Sunday, December 16, 2007

teh gay

I'm going home with my partner for New Year's, and I'll be staying with her family for a few days, and meeting her friends from high school and her grandmother, etc. I'm quite excited, and the usual small amount of nervous. I'm also curious as to what it's going to be like for her to bring home a man, since she once spent no small amount of courage and energy explaining to her loved ones that she's gay. The real picture is more complicated, of course, since she doesn't identify as lesbian so much as [gender]queer, and she has dated folks of a variety of genders. But she's bringing me home, and I'm a guy, and that's a hefty thing to plan for.

Of course, I'm not a straight man, but this is something that she'll probably share with most of her friends and none of her elderly relatives. I'm also a man who grew up as a girl, which is something she has shared with some close friends and her parents, but probably also won't be told to the acquaintances/grandma.

And it's the former, not the latter, that is the reason we are not in a straight relationship, despite appearances to the contrary.

I find it impossible to say that my experiences growing up female and trying to find myself as a dyke didn't contribute to the kind of queer person that I am today, but I also feel strongly that the fact of my transness does not automatically make me queer, nor does it automatically make my relationship with my girlfriend automatically a gay relationship. It's a frustrating connection that a lot of people try to impose upon trans folks and their partners, and I think it's a delicate operation to properly refute their flawed reasoning without resorting to either reactionary homophobic statements or keeping separate two things that are, in fact connected.

That is to say, my trans experience has contributed to my queerness: I remember what it's like to be a dyke. Though I feel compelled to add that I have no way of knowing what it's like to be a dyke who doesn't feel like a guy on the inside, so my experience of lesbianism is possibly (if not probably) pretty different from most lesbians. And there's also the fact that I feel a little silly saying something like "Oh, I only date women!" when I know the huge range of people and bodies and genders contained in that statement, not to mention the ones who ought to be but get left out.

So those are some reasons that I'm queer. But there's also the fact that I'm a guy, and while I mostly date women, I am into guys as well. Hypothetically, for the most part, since I've been in a committed relationship for most of my transition, and I didn't really date or hook up with men before my transition. That is, I believe, mostly due to gender issues- I didn't want to hook up with a guy who thought I was a girl, because I couldn't handle it mentally, or could I handle being intimate with a masculine body before I'd changed my own body...the disparity would've freaked me out.

So. Coming back to my original topic. There are a lot of reasons that Rochelle and I have a queer relationship. Her queer identity is just as complex as mine, and it all adds up to us not being straight, but often being perceived as straight, and how to deal with that.

It's uncomfortable sometimes because we often get (appropriately) read as queer individually, which means that we get looks from people thinking "Why is that dyke holding hands with that fag?"

And just as there's an uncomfortable omission of queerness when the straight world takes us at their own face value, I am hesitant sometimes to say the words "my girlfriend" when I'm talking to other gay people because I don't want my queerness to fall away from me. This is especially problematic when gay dudes are hitting on me. The most forthright thing to do would be to work the words "my girlfriend" into the conversation, right? But this is complicated by the fact that I am still new to being welcomed into the queer guy club, and I like being there, and I don't want them to step back and start assuming that I'm straight. I don't want to be kicked out of the club! I'll say "my partner" sometimes because it feels less straight.

Going to her world is going to be an adventure in masquerading in straightness (not least because she's from the South!), and I know we'll be talking about how to handle it without feeling like we're invisible, or making any molehill mountains. I know it's not necessary to defend our queerness to the entire world- enough of this is about our sex life and our romantic relationships and our personal identities that it doesn't need to come up all the time. But hey, the personal is political, too, and there's a raft of heterosexist baggage that I don't want to be carrying around all the time.

I don't want my trans body to become the battleground for any ideological skirmishes, though. We're not straight because we're both queer. And I'm queer in (small!) part because I'm trans. but that doesn't mean that we're not straight because I'm trans.
But I don't want my

Saturday, December 15, 2007


I went out tonight and saw some people that I went to high school with, one of whom I haven't seen since high school itself, practically. He didn't really bat an eye, just chatted with me like everyone else. One of the other guys, who I've seen frequently, complimented my mustache, and asked me, with genuine curiosity, if I get hit on by guys.

Now I'm home and, reflecting on those interactions, I have two thoughts.

First, I have a pang of guilt about how fiercely angry I can get briefly when people say ignorant or stupid things, because I forget that often they really don't know. They don't know that they're being offensive. They're just curious, and (strangest of all to me, living in my trans community) they don't have any context or frame of reference. I'm like an alien- certainly an alien concept. It's such a normal, no-brainer idea to me that gender identity is self-decided, and sometimes in conflict with bodily evidence. I forget that most people who have never experienced any gender dysphoria or gender identity conflict have no idea what it's like to feel this way, and consider it totally weird/alien/crazy that anyone ever would. So I ought to cut a little bit of slack to people whose minds have not yet been expanded.

Second, it made me wonder about what exactly goes on when I run into people socially whom I haven't seen in many years. Do they recognize me? Do they recognize that oh, that's that dyke I knew in high school with a beard, so she must be he know, what's that called, transgendering? Is there a grapevine- does everyone know by now that I'm a dude these days? Are all the bearded pictures on my Facebook profile sufficient to clue everyone in?

Or do they not recognize me? Does someone have to pull them aside and clue them in? Do they recognize my sister, and then put pieces together? Are they confused? Do they understand that I'm a transsexual? Do they doubt the veracity of their own memory and wonder if maybe those twins they went to high school with were always a boy-girl pair?

I'm so curious!

I have no sense of how recognizable or unrecognizable I am now, 2 years into transition. I think I still look like me, if a more attractive me than has ever existed. I know that I can't have changed that much. But I have a beard now. So, who knows what people are seeing. I guess they'll see what they want to see?
Here are two snapshots that I took in front of my wall of ties. The first is from early 2006, a few months before I started T. The second is from last week.

A lot can change in 18 months. But it's hard for me to tell how recognizable the person in these pictures is from the first to the second. Clearly, they're both me...just as I think it's clear how much more settled and, well, real I look in the second picture. But how different do I look?

what can you say?

What is there to say to people who make unknowingly loaded comments? On the mild end, there's the regular patron at the library where I work who said, six weeks ago, "hey you've got some fuzz going!" stroking her chin to indicate my nascent beard. I replied, a bit sheepishly, "Well, it's wintertime, gotta keep the face warm!"

Fine. But when she says "You didn't do it last winter!" what do I say? I didn't say anything at all, but what is the acceptable combination of "I'm a later bloomer!/Beards weren't in last year!/Actually, I couldn't grow a beard last winter because I didn't have enough testosterone in my body." No response was really needed there, since I'm not accountable to her (or anyone!) for my facial hair or lack thereof. Should it happen again, I'll probably respond with some sort of gently self-mocking comment about being a late bloomer. But I'm not used to knowing when to be comfortable with familiar/friendly teasing, and when to be defensive. She certainly didn't even intend to tease, I'm sure, and had no way of knowing the history and hard-won context of my facial hair, and why I might be touchy about it.


Then there's the uncomfortable comments that aren't teasing, that are meant to be compliments...except the person issuing them somehow can't see what a bigger and bigger hole they're digging.

So what can you say to the person who isn't a close friend but certainly isn't a stranger, when they start saying uncomfortable things? What about when it is someone you'd think of as a friend, though not a close one?

A month of so ago, a good friend of mine was in town just for a night (let's call her LongLostFriend), and was out on the town with some other friends of ours- I met up with them at a downtown club, and they were all drunk as skunks and mostly adorably so.

At one point, one of the girls started in with the particular brand of questions and statements that drunk people ask and make when they're trying to hit on you but pretending they're just being friendly. I don't even remember, now, what this girl was saying, but a few lines stick out.

"Your name's Eli? All the Eli's I know are tranny boys!!"

Me: "That's nice. It's a good name."

Her: "I LOVE tranny boys! I date tranny boys and butch girls and they're so dreamy!"

Me: "So, I think I'm going to go find my other friends now!"

What was going on there, and what to say? Was she trying to suss out whether I'm trans? Just trying to make conversation with the ambiguously queer guy? How to say "Gosh, those are some offensive, fetishistic over-generalizations you're making there. If you're trying to hit on me, you're going about it the WRONG way!"

Later, standing outside with the friend I'd come to see(LongLostFriend=LLF), I had to navigate ANOTHER round of uncomfortable conversation. Another friend of hers was there, someone I'm not close with but whom I've known a long time, since my first year of college. And this woman (let's call her LeftHandedComplimentGirl), who hasn't seen me in a long time, launches into monologue about my appearance, clearly intending to be complimentary, but stepping further and further out of line with each successive comment.

"Wow, Eli you look so good! I haven't seen you in such a long time, you're looking really...good! You look like a guy! Like a guy-guy, not just a trans-guy! And, I mean, I knew you when, I remember what you looked like! You are a much better looking guy than girl. You have muscles!"

This last comment she punctuates by, rather frankly, feeling me up- running her hands over the lines of my pecs, over my tight t-shirt. Which I put up with rather good naturedly for about 10 seconds. Meanwhile LongLostFriend, noticing that this other woman is out of line, starts agreeing with her but in a neutral, appropriate manner. "But seriously, Eli, you do look really good. You're so handsome."

And there was the difference between the appropriate and inappropriate compliment- it lies in the content, the context and the delivery.

The well-meaning girl was just like the well-meaning gay men who say similar things: "Wow, you look so hot these days!" I can do without the lefthanded compliments, "you look so good!" and the implied, elided transphobia that I inevitably fill in silently. ("...for a transgender!") Why do these people think they have the right to comment on my transition? That's what it is, not a compliment. It's a judgement on my masculinity, on whether I've successfully made myself up into the kind of guy they don't expect "tranny boys" to be able to look like. There are all sorts of evaluations tied up in there that I'm not interested in hearing, and that they don't really have a right to hold me to.

This in contrast to the compliment from my friend which, like the similar words I hear from my family, I will accept gladly. They are close to me, they have a right to comment on how my personal appearance has changed. They are not surprised, or in judgement, and they are coming from a place of affection and support.

But what to say to the other people? How to tell them that I don't want to hear these things from them? The fact that they were dunk and I was sober put up a definite roadblock. You can't reason with drunk people, I've found- it's hard enough to explain to a sober person why their words are offensive. Drunk people get twice as defensive twice as fast, and often can't follow the line of reasoning anyway, so why bother? That's probably a big part of the reason why I employed my smile and nod and keep-the-conversation moving techniques.

But I also just don't want to engage with these people, and that's where I worry if I'm doing a disservice. I know it's not my responsibility to engage with them- I don't need to lay my body down as a roadblock every time someone comes barreling down the Transphobia Interstate. But how is anyone going to be educated and know to stop saying such things if I don't step up sometimes? I can't leave it all to the allies. And to them, I'm an authoritative voice, as their token trans friend, and a friendly face. They'd probably actually listen to me.


And then there are the flat-out offensive remarks, uttered by a non-trans person who believes himself to be surrounded by non-trans people, and their casual cruelty? Last night at a bar, my sister and her friend mentioned that they'd both gone to Smith. And a guy in the group says "oh, Smith? Were you there when all that stuff with the transgender people was going on?"

Slightly awkward pause.

"You know that TV show, the documentary?"

Someone replies "Oh, you mean TransGeneration?"

He brightens. "Yeah! Did you know her?"

More awkward pause.

He says "Uh, I mean, him? uh, gir? shim? whatever! Haha!"

Awkwardest pause yet. I sip my beer, and I feel curiously blank, though there are words like Closeted and Beard and Ugh, Moron running around the edges of my brain.

The three people in the group who know that I'm trans exchange uncomfortable grimaces. The other three people in the group who don't know I'm trans but who have some tact exchange a different set of uncomfortable grimaces. The dude continues

"Anyway, I just love male to female transsexuals!"

So, not just awkward, but confusing, too! Really, what IS he talking about? The Smith student on the show was FTM. My sister and the other Smithie start to answer "Well, yeah, there was some overlap...I knew Lucas, who was one of the guys in the show...I was in the background of a scene..." and then someone else offers CaptainOffensive a beer, and the moment fades. No worries.

Later, after CaptainOffensive leaves, his friend, the other Smithie, who has known me for years, leans over and says "I'm so sorry!"

And I explained that, well, sometimes I just decide that I'm not going to interrupt an enjoyable evening to school someone about their offensive rudeness, even when they clearly need it. It was an energy that I just wasn't willing (or ready, on the spur of the moment) to expend.

Now I'm not sure that was the right choice. It was an uncomfortable moment for all of us, and I didn't make any move chide the guy. I needn't have outed myself to do that, though I could have. I could have said anything from "I think "him" is the word you need" to "Y'know, I don't really think it's appropriate to refer to anyone with mocking, made-up pronouns like that" to "gosh, do you only say such offensive things about trans people when you think there aren't any listening to you? because guess what? I can hear you!"

I guess I wasn't a very good trans ally last night. I didn't step up to educate someone during a teachable moment. Neither did I let the stinging words sink into my skin and burn for the rest of the evening, so I guess that's one small victory of my own strength that I can claim. Huh. Maybe next time.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

huzzah! legal identity!

I got home to find that the last piece to the puzzle of my legal identity had arrived in the mail.

It took an astonishingly fast three weeks or so- I sent off the complete application, my certificate of citizenship with my old name and picture of my 10 year old tomboy self on it, and certified, notarized, original copies of a) my name change court order and b) my letter from Dr. Brownstein saying I've had "irreversible sex reassignment surgery."

Now the United States of America fully recognizes me as a male citizen, and I can go about getting new jobs, etc, with whatever amount of disclosure I so desire. Sweet!

looking up

I found out last week that Jane Rule died at the age of 76. She's a favorite author of mine, a "pioneering lesbian writer" though she was something of a reluctant poster-child, as those obits make apparent. Nevertheless, she recognized the dearth of lesbian writing and lesbian role models in Canada (or anywhere, really, at the time) and stepped up, writing for the gay press, and granting plenty of interviews as an "authority" on the subject.

Anyway, besides the fact that I like her writing very much, and I'm sorry to hear about her death, reading her obituary got me to thinking about role models.

She was clearly a role model for many young writers, young queers and young women (not to mention young queer women writers!) and she was definitely one of the people I looked to when I was younger, if only through her writing, as a sort of elder guide. By which I mean, I get a lot of my moral compass ideas from what I read, and when I first came out as queer, I thought I was a dyke, so I read whatever lesbian-themed or -authored books I could get my hands on. Jane Rule came into the picture because my Mom recommended that her to me when I revealed my gayness.

At any event, it's struck me that my earlyish adolescence, a time for finding role models and hero(ines) and writings to inspire one, was filled with reading and admiring lesbian writers, and history and culture.

Rochelle says she counts herself lucky that her boyfriend is so familiar with the lesbian cultural landscape, and I myself told my dad that I still feel affection and nostalgia and more than a little bit of empathy for the lesbian community. I don't consider myself part of it anymore, but I do feel a connection, from having felt a part of it for a number of years, and having sort of grown up in it. (I identified as a dyke from 13-17, roughly, with my awareness of my masculinity starting at around 15, so there was definite "am I a dyke or am I a dude?" overlap time).

Anyway, my meandering point is that many of my favorite authors, musicians, political figures (Bella Abzug!), and general role models are women, usually queer women. Which is great, because they're great, but...I would like to have more men in my life, so to speak.

I've probably written about this here before- I know I've thought about it before. I don't have a lot of male role models- when my first therapist asked me for one, I said "Tintin." But I'd like to have more men (outside of my immediate family, I'm thinking authors, etc) whom I can learn from and admire and emulate.

I want to re-set my cultural compass, slightly.

Not that I'm ever going to abandon or disavow my lesbian roots. They served me well at the time, and provided a great foundation to where I am now. I will always admire Jane Rule and her writing, and I will always feel a pull to lesbian writing/culture. I don't belong to it anymore, but I do have history there.

Does anyone have any recommendations? I'm thinking of reading recommendations here- I'll take fiction, essays, manifestos, what have you. I just want stuff written by men or about men/masculinity, and/or that is rooted in or an window into masculine culture. The two (pretty disparate, so you can see I'm casting a wide net!) examples that I have on my reading list already are Hemingway and John Stoltenberg. You can't get much manlier than the former, or so I've been told. And the latter wrote a book I very much enjoyed called "Refusing to be a man." He is a longtime feminist, and was partnered to the late Andrea Dworkin. I clearly don't admire the entirety of their 2nd wave opinions, but I do admire their partnership in no small part because they both maintained their gay and lesbian identities, respectively- much like Rochelle and I maintain our queer identities and declare ours a queer relationship, despite its heterosexual trappings.


On a not-entirely-unrelated note, my father is visiting this weekend, and one of the things I most admire about him is his excellent beard. Or perhaps I should say was- he's clean shaven these days. But I've always loved his beard, that I remember vividly from my childhood, and while I often emulate him in other ways (flirting with waitresses, being charming to strangers in general in an attempt to add a little more pizazz to this world, putting interesting and eloquent outgoing messages on my voicemail for same reason, etc), I'm quite glad that at last I have the hormonal capacity to start growing a beard like his.

So it was with nothing less than total warm delight that I received his compliments yesterday afternoon- one of the first things he said to me was "Son, I have to tell you, you look great!"

He followed that up later by telling me that I've managed to successfully avoid a trap that many beard-wearers fall into, which is shaving the neckline too high, so that the ends of their beards hug their jawlines and don't properly end on their necks. I was tickled to hear this, since it was something that I deliberately planned for while growing this sucker out. I've read up on the subject, you see!

In any event, there's no better praise for my beard than from him, whose beard I have always admired. So cheers to that.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

shifting perspective

I had a few moments of dysphoria last night, that lasted into this morning for a while, and it took me until breakfast to figure out why I was so withdrawn and shut-down feeling. I'm not used to those feelings anymore (a fact for which I'm very grateful) and it was hard to realize that I was feeling, once again, a specific grief/frustration with my body and how it is formed and what it can do for me. I hardly ever feel betrayed by my own self these days, and I've forgotten how to deal with it, except by defaulting to a sort of silent aloof grumpiness that is inexplicable until it falls away and I understand, in its absence, how inhibited I was.

Anyway, it occurred to me that the little cycle of distress I went through last night/this morning (uncomfortable body'd moment-distance and withdrawedness commences-bell jar of disconnectedness lifts and I blink as I realize what I was just experiencing) is sort of a microcosm of my trans experience. Transition has been a great answer for me, to problems that I wasn't even fully aware that I had while I was having them. I didn't know what I was missing out on til I got myself into a body and lived identity that connects every bit of me together instead of enforcing frequent (continual?) disconnect.
Related to that, I've been thinking about how my goals for and perceptions of my own transition have shifted over the course of the past year or so. Everything, of course, is magnified early on- I'm sure that's true for most large undertakings. Every minute change or step forward is a MAJOR MILESTONE and cause for celebration. It does, of course, lead to a certain lack of perspective. When I first started growing out my facial hair, it was patchy and fine- there was a hole in the middle of my right sideburn, etc. I was so proud of it, though. I'm proud of my beard now, though it's still heavily skewed towards my jawline, and my (slightly wispy, if not actually patchy) moustache doesn't connect to the rest of it. I'm much happier with it now, but in a few years I'll probably look back and wince fondly at this experiment I'm calling a beard.

I found these pictures to illustrate some of what I'm talking about. The last two are from this morning, the first from over a year ago, just a few weeks after I had surgery. I was so delightedly, blessedly happy with the state of my transition. Now, I'm just as much again happier with how my body treats me, and I look back at the first picture with the satisfaction of having moved past an unfulfilling moment. I felt satisfied then, though. I wonder how my perspective will continue to shift?

I hope it'll continue to be positive. I remember, when I was first weighing my options for transition, hearing from some guys who found that, after the first blush of euphoria, found that some aspects of their dysphoria increased- getting closer to feeling "right" but still not perfectly satisfied, their feelings of distress increased around certain things. That scared me, and I'm glad that it hasn't been my experience. But I guess I'll have to add a 'yet' onto that, because I'm starting to understand that it's not much use to make pronouncements about how I feel about my transition and my trans experience. It's something I'm going to have to keep experiencing, and I'll have to call it as it goes.
first picture, fall (october, maybe?) '06
next: this morning (11/21/07). current mood: whimsical!
and here's a more straightforward look at my chest; 15 months post surgery.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I'm going on a field trip tomorrow night- a friend of mine is taking me to the Eagle for Code Night. It's a gay leathermen's bar, and on Thursday nights they enforce a dress code: leather and uniforms only. I'm going to whip out my leather pants for the occasion, and my friend told me that I would probably be fine wearing those and a white tank- he could loan me a uniform shirt if I wanted or, he told me, "since you've had surgery, you could just take your shirt off!"

I certainly could, but it's funny to me that he'd assume that I'd be fine and anxiety free about taking off my shirt in front of a bunch of gay men I've never met before. Certainly before I'd had surgery, I envisioned surgery as an answer to all of my chest anxieties, as an utterly freeing experience. It definitely has been freeing, to the point where I hardly remember anymore what it was like to be worried about my chest and whether my breasts were visible...but I remember enough to not be so eager to give up the safety/invisibility that a t-shirt gives me and my scars.

Particularly in a space where I know my masculinity is going to be noticed and evaluated (hello, gay bar!), I'm still wary about taking off my shirt, at least now while my scars are still pink against my pale, relatively chesthair-free skin. I'm not saying that I intend to try to hide my trans identity/experience from anyone that I meet, but it'd be nice to keep feeling like I have some measure of control over who is aware of the complexities of my manhood.
I know part of why I'm feeling wary again is a combination of nervousness about entering an environment that I'm unfamiliar with but excited about (the Eagle) and some tiredness from yet another interaction I've had recently with a well-meaning but totally drunk and therefore pretty out-of-line acquaintance.

In the event that I do get around to publishing a book, or taking part in anymore Trans 101 seminars, I think I'm going to try to get the word out about a few things that are pretty much not okay to say to me, or whichever transdude you've managed to corner . Topping the list:

1. "Do you like your vagina? Are you going to keep it? Are you going to get a [real] penis?"
2. "What was your name...before?"
3. "You are soooo good looking! I never would have known you were trans!"

Maybe later I'll have time to get into some of my thoughts about why these aren't questions that are particularly appropriate to ask, but at the time, I've mostly just tried to be good natured about them- particularly since, as I've mentioned before, it's not very easy to explain to drunk people why they're being offensive. And I figure it's a bit easier on everyone to hold my ground and refuse to answer truly offensive questions, but be a bit indulgent on ones that are merely curious, if perhaps inappropriate. Particularly when they come from someone whom I'm fond of, or whom I know to be a generally good hearted individual.

At any rate, it does make me a bit nervous about going into gay men's space, because I seem to be entering the phase of my transition where I'm hardly ever read as trans, and if and when I do "reveal" my status, I have to put up with a bunch of left-handed compliments about how "good" I look...that is to say, how "real" I look. Almost like a real boy, not one of those trannies!
On another note, I updated my voice posts last week with # 17. I don't think there's been much difference for a while, but I'm hoping my voice will continue to fill out and mature over the next couple of years- much like my beard!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

bits of odds and ends

I haven't posted here about it yet, but after giving blood last week, I got a letter from the Blood Bank requesting that I "refrain from future donation." After calling them back and discussing the matter, I'm not allowed to donate blood anymore. I wrote a couple of long posts about it over at the FTM livejournal community, so I'm just going to link it (click here) rather than rehash it. There's a link in that post to my earlier post about it, as well. Basically, the New York Blood Center still thinks my blood plasma is "female" and they don't use female plasma, and because I'm a guy but I have (according to them) female plasma, their heads are spinning round and round and they've asked me to stop donating blood. To which I grudgingly said yes, mostly because I was chagrined at how polite and reasonable in his request was the guy I spoke with, and because it's actually fairly legit, unlike what I had immediately suspected of them upon getting a letter telling me not to give blood, which was "OMG teh tranz is dirtydirtydirty, can't let him give blood anymore!" So that was a nice surprise, but still- frustrating. Especially because I'm skeptical of his reasoning that my plasma should be considered "female."
Speaking of frustrating, had a funny moment this weekend while at a bar watching the Oregon Ducks whup Arizona State. I was there with my sister and a bunch of friends from high school who live in New York now, and surprise surprise, we ran into a girl who'd also gone to our high school. I didn't recognize her, but she recognized us- my sister, especially, since they were in band together. So she came and chatted to our table for a bit, whatever. But then, as we were leaving, she apparently said to Kate "Wow, I didn't realize you were here with your sister-slash-brother!"
and Kate, bless her heart, my stalwart champion, said right back "I'm here with my brother. No slash."
to which the girl replied "oh, uh, well, what's the name?" [ed. note: way to ask for my new name without having to use an appropriate pronoun. very sly!]
Kate told her, and then she bounded over to (the oblivious) me, and shook my hand and said "Nice to see you again, man!"
So that was funny and annoying and, as Kate said, "Another moment for the memoir!"
And it seems that after all, while I'm clearly much more masculinized, I don't look THAT different than I did in high school. Not to mention that between being one of a set of high-profile, extremely sociable twins, and my various purple mohawks, and being the only out dyke amidst all 1600 high schools- well, I guess I'm pretty memorable.
But I'm sad that Kate gets put on the spot like that, even as I'm glad to have such a stalwart person to speak on my behalf. It's a reminder that while transitioning was (has been/is) a huge personal endeavor for me, it hasn't been purely personal. My family and friends have had to transition with me, and- particularly my immediate family and particularly especially Kate, being my twin- they have had to shoulder some of the burden of making space for me in the world. Sometimes too much burden, for my liking. It's something I'm forever guilty about and grateful for.
And speaking of masculinizing, I inadvertently started my Great Winter Beard Experiment 2007 a few weeks early. I'd been planning to stop shaving as of November 1st, and grow out the whiskers til it came time to go home for Christmas, at which point I could assess to see if I looked reasonably okay, or too dorky/adolescent to be seen in the family Christmas card, at which point I could take appropriate measures. But I got sort of lazy towards the end of October and just didn't shave for about 6 days, at which point I figured why waste a week's head start?
Anyway, I try not to obsess to much about my growth pattern, and only spend about 5-7 minutes a day tilted in over the sink in the bathroom, examining my chops. It's clearly still an immature effort, thicker along my jaw line and sideburns than up on my cheeks, and with a moustache that doesn't connect to the rest of the beard and still looks a bit like it could be gotten rid of with a good washcloth scrub.
Talking to some friends who said that they first got their real beard growth towards the end of college, I realize that it'll probably be another two years until I catch up in hormonal age with my peers and am able to grow out a respectable/adult beard. But oh, I love my whiskered face so much. It's hard to wait!
And while I definitely think I look like I have a young beard, I don't think I look downright ridiculous. So I'm going to keep it for a while longer, and see what I can manage to produce by Christmas.
Pictorial evidence of the beard, such as it is, from this past weekend. The last picture is also a nod to my friend who asked me a few months ago whether I could possibly be in fact F-to-Monkey, given my hirsute nature.

Friday, October 26, 2007


I'm getting out of work early today, and I'm going to use the extra time to go to the Red Cross Blood Drive that's happening across the street this week. I'm having a difficult time deciding whether or not to lie (by omission) on my intake forms or not.

There are three questions that give me trouble, and each time I try to decide how to deal with them, and thus far I've been (mostly) honest, and it's been nothing but hassle for me and the employees.

There's a question "Have you ever had any trouble with your heart?" to which honestly I must say yes, since I had an SVT arrhythmia when I was younger. But it was corrected by surgery in 1997, and I haven't had a lick of trouble since, and each and every time the beleaguered intake person has to go try to look up my former condition in the guidebook and/or ask their supervisor, only to find out (as I try to point out) that it's no barrier at all to me giving blood. So that's not such a big deal, but I am tempted to just put "no" to save us all the trouble.

Then there's the question "Have you recieved an injection anytime in the last 14 days?" which is always yes, because I'm always on a 7 or 8 day shot cycle with my T, so I've always given myself a shot relatively recently. Once or twice this hasn't been a problem, the person has just asked me what for, written down "testosterone prescribed by doctor" and we've carried on. Last time, though, there was a whole big fuss because the woman asked my why I take it and I said, quite matter-of-factly, "Because I'm a transsexual." hoo boy! so much fuss! she tried to tell me I can't give blood, that's not allowed, also, what kind of people do I have sex with? etc. After much fuss and talking to her supervisor, I was allowed to proceed and give my warm red pint but boy howdy, that didn't make me feel that great about the whole process. So should I put down that I've gotten a shot? Or should I put it down, but lie and say "endocrine disorder" if asked about it?

And then there's the one question that I've consistently lied to, the one that says "Are you a man who's had sex with another man even once since 1976?" I always check "no" even though it's a lie, because I know that to check "yes" is to be automatically disqualified, thanks to outdated homophobic restrictions that the Red Cross established decades ago. On the other hand, if the Red Cross knew the whole truth about my anatomy, they'd probably say that I don't qualify as a "man" who's had sex with men, anyway (since the woman to whom I described myself as a transsexual certainly raised a fuss about my 'no' answer to this question- after already having gone over it with me, she went back to it twice more once I'd made my little revelation). So, I'll probably just continue to lie and answer No to this question, since I know my HIV status is negative, and because I'm against this question on principle.

Still, it's hard for me to lie on doctor's forms, and I'm annoyed that the fuss over my trans history is such that I should even be thinking about it. Hopefully, I won't run up against any trouble this time.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Human Resources professionals training

I received an email advertising for a training being held in early November for HR professionals around trans issues in the workplace. On an impulse, I forwarded it to a friendly woman I know in the HR office at my work, and lo and behold! She got back to me and promised to spread it around and see if they could send someone over to be trained. Sweet!

I thought I'd repost the information here, in case anyone in the New York/New Jersey area could use the info, perhaps to pass along to their own HR departments? Also, there's a link at the bottom to the website/blog of the woman who is running the workshop, and there are quite a few good resources there, as well.

for HR and Legal Professionals
Approved for 5 recertification credits by HRCI

Friday, November 2, 2007
9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Bradley Center Sony Skybox
Ramapo College of New Jersey
Telephone: 201-684-7625

When a transgender employee or candidate comes into your office…What will you say? What accommodations can you offer? What does the law require? Over 150 of the Fortune 500 have amended their EEO policies to include"gender identity." Twenty-five states and 85 cities have law prohibiting employment discrimination based on gender identity, and federal legislation on the subject is pending before Congress. These developments mean that human resources and legal professionals must beready to confront difficult social and legal questions. How are you required to accommodate transgender employees and employee candidates? How are bathrooms and locker rooms affected? Does the law include cross-dressers? What training is needed to ensure compliance by others in your enterprise? This workshop gives you the information and skills to address these and other pertinent issues on the subject of transgender workplace diversity.

Online Registration

Work Place Diversity Brochure (PDF)

This workshop involves collaborative learning using case study and role-play methods. It is guaranteed to be interesting, exciting and challenging. Registration for the workshop is $499 per person. All participants will receive a copy of Dr. Weiss's recent book, Transgender Workplace Diversity: Policy Tools, Training Issues and Communication Strategies for HR and Legal Professionals , which provides comprehensive, step-by-step discussion of the how-to's of transgender diversity issues . The workshop cost of $499 includes the book, breakfast and lunch.

Workshop Facilitator
Professor Jillian T. Weiss, J.D., Ph.D., is associate professor of Law and Society at Ramapo College. Her area of research is transgender workplace diversity issues, and she has conducted research involving hundreds of companies and public agencies that have adopted "gender identity" policies. She has written a dissertation and several articles in scholarly journals and books on transgender identity and the workplace. She has consulted with Fortune 500 companies and major public organizations regarding training, policy development and communications strategies in the area of gender transition, including Boeing, HSBC, KPMG, Viacom, the New York City Department of Homeless Services and the Bergen County Utilities Authority. Dr. Weiss is on the Board of Advisors of the National Center for Transgender Equality, and she publishes a popular blog on the subject of transgender workplace diversity, which may be found at

Sunday, October 14, 2007


I have to give a quick shout-out to the book I'm reading, Whipping Girl by Julia Serano. So good! The author is wicked smart, is writing from a very sensible perspective in clear articulate language that neither caters to the layperson nor obfuscates with jargon. She has a lot of fresh and new (to me, at least) ideas that make a whole truckload of good sense, and I have the feeling that once I've finished reading it (I'm about a quarter through thus far), I'm going to start over and read again, with a pencil to make notes in the margins. I highly recommend it.
My sister and I have been talking/joking about writing a book. She's an excellent memoir writer, and has written quite a few beautiful short pieces about her/our childhood. I've got all these scraps thrown up hereon this blog, of course, as well as a lot more thoughts and ideas and memories that have yet to be written down. Reading this book Whipping Girl has got me thinking about the kind of book I'd like to write, and how, like this one, I'd like to be part of a project that's different from the Tranny Tell-All memoir that has been the standard to date.

I realize that last sentence sounds a bit disparaging, which is not my intent- I admire and applaud the few hardy folks who have published their stories for the rest of us. They've been trailblazers, certainly, and a great resource. I'm starting to think, though, about what kind of new stories could be written. We all have our own stories, of course, but mine is different from and yet the same as a lot of what's out there. I have in some ways a traditional arc to my narrative: tomboy to dyke to genderqueer to transman to trans man. But a) who's to say that's traditional? There are at least as many transmasculine storylines as there are identities- which is to say, a lot. and b) I have some unusual twists. I did not insist on my maleness from an early age- there was no "Where's my penis?" or "But I'm not a girl!" moments when I was little, though I had a plenty masculine childhood. But on the flip side, I came to an understanding or my gender relatively young, and was well underway in my transition by the time I was 20. Now, at 22, I'm looking forward to enjoying my early twenties and the rest of my life as a man, having never really lived as a woman. As a boyish girl child, and then a dyke-gendered adolescent female, but never a woman. So that's a perspective that I haven't seen published yet.

Not to mention, I have an incredibly articulate and literate twin, who might be just the person to collaborate with on a project like this.

It puts me in mind of that book What Becomes You that came out last year, jointly written by a (trans) man and his mother. I enjoyed it, too, because of its fresh perspective and lovely language, though I found it to be rather long winded and hard to take in some ways. Still, I think family projects are great when they can come together and offer multiple perspectives on such an interesting story.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

chest at 14 months

Headline pretty much says it all. This is my chest (complete with patchy chest hair!) 14 months after my surgery. I've mostly given up rubbing anything into the scars, though I guess I still use the cocoa butter once every other day. One of these days I might try to pick up and use another tube of Mederma or that Palmer's Scar Serum, but I'll probably give it a while and see how they continue to fade. It's interesting to see and feel my chest continue to 'settle' and it'll probably change shape some over the course of my whole life as I'm active/muscular or not. I still don't have much feeling in my nipples, though more than I used to, for sure. I'm still perfectly happy and content with my shape, so much so that it's hard to remember being shaped any other way.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

of UTIs and authenticity

I had an experience at the doctor's office today that's left me a bit nonplussed; I suppose I'll need to get used to explaining myself, when I move out of NYC and away from my very knowledgeable, respectful doctor. I was startled today because I did go to Callen-Lorde, which is the LGBT center- I guess it's too much to ask for that even the medical professionals at an LGBT health center be totally professional and knowledgeable around trans issues.

I had to make a last minute appointment this morning, having developed my first ever (wicked uncomfortable!) UTI. My usual doctor isn't in on Thursdays, so I got sent upstairs to see whichever PA had a free appointment. Anyway, it was a fairly routine trans patient/clueless doctor situation:

I explained to him my suspicions of having a UTI, that I'd never had one but that Google and all of my friends had diagnosed me. He started asking about symptoms and behaviors on my part, and right about when he started asking me about what my penis looked like is when I realized that he didn't know my trans status. I'd discovered, in my assiduous Googling of symptoms, that UTIs are much more common in female-configured folks. I'd guess that most folks who are assumed to be female are pretty readily assumed to have one of those pesky UTIs, but that male presenting folks are questioned more thoroughly to rule out other possibilities, since it's not so common to have a UTI. Or maybe this guy always asks these questions.

In any event, I thought it prudent to enlighten him as to my actual genital configuration, and interrupted with "Um, I don't know if it says anything on my chart, but I'm trans."

He stopped, and quickly ran through the not unfamiliar puzzled-shocked-embarrassed-nervous cycle of facial expressions. I've seen it before, especially on gay men (which, unless my gaydar betrays me, he was). I could almost hear his train of thought: You're a tranny? Why the sideburns? Why no makeup, high heels, skir....oh. OH! You're really a girl! I mean, shit, you used to be a girl and now you're a boi. I mean, a boy. But you looked like a real guy when I was talking to you. Actually, I thought you were sort of cute. Wait, was I just attracted to someone with a vagina? Shit, I hope I don't offend you when I open my mouth and say this first thing that comes to my mind.

Which in his case was a nervous little laugh and "Oh! Well, look...uh, that is...I don't want to offend's very good! Um, that's a compliment!"

There was a pause, during which I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for him, and be a little charmed because he was clearly trying to give a positive response. Of course, I would have preferred a non-response. I think the appropriate response for a medical professional is to say "Okay, thanks for informing me." And from there, proceed to be matter-of-fact while taking my trans status into account, asking relevant follow-up questions if necessary. ("Have you had [bottom] surgery?" would be relevant in this case; it wouldn't be if I were in to complain about a cold.)

Instead, I just said "Okay, well, besides the BURNING that I mentioned to you, everything else looks and feels normal." and sort of sidestepped the questions of what my genitals are like and how to respond to his 'compliment.' Things went smoothly from there- he ran a test, I got my prescription for antibiotics (thankfully), and there was a handshake and a smiling "Nice to meet you!" and that was that.

It wasn't til I was walking back to the subway that I had time to think about his response and how it was upsetting or not. Clearly, it wasn't the matter-of-fact response that I consider ideal when I disclose- to anyone, but particularly to a professional. That response, though, can only come from someone who is educated and familiar with trans people and transsexuality. Clearly, he is not in such a place. He's still coming from a personal paradigm of "transsexuals are really X who want to be Y" and while he may have gotten enough sensitivity training to be able to rein in that impulse and be mostly polite about transfolks, he's still used to being able to "spot 'em."

He's not used to his paradigm being disturbed: transsexuals aren't really real to him. I came in and he perceived and believed in me as a man. When I revealed to him that I'm a transsexual man, he had some cognitive dissonance that the "real guy" he saw in front of him was actually part of a group that he doesn't view as real; that is, transmen aren't really men.

That was apparent in his nervous/unthinking reaction: "'s very good!"

What was he trying to say? "You look good?" There was a hint of that, but what is he saying is good? That 'it' is my guise, my front, my masculinity. The boyness which I put on to cover my original/real girlness is working! Heck, it fooled him! But now he's not fooled anymore. Now he knows the truth.

So there's the painful rub, because now he does know a truth about me that he didn't know previously. But what's the truth that he thinks he knows? The painfulness for me isn't coming from his knowing that I'm trans, but rather his using that knowledge to downgrade my authenticity. In a different context, if he were coming from a different perspective, I wouldn't take any offense at his reaction. After all, he's congratulating me on my constructed masculinity, which I did in fact mindfully construct, arduously, painfully, expensively. His masculinity is constructed too, of course, but he doesn't see that, and that's where his judgement is rooted. His lack of awareness around the construction of his maleness is the privilege that contributes to his condescension, which fuels my defensiveness, and that's why I'm offended.

His left-handed compliment would be no shame if it weren't a window onto what can legitimately, if a bit dramatically, be called his transphobia. Thus I am offended by him, and have the right to feel frustrated and burdened by this interaction. It's not an uncommon interaction for me or any other trans person, and it's rather a depressing one coming as it did from someone at Callen Lorde- someone ostensibly belonging to my community, someone who ought to know better.

And he does know better than a lot of folks- his reaction, while not perfect, wasn't all that bad. Which is why I'm not too offended. I can see through his compliment to the insult beneath it, but it's a half step up at least from straight out insult.

This is a larger parable about being 'out' as trans or not, I suppose. Outting oneself is most productive when it's met by open minds, but those minds have to be opened first. One line of thinking goes that those minds will only be opened by repeated exposure to trans folks- that is, some of us have to be the shock troops throwing our dignity down like capes over mud so that Trans Awareness can move majestically forward. In this interaction, I disrupted his paradigm- maybe next time, he won't be shocked when the man in from of him discloses a transsexual history. I agree that visibility can be a really powerful consciousness raiser.

But there's got to be a better way. Trans advocacy and education can and must occur in other ways, so that we trans folks can stop constantly shouldering the many small stinging burdens of these interactions. Eventually, hopefully, it'll level out and disclosure won't sting anymore because I'll be seen and understood for who I am, not the pile of unknown baggage that's assigned to trans folks these days. But there have got to be better ways of getting there.


As an aside, I can't decide to be pleased or annoyed that, clearly, Callen Lorde hasn't stamped TRANNY in red ink on my chart. On the one hand, I'm glad that they're trying to respect my privacy, allow me to disclose at my own preference, etc. On the other hand, medically is one of the ways in which my being trans is quite often justifiably relevant information. I certainly consider my transness to be in large part a medical condition/situation. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to have that in my chart, so that medical folks can have some idea of what my body is like. Certainly at Callen Lorde where, or so I thought, those folks would probably have a reasonably accurate idea. I guess the ideal world would be one in which 'transsexual' (or whatever terminology suited me best) would be included on my chart...but that chart would then be seen by medical professionals who had all be trained and educated around trans issues, so that they could respond with the calm professionalism that I deserve.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

testosterone delivery options

I'm going to use this post as a dumping ground for a whole bunch of links to PubMed articles that someone thoughtfully collected about a couple of alternative methods of T delivery- pellet implantation and long-lasting shots.

Seems like both of these options have been explored as various hormone delivery methods, for birth control and also for hormones for non-trans folks. The general idea is to get one shot, or have some pellets implanted, every 3 months, which will then slowly disburse the hormone over the next few months. Supposedly, it can offer more stable and consistent dosing, without the peaks and troughs associated with more frequent injections. Not to mention, of course, that you only have to get stabbed with a needle 4 times a year instead of anywhere from 26-52 times, depending on one's shot schedule.

I've been having a harder time giving myself my shots lately, both because there's no more novelty or thrill about it, and because the shots themselves have seemed to get a bit more difficult. I don't know if it's because I've lost some subcutaneous fat, or because I've got scar tissue building up or what, but I often have difficulty/pain when actually piercing my thigh with the needle, which never happened the first few months I was doing it. I switch thighs each shot, and try to move around within the few square inches of target area, but I often feel more resistance to the needle moving through my skin, and sometimes a really sharp/stabby pain- it makes me imagine that I've brushed a nerve with the needle, though I don't know how medically plausible that is.

Anyway, it's getting to the point where getting a shot only 4 times a year sounds really appealing right now. The pellets are approved in the US, and I've heard of transguys using them, but they're often described as more expensive. Who knows if my insurance would cover it or not. The quarterly shot is apparently not yet available in the US, though rumor has it that it's currently seeking approval from the FDA. Maybe my doc at Callen Lorde will have more information. I certainly intend to ask him, when I go in for my next physical. I think my next appointment is sometime this fall- we decided to check in earlier than the usual 6 months, since my levels were low last time we checked.

In the meantime, here are the PubMed links, for reference.











Quarterly Shots:


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

beard pictures

Following are a few pictures from my last beard attempt, in July. the first is me joking about my vaguely Amish look, given the lack of moustache. the other two show the second, luck-o'-the-Irish iteration of that beard. It was nice 'n reddish 'n fuzzy, and I miss it, but these pictures definitely confirm (in my mind) the correct decision to shave it off. it was immature. needs more time to ripen! I'll surely post pictures this wintertime of my next attempt.

going soft

Mmm, it has been a while, hasn't it? Not so much to report. I haven't been working out, so I've lost all those lovely muscles I had for a few weeks in the middle of summer. Since being on testosterone, I've felt worse about myself when I don't work out; I feel much more keenly the wasted potential, the possibilities of fitness that I could achieve with T's help. I have more muscles now than I ever did before T, even in brief periods of dedicated working out. It seems an actual shame not to work out these days, given the guaranteed results.

I often think my aversion to working out stems not just from laziness, but also from disappointment that I don't lead a more necessarily active life. I feel a little foolish with my dumbbells and yoga mat and swiss ball, sweating on the floor of my bedroom for no real purpose besides vanity and shoring up my self image. I mean, smooth muscles and improved cardiovascular health isn't NO purpose, but it seems there's so much actual work to be done in the world that it's downright wasteful to burn energy on the Sisyphean, essentially meaningless motions of working out. I don't feel like I have much opportunity in my life for meaningful labor, though- not a lot of ground to plow in Manhattan.

Sometimes I like the softness of my edges, since it's a definitive break from the traditional masculine-muscles connection that seems like it could be easy to get sucked into. And indeed, I am sucked into it, because I liked the few weeks I spent feeling buff. Perhaps one of these days I'll get re-inspired and start small again with the pushups before breakfast, and build from there. It does feel good to see my shoulders bunching and broadening in the mirror, and presumably someday I'll be in a place where there's space or opportunity enough for me to engage in less selfserving exercise.

I've been growing my hair out a bit- I never had long hair when I was living as a girl, beyond a brief experiment in 8th/9th grade that saw my hair get just to my shoulders before my burgeoning babydykehood demanded I shave it off. As a kid, I varied between a vaguely pixie-ish shag and a downright butch boy style. Now I think I'm ready to try the shaggy dude look, which out to go well with the rest of me, which continues to get shaggier by the week.

My chest hair is shading in slowly but inexorably, and my belly hair is creeping up to meet it. I know it's not given to a man to choose his body hair patterns, and I'm nothing but pleased with what I've developed thus far, but every once in a while I'll see a guy at the beach with furry back and shoulders and I'll send up a silent plea: keep the hair on the front, please!

I'm still waiting for my facial hair to creep far enough up my face for my beard to connect with my moustache and be worth growing out again. I figure I'll give it a shot in November- that'll be 4 months since my last attempt, and give me a solid 7 or 8 weeks to try to grow something respectable before heading home for Christmas- enough time to determine whether my efforts will look nice, or if I'll need to bust out the razor to look nice for the family photos during the holidays.

I had a small epiphany a short while ago, and resolved that I should stop comparing my facial hair to the men I socialize with, who are generally in their early twenties, because it's inevitably a bummer. I need to remember that, endocrinologically speaking, my peers are the high schoolers/young undergrads, and when I look around at the patchy/scruffy chins I see on them, I feel much better about myself.

I've been thinking a lot about my future these days, and where I'm going next- I'm starting to feel ready for the 'next step' in my life, whatever it might be. A bit odd to remember that I'll have a lot of decisions to make around disclosure of my trans status, whenever I do start the new job or new school or whatever new step I find next. It's something that still hasn't come up that often, since I don't have that many people in my life whom I've known for fewer than two years whom I didn't meet in an explicitly transmasculine context.

Mostly the issue has come up in deciding what to tell my partner's friends, whom I'm gradually meeting. I mostly prefer to be Rochelle's queer boyfriend rather than her trans boyfriend, unless the topic comes up in a relevant way. I think of it as good practice for helping me to understand the contexts in which I want my trans experiences/history to be relevant or open, and in which realms I prefer to keep quiet.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Beach Boy

Tomorrow I'm going to Trans on the Sands, an event sponsored by the Gender Identity Project, at Coney Island from 11-5. Click the link for info/directions if any of y'all are in the NYC area.

I'm looking forward to a day at the beach, for sure- especially since it will be precisely one year and three days since I had my chest surgery, which means shirtless shenanigans for sure! I've been really good about following the recommended no-direct-sunlight-for-a-year guidelines around my scars. The first time I took my shirt off in the great outdoors was two weeks ago when I jumped in a river for about a half hour, at 5pm, with SPF 45 slathered all over myself. I still intend to slather my skin and especially my scars in SPF 45 tomorrow, and reapply frequently, but it's nice to feel like I'm out of the probationary period.

This beach event is a great idea, based on the principle of safety in numbers- there are plenty of folks who can't be safe and relaxed at the beach in the beachwear of their choosing, and that's pretty crappy. It reminds me of one way in which transphobia can skew more negatively towards transwomen. Before last year I wasn't particularly happy wearing my double-layered sports bra beach outfit, but I didn't feel that unsafe. I was still a visibly gender variant female, but I've seen transwomen get so much more abuse along the lines of "Aah, dude in a bikini!"

I feel safe and fine going to the beach anytime (particularly now, with the passing privilege my transition status gives me) but I'm going to Trans on the Sands tomorrow because everyone should be able to be safe at the beach. If I can contribute to that by sprawling my pasty self out on the sand, then excellent.

Not to mention, I'm totally thrilled about my first shirtless beach excursion ever. I'm looking forward to jumping in the ocean, gross though the water at Coney Island is. Swimming without breasts is a whole new thing, and I'm wicked excited about it. I intend to try to figure out whether I'm less buoyant post-transition...I think yes, since I've got less fat and more muscle, thanks to surgery and T, but maybe it won't be significant enough to matter.

Monday, July 30, 2007

some sort of mix-up

This past weekend I had what was probably the most flummoxing and yet most entertaining moment of disclosure that I've ever had. I was at a music festival with my girlfriend, a lesbian couple who are close friends of hers, and a straight woman friend of theirs. The couple are getting married (legally, in Massachusetts) next year, and we were talking about which states allow gay marriage when I mentioned rather casually to Rochelle "You and I could get married anywhere but Texas!"

I was referencing the fact that different states have different rules and regulations around marriage and what sexes may marry each other, and how the sex of each party needs to be 'proven.' Some states (including Texas and Ohio, I think, but probably some others as well) require two people to have birth certificates, one reading male and one reading female. Since my birth certificate still says F on it, Rochelle and I would be out of luck!

The straight woman, who had just met me earlier that day, overheard and asked "Why can't you get married in Texas?"

I figured it was as good a time as any to disclose my trans status, since I had nothing invested in keeping it from her, and said "Because my birth certificate says 'female.'"

There was a brief pause, and then she asked, confusedly, "Why does your birth certificate say female?"

Ha! I was stunned for a second, and came back, probably less diplomatically then I could have done, with "Because I'm a transsexual!" at which comprehension finally dawned on her face, and she said something about "Oh, well, you know, I figured sometimes they make some sort of mix-up on these things." And our mutual friends sort of awkwardly explained to me that they hadn't outed me to her, figuring (quite rightly!) that there was no reason to.

It was a funny reminder that not everyone will automatically be able to overcome the cognitive dissonance of someone whom they'd been reading as male mentioning offhandedly anything about a female past. I was also reminded that I tend to pass as non-trans pretty regularly now, even in crowds (queer/queer-friendly) where I assume that it's possible or probable that I'll get clocked as trans through some combination of factors- small hands, wide hips, sparse facial hair, queer/dyke girlfriend, etc. In this instance, though, not only was she unaware of my transness, even what I thought was a completely revealing statement at first passed right over her head. Heh. Some sort of mix-up indeed! It just took 20 years, thousands of bucks, and some helpful doctors to fix it up.

Though in fact, I haven't fixed it up. I've changed my driver's license and Social Security info, and I intend to apply for a passport this fall- am hoping that those documents plus my top surgeon's letter will let me get an M on there with no problems, despite the fact that my certificate of citizenship has a little 7 yr old girl on it. But I don't intend to change my Canadian birth certificate. I don't have much occasion to trot it out, and I tend to think of it rather as a historical document- they put down F since that's what they thought I was. Now I've grown up and challenged that decision and changed the currently-relevant-to-my-life documents to reflect that, but I don't have much invested in changing the marker on that certificate. No harm done, so long as I don't try to get married in Texas.

TMC pride

Check out this link to the video I mentioned a while ago, taken by a guy wandering around the Pride Parade with a camera. You can see some TMC Network folks being very articulate, as well as me, about halfway through, with my charming sister. I'm floundering a bit and I don't really answer his question, since I didn't quite know how to, but it's interesting to watch, anyway.

like a fish

This weekend, while camping and attending the Falconridge Folk Festival, I had the opportunity to duck over to the town I went to college in and jump in a river with some friends. Oh man, it was so good. I realized as I was splashing around that I haven't gone swimming in a year- not since I had my surgery last August. I'm about a week away from my Chestiversary, and with plenty of sunscreen slathered on, I shucked off my clothes and jumped in the river.

Splashing about in a river in the middle of summer is delightful at any time, of course, but it felt so good to be barechested and unselfconscious. I've skinny dipped in that river plenty of times, but never so unabashedly. There's a lot to be said for the various freedoms that led up to such a joyful afternoon, and I'm grateful for each and every one of them. Hoorah for the summertime.

Monday, July 09, 2007


I went to Callen-Lorde a week or so ago for my one year on T bloodwork- a little late, since I'm actually around the 15 month mark. Still, close enough, given that everything came back fine last time.

As it mostly did again- my doctor went over the lab results line by line, and congratulated me on my great blood pressure, cholesterol, liver function, kidney function, etc. Apparently I'm in rather excellent health...except when we got down to my red blood cell count.

C-L uses red blood cell count as a means of monitoring testosterone levels, since there's a normal male range and a normal female range, and they're pretty much exclusive. My count is at the high end of the normal female range. Pretty high for female, but definitely lower than normal male range.

My doctor told me that this is an instance in which he relies on patient experience to determine how to proceed. If I were feeling like my transition were proceeding too slowly, then he'd feel comfortable, based on my labs, prescribing 250 mg/two weeks rather than the 200 I'm currently at.

The trouble is, I don't really have any way of knowing whether things are proceeding "too slowly." Certainly, all of the changes that I've been expecting have occurred- musculature, facial and body hair, acne, voice dropping. And a few that I haven't expected- more sweating, different appetite patterns, mood issues. But who am I to say how fast things are meant to be going? Certainly I'd prefer to have my beard fill in more quickly, but I'm not sure that more T is the answer to that. I'm thinking back to a workshop I attended at the Trans-Health Conference, in which Nick Gorton explained the cascade of hormone conversion, how T converts into both DHT and estrogen, so more T can lead to more facial hair, etc (DHT) but also more acne and baldness from the same source, and it can also be converted into estrogen.

Anyway, I told him that I feel pretty good about how things are going, and that we could do some bloodwork again in 3 months (rather than waiting another 6) and see what the levels are like.

He also told me that I could probably expect to see my acne clear up by around 18 months from now, which is a relief. He also reminded me that mine is really not that bad- though he was careful, in true Callen-Lorde fashion, to emphasize that he wasn't trying to diminish my experience in any way...that if I feel my acne to be an affliction, then that's valid!

That's one of the things I love about Callen-Lorde, that I've consistently experienced (through the HOTT program, that is, since they're the only ones I've interacted with)- the earnest and concerted effort to make me feel validated and justified in my concerns, as well as an effort to assure me that they're on my side, that they're not looking to make me jump through any hoops, but rather that they just want to offer the best medical care that they can.

I know it can come off as pedantic and condescending to some folks, but I find it really reassuring and warming, and I have to believe that it's one of the only sources of positive feedback that some of their clients have. So hurrah, Callen-Lorde!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

tired of sand being kicked in your face?

Second two pictures are from late last week, after I'd just finished one of my sporadic (but growing more regular!) homestyle workouts...I think you can just see my Swiss ball in the background! First picture was from a photoshoot I did with my friend Mary Ellen as my "pre-t documentation" last March. We went and messed around in the photo studio for an hour or two, and she kindly took a bunch of pictures of me, digital and otherwise. I may scan some of the contact sheets one of these days, since most of the posed shots that we did for body comparison purposes are on them. Still, there's enough to give a general idea here, and I appreciate the modesty of the overexposure in this particular shot. It makes me pretty nervous to put up pre-t/pre-surgery shots of myself on here. Mostly because I don't much like to think of myself being configured like that- I didn't much like acknowledging that body when I had it! So correspondingly, I don't like the idea of anyone else having an image of me that includes breasts. Still, as I get more time and distance from the old WB (With Breasts) days, I think this new PBE (Post Breast Era) can be one of indeed acknowledging my female bodied past.

How comforting that is! I think I'll say it again: female bodied past. Mmm.

In any event, the distance makes everything easier, to the point where now I can enjoy the contrast in these photos in a way that makes me proud of myself and grateful for the steps I've taken.

I'm so pleased to be in my skin these days. I'm trying not to let it shade into vanity, but when I look in the mirror or take these pictures and see my rough little beard, and shoulders wider than my hips, and arms that look solid, I'm just so damn pleased. Is that normal? Are most people happy to inhabit their bodies?

It seems in this body-policing culture we leave in, maybe not....most folks probably spend too much time worrying that their thighs are too big or whatnot. And maybe I'll move out of this honeymoon with my body phase, and start giving more attention to the things that only give me twinges now, like my love handles, and the fact that my beard doesn't grow on the front of my chin, and my acne, etc. But for now, even those little insecurities can't keep me down long. I'm so glad for what I've got!

also, I got a haircut.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


The other day, I was in the company of a transwoman friend of mine, and she did a small favor for me, to which I enthusiastically responded "Thanks, dude!"

She cheerfully but very quickly said "I'm not a dude, but you're welcome!"

And my face must've fallen slightly as my heart broke a little bit, but I covered up fast with "Then thanks, dudette!"

I know exactly what it's like to be so sensitive, to be on edge to every gendered reference, to feel the sting of thoughtless, casual words. At that moment, I had the sudden sinking feeling of knowing what it's like to be the not-sensitive-enough person, to have a thoughtless and automatic response give offense where none is intended.

I call everyone dude- it's not a gendered remark, for me. And ah ha, therein lies the privilege that let me hurt the feelings of a friend, for which I feel quite sorry. Worse still, hurt in a way that I've been hurt myself, in a way that I ought very much to know better than to do.

Of course, there's no way to know how much of her response was (trans)gender-pain based, part of an ongoing fight to be seen as a woman (which every now and again I remember is often a much harder fight for transwomen), and how much was gendered indignation of the same sort that various conscientious feminist friends of mine wince and correct me when I say 'freshmen' instead of 'first year' or "you guys" when referring to a mixed (or even all female) group.

I'm not prepared to fight with out language to the same extent as, say, the We'Moon Collective out in Estacada, Oregon, who get their deliveries from the US Postal Service in the moon box since even phallocentric homonyms are frowned upon; an anecdote I read in the local queer newspaper in high school which has ever since kept me from taking them quite seriously.

But I'm definitely willing to acknowledge that using masculine language as a universal standard is a pretty lousy practice, one that's a big step on the slippery slope of sexism, and does a lot to subtly undermine women and feminist notions.

So I'm glad to be corrected, and glad to get the kick in the pants that reminds me that my casual use of masculine terms, even terms that have lost their gendered markings in my own vocabulary (like dude), are still very gendered for other folks. I may entirely be projecting when I say that I think she flinched at that term for personal, trans-related reasons. There are some who would call that being too sensitive, but I know well that when every acknowledgement of one's identity comes at a hard-fought price, the little things are huge, too. I remember trying to describe to someone once the reason that I didn't want to wear any articles of women's clothing, be it socks or sneakers, even though to the casual eye they were essentially unisex. It was too hard to keep a grasp on my masculinity before transition, and I had to keep a tight grip on the tiniest things to reassure myself, as well as present a unified front to the rest of the world.

So it's possible that my friend was just being a feminist woman, reminding me to curb my assumptions and my language, which was obviously gendered to her even if I used it unthinkingly. Still, it takes on additional weight coming from her, as a woman whose womanhood most likely comes dearly to her, as my manhood does to me.

It's a lesson to remember that my own privilege is generally invisible to me but very visible to others, and in this case, while I'm not sure which set of circumstances most contributed to the offense I gave, I still hurt the feelings of a friend, and I hope I won't forget it soon.