Wednesday, September 27, 2006

can't win 'em all

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

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

Sunday, September 24, 2006

historical fiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good thoughts to be thinking around the equinox, eh?

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


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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

shot from a cannon

Let's do some compare and contrast, shall we? I thought I'd add in a few pictures for a little visual documentation to accompany my usual verbiage. Also because I'm feeling the milestones approach: I got another shot last night, and realized I'm nearing the six months mark for being on T. It's hard to believe how quickly the time has flown by. The changes have been massive, but certainly incremental, and it's getting hard and harder to remember what it was like before. I don't feel like doing a total rundown of changes at the moment, but I'll say that everything is continuing along a trajectory of masculinization. My voice continues to get deeper, and startle my friends and compatriots who haven't heard from me in a while. I'll probably do another voice post this afternoon, so pop on over and take a listen. My facial hair is coming in at a delightful rate of speed- I think I probably could grow an along-the-jaw beard now if I didn't mind looking sketchy for the few weeks of non-shaving it would take for it to fill in. I think I'll wait another few months so that it'll only take a long weekend of looking sketchy before I just look chic and stubbly. As you can see from these two pictures (and I hope you can tell which is the pre-T and which is the 5 months on T shot), I've changed quite a lot in terms of facial structure and mass...I've squared out, gotten more solid, gained some muscle and jaw line. All of which could be improved by some time at the gym, no doubt (well, maybe not the jawline, but the muscle/squareness), but I'm pretty darn pleased with what I've got given my rather sedentary lifestyle. My skin is not getting the best end of this testosterone deal...I continue to be sweaty, oily, and acne-prone. It's getting worse, but I'm hoping it'll stay manageable. If it gets too dreadful, I guess I'll have to find a dermatologist or something, but for now I'm relying on salicylic acid and regular face masks.

Some things testosterone-related aren't showing up in those two pictures, though. That would be the emotional/mental components- I almost wrote "non-physical aspects," but clearly it IS a physical change, just on a chemical level that's resulting in emotional ramifications. I think I can best describe it by saying that for me, T has been an intensifier. It hasn't created any new feelings or moods, it has just intensified things which were already there. It's not that I never got frustrated before, it's just that my fuse wasn't as short. Likewise, my sex life (libido, etc) has always been great, but testosterone has, er, intensified things.

I'm trying to be aware and conscious of my moods...I can recognize that things are cyclical, related to my two-week shot cycle. Yesterday morning I nearly got teary-eyed at the circ desk, reading about the Mets clinching the National League East title. Hormonal, much?

I no longer feel an intense sense of anticipation. For so long I was counting down to my chest surgery, and that's happened. And I was looking forward to testosterone changes, and those have definitely taken hold. I think now it's just a matter of being curious about the future- seeing how my chest will continue to form, seeing what color my beard fills in, etc. I'm looking forward to it, but I don't feel like my life is one long home stretch anymore. I got to the end and realized there wasn't a finish line, just a new starting line. I like it.

Last but not least, speaking of my chest: For your viewing pleasure! A shakey self-portrait that I took a couple of weeks ago. The scars have gotten even more pink and smooth since then...things are looking really nice...and the picture quality isn't great, but this should give you a general idea.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Have you ever asked yourself "What does a whiskey-swilling 21yr old transguy look like 5 weeks after chest surgery, when he's out on the town for his birthday in the requiste gay bar uniform of tight black tank top and has, just hours before, accidentally trimmed his sideburns down to mere stubble?"

Fortunately, this is an empirical question.

Not too shabby, eh? I've got some more pictures to upload here, including some long-awaited pictures of my healing chest. Mary Ellen took a bunch of pictures of me Saturday night when we got back to the apartment after all of the birthday party adventures- they're delightfully scandalous, and I'll post some as soon as she sends them to me.

I must say, for all of my mutterings in the last post about negative body image, my overwhelming feeling these days is one of looking good, and it's a truly delightful relief. I look good! I feel good! I look in the mirror or I catch sight of myself in a window and I smile. It's a really excellent feeling. Sure, I want to hit the gym, and I'm looking forward to the days when my acne backs down and my stubble steps up.

But for the first time in a while (ever? since I really became conscious of myself as a sexual/embodied person, anyway.) I really like how I look.

I had an excellent realization on Saturday that this is it, this is my body now. Puberty's going to keep on keeping on, but my major body modification is probably done, [foreshadowing for future post about my thoughts on additional surgical options] and I can start settling into this body. As Rochelle put it, I'm "firmly settled along my future trajectory."

I love it. I love feeling attractive, and presentable, and secure. It's enough to almost make me forget what it was like feeling like a stranger in my own strange body.

Plus (!!!!!) this weekend I felt something in my nipples!!! Just slight sensation, to be sure, but enough to be able to close my eyes and tell when my nipple was being touched, and hey, it's sign of recovering nerves, and I'm extraordinarily excited. I will, naturally, keep you posted.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

growing up!

I turned 21 last Wednesday, and I pretty much celebrated all week. It's great not to have to be nervous going out to bars anymore or having to mess with a fake ID, especially since my fake ID was from this girl I went to college with. The picture was from January 05, and it was clearly a girl- longish hair, etc. I'd decided that if I were going to use someone else's ID, I might as well use a girl ID because then I could counter any suspicions with "Of course it doesn't look like me! I'm a transsexual!" Which pretty much worked in queer spaces, but didn't fly so well in heterosexual spaces. Though I could never get too annoyed when I got rejected because, after all, it really DIDN'T look anything like me.

It was a different level of nervousness, though, depending on where I was. It was more risky at straight establishments, but sometimes (especially before I started T) they just assumed I was some sort of butch dyke type and didn't give me any trouble. After T and sideburns and voicedropping, the one straight place I tried to go to just laughed.

Queer spaces, on the other hand, were almost more embarassing to go to, because I didn't necessarily want to be outed as trans...if that makes any sense at all. That's one embarassment that is new- now I don't want to show places my real ID because I don't want to disclose my name, etc.

It's a complicated matter, bound up with the fact that I'm consistently read as male now- essentially 100% of the time, especially since my surgery. Now that coming out as trans is in fact a choice, I get more indignent about the moments when my trans status is disclosed against my will, such as when I have to show my ID.

Although as an aside, it's amazing how many folks look at my ID and don't really understand what they're seeing- skip the little F, and ask me questions with unspoken implications: What kind of a name is that[for a guy]? People will follow the cues that are most obvious to them, I suppose.

Anyway, this new landscape is tricky to navigate, because I've got fears on everys side of me. On the one hand I'm (as always) afraid of blending into the landscape and losing my queer identity by being just another guy who's kinda short with kinda scruffy sideburns and a girlfriend. But then I counter that with the reminder that there are plenty of elements to my self and that indelibly mark me as queer, namely my trans(itioning) body when put to closer scrutiny, my queer mindset and mannerisms and my even queerer girlfriend. Which is a relief, but then little elements of that argument start to bore their own holes into my brain. Like the worry that my masculinity will forever be silently belied by the female bits of my body- lately it's my hips that have me sighing at mirrors.

And how fucked up is that, might I add, that as soon as I'm happy with part of myself, my critical eyes swing elsewhere? Now that I don't have to worry about my breasts, I fret about my hips. While I love my chest in my tight black a-shirts, but now glower at my belly as it protrudes from the same. Though that last point is also a reminder that not all of my quibbles with my body are based in my gender identity: my belly is steadily increasing but there's certainly nothing about it that makes me feel less masculine.

I think part of it, too, is that I just don't know how to be satisfied and happy with my body. It's been so long since I was uncritically pleased with myself. Now it's going to take me a while to assemble all of the elements of true comfort inside my skin. My body is different, so I need to re-acquire familiarity with myself. But also I need to just flat out learn what it means to be satisfied with myself as a package. Now that I've dealt with the major sticking points of gender-related discomfort, I can settle in to learn what my body is really all about. I know that I'm supposed to love my body for what it is; now I think it's just about safe to start teaching myself what that means exactly.

So, a goal to be patient with myself. Maybe by 22 I'll be more settled in.

And hey, that's a big reason I wanted to get this transition rolling as soon as I came to the conclusion that it'd be the best thing for me. I wanted to be a guy in my twenties. I didn't want to miss out on being a young man. I guess now I'm missing out on being a young genderqueer (I don't think I ever was really a young woman...I went straight from tomboy kid to babydyke with barely a pause, so I didn't really get a chance to know what being a woman was about. That's an important point, I think- some trans folks tell their stories, or have stories told about them, in a way that describes being a woman, and then becoming a man, or some such. While I think labels like FTM are technically apt and useful/relevant for me, I don't think I ever really was a girl so much as a sort of pre-trans person, and I don't think I'll ever be a man, but a transman. And that idea may require some fleshing out, and it's hard to type the words, but it's true. I'm not going to be a man. I'm a transguy. Uh, I think I owe this parenthetical aside a closing bracket.) but now I can be a vaguely gender variant transguy. Am I talking myself in circles here? Moral of the story: I'm glad I have my 20s ahead of me in which to continue finding myself, a traditional activity to engage in during one's 20s, and I know I can do it so much more effectively now that I've gotten myself to steady ground on the gender front.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

man alive

Post-surgery, five months on T, and nobody ever thinks I'm a girl anymore. It's been happening so gradually that I didn't really notice at first- it's become normal to be read as a guy all of the time. And I mean all of the time- I can't remember the last time a stranger she'd me.

The other day one of my coworkers said something along the lines of "Hey, I helped someone out just a minute ago, and she said she was looking for a book that the man behind the desk had helped her find earlier. She called you he! Good, right?"

And I said something like "Uh, yeah, though not so unexpected." Which I now realize was a fairly ungracious thing to say, since 12 months ago I was constantly nervous and stressed about whether the students were going to get my pronoun right out not. Now that's something of a fading memory.

Which is an interesting point to explore later- are my memories of being female-bodied person going to start fading away? I imagine they will, like memories of any other circumstance once it ceases to be true. I hope that I can hang on to the fruits of those experiences, though. I'm not about to consider myself post-transition (not for a long time yet, if ever!) but I am ready to acknowledge that I don't consider myself a female-bodied person anymore. I don't consider myself a male-bodied person, either, exactly....a transmale-bodied person, I guess. What else? But to that end, I want to let my memories of what it's like existing as a more visibly gender variant person guide me as I become a visibly congruent man.

I mean, it's good not to have to worry anymore. It's weird that there are students from last year who thought I was a girl (dyke, what have you) who have returned this year- wonder what they'll think now? But that's one of the few remaining pockets of anxiety I have, most of these pockets being inhabitated by peripherial folks from my past who never really got it for one reason or another. It's not until it has ceased being such a drain that I've started fully realizing how much energy goes to worrying about whether or not I'm being appropriately seen.

And I have to say, I think my voice, my sideburns and my new delightfully flat chest are all bringing me into new territory, replete with new assumptions about my history, etc being made. For example- I went to a baseball game the other day and someone in our group asked "Did you ever play baseball?"

I blinked for a moment or two before it dawned that, seeing as how she didn't know I was trans, she might very well assume I played baseball in high school. (Though reflecting now on my scrawny self, maybe she was just being kind!) But it's symptomatic of a new and larger theme in my life: namely, that there's a whole world of history that I didn't share with most guys, and another world that I did share with most girls, and that side of my story is no longer readily apparent to everyone else. My common ground with the rest of the world is rather out-of-sync, and not everyone is going to know that at first sight anymore.

I got some Mederma scar cream on Thursday, and I've been rubbing it into my scars three times a day- when I wake up, get home from work, and right before I go to bed. It's not too greasy, smells okay, and call me silly but it already seems like my scars are slightly less red/puffy. I'm glad I've gone with this option- it makes me feel like I'm actively helping my scars heal better, but I don't have to tape anything to my chest anymore. It's making me feel much much further on the road to recovery know that I don't have any gauze or tape anywhere on me...I can just wear a shirt like everyone else! I'm rather proud of how I look in my t-shirt, little pot belly and all. In thin white tees and tanks I can see the lines of my scars through the fabric, but probably just because I'm scrutinizing myself in front of the mirror.
Oh, and I put up another voice post.

weird notions

I think I haven't been writing in this because I have some sort of weird notion that I can't put anything down here unless it's well-thought out and supported and fully fleshed out; perhaps this is a result of publicizing this blog more widely. Because I've had sporadic internet access lately, I haven't been posting. I never feel like I have time to fully cover a topic, so I decide to put off blogging about it, because I want to wait til I can put down everything I have to say about it.

Until I realized that I haven't written in this regularly in weeks, it's driving me crazy to have all of these half-finished thoughts bottled up in my brain with no space or time to air them out, and (newsflash!) there will never be time to write down everything I have to say about something. I'm just wordy and verbose like that, and isn't that what coming up with new ideas is all about? Continually revising and updating one's thoughts?

So, dear readers, I've made a few resolutions.
1) I'm going to try to go back to pretending I don't have an audience. Not because I'm not exceedingly fond of you (I am), or because I'm modest and don't want attention (I'm not and I do), but because I think it is giving me a little bit of performance anxiety to think about y'all. But! I still want comments and questions, and to engage with you (see parenthetical asides, above) so please keep reading and keep commenting or emailing me with questions. (I've given y'all my email address already, right? it's cislocative [at] gmail [dot] com.)

2) I'm going to post whatever I've got whenever I've got it, and if it's brief or not fully formed, and I end up repeating or contradicting myself later, then so be it! Also, this may result in more frequent posts of a shorter length. Fine and dandy.

Okay, now I'm done with all that weird self-referential business, I think I'll go eat lunch. And then blog some this afternoon. Cheers!

Friday, September 01, 2006

fifteen men on a dead man's chest

Yo-ho, me hearties! Have not been getting the chance to write in this like I'd like- the wireless internet I'd been pirating at home has been secured, and so I don't get much signal anymore. So in this quick fifteen minutes before I eat lunch, I'm going to try to get down as much as possible. Ready? Go!

I'm spending a lot of time and energy paying attention to my chest and being absorbed in my recovery. It's going very well, I think, though I've never really been injured like this before, so it's hard to tell. But everyone keeps telling me the scars look great, and my nipples certainly look great, though kinda scabby and without sensation.

In fact, there's a pretty big chunk of my chest that is pretty numb, along and above the incisions. Very weird to play my fingers along my skin and then start sliding along alien, unfeeling skin. But! It's also resolving itself- I have more sensation now than I did two weeks ago when I first got to take a look at everything. So I'm schooling myself to patience, and waiting to see how things go.

I've still (still!) got traces of the purple marker on me where the surgeon made his marks, and I'm still moving tenderly and cautiously, but I feel good good good when I can go out in just one layer. I'm wearing t-shirts and a-shirts and muscle shirts and walking around the house in just my boxers, and it feels GREAT.

I finally took the tape off my incisions a few days ago, so now I'm just keeping gauze over the nipple grafts for another week or so, and then I'll be free of bandages.

However. I'm trying to decide my next course of action when it comes to scar treatment- silicone sheeting? Mederma creams? I'd thought that silicone sheeting would be best, but I've gotten some feedback saying that silicone sheeting is mostly only necessary if you've got keloid or hypertrophic scarring, and otherwise just keeping them moisturized with a cream like Mederma is fine. On the other hand, I don't want to take any chances. On the other hand, the strips are expensive (eh) and somewhat difficult to use, since their self-adhesive properties aren't always all that great. Honestly, that last point is something of a sticking point with me, since one of the WORST parts of this entire recovery process has been taking the gauze pads off my nipples when it's time to shower- the bandaids and tape I've been using to hold them on are SO PAINFUL to remove! I know I'm just being a big baby, but they hurt like hell, and irritate my skin, and they're ripping out all of my tiny new chest hairs that are sprouting, which makes my skin more irritated, and more painful, and OMG I don't want to have to tape anything else to my chest ever again.

On the other hand, the skin around the incisions is pretty numb, so if I had to tape stuff over the incisions, might not be as bad to remove.


Time for lunch, never enough time to get everything out of my brain. Didn't even go into all of the Big Important Thoughts that are swirling around in there, just superficial things about my chest.

But I'm happy, even if my brain is full, and I'm feeling and looking good these days (I finally look in the mirror and think "Damn, you're looking good, buddy!"

So I suppose my vanity will get the best of me one of these days, and pictures will appear here. If my internet starts cooperating!

Last but not least, I've put up some more voice posts [CLICK HERE], so you can listen to my loooow manly voice.