Thursday, February 22, 2007

been a long time

It's been just about a year since I started this blog, and my, how things have changed. My six months past surgery date crept by last week without me noticing, and I've only got another few shots at Callen Lorde before I reach the one year mark there, too, and can start pricking myself with the sharp shiny syringe of change. It's been good to have a place to get my thoughts out...when I first started writing in this, I thought I was going to explode if I didn't find an outlet for all the worries that were swirling around in my head. I think I wrote in this every day, for a while.

I've gone through up and down swings of feeling like I've got solid ground under my feet- I'm reminded that transition isn't just a time for counting new chest hairs, but also for changing and growing in all sorts of ways. I've certainly changed a lot in the last year and one of those ways (thank goodness) is a distinct decrease in angst around my gender. Not to say that I don't still have questions and thoughts and inquiry and processing to do, but I think it's...well, it's settling down into more of a "normal" range. Everyone I know examines and reflects on their own lives, and I think I'm at a point now where I'm, perhaps oddly enough, feeling more normal than ever before. Being trans is hard, and I feel like I've jumped a lot of hurdles- figured out how I wanted to pursue my own transition, then went about pursuing it, and I've gotten most of that accomplished. Now I'm starting to devote brainspace to other things, like what I'm going to be when I grow up. With regards to my gender, it feels like what I'm doing now (and may be doing forever) is "fine tuning" as Amy puts it. And that feels real good.

Of course, it's probably also why I haven't been posting here as often (besides, y'know, lack of regular internet access at home and somehow being busy all the time despite my relatively lowkey job and lack of other engagements like school, etc). Things just aren't quite as urgent when they're knocking around in my head anymore. Not to say I don't have enormous things on my mind still (like, say, should I have a hysterectomy or should I quit T so that I can have a baby in 5-10-whenever many years?), but just that I'm calmer about them now. Which I like. Maybe it's a tide turning in my adolescence, or some such. Whatever it means, I'm welcoming it- year one, over and done with. Woo.


So last Tuesday the 13th I went to 215 W. 125th st, 4th floor, to the Worker's Compensation Board of NY State, to have a hearing about my disability benefits claim. My union, 1199, had denied my disability claim for the time that I was off of work due to my chest surgery last August...they were supposed to pay me disability wages (2/3 of my actual pay, I think) for the 8 days that I missed after my week of sick time was used up. They refused my claim, stating that they wouldn't cover an "elective surgery" and even after I got my doctor from Callen Lorde to write a letter stating that this was a "medically necessary surgery for" me, they still denied it. So I contested it, and one thing led to another, and this morning I sat in a waiting room for over an hour before a Worker's Comp judge led me and the 1199 representative into his tiny little office to figure out what was what.

I'd come all prepared, with copies of the letters from my doctor, and printouts of the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, and the DSM-IV definition of Gender Identity Disorder, and the New York City Human Rights Law about gender identity being protected under its non-discrimination clause, etc.

I was prepared to stand by what my doctor had written in his letter about me- that I am undergoing treatment, psychological and otherwise, for my gender identity disorder, and that this bilateral mastectomy had been an important part of this treatment, which is necessary in order for me to successfully function in society.

I'd been a bit nervous, because I'm not entirely certain where I come down on the medicalization of trans folks, and while I was fully prepared to say to the judge "This surgery is medically necessary for me" I'm also aware of the implications of adding to the sort of master narrative of transsexuality (if there is such a thing) about how all trans folks are transition-track transsexuals who need surgery to "fix" them. I do think that this surgery was necessary for me to be the happy(-go-lucky) fella I am today, though, so I didn't let my theoretical qualms get in the way of my preparations.

Such preparations turned out to be for naught, however! The longest part of the whole ordeal was waiting on the benches for my name to be called. When I got back into the tiny small 'courtroom' with myself, the judge, the Union representative and a stenographer, the judge already had my file in front of him. He asked the Union rep a few pointed questions- first "Why are you contesting this claim?" and then, when she replied that they'd declared it elective, "But he has two letters from his doctor stating that it was a medically necessary procedure- so why are you contesting it?"

She said something repetitive along the lines of "Well, our reviewers declared it elective."

This didn't hold much sway with the judge, who gave me a long look over his glasses, then said "Seeing as how his doctor wrote that this procedure was necessary for him to function successfully in society, I'm going to say that's medically necessary. He's awarded the full amount."

Success! Triumph! Ten minutes of potential embarassment turned into a gratifyingly affirmative ruling! Who says the whole world's transphobic?

Monday, February 12, 2007


A sample from the latest shoot I did with Mary Ellen. So good to have this photographic record of my transition- I'm so grateful to her for lending her time and talent and photodocumentarian eye. I'm coming up on a year of physically transitioning (time for another Manniversary party, perhaps?) so maybe soon I'll do a photo retrospective.

Time for another shot tomorrow night...I'd lost track of the time til this morning, when I realized two weeks had gone by. Funny how something can lose its urgency into normalcy as months go by, every other week down to Callen Lorde for my needleful of oil. With my one year mark, I'll probably start doing it myself- wonder if I'll have to mark my calendar? Coming full circle from the Xs I used to scrawl in 7th and 8th grade, when menstruating was still a novelty, still an excitement of its own because it marked growing out of childhood. That was before it became an inconsistent (28 day cycle my butt- the red army never invaded on the same time schedule twice) reminder that womanhood was not going to be a good fit.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

of a feather

Transmasculine Spectrum Drop-In Group (whew) starts again tonight at the LGBT center downtown. It's from 7:30-9, and I'm going with equal parts anticipation and trepidation. When I first started going to the group a year ago, it was a really great thing for me. It was awesome to be in a space with other transmasculine folks, and be able to ask and answer provocative and fulfilling questions and answers. Now, though, sometimes it feels like a weight laid on me rather than lifted off. I think perhaps it's because I'm feeling much more at peace and being in a room with 20 other people and their angst and insecurity isn't so much comforting to me. Rather, it can get me down sometimes. I feel a little shitty about that- just because I don't need the group so much anymore doesn't mean that I should stop going, right? Maybe I've got things to give, not just take? And there are plenty of times when I still come out of it with stimulating thoughts and/or new perspectives, or just a nice full sense of camraderie. Certainly, it's always good to see people of whom I've become fond, and meet new people. Interact with my community, if you will. It just taps into a large question I've been wondering about lately- what is my community? Is there a trans community? Should there be?
Gave blood yesterday and the guy typed my social security number into his database and cocked an eyebrow. "It says Emmalyn."
me: "Oh, uh, yeah, that's me. I changed my name."
him: "What, you didn't like it?"
me: "Uh, no."
him: "Y'know, my brother's middle name is Lagonda. He hates it."
I'm very much enjoying the interesting discussion going on in the comments to my queer vs. hetero post the other day. Thanks for the feedback/interaction, y'all.

call for submissions

Just saw this call for submissions to an upcoming anthology...I'm thinking of submitting something, though not sure what yet. Anything I do submit I'll post here first, of course. Thought I'd throw this up here in case any of y'all reading this might want to write something for it. Regardless, there are some interesting prompts raised that I'll probably write about whether or not I send something off.


BEYOND MASCULINITY:Essays by Queer Men on Gender and Politics

Gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer men's gender identities often exist somewhere outside the traditional categories of "masculine" and "feminine." Sissies, drag queens, and leather daddies alike play with gender in a way that cannot be accounted for in traditional understandings of maleness. This collection -- part blog, part anthology, part audiobook -- aims to shatter traditional understandings of maleness and point towards a new understanding of how queerness and gender intersect.

BEYOND MASCULINITY is looking for contributions in four areas. Contributors should not feel bound by these categories - they should rather be seen as potential prompts:

I. Intersections of Identity: How do race, ability, class, and other kinds of identities and experiences intersect with gender and queerness -- and how do these intersections complicate our relationship to traditional understandings of "maleness?"

II. Feminism / Gender / Politics: How can feminism inform our understanding of queer male gender? Can queer men be feminists? How can we use our queerness as a political tool? What does male privilege look like for queer men?

III. Bodies, Desire, and Pleasure: What kinds of male bodies are desired? Fetishized? Where does sexual desire intersect with queer gender and how are these politics mapped out on our bodies?

IV. Queer Male Communities: How are our identities produced through our communities? How do the gender norms and politics of gay/bi/trans/queer male communities both liberate and constrain us?We're looking for queer male writers to step up and contribute their thoughts to this online project.

We're looking for personal / political essays. No academic papers, fiction, or poetry will be accepted. ***This is not your typical bookstore anthology.*** It will be only available online - and it will be completely free of charge to the public. With its unique implementation of media, this anthology aims to change the way queer non-fiction is done.

About the Editor: Trevor Hoppe is a Masters of Arts Student in Human Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University. He has a long history of LGBTQ campus organizing as an undergraduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he helped found the GLBT-Straight Alliance. While at UNC, he also helped found the Southeastern Unity Conference, which was focused on investigating the intersections of queerness with other kinds of identities. His essays and editorials have been published in several publications, including The Advocate, Boston's Bay Windows, San Francisco's Bay Area Reporter, The East Bay Alternative, and American Sexuality Magazine.

For more information on the project or to submit your work, please see our website: Questions? Contact Editor Trevor Hoppe at

Saturday, February 03, 2007

"The only kind of work that brings enjoyment... the kind that is for girl and boy meant!" or so say our friends the Gershwin brothers. But what if the boys and girls are gay?

I've been thinking today about gender and sex- not the anatomy kind, but the hot steamy kind. I was thinking about a friend's experience; she mentioned being consistently assumed to be a lesbian, and how she is queer and interested in women, but also just as interested in guys. Makes me think that sometimes there's no room for shades of queerness- even a little bit of queerness makes you Gay. Or maybe it's just that if you're Gay, you can't date boys (or girls, if you're a Gay Guy).

I have a lot of similar experience in that I'm a queer guy who tends to date queer women. But this is confusing, and tricky, for me and others. I remember when I was first telling my dad that I'd decided to be a guy and he asked me "So, uh, are you straight now?"

Well, no. I've never had a boyfriend, or really done much more than make out with a guy. Because, as I explained it to him, I was never at all interested in being a guy's girlfriend. But I am definitely more open to the prospect of being a guy's boyfriend. On the other hand, while I'm much more open to the prospect now, it's not like testosterone has suddenly made me 100% gay. I'm more attracted to guys (more willing to admit that I'm attracted to guys?) now, but I'm still mostly interested in women.

But on the other hand, I still think of myself as 100% gay. Or, well, queer, at least. It makes me wonder what it means to be gay, or queer- is it about sex? And if so, is it about the sex of your partner, or the sexual acts you engage in with that partner? Or is being queer about more than just getting it on or getting off?

My inclination is to say yes, of course it is, but then how much of what I think of as my queerness could also be considered just my style of masculinity? I have a very queer masculinity, but what makes it queer?

When Rochelle and I are together, I think people often wonder why the fag and the dyke are making out with each other. Our dynamic is wonderfully complex, and sometimes we're boyfriend/girlfriend, sometimes we're both boys, sometimes we've got a really lesbionic vibe going that can't be denied. But one thing we're not is straight- even when we're boyfriend/girlfriend it's almost always gay boyfriend/dyke girlfriend. Which is great, and hot, but makes it slightly weird but all too easy to hide inside lines that don't really fit.

Now I'm running out of time, and I want to come back to this later, but basically, I'm just wondering what kind of truth is coming out of my mouth when I say that I'm a gay guy.