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last night, that lasted into this morning for a while, and it took me until breakfast to figure out why I was so withdrawn and shut-down feeling.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.