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?)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

political support

via Joe.My.God and the Slog:

Here at home, our newly anointed Democratic nominee likes the gays! And that includes us trans folks, whether we're gay our not. Nice to know that we will (hopefully!) soon have a president who will say the word 'transgender' out loud in a supportive context. "I am proud to join with our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered brothers and sisters..."

In a land far, far away, however, they're putting their money where their mouth is. The hotbed of Communism that we're still not allowed to visit has decided to provide free "sex change operations" to qualifying individuals. Goodness only knows what they mean by that, exactly- the details aren't posted yet, and anytime the AP starts bandying around terms like "sex change operation" I'm a little skeptical. But when health care is free and accessible to everyone (as it should be here!), it's important that ALL health care be free and accessible, including trans health care. Brazil is also implementing procedures to offer state subsidized transition-related health care; the President is quoted as saying 'When you pay your taxes, nobody asks you which is your sexual option. Why discriminate against you when you freely choose what to do with your body?'

Right on, man.

I believe in free universal healthcare, and I believe that trans health care (including hormone therapy and gender confirming surgeries) is not 'optional' but is medically necessary treatment for some transsexual and transgender folks. Notice I said not all! Too often in situations where trans folks are desperate to access the resources they need for transition, they're forced to jump through hoops, or conform to standards that they may or may not live up to.

And in Iran, "sex change operations" are endorsed by the government, subsidized, and common...but many are saying that it's due in part to the fact that homosexuality is still punishable by death, so some gay men are choosing to transition in order to lead a safer life, when in fact, they're not transsexual, they're just gay and/or feminine. So while trans folks do have access to necessary health care, other folks for whom transition is NOT necessary (because it's not wanted) are being unduly pressured into it. Not a good scene!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


This heat wave we've been having has gotten me to remembering one of the very few dresses that I ever truly enjoyed wearing. It was a very simple knit cotton shift, sleeveless, ribbed, of a dark forest green color, and it came to somewhere above my knees. When I was in middle school, I used it as a kind of housecoat in the summertime, wearing it about the house in the heat. It was perfectly, deliciously cool and comfortable, allowing plenty of air flow and freedom of movement. I don't think I ever wore it out of the house, although those were the days when I was experimenting with my femininity, so it's possible that I did...I'm having a vague memory of wearing it on a trip we took to Washington, DC, anticipating the humid oppression of a summer day in our Nation's marshy capitol.

I think there was one other dress that I actually liked wearing- it was also very simple, and a sleeveless shift, but it was long to my ankles, and was made of heavy dark purple velvet. I loved the texture, and the Roman decadence of the color, and I loved feeling like a grown up when I was wearing it.

That was, I think, what my "experimenting" with trying to be feminine was all about. I was in 7th/8th/9th grade, and I wanted more than anything to grow up, to gain full access to the full and fabulous adult world that I'd been reading about and witnessing for years. I hadn't yet had reason to question my gender identity, and so was still operating under the assumption that, because of the body I had, I was a girl and needed to grow up to be a woman. And while I had plenty of masculine/butch/gay women in my life to prove to me that 'woman' didn't have to mean dresses, I don't think it's possible to entirely escape the party line of "women wear dresses!"

And so I didn't have quite the reaction of revulsion and feelings of betrayal that many trans folks report when they go through their first, dysmorphic puberty. I don't know if I wasn't paying close enough attention or what, but I rather welcome each pubertal hallmark (first lipstick! first period!) as being one more step on the path to adulthood. I came from a liberated enough femininst household that no one ever tried to convince me to 'grow out of' my boyishness, and so I was free to experiment without pressure with being 'a girl.'

Of course, as we all know, it didn't go over so well, and the more time I spent being a young woman, even (later) as masculine a young woman as I could be, the more I realized it wasn't going to work out, etc etc, until I took the appropriate steps and am now the strapping example of young manhood you see before you today. (see below: me, at Madison Square Garden last week (such a manly setting!), looking very blonde and very excited to be at my first ever WNBA game)

And in fact, now that I am such a fine, flat-chested fellow, I like wearing dresses more than I ever did before! Witness last Christmas, trying on a vintage find at my mom's place and doing my best to channel Jackie O.

There's something about being flat-chested and narrow-hipped and bearded in a dress that I just enjoy the heck out of. Part of it is, of course, disrupting the gendered expectations of folks around me, and playing with gender in a subversive and, well, playful manner. But part of it is the sheer tactile enjoyment- dresses are often beautiful, gorgeous, sensuous garments, and it can be a delight to have silk and fringe swishing around my calves.

A few weeks ago, Rochelle and I went to Trans Prom, a yearly party hosted by the LGBT Center in the city. It's a chance to get gussied up, so I got out a tux, and she a dress...and at the last minute, we decide on a whim to swap outfits.

I found out soon enough that wearing heels on a lark for a night of dancing was going to exact a toll of its own, but we enjoyed ourselves immensely. Rochelle has a complex gender (or variety of genders, I suppose you could say) and often expresses herself in very masculine fashion, so wearing a tux was a very natural choice for her. On the other hand, wearing that dress (though it was purple velvet- a throwback to my old favorite!) was definitely a costume choice for me. We got a wide variety of (often hilarious) reactions; later, we talked about how interesting it was to see the looks on the faces of some of the other transmasculine folks with whom we'd met up- a look of horror, almost, as though they couldn't comprehend why a transmasculine person would ever voluntarily put on a dress. I couldn't say, of course, what exactly what they were thinking, but I'd speculate that for many of them wearing a dress, and all of the many connotations of enforced femaleness that such an act carries with it, is still too raw, too much a sore spot, to be something to do for fun.

So the point of this rambling is that I didn't much like wearing dresses when I was younger, but now don't mind it so much, since I can do it on my own terms. More to the point, when I'm at work sweating through my collared shirt, I look at the women walking around in their breezy summer dresses and remember fondly the days that I had a breezy summer dress in which to escape the heat.Maybe I'd go for a skirt, these days, since I'm apt to go barechested in the heat now- when appropriate! inside or at a park, or some such, none of this public half-nudity for me.

But male skirts pretty much tend to run the gamut from kilt (note: that kilt link is potentially nsfw, depending on how your work feels about buttcheeks) to utilikilt, and neither Scottish wool nor heavy duty canvas seem like they'd be appropriate summer weather. I know sometimes contra dancing dudes wear skirts, to enjoy the twirling, etc, but those skirts, while floaty, tend to be long- not what I need in 97 degree heat! Perhaps I need to learn some sewing machine skills, and make myself a nice, lightweight, summer dress and/or skirt for wearing around the house, because nothing beats the heat like clothing that lets in the breezes.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

THC in Philly

I'd rate my experience at the Trans Health Conference in Philly last weekend as positive overall, but not particularly life changing. I had some frustration with the organization- the Chest Surgery Show and Tell workshop, which I was coordinating, was scheduled at the same time as the workshop for Post-Transition Men...a distinct conflict of overlapping interests which was not rescheduled, despite requests from both myself and the organizer of the other workshop; we both pointed out that "post-transition men" (whom he defined as men who generally need to disclose that they are born female) make up a huge percentage of the people who have experience to share the the Surgery Show & Tell, and that it's really valuable for folks attending the workshop to get as wide a range of examples as possible, including guys who've been post surgery for a long time.

Also, there were some other organizational issues- publishing names online that were meant to be kept confidential, offering to organize housing but then not notifying folks until very last minute about arrangements.

All of these troubles, though, are clearly directly related to the fact that this is an all-volunteer committee putting this together, and they are undoubtedly all incredibly overworked and over-stressed. As a whole, the conference went very well- I hear more than 1000 people attended, which is pretty remarkable. It was totally free, and there was food available for a very nominal ($1) price. The space was good and well set up, and there were committee members running around all weekend trying to make things run smoothly. So A for effort, even if there were some hurdles.

I didn't go to the first day, which is called Provider's Day, because, well, I'm not a medical provider. However, some folks told me that it was the best day in terms of presentations offered, and that plenty of folks go who aren't actually providers. Maybe if I go again, I'll try to come early.

I went to one really good, fascinating workshop, run by a midwife named Stephanie Brill from the Bay Area. I found it very useful- she covered both sperm donation, etc, considerations on the part of transwomen and pregnancy for transmen, the latter of which I of course found the most interesting. There wasn't a lot of totally new information, like hey, you have to stop taking T and wait until your menstrual cycle returns to normal for at least three consecutive normal cycles before trying to get pregnant! But it was really great to hear someone talk about men being pregnant as though it were a perfectly normal, understandable thing, and to hear about her experience working with a number of transmale clients. A small number, of course, but it certainly puts the lie to the "OMG first pregnant man ever!!1!!" frenzy that popped up with Mr. Beattie a few months ago.

It was good, too, to hear her talk frankly but not fatalistically about the potential difficulties involved in becoming a pregnant man- needing to be willing to go through some intense hormonal changes, dealing with the big changes that pregnancy can put your body through, often a body that you've worked really hard to change on your own terms and make peace with.

Becoming pregnant is something I think seriously about. I am very much looking forward to being a parent, and I would very much like to have a part in bringing a child into the world. Adoption, etc, are definitely options on my table, and I know I've got a lot of thinking and evaluating to do, but being pregnant and giving birth was always something that seemed really cool and exciting to me about "being" female. I always had trouble envisioning myself growing up to be a woman, but I always envisioned having tiny small babies of own.

I wonder how difficult it would really be to stop taking T for the year(s) that would be necessary for such an endeavor. Right now I mostly think about my T when I realize it's time to give myself a shot again, or I blame it for an acne outbreak or a particularly grumpy moment. Seems like it'd be okay to give those things up again for a while, particularly for such a good cause. But on the other hand, I'm pretty sure there's something going on here similar to depressed folks who take medication. They're depressed, they take the medication, and then they feel better! So they stop taking the pills! But it's the pills that are making them feel better, so of course they start feeling bad again.

I say now, from my position of security and happiness with my embodiment, that sure, I could stop taking T. But how much of that is me forgetting the discomfort and difficulties of living in a "female" body?

Anyway. It was a good workshop for me to attend.

My workshop that I organized, the Chest Surgery Show & Tell, went off quite well, despite scheduling conflicts. I'd say there were probably 40+ guys who came and took their shirts off and shared their experiences, and probably around 100 people who circulated through to look and learn.

I'd wanted to set up a space that felt safe, and low pressure, and would be easiest and most efficient for the maximum number of people to get the maximum amount of relevant information. The set-up, with stations around the room, seemed to accomplish that pretty well, although I had some guys say that they wished they'd had more signs to post more information (like price) about their surgeons, or that they felt a little uncomfortable being the only representative of their surgeon when some surgeons had 15 guys standing around.

Also, I forgot that such a system requires people to overcome their shyness and approach total strangers to strike up a conversation and ask questions...and a half-naked stranger to ask sensitive questions, at that! Fortunately, there were enough extroverted people to make things go more or less smoothly, and I think there were plenty of introverts listening in/jumping in to already established conversations.

I wandered around and stressed out a bit and tried to make sure things were running smoothly. I even shared my own experience with some folks. I talked about how comfortable I was with my surgeon, and how reassured I was with his long experience doing FTM chest surgeries. I tried to talk, too, about some of the things I was unprepared for. I wasn't prepared to feel so beat up immediately post surgery. I'd forgotten that I'd be bruised and raw after I subjected my body to, basically, voluntary trauma. That was certainly a bit rattling in a moment that I'd expected to feel only triumphant.

I didn't have a way to know and believe that my initial results when I first got to see them about a week post surgery

would in less than two years settle into my own chest that I'm so comfortable with now.

I've found that patience is such a virtue when it comes to my transition!