Just now reading that last (at long last) post over again, I'm struck by how not-terribly-happy it sounds, which reminds me of something that I was thinking about after group last night, and that is how un-anxious, not-scared, and un-worried I am in general about my transition.
I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed right now, which bogs me down in my own head, and gets me feeling rather overwrought sometimes. But these days (and this is part of how I know that this is the right thing for me to be doing) I'm not scared of being trans, like I was for a while at the beginning of this process. I'm happy, and pleased, and glad to be leading this transmasculine life. I'm not anxious about transition except in the sense of being curious and uncertain about what will happen.
And specifically, I'm not worried any more that no one is going to love me or be attracted to me. Okay, I was never really worried that no one would love me (I give my friends and family and community more credit than that!) but I was worried briefly about whether anyone would be attracted to me, and want to date, and I was remembering this because of what we talked about in group last night.
Our topic was Sex & Sexuality (ooh la la), and in order to start the ball rolling for discussion on that, we did an excercise where we all anonymously wrote down one fear or concern related to sex and our gender identity, then put them all in the middle, then read them out loud one by one. It was great to hear everyone's thoughts anonymously, and was therapeutic/cathartic in that regard; also relieving to hear one's own worries echoed by others. But I was concerned about the distinctly negative slant to the exercise, in the sense that it can be disheartening to hear a whole bunch of negative thoughts about the future. I interjected a request before we really got started, that perhaps in the future we could spend time at some point talking about the things we enjoy and are happy about regarding sex and our gender identity.
It's something that I've been thinking about a lot, how support groups and discussions about FTM identity often focus on our fear, and on navigating the difficulties of being trans. Which is important, and helpful, and necessary, don't get me wrong! But I'd like to be able to focus on the positive, too, which I find often (foreshadowing: future discussion of this is necessary!) manifests when we stop talking about "how to be a real man" and start talking about what it means for us to be the kind of men we are. Or, perhaps, the kind of masculine people that we are. Or even just the kind of people we are in general, since many of us are flamingly effeminate!
Anyway, one of the fears that came up a lot was a fear of not being attractive to others, of not being able to find partners who would love and honor and respect and lust after us and our transbodies. It was hard and kind of sad to hear that so many of worry about that, especially as I looked around the room to see so many handsome and beautiful and appealing people, plenty of whom must have been the authors of such fears. I'm glad to say that I myself don't worry about that so much anymore, especially because I believe (see below for more on this) that transition is going to make me MORE attractive, because I'm going to be a happier and more authentic Eli, which I can only imagine will translate to more confidence and heightened charm and appeal on my part.
Which is not to say, of course, that I'm impervious to worries about attractiveness and suchlike; I did let the discussion of those fears get to me, such that last night had to involve the airing out of some late night worries. Namely, that I don't know what I'm going to look like, or how exactly my body is going to change, which leads me down two somewhat daunting trails of thought. First, I don't know how I'm going to be able to fully inhabit my body, if you will, because I don't have a lot of experience with that...right now, I tend to maintain a fairly constant level of disconnect with some or all of my anatomy, because I'm not particularly fond of it/don't think it should be there. This goes for a lot of my distinctly female attributes, but I'm thinking specifically of my chest here. I'm hoping that physical transition, and altering my body to feel more real and normal for me, will help a lot in that regard, but I know, too, that I'm going to need some practice and time before I can feel fully connected to a more comfortable but suddenly unfamiliar body.
Which leads to my second thought, which isn't a worry so much as a...something. That something being the fact that it's hard for me to recognize that people could be (and are) attracted to me right now. I recognize, on some level, that I'm not a bad looking character, but my body is just so patently wrong to me right now that it's hard sometimes to hear anyone express an interest in it. In some ways, I don't really want anyone to be attracted to me right now, just like I don't really believe or feel that I'm attractive, because...well, I try not to remember that I'm actually shaped like I am, and trying to think about whether I'm attractive requires engaging honestly with my current body. So in some senses, I don't want to be attractive now, because this isn't really what I look like! If that makes any sense.
Though, as I've been reminded, an attraction to me as I am now does not preclude or in fact say anything about an attraction to me in the future, except that my body probably has less to do with my appeal than I feel that it does. Those folks who are interested in me can and do like me right now despite my imperfect anatomy (and power to them for that), and can and will continue to do so.
And seguing rather abruptly back to my ostensible original topic, I have to say that it feels very good not to be scared- about future partners, or, really, any part of my transition. People keep asking me if I'm scared of surgery or hormones, and I have to say that no, I'm not. I'm curious, and rather awed, and a bit overwhelmed by the turns my life is taking right now, and sometimes I'm worried about how I'm going to manage it all. And it's not that I feel brave. I'm just not frightened.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Just now reading that last (at long last) post over again, I'm struck by how not-terribly-happy it sounds, which reminds me of something that I was thinking about after group last night, and that is how un-anxious, not-scared, and un-worried I am in general about my transition.
Posted by Eli at 12:54 PM
It's been a while, hasn't it, friends? My busy life caught up with me for a while, and my internetting has been, consequently, less than up-to-date. The lack of writing does not indicate a lack of things to say, though. Quite the opposite, in fact! Let's do a quick catch-up first, shall we?
First (perhaps foremost?) is that I made a surgery decision. I'm having double-incision surgery with Dr. Brownstein in San Francisco on August 9th. I'm trying not to feel like I waited too long and have to settle for a less than ideal date (I'd have much preferred July) but now it's only 17 weeks away and I know the time is going to fly by. I've made a little thermometer diagram to hang on the fridge to keep track of my fundraising, and I'm nearly halfway there! I've got about $1600 in the bank thus far, and I need to have $3500. My wonderful mother is going to cover the other $4500, though I'm already scheming ways to pay her back someday.
Speaking of my wonderful mom, she was here for 10 days, and everyone who met her or interacted with her reminded me (as if I didn't already know) that there should be an award for Most Supportive Parent of a Transman Son, and that my mom should be the first recipient. It was excellent and empowering to have her around, and have her support in helping me make this decision.
We talked about all sorts of things, plenty of which I'll be rehashing here in the next few days as I get the time and space.
Feels like time and space have been funny, lately. Not enough of either for all of the things that are happening to me. Surgery date set, testosterone almost started (a tale of woe for another day), wonderful visit from mom (and dad, too, briefly!), going back to Group, thinking hard about middle names and consonant pairs (Elliott? Elliot? Elliott? Elliot?).
I'd like to say that I'm feeling good, which of course I am, but I'm also feeling extremely overwhelmed. There's so much happening right now that I can't quite focus on any of it enough to be truly engaged and excited. One thing at a time, Eli, one thing at a time. I'm hoping for some R&R this weekend to let me decompress. Tonight is whisky + donuts + mutual gender support (so good) with a new friend from Group, followed by karaoke with old friends from out of town. Friday night is for peace and quiet- I'm planning on housework and extra long blog posts, so be forewarned. Saturday is a long calm day at work (probably more blogging, too), followed by a big welcome home to Sophia as she returns (too briefly!) from overseas, and my Sunday is suddenly and deliciously free and open to possibility. Maybe I can go all day without thinking about my gender. That'd be nice, because all of a sudden my life is what's happening while I'm busy worrying about and planning and focusing on my transition.
Though, and I realize this is rather contradictory, at the same time, since there's so much for me to try to worry about and plan, I feel like it blends together and slips by me, too, such that I can't really focus on any of it. Hence the feeling of limbo. Maybe I need to work harder at keeping this all contained and only letting a little of it slip out at a time, just enough for me to be able to get a grip on and deal with before I let the rest out.
Posted by Eli at 10:23 AM
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Mary Ellen sent me the pictures from our photoshoot session, and they're fantastic. She's given me an awesome documentarian gift, and I'll post more of them here when I've had a chance to absorb and appreciate them. It's astonishing to look at the results of the camera's gaze- I recognize myself thoroughly, but surprises are littered everywhere. I'm so glad to have these.
Feeling under the weather today- in other words, sick as a dog. Fever last night and early this morning produced strange (fevered) dreams, many of which revolved around finding money for surgery in unlikely places.
Looking forward to the week ahead, my mom's coming to visit, and I know we'll talk and talk and talk, and figure things out. I can't overstate the importance of my family and the support I've gotten, so I've got faith this will be a good week. I have goals- I want to decide once and for all on a surgeon, and I want to figure out my name. There are too many variations on Elliott Michael Charles, I'm still in flux. I need to have a solid name before I go much further.
Posted by Eli at 8:59 AM
Friday, March 17, 2006
Thinking more about my chest, it seems like I'm coming down to a visual vs. tactile decision. Do I want a fairly definitely good-looking chest (despite more visible scars) with a distinct lack of sensations, or do I want a possibly saggy/visually less 'standard' chest with the likelihood of greater sensual (in the sensate as well as erotic sense of the word) enjoyment?
Waiting still to hear back from Dr. Fischer for further reassurance that I'm correct in assessing the likelihood of resulting sensation, but I'm beginning to tip further toward the latter option. My results might not end up looking like 100% normal man, but whose chest really does? Not to mention revision possibilites later, if I'm really not satisfied. It's worth it to me to have a chest that feels more authentically mine, and completely useable by me. This decision is weighing on me, because I want (I need) it to be the right one, and I want to be certain that I've considered all the options and possibilites, and made a good choice, and damnation, it's difficult.
In some ways, it seems to me like the peri surgery (because it's less invasive, perhaps?) will leave me with a chest that's closer to normal for my body. I'll be keeping my own nipples, and reshaping things, but there won't be such a drastic sense of removal of part of my body, and I like that.
This morning lying in bed I thought a lot about my body, and the impending changes I'm currently orchestrating, and I felt a rush of sadness that I've never felt before. When contemplating my transition, I've been thrilled, nervous, excited, happy, curious, but I haven't been sad yet.
I'm not sure quite where it was coming from, or what it was aimed at. I can only identify some parts, like the part that's similar to saying goodbye to someone you know very well and never quite got along with. Someone with whom you could feel the potential for friendship, but never connected, always had tension or awkwardness or miscommunication, but nonetheless spent a lot of time with.
I'm gung-ho about the journey I'm taking, but I also know that my body isn't going to ever be the same. It's not going to be the one I grew up with. Well, whose is, really? All of our bodies change so much, throughout our lives. Still, most don't change quite this drastically, and I'm a bit sorrowful at the prospect of losing a closeness and a familiarity, even though it's one I was never quite comfortable with.
I think, too, that I'm a little sad that I need to do this. I'd like to be happy with my body, and it's hard to know that I'm not happy with my own self, even as I'm excited about changing. Sometimes I wish I could be happy without complications- that I could've been born with a body that I'd be happy living in, or otherwise somehow feel that my body could adequately reflect my truth in its shape. And that's what I'm working towards: having a proper connection between me and my body. Just made me a little sad and heavy this morning to think about how that has to be so hard.
Posted by Eli at 8:28 AM
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
My head has been spinning this week with plans for chest surgery and T. Group last night was good because it allowed me to have my head fill up with something else for a little while, to get my mind off of making this big decision. I really feel like I'm going a little bit crazy, trying to do tons of research, and figure out what's right for me, and I'm feeling the pressure of time coming down on me. I want very badly to have this surgery done this summer, and what with 3+ month scheduling buffers for both the surgeons I'm considering, I feel like I need to make my decision soon (the next week or so) in order to have the proper time frame come together.
I've been spilling to everyone who will listen, and people have been kindly obliging me- my friends because they like me, my family because they love me, my coworkers because they have to spend 7 hours a day with me, and my therapist because it's her job- and now I'm going to take advantage of one last captive audience/space and try to write everything down here. Maybe if I get it all out in words, it'll get clearer, right?
Basically, I'm trying to decide between going to Dr. Brownstein in San Francisco for a double incision mastectomy with nipple grafts, or Dr. Fischer in Maryland for a periareaolar procedure.
There are, clearly, pros and cons for each procedure, and while the natural optimist in me (echoed by my well-meaning, encouraging friends) has been saying that it's going to turn out well no matter what, I'm terrified of making the 'wrong' decision. I'm not sure what I even mean by the wrong decision- I suppose that I'm concerned I'll choose one procedure and then be less than pleased with my results and wish I'd gone with the other one.
I feel like Dr. B is more of a sure thing. I have a better idea of what to expect with him, because of the numerous pictures I've seen, and also because of how standard the procedure is- it's not like the peri technique, where so much depends on your individual chest size, and skin elasticity, etc. So a more definite probability of a good result...but then the risk of a bad result is scarier, because a bad result would basically be if my nipple grafts didn't take and my nipples fell off. Which sounds funny, admitedly, but is not a pleasant prospect.
My mother, in wonderful parental fashion, pointed out that the peri option seems less invasive, and "minimally invasive is good!" Which is true- it'd be nice not to have two large incisions made in my chest.
On the other hand, scarring (which is a major factor in most guys' decisions about peri vs. double incision) is not much of an issue for me. I've seen how the scars tend to fade and almost disappear with time. I'm also pretty confident that I'm going to (someday) have enough chest hair to render them further invisible...I come from a pretty hairy family. Last but probably not least, there's also the fact that those double scars are in some ways a transman badage- a visible reminder of my trans identity and experience- and so I would welcome them in some small way.
When I try to make a decision, one against the other, I've been playing a little game where I pretend that I can know for certain that I would get a Really Good Result from either procedure, and if I could be guaranteed that, which would I choose?
I think I'd have to go with peri, because of the nipple factor. I'd very much like to retain as much nipple sensation/function as possible. My nipples are the one thing that I actually like about my chest right now, and I'm going to have them forever, and it'd be a very good thing if they continued to be fully functional.
That's one of the pieces of information I'm continuing to try to gather, because I think it actually is the tipping point for me- what kind of nipple sensation will I get to keep? I'm waiting to hear back from Dr. Fischer's office on their official statement, though I imagine as a sensible doctor she won't promise me anything. I just asked for her to tell me what's been most common in her patients' experience, though, so hopefully she can give me a good idea.
Another piece of information I'm waiting to hear back from is her opinion about starting T before surgery or not. I've heard that for peri surgery, it's best not to be on T, because skin with more estrogen in it is more elastic, and thus shrinks/heals better. On the other hand, being on T also causes one's breasts to get smaller, which could theoretically possibly reduce me from borderline (B ish) to pretty good (A ish/smallish B). But there's no guarantee of that. It has been making me a little crazy trying to think about whether I'll need to hold off on T, because I'm scheduled to have my first shot in less than two weeks (!!) and the prospect of postponing it is not the most welcome. On the other hand, all this focus on my surgery hasn't really given me time to freak out about impending first day of T, so maybe I'll write more about that soon.
Anyway, the other part of the game is imagining what would be a Less Than Stellar Result for each procedure- what that would be like, and how I would deal with it. As I mentioned, the bad result for double incision seems much scarier (nipples falling off) and more permanent than for peri. Dr. Fischer mentioned possible excess skin leading to puckering around the incision and/or loose skin on my chest as being the primary possible downside. That would possibly need a revision, or could possibly be ameliorated somewhat through working out and subsequent pectoral development.
While a revision would be somewhat costly ($1850 is the quoted price) it wouldn't be the end of the world. Though I definitely would rather have this over and done with in one shot, which seems more likely with Dr. Brownstein, as his revisions generally are necessary for dogears, which seem like they occur more frequently in guys who are larger than I am.
So there's also some minimal price/convenience factors to think about. Dr. Fischer is about $800 cheaper than Dr. B, and it would be easier for me to get to Maryland than San Francisco, though harder for my mom + sister to come take care of me. There's also the possibility that I could return to NY sooner and recover more in my own home, with people (family/friends) around to take care of me- Dr. Fischer mentioned something about being able to have the drains removed by a doctor at home, so I wouldn't need to stay in a hotel the whole time.
But really, price and convenience are not what I'm focusing on to make this decision. I'm trying to think about how I'm going to end up with the chest that makes me happiest- flat, masculine, functional, and mine.
Right now, I'm leaning towards Dr. Fischer. The nipples are a pivotal factor, and when I try to imagine what a non optimal result would look like, it doesn't look too bad. My therapist asked me why I couldn't be sure/optimistic that Dr. Fischer's technique would give me a good result that way that I seem to be sure of Dr. B. And after all, before I knew that I was eligible for the peri, I was thrilled and excited about the prospect of double incision. I guess I'm not sure because of the fact of being 'borderline' in size, and all the vagueness that carries with it. And I'm scared to let myself be too optimistic, because it's easy to look at before/after pictures on the internet and think "Hey, I'm about the same size as that guy, and his chest looks really good, so therefore mine will too, right?"
I wish I had some guarantee of making the 'right' decision. I think I'd be happier with Dr. Fischer, but I'm more worried about it not coming out well, whereas, I'd probably be pretty happy with Dr. B, but the chances of really good things (like nipple sensation) are low to nonexistant, while the chances of really bad things (like nipples falling off) are low but really scary. It's the old connundrum of cost-benefit analysis- go with the 'safer' more foreseeable choice, or the slightly more uncertain choice with a chance to make me quite a bit happier?
Man, where's my Magic 8 Ball when I need it?
Posted by Eli at 2:29 PM
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
One of the best things that was said at group last week was "You can be any kind of man you want to be. You can be any kind of person you want to be."
It was good to be there, hearing those words, after two weeks away and definitely missing the company of my compatriots. We didn't really stick to our topic for the night- in fact we barely addressed it- was meant to be Passing & Invisibility. Still I think the notion of choosing to be someone is important, particularly when it comes to challenging the (too common) trans narrative that in order to pass you need to mold yourself in the image of the everyman, who is the sort of man that many of us are uncomfortable with, and uncomfortable becoming.
And it's also an affirmation of my agency in my own life: I (rather than biology) have control over my destiny, and if I don't like who I am, or how I'm manifesting in the world, I can change that and shape it.
So it was good to hear that sentiment offered by multiple people, because I get the feeling it's the bottom line for a lot of us. For me, certainly. That's why I'm doing this. And by this I mean any of this- transitioning, but also living in New York, and working in a library, and taking an astronomy class, and shining my shoes every week. All of these things I'm doing in order to be the kind of person I want to be, and it happens that the most intense thing I'm doing right now is transitioning in order to be the (male) person I want to be/am.
Honestly, I'm looking forward to the time when my gender is no longer the star rookie of the starting lineup of my personality (to use a very awkward sports metaphor, but I realized that I keep writing about manhood without using any sports metaphors, and I really don't think that's allowed).
This ties into thoughts I continue to have about disclosure, and the relative positions my various identites have as they jockey for space in my brain. Because to disclose (or not to disclose) my trans status is a choice that currently seems enormous, primarily becauseright now I'm focusing so intently on my masculinity.
And with disclosure we return to the idea of being one's own man, but to an important variation on the theme: one must ask not only what kind of man do I want to be, but what kind of man do I want to be known as? The intersections of those notions have been dancing in my brain lately.
Because while I certainly want to be a transman (and a good thing, too, since I am one), I'm not always sure that I want to be known as a transman. Or rather, I don't want to be known only as a transman, which I fear happening, since, let's face it, transsexuality can be a rather overwhelming character trait.
This was brought up for me last week when Fleury + Pons + I were talking about fundraisers, and Fleury said "Well, and you have to decide how public you want to be about this. Because I'll totally invite all my coworkers to come and donate, but I'll have to tell 'em why, and then it won't be just "yeah, I live with a guy, his name is Eli" anymore." Having a benefit is a very public acknowledgement (announcement!) of transness, which I'm fine with. What I'd be concerned about is more along the lines of other people, like the aforementioned coworkers, or the regulars at karaoke, subsequently not being able to diminish that announcement enough to see me anymore...only seeing that trans guy.
Because I think what's going to make me happy is when I can fully metabolize the thought that I don't need to divorce myself from my status as trans anymore than I need to cling to it, and I definitely believe I'll be able to do that with some more time and practice.
I came to that realization right after group. One of my friends from group is a painter, and he's doing a series of portraits of transmen, and he asked me if I'd participate. He mentioned that he wanted to be sure that I'd be okay being a part of a project that was described portraits of transmen- in other words, would I be okay being painted as "Eli: transguy."
Yes, I am okay with that. I'm okay with that, because I think it'll be a picture of me that tells the full truth of who I am. It'll be a portrait of me that's brought together with portraits of other guys, all of whom happen to share a common theme.
It'll acknowledge that it's the first part of my identity (me = Eli) that's the most important, both regardless of and because of the accompanying long string of modifiers, of which "transguy" often happens to be first and foremost.
Happy Pi Day!
Posted by Eli at 1:59 PM
Friday, March 10, 2006
It's days like today, when the 72 degree weather is punctuated with a fairly crisp breeze, the same one that's keeping the puffs and billows of clouds overhead moving along at a steady pace, when I well up with excitement and anticipation about chest surgery.
I've joked with Fleury that she's going to have a half-naked roommate in a couple of months, because after my surgery I'm going to walk around without my shirt on all the time. I can't wait to find out what it's like to live a life without layers. Or rather, since I am fond of my fashionable layers, a life of strictly optional layers, interspersed with moments of no layers whatsoever. Tank tops may be totally 90s, but I'm going to be all about them, and muscle shirts, and A shirts, and tight t-shirts, and going shirtless in the great outdoors. I can't wait to feel the sun on my back and my chest.
And I thought I'd finally nailed down- two days ago I mailed a check to Dr. Brownstein for a deposit, and I just sent him some pictures of my chest to give him an idea of what he's working with, and I got back an email from him asking if I have "considered the 'keyhole'/peri type procedure" because based on the size of my chest, I "could consider it."
Woah. Here I've been operating under the assumption that I'm not small enough for peri, so I never really considered it. But it seems my chest is smaller than I thought, partly because I've lost some weight in the last year, but maybe they've always been smaller than I realized. They certainly seem very big when it comes time to wear fitted clothing.
Anyway. Now I've just been thrown into a tizzy, not least because if I were going to try to have peri, I don't think I'd go to Brownstein- I don't really much like his peri results. I've really liked what I've seen of Dr. Fischer in Maryland, though.
So now my mind is spinning, as if it weren't already. Because on the one (peri) hand, we've got no scars, full nipple sensation, about $800 less expensive, and a whole new set of factors to consider, like that T makes one's skin less elastic, and so it's best not to start T before having peri surgery. And on the other (double incision) hand we've got better nipple placement for a more natural look, but extensive scars, friends to stay with in San Francisco and convenience of being close to home, definite good results, and a $250 check already in the mail.
Holy moley, is my head spinning.
Posted by Eli at 10:06 AM
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Looks like my surgery date may need to be pushed back, as email contact with Dr. Brownstein indicates that they're currently scheduling from mid-July onward, whereas I was hoping to book a date for the middle of June. It would just be much more convenient for me to go in June, before Fleury goes to Europe, and before the summer really starts happening, giving me enough time to heal up a bit to maybe hit the beach a little in August (with some hardcore zinc sunscreen for sure! I'm gonna take good care of my scars). I just have to remind myself that waiting another month or six weeks will not be the end of the world. And on the bright side, it does give me more time to rustle up the necessary liquid assets for the procedure!
Fleury and Ponsor helped me brainstorm fundraising ideas the other night. Some of them seem excellent (put one of those fundraiser thermometers on the kitchen wall for inspiration, ask for donations at my Maniversary party in April), some seem good, but may not be feasible (host a karaoke night at Suite as a benefit) and some seem a little ridiculous, but hey, who knows? (Buy a keg, have a beer pong tournament with all entry fees going towards the beer and Eli's surgery)
We came up with these ideas on the train on the way to Great Barrington the other night, which was the source of the latest and greatest disappointment of the past few days. We got up to the Rock late Saturday night, in time to join the dance party as it got into full swing, and it was weird enough being at SRC, for a host of reasons that aren't particularly relevant, but I had a particularly unpleasant time Saturday night because not 4 minutes after I walked in the door, a (probably well meaning but nonetheless horrid and intoxicated) girl came rushing over to me, calling out my old name, and declaring at top volume that she hadn't seen me in ages, and "Girl, how have you BEEN?"
Um, well, miserable now, thanks.
I disentangled myself as quickly as possible and went upstairs to try to compose myself, which proved unusually difficult, and honestly, I remained in a pretty bad state all night. I wasn't sure why- I mean, I don't like being called 'she' but I don't usually cry about it. I just couldn't be cheerful or comfortable for the rest of the night, though, and it was only when I snuck away to go sit by myself in the Pibly lounge for a bit and try to snap out of my funk that I had some thoughts about why I might have gotten so upset.
I think it might have had something to do with the loss of Simon's Rock as a safe space for me. For the last four years, the Rock has been as much a home to me as anywhere else, someplace I've always felt safe, and comfortable, and familiar. I was well known, I knew my way around, I knew what to expect, and I could expect to be happy and comfortable.
It was one of the things about SRC that was most valuable to me, and that I really treasured- it's one of the main reasons I didn't transfer, and it's something that always drove home for the me the importance of the work the Race Task Force does, because knowing that students of color generally don't feel safe and comfortable like that at SRC is terrible and terribly unfair.
Saturday night, though, exemplified at last in one clear incident something that I'd been slowly realizing last fall when I went up to the Rock most weekends, which is that SRC is not that safe place for me anymore. And sure, some of it is the usual stuff of graduating, and leaving a place, and nothing is ever the same, etc. Jenny and Anne were commiserating with me on that one all weekend.
But for me, there's another level, in that I am not fully known and accepted as Eli at Simon's Rock, like I am pretty much everywhere else in my life. Moreover, Emma was such a strong presence there that it's hard to get people to shift their paradigms around me.
Sara Monsonis reminded me that the Rock is not really a place, it's the people at it; when I say that I don't feel comfortable there, I have to remember that there are a lot of people- like everyone I spent time with on Sunday- with whom I am comfortable and happy. It's just that I never know, rounding a corner on campus, who I'm going to run into, and how they're going to react to me, and that keeps me very off balance and, clearly, more emotionally fragile.
And it just makes me sad. I love(d?) the Rock, and I miss that safe place.
Posted by Eli at 6:35 AM
Monday, March 06, 2006
It makes me very happy to meet guys that I genuinely like.
Not that I genuinely dislike most guys, but it's just not all that often that I meet guys in whom I can see similarities to myself and therefore (duh, because I'm an enormous narcissist) interest me in getting to know them.
I think that may be part of a problem. I've never had many boys or men in my life that I've been close to, or whom I've admired or respected or been fond of. I think that translates into me being scared of no one admiring or respecting or being fond of me.
One of the factors that was holding me back for a while, contributing to my nervousness about transition and inhibiting my decision making, is the fact that I've never had a lot of guys in my life. I don't have a lot of close male relatives, I've never had many (or hardly any) close guy friends, and I've never dated a guy. I was worried about what that says about me, and it gave me a lot of self-doubt. Who am I to declare that I'm a guy, when I don't even know that many guys?
Because I didn't know that many guys, I didn't really understand what it meant for me to feel so strongly that I am one. Which raises that question that I'm still grappling with, about what does it even mean to be a guy, anyway?
Clearly, I'm working on figuring out some answers to that, but in the mean time, it's good for me to meet guys that I like, or whom I admire, or just seem like the same kind of guy I am. It's nice to know (and this relates to things I've been mentioning in previous posts) that there are all kinds of guys who go through the world in a similar fashion, and some of them are trans and some of them aren't.
I used to spend a lot of my time studying guys, and I still do it. Manhood seems to me occasionally like an exam in a class that I never went to, I just did all the reading and am now trying to copy other people's notes. (Not that girls ever made any more sense, I'd like to point out, despite the fact that I was ostensibly in the know!)
I'm less diligent about it now, because I'm more comfortable coming up with my own answers to the questions, but oh this summer did I ever stare at all the guys on the subway cars. How do guys hold their newspapers? How do they hang on to the subway poles? Who do they look at, and whose eyes do they refuse to meet? How loudly do they talk into their cell phones? Where do they put their coats and bags?
These days, all the other guys in the world are starting to seem less like intriguing aliens and more like ordinary people. I'm somewhat less concerned about figuring out how to be a guy, and somewhat more concerned with figuring out how to be Eli.
Posted by Eli at 4:55 PM
Friday, March 03, 2006
Why do I feel such a sense of shame when someone uses the wrong pronoun or terminology for me? Last night at karaoke Miss Jacqueline described me as one of her "favorite girls" at the end of a song.
The feeling is always the same- the pleasure and enjoyment of the moment is snuffed out, and I feel physically jarred, and my belly clenches a little, like fear and sadness and embarassment and anger all trying to catch hold. If I was feeling attractive, or confident, or good about myself, that disappears, too.
Now that I think about it, not all that different from those times before I got my glasses when I used to walk into closed screen doors all the time because I didn't see them. I'd be hurrying along at full speed, focused on something in the distance, and just slam right into it, brought up short and convinced everyone was noticing.
Yeah. It's like that, a bit.
I'm just having trouble dealing with how much it feels like shame. What am I ashamed of? I suppose it is pretty huimliating to have one's identity invalidated in front of a roomful of people.
And it's definitely worse when I'm in front of people who only know Eli. I feel like Eli gets ratted out, impugned, quite against his will. People who knew me before, well, I don't like it, but at least I don't feel like they're getting a shock, being misinformed. I'm still burdened with a touch of feeling bad about feeling bad about it, because I don't want to be ashamed of myself, but I don't like being disrespected with the wrong terminology, and I really don't like it when that further outs me to people at a time not of my choosing. No surprise there.
The physical sensations of it are eerily consistent, though. And always the tension immediately starts radiating through me, ending up in my shoulders, which hunch up defensively. I'm getting tense now just thinking about it.
Posted by Eli at 2:15 PM
Thursday, March 02, 2006
I called my dad last night after I got out of the doctor's office, just to chat, and also to tell him the news from the doctor- that I'm going to start taking testosterone on March 27th. Puberty is on the horizon.
He told me that he's glad I'm "taking the next step" and that he's "proud" that I'm "becoming a man."
I'm still so delighted by those words that I don't know quite how to absorb them.
My dad's always been a...what're they called in the theater? Recurring but not particularly important character in the show? I've never lived with him, I've always seen him about once a year. Used to call him Uncle Dad when we were little. I've always liked him, though. Sometimes in spite of myself, because he can be a very difficult guy. But I think he has a good heart and a sharp mind, a nimble sense of humor and a very sensible head on his shoulders, and I sort of want to be kind of just like him when I grow up.
I never got the chance to just pick up his thoughts and habits, so now whenever I'm around him I study him surruptiously but deliberately to figure out how he goes about his life, and which parts of that existance are the ones I want to emulate. I know I've gotten certain ideas about interacting with women from him- he's a charmer, and when one of his polished witticisms comes out of my mouth I wish I had his smooth radio deep voice to go with it, too.
So we've never been close, but I've always taken his words close to heart. When I first started wearing guy's clothes pretty much exclusively, I didn't have nearly the sartorial skills I command today. I often looked rather scruffy, but it wasn't til an unintentionally stinging remark from my dad- that I looked like a "fourteen year old boy from Maine wearing his older brother's clothes"- that I started trying a lot harder to look sharp.
It feels so good now to have his approval. I don't need it, I'd be fine without it...but damn, it feels good. The funny part is, though, I can't tell if I him to approve of me as his child, or as a guy. It's important to me to hear that my dad thinks I'm doing good things, but really, it's because I've somehow (despite our distance) managed to hang on to him as an intense male role model in my life, and to have him explicitly approve of my manliness is more important to me than I'll ever admit.
More important than him approving of me as his child because, while I know and basically like him as a man, there's not much I know about him as a dad. I mean, I don't even really know what dads are supposed to do, but I'm pretty sure he didn't do very much of it.
It worries me sometimes, actually, because I have such intense desires to be a parent. While I have an excellent example set for me by my mom, I don't really know how to go about being a dad. I think I'll just plan on being a damn good parent, and letting the dad part come as it may.
But can I just say that, with regards to me and my dad, I love that my period of personal transition is giving me a grand opportunity to reinvent relationships with others. I'm hoping I can take advantage of it, and during a time of upheaval go ahead and reconfigure all sorts of things for the better. Clearly, my dad and I didn't know how to go about having a father-daughter relationship, but maybe we can figure out some kind of father-son dynamic. We had a really sweet time together when I went to visit him in December, watching a little football and drinking a little Scotch. I think he's almost as thirsty for someone to bequeath his opinions to as I am for someone to absorb them from, which is why we get along as smoothly as we do these days. I think neither of us is quite sure how to build on this, though. I'd like to be closer to him, give him the chance to give me a little guidance as I navigate boyhood and manhood. That's his job, right?
I think he's glad to have the chance, and I'm sure glad for the support.
Last night, he said to me as we were getting off the phone, "Well, Eli, before we say goodbye, I feel it's my duty to offer the one piece of advice that every father should give to his son. Don't knock anybody up."
Posted by Eli at 12:41 PM