Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Gender Goals 2006

The other night in the Transmasculine Group at the Center, we went around and did brief introductions- trying to get a sense of each other, why we were there, our comfort levels and histories and plans. It was nice, and too brief, and made me think (always good) about where I am and where I'm going and what kind of progress my travel has made.

I'm not sure what I said exactly- it's always hard to articulate myself on the spot- but I've been thinking about it since then. So I thought maybe I'd do a little update on the progress of my various Gender Goals. I keep a lot of little running lists in my head of Things I'm Working On, and one of the lists on the top of the mental stack (naturally) is the gender list. I made a bunch of goals for this year, and I'm pretty much on top of them.

1) Start T and have top surgery in 2006

Well, this one is coming along famously! I've been on T for...uh...I guess 10 weeks, now? I just got my 5th shot. There were some bumps at the beginning- I was going to get started March 20th, and ended up pushing it back and back again due to logistical hiccups at the clinic, and ended up getting my first shot on April 10th. Things are going real well...I keep noticing more and more changes. I think it's starting to pick up speed. I'll give the usual update after my next shot, but suffice it to say that I'm getting hairier by the minute. Also, noticing a few emotional/mental changes for the first time, which are rather interesting, and which I'm not convinced yet are not figments of my hypersensitive imagination. So I'm going to give it a few more weeks, see if I can establish further patterns before I make any proclamations.

2) Figure out my name once and for all

And I have! My name is Elliott John. Eli J. I finally decided a few weeks ago, and have been quietly letting it sit to see how it feels. It keeps getting more and more comfortable, and I've started practicing a new signature, so I'm pretty sure this is it. I was pulled in by the strong family history (someday soon I'll recount the story of the two Johns who were my great grandfathers), and by the unassuming strength of the name. I suppose I could've been, as my father pointed out, "a touch more creative," but I like the balance of John against Elliott. I'm not an entirely flamboyant fellow, after all.

Now, I just have to figure out when I want to get my name legally changed. It's a bit of a process, involving both time and money- going to court with the documents, returning once it gets approved, taking the decree to be published in the newspaper, paying everyone lots of $$, etc. That's not really trouble, except that I'd need to then get new ID with my new name on it, and I've already purchase plane tickets (back and forth to the West Coast) with my old name. I was thinking I could just keep my old Oregon ID when I go to the DMV, and show them other documentation, and say I lost my old wallet. Then in August, I could just take the ticket and show it to them with my old ID and hope that my burgeoning stubble wouldn't blow the whole gig. Or I could wait until after August to change anything, but that has two notable drawbacks, mostly being that I'd have to wait longer to get a license that I wouldn't be embarassed to show anyone. Which ties into the second drawback, which is that my 21st birthday is in September, and I'd like to be able to use an authentic, real ID for that occasion. Or I could try to change the name on the plane tickets, and bring along an affadavit of name change, and before-and-after ID, and hope the airlines understand. hmp.

3) Find a trans community for myself

This one seemed a bit daunting when I made it up last year, since the term "trans community" is altogether too ambitious a term to really use with ease. But lucky for me, I didn't have to define it, I just wanted to find it...and I have, in spades. It was jumpstarted when I started going to the transmasculine drop in group at the Center on Wednesdays- I met a whole slew of really fantastic guys all at once. I remember coming home from that first meeting with my heart beating fast and my head overflowing. The moderators had passed around a piece of paper with possible topics and questions for discussion listed on it, and I took it home and folded it and propped it up beside my bed, so that first thing in the morning I could open my eyes and read "How do we as people of trans experience navigate our histories and incorporate them into our present and future?" and "What is our vision of masculinity?" and suchlike.

Slowly but surely, I feel like I'm coming deeper into this trans/queer community and social circle through all manner of routes. The friendships I'm making fold back on one another, and connect to each other in myriad ways- friends I met at group will show up at someone else's birthday party, and we'll realize again that we're all one big happy family in this small queer world.

It's done me a world of good to have other transmasculine folks to hang out with and strategize with, talk to and connect with. I really needed people to look to for support, and I'm starting to feel like maybe folks look to me, too. It's good for me to feel solid enough to be someone that other folks look to.

4) Become more comfortable with my own self and my own masculinity, rather than wistfully and dysphorically and somewhat hypocritically aspiring to hegemonic masculinity.

Speaking of being solid: as I've been writing lately, this goal is coming along quite nicely as well! I finally feel like I'm settling into myself, rather than hurtling towards some unknown future Eli.

I know that I'm changing right now, but I feel much more like I'm changing as a person, not changing as a transsexual. By which I mean, I'm 20 years old and barely a year out of college. Of course I'm changing at a breakneck pace! But I don't feel like my changes are resting on my gender- rather, I'm settling into myself and still making adjustments to my gender, but now I have a strong sense of who I am. It feels good. I keep mentioning the word solid- it's my new favorite adjective.

Not least because my body is changing- I've always associated masculine bodies with being solid. The few times I've been on, uh, intimate terms with guys, I've always been intrigued (and envious) of how solid their bodies felt. Now, I'm feeling better than ever about myself because I'm feeling that same sense, both because my body is becoming more traditionally masculine, but also because I'm learning more about different sources of masculinity within myself. I can look to that solidity to come from myself and my actions, both in accordance with and in opposition to the masculinity I've been comparing myself to in the rest of the world.

But speaking of feeling about my body- I'm also discovering, to my chagrin, that I've got body image issues within the context of the transmasculine community. I'm doing much better about not looking at myself through a hegemonic lens- that is, I'm not trying so hard to see myself as masculine with a normatively masculine man as my guide. And it's really good for me to place myself within a context of other transmasculine folks, because 1) it's beautiful to fully experience gender as a spectrum...to really experience that, not just believe it as a theory, but be a part of a community where people express themselves on all parts of a gendered spectrum and 2) I like being able to see myself reflected back at me from folks who have gone through similar experiences.

The danger there, though, is assuming that I'm going to follow the same mold just because I'm trans. I need to center on myself and my own possibilities and potential, because it'll give me a complex if I spend too much time looking at other transguys and wistfully eying their broad shoulders or six-pac abs.

and as a final bonus, I'm going to leave you with visual evidence of my increasing manliness. It's pretty goofy in some ways, but it's a flattering photo (it's from a good angle, so I look manly) and I think pretty accurate. Note the broad shoulders! The curly-ish hair! (confirming the hypothesis that T makes one's hair curly? I hope so- I've always wanted curly hair) The so chic party hat!


CaptLex said...

Congrats on picking your name, Eli! Elliott John sounds very manly, yet approachable too.

P.S. I love the shirt!

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