Sunday, December 21, 2008

all I post these days are pictures

Someday, words will flow again. Perhaps while I'm home for the holidays. In the meantime, I leave you with a few pictures that I snapped upon divesting myself of my snow gear this afternoon. Roughly two and a quarter years post-surgery, two and a half on T.

I have been told my chest hair resembles an eagle.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Pretty much last but certainly not least on my list of things I'm thankful for: muttonchops!

Monday, November 17, 2008


I'm glad to see that Duanna Johnson is getting some national coverage in the NY Times, and to see that the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition received an outpouring of donations to help cover the cost of her funeral expenses. I hope that justice is served, and that some scrap of silver lining can be made of this too-common tragedy. If there is further accountability within the police department, if her estate can continue to press the lawsuit against the MPD, if people around the country hear her story and understand a little bit that transgender men and women...well. I don't know what to say that doesn't sadden me that I have to say it. We're here. We're real. We live our lives, we deserve respect, and we sure as hell don't deserve to be insulted or beaten or murdered for being different.

This Thursday, the 20th, is the international Transgender Day of Rememberance. I hope everyone who is reading this will take a minute, of silence perhaps, to remember and honor the dead.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Transwoman murdered, no protests planned.

Thanks to Jack for saying, as usual, exactly the right thing about such a tragic situation. It is very bad that Californians decided to deny gay people the basic right of marriage. It is much worse that trans folks (especially trans women, especially women of color) are continuously disrespected, denied basic rights (including marriage, whether heterosexual or homosexual!), not to mention assaulted and murdered. And yet, thousands of people aren't marching in the streets to protest transphobia.

It's hard not to be bitter. I don't want to set up a false dichotomy- marriage equality is a worthy cause, one that I am in favor of. Clearly, everyone should be able to marry whomever they choose, and it's great to see an outpouring of positive support for the cause. I'd prefer activism around this issue to a completely apathetic gay community.

But I'm saddened and frustrated that same-sex marriage is the biggest issue associated with the LGBT community. It's what politicians get asked about, and their carefully minced words get used to declare them pro-gay or anti-gay. Certainly gay issues and trans issues don't always overlap, but there are plenty of trans folks supporting marriage equality and agitating and protesting against Prop 8, and generally being the T holding up the end of the rainbow acronym. It sure would be nice to see some reciprocity, and to see some acknowledgement that there are other more serious issues facing this community than whether or not the government will recognize your relationship and give you a tax break.

Jack has posted a link asking folks to donate in equal measure to however they donated to the fight against Prop 8. I didn't donate to the No On 8 campaign, but I just donated here.

My rightous anger/grief is getting all mixed up with my personal grief from my cousin's death earlier this fall. It was the first time I'd ever been in a funeral home, the first family member I'd lost when I was old enough and privy to the jagged logistics of a death- the decisions to be made, the money that needed to change hands. It was a hard, dreadful week, and never til just now did I consider that it could've been much harder.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

not covered

I never got around to blogging about this back at the time, but when I was first hired for my new job, I had to fill out a whole bunch of forms for HR, some of which pertained to the health care plan that I would be covered by. There were two options, a PPO and an HMO, with thick booklets explaining the difference between the two.

I didn't know much about the difference between the two, save that I've only ever heard HMOs referred to with scorn, and I remember one Dykes to Watch Out For comic featured a character wearing a tshirt that read HMOphobic. It turns out that it basically has to do with how much freedom you want to be able to choose your own doctors and specialists vs relying solely on the people that are chosen for you. The HMO is also the cheaper option, in terms of monthly deductions from one's paycheck.

What struck me the most, as I settled down to compare the two and make my choice, was how similar (and surprising) they both were on the topic of transsexuals. Both booklets contained an extensive (though not exhaustive, as they took pains to disclaim!) list of items not covered by the plan, ranging from refractive eye surgery to infertility treatment to foot orthotics. But waaay at the top of this list (both lists!), clocking in at number three, the third most important thing that these insurance companies want to make clear they will not pay for was, and I quote, "Transsexual surgery, including related drugs or procedures." (One said transsexual, the other "gender reassignment")

Wow. Really? Number three? I wasn't surprised to find that my specific health care needs wouldn't be covered, but I was rather surprised to see it so explicitly stated, and so early in the list. I was rather under the (apparently misguided or outdated) impression that trans health issues were, while not being supported by the health insurance companies or even most medical practitioners, mostly flying under the radar. When I had to fight my Union to grant me short-term disability leave after my chest surgery, they tried to deny it because it "wasn't medically necessary" and was "cosmetic" but they didn't have any explicit No Transsexuals rule. It was more de facto discrimination than blatant.

It was surprising to see my health care needs so clearly invalidated like that. I wonder when that line was added to the list, and what the reasoning was to make it the third item. Is it because trans surgeries are so expensive? (though I dare speculate that part of the reason they're so expensive is that so few surgeons perform them, in part because of a lack of support/funding from the medical establishment, from research of new techniques to insurance payments.) Is it because trans health care makes up a large percentage of insurance claims? (unlikely, it seems, given how few of us there are.)

There is so much to be said about trans heath care and how and why we don't get insurance coverage and how and why we ought to. I hope to have more of an opportunity to organize around this issue in the future- it's more important to me than, say, same-sex marriage. Not that I don't think everyone should be able to get married because, hey, I do! It's just when I read about the huge protests thare going on now against Prop 8 that just passed in California, I can't help but be astonished that this is such a big deal. Seriously, can we get some of that energy directed towards the myriad other issues in this country?

Monday, November 10, 2008


Another relevant/funny dinosaur comic!

good election news!

A trans person was elected Mayor of Silverton, OR! I've found a few news items through Google News, (and deliberately haven't clicked on any of the Fox News clips- don't really care to spoil my morning with whatever they have to say!) and they mostly appear to be doing a good job of coverage. Stu appears to fall under the much broader gender-variant umbrella definition of transgender, and is not transsexual, despite the cringe-worthy headline "Sex change we can believe in!" headline I saw from one newspaper. It's great to see a gender variant person holding public office (Stu has been a City Council member for a while, apparently) and living their life effectively without fear of recrimination. Way to go, Stu! Way to be a role model!

oh yeah, and the most important presidential of my (most people's) lifetimes was decisively won by the man by far best qualified to do the job, thus salvaging the last vestiges of my faith in my fellow americans to do the right thing. thrilling moment, particularly when our man Obama gave a shout out to the gays in his acceptance speech. also, i'm delighted to see that the three heinous anti-choice measures in colorado, south dakota and california were shot down, just as I am saddened to see that the various anti-gay marriage (california, florida, arizona) and anti-gay adoption (arkansas) bills passed.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

ought I mention...?

So, my sister is a writer, and has written several beautiful essays about my transition and how it's impacted our family, etc. We talk frequently about co-authoring a book. She has had a piece accepted by the NY Times which will be published soon, and I couldn't be more proud of her.

I'm also faced with something of a quandary. I haven't mentioned to anyone at my new job (or in my new town) anything about my transsexual history. I'm very chatty about my queerness, as is my wont, since that figures much larger in my day to day life than my transsexuality does. I think my queerness is in many ways more of a defining element of my character, though, as always, teasing out my queerness from my transsexuality isn't always the easiest or most fruitful task.

Anyway, the moral of the story is, I don't know whether to mention anything to my coworkers/friends that in a few days, there will be an essay about me and my transsexuality in a major national newspaper, which mentions me by first name. My full name isn't in the piece, but my sister and I have the same last name, which isn't terribly common, and it mentions the city I've recently been living in, as well as our home state, so, well, I don't think it'd be terribly hard to put two and two together.

But on the other hand, I really have no idea whether anyone would put two and two together and connect it with me. One thing I've found is that for most people, the concept that someone they know (especially someone whose gender/sex is not particularly ambiguous or androgynous) might be a transsexual is waaay far down the list of things that cross their minds.

So I figure either a) no one who knows me will read the piece (unlikely, since I work in a University, and academics tend to enjoy the Sunday NY Times); b) folks will read it and see my name but not see my last name in tiny print on the byline, so will make no connection to me (distinct possibility); c) folks will read it and also read the byline and think "Huh, that's funny! I know an Eli with that last name! What a small world." (strikes me as a distinct possibility); d) folks will read it and think "OMG, I know that guy!" followed either by "No wonder he's so knowledgeable about trans/gender issues!" or "I never would've guessed he's really a she!"

Clearly, it's that last option that has me wondering whether I should do any pre-emptive disclosure, and it's the two very different scenarios that have me really wavering back and forth as to what to do.

Ideally, I'd like to be open about my transsexual history in a matter-of-fact manner. I'm not ashamed, I'm not a particularly private person, I do think that my transsexual experiences have given me the occasional interesting and useful perspective, and it's a fact of my life that I grew up being perceived and treated as (and believing myself to be) female. While I don't consider it anyone's particular business how my body is configured (which is mostly the only thing still relevant about my transsexuality, given that I live as male now), I do like talking about myself, and sometimes it's nice to say things like "Well, when I was a speaker at the Lesbian Community Project's New Years part in 2001..." and be able to provide appropriate context for why I had that experience. Not to mention the community service/outreach component of being known as a transsexual person and role model.

But the (sad) fact is, I just don't trust people not to have that latter, worrisome response- "Oh, that guy is really a girl?!"

Many, many people do not understand what it means to be trans, do not understand how to appropriately respond to transsexual people, do not understand about the varying relationships between gender identity and 'biological sex' (placed in air quotes because that's a phrase that's thrown around in uncomfortable ways, too. ). It's tiresome and painful and wearying to deal with that ignorance, and I (selfishly, maybe) don't want to deal with it.

Ah, but there's the rub. I don't want my cissexual privilege (as Julia Serano might say!) taken away from me. All of these people in my life have been assuming that I'm not a transsexual, because that's what we do in this culture- that's what cissexual privilege means. You are assumed to be cissexual (that is, not a transsexual) unless proven otherwise, which means that transsexuals are forever and ever the strange and invalid "other" to be contrasted with the norm.

And I understand that there is a somewhat circular operation in place here: if more people know I'm a transsexual- particularly people who already perceive, understand, and accept my maleness on a gut level- then more of those people are likely to let go of their ignorant, offensive notions of transsexuals as 'fake' men and women, thus diminishing the power of cissexism.

Now, it's possible to contest that cissxual privilege without putting my own body on the line by declaring my transsexuality at every opportunity. That's called being an ally, and being trans and being a trans ally are not mutually exclusive terms. I can (and already have- remind me to tell the stories of America's Next Trans Model coming up at the LGBT club, or talking about books to be used for the new proposed LGBT studies class) be an ally and stand up for trans education without disclosing my transsexuality and thus inviting people to strip away my cissexual privilege...which often involves mentally stripping me, because I pretty much "look like a guy" now, so folks who find out that I'm trans pretty much (I'm speculating here, but hey, it's likely) think "So this guy wasn't born with a dick?" and dude, I don't want everyone thinking about my dick all the time.

But it's also undeniable that being a transsexual role model can have a positive impact. And while I hate the narrative of "keeping secrets" that gets forced onto trans folks, I also dislike feeling the residue of that narrative. I do feel like I'm not able to be completely forthright with the people around me, and while that's not entirely my fault, it still sucks.

The problem with that 'secrets' narrative is that it implies that the 'secret' is that I'm 'secretly' not a real man. But really, at this point, I'm secretly a man with a transsexual history. There's plenty of incentive, as I've been mentioning, to keep that transsexual history secret, since the world at large still equates 'transsexual man' with 'not a real man.'

Anyway. The narrative of this particular post (screed?) has started to wander, so I'm going to stop, albeit not having found myself any closer to deciding whether to disclose my transsexuality to my coworkers.

I think the bottom line is that I'm getting to the point where I'm close enough with some of them that I'm comfortable enough and would like to be able to share my personal and/or medical history, so I'll probably end up doing that. And the folks that I'd like to tell are the folks that I'm friends with, whom I can probably count on to be decent, relatively sensitive folks. As always, I never know how much credit to give people when it comes to being sensitive. I've had people I've assumed would be really cool open their mouths and say incredibly offensive things (see, ANTM story, forthcoming) and I've had people I've assumed would be resistant turn out to be totally comfortable.

The thing is, as with any sensitive topic, if I tell one person, I have to be comfortable with the possibility that everyone would know. Not that I think my coworkers are blabbermouths, and not that my transsexuality might not come to light by some other, unknown to me means, but still- I believe that one oughtn't tell sensitive information to anyone without coming to terms with the fact that it could mean telling everyone. And, since I don't trust EVERYONE as much as I trust my new friends when it comes to not being offensive...well, I'm still not sure what to do.

beard follow up:

Who knew I had so much in common with T-Rex?

Monday, October 27, 2008


My beard continues to fill in, which is quite reassuring now that I live up in the cold hinterlands of New England. Snow is forecast for the next few days (before Halloween! What have I gotten myself into??) and while I was just missing my muttonchops the other day, and thinking about going back to a sideburns/goatee/'chops situation, I may hunker down and wait til spring before I mess around with exposing my face to the elements.

My beard still looks a bit scraggly to me sometimes, especially compared to some of the exceedingly thick and luxurious beards that some of my fellow New Englander men are sporting. But I also regularly see other guys with very similar patterns, and certainly when I look back to compare pictures of my beard from last year, I can instantly see how much it's filled in.

Here are some current pictures- it's been more than two and half years on T, so about two years since I started trying to grow my facial hair out at all, and about a year and a half since I've been able to achieve any reasonable growth at all.

Here are the requisite close-up self-portraits, the kind I might label "Tranny Photo Essay!" were I the type to use the word "tranny" casually, which I'm not. I get that it can be a cute and/or sassy way for trans folks to reclaim a historically hurtful word, and refer to themselves with some degree of levity, but I just can't ignore the condescension that, to my ears, drips from the word, and so don't ever use it myself. And I don't ever think it's acceptable for non-trans folks to use.

Anyway. Goofy self-portraits:
But look! You can see I'm finally starting to achieve my dearest facial hair wish: connection! My moustache is finally starting to connect to my beard.
Of course, at more than 5 inches away, one still can't really make out the Bering Strait of my facial hair.

And the connection, such as it is, isn't even as robust as that on my left side, where it's, erm, tenuous at best. But I'm quite satisfied.

For comparison, here's a shot from May '08- less robust facial hair, clearly. Gratuitous chest hair shot! That's been filling in, too, though not as much.
Then we go back another 6 months, to December '07. Again you can see how my moustache didn't connect at all, and whoa, you can really see how '08 has been the year of the hairy chest.
And finally, a shot from July of 2007, which appears to have been my first full scale effort to "grow out my beard." I didn't bother with the moustache, patchy as it was, and you can see that the beard itself was very much confined to my jawline.

Aww, in that last picture I was wearing my RUNT: Stick up for the little guy! shirt. RUNT was a party at a bar for short guys and their friends and admirers- I think it ran for much of 2006. At any rate, a bunch of us who used to frequent the Transmasculine Support Group at the LGBT Center in NYC used to frequently head over to RUNT after 'Group,' as we called it. Most of us were pretty short, so we fit right in!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

let me get this straight.

When I tried to change my name last year, I was denied by the judge because I hadn't provided "proof of a sex change" and I was going from (in his opinion!) a female name to a male name.

It makes me just spitting mad to think about the prejudice I (and many others) have faced when trying to do something as simple as getting a namechange....particularly when I read that this girl has no problems changing her name to "", or I remember that would-be Senator in Idaho who changed his name to "Pro-Life."

So, let's see. "" is a fine, valid legal name. "Eli" is not.

Many, many other trans folks have faced and continue to face this same problem- being pressured to provide "proof" of various and arbitrary medical procedures before being allowed to choose a different name for themselves, and having to jump through hoops and hurdles and obstacles, which they may or may not have had time to pursue. I was fortunate- I had a full-time, well-benefitted job at which I'd accrued personal time that I used in order to make the multiple trips down to the Courthouse during business hours. Eventually, I had contacts at the ACLU that allowed me to get a lawyer to file a brief on my behalf and let me get my name changed. Many other trans people don't have such resources and, more importantly, they shouldn't have to!

I believe CutOut and ProLife have the right to change their names to whatever they want, no matter how far-out their motivation. Because hey, guess what? If you're not trying to avoid debt or commit fraud, you are legally allowed to change your name to whatever you want!

It's just another example of how trans people get systematically discriminated against. No one asks you about the status of your genitals if you try to change your name, regardless if it's Jane Doe or VoteForObama McGee or Sugarplum PezDispenser...unless you're a transsexual! Then they want proof of what's in your pants.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Great News!

The ACLU has won its case against the Library of Congress, on behalf of a transsexual woman whose job offer was rescinded after she revealed her intention to transition. ACLU's press release is here. More details about the case, including the text of the decision (scroll down) are here.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

taking some excellent advice

I watched this amazing video the other day, via a Safe Schools blog, which got it from Bilerico, who got it, I guess from the originator, Jay Smooth.

Here is a technique to put at the top of one's toolkit. It's talking about racism, and the excellent advice that it offers is directly applicable to other situations in which someone says something offensive or uncomfortable, and I want to call them out on saying it without inspiring a huge, defensive, "I'm not transphobic/sexist/racist!!!!" reaction on their part.

This is for two reasons. On the one hand, sometimes such things will be said by people who haven't fully processed their own privilege, or had their consciousness raised- well meaning folks who just don't realize that whatever they just said was messed-up. Or even folks who HAVE done a lot of work around their privilege (whatever kind of privilege that is) can still make a mistake, or speak without thinking, or say something that they just hadn't considered from all angles yet. To use a trans example, this would be my friends who have worked hard (to varying degrees, but all to a certain extent) to understand what it means to be trans, to understand why I need to transition, to recognize my (everyone's) right to articulate and access my own gender identity....yet still say things like "Wow, Eli, you look just like a boy!"

Prompting me, in my braver moments, to say "Thanks for the sentiment, but I want you to know, that's offensive; telling me I look "like" a boy automatically sets up a situation in which I can never "be" a boy, only an illegitimate facsimile. Which hurts my feelings and invalidates trans folks everywhere."

So it's nice to have this video as a reminder of the importance of focusing on someone's words/deeds, since their other actions and intentions are great, and NOT racist, sexist, etc.

Then there's the other situation, the less comfortable one: dealing with people who actually ARE racist, sexist, transphobic. The trick is, a bigot will pretty much never self-identify as such. And who am I kidding- as Avenue Q tells us, we're ALL a "little racist." So I guess here, I mean people who have never tried to understand their privilege, who refuse to acknowledge that systematic oppressions like racism and misogyny even exist, let alone flourish, in our society, the folks who cling to their behavior and declare "I'm not a homophobe! I have gay friends!" even as they vote against marriage equality and hate crimes bills. Since they will (almost) never acknowledge (for example) that they are, in fact, homophobic in their little unexamined hearts, often the best and easiest way to thwart their behavior is, as this video tells us, not to get into a big philosophical debate about whether they're homophobic or not. They will invariably get off track and out of proportion and probably not get anywhere, since for them to lose that argument, they have to say "Uh, yeah, I guess I'm a homophobe." Which most folks will never feel comfortable doing. Even in the unlikely event that they realize that you are right, that they ARE homophobic, they'll probably be too embarrassed/defensive to admit it.

But! as Jay Smooth so rightly points out, by focusing on concrete, undeniable evidence- aka "that fucked up thing you just said"- it's possible to NOT let offensive words slide by and spend the rest of the day kicking yourself for not having stood up and said anything; an activity that I am totally sick of. There's no grey area of having to decide whether someone's really transphobic in their heart or not. One can just straight up address the behavior, stick to the facts when explaining why it's offensive, and (hopefully!) get the person to acknowledge that the thing they said was messed up, and agree not to say it anymore, thus winning the battle and taking a tiny step towards winning the war without attempting to actually win in one skirmish the whole big "you're a racist" war.

Thanks for the excellent advice, Jay Smooth!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

shot day

I'm a day late on my shot, because I was too crazed yesterday to remember that it was Friday, the day to pause after my morning shower to scrounge together some alcohol wipes, needles, syringe, find a spot on the edge of the bed with plenty of light, deliberate over which spot on which thigh to choose, so as not to run into any 'tough spots' (mysterious sections of my leg that feel harder to inject through than others- I suspect perhaps scar tissue is building up from these 52 shots a year I've been giving myself) or brush a nerve, which makes my leg twitch weirdly while I'm giving the shot and then sometimes aches deeply for 2-3 days afterwards.

It was so exciting at first to learn how to give myself shots, to take my oily agent of change into my own hands, and have control over my own destiny. Now, that excitement hasn't quite morphed into resentment, though I can sense that on the horizon, but it's definitely turned into a chore, one that I have to work to remind myself of rather than look forward to each week.

Ive got a doctor's appointment next week, my yearly gynecological visit. I intend to ask the nurse to show me where I can self-inject on my hips/butt area. I know lots of guys use that spot, and it'd be nice to have four injection sites to rotate through. Also, I'm trying to brainstorm any other medical attention I might need to see if I can get it then- such as my next testosterone prescription refill, though it's a couple of weeks early- because I'm moving up to New England in ~6 days, and I'm not really looking forward to trying to track down a doctor up there.

I've definitely been spoiled by being in NYC and having Callen-Lorde and its dedicated HOTT program available to me, chock full o' knowledgeable, respectful and experience providers. I know that being an LGBT clinic isn't always a guarantee that the providers will live up to the T on the end of that acronym- and in fact, my experiences with providers in other departments at C-L were regularly less than stellar, with them not immediately reading me as trans, and so making assumptions, and then making insulting gaffes when trying to cover up their surprise...much like any 'regular' doctor, I'd imagine! But the staffers in the HOTT program have been consistently fantastic, and I'll miss them.

I'm going to be living within semi-reasonable driving distance (less than two hours) of both Boston and Northampton, so if necessary, I can probably dig up a reasonably experienced doctor in one those two hotbeds of LGBT stuff. But I'd prefer to find someone closer to home, and I don't know what the range of my new health insurance is going to be. So this may well be an opportunity to start from scratch with a brand new doctor who's never had a trans patient before, and the thought does not fill me with any particular joy.

It's frustrating to have a medical condition for which I need medical supervision but because of which I'm nervous to speak to a doctor. I don't know of a lot of other situations for which that's the case. Doctor-patient relationships are always fraught, of course, but I just don't know if there is another kind of medical condition which would cause the same kind of worry that I have right now- that I just won't be able to find someone competent or (more worrisome, actually, since it's not that hard to right a prescription for T) willing to treat me. And that I might face hostile or derogatory attitudes in my search.

Now, Captain Optimist in me realizes that it probably won't be that big of a deal. Most doctors are reasonably openminded people (right?) who are bound to do no harm (right?) and I am confident in my own knowledge about my medical care, and my ability to advocate on behalf of myself. Of course, I'm well aware that I have had the good fortune to have good medical care in the past, access to plenty of information, and a more-forceful-than-average personality, so it is still rather unfair that I as a trans person may need to draw upon various personal resources that not all trans folks have.

It reminds me of things that I hear about in the Fatosphere, of folks who are fat activists and who work to empower people of size. They often have to struggle to get appropriate, respectful healthcare from a medical establishment that doesn't respect them or consider them normal. It's a tiring, disheartening thing to have to convince one's own doctor to stop focusing on whatever is shocking about oneself (being fat, being a dude with a vagina) and instead look at me as a patient with needs that may be related to those issues, but may not! Fat folks often have to remind their doctors that hey, not everything can be fixed with the advice of "Well, if you just lost some weight...." and likewise, while I am going to need trans-specific health care, that mostly boils down to monitoring my hormone levels, and I may very well health care for things that have nothing to do with my being trans (allergy medicine! eye doctor! whatever!), and it'd be nice to have the security of knowing that I could present with a medical issue and not have to worry about the doctor getting sidetracked by Teh Tranz.

You never know. I could get lucky and find someone who is, if not experienced, at least happy to work with a new kind of patient, and intelligent enough to listen to me and not say anything too asinine. "Wow, I'd have never guessed you had a sex change!"

And I'll see how my gyno visit goes on Wednesday. I hear that once you've had three normal paps in a row, and if you're not, er, interacting with anyone new and unusual, you can go down to once every other year for the gyno visit. Two years from now, I may well be leaving New England, so I might not have to find out what the OB/GYN in my new town would think of a dude in his or her waiting room.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Trans in the Sands TODAY, New York City

hey, anyone in the NYC area- I just found out that today is the annual Trans on the Sands event held by the LGBT Center. It's a day at Coney Island where we all get together on th beach in our favorite fabulous beachwear, no matter our gender identity or bodily configuration or whatever combination of the two, and enjoy the safety in numbers to have a stress free day at the beach. Not to mention hang out and connect with pals.

So, if anyone wants to hit up Trans in the Sands TODAY, from 12-5 at Coney Island, here's the map
The weather is gorgeous!

neither I nor my computer have been horribly maimed, I've just been too busy packing and moving and getting a new job (!!) to post much. Once I'm settled in the wilds of New England, I'm sure my posting will become much more regular.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


It's two years minus six weeks since I had chest surgery. I remembered because I had to have my deposit in by July 19th, which was six weeks before my surgery date, and which also happens to be my partner's birthday, so the six week mark stuck in my head.

I've been walking around shirtless a lot this weekend, mostly because it's been hotter than an overdone porkchop here in NYC, with fiendish humidity, and so I'm walking around as nakedly as possible. I've mostly gotten to the point where taking off my shirt no longer produces a little thrill of excitement every time I do it- for most of my first year post surgery, it was still so novel and exciting and satisfying just to know that I COULD take my shirt off at any point. But now I don't think about it as much, I just take my shirt off when I'm too warm.

But! This weekend I've been shirtless in two (rather diametrically opposed, actually) interesting situations that have given rise to the following thoughts.

First, yesterday my sister and I went to Coney Island for the second year in a row to see the AVP Tour and see some amazing professional volleyball. It was great, and just as much fun as it was last year, but being around all of those incredibly chiseled folks can give a guy a complex! It reminded me of the various body processing I've been doing on this blog recently, about my hourglass shape and how I'm not so fond of it, partly because (like most guys in our body-obsessed culture) I want that Adonis ideal V-shape with broad shoulders and a narrow waist (and no hips!) and partly because those flaring hips and narrow/high waist seem like blinking neon "girl" markers to me, problematic though that sentiment is.

I felt like the scrawniest guy there, and not just compared to the super buff players. A big percentage of the audience looked like they played some kind of regular sport, and had the physiques to prove it. More than 2/3 of the guys there were walking around just in their swim trunks- we were at the beach, after all- but I kept my shirt on not just to protect me from the sun, but also because I was suddenly shyer than I've been in months about my hips, my lacking muscles, my sparse chest hair.

Not once has a stranger ever asked me about the scars on my chest, but I found myself rehearsing my favorite potential excuses: Shark attack! No, seriously, I fell off a boat and got tangled in the propeller. No, no, just kidding, just some surgery.

Anyway, later in the day I shed my inhibitions and bright pink (I'm not THAT insecure in my masculinity!) tank top to go jump in the ocean when the heat got too bad, but I kept trying to imagine how others were seeing me or noticing, and I kept looking for, and not finding, guys with bodies that looked like mine.

Later, on the way to the subway, I walked further down the boardwalk and suddenly found myself amidst TONS of guys who looked much like me: pasty pale (actually, I don't mind my 'library tan'- skin cancer is scary stuff!), kinda short, thin arms and potbellies, no muscle definition.

I almost laughed out loud when I realized that duh, Eli, naturally the audience at a professional sporting event is going to be filled with a greater than usual percentage of jocks and athletically-bodied folks. I'd been feeling bad about myself in comparison to everyone around me, but it was a skewed sample! There ARE in fact plenty of non-trans guys in the world whose arms have no visible muscle definition!

(Of course, my next thought was 'Why are all these hipsters at the beach?? Until I remembered the the Village Voice's music festival was that day.)

And then today I looked at the pictures we uploaded, and saw this one Kate took of me just before I dashed down to the ocean, while we were waiting for the men's semi-finals to start.

And of course, I look just fine. I remember distinctly walking down the stairs, thinking morosely 'everyone here looks bigger/buffer/manlier than me and my distinctly female-looking body.' Of course, I was trying NOT to think like that, but I remember being so conscious of that little part of my torso where my hips flare out a bit in contrast to my high-ish waist, and discreetly checking out every other guy I passed to see if his waist nipped/flared like that, which of course no one's did.

But, looking at the photo, I realize that you can't even see, it's not that obvious, etc, etc, I look fine and nothing like what my head was telling me I looked like. Body dysphoria, so strange!

Anyway, after that little interlude, I'm back to feeling tip top about my chest, and happier than ever that I made that decision two years ago to go to Dr. Brownstein.

Which leads me to the second situation I'd mentioned, which is that a friend of my sister is staying with us this weekend, and so we've been all hanging out, slumber party style.

Normally, especially during the kind of despicably hot weather we've been having, I go about shirtless in the house quite a bit. Often as soon as I get home, I lose my shoes and shirt; it's fine when it's just family, of course, but I don't really know the protocol yet for guys on shirtlessness around friends vs. acquaintances vs. strangers.

I mean, clearly, at the beach or the pool, it's fine. Pride parades, pickup basketball games, moving heavy furniture, doing lawn work, also fine. I'm not so sure about the guys I see just walking down the street or hanging out on the corner with no shirt on- seems fairly inappropriate to me, and rather unfair since women can't walk around topless without attracting much (probably unwanted) attention and/or indecency citations. And what about at the park, playing frisbee, or just lounging on a blanket?

And then I'm really not sure what's appropriate when in one's home, with friends over. I mean, I guess it depends on the closeness- acquaintances or whatnot it wouldn't be appropriate for. But how about with semi close friends? I guess I should just use the yardstick of what would or wouldn't weird me out if I went over to someone else's house- and in fact, I remember Rochelle and I going for dinner at her cousin's place on a hot night, and her cousin's boyfriend was shirtless, and stayed so for the entire evening. I would've put a shirt on had I been in his situation, but since he didn't, I guess it's considered acceptable.

Annnyway, I say all this because it's my habit to generally err on the side of politeness, and put a shirt on if anyone who's not my immediate family or girlfriend is around. But! This weekend, while our friend has been visiting, I've been walking around shirtless as per normal, which is to say, more than I usually would in front of a houseguest. But! Our houseguest was a transguy, and he hasn't had chest surgery yet, so I thought it might be okay/a good thing to relax my shirt rules.

Before I had surgery, I relished every opportunity I could get to see guys who'd already had surgery. I wanted to see scars and nipple placement and everything, and i wanted proof of guys living happily and nonchalantly in their own skins, post-surgery. I thought my buddy might be of the same mind, and glad of a chance to observe my doctored body, or at least, not mind observing it.

Though, it just occurs to me, maybe I was totally insensitive to parade about in my happily flat chest in front of someone who (as far as I know) is unhappy with his chest and pursing surgery. I remember just before leaving for San Francisco two years ago I was out with a bunch of guys after Group (the transmasculine support group at the lgbt center) and I mentioned that I was leaving for surgery the following week. One guy said something like "Oh, you lucky bastard, I hate you! Watch out when you get back, I might punch you."

Clearly joking, of course, but there was a definitely audible undercurrent of seriousness/jealousy that made me quite uncomfortable. It's hard to want something very badly and not be able to get it, but be around others who can. I hope I didn't bring up any such hard feelings for my friend this weekend with my casual semi-nudity.

Friday, July 18, 2008


My mom told me I had to post this picture on my blog, even though it's slightly blurry, because it makes me "look like a Chippendale!"

Have I mentioned enough times yet how nice it is to inhabit a body that I can be proud of, that I can joke around about rather than feel anguished (or at least embarrassed) about? I've mentioned before that I've got body issues that will never entirely go away- being a transsexual seems to be a chronic condition, though the 'symptoms' change over time- but heck, I am so grateful to have the majority of my dysphoria alleviated that I can cope rather well with the left over bits.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

thoughts and recommendations

Okay, I have to say that it is a delight to be receiving so many comments, but I am not exactly used to being so highly trafficked, and if it seems like I'm not really at the top of my Answer Every Comment game, well, it's because I'm not. So hi to all you new readers (or old readers who decided to start commenting) and thanks for your comments. I will try to reply/get back to you all, but sometimes I won't have the time or whatnot, but it doesn't mean I don't appreciate your feedback. I do!

Although it's a bit odd to see so many comments, since I still regard this thing as a mostly private space in which I record my thoughts, document my transition, and try to reason out the various gender related thoughts that otherwise would just stew unexamined in my head. I started giving the address to friends and family so they could 'follow along at home' and/or learn a bit more about transgender issues (or at least my viewpoint on such) without having to muster up the mustard to actually ask me various potentially irritating questions. But through various linking, on my own part and others, it seems like there is now a wider readership, to which I say welcome.

I know that when I was first exploring my gender identity, I spent a lot of time on the Internet following links, checking Transster, reading Transition Webpages, that sort of thing. It was super helpful to get a sense of what other guys had gone through (for obvious reasons, I mostly checked out FTM sites), and while I don't consider this a Transition Webpage in quite the same way, since it's mostly my musings and ramblings rather than clearly organized information (like this excellent and comprehensive website) or even thorough and easy to navigate transition photos/voice clips/etc (like KP's late, great, lamented but hopefully returning someday website).
Anyway, all that to lead into this, which is that someone commented a while back asking for book recommendations, and I've had a post saved in my Drafts folder since May of '07 about book recommendations, so here are some of my reviews of various trans related books (I'm linking the titles when I can to, my favorite hometown independent bookstore). I'd love to see further thoughts on these books and/or additional recommendations in the comments.

*Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano. As I've mentioned many times before, this is an excellent and insightful read about transsexuality and feminism. Plenty of great theory and ideas in here, in accessible and sensible language, but it may be a bit much for someone with NO background in trans terminology/etc.

*Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein. Kate Bornstein is my favorite and most authentic New York celebrity sighting- I was walking down Avenue A with my partner when we saw her walk past with some friends, looking fabulous in big- possibly leopard print? my memory is starting to fail me- sunglasses. Our jaws dropped and we turned to each other and said "Was that...?"
"Yes, it totally was!"
"Should we follow her??"

Fortunately we came to our senses and didn't stalk her through Alphabet City, but it was a fun moment.

Anyway, her book is awesome- it's got personal narrative in it, but also a lot of fresh and important insights about rejecting and resisting the Gender Police. As I recall, she's a playwright as well, and the book includes one of her plays at the end, as well, but I wasn't so excited about it. At least, I don't remember much about it. Anyway, a good read for a beginner, with plenty of focus on transgender and genderqueer issues.

*Becoming a visible man, by Jamison Green. This book was involved in one of my own personal a-ha moments. I vividly remember reading it on a bus in Portland, and thinking to myself "You're going to have to deal with this someday."

It's another great mixture of personal narrative with insight and exposition on Trans 101. His story is fairly classic- he transitioned from a lesbian identity in his late-ish 30s- but his prose is very engaging, and he's an outstanding activist who has done a lot of work on behalf of FTMs, through FTMI and other organizations.

*There are a few other books (Just add hormones, The Testosterone Files, and Both Sides Now) of a similar nature to Jamison's, that I remember reading and mostly enjoying but now (embarrassingly, perhaps) can't really tell apart in my memory. They all involve FTM guys who transitioned in their 30s-early 40s, and are mostly personal narrative. Which is great, and certainly helpful to try to get a broader understanding of different unique experiences, but don't make me inclined to re-read them. I will say that I found Testosterone Files to have some sexist stuff in it that I wasn't really a fan of , along the lines of "testosterone made me stare at boobs!" Sure, testosterone will change the quality and/or quality of one's sex drive, but that's no excuse for misogyny. But again, it's been a while since I read it, so I can't expound much further on that critique.

*Conundrum and Pleasures of a tangled life, by Jan Morris. A classic in MTF literature! I just love the way she writes, and the second book is actually a book of essays on a variety of topics, not just her transition. My mom loved her writing, too, and had both of those books on the shelf at home, and I read them when I was a young dyke and again with more resonance as I began considering transition. Conundrum is dated, of course (first published in 1976! with such a 70s cover, too! that's the edition we had at home.) and I remember being worried for a bit when first considering transition because I didn't have some of the "classic transsexual" hallmarks that Jan wrote so beautifully about, like knowing myself to be in the wrong body from a very early age. Still, it's an excellent classic and I definitely recommend it, if only for her beautiful way with words.

*What becomes you, by Aaron Raz Link and Hilda Raz. I enjoyed this book mostly because of the fact that it was co-written by this guy and his mother, a format I enjoyed and may someday utilize myself in the still-in-planning-stages memoir my sister and I are talking about. I actually enjoyed the mother's bits more than Aaron's because his sections, while beautiful in a lyrical way, could have seriously used an editor. So it's another interesting personal narrative, but I like it best for the fact that it's got his mother's viewpoints included as well.

*The First Man-Made Man, by Pagan Kennedy. I found this to be a fascinating bit of historical science writing and biography, and I was impressed with Michael Dillon's strength of character even as I found him to be a bit of a dislikeable chap. But hey, it's hard to put energy into being pleasant when every day is a struggle for survival, and I can't imagine how hard his life was. I don't remember whether the biographer was good/respectful about pronouns or not (often a concern with non-trans authors writing about trans stuff) but I think it was fine.

Oh, and there are many many more, some of which can be found on this 'aisle' at Powell's.

I wish I had more time, I'd keep writing more, but it's back to work for me. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these books and others!

Monday, July 14, 2008

trying not to sweat the small stuff

I just got a rejection letter for a job that I'd applied for and been genuinely excited and hopeful about- interesting field, new step for me, I've the relevant experience that made me expect to get an interview, etc. I'm naturally bummed about it, but what takes it just that one step beyond is the niggling worry that possibly, just possibly, I didn't get an interview because I outed myself as trans in my application.

Now, I realize that this thinking is way paranoid. It's entirely conceivable that my 'outing' myself from my perspective didn't even register for a non-trans-conscious HR person. Wanting to demonstrate my history of activism and workshop leadership skills, I put down TransMasculine Community Network: Member and National Trans Health Conference: Workshop Organizer on my resume. To me, and most GLBT-savvy folks, that screams "Trans guy!"

But since I also mentioned Gay-Straight Alliance: Founder, I suppose it's possible they could've just thought me regular old gay, and just super involved on behalf of all the letters of the GLBT community. And honestly, there ARE non-trans folks who are members of the TMC Network, and who presented at the Trans Health Conference.

Not to mention the fact that it's a bit much to jump to the conclusion that I didn't get an interview because the search committee didn't want to deal with a possibly Scary Tranny (my "passing" privilege or cissexual privilege -aka the fact that I am consistently perceived as male- doesn't come through on paper). It's most likely that the committee just had a bevy of qualified applicants, and picked the ones that had more experience or whatnot- and in this sketchy economy, I'm sure there's a glut of good applicants for every reasonably interesting job.

Still, I count it as one more tiny piece of transsexual baggage that I'm always going to have the voice in my head that worries about whether my transsexuality (or even just my commitment to trans equality) was perceived and held against me.

It reminds me of an interesting conversation I observed recently about trans guys and body image issues. For many of us, we've got the same ol' body image issues as most guys have (hairline receding! gut! scrawny arms and legs! ack!), but there's a deeper underlying issue of dysphore for us that nurtures and goads those issues.

Sure, almost everyone looks in the mirror and finds something to take issue with. But most guys don't look in the mirror and see flaws that bring up the specter of (in my case) femaleness- not to put too melodramatic a point on it! But seriously, my angst about my love handles isn't just run of the mill love-handle-phobia, but is actually fairly inextricably layered with my angst about those love handles also accentuating my wide ("feminine/female") hips- another reminder of a body that I've had to wrestle with for years, and another point used against me for years when strangers looked for cues as to my gender and usually found those 'female' secondary sex characteristics pointing them in the wrong direction- much to my dismay, embarrassment, frustration, etc.

So, while sometimes a love handle is just a frustrating component of my summer beach body, sometimes it inexorably brings up bigger, more upsetting issues, and oh man, what'd I give for some old fashioned non-gender-dysphoria related body issues.


Last but not least, I come to my other salt-in-the-wound trans moment of the day, which was that a coworker called to say she'd be late because she was held up at the Red Cross Blood Drive, waiting in line to give blood. Darn it, I wish I could still give blood! I really believe in it as an important civic contribution, and I'm not really convinced that the reasons given to me by the NY Blood Center as to why I should not give blood are valid. It's possible when I leave NYC I may try to donate again, since not all blood centers in the US have the same rules about differentiating between male and female plasma, but the guy told me I'd been put on a "permanently deferred donor" list for New York, and I suspect that those lists are shared nationwide via social security number or some such.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

to infinity, and beyond!

Well, not really. That's me on the Staten Island Ferry, and I thought it a nice illustration. In about 8 hours, I'm hitting the road with my sister to head home for a week, to Portland. I'm super excited, of course, but as always I'm feeling a little irrational nervousness about whether I'm quite up to snuff.

There's no place like home, and sometimes no place that feels quite as judgemental. This is almost entirely in my head, of course, but I feel more of a need to prove myself (as happy, as successful, as unquestionably male) when I go home, probably because I know that it's the people at home who have the strongest memories of me as female.

It's my hope that those memories are fading, as they are in myself and the folks I interact with every day. More and more, it's starting to seem strange that I was ever not male. But my extended family I only see twice a year or so, and it probably takes longer for these sorts of things to sink in. So I always want to make sure that my stubble is even and my hips are slim and my voice is uncracked, just to nicely remind everyone that my reality now still trumps the 20 years of memories that may or may not still be bubbling up in people's minds, much to my discomfort.

I'm much better about this now than I used to be, of course, when I was still quite uncertain about my masculinity, used to having to defend it vigorously at every turn. No longer!

Now it just remains to be determined how folks will react to my latest look- Mr. Bleach Blonde Goatee Man, as Rochelle calls me. I haven't done anything this goofy to my hair in a while; I used to be real crazy in college, always dying my hair different colors, shaving it into mohawks, etc. But I straightened up upon graduation, and I hadn't done much in a while. Part of that was my post-college concern about entering the workforce and looking respectable and employable, blah blah.

But I know there was gendered reasoning behind my conventional haircuts, too. I wanted to be consistently read as male by strangers, and I found it easier to make that happen with a preppy/conservative traditional haircut than with a purple/blue mohawk. Before my physical transition, I felt like I had so much less room to maneuver, because my masculinity was not being appropriate perceived by the world. My 'natural' masculine inclinations in combination with my perceived-female body when taken together weren't enough to convince people that I'm a guy.

This wasn't fair, of course- none of us should have to work to be 'convincing' versions of ourselves, or have to withstand interrogation about our genders. That is (or ought to be!) the first goal of the gender revolution, if you ask me.

And it's also not the (only) reason that I pursued physical transition. Yes, I know transition was the right decision for me because now I'm recognized as male on the street, and I recognize myself as male when I look in the mirror. It probably would've been a more complicated decision making process for me about starting T, etc, if I'd been accepted as male unquestioningly from the moment I declared myself so....I wouldn't have felt such urgency around obtaining the necessary medical care to 'fix' myself. But even in such a thought experiment, I feel strongly that I'd have pursued transition, if for no other reason than the subtle rightness that I didn't even realize was missing from my life.

That's a sort of woo-woo statement, I realize.

But someone once said that for trans folks, the proof is in the pudding: the only way to figure out if someone is a transsexual or not is for them to transition, and if it relieves their dysphoria and angst then hey, they must be trans! It's a somewhat silly statement that has weird and slightly uncomfortable echoes of "if she sinks, she's innocent, if she floats, she's a witch!", but it has rung so true for me. I know I'm trans because transitioning has lightened my shoulders even as it has introduced myriad complications (emotional, medical, financial, blah, blah) into my life.

All this to say that the novelty of going home as a man has not worn off, and I'm looking forward to going home in a body that feels more like home each day.

yeah, where IS that respect?

Another article about Mr. Beattie, famous pregnant man, also quoting Judith Halberstam, but in a much more appropriate fashion!

First, it mentions that Mr. Beattie is scheduled for his C-section today, and I am keeping him in my thoughts and hoping that everything goes perfectly smoothly. He and his wife have been through a lot, and I hope very much that this birth process is easy-peasy.

Anyway. I'm pleased to see an article addressing the uncomfortable aspects of this story, and in some small way taking the media to task for the shameless gawking and vouyeurism that has surrounded the various stories that have been done.

A good read.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Another weekend, another irritating article in the Sunday Style Section

Is it just me, or has the pendulum swung back a bit in terms of media coverage and trans folks, such that nowadays, it's transmasculine people who are all over the popular media, rather than being a sidebar to all the articles about trans women?

In the last year alone, there have been various in-depth features in the NY Times (usually in the Sunday Styles or the Magazine). Maybe I've missed out on others- the NY Times is the only newspaper I consistently read, so maybe it's just some NYT staffers who have a personal transman fascination. (Although looking on their website for stories tagged with "transsexuals" it seems that there are plenty of stories about transwomen, too, so maybe it is just my own perception.)

Anyway, the latest was published this past Sunday. [n.b: since I've procrastinated for so long on finishing this post, the actual irritating article which inspired it is now two weekends old, and I was pleased to see that there were no stories (irritating or otherwise) about trans folks in this weekend's paper] It's riding the coattails of the media circus about Mr. Pregnant Man, that went on back in early April.

I just gotta say, I am so sick and tired of getting a sinking feeling in my stomach when I see a trans-related headline in the newspaper. The stories are always disrespectful, always uncomfortable, even when the author is trying hard not to be...and at least some of them are trying now! Reading through that NYT archive of trans related stories makes it clear that here has been at least some progress. Authors consistently use the right pronouns and names now, even if they do often sneak in gratuitous references to the person's "old" name. (Though it's interesting to note that trans folks aren't the only minority group that is consistently disrespected in print in such a fashion!)

This most recent article is a study in ups and downs. I'll say first, albeit grudgingly, that it's not as bad as it could be. The author consistently uses the right name and pronouns for Mr. Beattie, never refers to him

But first, there's the title. "He's Pregnant. You're speechless."

Well, no, actually, I'm not. I realize that the title is pandering to the majority of readers of the Times, who probably are unfamiliar with the notion of male pregnancy, but wow, way to make assumptions about your audience and render invisible those of us who are not, say, we men who are also capable of or considering becoming pregnant. There are plenty of us (trans and non-trans) who read the Times and are rendered speechless not by Mr. Beattie, but by the gauche articles like this which acknowledge the fact that "anatomy does not define woman or man" and then turn around and spend a paragraph discussing in minute detail Mr. Beattie's genitals.

Which is, of course, my main frustration with this piece. How on earth can you include such a great quote from Prof. Sedgwick, pointing out that gender identity does NOT hinge around the state one's genitals, and then go on to splash private details about this guy's dick across the New York freakin' Times? Since you've just quoted an expert telling you that trans people prefer NOT to be defined by their genitalia, how can you not see how disrespectful it is to spend the next paragraph discussing said junk?

Not only is it a gross invasion of privacy to once again reduce this trans person to being only as important as what he's got in his pants, it's insanely rude and disrespectful to say something like "Mr. Beattie does not have a penis."

He may not have a penis that looks like yours, Guy (although whoops, there I go, assuming what's in your pants. Too bad nobody has written in a national newspaper about the size and shape of YOUR dick, Guy, or else I'd be able to quote my sources!), but that doesn't give you the right to make pronouncements about his genitals...pronouncements, furthermore, that anyone who reads this article is going to generalize to apply to other trans men. I don't need people speculating about whether I've had surgery, and whether my junk "mimics" a phallus or not. (Do I even need to go into why it's offensive to tell a man that his genitals "mimic" a penis?)There are enough people projecting their values and judgments onto my body without you fanning the flames, buddy.

Also, using the phrase "more radical surgeries" to describe having a hysterectomy? What possible good does it do to refer to getting a hysterectomy as a "radical" step, besides furthering inflaming the reaction of nervous or confused parents and friends of trans people? More than 600,000 hysterectomies are performed in the United States every year, but if a trans guy wants to have one, all of a sudden it's a 'radical' step? Let's try to keep the melodrama to a minimum, please. I don't need more drama surrounding my already fraught personal medical decisions.

And then, to ice the cake, the author goes on to quote Judith Halberstam on the matter of trans men obtaining lower surgery. Seriously? I'm frustrated that once again, a non-trans person (who has, from what I know, a rather contentious relationship with trans issues) is called in as the expert to make a pronouncement about what transmen do or do not want to do about their genitals.

To her credit, I appreciate that what she's trying to do is further the notion that there isn't one universal notion of a sex change. Not all of us who were born female but identify as male are seeking the same set of medical options- some of us want lower surgery, some don't. Some of us want to keep our reproductive function, some of us want to remove those organs as quickly as possible.

What makes this a one step forward, two steps back situation is the way in which she tries to accomplish this. And again, trying to be fair, she's not the only person who does this. The narrative of the "too expensive/unsuccessful bottom surgery" for trans guys is well-perpetuated, but it's a frustrating myth, and I'd rather not see it perpetuated in print by people who are quoted presumably because they're experts in the matter.

It's true that there is no one "sex change operation" (ugh, I dislike even using that term) that is universally sought after by trans guys. It's very important to recognize that not everyone wants lower surgery of any kind, and that it's perfectly valid NOT to pursue it.

And yes, like most gender-confirming surgeries for trans folks, lower surgery is often very expensive, not covered by insurance, and is not going to give you a body exactly the ones inside Playboy or Playgirl. It'd be nice if there were a "snap your fingers and have the body of your dreams!" operation...but if there were, trans people wouldn't be the only ones lining up to take advantage.

What needs to stop happening is the establishing of an inferiority complex for trans bodies (whether or not they've had surgeries) when compared to non-trans body. My body may be different than a non-trans (or cissexual) man's body, but that doesn't make it less valid as a man's body.

Furthermore, should I choose to pursue bottom surgery, I'll do it having fully weighed my options and deciding for myself what I do and do not want; I don't need folks like Halberstam saying "Oh, trans guys don't want lower surgery because they don't want small dicks!"

There are a lot of guys who are actively pursuing bottom surgery (which, btw, is not a monolithic category, comprising as it does a variety of options and procedures, all of which are being perfected and expanded upon by surgeons around the world), and it does a disservice to them to say things like that. It does a HUGE disservice to the guys who have already had lower surgery, who made the best choice for themselves and are very happy with their results.

And all of this just goes on top of my general irritation that genitals have to be present in the article at all. Because, naturally, you can't have a feature about trans folks without talking about their genitals! But besides the fact that (like most folks, I imagine!) I don't want my genitals talked about in a national newspaper, I've got a complicated relationship with my body, and I don't want the decisions I make about how to live comfortably in my body to be colored by judgements from others.

/righteous indignation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Political news, national and local

1) Right now, even as I type this, the first ever (ever!) Congressional hearing on trans issues is taking place in Washington. The Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions Subcommittee of the Committee on Education and Labor is holding a hearing titled "An Examination of Discrimination Against Trangender Americans in the Workplace." Finally! The National Center for Transgender Equality has been doing a lot of work to make this happen, I know, and I'm sure they'll have good updates of any progress made.

This is great news! Not only that, but you can watch the hearing live via webcast by clicking this link! I hope it makes it onto C-SPAN, too.

2) This upcoming Friday is the 4th Annual NYC Trans Day of Action, where trans folks and their allies get together to march for Social Justice. Many of us (like me!) will be at work and unable to go, but if you're in the NYC area, and you're free Friday afternoon, I encourage you to step out and march for Trans Justice.

ETA: Look, a picture of me from Trans Day of Action 2 years ago. Doesn't it look like fun?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Aww with a side of grr

I'm not 100% on the same-sex marriage bandwagon, mostly because I think that it's by far NOT the most important priority the LGBT community (such as it is) should be focusing on. Of course everyone deserves equal rights (in fact, on several levels I can't even believe that we have to have a national discourse on this subject. How on earth anyone can truly believe that gay folks getting married is a bad thing...but then, all irrational homophobic/etc bigotry can be pretty baffling, so best not to get sucked into that.) but the "same-sex marriage" movement too often focuses on granting access to already-privileged folks: the upper middle class, usually white, 'normal' gay folks who have $25k to throw down on a fancy wedding and want to be able to call it an actual wedding. My friend Jack has some trenchant things to say about the topic, including the disturbing trend of proponents to urge people to "act normal" and assimilate so as not to endanger our newly won rights.

Not to mention the fact that this is touted as a victory for LGBT folks when really, it's only a victory for the T folks who also seeking a same-sex marriage...which leads us to the more pertinent issue (for trans folks) of how sex is defined for various legal purposes, including marriage. Many trans folks, gay and straight, are advocating for and applauding same-sex marriage. Where are the same-sex marriage advocates (gay and straight and etc!) advocating for trans people's rights to have our identity documents changed? [ETA: Here's one!]

Anyway. All that said, I'm still very very glad that these women got the chance to celebrate their marriage again, and legally this time!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

two things about T

1) I don't understand how it works, but sometimes I feel like this hormone I inject every week has a sense of humor, and has decided to sit in my tear ducts and only activate them while I'm reading the Sports Section. Seriously, I know I just wrote about this, but I can't get over how my crying patterns have changed. I used to think the idea of 'guy tears' was silly, but maybe I need to rent Old Yeller and see what happens.

2) Looks like I'll be keeping those weekly shots for a while. I spoke to my doctor at C-L a while ago about Testopel, the implant. Not only would he need to be trained in how to insert it, but it's also an order of magnitude more expensive than my current regimine, and may or may not (as always) be covered by insurance.

At the Trans Health Conference, I'd learned a bit more about Nebido, the long-acting/slow-releasing stuff that requires just 4 injections a year. Apparently, it's pretty common outside the US. It's currently seeking FDA approval to be marketed here, but apparently there's just been a setback. Really? Another two years of trials and red tape needed to check out a "rare" side effect that, even when it does occur, is "not serious" and "usually resolved within 10 minutes?"


Friday, June 13, 2008


I wonder how long it will be- or if it will always be?- until I stop assuming every sensitive or touchy comment and question is about my transness.
Example 1: Yesterday, Rochelle and I were headed out to dinner with a friend of hers from high school and the friend's husband. A double date with someone you haven't seen in 8-10 years is always an adventure, particularly when you're both bringing along your menfolk to introduce as well. Rochelle was talking, and then said "...and of course, I'll have to decide whether or not to out you."

My heart didn't quite stop, but that sentence definitely gave me pause, of the WTF variety. We've talked about this before, both casually and specifically. I don't consider myself stealth, and am perfectly amenable to discussing my trans experience with others when it's a relevant topic, or when a certain level of intimacy has been reached. I have given Ro my blessing to discuss it at her complete discretion with anyone and everyone, particularly if she feels like there's something about my transition that she needs to process with someone who isn't me.

But it's not my preference to disclose to total strangers first thing- I much prefer to be outted as queer first, then trans if/when necessary. And Rochelle knows and supports this.

Rochelle continued, while these thoughts tumbled through my mind "Because I might not be able to help myself."

Where was this coming from? Why on earth would she feel a sudden need to bring up my transness at the dinner table with this couple whom I've never met, and she is no longer close with? Is there some backstory that I'm missing her, something she told me about this woman that I'm forgetting? Maybe this woman has some sort of trans connection (family member?) and so Ro wants to be able to fully discuss our connection to trans issues as well?

At which point Rochelle must've noticed the odd look on my face because she said "And when I say out you, I mean out you as being twenty-two, of course. You know that, right?"

Ha! Of course! The 5+ years between us is a much more relevant and potentially interesting 'secret' to reveal to n old friend from high school. I immediately felt much better, and more than a little foolish for jumping to such unlikely conclusions.
Example 2: My father is visiting, and today, during a lull in the conversation, he looked at me and asked "Now, you're not going to get arrested while using the men's bathroom, are you?"

I paused carefully, not quite sure what to do with such a question. Was this a sudden outburst of concern for my safety and wellbeing? Trans folks do get harassed in bathrooms, all the time. It was a pretty major concern for me when I first transitioned, though fortunately, one that was never realized. But folks have been arrested before, and maybe Dad just wanted to make sure that such indignity was not going to be visited upon me. But why such a question now, when my stubble, etc have kept me safe from the (gender)police for a while?

"Umm, it hasn't happened yet!" I responded cautiously.

"Because that was George Michael's thing, you know," Dad said, waving at my hair.

And it all becomes clear! An hour or so previously, when we'd met up, he'd exclaimed with surprise to find me bleach-bright blonde and clean shaven. I'd said that I was going for the surfer aesthetic with the advent of summer and had decided to shave because a dark beard with my blonde hair would be "too George Michael."

Just your ordinary, run of the mill reference to an earlier conversation about 80s pop icons. Nothing to see here, folks.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

why can't you just...

One of my favorite bloggers had this to say recently, about reading "Nobody Passes:"

'An unexpected side effect of reading about FTM transsexuals was that I got kind of nostalgic for the concept of "butch," and wished there were more room inside the "female" label to express different looks and identities. I have no doubt that transgender people need to transition, but it's sort of abstractly sad, to my idealistic brain, that their gender expression couldn't be happily accommodated inside their original body because of society's uptight binary system. Oh never mind, I am probably just bringing my feminine-appearing, 65% straight woman baggage to this topic, and I should shut up before some reader takes all this out of context and accuses me of hate speech. '

As usual, she makes me laugh and nod with her insight and spot-on commentary, even when it's insight into a mildly (mildly!) offensive thing that she herself has said.

This is a trope that I've heard fairly frequently among non-trans folks, usually women, usually in regards to transmasculine folks (for some reason, it's never transwomen who should try to push the boundaries of what it means to be male, but almost always transmen who should be content pushing the envelope as butch/masculine women). It comes down to some variation of 'why can't you just be happy the way you are,' a question which, when uttered by someone who IS happy the way they are, doesn't inspire me to much creativity in response. Because I'm not.

And you know, not only am I not happy, I'm not even "the way I am." That is to say, such questions sound to me like "Why can't you just stay a masculine woman?"

I was not a masculine woman- I know that's what I was perceived as, how I was mis-labeled for a while, even by myself, but that's not what I was. I'm not Emma, I'm Eli, and I'm not a masculine woman, I'm a slightly genderqueer guy. So, why can't I just stay a masculine women? Really, the question is, why can't you just keep looking like a masculine woman?

Well, because clearly, everyone seems to have conflated those two questions. I was tired of being misconstrued as female, and the only way to stop being misconstrued as female is to stop looking female. That's not to say that this transition was strictly for the benefit of others- it was for the benefit of myself and my mirror, as well. I can't say, though, how much of my own need for a male body is influenced by what I believe (courtesy of my socialization in the aforementioned 'uptight binary system' our culture) a male body needs to look like. It's possible that if we didn't have such an uptight binary system, I wouldn't have felt the need to pursue physical transition. Or heck, maybe I wouldn't even have felt the need to request masculine pronouns, etc. But, we do have it, and I did (do) feel the need, and regardless of the etiology of that need, it is valid.

Which leads me to another point, which is the diversity of needs of people along the "transmasculine spectrum" aka, those of us assigned female at birth who feel that does not accurately define us. Some of us need to transition, some don't, and those of us who do have a variety of needs with regards to how best to bring about that transition. This has lead to plenty of folks suggesting that there ought to be less 'umbrella'-ing going on, since transsexuals often have a different set of needs and experiences than transgender folks or genderqueer folks, which is a topic for another time, but certainly continues to problematize the notion that trans(masculine) people as a whole could somehow be better served if there were more wiggle room inside the box marked F.

Which leads me to yet another point, that being, at least as is often the case for FTM folks, a conflation of 'butch' with 'male.' I'm not particularly butch, nor have I ever been. Boyish, yes. Masculine, always. But butch? I like chopping wood and grilling and lifting heavy things and I take a manly pride/joy in doing such things. And I try to be a gentleman, and I'm more taciturn than most women. But I've never had quite the kind of strong silence, nor the open shouldered stride that marks a butch person. (usually! watch me try not to be TOO reductive in my generalization!)

I have a nuanced gender identity, with all sorts of traditionally feminine shadings in my masculinity. And it was transitioning that enables me to express that properly now, so that I'm now longer tagged a butch women in my ill-fitting female body.

Anyway. All this to say that, while I certainly don't consider her words 'hate speech,' Mimi's expressed a sentiment that I have heard before, and am rather tired of hearing, particularly because it always strikes me the same way- a gut reaction based upon a misinterpretation.

That said, I can sympathize with her to a slight extent. There are times when I find it a bit sad that I wasn't born with a male body that would've smoothed the path for my lavender tinged boyhood-into-young-manhood. Or that I wasn't born with a gender identity which could've made a comfortable home in my body when it was still factory equipped, so to speak. I certainly find it wearying and sometimes sad to wrestle with the ways in which being trans makes my life harder. (Having babies, worrying about disclosing/safety, etc, etc) But I also find it to have been an interesting and ultimately warding journey. I feel lucky to have experienced things that few men have, and to be able to use those experiences to offer me insight into navigating our heavily gendered society.

And I definitely give her props for being, as usual, one step ahead and acknowledging the impact of her statement. Way to recognize your own cissexist privilege! (perhaps because she's already read Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano?)