I donated blood yesterday at the Red Cross blood drive on campus, and re-learned the valuable lesson that people are going to see what they want to see, despite any and all evidence to the contrary.
I'd been a little nervous about donating, since they ask for ID, and I haven't gotten my new license yet (argh!). So I decided to just suck it up and put down the name and gender that's on my old license, and explain whatever needed explaining if it came to that.
So I put that down, and put "F" in the box at the top. There are two gender-specific questions- a pregnancy question, where the answer choices are Yes, No and I'm Male, and a "have you had fag sex since 1977?" question, where the choices are Yes, No, and I'm Female. I answered those as though I were female.
After waiting for quite a while, a friendly nurse finally comes over and apologizes for forgetting about me, and starts going over the questionnaire pretty quickly. First she says "Is this you? Did you say your name was Eli?" and points at my name, and I tell her yes, that's my legal name, and give her my ID, which she looks at, and writes down that it's a driver's license.
She starts going over my list of answers, and stops at the question about whether I'd gotten any shots recently. I'd said yes, and when I told her that my doctor had given me a shot of testosterone last week, she didn't really blink, just asked why.
I squirmed for a second, wondering whether to disclose. Up til this point she'd been calling me he, teasing me about wearing my Mets sweatshirt (she was a Yankee fan, but I didn't hold it against her), being friendly and clearly treating me as male. Clearly, didn't see the F on my license. So I just said "Um, I've got a hormonal imbalance, I take testosterone every two weeks."
She just nodded, writes that down, keeps going...and I notice that she has checked the "I'm Male" box next to the pregnancy question, as well as the No box that I'd already checked. And then she gets to the "Have you had gay sex?" question, where I've marked the box that says "I'm female" and says "You're not female! Answer this one again!" and crosses it out and looks up at me expectantly.
What's a guy to do?
I said "Just kidding!" and answered the question, and we carried on from there, and I donated blood, and got cookies, and it was fine.
Moral of the story? Clearly, it was truly ridiculous for the judge to deny me a masculine name because it would be fraudulent, since even when I TELL people that I'm "female" they see me as male. Thanks, of course, to some sideburns and a flat chest and a low voice, etc.
I suppose I could've done some sort of educational activism and said "Actually, I'm a transsexual." Which would've been interesting in its own right, and was what I was prepared to do, since I assumed that the nurse would, oh, I don't know...notice the gender markers all over everything, and believe what I wrote down on the form. Anyway. Funny story.
A parade of aesthetic changes:
-You may have noticed that I altered the layout of this blog slightly. I may continue to fiddle a bit with it.
-I put up a new voice clip here, though I don't think things are changing as dramatically. I've been trying to sing lately without much success...I just don't know where my voice is anymore. Also, I'm totally guilty of lowering my voice too much. I used to have to try so hard to get my voice to dip down low that now I sing TOO low when I'm trying to sing along with my favorite tenors and even baritones.
-I'm continuing to get broader and fuzzier. Funny exchange with Fleury (my roommate) last night:
Eli, studiedly casual: Did you notice my beard?
Eli: Well, I mean, I didn't shave for three days, because it was the weekend, and then because I wanted to see what would happen, and so, you know, I was just wondering if you noticed my beard.
Fleury: Now that you mention it, Eli, I guess I can tell that you're kinda scruffy. But no, I didn't notice your beard.
-I went to the gym yesterday for the first time since...April? March. Went into the Men's locker room, looked around vaguely, then stuffed my things in a locker near the front and hurried out. We'll see if I can maintain my beefcake routine. Studly abs, here I come!
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
I donated blood yesterday at the Red Cross blood drive on campus, and re-learned the valuable lesson that people are going to see what they want to see, despite any and all evidence to the contrary.
Posted by Eli at 10:29 AM
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
I'm very glad that most of the time, I don't feel like an interloper to the Land of Men. When I first started living as male full time, I had that feeling a lot, despite my best (most radical) intentions not to. When you've been raised your whole life on one side of a fence, and now everyone thinks you've crossed over to the other side of the fence, it's hard not to feel a bit strange, even if declare that there is no fence. Like one of those invisi-shock electric dog perimeters, it's still a jolt to step over that invisible line. Maybe the trick is learning to rid oneself of the dog collar?
Whatever the trick, I've mostly gotten the hang of it- I still feel like an immigrant to ManLand, but I've definitely made my home here, and I'm making my peace with the remnants of the Motherland that I carry with me.
But some are harder than others. For example, (and this is goofy, but it's true) it's really hard for me not to be self-conscious in a men's restroom when there's someone else in there. Bathrooms are small, echoey, and I can't shake the feeling that the other guys are noticing things. I mean, I used to be worried about "passing muster" and being challenged as to my right to be in there. I don't much anymore- I'm no longer misread as female by strangers on any sort of regular basis. And I don't bleed anymore, so I don't have to deal with the hassle of where to put my tampons, since (surprise!) men's rooms don't have those handy little garbage cans in each stall. (As an aside, I guess I always thought those were a universal bathroom thing, since when I was a kid I used 'em for candy wrappers or kleenex or what have you. Nope!)
But I do still have weird bathroom moments, like "Can people tell from the sound of my pee that I'm trans?"
Fortunately, I usually follow that up with the shocking realization that most people in public restrooms are not paying attention to the sound of each other's pee, or whether they're sitting or standing, etc.
Because goddamit, I'm a dude, and I sit to pee, so I'm going to sit to pee in the dude's restroom whether anyone notices or not!
Anyway. I was remembering this over the weekend while I was at Smith, and using the (de facto) women's bathroom on my sister's hall. I felt like an interloper again, for a minute, shaving my face at the sink.
Which had its own additionally weird feelings of being an imposter...coincidentally, someone else on the floor had a male visitor that weekend, and he came in to change his contacts or something just when I was squirting shaving cream onto my hand. I immediately felt that familiar nervousness...I've never had anyone else who shaves their face watch me while I shave. Am I doing this right, after all? Do I use too much cream? Too little? Is it clear that I wasn't trained at my father's waist from the time I could reach the taps on the sink to prepare for my own shaving one day?
I know that everyone does things differently anyway, that all guys have their own individual shave routines, and, besides, he wasn't gay and thus even more unlikely to be checking me out/noticing me at all in the bathroom mirror.
So I shaved, and reminded myself that I'm not an interloper- more like a returning expatriate, and any unusual habits left over from my upbringing in a different place are fine, just fine.
Posted by Eli at 2:25 PM
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Saturday, October 14, 2006
So I'm not exactly a blushing wallflower when it comes to interacting with the public, but I do have some (reasonable, I think) expectations and feelings around privacy. A lot of it is faith in my fellow human- I put a lot of things out in public, but mostly with the expectation that it's all going to be used for good, and that the folks who need or want my information or perspective are the ones who'll be taking it.
Like this blog. Clearly, it's open and available to the public, but I tend to assume that only folks for whom it's relevant (my personal friends/family, other trans folks, friends/family of other trans folks) will be reading it.
So I put some pictures up on Transster, the surgery photo/information sharing site for FTMs. There are a lot of pictures and stories up there, and I think it's an incredibly valuable resource for information sharing, and demystifying what is often a strange/scary/unknowable future for isolated trans folks. I sure spent a lot of time logged into Transster, looking at what was possible, trying to evaluate my options, deciding on a surgeon.
Anyway, the point of this is, along with the pictures, I put up a little bit of information ("very satisfied- some nipple sensation return" etc) and my email address, so that folks could contact me. Then, not 24 hours after I put up my pictures (two pictures, pretty similar to the ones I put up in my last post on this blog, except not showing my face), I get this email:
Hi, first of all I'm not FTM or MTF, but I've been reasearching this topic for some time now. I just find this so amazing how the body can be transformed from one to another. Looking at your surgery it seems like you got the desired results yu were looking for. have you done anything to the bottom of yur body. I would love to see any other pics you may of before and afters. Would it be fair to say that most FTm's are in gay relationships or am I off base there. Well I won't hold yu up any further. Nice job by Brownstein- it seems hes about 50% on the popularity chart - its good to see someone likes him.
And I have to say, it weirds me out a little bit. I think I'd be less weirded out if I knew more about this person or what they wanted this information for...are they an ally? Do they have trans folks in their life? Why are they "researching this topic" and with what sort of opinion?
They're pretty polite, but at the same time, pretty invasive(have I done anything to the "bottom of my body"???).
I don't want to brush someone off who's genuinely trying to educate themselves, but at the same time, I don't like feeling like a lab rat for no good reason. Transster is a resource by and for the trans community. I have a gut feeling that this person isn't really a part of that community. Then again, who am I to gatekeep at our community's doors?
Ugh. I don't know.
Posted by Eli at 2:46 PM
Thursday, October 12, 2006
Nothing too exciting- there's a new voice post up here, and I've been taking lots of self portraits of myself, so I thought I'd pepper this entry with them. My 6 months on T mark passed last week without much fanfare, along with my 2 months past surgery date. I'm looking and feeling good, except for a gross head cold that I'm currently nursing.
I'm going to visit my sister this weekend, and our dad is going to come hang out with us on Sunday. I haven't seen him since March (before T or surgery) so there's going to be quite a bit of visual catching up to do. We've stayed in touch via phone, so he's pretty up to speed with everything that's been going on, but he hasn't seen me in quite a while, so this should be...interesting. He's been wonderfully supportive throughout everything, wishing me well with my name change battles and sending me care packages while I was recovering from surgery. I think he's really into the idea of having a son, which is great!
I know that he's always loved me and been proud of me, but he's definitely been showing it more since I started transitioning. I don't know whether he decided to jump in at a transitional (no pun intended) moment and start stepping up more, or if it's a function of him being more comfortable relating to me as a son than a masculine daughter. If it is the latter, though, I wonder what it means that he's more comfortable with me now.
I guess that this is (of course) really related to something that i've been chewing over about myself...namely, what does it mean (in a larger context) that I'm happier and more comfortble with myself as a guy than a masculine female. Part of it is coming from longstanding (and somehow unquenchable) worry that this (this what? my transition? my masculine identity? something like that.) is rooted in misogyny, somehow. Couldn't handle being a masculine female, so I had to transition.
Doesn't help that this view is the too-common misinterpretation of transness that one hears from some lesbian/feminists, all the way back to Janice Raymond and her "Transsexual Empire" book. I hate that I've internalized this transphobia, but I can't keep myself from wondering about it.
Because, face it, being trans is kinda weird. Not bad! But not normal, anyway. And I used to feel kinda busted about it, and now I mostly don't, but I still can't help wondering why I'm like this.
Amy told me this morning to stop beating myself up for asking questions...told me not to punish myself for being able and willing to go there, search for a broader context.
She's right, I know, and that made me feel better, but I still worry.
Maybe it's because I'm too used to worrying about something. Worrying about whether to transition, then how to transition....now, I've done what I set out to do, and I'm at a loss.
Learn how to be content, Eli!
Posted by Eli at 11:14 AM
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Further nuggets of gender-related musing, served jumbled together for your enjoyment. Like dim sum! A little bit of everything, and a lot of it.
-This weekend I looked in the mirror and decided that my hairline is receding. Just a tiny tiny little bit, around my temples, where I've always had blonde streaks anyway, so it's always looked like I've had slightly receding hair at my temples. But now I think it's definitely further back than it used to be. I could, of course, be making this up entirely. But I don't think so. I wonder sometimes about whether I'm destined for baldness. People always say to look at your mom's dad, but that's only because most guys only have one X chromosome. I've got two, so I have to check out both sides of my family. Well, my dad's pretty much bald as a bowling ball, and I don't know about the rest of his family. My mom's got three brothers, two of whom have very thick hair, and another who is thin/balding on top. I don't know about her dad, but I think he had thick dark hair til very late in life. So I figure I've got a 50-50 chance, based on that data. Though maybe slightly better, since I do more closely resemble (dark, thick hair instead of lighter, finer hair) the two uncles with hair remaining rather than than the other uncle or my dad. On the other hand, I'm pretty fine with being one of those bald, bearded guys. I think I could rock that aesthetic pretty thoroughly. So we'll see. I'll try not to be too neurotic about it.
-The transmasculine support group has started up again, Wednesday nights at 7:30 at the Center. It was good to go and see everyone, but I've also got a few ambivalent feelings from last week's session. First, I've got a nagging feeling that we're not going to cover as much ground as in the past. Well, that's not true- in general, I'm sure we will, but specific to me (and isn't it always all about me?) , I have a sense that there is a Law of Diminishing Returns at work here. That is, I'm going to get less out of this than I have in the past, because we're going to spend a lot of time re-treading paths that we as a group and I as an individual have trotted down before.
This is a good sign, I think- group is great as a socialization medium, but it's main purpose (I think) is to help all of us get a handle on this process that we're going through- that is, the process of understanding our trans identities. The fact that going to group doesn't seem as crucially helpful anymore probably means that I've gotten a better handle on myself. So hurrah for that!
I think I'll keep going- I think I have a lot to add, and a lot still to gain from going. Hopefully I can take away things that are helpful for me, be it insights or strategies, even if we talk about things that aren't as relevant for my anymore, like coming out to family. Also, and I think this is a function of our necessarily small community, we each have a finite amount of experience and stories to tell. I'm starting to become familiar with our discussion topics not just in general, but specific to those of us who've been attending for a while. I know these guys' stories now! As they know mine, no doubt. Hopefully we can keep from boring each other.
I mentioned a few ambivalent feelings. The others are not so much about the group itself as feelings prompted by the conversation we had last week. It ties into other things I've been thinking about, and so therefore gets its own bullet point:
-Loss! Yes, indeedy. Related to what I mentioned here the other day about recent lack of solid ground; that lack is originating in no small part from my currently complicated feelings about my transition. Namely, I'm not quite sure how to manage myself as I want to celebrate and rejoice being a happy happy guy, and also feel kind of sad about letting go of my former self as a masculine female person.
Lately I've been thinking that maybe it's related to this large/colossal sense of unfairness about the whole thing that I think is nested inside me. I rarely let it out, but still, there's a little genderless part of me inside that's stamping hir foot and exclaiming, irrationally and contradictorily, "It's not fair! Other boys don't have to grow up with breasts and hips and periods and then fight fight fight with judges and surgery bills and needles twice a week in order to live normally!" "It's not fair! Other female-born people are happy being boyish and masculine and butch and don't feel like they're busted, and being mis-seen by the rest of the world!" "It's not fair! Other trans guys know that they're trans from the age of 2 and never question their feelings!" "It's not fair! At long last I'm feeling happy and secure in my body and I have to start dredging up questions of origin!"
Sounds like I want to be every gender and eat my cake, too.
That last bit is what's been giving me trouble. Now that I'm where I am, that I've accomplished these goals I've set for myself, I've got time to slow down, take a breath, and start speculating. Being happy is making me forget what it was like being unhappy with my body, which makes me start to wonder what it would've been like if I hadn't been able to transition. The fact that I don't think (unlike, so it seems, many other trans folks) that I'd be dead or a non-functional member of society is really getting to me. It seems invalidating, and it's a scary question to try to explore.
Where would I be? Is it even worth asking, since clearly, I'm not there? And related to that, why am I here? I know the most basic and important answer to that question: I transitioned (am transitioning?) because I wanted to, because I know (and can confirm now!) that I'm happier living as a [trans]guy. The next, scarier (though not as scary once I keep reminding myself that it's theoretical and critical in the purely intellectual sense) question is: why am I happier this way?
-Ohhhkay, enough angst. In other news, I'm really scruffy today, owing to not having shaved in 3+ days. It's still really only noticeable up close, but since I blathered on the other day about my facial hair, I feel like I should mention that I'm definitely starting to see encroachment further up my cheeks.
Yes, I talk about my "beard" a lot. Yes, I spend a lot of time with my chin thrust towards the mirror, squinting with one eye, examining my "stubble." Yes, I know, I'm really cool.
-Last but not least, I got a message today from an acquaintance from college, who said she'd seen my new Friendster picture (one of the shirtless-self-portrait-in-the-mirror pictures I posted here a few weeks ago) and wanted to know if I'd "had an operation."
What is it about that phrase that rubs me the wrong way? I guess it sounds archaic and full of assumptions to me. Sounds like the phrase "getting a sex change," it's out of date and uninformed. On the other hand, surgery IS an operation, right? Just because I'd say "I had some surgery" rather than "an operation" doesn't make it unacceptable. I guess it's just a matter of being fluent in the language of my community- just because she's not up on the lingo doesn't mean she doesn't mean well. Woo, lot of double negatives in that last statement. Maybe I need to stop compulsively analyzing this line of communication and just write her back a short, polite answer.
Yes. I've had an operation.
Posted by Eli at 3:26 PM
Saturday, October 07, 2006
Dolly Parton Travelin' Thru
Here's a clip of Dolly performing her song live- I still recommend listening to the recorded version, too, but this will give you a taste of how excellent this song is.
Posted by Eli at 2:49 PM
An assortment of things that I've been thinking about:
-I shave every other day or every three days now, in an effort not to look like a slob. If I let it go over a whole weekend, I've definitely got stubble by the end, though it remains contained in distinctly adolescent localizations. It seems to be growing from the outside in, coming up my neck and down along my sideburns, straining to meet along the edge of my jaw. Someday, presumably, it'll start filling in up along my cheeks, and I'll have a real honest to goodness beard. I wonder whether all boys wait and wonder and hope for their beards, or just those of us who were at first denied the possibility of it? I use nice quality disposable razors now, and try to change it every 10 shaves (three weeks) or so. I've been using shaving gel from a can- it always surprises me how far a little dab of that stuff will go, spread in circular motions with careful fingertips. I'll daub it all over my face, then start the water running so I can rinse my blade between swipes. I always shave my moustache area first, since that's where the shaving cream is most annoying- it tickles my lips and nose. I don't always shave my upper lip, though- only every other shave- because it doesn't seem to be growing in as fast as my jawline. I keep meaning to get a shaving bowl to use as a water basin so that I don't just waste water while I carefully scrape away at my face, trying to avoid the acne flare-ups, and keep an even line down the edge of my sideburns. Also, someday, in the distant When-I'm-a-Grownup future, I'd like to use shaving soap and a boar-bristle brush, and a nice razor. Maybe not a straight razor (unless I got some proper training on the matter, and where do you get that?) but a nicer razor than the Gilettes I've been using.
-I'm growing a pelt. It's a little hard to keep track of, since I usually only notice my body hair when I'm naked, and I don't always have my glasses on when I'm naked, and without my glasses, it's damn hard to see those fine little hairs cropping up all over. But on the other hand, I spend enough time scrutinizing myself that it's hard to miss: when I'm leaning over the bathroom mirror, it starts to become obvious that patterns of hair are establishing themselves up and down my sternum, spreading down beneath my collarbone. Again, with the interesting hair patterns- my leg hair has definitly been creeping up from my ankles, but my chest hair seems to be starting at the middle (sternum, down to encircle the belly button) and working its way out.
-It's just about exactly two months since I've had surgery. Seems like the blink of an eye, whereas when I was counting down at two months until surgery, it seemed like forever. Makes me remember what a small percentage of my life I've lived already, and how long I've yet to go. Puts things in perspective when it comes to my impatience with my feelings of tumultuousness. I feel like my life's in upheaval again right now, because I'm once again in new territory. See, I'd finally gained some solid ground last winter and spring: I'd arrived in New York, found my community, set things in motion for myself. I'd made plans for transitioning and my name and my life, I'd gotten everybody on board the good ship Eli Is A Guy, and I felt solid as a female-bodied, male-identified person. In short, waves were starting to subside from the big "Oh, I'm a guy!" realization/disclosure/upheaval.
Now, I've gone ahead and gotten myself into a vaguely post-transition state and (oh the irony) feel more in transition than ever before.
By post-transition I mean that I've passed the critical mass of months on T such that my masculine secondary sex characteristics are firmly established, and strangers read me as male nearly 100% of the time. I've surgically altered my body in the most immediate and drastic way that I had plans for. I've gotten my name legally changed (though, to be fair, that hasn't finished processing yet). These things are some of the traditionally major hurdles (milestones?) in the FTM transition process...and, with a few wrinkles excepted, I've mostly ironed them all out.
I'd expect to feel relieved and elated and accomplished right about now. And I do! But I also feel, familiarly enough, that I'm lacking solid ground beneath my feet. I've changed up my life again, and I need to settle in and rediscover and acclimate to how things are now. I've mentioned in passing that 2006 seems to be the year of Transitions with a capital T- maybe 2007 will be the year (or the first year) of adjusting instead of changing.
I hope so. I like solid ground. Sometimes I worry that it means I'm not truly radical at heart, because everything I know about being radical means tearing structure down. Though, I guess, there's nothing to say that it can't be rebuilt in a good way.
-About a week ago, I got an invitation to return to Simon's Rock to be part of an alumni panel on Family Weekend- sort of a "What I did after I graduated from SRC" deal. Laying aside concerns about why they'd want me on the panel, since I haven't really done anything impressive like go to grad school or whathaveyou, I was pretty conflicted about whether or not to go. I think maybe it's too soon to go back there- the impressions of my past are still strong and deep there. It hasn't been that long since everyone on campus knew Emma ...and that's scary. I know that I have many friends and allies, most of whom understand (at least to some extent) that I'm not Emma anymore, I'm Eli. (aside: that may be the first time I've ever written that sentence...I have tried hard to keep Emma and Eli in separate sentences. interesting.) Anyway, I'm worried about going back, since the last time I was there, people who didn't know any better called me 'she' and just fucked up my whole weekend. It was really uncomfortable.
I don't want to be cowardly, though. I've changed a lot since April, and I have to trust those changes on a lot of levels: I have to trust that the folks still at the Rock will know and respect me as Eli, I have to trust that those who don't will just follow the cues that I offer now (sideburns, voice, etc), and I have to trust myself to be strong enough to deal with any possible uncomfortable situations that might occur. So I've accepted, and I'm going to be on the panel- it's Saturday, October 28th. Optimism, optimism!
-Last but not least, Dolly Parton sings a song called "Travelin' Thru" that she wrote for Transamerica, that Felicity Huffman movie I still haven't seen. Dolly's song is beautiful and heartfelt and true, and is country music about being trans (!! my little heart could just explode from sheer delight), and I listen to it probably once a day.
Posted by Eli at 1:44 PM
Monday, October 02, 2006
In a continuation of my recent photoblogging ways, this is me indulging myself in some shamelessly vain posting of pictures that my friend Mary Ellen took at the end of my birthday party a few weeks ago. Please ignore the part where I look bleary/tired/vaguely drunk, and enjoy the beefcake action.
(As an aside, I think my scars have calmed down even more since these pictures were taken- I've been very faithfully rubbing Mederma into them, and it seems to be helping. They're getting paler and smoother by the day. I have high hopes for them virtually disappearing! I've heard that one is supposed to massage mature scars to encourage them to smooth out, but I'm not sure at what point to start that. Also: sensation continues to return! My nipples seem to be mildly responsive to cold now, and I can feel pressure across most of my chest. This at only 7 weeks, too! Things are looking good. As you can see!)
Posted by Eli at 8:48 PM