Tuesday, February 28, 2006

a thousand words...or was that a thousand ships?

I'm going to Great Barrington this weekend on a mission. A partial mission of social visitation, which should be fun, as I haven't been to Simon's Rock since November, and there are quite a few folks I'm looking forward to catching up with. It's going to be hard to fit it all into just 24 hours!

The main goal of the trip, though, is a photo date that I have with Hitt. She's going to take pictures of me, photoshoot style, because I want to begin documenting my transition with a set of "before" shots. Eli as his mama made him.

I've been trying to think about what sorts of pictures I want to take. I'm going to put a lot of it in Hitt's hands- she's a great photographer, and I trust her to make this project turn out excellently. But I know that I want some standards that can be used later for comparison, or that I can send to Dr. B, just straightforward, unapologetic bodyshots. But I also want some that are less clinical, and more documentarian. I have to talk to Hitt about this, but maybe I should bring some clothes or other artifacts to interact with for the shoot? We had a lot of success with our necktie project. Neckties are important for me, but I should probably branch out a little, huh?

It's appropriate that we're doing it at Simon's Rock, too. I really grew up at the Rock; ages 15-19 are pretty formative years. Now I'm going to start growing up again, but for real this time. I never could envision myself growing up to be a woman- just didn't compute in my head. Maybe that's why my puberty never felt like such a big deal the first time around- I didn't feel like I was "becoming a woman," just that I wasn't quite such a kid anymore. Now I feel like a guy, but definitely a young guy, and I feel a bit silly calling myself a man sometimes just because I'm barely 20 years old. But also because I've got smooth cheeks and a high voice, and starting T is going to remedy that. I know that it's going to be more than just a year of life experience that's going to make me feel older next year.

Monday, February 27, 2006

patriarchy is not (necessarily) spelled m-a-n

Thanks to KB for the reminder, and hey, thanks to all of y'all who are commenting and responding to me.

Spent some good time in therapy today being reminded that I'm doing the best I can, and by god, that's good enough. Now her exact words have slipped out of my head, but Amy said some real smart things today, that resonated with me, and made me feel good. I get so caught up in my own ideas in my own head that I forget to broaden my perspective a little.

And then to read KB's comment was a simple sudden reminder that, duh, even if I'm not being 100% Gender Activist Man all the time, it doesn't mean I'm automatically regressing to 100% Patriarchal Man, either. That's just another binary that I've set up in my head, and that's not how it works all the time. So. I feel a bit of a weight lifting off my shoulders there, though I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the next one descends. Seems like I go through this gender thing in a very specific way- I'll pick one facet to worry about and think about constantly for a while, until I get some resolution on it, and then move on to the next thing- T or Surgery first? followed by How will I be a parent? followed by Am I being the right kind of man? I wonder what's next. I have a suspicion that it'll be my name- I want to nail that sucker down.

Also spent some time in therapy today talking logistics for chest surgery. I've realized that the optimal time for me to do this would be the middle/end of June- after things have settled down at the library, so it'll be easier for me to get off work, but before Fleury goes away, and after school has ended for my sister. Ideally, I could take maybe 2 and 1/2 weeks off of work and fly to Portland, then drive down to SF with my fam, have surgery and stay in the area for a week through some combination of hotel rooms and staying with friends, then drive back to PDX for another week of recovery, then come back to NY and have one or two days off before returning to work.

Hopefully, I'll be able to find someone who might want to sublet my room for two weeks while I'm gone, such that I could save a couple hundred dollars in rent. I don't know if that's entirely feasible- would anyone want to sublet a room for only two weeks? I don't even know.

If I can call Dr.B next week and pay my deposit and make an appointment, that gives me all of March, April and May to rustle up the rest of the money. I'm hoping to get a sizeable chunk of change back from my taxes (and if Kaplan would ever send me my damn W-2s, I'd know!), and I've got a tiny bit of cash saved up and can hopefully save a bit more from my paychecks by then. My mom said she could probably come up with about half of the money, so that leaves me with about $4000 to track down. After the tax refund and my current savings, I think I need to rustle up about another $1500-2000 dollars. That's totally doable, right?

*sigh* Seems daunting when I put it on the screen, though.

Friday, February 24, 2006

you're the secret I keep

Everywhere I turn, notions of authenticity spring up and won't leave me alone.

In group, we talked a lot about disclosure, and about the necessity (or not) of revealing one's status as trans to other folks, particularly people who had heard about you with masculine referents (he, him, boyfriend) but had never met you, and how much more loaded this question is when you're not passing physically yet (or ever?).

The thing that frustrates me most about this at the moment is feeling like my agency is taken away by my body- in some situations it's not a question of whether or not I should disclose my history (and someone brought up an interesting point that, taken in a medical context, one's medical history is really not anyone's business, and if you wouldn't tell someone that you're diabetic or a hemophiliac, or whatnot, then why would you tell them that you're a transsexual?) and identity. As long as I'm still being read as female, I have to address the apparent (from a layperson's perspective) incongruity of my corporeal self and my name/pronouns. My only choice, and only to a certain extent, is when and how, and that's still quite a complicated decision.

But then again, even now, I do have some agency in the matter, and it's still a complicated decision. To wit:

Thursday night at the bar, there was a fellow who looked at me and said "Now I REALLY wish I liked girls!"

My first instinct, actually, was to want to not take it personally for a moment just so I could challenge his notions. Clearly, he finds me attractive, so why should it matter if I'm a "girl" or not? We're all queers. It's all good if you've got the hots for me and I've got the hots for you, right? And there's something truly hot about fags and dykes together, I think.

Anyway. I didn't go there. Actually, for one minute I truly didn't know what he was talking about- I'm sure I had a confused look on my face. It dawned on me, however, and I kept the confused look on my face while I figured out what to say to him. I wish I'd been smooth ("Don't trouble yourself on my account, chap, I'm on your team!") but instead I just managed to reply with "Well, I'm a man."

There I was again, forcefully asserting my identity, and I can't decide which is worse: feeling like I'm not able to claim my true identity (which, again, is complicated! What after all IS my true identity? Man? Transman? Neither? If only I had the technological knowhow to Wikipedia-ify this journal, and make all of these terms into hyperlinks that connected to other entries where I addressed the myrid issues surrounding them.) or claiming an identity which makes me more comfortable than the default, but still not entirely happy.

Because when I say to him "I'm a man" without any further context, I'm signing myself aboard the Hegemonic Masculinity Steamboat Express. He, like drunk Asian boy the other night, was saying "Oh, you're not fitting into what I think a man is, you're fitting into my dyke mold," and rather than explain things, I'm saying "No, actually, I'm in your premade man mold after all, you're just slightly mistaken." And if I don't contextualize it further, then I make some of my queerness (my transness) and some of my identity invisible. AND I'm worried that I am disrespectful of dykes and butch women by having such an intense and visceral need to distance myself from being part of that group.

[ Ed. note: Cut yourself some slack Eli. it's okay not to want to be mistaken for something you're not.]

In other words, I'm worried that in handling such situations circumspectly, I'm perpetuating the patriarchy. Well, maybe I'm broadening their notions of what a man can look like- short, pencil neck, suspiciously wide-hipped figure- and thereby breaking things down a few patriarchal notions, but still. it worries me.

And also that's where it gets really interesting, I think. I don't want to claim the traditional label of 'man' because I don't like what it stands for. At the same time, I don't want my legitimacy as a man to be questioned. Is this me trying to have my cake and theorize about it, too?

I don't want to be a part of the patriarchy, but I don't want to be read as female, either, and lately, in an effort to at least definitely not be read as female, I've been laying claim to the conventional and hegemonic title of 'male' and that makes me uncomfortable.

And okay, as my internal editor mentioned a few lines back, I know that I have a right to say "No, you're wrong, I'm not a girl" because that's true. But when I follow that up with "I'm a boy" it's uncomfortable because, while that's ALSO true, it's true for me in a different way than it's true for the people who are hearing it, and I feel like I'm simultaneously misrepresenting myself and selling out to the patriarchy.

Though at the same time, even as I feel all of this angst about saying "Actually, I'm a man," I do sometimes want to be able to just say that and have it be okay, have it be enough, not have to overcomplicate the issue by getting into everything. I'd like to lead a life that, if not simple, is at least not any harder than it has to be.

And now, reading back over this, it looks like I've navigated myself squarely in between Scylla & Charybdis, the one being oversimplification and therefore complicity with the patriarchy, and the other being overexplanation, thereby making my life harder.

But until the concept of manhood is broken down and rebuilt into something broader and better, it looks like I'm still going to feel caught out and uncomfortable no matter which route I take.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

couldn't guarantee

Took me a while to open this up this afternoon because I wasn't sure what to say- the prospect of having something worthwhile to say every single day seemed suddenly a bit daunting. But now that I've got it open, I'm wondering where to start, because the thoughts come roiling up into my brain again. Last night in group the topic was "surgery and hormones" which felt very appropriate, as I've been fixating on those two topics rather extensively these days.

Folks shared different concerns and experiences and hopes, and it all seemed to come boiling back down to the fact that no two guys will have the same puberty. Which may seem self-evident, but that doesn't stop all of us from eagerly asking each other "How long will it take for my voice to drop?" "Will I lose weight or gain it?" etc. Hard to forecast the future, even as we study each other and draw generalizations.

I've been logging lots of time on Transster lately- even at work, in my spare minutes, which is probably not the best idea, given the vague inappropriate feeling of doing personal medical research on company time, let alone medical research that often includes pictures of shirtless people. But I can't stop combing the internet for glimpses of my future.

Everything is a possibility, and I look for patterns in surgical work and body types to try to extrapolate onto myself. Like T, though, it seems that the only rule is that everyone has a different experience, and individual results.

I think it'll be important for me to really accept/internalize the notion that I'm still going to have my body. It's going to change, and some of those changes will be subtle, and some will be drastic, but it's still going to be mine. I mean that in two ways, I think. The first is a reminder not to go hog wild in my hopes/expectations. These changes are going to be variations on a theme, which is already created- despite my spot-on Derek Zoolander impression, I'm probably not going to end up as a male model.

And by the same token, whatever my body ends up looking like, it's going to be my body, and so a man's body, and a valid one, and a good one. I will be able to use it and enjoy it and be happy, even if I end up with more prominent scars or less sensitive nipples or patchier facial hair or more of a beer belly than I want. I'm certainly getting good use out of it now, despite its less than ideal manifestation, and I know that I'll be able to be cheerful about it in the future.

The whole point (I think- hmm) of this physical transition is to get myself a body that lets me live more truly and move through the world more comfortably, and...well...pretty much any further degree of masculinity is going to make me more comfortable.

I don't know. I think this is all coming from a thought that I had while walking to work this morning, that maybe I should just toss Transster out the window and call Dr. Brownstein and book an appointment, because I know that he'll do a good job, and I'll end up with solid results, and regardless of whether some other surgeon might have preserved a little more sensation or a little less scarring, I'll be happy with it. Because I've been driving myself a tiny bit crazy trying to do all this research and explore all these options. There comes a point at which, while I know it's best to make the most informed choice possible, I also want to chuck it all and go with the first and most reputable guy I can get a hold of, and make this happen soon.

There's a whole web of possiblities for me, and I don't think I'm shortchanging myself in being decisive, and choosing a fate, because (Eli the optimist strikes again!) it's probably going to be fine, just fine.

Unless my nipples fall off. That would be pretty lousy.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

prove your manhood to me constantly

Been having a sweet day of validation and respect at work, which has been refreshing and unexpected and great coming on the heels of recent days of being she'd left and right. Plus, it's mostly come arm in arm with compliments, too, which is always nice! For example:

Patron: You look fashionable today, Eli!
Other Patron: He always does.

And two other patrons called me 'he' or 'library guy', and one of the surveys that I'm compiling had a note in the comments section about the "extremely helpful male librarian."

Always nice to get unsolicited, not in the context of any particular gendered experience, no-strings-attached validation. I wonder if/when there's going to come a time when I'll stop feeling that tiny swell of pride and pleasure everytime someone uses masculine discourse to refer to me. Certainly it's diminished over time- I'm not so thrilled as I used to be every time someone uses the proper pronoun, or calls me Eli, but it still makes me happy. I guess when it becomes completely commonplace I'll become correspondingly less delighted each time.

These interactions came at a particularly good time, too, now that I think about it. Not just because I was trying to look snappy and stylish today- I have three separate occasions tonight at which I wish to look good: pyschiatrist, transman group, and a hot date- but also because I think I've been getting caught up in my imminent physical transition in a not entirely positive way.

I've started thinking "after I have chest surgery and can wear tight t-shirts all the time" or "oh, well, once I start T and have a manly physique" or "well, once my voice has changed, then..." fill in the blank with some important piece of my life and maleness predicated on physical transition. I think I've started hinging my masculinity on those steps in my physical transition, and that's not something I want to be doing.

Sure, all of those things are important, exciting thing, but they're not the be-all, end-all of me and my manhood, and I want to be careful not to let them become so. I've been a guy...okay, this gets problematic. I've been living full time as a guy for over six months, identifying solidly as a guy for almost a year, and have pretty much considered myself a guy for quite a number of years. I don't want to devalue that.

Not to mention the fact that it's all to easy to think about "Oh, once I have a manly physique, everything will be fine" and not keep in mind what my manly physique is actually going to look like. I'm going to change, that's true, but not in ways that I can definitely predict, and I'm not going to become 100% Normative Man, anyway.

Man, I'm glad I'm keeping this record, and that I've got writings about this from years back. It's important to me to have continuity with my past, and be able to identify how and from whence Eli has evolved. I can feel how my mindset and ideas have changed, and I feel very estranged from feelings that I know for certain I used to keep close. That's not entirely a bad thing- I'm rather pleased to have divorced myself from a lot of the worry and uncertainty I used to carry around- but I want neither to be swept up in new ideas without thinking them through, nor to summarily dismiss older thoughts that still have importance.

It's disorienting, almost, to think back to a year or so ago, and remember how worried and scared I was about this. My 'gender issues' were my not-particularly-well-kept Deepest Darkest Secret, and there was this feeling I had all the time- almost like Tony sings about in West Side Story- that something big was coming. Except I knew what it was, I just didn't know how I was going to deal with it.

Now it seems strange to me that there was every any question of how I would deal with this. Transitioning has proved to be such a positive, fulfilling, relieving, natural experience. Weird to me think that I could be any other way, that I could still be living as some kind of girl. Weirder still (!) to remember that there are plenty of people in the world who haven't heard the news yet, and still think of me in their heads as a girl! Woah. Hadn't even thought about that- it's a bit unnerving to think that I still exist in a lot of minds as a female person, even as the memory of that femaleness is becoming more and more dissonant in my own head.

Whew. I'm just going all over the place with this tonight, aren't I? I think my mind is jumpy because of my psychiatrist appointment tonight. Have to meet with a professional in order to make sure I'm not crazy before they start dispensing mind- and body-altering controlled substances to me.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

easy money

Spent a great weekend with my friend Kate and her family, which was lovely, and delightful, and (naturally) caused a number of things to percolate through my brain.

For one thing, her family (particularly her mom) is wonderful, and supoprtive, and I know they respect me and my identity. And they call me Eli and 'he' quite consistently...except her mom still calls me Em, about a third of the time. She doesn't mess up my pronouns, and she often says Eli, but she still says Em sometimes. and...weirdly...it doesn't really bother me. Which is quite unusual. I'm generally not a fan at all of people continuing to use holdover names from my past.

I mean, sure, I like it better when she says Eli, but I think because I know she's trying, and I know that she genuinely supports me and wants the best for me, it doesn't hurt when she says Em. I think it would be a different matter if she used my entire (and quite a bit more feminine) given name- there's a lot more kneejerk flinching attached to that name for me these days.

But I used Em for quite a while when I was in a transitional period, and hell, part of the original impetus for my first choice of name [Eli Michael...now probably Elliott Michael, although possibly Elliott Charles, or Elliott Michael Charles, though still to go by Eli everyday- more on this later] was to keep the EM so that it could be okay if people still called me Em (EM) for a while.

Of course, as Annabelle (my therapist) subsequently pointed out, it's not, after all, strictly necessary for me to try to tailor my life/identity/transition in order to make life easier for other people, and that if I wanted to be called Eli, then the people who loved me could darn well call me Eli. Which is true, and which is mostly happening now, and I'm pretty much standing up for myself these days. Which is why I'm so surprised that it didn't bother me when Barbara Jean called me Em this weekend.

I think the moral of it, as with most things, as I was writing even in my last entry, is that I can let a lot of things slide, or accept more reminders of my history and differences, when I feel safe and secure and respected as a guy.

The other other major thought, as my Billy Joel subject line references, came from a discussion we had about my plans for chest surgery this summer, if I can swing it financially. (I really do need to get down to making up a budget for that and seeing if I'm deluding myself about how soon I'll be able to make this happen. Anyway.) Kate said she and her brother would start a rockband so they could have a benefit concert for me, and I was touched. and Barbara Jean said I should hold a raffle- Kate suggested I raffle off dates with me, but I'm not sure that would be a particularly good fundraiser. Maybe I could raffle off homecooked meals, or karaoke dedications, or something. Which reminds me of all the other ways I've heard about guys getting $$ for their surgeries, and I know people do it all the time (though to what degree of success, I'm not sure). and I know that when I have my maniversary party in April, one way or another I'm going to end up asking people for donations to my 'plastic surgery fund' as we call it here at work.

It just raises all these conflicting feelings in me. I want so badly to be able to afford surgery this summer, and there's certainly no way to do it without going further into debt, and it sure would be nice to be able to raise more money and borrow less.

But I feel real bad about taking money from people, though. There's a lot of people in the world a lot worse off than me who need things a lot more badly, and who am I to be asking people for money to make myself happier?

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Options

Over New Year's, I set a goal for myself- start T and have chest surgery in 2006. I think it's doable, I think it's exciting. Makes me feel good and concrete and accomplished just to have such a goal.

And I say 2006, but really, I mean sooner rather than later. I'm looking to start T in March or April...I was hoping end of March, but the way the doctor visits are shaping up, looks like it may be closer to April. Which is fine, really. Two weeks one way or the other aren't going to hurt anyone.

The surgery I'm really hoping to have this summer, when I can take some time off work, and my mom and sister can take time off to be with me/take care of me. Not to mention if I do it in June, I won't have to bind in July and August! There's a thrilling thought. I don't like binding, even in the winter time when my layers and sweaters mean that my relatively mild binding style carries me a long way.

Anyway, I've been doing research for a couple months (much longer than that if you count all the time I spent on Transster over the last few years, scared but unable to stop looking at all the other guys with their remade skin) and I'd pretty much decided on Dr. Brownstein. I have a friend who went to him a couple years ago with great results, and another friend who's having surgery with him next month, and even beyond their personal recommendations, I like his reputation and I like his results.

Aesthetically, I think his scars follow pectoral contours very discreetly and naturally, and I think his nipple placement is more 'right on' and natural looking than others that I've seen. Plus, it's comforting to know that he's performed hundreds of these, and he knows what he's doing.

The one thing that troubles me is the fact that with his nipple grafts, there's no guarantee about what kinds of sensation will come back to you. Most folks, I've heard, don't retain much erotic, and get back only a little bit of 'protective' sensation...cna feel some pressure/pain.

And, well, my nipple sensation is pretty much the only thing I like about my chest. It'd be real nice to be able to keep it! On the other hand, as I'm coming to learn, this process is going to entail compromise. Give up my place in the sisterhood in order to gain recogntion of my manhood. Give up the ability to bear my own children in order to go through a male puberty that allows me to grow up and be a man. So maybe give up nipple sensation to get a chest that looks good on the beach.

But! Then I started hearing about this fellow Dr. Nguyen, who works, of all places, in Lake Oswego. Barely ten minutes from my mom's apartment, barely a mile from the library I worked in all through high school. He used to work with Wes and Ryan's dad (friends of mine from high school whose father, Dr. Meltzer, happens to be a plastic surgeon who does a lot of SRS procedures) and mostly does MTF work, but apparently has also done top surgery for some guys. Furthermore, he does a pedicle procedure which, while it generally requires a revision at a later date, maintains all nipple sensation.

Well now. All of a sudden we have a darkhorse factor. There's very little information about this guy online, especially as compared to Dr. Brownstein. I've no idea what his results look like. He's not particularly well known, and he certainly wouldn't have as much experience as Dr. B because, well, who does? On the other hand, how great would it be to be able to recover at home? AND retain my nipple sensation!

But it's real important to me to have a visually accurate chest, if you know what I"m saying. Not that I don't know that I'll have scars, and may or may not ever have a chest that will 100% "pass muster", and no surgeon is perfect, but looking at the results of guys who've gone to Brownstein with similar body types to me, they look pretty darn good. I'd really like to see some pictures from this Portland Dr.

I emailed one guy whom I used to know a couple years ago who'd posted about having the procedure with Dr. Ngyuen, and he wrote me back but I haven't been able to write him for more details because my SRC email isn't working at the moment. I'm hoping he might send me pictures, but I'm not sure if he will or not.

He mentioned that you definitely have to plan on having a revision to resize the areolas and remove a bit more tissue at about the 6month-1year mark, because of the nature of the pedicle procedure. Which isn't the most appealing, because I'd like to have it over and done with. On the other hand, Brownstein sometimes leaves dogears that require revisions, too. So I could need a revision no matter what.

Man, I just wish I could get more information! I should try to contact this Doc directly and see if he can send me a portfolio. My mom offered to go over to his office and pick up materials before she comes out to visit next month, so I should do that...if he has pictures, maybe she can make copies of 'em or something.

But this certainly throws another level of decision making into my life.

Friday, February 17, 2006

real quick

Everything I think about opens up at least three more possible paths of contemplation, discussion, exploration. I wrote a bit in my lj about an experience I had at the bar last night, with a drunken boy who asked me if I was "biologically speaking a boy or a girl?"

This ties to things I've discussed already, like my responsibility to educate the masses in conjuntion with my desire for a less fraught existence. (I've never liked using fraught without a definite buddy word- fraught with peril!- but since I always have trouble articulating just which nouns my life is fraught with, I think I'll just let it stand for a moment.)

Also, with notions of legitimacy and authenticity. I replied to him that I'm a fag, which is perhaps, strictly speaking, not entirely accurate. (See! Am I a legitimate fag despite the fact that I mostly date women-type-folks?) And this reminds me of thoughts I've had recently about Friendster. Did I share those on here? I can't recall. Basically, someone messaged me on Friendster, and I spent some time wondering if she would figure out that I was trans based on my profile/pictures/testimonials, and briefly contemplated deleting the testimonials which used Em or 'she' in them.

I don't want to. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm committed to not divorcing myself from my history as a female/dyke, and to not being ashamed of it. But wow, that committment is harder to stand behind when I'm being interrogated, visually or verbally or however. In such situations, my instinct is to clam up, and get defensive, and...well...hide.

I'm sure this will become a pressing issue along different points for me in the future, when I'm passing consistently to the casual observer. At that point, it will become much more of a choice for me to disclose or not.

The legitimacy of my manhood is critically important to me, and right now, it's hard for me to simultaneously hold fast to that legitimacy and my...my...what. Transness? Difference? XX chromosomes? (as far as I know- I've never had my chromosomes tested) It's a goal of mine to be able to proudly and openly be a different kind of man- a queer man, a transman. And it's hard right now while I'm still being constantly read as no kind of man whatsoever.

I think that's it. It's why I don't wear anything that's remotely feminine, despite my obvious effeminacy. When I'm not being taken seriously as male, I guess I'm not strong enough to depart from the binary yet. Right now, I just need that M box to hold me together.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Miss Represented and Miss Interpreted, the Belles of the Ball

Yesterday my coworker vented to me about how it's upsetting to her when people (library patrons) refer to me with the wrong pronoun- she said that it's frustrating, particularly because we are in the school of social work, and these people of all people should be more sensitive and aware. And it's true- while everyone in the world, ideally, would be more sensitive and aware, it does seem that people who are choosing social work as their profession might be particularly well served if they made fewer assumptions and spent more time being aware of how their actions might be unknowingly oppressive/offensive.

And it was good to hear, particularly when she very kindly said that she didn't understand how they could mess up my pronouns when I'm so dedicated and consistent in my gender expression, and my other coworker later corroborated and said it throws her for a loop when people say "Oh, but she told me I could have it until 6pm" because she genuinely doesn't understand who they're talking about. which was very kind, and good to hear.

However, talking with the original coworker, expecially because she brought it up, also made me feel two other somewhat uncomfortable emotions. The first wasn't very strong, and I am rather ashamed of it, actually, but I definitely felt a thread of bitterness. It's just not fair that I try so hard, and I try to correct people, and tell people, and I am consistent and thorough in my gender presentation, as much as I can be given certain bodily limitations. It's painful and frustrating to still be misread and misrepresented. What more am I supposed to do? Put up signs?

and, as Alysse (coworker 1) said, can't they just gossip more, for goodness sakes? There are definitely students who know I'm a guy, and there are definitely students who know I'm a transguy, and you'd think word would spread one way or another so that people would at least know that Eli behind the desk should be called 'he.'

And the other emotion was a discomfitting rush of gratitude to Alysse for bringing this up. I spend so so so much of my energy and brainspace on this, and I have such guilt over that, and I worry so much about how much it spills over into my life and onto the people in my life, possibly (probably?) against their will or convenience. Consequently, whenever someone voluntarily brings up the topic with me I feel absurdly grateful. I want to thank them for offering me the chance to let a few more wild thoughts come rushing out of my head (who was the guy who kept the winds plugged up in a mountain, and only let them come rushing out a little at a time?), and for (knowingly or not) clearing some space for me.

And I'm cogent enough to realize that the fact that I'm grateful is a little fucked up on my part, but I'm still working on not being weirdly about myself, so we'll let it go for a second as we explore it.

And really, I don't know why I'm grateful, because at the same time I'm also guilty (fucked up again) that the people I care about have harder lives because of me- i.e they have to absorb some of the discomfort of my life into their lives, whether by being uncomfortable when other people call their guy friend Eli 'she' or by having the burden of then feeling like they have to correct that mistake. which I (more guilt!) absolutely benefit from, because everytime my friends deal with problems like that for me, it makes my life easier. it's one more skirmish I didn't have to carry out myself.

so when Alysse mentioned that, my feelings got all discombobulated, because I was bitter and grateful and guilty all at the same time.

What can I do, though? It's a complicated feeling to know that the people in my life notice, and care, that I'm living in the world as best I can and still getting a raw deal for it right now.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

like a complete unknown

Haven't posted in days- my internet is spotty. I can't always borrow Fleury's computer at home, and it's only certain times at work that I can open this up and really get into things, because I really need a little chunk of time and space to create each of these entries. Then again, if I had a wireless card in my computer and could post to this whenever I wanted, well, there'd probably be entries morning noon and night- there's just so much for me to say, all the time. And I feel like I have been saying it, a lot- been going to therapy, and going to group Wednesday nights, and writing here, and in my other journals, and talking to my family, and my friends and compatriots...when I stop to think about how much of my life is focused at my gender, I feel a little silly sometimes. But hey. It's gotta be focused on something, right? Besides, this is the space that I created expressly for talking about my gender, so I won't use it up feeling guilty about being so self-focused these days. (except that is an interesting and pertinent topic for me, which no doubt does bear further exploration in an entry one of these days. why do I feel like it's not okay for me to focus on myself for a few years and give full attention to this major experience I'm having?)

Tonight I'm going to an appointment with an endocrinologist at CallenLorde- he'll do bloodwork, and a physical, and answer my questions, of which I have quite a list. I'm excited, but also a bit nonplussed, as I've pretty much already decided that I'm going to do this, I'm going to start taking testosterone. For a while I was couching this in uncertain terms ("Well, I'm talking to a doctor, and I think I might possibly start hormones in 2006") but now I'm starting to count down the days til March 20th.

I guess I've always had a lot of certainty in this area. For me it was never a question of which steps to take in my transition- I knew that if I were going to do this, I'd be going "all the way." Although as I type this I'm aware that my definition of all the way includes top surgery and T but not necessarily bottom surgery, so maybe I'm being a bit hasty here. I guess I mean going all the way to being fully male, not an androgynous/3rd gender/fully genderqueer type of person. Transition was always something that was a looming possibility, but once I decided, I wasn't going to do it by halves, by god!

And I haven't. I moved to New York to become a man, and that's what I'm doing.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

and still

I don't know if it's happening with the coming of the spring, or as a natural next step, or if it's just on some kind of cycle, but the urgency of my transition is intensifying again, like it did last spring. Lat spring was the first period of intensity, when things started looming larger and more intense than ever before, and seeming to speed up, and becoming un-ignorable. If that's a word. Which it's not.

In some ways, that intensity never died down, and it's what has propelled me through the last half year or so. The need for change finally overcame the inertia of fear- reached escape velocity, if you will- and has been maintaining that speed for a while. Except now I feel a subtle acceleration once again, and I'm wondering what that means for me.

It's been very subtle, but definite. I'm being vague, I know, I can't really explain better except perhaps through examples of its manifestation. Like last week, when Amy called in sick and cancelled our therapy, and one of my first thoughts was about how that was going to impact my 16 session minimum for starting T on March 20th.

Woah there, turbo. Since when have I been counting the days til I could start T? Sure, I've been greatly anticipating the start of my puberty, but in an abstract, general sense, greatly tempered with streaks of nervousness and uncertainty and non-committment. But last week was the moment of "oh. I really really want this, and I've got it in my head that I'm going to on March 20th, despite what I've been telling people about 'still deciding' and 'talking to the doctor next week' and 'well, i've been thinking maybe I might possibly start hormones sometime soon.'

so, uh, wow. It feels good to have my mind made up, but it scares me like hell, too. It's okay to be scared, right? Isn't it normal for boys to be scared of puberty? Isn't that why they even have those "what's happening to my body?" books? I only ever read the girl version, though.

and chest surgery is feeling more and more important, and I'm getting more and more impatient. Because what if I can't get the money together for this summer? What if I have to wait, til Thanksgiving, or next summer? That didn't seem like such a big deal until recently, but now that I've got the possibility within my reach, the prospect of not being able to do it after all is downright scary.

Spent this morning trying to cull information online about Dr. Ngyuen, the SRS guy in Portland. He does mostly MTF, but I found a few folks who say he does real good FTM top surgery, too. Can only find one not very helpful picture, though. Hopefully some of those guys from the Yahoo surgeryinfo group will write me back, because if he does good work it'd be real nice to be able to be in Portland and not have to travel to CA. Plus, the few mentions of him say that he does a pedicle technique that preserves nipple sensation which, hey, sounds pretty good. I wish I could see some more pictures so I could have a sense of how the scarring turns out. I'm banking on being able to build enough muscle and grow enough chest hair to help ameliorate the visual impact of my scars, but it wouldn't be a bad thing if they were small and well placed.

*sigh*

This is all tied into some of the major things that the group brought up for me last week, about what does it mean to be trans. I have these not at all well formed but enormous and crucial thoughts about being trans and the body, how it's a body thing as much as anything else, and how I didn't start really feeling urgent about this until I grew uncomfortable with my body, and now the urgency tends to manifest itself mostly through body dysphoric feelings.

The academic in me wants to deconstruct it all (the "body") and part of me wants to figure out where this is all coming from, what's it rooted in, and part of me is terrified that no matter what I do, it'll never be enough, I'll always be busted, and then part of me is perpetually uncomfortably surprised at how strong my dislike is for [parts of] myself, and...and. I don't know. This entry is veering away from what I wanted this blog to be (a space for my brain to gnaw and worry at the gender thoughts in my brain in an articulate, focused fashion) and into (dare I say it) emo, spill-yer-guts territory. Which, that persistant self-aware part of my brain is piping up, is totally valid. But I should probably stop here nonetheless.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

are you out there/can you hear this

Reading back over these posts, I wonder if they're not being influenced by the fact that, as yet, no one else is reading them. This blog is supposed to be equal parts outlet (so I can make room in my brain for yet MORE thoughts), historical record (while life is a series of endless transitions, such that "finished" is not particularly appropriate here, I hope that I will someday be in a more settled, steady place with regards to this particular transition, and at that point it will be good to look back and reflect on how I arrived at such a place), and...what's it called, the thing that makes other things sharper and better? Refinery?

By typing away and forming into words the thoughts rattling around in my head, I hope to be able to sharpen and clarify and generally enhance my ideas. And a real good way to do that is to not only get out of my own brain, but also to invite others to witness the thoughts and offer feedback/support/new perspectives/questions. So someday soon I'll invite some of y'all to read this.

Speaking of feedback and support, though. Last night I went to the first session of this spring's Gender Identity Project TransMasculine Drop-In Support Group. The group is as big and unwieldy as its name, but wonderful nonetheless.

Part of its excellence is the very fact of its large size- for all the problematic aspects of identity politics, there's something inherently powerful about gathering together with other people who look like me, feel like me, think about the same things as me, have similar experiences to me. I call it the necessity of comradship. Hard to overstate the importance of ending that defining and often dreadful component of being trans: isolation.

True, it's hard sometimes to feel easy sharing and connecting with so many (usually 25-35) of us jammed into 90 minutes and a small room that invariably contains n-1 chairs, where n is the number of folks who show up that night. I'm glad that I don't really struggle with social anxiety or group situations. And there's too much of a moderator in me not to feel frustrated sometimes at the dynamics that arise in such situations- individuals taking up more than their share of conversational space, or saying thinly veiled, pointed remarks about other people or their opinions. (which is not to say that I'm not sometimes the perpetrator of such dynamics! I know myself. Especially with the taking-up-too-much-space with my words and opinions. That's one aspect of male privilege I've always had down pat.)

But those difficulties are offset by the excitement and vitality that I can practically feel radiating off of all of us as we look around the room and share little bits of our lives, and finally finally see nods and smiles and "Oh man, me too"- it's refreshing, and invigorating, and inspiring. And comforting.

Oh, and it's also important, I think, to see so many variations on our theme. There are FTM archetypes, and looking around that room you'll see a lot of button down shirts and thick-framed glasses and short-but-not-too-short hair. But there's also a real wide range of expression among ~30 "transmasculine vectored" (as Kyle put it) folks, and that's important for us all to see- important for those of us who are more archetypal, in order to recognize and acknowledge that range and so head off any potentially developing hegemonic transmasculinity, and also important for those of us who are the outliers, or at least several standard deviations (ha, I'm sensing a pun) away from whatever norm there is for being transmasculine, so that they feel validated and less alone.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Walk the walk

So I'm packing today. I don't pack very often- my body dysphoria, in its own selective way, doesn't really trouble me much about what's between my legs. I'm not naive enough to think that being a dickless guy doesn't bother me at all, but it hasn't been a major issue for me yet. Though I wonder if it'll emerge as a more prominent one once other more pressing dysphoric concerns are resolved, i.e after T and chest surgery take me into a different relationship with my body.

That is something I wonder- what's the process of coming to terms with my body going to be like? T and top surgery are definitive stated goals of mine, because of the way I believe that they will reshape my body to make me more comfortable with it. I wonder, though, if there's an accelerating margin of discomfort- that is, will I discover new discomforts as I resolve old ones, and will an increasing comfortability in some areas heighten the contrast and sharpen my discomfort in others?

That's basically my major concern about starting T before having chest surgery- I think the masculinization of my body due to T is going to make me quite happy, and I will be therefore correspondingly less happy with my chest. I am looking forward to having chest hair, and I am really not interested in still having breasts once I do.

And I've heard guys online talking about how T really accentuated or in some cases seemed to create desires for further physical steps in transition, like an interest in having bottom surgery, for example. Having been okay as a cunted creature (Alix Olson reference, anyone?), through being on testosterone, they found that they now were more dissatisfied with the lack of a cock, and started reprioritizing bottom surgery as a definite goal.

Which, in a roundabout way, leads me back to my actual topic for the day, and that is the unusual bulge in my corduroys. Most of the time when I pack, it's for a special occasion- a date, or going out, or a deliberate outfit/costume/look. But this morning I just decided that my somewhat snug, slightly flared, low rise (aka very metrosexual. okay. gay.) brown corduroy pants deserved a correspondingly gay basket.

And so I've spent the day with a bulge in my pants that I wonder is even noticable to anyone but myself. On the other hand, what are my coworkers going to say? "Eli, dude, looks like you're packing heat today!"

and yes, I've noticed that I'm swaggering a little bit- though that could just be due to the not insignificant physical space that I'm not used to having occupied between my legs. And I'm acting a little more (forgive me) cocky than usual.

It doesn't make me feel like more of a man. Though I'd probably say that for political anti-phallocentrism reasons anyway, even if it did. (And that's an interesting question for future pondering: what does make me feel like more/less of a man?) But I really don't feel more/less manly.

I do feel more sexually charged than usual, which is not totally unexpected, but also a matter of scale- I'm essentially an adolescent guy in a lot of ways, I'm pretty much always sexually charged. Though I usually do feel sexier when I am feeling more solidly/validly (ooh, problematic word, but it's definitely what I meant) male, so on the other hand maybe there is something about this bulge that's confirming my identity to me.

At least the guys on the street in Chelsea will have something to look for when I'm on my way to my transman group tonight.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

just so you know,

"I'm not a girl."

I'm still struggling with how to correct people's erroneous assumptions about my gender. I want to be firm, but polite- to calmly and kindly point out that they've made an error in assessment, but one that's easily fixed. I don't want to be a jerk about it, but I don't want to let it go. The trouble for me seems to be overcoming my (mild, but definitive) panic and defensiveness when such mistakes occur.

Today when my student worker asked me if Simon's Rock was "a girl's college" I was taken aback, and replied with something else that we were talking about- soccer, I think- before I worked up my nerve and returned back to it with "And I'm not a girl, actually, notwithstanding any evidence to the contrary. I go by 'he'." and waited just long enough for a glimmer of understanding in her eye before carrying on about soccer. I didn't have the guts to get into it more, and I don't always feel that I should have to get into it. Right? Shouldn't I be able to just say "Nope, I'm a boy" and move on?

But I wonder if it's somewhat irresponsible of me to just toss off a statement like that, to someone who may have no experience with trans identity at all. It could leave her floundering or confused or at a loss, and I don't want to do that. The snappish retort to that from the weary/nervous parts of me is that it's not my dog (a la Mistress Matisse http://mistressmatisse.blogspot.com/2004/10/word-whores-now-and-then-ill-coin.html). But really, isn't part of my stated mission in life to use my experience to raise visibility for gender variance?

Such a fine balance between consciousness raising as responsibility or burden.

And I'm determined to stand my ground and say that they are, indeed, mistakes, though really these people are just operating under all of the data they have available to them and drawing a not entirely unreasonable conclusion. I guess that's another one of the missions of the gender revolution: to add data such as "It's entirely possible that masculine presenting individuals with archetypically female secondary sex characteristics do not identify as girls" etc.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

with a little help from my friends

The other night at karaoke I was noticing (too small a word for how much space this takes up in my brain- pondering? deliberating? worrying about? intrigued by?) how my interactions with my friends and other people contribute to my gender as read by strangers.

Specifically, I think people read me different depending on who I'm with and who I flirt with, and this prompts some intensely mixed feelings in me!

When trying to process my gender expression, strangers look to all the cues they can get, right? So they'll take into account 1) my physical cues (which I'm not sure I'm objective enough to delineate fairly, but which hopefully would include more of my squarish shoulders and boyish haircut and flattish chest than my too high voice, too small hands and too short stature), 2) my sartorial cues (it's much more complicated than just this, but there's a reason I wear so many neckties. hey, I'm man enough to be aware when I'm compensating) and therefore also 3) my social cues.

And my (occasionally agonizing) quandry is that I only have a certain amount of control over these variables. I can control my gender expression to a certain extent, but not only are there some things I don't have control over, but people are going to see what they're going to see, and I can't control that.

and also, which is the thought I've been mulling over most recently, there needs to be a line about how much effort I'm going to expend trying to have that control and influence over people's reactions. And this comes into play most promblematically with that third set of cues, the social cues.

I've noticed that I get "she'd" more often when I'm in certain settings or with certain people than others. So when I'm hanging out with lesbians/queer girls/queer girl types, I get read as a bird of a feather in that flock, and it's rather trying for me. Clearly, the company I keep has an impact on how I'm perceived, and oh it's all so stupid and circular, because I LIKE a lot of that impact- I spend time with a lot of queers, and I like being read as queer, and that's excellent.

Which is why I feel so bad for being unhappy when I get read as a queer girl because I'm hanging out with and flirting with other folks who are being read as queer girls. And that last clause is important, too, because sometimes that reading is more accurate and sometimes it's not! Plenty of the folks I hang out with don't ID as 'girls' per se, or are transguys themselves who are at a similar place as me in terms of passing.

It's an unfortunate thing that trans guys hanging out with each other can sometimes derail each other's passing abilities, because of some kind of critical mass of female-associated cues. It can be divisive, and it's an unnecessarily injurious result of something so critical: the need to spend time with trans comrades (foreshadowing for future posts about the importance of having trans friends/compatriots).

And so at Suite, the gay bar where we sing karaoke every week, I flirt with more boys because I want them to ready me as a queer boy, even though I don't necessarily really want to hit on those boys (more foreshadowing! this time, re: my sexual identity as relates to my gender identity, and how it's been shifting), I just want to be validated as a queer guy.

And I catch myself holding back a bit from flirting with girl-type folks, because in that capital G Gay bar I don't pass well enough to be read as a straight guy and I'm not sure they can handle me being a queer guy who flirts with queer girls. and I don't like that- I want to flirt with whomever I please!

So in principle I refuse to let my worries about passing dictate how I behave, and there's all kinds of tangents about this that I could (and no doubt will) go into- about those other cues, the physical ones and the sartorial ones, and hell, I didn't even include a category for my mannerisms and verbal expressions.

And I don't want to have to set up a hierarchy of what part of my identity is more important to me, because it's problematic all around. When I'm in the straight world with Fleury, for example, we get ID'd as straight folks (a couple, more often than not!) which shortchanges us both in different ways, even as it makes me feel good to have my masculinity validated. So what's more important? Being read as queer or being read as a guy?

Maybe I just need to make up some patches or buttons that say "Eli: Queer. Guy." and affix them to everything I wear. Blatant, true. Overkill, perhaps. But it might save me some head- and heartache.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Binding

Today I remembered that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to discomfort. After a recent discussion about slouching, and how I hunch my shoulders in order to better hide my chest, I decided to unearth ye old underworks compression shirt and test a hypothesis that more effective binding might cause me to hunch my shoulders less, thus resulting in greater comfort. I forgot, however, how rather miserably uncomfortable the damn thing is to wear for more than an hour at a time, and it's not particularly more effective as a binder, either- my usual habit of wearing two heavy duty sports bras is nearly as effective, particularly with my personal style of layered clothes. So now, with 3hrs and 45 minutes yet to go in the workday, I'm in a pretty uncomfortable state. But of course I can't take the damn thing off- my shirt's too thin. Dammit, why do I do this to myself?
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Oh. right. because it's more important to me to be flat chested than comfortable. Although I'm not sure that's entirely the case, as I'm clearly not doing this to myself every day. I value my ribs- they're the only ones I've got, and they're going to be Eli's forever. Also, while I don't particularly like my breasts, I am somewhat vain about them, in that as long as I have to have them attached to me I'd rather they maintained some modicum of shape and form. Intense binding can really fuck up your breast tissue (break it down, etc) and give you mad saggy floppy breasts. Which in turn makes binding easier, but would not improve my opinion of them in the slightest.
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With any luck, this won't be an issue anymore by the end of the summer. Every time I let myself imagine having surgery in July, I think about being able to wear just muscle tees and a-shirts in August. Anticipation is far too dim a word.

Not quite a beginning

I hestitate to name this as a beginning, because clearly I'm not just beginning this...this...process. But I want to have a place where I can semi-formally collect my thoughts about (my) gender, transition and identity, and this seems as good a means as any.
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I feel like a first post should have some sort of introductory component, but I think this whole blog is (will be) an experiment in introducing myself to the world. Basically, there are a whole raft of terms that I wrestle with- boy, guy, transman, queer, Eli, etc.- and I have trouble picking and choosing.
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Speaking of rafts, Micki (a former Rocker, transwoman, friend, inspiration) said something last spring that resonated within me. She said for her, being trans is like being one of those Polynesian sailors who set off long ago on a little raft to cross the Pacific, with only the stars to guide them, and no notion of what might be on the other side of the Ocean, if indeed there was anything. You're on the raft, and you're all alone, and you don't know where you're going or how long it's going to take you to get there or what it's going to look like when you arrive or even if there's any solid land to arrive at. I heard her say that and I realized that, admit it or not, I'm on that raft, too. But maybe this is an anecdote for another day- for when I can get into the How and Why Did I Come Out as Trans? stuff.
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For now, maybe I'll just say that I've felt sometimes that the guy who is me- this guy Eli- is out there somewhere, waiting for me to find him, waiting for me to figure out how to become myself. And I worry, because everything feels unsteady, and I don't know where to look for the guideposts, and I worry that I'll never find him.
But someone once rubbed my back while I brooded about this, and said "It's okay. You're strong. And Eli? He'll find you."
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A last note, on titles- translocative is a term used in linguistic analysis for directional markers attached to discourse situations which are moving away from the speaker. I've always liked the cislocative/translocative distinction...I wish English had more subtle/complex morphology...and I like the additional pun of trans in translocative. Furthermore, I'd like to note that the subtitle of this blog is not a salacious remark, but rather an allusion to a Laura Nyro song of the same title that my dad sent to me upon finding out that his second daughter was actually his oldest son Eli.