man!"

which is, y'know, probably just me being too sensitive, but also...c'mon. can't you just say he's hot, and leave your own gender out of it?
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these thoughts are leading me to other thoughts, which maybe I'll have time to return to in the future- some about discussions I've been vaguely party to about people variously known as 'transsensual' or (ick ick ick) 'tranny chasers.' As first reaction is that there's nothing wrong with my trans status making me more attractive to someone, but I have no interest in my transness being the sole reason that someone wants to date aka fetishize me. But certainly it's a topic that could use a lot more inquiry.

Also, while I'm chattering away about bodies and vanity and self-esteem, have I mentioned lately how happy I am with my physical self? I mean, now that I've gotten the big stuff taken care of, I've got time to notice/whine about the little things, like my acne, that are annoying or make me feel unattractive. But I want to put it out there that I feel awesome about myself and my body these days. I haven't had a body-based freak out in months (if you don't count the Evil Nipple-Tweaking Milkmaid incident from Halloween), and for the first time in my life I consistently take stock of myself and am pleased with what I find. I look good, and I think I look good, and that feels...well...pretty good.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Doctor's Orders

Just got a voicemail from Dr. Vavasis (whom I still think of as "my doctor" even though I haven't had an appointment with him since lo these nearly 8 months ago when I first started T) at Callen-Lorde, saying that he received a phone call from a woman working for my union. She wanted to discuss with him my surgery, in order to assess whether or not to grant me my short-term disability benefits for the time that I was out of work during my chest surgery. Apparently, though, she used my old name (guess my union still hasn't caught up its old paperwork, since I've corrected it in all the various departments).

Anyway, he left me a message saying that he wants to talk to me before calling her back, so that he knows my boundaries, and what he can and can't and should and should discuss with her, etc. A very pro-active, thoughtful and respectful thing for him to do, and I'm very glad that he did it. I feel duly empowered.

The trouble is, I'm not sure what to tell him.

I've got an inclination to ask him to say whatever it is he thinks will get me my 300 bucks from the union. Trouble with that strategy is that I've really got no idea what exactly would be the most effective strategy.

One way would be to pretend I'm female, and that I needed to have a "reduction" done for some sort of medical reason- backpain and history of breast cancer are the two most common ones used. That would be pretty much fraudulent on every count, though, since I'm not female, had no back pain due to my breasts (unless you count from hunching/binding to hide them), and have no history of cancer (thankfully).

I could also try to present it as thought I'm a non-trans male with "excess" breast tissue that needed to be removed...gynecomastia, I think, is the usual term. Which is more accurate in some ways, since I basically did feel that I had excess breast tissue that wasn't appropriate for me as a male, and so I had it removed.

But there's also the fact that I'm pretty sure Dr. Brownstein filled in the form with "transgenderism" as the reason for my surgery. I'm not certain, though, since I foolishly had him fill it out and send it right back to the Union, rather than through me so I could see what he put.

That right there might have doomed me, since most health insurances as a matter of course routeinely deny anything that's associated with Gender Identity Disorder or Transgenderism or any such diagnosis. Which is frustrating, if you think about it, seeing as how insurance companies (and other authority figures) often require a diagnosis in order to grant any sort of validity, but then turn right around and exclude anyone with those diagnoses from insurance coverage or non-discrimination policies like the ADA.

So, what to do, assuming that the union knows that I'm trans? (which, well, duh. not just Dr. B's form, but also the fact that I changed my name from Emmalyn Cassandra to Elliott John, and also the fact that my original membership form says F but all my stuff now says M, etc- and a note on that, now...sometimes I wonder if maybe it wouldn't have been easier to lie more on some of my forms when I was often being read as male but before I had the ID to back myself up. I often wasn't asked for ID or, even when the telltale F was presented, it was often overlooked. sure, I would've been perjuring myself, but really, it would just have been preemptively telling the truth. and it might've saved me some trouble now.)

I think there's two approaches we can take- there's what I think of as the Classic Transsexual Model, such as it is...so, talk about how it's Medically Necessary For Transsexuals To Have Chest Surgery, and how I was in Intense Emotional Distress, and this is a Necessary Step in the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, and I had to do this for my own good. so I could be Normal.

which, while it has elements of truth in it (I do feel more normal now than I have in a long time), is also a fucked-up narrative that I feel a little icky for taking part in and perpetuating. I don't know that I was in intense emotional distress (though this might just be my penchant for downplaying my own troubles talking), and I certainly don't believe that it's necessary for all trans folks to have surgery and/or follow the SOC in order to be respected and believed and validated in their selves and identities. And I think it's dangerous to perpetuate that model, and why it may be dangerous to have trans health regulated by the insurance industry...we may end up with slight victories (insurance coverage!) at perhaps great cost (only if you fit the appropriate rubric!). Such as the policy in NYC about changing one's birth certificate...the Board of Health (bastards!) voted down the recommendations to allow less rigid guidelines about what's necessary before issuing a new birth certificate, so as it stands, trans bodies (our own physical bodies) are being regulated by the state- no new birth certificate unless you've drastically, expensively, and who-knows-how-successfully modified your genitals, according to THEIR notion of what's necessary in order to be a transperson. Not even what's necessary to be just a "man" or a "woman" but still, because they won't issue an entirely new document but rather an 'amended' document, a "transsexual" as defined by the state. Urk.

But, back to me and my union.

You can see why I'm wary about participating in/perpetuating these "medically necessary" notions, but at the same time... I do believe that this chest surgery was a medically necessary procedure for me, as part of my own personal medical transition. I really needed to have surgery in order to feel whole (ironic! scars signify not absence or loss but gain of self!), and I believe that surgery costs themselves should've been covered, as well as time out of work.

I'm not fighting on the surgery itself front (oh I wish, though!) but I am going to fight this fight about time off of work.

Sooo....I think I'm going to ask Dr. V to say that I'm a ftm transman under his care, that he's supervising my transition, that chest surgery was a medically necessary part of my transition. If they need to know if it was causing me pain/distress, then yes, it was.

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I hope this works. I'm tired of fighting. Though I better not be, since I'm sure this ain't my last fight.

I'm wondering if this is going to affect my chances/opportunities to have a hysterectomy one of these days. Hopefully not. Not that I'm sure I want to have a hysto, but it seems like probably an inevitability, given everything I've heard about PCOS and endometriosis and the effects of long term T on one's bits, and the ever-diminishing likelihood that I'll ever be able to use those bits for anything ever again, so why not get rid of 'em?

It seems so long ago, though it was only August- I'm straining now to remember details, like the day of, getting back to the hotel still wearing the anti-clotting stockings, and trying to stay awake through a Project Runway marathon. And my new blue pajamas that I wore for days! and the flowers that Rochelle sent me the day after surgery. (see left for picture proof, with bonus hotel room background)

And how I was hunching over for a few days afterwards, keeping one hand on my chest, semi-convinced that things would just...fall off, if I straightened up or took my hand off my sternum. Though now I think maybe it's just that the binder was a little loose, and would slip, and make me worry. (as evidenced to the right, with bonus cable car in the background- yay, San Fran!)

And the first peek that I got at my chest, back in Portland, holding the binder away from my chest, and my worried feelings about looking...well...ravaged. Bruised/taped/scabby. It was a bit scary that first night I saw it, honestly. I didn't want to admit it for the world, of course, because being scared sounds like regret and not for one second ever have I regretted this. But I was for a while worried and scared and wondering "what did I just do to myself?" when I couldn't life my arms and everything was sore and swollen and different.

It seemed like it'd take forever to get better, but now, barely four months later (four months nearly to the day, actually), I feel fine and fantastic- fit as a fiddle and ready for love!

youtube!

Haven't gotten a chance to watch it yet, but there's a video on YouTube with Jamison Green and Calpernia Addams, apparently talking about coming out, etc? I'll give a review later, after I get a chance to watch it.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=vPBLYBIo0uw

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Transmania

Wow, seems like everywhere you look these days, trans folks are in the New York Times! Seems like there was a slew of articles a little while ago, about birth certificate changes, and my friend Ray being profiled...and I remember back in August or some such, there was a Sunday Styles article called "When Jane Becomes Jack" or something similar, and then now today there's this article, about young children with non-normative gender identity.

I'm delighted and pleased to hear that parents are being supportive of their children- I'm all in favor of supporting gender diversity. It's also making me think about myself and the gender of my childhood. I certainly felt supported throughout my upbringing (thanks mom!) as a very boyish child- I wore dresses sometimes without much fuss, I think, but I also had my hair cropped very short for most of my life. Until middle school, when I went with the flow for a while and tried to "be" a "girl" by growing out my hair and wearing more form fitting clothes, etc.

Makes me realize a couple of things, though- for one, I didn't have a very strong gender identity when I was a kid. I knew I liked to be the knight and not the princess, but I didn't have strong "I'm a boy!" or even "I'm not a girl!" feelings until my teen years. (Which I speak of so distantly, but were not in fact so very long ago!) I guess, like my sexuality, I just didn't think about it much until it became an issue. It never occured to me to argue with the world, which told me I was a girl, in part because being a girlchild wasn't very oppressive for me- I still felt like I could do whatever I wanted, wear my hair short, be the knight, etc.

Any feelings of difference I had separating myself from my peers felt like they were due at least as much to my intelligence and nerdiness as to any sort of gender issues...though I certainly did get my share of "are you a boy or a girl?" on the playground.

Someone posted on an online forum recently something along the lines of his slow discovery, as he has more and more experience with public manhood, that his female history and experience as a "girl" was very unlike the experience most girls and women have. That really resonates with me.

I don't claim a lifelong masculine identity because the fact is, I wasn't proclaiming my maleness from childhood. I was very boyish, and something that's helped my family, I think, has been being able to reflect on my childhood and think about "what a little boy" I was.

The way I see it, I was a kid (and in my world, that meant being pretty genderless, though as far as it goes, I was a boyish kid) and then I was a dyke, and then I was (and still am) a queer guy. I started thinking about my gender pretty much as soon as I started thinking about my sexuality, though not so publicly. I realized I liked girls pretty suddenly at about age 12, and it was one of those things where I had a realization, and then the more I thought about it, the more it seemed reasonable. I like girls. Awesome. I must be gay!

With my gender, it was very similar- just took a lot longer and was a lot harder, in no small part because being trans is in a lot of ways a lot more complicated than being queer. At least for me, being gay was something I could readily latch onto. No sweat. Being trans was something enormous and mysterious that I had to wrestle with for a long time to really figure out and go forward with.

Someone else wrote on that same online FTM forum about feeling like their old self had died, was gone. And I know a lot of families have feelings of grief, feelings of losing their sons/daughters who become these new, differently gendered people. I don't feel like any part of me has died, though- but nor do I feel like I'm "still the same person inside!" as the opposite line of thinking often goes.

Who the hell is the same person at 21 that they are at 13? That's when I started thinking about my gender. I feel like I've grown up, I've discovered thing about myself, and I'm expressing myself more clearly and honestly. I don't feel like I'm a new person, just a changed one.

This post is meandering, I'm not sure where. Childhood! Neither the same nor new on the inside! I had a childhood, not a girlhood or a boyhood!

Since this isn't a particularly unified line of reasoning, I guess I'll go back to the article one more time, to Kenneth Zuckerman's assertion that most kids grow out of their non-normative gender behaviors and identities. (Just a throwaway- I saw him speak once, with Judith Butler. It was a validating moment for me, genderwise, as I realized that I wanted to think like her and look like him, and so this was probably a good decision after all.)

I'm not sure what to make of that. I don't think it's necessarily a good thing for kids to grow out of non-normative gender behaviors. If anything, I grew into mine. So is the moral to take away that not all gender nonconforming children are/will be transgender adults? I'd like to think that more gender nonconforming children might be a good thing, regardless of any potential trans futures. Children with strong gender identities (normative or otherwise) should be supported in them, and children (like me) who are just carrying on being themselves (normatively gendered or otherwise!) without much thought about it should be supported, as well. The future should not be seen as absolute, either way...we should recognize that gender identities are flexible and fluid and certainly aren't fixed by childhood.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Seeing red

Being a transsexual is expensive. I've been a little stressed about money lately, with student loans looming over my head and the perpetual cost of living in NYC taking such a big chunk out of my paycheck, and I realized how much extra money I've had to ease through things if being trans didn't cost so damn much.

There are medical expenses- my surgery cost around $10,000 all told, if you add up the 7550 surgery fees, 1800 flights + hotel for me and my mom and sister, probably at least 300 on food/taxis/etc while in San Fran, plus around 800 bucks in lost wages while I was out of work, including the 300 that my Union is supposed to reiumburse me for but has refused to. My other medical expenses are actually much lower than most trans folks have to deal with, since I have access to health care through Callen Lorde's youth program, which gives me intensely discounted services. My testosterone has cost me only 10 dollars per vial, and I'm only halfway through my second vial at 7 months on T. Usually it'd be around 60 or 70 bucks a vial. Each time I visit the clinic, which is every other week to get my shot, I have an optional five dollar copay, which I usually plain forget about, but which I have paid a couple of times. Then there's my once a week therapy, which ordinarily would be either out of pocket (who knows how much therapy costs these days?) or at least an insurance copay, but is free for me through C-L. (All this through my 24th birthday! Nice to get some advantage out of my youth). And then my weekly transmasculine support group has a $5 suggested donation, which I fork over when I have it easily to hand, which is about half the time.

Then there's all the cost associated with changing my identity documents. My name change process cost me...let's see, about 60 bucks for the initial petition. Then I was fortunate enough to get free support from the ACLU, so I didn't have to pay for my legal assistance, but that's just through good contacts in the community and the grace of the ACLU. Then it was $73 to get published in the village voice, and another $20 for the certified copies of the final order, once it went through. Then there was the $30 I sent to my surgeon for a notarized letter proving I'd had surgery (you'd think he'd include that cost with the nearly five grand surgery fee, but you'd be wrong) so I could bring that around to various institutions and prove myself. The new driver's license cost me $45. Most of the other places (social security, bank, etc) didn't cost anything but time, but time is costly, and I sure spent plenty of it in waiting rooms and on hold.

Hmm. I feel like there's more in there, but I can't think of it just now. I guess I'm saving money by no longer having to buy sports bras and tampons, but I'm turning right around and spending it on shaving cream and razor blades. It's enough to make a guy wince- what is it, well over 10 grand spent on my transition? I feel absurdly privileged that I've managed to pull all that off over the last year, and also profoundly sad that it costs so much to set things right between my body and my life. Also twinges of nostalgia- think what else I could have purchased. Finally travel outside of the US or Canada- probably could've made several trips. Or I could've paid off 1/3 of my student loans. Taken a date out to dinner every night for a year. Made a downpayment on a house, for god's sake. Oh well. I'm not going to say it's not worth it, because it absolutely, totally, one hundred percent was. The cost just makes me a little sad.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Got ID?

I've mostly finished getting all of my new pieces of ID in order. I'm still waiting for my driver's license and credit card to come in the mail, but I got my new social security card and bank card. And I've got my temporary license, and heck, probably best if I'm not using my credit card right now anyway! I also got my new work ID, and called my cell phone company and I called my union about getting a new health card issued, which would be just about my last step. It's funny to feel like I'm reinventing myself, but perhaps also just clarifying/reducing in the sense of distillation.

While visiting relatives for Turkey Day, someone apparently said something about how I look "more like yourself than you ever have." Which seems to be a common response and is one that I'm a little cautious about it (how could I look more like me than I used to? I was me then, and I'm me now, and I look like me both times.) but I know that's just me being contrary, because really, it's a very lovely and affirming sentiment to hear, and it's something that I certainly feel, too. I'm more familiar with and friendly towards myself and my appearance as it becomes more solidly, comfortably masculine. I certainly have been enjoying a selfesteem boost lately with the realization that I'm a reasonably good looking guy. But it's funny to think about because if this is my "true" self, if I look "more like me" now, then what was I before?

Immature, I guess, in every sense. I said something terribly self deprecating once to a lover about feeling like a dented can, in that I didn't feel fit for consumption, because I had such tangled up insides when it came to myself (my gender/identity). A better metaphor, perhaps, would be unripe fruit...still inedible, but not intriniscally busted, just not ready yet.

I'm going to stop myself efore I get too unberably gay with this transition-as-ripening metaphor, but I have to say that transition has brought (and I hope will, along with time, continue to bring) me a measure of maturity that I certainly appreciate. Fitting, considering that adolescense is in all ways a time of maturity. I wonder what it's like to transition later in life, as a truly second adolesence? Because really, at the age of 20, I wasn't quite finished with my first one by the time I started this second.

Anyway, all that is quite off track because what I meant to discuss was myself now and myself then, and how we relate, especially considering the recent official/legal replacement of my old self (name/gender markers) with my new one. As a friend put it, I want to hang on to my history, but I want it to be just that- history. So I want to put it behind me and live my life for who I am now, without being tied (shackled?) to my innacurate/immature history, while still allowing that history to inform who I am today.

If that sounds like a complicated dichotomy, it's because it is one. Definitely complex feelings here, since I want to simultaneously honor my past and keep it firmly distanced from myself. I think some of the desire for distance is because for a long time my history was refusing to cede gracefully to my future. Or rather, other folks were refusing to let go of their (historically more or less accurate) visions of me as female, in favor of seeing me (much more accurately now) as male. So I've still got my guard up, still used to fighting to be seen. (I think trans folks will always be fighting to be seen, especially those of us genderqueer types who want to be seen as something that the world doesn't know how to see.)

So I'm still wary and defensive, which makes it even harder to tread that complicated, weaving back and forth line between acknowledging/honoring my past (not making it secretive) and living my life as it is now (sometimes being seen as male without any additional nuances). For instance, the other night I was out at a bar with friends and friends of friends, and one of those acquaintances, upon learning that my sister goes to Smith, asked me. "Oh, did you go to Smith?"

The question, on the face of it, is not such a bad one. She knew my twin sister goes there. But it was painful to me because it brought up a flare of Dammit-Smith-is-a-women's-college-so-she-must-think-I'm-a-girl!!! panic, which was probably partially evidenced in my startled/emphatic "No!" response.

But then I took a second, and a breath, and realized (duh) that Smith is NOT a college of only women, and that all it meant is that this person knows that I'm not a non-trans man. So I carried on in a calmer tone, explaining where I went to school, etc.

But that interaction is emblematic of issues of disclosure that crop up for me all the time. I don't want to be ashamed of being trans, I don't want to hide it. But I don't want to be OUT about it ALL THE TIME. Put in caps for emphasis...I want to be out, but I don't want to be only known as trans always. I suppose this wouldn't be so much of an issue if being trans weren't such a big huge deal in this society, but while I'd like to be casual/not anxious about disclosure, it's not something that can be casually dropped into conversation.

I'm the last person who'll say that I don't ever make a big deal out of it, but even if I weren't the one making the big deal, being trans tends to...make deals big.

Like when a woman in my psych class says to me, when I don't understand a reference of hers "Oh, it's because we did that at slumber parties...boys' slumber parties must be different!"

I could say, "Well, actually, I went to girls' slumber parties when I was younger, because I was [sort of] a girl then, and I still don't know what you're talking about."

But no one in that class knows I have a vagina, and none of them really need to know, I guess, but they don't need to NOT know, either, but it's not really something that you can just drop into conversation. Partly because being trans is still [made to be] so much about one's body, specifically, one's genitals, and you can't casually discuss genitals in most conversational settings.
So anyway. Having new documentation brought this up for me because I no longer have forced disclosure at bars and other ID situations, but while I think that's good, I also worry that it'll feed the opportunities to be stealth, and I (clearly) have not made up my mind about being stealth vs. being out vs. being discreet. I'll never be a non-trans person, but I couldn't help feeling like my history is evaporating a little with each new piece of plastic...like when I was at the Social Security office, and the woman was sliding all of my pieces of paper back under the plastic divider to me, one at a time.

"Here's your temporary license, and your name change order, and your doctor's letter."

Then she held up my old social security card "And this isn't you anymore."

And threw it away.

stick 'em up

Been a while- I've got a couple of half-formed posts lying around that I might try to finish up, but in the meantime, a few more things have been boiling around in my head.
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I'm trying to decide whether to ask my doctor if I can start self-injecting. The protocol would have me waiting a year, which would be April, but Callen Lorde, bless its heart, is genuinely flexible, and my therapist has hinted that I could bring the topic up for discussion and it would be well received. There are a number of factors to consider.

Pros: No more time spent (wasted) trekking to and from the clinic every other week, not to mention time spent in the waiting room, etc. Being able to switch to a weekly or 10 day cycle instead of my current 14 days, which I suspect (though through anecdotal evidence only) might help with mood swings and acne issues. In general, having more control over my shots- not having to plan my weeks around when appointments are available, and not having to be late for a shot if I'm out of town for more than 2 weeks in a row.

Cons: I have to stick the needle in my butt myself. I wouldn't have thought I'd be squeamish about such things, but the thought is honestly not appealing. I'm sure it's something that would get easier with practice, but still, it's not something the I'm bouncing up and down eager for.

Though I am pretty eager to mitigate this acne of mine- it wasn't really a component of my first puberty, and I have to say I think it's my least favorite component of this one. Really makes me feel unattractive and juvenile to have an oily, pustulent face.
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Other than the acne, other T-related stuff is progressing just fine. Hair keeps coming, muscles keep firming. It's been pointed out to me several times by now that if I'd just work out, I could easily build quite a bit of muscle, since I've got muscles now that are scant but definite. Amazing what hormones can do for you. If I took advantage of my newfound muscle building abilities, and worked out, I could become, as they say, jacked.

My motivations in that regard are somewhat suspect, though. Why do I want to be more muscular? Mostly to more definitively code my body as male, and I'm not sure that's something I need or want to do anymore. I mean, muscles are useful- I'd like to be able to sweep my lover into my arms more easily, or hoist the suitcases up to the top shelf of my closet with slightly less huffing/puffing. And well defined shoulders and a flatter stomach would let my clothes hang on me in a more pleasing way. But a big reason I want muscles is because manly men have muscles, and I'm starting to let go of the idea that I'm going to be a manly man. I'm going to be me, Eli, man, and I've got some muscles and they're great, but why do I need more? If I do, I want the muscles for the suitcase-hoisting, not for the ego-boosting.
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Although if I had more muscle on me, it might keep me from having silly ridiculous moments like this one. For...oh, I don't know, two months or so, I was a little bit worried about the left side of my chest. I'd been healing nicely from surgery, but when I was lying down and playing my fingers over my left pec, I could feel a hard edge at the end of the muscle, just above the scar. I was worried, maybe there was some intense scar tissue under there, or an adhesion? It was definitely something I'd never felt before surgery, and I was trying not to worry, but was definitely a little anxious about it.

Until a few weeks ago, when I was standing in front of my mirror checking out my chest, and I felt that hard lump, and I happened to move my arms up and down a bit...and realized that the lump didn't move with me. In fact, I could see the lump staying still under my flexing skin, and I could see similar lumps above and below it on both sides of my chest. It was my damn ribcage! I'm so scrawny that since I no longer have breast tissue in the way, I can feel my freakin' ribs when I'm poking around my chest. God, I felt like an idiot.
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Speaking of my chest, it's doing well. There's been a subtle paradigm shift sometime in the last month, and I'm not sure when it happened, and I wasn't even aware of it til it shifted, but my chest has slowly become normal to me again.

It's been what, three and a half months? I didn't realize how much I was feeling the sudden absence of my breasts, but I was definitely getting used to the new landscape of my chest. It's no longer a new landscape. It feels normal to me, instead of new and exciting. My scars no longer seem like remnants, but rather like features of my body in their own right. They're fading, but not as quickly as I might've hoped. In fact, they almost seem pinker now than they did a month ago, and they've definitely wider. They've spread some. I hear that scarring generally looks worse before it looks better- something about blood flow to the area making scars look reddened, but that'll stop as the healing continues. I woke up the other morning and forgot that I had scars til I looked down and remembered- that was nice. Not to forget that I've got a trans body, but to forget about the trauma I put my poor torso through in order to shape it like I wanted.

And really, that's one of the more taxing things I've ever put my body through. I had that heart surgery in 7th grade, but that seemed easier, somehow, because it was so minimally invasive, and deliberately kept lowkey. These are certainly the biggest scars on my body. I've never broken anything (except that pesky knee, but that seemed minor, too) and so this has been my major wound.

My nipples are healing well, and sensation is returning, but it does seem like the pain nerves are the first ones to come back, because they go from numb to stabby with nothing in between. I'm hoping that'll stop, which I think it will...already my incisions are less tender than they used to be, so that bodes well for the nips.

So anyway. It's very nice to feel like my chest is my own- a totally new feeling, I think. It used to feel like breasts, which didn't make sense as mine. I mean, I knew it was my skin, but it didn't make sense as my body, which is why my body freakouts were so often centered around my chest. And then after surgery, it was doubly alien for a while- unfamiliar, and also unfeeling. It was a Brownstein chest. Now, though...now, I think it's mine.

Monday, November 13, 2006

DMVictory!

Friday morning I went to the DMV with oodles of paperwork in hand and a supportive Rochelle by my side. 75 minutes, one eye test, two license request forms and a minimum of fuss later, I was awarded a NY State driver's license in the name of Elliott John, male. Pretty exciting! Of course, I didn't get to walk out with my new license...they took my picture that morning, but issued me a temporary paper license until they mail out my actual ID, which should arrive in 3 weeks or so. I'm impatient, but excited, though I also miss my old Oregon license already. I don't want to lose touch with my Oregonian identity! Now I'll just be any old New Yorker with a New York driver's license.

A male one, though. Named Elliott. *cue cheering*

It was a pretty painless event, all in all...I had to fill out one form with my old information on it to change from Oregon to NY, then another form with my new information, to change my name and gender on the NY license. Neither of the women I interacted with gave me any guff, just asked for all my paperwork and calmly worked everything out.

I've already been to the Bank and filed the forms for my new cards, so I'm waiting on those, and also with my human resources office at work- just waiting for them to update the database so I can get a new ID card. These things take weeks, apparently.

Tomorrow morning I'm headed over to the Social Security Office to get a new card. Excellent. Once that's taken care of, I think I'll be all set. My citizenship papers still have all my old information on them, but I think I can take that to a passport office with my letter and other documentation and apply for a passport (which would be a good thing to have anyway) with all the right information on it.

I need to call my cell phone company, still, but other than that, I think I'm in pretty good shape. Everyone who officially knew me as female will now know me as male.

And I have to say, it's a relief to have (or be in the process of acquiring, technically) documentation that doesn't cause a little glimmer of embarassment/disconnect when I show it to anyone.
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Another shot tonight. Woot. Still thinking about switching to weekly shots. We'll see if I make any progress on that front.

Still getting hairier daily, and my voice is still getting lower, which may be empirically verified (or not) by checking out my latest voice post here.

My sideburns are getting long and fuzzy in a vaguely 19th century sort of fashion. I'm immensely fond of this look, and am considering increasing their surface area into genuine muttonchop territory. I will, of course, keep you posted on this possibility. I'm spending Thanksgiving with my dad- I'm hoping he can give me some advice and guidance around getting some beard trimmers, which I think would help with this facial hair maintenance thing. I haven't a clue about brands or varieties (though I suspect they're mostly all the same) and I was thinking that beard trimmer shopping might be some nice Father-Son bonding time. Hopefully my sister will come along to offer what feminine depilatory wisdom as she sees fit.
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Next week, Ray from the Gender Identity Project (of recent New York Times fame) is coming up to the school where I work to give a presentation/training about working with Trans folks. I'm excited about it, and intrigued to see some good dialogue started on this topic in my workplace. I'm sort of out as trans and sort of not here...the first year students all read me as male, since they all know me post-surgery and hormones, whereas the second year students are a mixed bag. I don't know if they've been wondering about (or even noticing) my transition, but it's there to see if they've been paying attention. Unless they think I just started working out and not shaving as diligently this year, which could maybe explain my bulked up build, slimmer chest silhouette, and sideburns. Maybe.

Anyway, I don't know what the format of this training will be (lecture? Q & A?) so I don't know if there will be space for me to speak there, or even if I want to, but I'm definitely going- to support Ray, if nothing else.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

the NY Times tango: two steps forward, one step back

Many folks have been sending me the article that was published in the New York Times yesterday (available online HERE) about the Board of Health considering a change to its birth certificate policy to enable trans folks to receive new, amended birth certificates with their chosen sex marker on them.

My reaction to the article is decidedly mixed.

The news is, of rourse, great- it's high time that the city reviewed and changed its policy around birth certificates. This is an important step towards removing some of the gatekeeping hurdles that are keeping trans folks from going on about their lives. I think it's highly important that people be able to have birth certificates which accurately reflect their gender identity and presentation, both for personal peace of mind, and also for identification purposes. Everything needs to match up if one wants to avoid a lot of potentially difficult, hurtful, and confusing situations. I've been fighting my own identity document skirmishes, as you well know, which I'll write about in a minute. But back to the Times article.

While the news is good news, the reporting and language of the article, on the other hand, don't get the highest marks from me. I certainly didn't appreciate the quotation from Dr. McHugh, the psychiatrist from John's Hopkins...he was the one who said that he'd "heard of" someone harassing people in the women's restrooms. I think that retelling such a fearmongering anecdote (just where did he "hear" this story?) is exactly the kind of smoke-with-no-fire vilification of trans people that hurts our cause the most. For one thing, putting an image of a stick person in a skirt on the door isn't going to make a restroom any safer, nor is this law (or the recent decision by the MTA to allow trans folks to use bathrooms of their choice) going to make restrooms less safe...anyone intent on harming or harassing someone is going to find their way into the bathroom anyway.

This isn't about allowing men to use women's restrooms- it's about not harassing women who might not look like most women, but have a right to use the women's room nonetheless. Which is a a crucially important distinction that's also completely missed in this article, and the poor reporting that really frustrates me.

The reporter repeatedly refers to trans people as "women who become men" or, as when referring to the lawyer quoted in the last paragraph, a "man who has lived as a woman since 2000." Those are innacurate and offensive characterizations. Transgendered men aren't "women who become men." We ARE men. We may have a different medical and social history than most men, but that in no way diminishes our identity and standing as men.

And frustratingly enough, it appears that the reporter has been told this...he quotes a transwoman who testified at the hearing, and notes that she "asked to be identified as a woman for this article." Such a disclaimer should not be necessary! If he isn't sensitive enough to know that he should refer to her as a woman, then it's a good thing that she asked him to. Following that, though, he shouldn't need to mention it in the article! Furthermore, he should follow those guidelines and refer to ALL transpeople respectfully, rather than with the invalidating "women who become men" lingo that he uses thoughout the rest of the article.

I know I'm being particular here, and that reporting around trans issues has come a long way, especially lately. At least this reporter got everyone's pronouns right, covered the topic in an essentially unbiased way, made sure to get quotations from people with multiple perspectives, even if some of the perspectives are frustrating.

And I am wary of making blanket pronouncements about what is or is not respectful to trans folks. "Transgender" is an enormous blanket term, and not all of us have similar ideas about what is and is not appropriate. I'm sure there are trans folks out there who wouldn't mind being described as a "man who became a woman," just as there are those of us who flinch at such binary terminology.

To me, such a description is both inaccurate- I don't think saying that I used to be a woman is very useful at all, since I never really fit any of the common definitions of the term, except perhaps anatomically- and insulting- it feels like an attempt at invalidation, an attempt to say "See! You're not REALLY a man."

I think that most of the people I know, trans or non-trans, would agree with me on those counts. The notion that gender oughtn't be defined by anatomy is one that has long since burst out of Women's and Gender Studies Departments, and I think it's clear to most reasonable people that describing someone who has transitioned as "a man living as a woman" is both hurtful and disrespectful.

So yeah. Anyone else have thoughts?

Saturday, November 04, 2006

happy halloween

Last weekend my roommate and I went out to a Halloween party dressed as Adam + Eve, and looked adorable, as you can see. We went to a party at the house of some dear friends of ours and had mostly a very excellent time, until one unfortunate incident at the very end.

Part of the reason I was so excited to wear this costume is that it was so skimpy...I made a conscious choice to wear it to a party with a lot of friends, but also a lot of strangers. It was an act of deliberate disclosure, and a bit of vanity. As one of my friends put it, a fun costume and a chance to show off my new chest all at the same time. I felt good about it, because I want to make sure that I remain realistic and down to earth about my self and my body...this is what I have, wide hips, chest scars, and all, and it's a great body, and it's masculine, and it's mine. My kind of masculine.

Anyway, those good feelings were what made such a contrast to the crappy feelings I had at the end of the night. Long story short, another party guest, whom I'd never met before that evening, was sitting next to me on the couch when (with neither invitation nor provocation) she decided to reach over and pinch my nipple. Hard.

I don't know if I'd have been so upset if it hadn't been so a) surprising and b) painful! My nipples are still very much healing, and I don't have a lot of sensation in them yet, but most of what I do have is pain reaction. Her pinch hurt a lot, and kept throbbing for several hours afterwards, besides feeling very invasive and inappropriate. It was crappy because it reminded me that my nipples are definitely still second class nipples at the moment- surgically reconstructed, and not healed, and in a new place on my chest. It was the first time that I've been made to feel bad about my new chest, and that hurt almost as much as the over-zealous tweaking.

Discussing the episode with one of my friends, he suggested that it could be a function of my evolving presentation as a gay guy. I'm still my usual fey self, and now that I'm no longer so ambiguously gendered, gay dude is the immediate and natural conclusion that most folks come to. And I'm fine (nay, happy!) with that, though I'll leave for another time the in depth discussion of my complicated queerness. Anyway, my friend reminded me that gay guys are often overtly sexualized by (usually straight) women, as a sort of "safe target" for sexual flirtation and interaction, especially since gay guys are seen as so hypersexual anyway. Doesn't excuse her behavior, but perhaps explains it?
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Other than that irritating incident, life has been pretty good lately. The shots keep coming every two weeks, and my six month milestone bloodwork came back with nothing remarkable on it. We're going to go over specifics next week, but it seems like I'm falling in a normal range on all parameters. I'm looking forward to the spring, and the possibility of learning to self-inject and give myself my shots for two reasons- it'd be nice not to have to schlep over to Callen-Lorde every other week for what should be a 10 minute interaction but for which I often have to wait over 30 minutes. Also, I think my body might do better on a 1 week cycle...I'm beginning to suspect that my acne is related to peaks in my T cycle, and my mood swings related to troughs, as both of these maladies seem to be cyclic in their intensities.

However, I'm not looking forward to actually having to be the one to stick the needle in my butt. I'm a pretty tough guy, and I don't have problems with these shots I get now, but I'm getting a little squeamish just thinking about having to jab myself. We'll see.
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I finally got the last piece of paperwork from the courthouse about my name change, and I should be getting a letter in the mail from Dr. Brownstein any day now certifying that he performed "irreversible gender reassignment surgery" on me, so I'm hoping on Monday I can embark on the complicated treasure hunt of getting all of my documentation changed. I need to go to the courthouse and pick up certified copies of my name change order, go to the DMV for a new license (trade in my old Oregon one for a NY one with Elliott on it and M in the gender category), go to the Social Security Office for a new Social Security Card, go to the bank and request new cards (though not new checks, since I had them put just my first initial and last name on the last batch), call my student loan company and update them, and go over to the Human Resources office here at Columbia to update their database and get a new ID card. phew. I think that might be it. maybe fax something to Simon's Rock for their records. Don't know yet what order I'll do this all in, since these places are variously located all over town, but I'm gonna dedicate all of Monday to the endeavor, so hopefully I can get it all done in one exhausting day. Better bring a book and some comfortable shoes for the undoubtedly endless line-waiting I'll have to endure.
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Plenty of other things swilling through my brain that I never seem to have the time to post. I'm still sporadically attending the TransMasculine drop-in group downtown, though I missed last week. I am of course grateful and delighted to be part of a trans community here in the city, but also worried about being subsumed or assimilated somehow into what is surely a new and vaguely radical box, but a box nonetheless...and along what are often essentially arbitrary lines.

In other words, sometimes I wonder about hanging out with other transguys just because we're all trans. Identity politics can be dangerous, even though there have been innumberable benefits to connecting and strategizing with other transguys. Ending the isolation is awesome! But I worry about, as a fairly brilliant friend put it the other night, all of our narratives blending into each other and losing distinction. There's plenty of ways to pursue one's own masculinity, and having out at group can sometimes feel like TransMan 101: How to Do It Right. I know we try to avoid that, and honor all perspectives and paths, but it's a hard trap to avoid.

And on what feels like a related note, I've been feeling a little silly lately when I remember that I'm not the only person doing this transition thing. If that's the right way to put it. Basically, this has been feeling very natural and normal (of COURSE I'm growing a beard and don't have breasts any more), and it's easy to forget that it's a path I set myself on very deliberately, and worked hard to stay on. When I see other of my friends transitioning, and notice how different they look/sound than they did when I met them, it reminds me that I, too, used to look and sound different. This is such a personal journey, but so public, too.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

bloody funny

I donated blood yesterday at the Red Cross blood drive on campus, and re-learned the valuable lesson that people are going to see what they want to see, despite any and all evidence to the contrary.

I'd been a little nervous about donating, since they ask for ID, and I haven't gotten my new license yet (argh!). So I decided to just suck it up and put down the name and gender that's on my old license, and explain whatever needed explaining if it came to that.

So I put that down, and put "F" in the box at the top. There are two gender-specific questions- a pregnancy question, where the answer choices are Yes, No and I'm Male, and a "have you had fag sex since 1977?" question, where the choices are Yes, No, and I'm Female. I answered those as though I were female.

After waiting for quite a while, a friendly nurse finally comes over and apologizes for forgetting about me, and starts going over the questionnaire pretty quickly. First she says "Is this you? Did you say your name was Eli?" and points at my name, and I tell her yes, that's my legal name, and give her my ID, which she looks at, and writes down that it's a driver's license.

She starts going over my list of answers, and stops at the question about whether I'd gotten any shots recently. I'd said yes, and when I told her that my doctor had given me a shot of testosterone last week, she didn't really blink, just asked why.

I squirmed for a second, wondering whether to disclose. Up til this point she'd been calling me he, teasing me about wearing my Mets sweatshirt (she was a Yankee fan, but I didn't hold it against her), being friendly and clearly treating me as male. Clearly, didn't see the F on my license. So I just said "Um, I've got a hormonal imbalance, I take testosterone every two weeks."

She just nodded, writes that down, keeps going...and I notice that she has checked the "I'm Male" box next to the pregnancy question, as well as the No box that I'd already checked. And then she gets to the "Have you had gay sex?" question, where I've marked the box that says "I'm female" and says "You're not female! Answer this one again!" and crosses it out and looks up at me expectantly.

What's a guy to do?

I said "Just kidding!" and answered the question, and we carried on from there, and I donated blood, and got cookies, and it was fine.

Moral of the story? Clearly, it was truly ridiculous for the judge to deny me a masculine name because it would be fraudulent, since even when I TELL people that I'm "female" they see me as male. Thanks, of course, to some sideburns and a flat chest and a low voice, etc.

I suppose I could've done some sort of educational activism and said "Actually, I'm a transsexual." Which would've been interesting in its own right, and was what I was prepared to do, since I assumed that the nurse would, oh, I don't know...notice the gender markers all over everything, and believe what I wrote down on the form. Anyway. Funny story.

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A parade of aesthetic changes:

-You may have noticed that I altered the layout of this blog slightly. I may continue to fiddle a bit with it.
-I put up a new voice clip here, though I don't think things are changing as dramatically. I've been trying to sing lately without much success...I just don't know where my voice is anymore. Also, I'm totally guilty of lowering my voice too much. I used to have to try so hard to get my voice to dip down low that now I sing TOO low when I'm trying to sing along with my favorite tenors and even baritones.
-I'm continuing to get broader and fuzzier. Funny exchange with Fleury (my roommate) last night:

Eli, studiedly casual: Did you notice my beard?
Fleury: ....
Eli: Well, I mean, I didn't shave for three days, because it was the weekend, and then because I wanted to see what would happen, and so, you know, I was just wondering if you noticed my beard.
Fleury: Now that you mention it, Eli, I guess I can tell that you're kinda scruffy. But no, I didn't notice your beard.
Eli: Oh.

-I went to the gym yesterday for the first time since...April? March. Went into the Men's locker room, looked around vaguely, then stuffed my things in a locker near the front and hurried out. We'll see if I can maintain my beefcake routine. Studly abs, here I come!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

infiltrator

I'm very glad that most of the time, I don't feel like an interloper to the Land of Men. When I first started living as male full time, I had that feeling a lot, despite my best (most radical) intentions not to. When you've been raised your whole life on one side of a fence, and now everyone thinks you've crossed over to the other side of the fence, it's hard not to feel a bit strange, even if declare that there is no fence. Like one of those invisi-shock electric dog perimeters, it's still a jolt to step over that invisible line. Maybe the trick is learning to rid oneself of the dog collar?

Whatever the trick, I've mostly gotten the hang of it- I still feel like an immigrant to ManLand, but I've definitely made my home here, and I'm making my peace with the remnants of the Motherland that I carry with me.

But some are harder than others. For example, (and this is goofy, but it's true) it's really hard for me not to be self-conscious in a men's restroom when there's someone else in there. Bathrooms are small, echoey, and I can't shake the feeling that the other guys are noticing things. I mean, I used to be worried about "passing muster" and being challenged as to my right to be in there. I don't much anymore- I'm no longer misread as female by strangers on any sort of regular basis. And I don't bleed anymore, so I don't have to deal with the hassle of where to put my tampons, since (surprise!) men's rooms don't have those handy little garbage cans in each stall. (As an aside, I guess I always thought those were a universal bathroom thing, since when I was a kid I used 'em for candy wrappers or kleenex or what have you. Nope!)

But I do still have weird bathroom moments, like "Can people tell from the sound of my pee that I'm trans?"

Fortunately, I usually follow that up with the shocking realization that most people in public restrooms are not paying attention to the sound of each other's pee, or whether they're sitting or standing, etc.

Because goddamit, I'm a dude, and I sit to pee, so I'm going to sit to pee in the dude's restroom whether anyone notices or not!

Anyway. I was remembering this over the weekend while I was at Smith, and using the (de facto) women's bathroom on my sister's hall. I felt like an interloper again, for a minute, shaving my face at the sink.

Which had its own additionally weird feelings of being an imposter...coincidentally, someone else on the floor had a male visitor that weekend, and he came in to change his contacts or something just when I was squirting shaving cream onto my hand. I immediately felt that familiar nervousness...I've never had anyone else who shaves their face watch me while I shave. Am I doing this right, after all? Do I use too much cream? Too little? Is it clear that I wasn't trained at my father's waist from the time I could reach the taps on the sink to prepare for my own shaving one day?

I know that everyone does things differently anyway, that all guys have their own individual shave routines, and, besides, he wasn't gay and thus even more unlikely to be checking me out/noticing me at all in the bathroom mirror.

So I shaved, and reminded myself that I'm not an interloper- more like a returning expatriate, and any unusual habits left over from my upbringing in a different place are fine, just fine.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Saturday, October 14, 2006

publicity

So I'm not exactly a blushing wallflower when it comes to interacting with the public, but I do have some (reasonable, I think) expectations and feelings around privacy. A lot of it is faith in my fellow human- I put a lot of things out in public, but mostly with the expectation that it's all going to be used for good, and that the folks who need or want my information or perspective are the ones who'll be taking it.

Like this blog. Clearly, it's open and available to the public, but I tend to assume that only folks for whom it's relevant (my personal friends/family, other trans folks, friends/family of other trans folks) will be reading it.

So I put some pictures up on Transster, the surgery photo/information sharing site for FTMs. There are a lot of pictures and stories up there, and I think it's an incredibly valuable resource for information sharing, and demystifying what is often a strange/scary/unknowable future for isolated trans folks. I sure spent a lot of time logged into Transster, looking at what was possible, trying to evaluate my options, deciding on a surgeon.

Anyway, the point of this is, along with the pictures, I put up a little bit of information ("very satisfied- some nipple sensation return" etc) and my email address, so that folks could contact me. Then, not 24 hours after I put up my pictures (two pictures, pretty similar to the ones I put up in my last post on this blog, except not showing my face), I get this email:

Hi, first of all I'm not FTM or MTF, but I've been reasearching this topic for some time now. I just find this so amazing how the body can be transformed from one to another. Looking at your surgery it seems like you got the desired results yu were looking for. have you done anything to the bottom of yur body. I would love to see any other pics you may of before and afters. Would it be fair to say that most FTm's are in gay relationships or am I off base there. Well I won't hold yu up any further. Nice job by Brownstein- it seems hes about 50% on the popularity chart - its good to see someone likes him.

And I have to say, it weirds me out a little bit. I think I'd be less weirded out if I knew more about this person or what they wanted this information for...are they an ally? Do they have trans folks in their life? Why are they "researching this topic" and with what sort of opinion?

They're pretty polite, but at the same time, pretty invasive(have I done anything to the "bottom of my body"???).

I don't want to brush someone off who's genuinely trying to educate themselves, but at the same time, I don't like feeling like a lab rat for no good reason. Transster is a resource by and for the trans community. I have a gut feeling that this person isn't really a part of that community. Then again, who am I to gatekeep at our community's doors?

Ugh. I don't know.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

transsexual empire

Nothing too exciting- there's a new voice post up here, and I've been taking lots of self portraits of myself, so I thought I'd pepper this entry with them. My 6 months on T mark passed last week without much fanfare, along with my 2 months past surgery date. I'm looking and feeling good, except for a gross head cold that I'm currently nursing.

I'm going to visit my sister this weekend, and our dad is going to come hang out with us on Sunday. I haven't seen him since March (before T or surgery) so there's going to be quite a bit of visual catching up to do. We've stayed in touch via phone, so he's pretty up to speed with everything that's been going on, but he hasn't seen me in quite a while, so this should be...interesting. He's been wonderfully supportive throughout everything, wishing me well with my name change battles and sending me care packages while I was recovering from surgery. I think he's really into the idea of having a son, which is great!

I know that he's always loved me and been proud of me, but he's definitely been showing it more since I started transitioning. I don't know whether he decided to jump in at a transitional (no pun intended) moment and start stepping up more, or if it's a function of him being more comfortable relating to me as a son than a masculine daughter. If it is the latter, though, I wonder what it means that he's more comfortable with me now.

I guess that this is (of course) really related to something that i've been chewing over about myself...namely, what does it mean (in a larger context) that I'm happier and more comfortble with myself as a guy than a masculine female. Part of it is coming from longstanding (and somehow unquenchable) worry that this (this what? my transition? my masculine identity? something like that.) is rooted in misogyny, somehow. Couldn't handle being a masculine female, so I had to transition.

Doesn't help that this view is the too-common misinterpretation of transness that one hears from some lesbian/feminists, all the way back to Janice Raymond and her "Transsexual Empire" book. I hate that I've internalized this transphobia, but I can't keep myself from wondering about it.

Because, face it, being trans is kinda weird. Not bad! But not normal, anyway. And I used to feel kinda busted about it, and now I mostly don't, but I still can't help wondering why I'm like this.

Amy told me this morning to stop beating myself up for asking questions...told me not to punish myself for being able and willing to go there, search for a broader context.

She's right, I know, and that made me feel better, but I still worry.

Maybe it's because I'm too used to worrying about something. Worrying about whether to transition, then how to transition....now, I've done what I set out to do, and I'm at a loss.

Learn how to be content, Eli!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

mish mash splish splash

Further nuggets of gender-related musing, served jumbled together for your enjoyment. Like dim sum! A little bit of everything, and a lot of it.

-This weekend I looked in the mirror and decided that my hairline is receding. Just a tiny tiny little bit, around my temples, where I've always had blonde streaks anyway, so it's always looked like I've had slightly receding hair at my temples. But now I think it's definitely further back than it used to be. I could, of course, be making this up entirely. But I don't think so. I wonder sometimes about whether I'm destined for baldness. People always say to look at your mom's dad, but that's only because most guys only have one X chromosome. I've got two, so I have to check out both sides of my family. Well, my dad's pretty much bald as a bowling ball, and I don't know about the rest of his family. My mom's got three brothers, two of whom have very thick hair, and another who is thin/balding on top. I don't know about her dad, but I think he had thick dark hair til very late in life. So I figure I've got a 50-50 chance, based on that data. Though maybe slightly better, since I do more closely resemble (dark, thick hair instead of lighter, finer hair) the two uncles with hair remaining rather than than the other uncle or my dad. On the other hand, I'm pretty fine with being one of those bald, bearded guys. I think I could rock that aesthetic pretty thoroughly. So we'll see. I'll try not to be too neurotic about it.

-The transmasculine support group has started up again, Wednesday nights at 7:30 at the Center. It was good to go and see everyone, but I've also got a few ambivalent feelings from last week's session. First, I've got a nagging feeling that we're not going to cover as much ground as in the past. Well, that's not true- in general, I'm sure we will, but specific to me (and isn't it always all about me?) , I have a sense that there is a Law of Diminishing Returns at work here. That is, I'm going to get less out of this than I have in the past, because we're going to spend a lot of time re-treading paths that we as a group and I as an individual have trotted down before.

This is a good sign, I think- group is great as a socialization medium, but it's main purpose (I think) is to help all of us get a handle on this process that we're going through- that is, the process of understanding our trans identities. The fact that going to group doesn't seem as crucially helpful anymore probably means that I've gotten a better handle on myself. So hurrah for that!

I think I'll keep going- I think I have a lot to add, and a lot still to gain from going. Hopefully I can take away things that are helpful for me, be it insights or strategies, even if we talk about things that aren't as relevant for my anymore, like coming out to family. Also, and I think this is a function of our necessarily small community, we each have a finite amount of experience and stories to tell. I'm starting to become familiar with our discussion topics not just in general, but specific to those of us who've been attending for a while. I know these guys' stories now! As they know mine, no doubt. Hopefully we can keep from boring each other.

I mentioned a few ambivalent feelings. The others are not so much about the group itself as feelings prompted by the conversation we had last week. It ties into other things I've been thinking about, and so therefore gets its own bullet point:

-Loss! Yes, indeedy. Related to what I mentioned here the other day about recent lack of solid ground; that lack is originating in no small part from my currently complicated feelings about my transition. Namely, I'm not quite sure how to manage myself as I want to celebrate and rejoice being a happy happy guy, and also feel kind of sad about letting go of my former self as a masculine female person.

Lately I've been thinking that maybe it's related to this large/colossal sense of unfairness about the whole thing that I think is nested inside me. I rarely let it out, but still, there's a little genderless part of me inside that's stamping hir foot and exclaiming, irrationally and contradictorily, "It's not fair! Other boys don't have to grow up with breasts and hips and periods and then fight fight fight with judges and surgery bills and needles twice a week in order to live normally!" "It's not fair! Other female-born people are happy being boyish and masculine and butch and don't feel like they're busted, and being mis-seen by the rest of the world!" "It's not fair! Other trans guys know that they're trans from the age of 2 and never question their feelings!" "It's not fair! At long last I'm feeling happy and secure in my body and I have to start dredging up questions of origin!"

Sounds like I want to be every gender and eat my cake, too.

That last bit is what's been giving me trouble. Now that I'm where I am, that I've accomplished these goals I've set for myself, I've got time to slow down, take a breath, and start speculating. Being happy is making me forget what it was like being unhappy with my body, which makes me start to wonder what it would've been like if I hadn't been able to transition. The fact that I don't think (unlike, so it seems, many other trans folks) that I'd be dead or a non-functional member of society is really getting to me. It seems invalidating, and it's a scary question to try to explore.

Where would I be? Is it even worth asking, since clearly, I'm not there? And related to that, why am I here? I know the most basic and important answer to that question: I transitioned (am transitioning?) because I wanted to, because I know (and can confirm now!) that I'm happier living as a [trans]guy. The next, scarier (though not as scary once I keep reminding myself that it's theoretical and critical in the purely intellectual sense) question is: why am I happier this way?

-Ohhhkay, enough angst. In other news, I'm really scruffy today, owing to not having shaved in 3+ days. It's still really only noticeable up close, but since I blathered on the other day about my facial hair, I feel like I should mention that I'm definitely starting to see encroachment further up my cheeks.

Yes, I talk about my "beard" a lot. Yes, I spend a lot of time with my chin thrust towards the mirror, squinting with one eye, examining my "stubble." Yes, I know, I'm really cool.

-Last but not least, I got a message today from an acquaintance from college, who said she'd seen my new Friendster picture (one of the shirtless-self-portrait-in-the-mirror pictures I posted here a few weeks ago) and wanted to know if I'd "had an operation."

What is it about that phrase that rubs me the wrong way? I guess it sounds archaic and full of assumptions to me. Sounds like the phrase "getting a sex change," it's out of date and uninformed. On the other hand, surgery IS an operation, right? Just because I'd say "I had some surgery" rather than "an operation" doesn't make it unacceptable. I guess it's just a matter of being fluent in the language of my community- just because she's not up on the lingo doesn't mean she doesn't mean well. Woo, lot of double negatives in that last statement. Maybe I need to stop compulsively analyzing this line of communication and just write her back a short, polite answer.

Yes. I've had an operation.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Dolly Parton Travelin' Thru

Here's a clip of Dolly performing her song live- I still recommend listening to the recorded version, too, but this will give you a taste of how excellent this song is.

travelin' thru

An assortment of things that I've been thinking about:

-I shave every other day or every three days now, in an effort not to look like a slob. If I let it go over a whole weekend, I've definitely got stubble by the end, though it remains contained in distinctly adolescent localizations. It seems to be growing from the outside in, coming up my neck and down along my sideburns, straining to meet along the edge of my jaw. Someday, presumably, it'll start filling in up along my cheeks, and I'll have a real honest to goodness beard. I wonder whether all boys wait and wonder and hope for their beards, or just those of us who were at first denied the possibility of it? I use nice quality disposable razors now, and try to change it every 10 shaves (three weeks) or so. I've been using shaving gel from a can- it always surprises me how far a little dab of that stuff will go, spread in circular motions with careful fingertips. I'll daub it all over my face, then start the water running so I can rinse my blade between swipes. I always shave my moustache area first, since that's where the shaving cream is most annoying- it tickles my lips and nose. I don't always shave my upper lip, though- only every other shave- because it doesn't seem to be growing in as fast as my jawline. I keep meaning to get a shaving bowl to use as a water basin so that I don't just waste water while I carefully scrape away at my face, trying to avoid the acne flare-ups, and keep an even line down the edge of my sideburns. Also, someday, in the distant When-I'm-a-Grownup future, I'd like to use shaving soap and a boar-bristle brush, and a nice razor. Maybe not a straight razor (unless I got some proper training on the matter, and where do you get that?) but a nicer razor than the Gilettes I've been using.

-I'm growing a pelt. It's a little hard to keep track of, since I usually only notice my body hair when I'm naked, and I don't always have my glasses on when I'm naked, and without my glasses, it's damn hard to see those fine little hairs cropping up all over. But on the other hand, I spend enough time scrutinizing myself that it's hard to miss: when I'm leaning over the bathroom mirror, it starts to become obvious that patterns of hair are establishing themselves up and down my sternum, spreading down beneath my collarbone. Again, with the interesting hair patterns- my leg hair has definitly been creeping up from my ankles, but my chest hair seems to be starting at the middle (sternum, down to encircle the belly button) and working its way out.

-It's just about exactly two months since I've had surgery. Seems like the blink of an eye, whereas when I was counting down at two months until surgery, it seemed like forever. Makes me remember what a small percentage of my life I've lived already, and how long I've yet to go. Puts things in perspective when it comes to my impatience with my feelings of tumultuousness. I feel like my life's in upheaval again right now, because I'm once again in new territory. See, I'd finally gained some solid ground last winter and spring: I'd arrived in New York, found my community, set things in motion for myself. I'd made plans for transitioning and my name and my life, I'd gotten everybody on board the good ship Eli Is A Guy, and I felt solid as a female-bodied, male-identified person. In short, waves were starting to subside from the big "Oh, I'm a guy!" realization/disclosure/upheaval.

Now, I've gone ahead and gotten myself into a vaguely post-transition state and (oh the irony) feel more in transition than ever before.

By post-transition I mean that I've passed the critical mass of months on T such that my masculine secondary sex characteristics are firmly established, and strangers read me as male nearly 100% of the time. I've surgically altered my body in the most immediate and drastic way that I had plans for. I've gotten my name legally changed (though, to be fair, that hasn't finished processing yet). These things are some of the traditionally major hurdles (milestones?) in the FTM transition process...and, with a few wrinkles excepted, I've mostly ironed them all out.

I'd expect to feel relieved and elated and accomplished right about now. And I do! But I also feel, familiarly enough, that I'm lacking solid ground beneath my feet. I've changed up my life again, and I need to settle in and rediscover and acclimate to how things are now. I've mentioned in passing that 2006 seems to be the year of Transitions with a capital T- maybe 2007 will be the year (or the first year) of adjusting instead of changing.

I hope so. I like solid ground. Sometimes I worry that it means I'm not truly radical at heart, because everything I know about being radical means tearing structure down. Though, I guess, there's nothing to say that it can't be rebuilt in a good way.

-About a week ago, I got an invitation to return to Simon's Rock to be part of an alumni panel on Family Weekend- sort of a "What I did after I graduated from SRC" deal. Laying aside concerns about why they'd want me on the panel, since I haven't really done anything impressive like go to grad school or whathaveyou, I was pretty conflicted about whether or not to go. I think maybe it's too soon to go back there- the impressions of my past are still strong and deep there. It hasn't been that long since everyone on campus knew Emma ...and that's scary. I know that I have many friends and allies, most of whom understand (at least to some extent) that I'm not Emma anymore, I'm Eli. (aside: that may be the first time I've ever written that sentence...I have tried hard to keep Emma and Eli in separate sentences. interesting.) Anyway, I'm worried about going back, since the last time I was there, people who didn't know any better called me 'she' and just fucked up my whole weekend. It was really uncomfortable.

I don't want to be cowardly, though. I've changed a lot since April, and I have to trust those changes on a lot of levels: I have to trust that the folks still at the Rock will know and respect me as Eli, I have to trust that those who don't will just follow the cues that I offer now (sideburns, voice, etc), and I have to trust myself to be strong enough to deal with any possible uncomfortable situations that might occur. So I've accepted, and I'm going to be on the panel- it's Saturday, October 28th. Optimism, optimism!

-Last but not least, Dolly Parton sings a song called "Travelin' Thru" that she wrote for Transamerica, that Felicity Huffman movie I still haven't seen. Dolly's song is beautiful and heartfelt and true, and is country music about being trans (!! my little heart could just explode from sheer delight), and I listen to it probably once a day.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Hottie McHotterson

In a continuation of my recent photoblogging ways, this is me indulging myself in some shamelessly vain posting of pictures that my friend Mary Ellen took at the end of my birthday party a few weeks ago. Please ignore the part where I look bleary/tired/vaguely drunk, and enjoy the beefcake action.

(As an aside, I think my scars have calmed down even more since these pictures were taken- I've been very faithfully rubbing Mederma into them, and it seems to be helping. They're getting paler and smoother by the day. I have high hopes for them virtually disappearing! I've heard that one is supposed to massage mature scars to encourage them to smooth out, but I'm not sure at what point to start that. Also: sensation continues to return! My nipples seem to be mildly responsive to cold now, and I can feel pressure across most of my chest. This at only 7 weeks, too! Things are looking good. As you can see!)


Wednesday, September 27, 2006

can't win 'em all


Good news: My notice of name change was published in the Village Voice today, for a mere $73 (on the low end, I hear- I guess I've got a short name!), and they'll send me the necessary documents soon, such that I can go to court, get the certified copies of my official name change (at 6 bucks each), and then go to the DMV and get new identification (probably around $50...geeze, it's expensive to be a transsexual!)

Bad news: They spelled my damn name wrong. Only put one t in Elliott. I double-checked, and I faxed them the correct spelling, so I don't know what their problem is. I'm debating whether I should call and ask them to run it again, correctly, or if I should just shrug and let it go. Oh well. Nobody's going to read it, anyway.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

historical fiction

Been thinking a lot lately about what it means to be where I am now with the past I have trailing after me- thinking about questions of historical accuracy, disclosure, revisionist history, etc.

I was chatting with a student worker today about various small conversation topics- cheerful, get to know you type stuff- our names and nicknames, family, etc. Everything we talked about, though, seemed to have possible hidden dimensions that I held back on. Needless to say, she doesn't know I'm trans- she met me just a couple of weeks ago. When we talked about names, I had to bite my tongue to keep from saying "Oh, but I picked mine myself!" or "Yeah, I used to be named after my aunt, but now I've renamed myself after my grandfathers." I guess I refrained because it felt like bringing it up would add an unnecessary layer of complication to the conversation. On the other hand, not bringing it up feels like a lie of omission. Surely there's some sort of middle ground, where I don't feel like I have to bring it up all the time, but I also won't feel nervous about mentioning it when it's relevant?

I mean, is this something that it's possible to be casual about? Can I someday offhandly drop into a conversation "Yeah! When I used to menstruate, I got so frustrated with how expensive tampons were, too!" and just expect it to be fine? Well, maybe if I did it with less shock-value but similar nonchalance.

I was talking about this over the weekend, and equating being trans with some kind of personal information (medical history, perhaps, or some personal history) that your friends know, but strangers don't. I guess the question is where to place myself along that continuum. I'm a pretty open person, but I also value my privacy.

I also value not being tokenized or delegitimized or otherwise reduced to solely my trans identity.

And, last but not least, while it's important to me to be an educator, it's almost as important to be able to feel normal- not like my whole existence is dedicated to Trans Awareness 101. Again, I hope I can find a balance.

Good thoughts to be thinking around the equinox, eh?

--
Speaking of names....your friend and mine, the honorable Jose Padilla, Jr. has finally reversed his decision and granted my petition to change my name. Hurrah! Though his order made it very clear that "this name change shall not be relied upon as any evidence that the sex of the petitioner herein has in fact been changed anatomically."

Ha!

I'm still frustrated at his obstinence and fixation on wanting to see 'medical documentation' of an 'anatomical sex change.' More frustrated because of the outmoded and narrowminded thinking which puts forth such a requirement. The term "sex change" is old fashioned and insufficient- it's improperly defined, and in fact, probably oughtn't have a definition at all, save the one given to it by those of us following a sinuous gendered path. Perhaps we could replace "sex change" with "gender travels."

Although even as my radical anti-binary gender activist is typing those words, there's another part of me (the virgo, I've been told?) who longs for order, stability, solid ground. I'd like to see a solid definition for being trans- I just want it to be broad enough and flexible enough to encompass all of us.

Really, and most importantly, I just don't want arbitrary and/or uninformed dogma to be used as gatekeeping devices to prevent trans folks from going about our transitions (and our lives!) as best we can.

Anyway. As soon as I can get myself published in the Village Voice (calling 'em tomorrow), I'll officially be Elliott John. Not bad, eh?