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check "no" even though it's a lie, because I know that to check "yes" is to be automatically disqualified, thanks to outdated homophobic restrictions that the Red Cross established decades ago.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.