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.