Monday, July 31, 2006

look! a sideburn!

This isn't much of a post- I've been so out of touch lately! I mostly wanted to say that I've put up another voiceclip from last night, and that I also recently shaved my head in acknowledgement of the summertime, and because I'm getting ready for surgery. I won't be able to shower for a week post-op, and I don't want to have dirty hair on top of everything else. So instead: no hair!

I haven't had hair this short since college- it's reminding me of my days as a bright-eyed, bushytailed baby dyke. I was a bit worried that this cut would be feminizing, but it hasn't turned out that way. In fact, it turned out to reveal my burgeoning sideburns in a very nice way! Actually, make that "sideburn." As I may have mentioned before, it appears that my left sideburn is rather in better health than my right. I'm secretly very proud of my sideburn, and I keep turning slightly in pictures and when I'm talking to try to present my sideburn side.

It's troublesome, because my sideburns are uneven, so really I should just shave them off and try to start over, but I really LIKE my one sideburn! I'm very fond of him. You can see him here in this rather blurry portrait from Sunday afternoon.

Alas. I can't wait til the rest of my facial hair starts coming in! I'm looking forward to being a bright-eyed, bushytailed, bearded young fellow.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Luck, let a gentleman see

There are 13 lucky days left until the last morning that I wake up with breasts. Can't believe it's less than two weeks already! Seemed like such an eternity when I made the appointment. I'd wanted an appointment in June, and settled for August because that was the soonest one by the time I'd made up my mind to go with Brownstein.

I'm finding myself getting more and more excited as the days drop away...this surgery is looming larger, expanding out of its ever present place in a corner of my mind to infiltrate the rest of my thoughts as well. Hardly a few minutes go by now that I don't find some reason to think about it, whether I'm thinking about my trip, or the people I want to see, or the things I need to bring with me.

I think a lot about preparation- what clothes should I bring? Do I have enough DVDs to keep me occupied? Have I taken enough vitamins? Did I do enough push-ups? I also wonder a lot about the aftermath. I'll be reaching for a book on the top shelf and wonder how long it'll be before I can easily do that again.

With my rising excitement is coming a small but persistent case of nerves. I hope that everything goes well- that the Dr. is going to have an 'on' day, and do his best work, and make a nice job of it. (The fact that he does, as far as I know, 3-4 of these procedures a week is very reassuring to me on that count.) I hope that I don't have some previously undiscovered tendency for keloid scars...I hope that my scarring is minimal and manageable, as much as it can be. I hope that I don't lose a nipple!

These nerves are basically tied up in two things- worry about the unknown, and worry about somehow mucking things up. I'm nervous because I don't know what my limits are going to be as I'm healing...I've been asking around to find out what kind of timeframe other guys had before returning to normal, but honestly, it's all such an individual thing that no one can tell me how long it's going to be before I can lift my arms over my head, or hoist a heavy box from floor to counter, or even pull someone in close for a hug without caution.

Which contributes to my second fear, familiar to those of you who recall my anxiety dreams about this exact subject, of mucking up the results. I'm pretty sure Brownstein's going to do excellent work (or I wouldn't be going to him!) but I'm worried that I'm going to try to do too much too soon, and stretch my scars, or something. It sounds a little silly when I type it out- I've been doing meticulous research, and I'm going to be surrounded by people (family, friends, loved ones) who are invested in my recovery and are going to help me. I shouldn't worry that I'm going to do something wrong. But there it is.

I wonder if it's some sort of knee-jerk, "I can't believe this is actually happening!" reaction. Like, I can't believe that I'm finally going to have a body that I love, and enjoy, and am unashamed of and unabashedly enthusiastic about, so clearly, I'm going to do something to mess it up.

and speaking of my body, I'm having all sorts of complicated feelings about it as the time for surgery draws nearer. Surgery has been something of an abstraction til now. A desperately sought, carefully tended goal, but not a reality. I've been looking at photos on Transster and reading guys' transition diaries for five years, and now it's my turn; it's starting to sink in that I'm going to have my own set of Before & After shots.

In less than two weeks, I'm going to be altering my body in a permanent and fairly drastic manner. That's, uh, intense.

And it raises big questions. Questions about why I'm doing this, where this comes from, what does it mean to be trans and to need this surgery? These questions scare me, sometimes, in their enormity and seeming unanswerability. I can answer them, but such answers often lead to more questions. Because I'm not comfortable in this body, because I need the rest of the world and my own eyes to be able to easily and readily see my masculinity, that I'm exercising my rights and agency over my own self (my bodily, physical self) in order to make my self (that is, me) happier and in some tangled way more normal. I don't know what kind of world I could live in where I wouldn't want or need to transition- I don't know if that world is anything more than a specious exercise in armchair philosophy. It's enough to me now to know that the world I'm living in isn't such a world, and I'm having surgery in 13 days.

It feels to me like perhaps this is the next step in this transition. Now that I've made my decisions, not to sit and rest on them, but to continue to examine them, tease them apart, flesh them out and trace their roots and get at the nuances and subtleties and possibilities. I need to learn how to do this in a way that's positive, and productive, and thoughtful, without second-guessing, invalidating, or stressing myself out too much. No sweat! Right?

Well, my progress these days is trying to turn anxiety into anticipation- I want to relax my way into this triumphal moment. It's going to be a vacation, after all!

I'm spending some quality time with my body- enjoying it as it is now, and visualizing how it's going to be soon. I don't know if I'm going to miss my breasts, exactly, but there is a thread of sadness to this endeavor. Guys have warned about post-surgical depression, as a possible chemical reaction to anesthesia, and also as a psychological reaction to a surgery. I can't help but think that any depression is going to be swept away by my delight, but you never know, so I'm trying to gird myself against it nonetheless.

I hope things go well.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Day 104

I'm getting another shot on Tuesday, so I suppose it's time for a brief roll call of changes. I just plugged the dates into an online date counter, and figured that it's been 104 days since I got my first shot. Three and a half months, nearly! Time sure flies when you're having fun. I'll keep this brief- I'm not being particularly systematic about these periodic descriptions, I guess, which is not an altogether bad thing. I'm trying not to be too transition-focused, trying not to examine every hair under a magnifying glass. This is aided by the fact that some of this is starting to become commonplace...I'm getting used to having stubble on my face, and being able to dip my voice down looow, to the point where I'm starting to forget that it hasn't always been like this. But milestones are always nice, so I'll keep trying to cover the salient points here.

The most noticeable effects continue to be my voice and hair growth. My voice has been breaking like crazy this week. It dipped down quite low about a week ago, right after I got my last shot, and then has spent the days since breaking rather crazily. I put up another voiceclip here if you care to listen, though the quality isn't great. My voice has gone back up a bit today, I think. I really do feel like Greg Brady...all squeaky without any warning. And last night I had the striking[ly obvious] realization that just as I'm gaining low notes, I'm losing my high ones. Duh, Eli. But for some reason I forgot that it's not all gain and no much for being able to sing up high! I guess I can develop a falsetto or something once my voice settles, but it was a funny moment of "Oh yeah. This is permanent, and it goes in both directions."

Hair continues to sprout up all over the place. I'm starting to get a slight trail of belly hair, and hairs everywhere continue to darken ever so gradually and fill in. If I weren't so scrawny, I'd predict that I'll end up as a furry little cub one of these days. Woof! I'm still shaving all of my facial hair every couple of days, because it's still all patchy/scruffy/utterly teenage. But I think my sideburns probably are stronger than I think...I haven't ever let them grow out more than a few days, and they start to get pretty thick. It's going to be interesting to see how they come in while I'm in SF, unable to lift my arms up to shave. Maybe if I get a good week's worth of growth then, I'll let them come in for real. Won't that be a nice surprise, to return from my vacation with no breasts and sideburns!

It's wonderful to see how quickly my hair has been coming in, reinforcing my earlier suspicions that I'd become a very furry guy. I've got pretty significant facial hair for only having been on T for 3.5 months...not just sideburns, but my throat and under my chin as well, and some amount of moustache. There are still a few swathes along the side of my jaw and my cheeks that are pretty smooth, but I get the feeling not for long. Let's here it for being from a hairy family!

Reminds me, too, what an individual process this is. Not every transition is going to proceed at the same pace. I've got more facial hair than a lot of guys who've been on T for much longer. Then again, a lot of guys start T and immediately start losing weight, whereas I've been noticing my waistline steadily increasing for the past few weeks.

Part of my weight gain/size increase is muscle mass, which I enjoy. But I've also just been packing on some extra pounds, I gut is getting bigger, and my hips/thighs/butt aren't really getting any smaller. I think metabolism and fat distribution changes will probably take some more time to really settle in, but I can definitely tell that my shape is changing.

It's becoming a more masculine shape, though, so I'm happy! My pants are all too tight now, but my silhouette has definitely become less curvy. My shoulders and upper arms are broader and more solid, and my waist (thanks to its increase in size!) no longer dips in quite so much. And all this without going to the gym! When I'm enrolled in classes again in the fall, I'll have access to the gym again. I'll need to wait a bit before I can start things in earnest- at least 6 weeks post surgery, according to the Doc, but I'll probably wait longer just to be on the safe side.

So that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. Still a lot of sweat, still not too much acne. Looking forward to getting home and seeing the people who haven't seen me since before I started T, so they can give me a fresh review.

Friday, July 14, 2006

raindrops keep fallin

The other day I was at the library, and it was raining like gangbusters outside, replete with thunder 'n lightning- I kept thinking about how much fun it is to run around like a madman in the ran. Courtesty of my Portland upbringing, no doubt. Later that night, I actually did get caught in a cloudburst, and I wanted so badly to take my shirt off and just let the rain make rivulets down my chest. I didn't, for a couple of important reasons. One of them is likely to remain- I was on 14th st, between 1st and A, and there were all sorts of people around, and it would've been pretty improprietous to just whip my shirt off on the street. The second reason, though, is going to disappear in less than four weeks. In fact, it's only twenty-six days (if you're counting!) until I won't be embarassed of my chest in public any more!

That phrase "in public" just flowed out, but it's true...I'm not nearly as uncomfortable with my chest in private as I am in public. I think that there's a lot packed into that short feeling, about what it means to be trans, about how my gender is as much about how I relate to others as it is about how I feel about myself.

I can't go into it in depth right now, because I need to close the library soon, but there's a lot of interesting things to be said about what being trans means for me in terms of my body, and necessity. I'm uncomfortable standing shirtless in front of a mirror, true, but not nearly as uncomfortable as I am with a shirt but no binder on in front of other people. I'd rather not have breasts- and that desire strikes much harder at some moments than at others- but I might might might be able to deal with them if I were never to be seen by another person again. I don't need to wear my binder in the shower...I can tolerate my body when I'm alone. But I'm REALLY looking forward to making myself presentable to the outside world. with a little help from Dr. Brownstein, that is!

Got another shot on Tuesday- the nurse gave it to me really high up on my hip, and it hurt like the devil. It's never hurt at all before! I exclaimed, and she promised to give it to me lower next time. Ow ow ow. Doesn't hurt now, but going in? Ouch.

I've yet to take another picture in front of my wall of ties- must remember to do that tonight when I get home. Things continue to progress nicely...after my next shot, I'll do another overview of changes, etc. But in the meantime, I've put a couple of clips of my voice up online at Livejournal lets you make voiceposts if you have a certain kind of account, so I put a few up...I'll keep adding to them, and I'll mention it here when I do. I wish I'd thought to do the first one before I started T! There are some records of my voice in existance (Mary Ellen has one, Rochelle has one) but I don't know how to easily put them up for comparison. Anyway, my voice is sounding great own mom didn't recognize me on the phone the other day, and last night at karaoke I had a strange moment of not recognizing my own voice as it came back through the speakers at me. Whose handsome tenor is that, I wondered? He sounds a bit like me...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

who can judge a judge?

Haven't posted much lately- I've felt pretty closed off this past week, and unhappy. Most of that can be directly traced to the rather stinging rejection I received at the hands of the Manhattan Civil Court last week, when the judge denied my name change petition.

He cited in his denial a particular case from 1992, when a transperson was denied a namechange because they failed to submit any medical documentation from doctors/surgeons etc providing proof of medical transition. As far as I can make out, the judge's reasoning is that if you're not actually having a "real sex change" (the words raise my hackles just to type) then you can't change your name from a "girl" name to a "boy" name because it's fraudulent.

I could spend the rest of the day unpacking why that is unfair, narrow-minded, oppressive, unreasonable and ridiculous, though it basically extrapolates from the basic tenets of 1) who the hell are you to say that I need to be undergoing certain medical procedures to validate my gender identity? and 2) who are you to say that the name I've chosen is legitimate only if I meet your notions of a real transsexual?

But I'm at work, and I don't want to work myself up, so I'm just going to leave it by saying that I'm very unhappy. Particularly because under the law in New York, the judge CAN'T require me to provide medical documentation in order to grant a name change. The Sylvia Rivera Law Project has done a lot of work in just this particular area (, go to Issues on the right and select Identity Documents) to ensure that just this sort of thing doesn't happen. Which is why I didn't bring any documentation in the first place. I think it's fucked up that the court would try to require it, but that doesn't mean I'm not tempted to just suck it up and do what they want in order to make this go smoothly....on some level, I want my name change to go through without a hassle more than I want to stand up for my rights. (is that awful?)

Anyway. So I was rejected (and consequently dejected) last week, and it's sticking with me. On the advice of the clerk at court, I filled out an amended namechange petition that made no reference to gender, just put down "personal preference" as a reason for name change, as she seemed to think that might sneak in under the radar. If it does, I'm just going to take it and put this behind me. If it doesn't, I think I'm going to square my shoulders and deal with the hassle and take this where it needs to be taken...there is no reason for me to be rejected in this name change. Every single other person in the court room was approved without hassle, while I got to hear "All petitioners except [me] proceed downstairs to the clerk who will give you your paperwork."

I'm supposed to hear about this decision by Friday, so I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, that was pretty much a lowpoint in a week with some other tough moments. I haven't been to group lately because I work late on Wednesdays now, but the last one I went to was pretty intense...we were talking about fears and self-defense in physical situations, and then just at the end of the session got in a few upsetting and emotional comments about emotional self-defense, and taking care of ourselves in an often unforgiving, unwelcoming world. I was reminded of something a friend of mine once said...."Everyone just wants to be seen, but a lot of trans folks want to be seen as something the world doesn't know how to see."

I forget sometimes, when I'm so happy, how painful that can be....not just not being seen, but everything that spins out from that. It's not always easy being trans. It's often not easy.

This last week, I got a lot of reminders of that- my friend's ribs, trying to juggle my next shot into my schedule, the judge rejecting me, a couple of the random but regular flashes of dysphoria happened to strike, having an intense talk in therapy about being scared. It was a hard week, and made a little harder by my instincts to withdraw, and my still unfamiliar and unsteady hormonal state. I'm still not used to my new hormonal balance, and it's not even steady yet.

Everything sort of built on everything else- the Judge's decision was stinging in its invalidating and hurtful denial...I read that short order (DENIED) and basically heard him saying "I'm not going to allow you to continue pretending you're a man." Way to kick a guy when he's down, after a hard morning in therapy where I let my guard down and admitted to Amy that I feel sad sometimes about what it feels like I'm giving up to transition...I'm giving up the chance to grow up and be an adorable old lesbian, giving up the chance to really be a part of the sisterhood, letting Emma disappear and be replaced by Eli. I know that some of those things aren't 100%true (my past is not going to disappear), but it's hard to feel them, and harder still to articulate them when there's a voice in the back of my head (backed up by the same public narratives about trans people that are enforcing the judge's decision) telling me that any feelings of loss or sadness mean REGRET! UNCERTAINTY! You're not REALLY trans after all!

Needless to say, all this has chipped away at the carefully, joyfully cultivated feelings of solidity that I've been enjoying this spring and summer.

But while I'm remembering and relearning the downs as well as the ups, it bears mentioning that while last week was definitely a low, this week is getting higher all the time. I'm getting a shot tonight (#7? #8? Is it crazy that I can't remember right away which one this is?), and Rochelle is cooking me dinner afterwards. Tomorrow is four weeks to the day til my surgery. This coming Saturday is the Gender Identity Project's Trans On The Sands! Day, when all sorts of gender-nonconforming folks are planning to take Coney Island by storm. I haven't been in the ocean in about a year. It's going to feel good.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

excerpt: email email....
PS Eli - the check was mailed to Dr. Brownstein today.
As Julius Caesar said: "Alia iacta est."

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I'm going to court tomorrow morning for the hearing on my name change. I don't actually know how it's going to go, but I have a vision of there being a hearing, and a somewhat bored judge going through each petitioner one at a time, asking any relevant questions, then slamming a big stamp of APPROVED down on the order. I don't expect there to be any trouble with the decision- why should I be refused?- but I do wonder whether or not the judge will grant my request to be exempt from the publication requirement. That'd be nice. Needless to say, I'll detail the entire experience here forthwith.

I'm also looking forward to therapy tomorrow morning, and talking about feelings of loss around transitioning. I think it's hard for me to feel (let alone express!) these ever so slightly mournful feelings because I am terrified that they'll be perceived as regret. I don't regret my decision to transition! I'm just trying (carefully) to acknowledge that there is a balace to everything I've gained since starting this particular path, and that's the loss of some possibilities. I'm never going to be part of a wonderful older lesbian couple, of the kind that my friends and I cast secret admiring glances at during Pride. Hopefully, I'll be part of a wonderful older queer couple of some variety when I grow up. But- and this resonates with my pre-transition worries of losing my ties to "the sisterhood," whatever I mean by that- I'm not going to fit that image, and that's a little sad.

I'm actually a little nervous about talking about this tomorrow, because I've been a little emotionally fragile today. I'm not sure why, but I suspect that I'm still being subjected to the vagaries of menstrual cycle hormones in addition to my new hormone cycle...which, itself, is a little off, since I was supposed to get another shot this morning but instead was rescheduled by the doctor's office to next tuesday. That's 6 days late! Almost a full week! I'm a little perturbed by this, but I'm trying to reassure myself that it's going to be fine, that my fine proto-sideburns aren't going to fall out in six days. Still, it makes me nervous about my emotional state for the next few days. I was almost reduced to tears on the subway this morning reading a story about a high school basketball coach, the first black basketball coach in Amish Ohio, who took his teams to the championships for 20 years and became beloved by the whole town, and then died of a brain tumor. Blink back those tears, Eli!

and, uh, the rest of you? Watch out for the Hormonal Dude in the last car.
Speaking of being upset, but with far better reason- today I heard from a friend of mine who has been in a lot of pain lately. Turns out he's popped some of his ribs out of place from binding. It makes my own chest hurt, not just from thinking about the few times that I tried to bind too fiercely and found myself with an aching back, but also with a heavy heart that he has to endure that to keep the gender dysphoria at bay. Why does surgery have to be so inaccessible to trans folks?
Last but not least, at the Trans Day of Action a few weeks ago, Activist!Eli says: "What do we want? TransJustice! When do we want it? Now!"

Monday, July 03, 2006

if you should chance to pass this way

I got she'd twice in the past two days, but it didn't bother me too much. Both times I just ignored it, even though it was in front of other people. Though now that I think about it, I don't know if I'm more or less likely to say something if pronoun slippage happens in front of others. It's more embarrassing when other folks have to hear it, but it's also a bit harder to say something when there are witnesses around...Some part of me doesn't want to make a scene, or something. Anyway, it wasn't a very big deal in either case- once was from a woman in Human Resources who filed my paperwork when I was hired, and assumed from my name and documents that I was a girl, and once was from a person who hasn't interacted with me since I've transitioned, and so probably isn't quite used to calling me he yet.

The incidents were partly remarkable for the way that they were unexpected and surprising. A new realization came to light- namely, that I haven't been she'd by a stranger in weeks. With my voice dropping and my body masculinizing, I'm being very consistently read as male. Even this weekend, when I was at a friend's house, his parents called me he without question even though they don't have a particularly stellar track record with trans folks, and I wasn't binding very well. I think I'm really being seen as male by the world at large 90% of the time these days.

Which is great! And also leads me to another thought. I'm very deliberately not using the term "passing," although that is the word that enjoys general usage in the trans community...Most guys say that they're "passing" or not, and I've used the term plenty of times myself. Lately, though, it's been rankling me in ways that I'm still trying to unpack.

I think my main issue with it is the connotation of falsehood that it carries with it. It's coming from a historical context where it meant someone who was one thing (black or female) successfully pretending to be something they're not (white or male). That's what gets to me. When I say that I'm not being she'd by strangers anymore, I don't want to say that I'm passing- I'm not fooling anyone. I'm just finally being accurately assessed by people who don't know me.

There's another term that's often used in the trans community that gets to me in somewhat similar ways, and that's when guys who aren't out as trans are described as being "stealth." I have fewer issues with that term, because in some ways it is accurate...There are things about my past which are not typical of most folks who have similar gender presentations, and so my trans history is something that can be thought of as hidden, that I'm being stealthy about.

But I'll never be totally comfortable with that term- it sounds too much like I'm lying to the world, or deliberately being sneaky, rather than just choosing when to talk about my past. It puts the onus on me as being someone who's "hiding" something, who's got a Deep Dark Secret. I used to feel like my gender issues were a deep dark secret, and it wasn't a good feeling. Now that I've addressed them, I don't want to feel like I'm still hiding something.

And it's got too much in common with the uncomfortable part of the terminology of "passing." That is, an assumption that I'm secretly really NOT a guy, I'm only passing as one.

Here we get into slightly trickier territory, of trying to decide what 'is' a guy, and I'll be the first to admit that I don't have an uncomplicated relationship to being a guy. I'm not a typical guy, and I wasn't always a guy. (That last piece being the trickiest...I need to really unpack what it means that I haven't always identified as a girl, particularly in light of issues brought up by the dyke march. I used to call myself a dyke, but was I really a dyke, or was I just pre-trans? What does it mean to be really a dyke, anyway? Was I a guy back then, because I'm a guy now? Am I still partly a dyke now, because I was a dyke back then? Whew! It's like messing with the space-time continuum on Star Trek.)

So in a sense, there is some ring of truth to "passing" in that I'm usually (outside of queer/trans spaces) being read as a 'normal' or non-trans guy, which I'm not. But I am still a guy now, and I want to be acknowledged as a guy, and now that I am being consistently acknowledged as a guy, I don't want to undermine that with language that evokes the historical shame and invalidation pressed onto transfolks.


This brings up a lot more thoughts that we were talking about in group the other day, about disclosure, and when and how to disclose. Also, about being caught in the balance of wanting some privacy, but also being unable to have it. The tension of wanting to be out, be in the vanguard of the gender revolution, and also being exhausted and angry from constantly having to bear the burden of carving out space for oneself. The responsibility one has to one's community or family to be a role model and be helpful, but also being tired of doing Trans 101 all the time. Very interesting situation.


Last but not least, an amusing anecdote- one of my friends was apparently telling one of her friends the other day something about me being underage, but still being able to get into some bars, partly because I act and dress very maturely, and so can get away with joking about my youthful appearance to the bouncer and can sometimes talk my way in. Discussing how this works in queer spaces, the friend who didn't know me said "Oh, so he passes for a tranny boy?"

Clearly, she was thinking about the phenomenon of trans guys often looking a LOT younger than they actually are, and are often given the benefit of the doubt with regards to their age- she must have thought that I was a non-trans guy who just looked youthful and could take advantage of that situation.

Beyond the initial "Ha!" reaction to the irony of that statement, there could be some deeper twists to it...I don't identify as a "tranny boy" first of all. I actually pretty much hate that particular term- to me, it evokes condescension and fetishization. I know, too, that there are plenty of guys who happily and easily use that term (and what I think of as its counterpoint, "boi") to describe themselves. Power to 'em. But I think it's funny that just as there is a model of hegemonic masculinity that I can "pass" as belonging to, there's also starting to be an archetype of FTM that I don't necessarily fit in with any better, and so could also "pass" as belonging to.