Monday, June 22, 2009

beards & neckties

It occurred to me this afternoon that my beard functions for me in some of the same ways that my neckties used to, as a sort of masculine armor. I was talking with some transmasculine friends this weekend about our respective masculinities, and the markers of that masculinity, and how important it was to have that masculinity firmly anchored.

I used to wear neckties not for the reasons I do know- because they are beautiful and stylish and dapper- but because I needed them as a badge of my masculinity. I don't know how well it worked as a broadcast system, and most people probably still saw me as a dyke in a tie prior to transition. But I felt safe and grounded in my neckties; I'd learned to tie them from my uncles, and my father had given me a few of his, and I could feel a connection to every man I saw on the street or in GQ. W e all chose to tie these tiny nooses around our necks in the name of masculine beauty and tradition.

My good friend Mary Ellen even worked with me on a project of mine about the ties I wore as shields. She took some gorgeous pictures of me that I made polaroid transfers with, and I think it captured nicely some of the nuances of my choices, how I hoped the ties I put on could be both broadcasting signal and dampening field, announcing my masculinity and hiding my female breasts.

Here are a few from the series:

I don't wear my ties to signal my gender anymore. I wear them for fashion, or perhaps to add a touch of authority to my youthful demeanor. In fact, for a while early in my transition R. commented that I'd become a casual dresser, as I'd traded in my ties for tight t-shirts after I had chest surgery, in a sartorially opposite but psychologically similar announcement of my gender.

My beard is now, I realized, my primary gendered fashion statement. Like the ties used to be, it's mostly a matter of style preference (I think I look cuter with a beard!) but it's certainly a way for me to assert my maleness as well. I'm sure it's why I started growing out my sideburns long before I should have, and persisted through the patchiness. Nothing says 'dude' like facial hair, and I feel it welling up in me especially right before I head home, to face the folks (family, old friends) who have the strongest memories of me as female. I want my face as fuzzy as possible, to again both broadcast my maleness and dampen my female history that lives in people's memories.

Friday, June 19, 2009

unanswered questions

Yesterday I found myself at a loss to answer the question "Why did you move to New York?"

The answer is actually rather straightforward; I moved to NYC in 2005 because I had just graduated from college and decided that I wanted to pursue transition of some sort, and live as male. I knew moving to a new city would enable me to introduce myself whoever I chose, and what better city than The City, the place where everyone goes to reinvent themselves? More importantly, though, I knew that my reinvention-of-self would require very specific medical care, legal advice, and social navigation, and I knew that New York City is one of the few places where I could easily tap into support systems for all of those needs.

But the person who asked me this question is not (to my knowledge) aware of my transsexual history, and while we have a good friendship and working relationship, I haven't yet found the opportunity to broach the subject with him. It's made more complicated by the fact that I quite like this guy, and trust him, and would like to share things with him. I think someday I probably will disclose, because I sometimes do share deeply personal information about myself with my friends. Not to mention the fact that he's a philosopher by trade, and I like talking to him about all manner of things just to get his erudite perspective.

It's made yet more complicated by the fact that he is technically my boss. There is no law in my state prohibiting discrimination on the basis of gender identity, and I am an at-will employee. Although I have absolutely no reason to suspect that this man (or any of my coworkers) would react in an unpleasant manner to learning this about me, knowing that I would have no recourse if something did happen adds a layer of hesitation to any thoughts of disclosing in the workplace.

At any rate, I ended up fumbling along with some of the other smaller reasons ("Who doesn't want to move to NYC? Some of my friends were moving...I thought I could get a job at XX place...) and I don't think he noticed my awkwardness, but I sure felt it. It occurs to me that I could've just said "I knew that I would be needing some specific medical care that would be easier to access in New York."

It's true, but it doesn't necessitate the big Reveal of my transsexual history, which is still an awkward topic for me to naturally bring up in conversation.

I'd like to be able to be more more matter of fact about bringing up my transsexuality in conversation with people who are unaware. My gender history always feels like such a bombshell to drop into conversation. I don't know if it really is, or if it just feels that way to me. I've never had anyone revel a transsexual history to me when I didn't already anticipate it.

Of course, it's possible that folks already know that I'm trans, whether through the grapevine or shrewed Googling or what, but it seems unlikely to me. I'm trying to think about the the times I've had conversations with folks where they've opened up about big, deeply personal things in their lives- having been adopted, for instance. It hasn't happened to me that often, and I don't think (again, this could be my own bias) that any of these revelations have been of quite the...sensationalistic variety that transsexualism is assumed to be.

I wish I could give folks a little questionnaire after I have my inevitably awkward coming out conversation with them, so I could get feedback and figure out how much of the awkwardness is in my head, and/or how to minimize the awkwardness.

For now, I'll continue to leave some questions unanswered.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

End hiatus

Gosh, it's been a while since I've posted. More than two months, in fact! My 3rd year of being on T slipped by during that time, without much notice. Really, year three doesn't feel much different than year two...which I suspect is the crux of these writing gaps. My transition (and the entirety of my gender, really) isn't as interesting to me as it used to be. I foretold this, and I'm not surprised about it, but how quickly the memory of angst disappears! It's nice to feel normal, and it's seductive- I am reminded daily why it's so hard for people to raise their consciousness when they've never had their privileges challenged, and why cissexual (that is, non-transexual) people sometimes find it so hard to understand what gender dysphoria really means.

It's so comfortable having my gender identity and physical sex be in sync! Almost hard for me to empathize with gender variant folks, and I used to BE a gender variant person! Heck, I still am, in some ways, but they're very different ways.

Anyway, I've got dishes to do and sleep to get, but I'd like to start writing in this again. Just because my life isn't angsty anymore doesn't mean it isn't still interesting, and I'd like to keep making this record for myself and my friends and family and any who might find it helpful.

So I'll end this post with my old standby easy-out: pictures!

First is me in early spring sunshine with my beard at its wooliest, sometime in March:

Then a somewhat more restrained beard picture from about the same time-

Mostly to contrast with the below picture from a year ago (may 2008) to show that yes, my beard pattern is filling in. I thought I looked quite good at the time, but it looks so patchy to me now, alas.
I sure was skinny- I've put on some padding since leaving NYC, aka the land of walking everywhere.

And here are two shots from tonight- recently clean shaven for the summertime (my coworkers tell me it makes me look about 13, alas, so it probably won't last long), and then a topless photo just because.

In August it'll be 3 years since my surgery with Dr. Brownstein.