7 recent LGBTQ+ films to check out

My spouse and I attended more films than ever before, at the annual LGBTQ+ film festival in our town, recently.  Most of these links are to trailers; a couple are to the film’s website directly.  I highly recommend the first 6, and then I don’t recommend the 7th at all.

Suicide Kale – This film was shot in 5 days, with no budget.  Even without stipulating that, it’s an intriguing and complex look into the dynamics between 2 lesbian couples at a lunch party, and what happens when one of them finds a suicide note tucked away somewhere.  Sounds like it’d be intense, but it’s actually fairly lighthearted and humorous.  Very well attended, mostly women in the audience.

Paris 05:59: Theo and Hugo – This film takes place in real time, as two men fall for each other in a love/lust at first sight type-of-way.  Things start out in a laid back, sexually explicit environment / vibe, but quickly become complicated as the two grapple with an emotional twist, and whether the connection is worth working through it.  Super well attended; roughly 98% men, 2% women.

closet-monsterCloset Monster – This might have been my favorite one this year.  It’s a coming-of-age story of an 18-year old boy coming to terms with his gay identity, complicated by flashbacks of a hate crime he witnessed as a young child.  There were body horror elements to the film, which I was really into.  Plus, Isabella Rossellini’s voice is featured as a talking pet hamster!  Well attended, very diverse audience, including young adults, which isn’t usually the case.

strike-a-poseStrike A Pose – This also was possibly my favorite one this year.  It’s a documentary about the 7 dancers who went on tour with Madonna in 1990, and where they’re at now.  Not all of them are gay!  Some of them had a lot of secrets at the time, and they are now much more open about things.  Way more emotional than I would have thought, going into the film.  Very well attended, diverse audience but definitely mostly men.

Girls Lost – A film from Finland.  Magical realism.  3 tight-knit female friends, about 14 years old, are frequently bullied at school but find solace in each other and a greenhouse they regularly retreat to.  Suddenly, a magical flower appears; they drink the nectar and turn into boys, for about 12 hours.  One of them realizes he is transgender, and he becomes addicted to the feelings the nectar brings.  At the same time, he is self-destructive, in an effort to understand himself.  Really well attended, diverse audience.

Real Boy – This is a documentary spanning over a few years, as a singer/songwriter FTM person starts his transition.  It focuses on the relationship between him and his mom, between him and a best friend who is also trans, and between him and another trans singer/songwriter who is a little older and acts as a mentor of sorts.  Issues that are discussed:  hormones, sobriety, top surgery, family dynamics.  Also really well attended, diverse audience including young adults, which is not generally the case.

Lovesong – This was a flop.  My spouse and I were attracted to it partly because it stars Jena Malone, and also it seemed like a complex story-line.  It was fairly complex, but they characters were not at all likeable.  Two female friends who go way back, dabble in acting on their attraction to each other, at various points spanning a few years.  Kinda boring.  Sparsely attended, mostly women.

My spouse and I diligently filled out audience participation ballots for each film, and a survey about the festival in general.  My most important feedback:  more films with trans characters please.  And also, please make it more affordable.

4.5 months after top surgery

4.5 months is an odd point – but it seems worthwhile to write now, mostly because within the last couple of weeks, sensation has been returning at a faster rate. and I want to make note of that.

I was really afraid I was going to be left with a huge amount of sensation lost permanently.  That’s definitely what it felt like for a while.  Despite being fully aware that it takes months, years even, for nerves to come back in fully, or to the extent that they are going to.

It was just really uncomfortable to have something touching anywhere around my chest, because of the not feeling of the thing.  I didn’t even really want to be touching it myself, but I did / do, every day, to massage the areas around the areolas.  I worried about carrying boxes when I came back to work, but that actually was fine; I’m not using my chest as a balancing point as much as I thought I did – it’s more abs, I think.

Earlier, I’d say that there was numbness for about an inch radius around each nipple.  And it seemed to stagnate there, for a long time.  Now, I have feeling everywhere except the nipples.  Is it the same kind of feeling as before?  Not quite, at least not yet, on the right side especially.  Light touch feels normal; pressure still feels tender in a lot of spots.  I’m super happy about this progress.

Something else that is slowly changing, I’d say, is my overall expectation.  I’m still not happy with the results, and I’m sure I will eventually get a revision (nipple revisions if nothing else).  But it isn’t something that bothers me.  I’d say I went through a week (OK maybe 10 days) of being really down and disappointed, early on.  After that, it felt like, OK, it’s actually good enough, for now, so no need to keep harping on it.

I got a lot of feedback that it’d be best if I just lowered my expectations about how good it could look.  Many cis-people have weird chests, many trans-people have botched chests.  I had mixed feelings:

– I’m totally grateful for how it is, as opposed to how it was.  I am continuously happy about it, every day.  Can I be happy about it and still want it to be better?  Definitely.  It can be tough not to compare it to other chests I’ve seen, but, in general I’ve just been comparing it to how it was.  And in that regard, I’m psyched.

– It’s true that many people end up with really bad results.  And I feel angry about that, like, why aren’t the standards better yet??  But, I know nothing about it, from an anatomical perspective, and I’m sure there are so many factors that go into how well it can be executed, beyond what we commonly know about.

– I saw a lot of shirtless men this summer, and paid a lot more attention than I used to.  Many men have chests that are not quite desirable, but every one was symmetrical.  I know it’s common for women to have one breast bigger or shaped differently from the other, but I gotta say, I’ve never seen an asymmetrical cis-male chest.

Overall, I think it helps to hear that adjusting your expectation will help in the long run (even if the knee jerk reaction is something along the lines of, “butt out!”  Haha.)  I strongly believe this is happening naturally, without me trying to change the way I am thinking.

I thought that since my chest was so small, it would be easy to get it right.  Now I’m thinking, whoa, no, it’s way more complicated than that, and I barely know the first thing about it.

What I do know is that my surgeon does not offer free revisions (although the cost I was quoted, more or less, seems reasonable).  Also I know it is not a priority for the foreseeable future.  I imagine that within a year or two, I will have consulted with a few surgeons (I’d definitely hesitate to go back to my original surgeon) and I’ll be moving forward from there.  I’m in no hurry.

World mental health day / Nat’l coming out day

I never before realized that these days are consecutive!  Oh hey, these are the two most frequent topics of this blog!

In the past, I haven’t observed either through writing here, but I currently have a lot to say about both; this’ll probably end up being one of my more personal posts, at least as of lately.

First just real quick – a little bit of background / information about both:

World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10th) was first celebrated in 1992 at the initiative of the World Federation for Mental Health, a global mental health organization with members and contacts in more than 150 countries.  This year’s theme is “psychological first aid.”  My first thought was that it refers to how to handle someone who is in a mental health crisis, but it actually refers to being a support to someone who just witnessed or experienced a terrible tragedy.  There is a world of difference between the two, even though there’s also overlap; of course, learning about both types of situations is going to be important.

natl-coming-out-dayNat’l Coming Out Day (Oct. 11th) was founded in 1988 by Robert Eichberg and Jean O’Leary.  Oct. 11th was chosen to commemorate the anniversary of the 1987 Nat’l March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights.  It is observed in the spirit of the personal being political and the idea that homophobia cannot thrive once people know someone personally who is LGBT+.

(Information is coming from the World Health Organization website and wikipedia.)

Last night, I saw an amazing documentary called Strike A Pose, which just came out last year.  It’s about the seven young male dancers from the NYC underground (the origins of voguing) who were personally selected by Madonna for her tour.  They also ended up starring in a behind-the-scenes documentary at the time, called Truth or Dare.  Madonna was very outspoken about AIDS, gay rights, safe sex, and of course, Expressing Yourself!  [Spoiler Alert:]  What was most interesting though, was that at the same time these young men were embodying those messages on her behalf, they were not all on board or comfortable with it.  Three of the men had been diagnosed with HIV prior to the start of the tour, and they all were silent about it to the extreme, not even telling friends or loved ones.  Also, one of the men sued Madonna after the tour, for forced outing, partially spurred by a coerced kiss with one of the other dancers in the Truth or Dare doc.  He was not ready or willing to be that person, to be making that statement.

So, I guess what I’m saying with all that is that Nat’l Coming Out Day is great and celebratory and everything, but in order to actually be empowering, it has to be on each individuals’ own terms.  Once I outed a friend (about something totally unrelated to being LGBT) as part of a joke, and then I felt really crummy about it.  I just let time wash over that one, but it’s still a prominent memory.

So where am I at?  I still have a fair share of coming out to do.  I’m not doing any of it today.  It does feel imminent though – I’d say within the next 6 months.  I look forward to the day that my driver’s license, signature, little plastic rectangle on the custodial office, Facebook page, the words out of teachers’ and co-workers’ mouths, and everything else, all say the same thing!  As of now, I have 5 different names going on in different places, and none of them are the full name I actually want to go by!

Here’s something I wrote that really captures this feeling (I wrote it almost exactly 2 years ago.  Dang, that is a long time!):  Fractured identity and fragmented feelings

Moving on to mental health:

My mental health has improved by leaps and bounds within the past 9 months, and I have not written about it.  Actually, the most recent thing I did write was 9 months ago, here:  A full year later / Making major changes.  I was hopeful but tentative.  I had had 23 good days in a row (an anomaly), due to starting yet another drug.  I am still on that drug, and I am still having good day after good day after good day (other than not so great days due to a cold, a handful of really bad days during the stress of surgery).

Overall, I am more stable and happy than I ever have been before, BY FAR.  And I feel certain that I can attribute that to a drug, something I never would have thought possible before (I’ve been on lots of drugs over a span of many years, and did not have a good experience with any of them.  I had gone off medications completely for 10 years because I thought it was hopeless.  I always downplayed the usefulness of psychotropic drugs.  When I was younger, I thought I was the only one who had this reaction; now I know it’s fairly common to have to go through a trial and error period, searching for something that will actually be a good match.

During those 10 years I was not taking medications, I focused on other things to improve my well-being.  Most of that was social in nature – focusing on not isolating, focusing on positive connections with people, focusing on emotional intimacy.  It worked.  To an extent.  I started to think that getting back into therapy would probably help.  That worked too.  It felt miraculous for a while at first, actually.  But as the years went by, kinda only to an extent.  I found myself in a situation where I HAD to get back on medications, and I was not happy about that at all.  In fact, I recall thinking a lot about when I’d be able to get off of them (maybe 6 months? I was thinking…)

In the end, it has worked out better than I ever could have imagined.  I am neither pro-med nor anti-med.  It’s way too personal, and different for each individual, to have a general feeling about it.  But I can say that I used to be anti-med, and now I feel that, for some people, it can be that one game changer that makes all the difference.

California recognizes legal non-binary status

Two states down, 48 to go!
I am starting to work toward getting in on this!

In June, I posted about Jamie Shupe, the first person in the US to successfully petition for the gender status of “non-binary.”  Now as of September 26th, Sara Kelley Keenan is also legally non-binary.  Here is a full article about it:  Californian Becomes Second US Citizen Granted ‘Non-Binary’ Gender Status.

I want to be the third!  (Or the fourth, or the fifth, or the sixth, etc.  The number doesn’t matter to me at all; just that I get to do it, eventually.)

I’ve been stalling about changing my name legally, for a long time now.  It’s been a year and a half since I socially changed it, everywhere except for work.  Part of the reason for waiting is because I don’t know what I’m doing with my last name.  And if there’s a chance I’m going to change it, I don’t want to go through this process twice!

And yeah, work is the other reason.  I mean, I can legally change my name without coming out at work, but it would be great if the two goals aligned.

And now I’m wondering if I can change my name and also request the status of “non-binary” all at once.  I’m in the process of finding this out.  There is a social justice group called Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund (TLDEF) that partners with lawyers and law firms for pro bono work on issues including the Name Change Project.  Luckily, I fall within their geographical range, so I filled out their form, and should hear back within two weeks!

I also am fairly close to feeling good about moving forward with a new last name.  I had one idea a long time ago but was unsure.  Over time, I stopped thinking about it entirely, until just last week.  I went to a therapy appointment for the first time in a few months, and that jump-started some thought processes that had been calcifying in the corners of my brain.  Things got shaken up, and I’ve been feeling consistently euphoric ever since.

A little more about Sara Kelley Keenan:  She is a 55 year-old retired paralegal who was born intersex.  According to the article,

Her court petition was a quiet, unannounced test case for a group of California people who also seek to change their legal genders to non-binary rather than female or male. About five people—all working with the Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project—plan to petition courts in the counties of San Francisco, Alameda, Santa Clara and Sacramento over the next few weeks.

How awesome is that?!  I’m picturing a floodgate opening and people just pouring through.  First five more people.  Next fifty!

  …  “I’m 55 years old, this doesn’t really change my life very much.  But I want to leave the world a better place for younger intersex people. This represents a huge opportunity for acceptance and awareness for young non-binary and intersex and trans people—and for their parents.”

There are still more barriers, though, of course.  The DMV.  Getting a passport.  Other documents.  Things are changing though, slowly but surely.  Just last week, Shupe’s attorney got an email from the Oregon DMV, stating,

“[the Oregon] DMV received the okay to move forth with forming an advisory committee and drafting administrative rules regarding the capturing of sex on the driver license. The rules will allow DMV to capture and print an identifier for sex other than M for male and F for female on the driver license, permit, and ID card.”

Hassles!  But, things are moving…

Thoughts about this “3 fictional characters” meme

Have you seen this thing going around right now?  Where someone distills certain qualities of their personality and culls different characters from popular media to illustrate what they’re all about?  (Or, they just relate with certain characters, or they meant a lot at a certain point in growing up, etc. …)

It was a fun mental exercise while I was working last Friday – I started thinking about what if I participated?  The first thought felt like a no-brainer:  Ziggy Stardust!!  Androgynous, flamboyant, theatrical, other-worldly…  Over the weekend, my spouse suggested Ed Wood (who actually was a real person, but seems like such a caricature in the film by Tim Burton)  or Edward Scissorhands, both of whom seemed like they could fit.  My super-close friend once compared me to Dewey from Malcolm in the Middle, so that also crossed my mind.

But I was thinking, I would like to pick someone who is openly non-binary.  And I was stumped.  I though and thought and thought some more.  I started to feel like, OK, well if not non-binary, then at least gender-ambiguous.  The character of Sally from Third Rock From the Sun came to mind.  I loved that show as a teenager.  The four main characters are aliens who inhabit the bodies of a “family” in order to study Earthlings.  Sally is a macho military-type stuck in the body of a feminine model-type.  Humor ensues.  But then I honed in on Harry, the “uncle”? who is forever clueless.  Which, might not be apparent from this blog, but if you knew me in real life, you’d realize that a lot of times, I just don’t get it.  Like, seriously.  I do not get it.

So, yeah, Harry stuck out (and plus he wore an awesome jacket a lot of the time, in the show).  But I was still stumped on the gender-identity aspect of who I am.  So, I decided to subvert it, and came up with this:

It’s not all grim though:  there is representation out there.  It’s just super obscure, at this point.  And I have great hopes for the (nearish) future.

For now though, here’s an extremely, incredibly thorough bibliography of all things non-binary, created by Charlie McNabb, maybe about a year or so ago.  This document is in-process:  you can suggest edits and new entries!

Nonbinary Gender Identities in Media:  An Annotated Bibliography

The most well known entries I could spot were:
– Pat, from Saturday Night Live, 1990-1994.  Bleccccchhhhhhhh!!!
– A character from the film, Shortbus, 2006.  I need to see this film again; it’s been too long!
– A Star Trek episode from 1992.  From Charlie’s archives:  “The Enterprise encounters a humanoid race called J’naii that is androgynous. Riker becomes close with J’naii pilot Soren, who reveals that she identifies as female, but is closeted because her people think that gender is a perversion. When their affair is discovered, Soren is forced to undergo “psychotectic therapy” to convert her to theproper genderless state. Although this episode is an allegory for gay rights, the gender neutrality is interesting and rare for the time.”  I need to seek this out, just for this plot line!!!

Anybody got any other examples out there?!?

New App: LGBTQ+ health care info & reviews!

I recently connected with Nic and Cat, a duo based in Philadelphia, who have been working super hard for about a year, creating an app for anyone who is LGBTQ+ and is looking for a health care provider. It will be simple, straightforward, user-based, and reliable.  A beta version will be available soon, and Nic says, “the more the merrier, because once we’re beta testing we want to have as many reviews on there as possible–that’s what’s gonna make the app useful.”

qspaces-hard-at-work2 qspaces-hard-at-work










I already signed up.  You can too!  At:  https://qspacesapp.com/qreview/

I definitely will have a lot to add, from
The first primary care doctor who proscribed me T,
The terrible consultation I had for top surgery in my area,
and, yeah, there will be much more.  I have thoughts on my current doctor.  Thoughts about the surgeon who did do my top surgery.  Thoughts about my sometimes therapist and my psychiatrist (refreshingly, those two are all positive.)

I asked Nic a few questions to get a better sense of who they are and what their project is all about…

K:  I’m curious, do you and Cat have experience in web design?  Or, what are your backgrounds?

Nic:  I have some experience with coding, but not enough to be able to pull off an app like this. I’m currently a 2nd year in medical school with a background in crisis counseling, EMS, and performance. Cat is a jack-of-all-trades. In the past, she’s used design principles to build community dialogue around social issues and is currently working for Johnson & Johnson on their TAP program, and starting her first year at University of the Arts in the Design for Social Impact Master’s program. She always has a million little projects going on, from trying to create the perfect denim work jean for butches, tomboys, transmen, and anyone else who has trouble finding a durable, well-fitting work jean, to cataloguing every queer movie in existence, and more.  When she had the idea for the app and shared it with me, I was like, there has to be something like this already out there. We looked around and there were a few options, but nothing that gave tangible results. She started drawing up some sketches and we’ve been unstoppable ever since.

K:  Was there a specific moment or incident where you said, “We need an app to fill in this void of information.”

Nic:  We had just moved to Philadelphia so I could go to medical school and we were both trying to establish care with a primary doctor. Cat had very recently had a terrible doctor experience and she didn’t want to go through that again. So she turned to an online forum, a queer philly group. The posts were all over the place, and it was just generally inefficient. I was also meeting with a group called the Gender Interest group at the time, which is an interprofessional group for folks in healthcare who are trying to push systematic change at their home institutions around attitudes + policies affecting gender diverse folks. I was pretty blown away by how professional, dedicated, and compassionate these healthcare providers were and I realized that patients could only find out who had adequate training in LGBTQ patient issues by word of mouth.  I mean, almost 10% of the population is lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and / or trans. Yet we give hours and hours of lectures on the most rare of congenital metabolic diseases. I think that’s a problem. 

So there wasn’t one exact moment. It was basically a culmination of all of our experiences up until that point. Cat + I realized that 1. we could do something about it and 2. that we were actually the perfect team for this project.

K:  What has been the most rewarding parts of the process of getting it off the ground so far?  What about the most frustrating?
Nic:  So many great experiences. My favorite parts have been where people approach us and say, yeah- but have you thought of this? I love working with people, and building off of ideas, so the amount of collaboration that this has led to has been truly incredible. We’re working with a web dev team called Webjunto in Philadelphia and they’re really awesome. A good part of the team is queer and they have a lot of great insights. Even the straight, cis people have some great insights.😉

The most frustrating part, by far, has been trying to convince straight, cis folks that there is a need for this kind of app. You can quote statistics at them all day long (like over 56% of lgb folks have had discriminatory experiences at their healthcare provider’s office, and over 70% when looking at transgender and gender non-conforming people) but they’ll just reply, ‘Well, not at this institution’ (which I know for a fact to be untrue). The institutional support matters because we need funding, we need investors in order to set up a sustainable business model. The reason some of these other sites are stalling out is because they are non-profits that run on volunteer work. Cat + I would love to devote ourselves full time to this app, and it’s important that it stays totally free for the folks using it.

Besides, we have so many other ideas, including things like having a Clubhouse- a community space for lgbtq folks to chill + hang out that isn’t centered around alcohol. Maybe one day! 
I’ll share more info about this app as it becomes available.  This is SUPER important.  (I’ll also share updates about this magical Clubhouse as that materializes as well. 🙂 )

3 super-short stories

Content note:  crassness, body humor

1:  “We’re Trendy”

My spouse and I were at a bar on the beach with another couple a few weeks ago.  My friend (who is also trans) and I went to go get us some drinks.  It was packed inside, and we had to squeeze past a long line for the bathrooms to get to the bar.  On our way back with the beers, as we were squeezing by again, a woman was saying, “Hell, with this line, I could just go into the men’s room.  You know, like transgenders.  That trendy right now.”  And, without really seeing her or stopping or anything, not missing a beat, I said, semi-loudly, “We’re trendy.”  My friend repeated, “Yeah, we’re trendy.”  According to my friend in the re-telling, she had a taken aback type reaction, but I didn’t see it; I just kept walking.


2.  “Nearly A”

Last night on our way to go brush our teeth, my spouse looked in on our guest room / my gigantic clothes pile.  There was a bra on top of one clothing mound, and she picked it up and said, “What is this?!!”  I told her it’s a bra.  She kept it coming with the, “Why do you have this?” and “Where did this come from,” etc.  And I said it was mine and I was saving it for if I ever wanted to dress up like a girl.
“This is so tiny; it’s a training bra,” she said.
“No it isn’t!  This was my bra!!!” (I was being mock angry.)

I started fumbling with it in my hand, looking for a tag so I could prove to her it was a bra.  It was kind of curled up, so I unrolled it and showed it to her.

It had a model number, and then it said, “SIZE:  Nearly A.”

We both burst out laughing.


3.  “A Bag of Dicks”

Today, I was filling in for my supervisor, so I was working the day shift.  The principal wanted me to clean up the front of the school, pick up sticks and garbage, sweep the walkway, stuff like that.  So I did that for about an hour and a half before I decided that was good enough.  I took the bag of trash around back to the dumpster, and as I passed the cardboard dumpster, I noticed a feminine looking backpack, a style that seemed older than elementary school age kids, just perched on top of cardboard boxes, at the perfect height where it was right where those side slide-y doors open.  I flipped the flap of the bag, because I’m that kind of curious, and with just a glance, I realized that it was filled with dildos and vibrators, of all sizes and shapes, all of them different shades of pink.  I quickly put the flap back and walked inside, mulling this over.

I texted my spouse:
“There is a bag of dicks in the cardboard dumpster today.”
“Haha, what?!”  and then later, “What were the bag of dicks?!  Haha”
“Like, literally!  i took a pic on my crappy phone but didn’t turn out great cuz i wasn’t gonna touch them”
“Haha, why did the school have those?!”
“Someone swung by for a secret dump”

I then texted my co-worker, who was going to be at the school within the next half hour:
“There’s a bag of dicks in the cardboard dumpster.”

I just left him hanging until he got to work (I also texted some friends about the bag of dicks).  Then, since this was one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened at work, I brought him right out to show him.  He was pretty surprised, but I do get the sense he’s seen lots of weird stuff in his time.  He asked me if I told anyone about it and what should we do?  I said, “No!”  Just my spouse, and I was gonna just dump it in the actual dumpster, not the cardboard one.  But, like, maybe a little later (cause I was pretty sure he was going to investigate on his own).  Sure enough, later on he approached me, and told me that he did a little digging and there were some latex gloves in there too and gym socks and also a gift card for Subway.  Haha.  He said, “fly your freak flag” a number of times.  I felt a little more emboldened next time I went to throw out trash, and rooted around in the bag with my gloves on before throwing it into the trash dumpster.  Yep, lots of dicks in there.

Dear Sugar Podcast: I’m a transgender man, seeking acceptance

So, I’ve been listening to this one podcast religiously since its beginning in December of 2014… it’s kind of a guilty pleasure; it’s a straight up advice column!  It’s called Dear Sugar; the “Sugars” are Cheryl Strayed, of Wild fame – the book, the movie (starring Reese Witherspoon), the attitude, and Steve Almond, who wrote Against Football, among many other books and essays.  They also always bring in an “expert,” or someone who can speak from personal experience about the person’s question.


They have fielded numerous letters about relationships, family dynamics, friend betrayals, weddings, lies and secrets, infidelity, personality clashes, (surprisingly, nothing that I can remember about work drama or school issues…)  A couple of them have been about lesbian and gay -centric problems:  parents who are unsupportive, partners who are still in the closet, etc…


I have been waiting for something that relates to trans-people.  Finally, after a year and 9 months, they tackle it!

And… it’s totally underwhelming.

Have a listen, here:  I’m a Transgender Man, Seeking Acceptance  (For reference, it’s 39 minutes long.)

I mean, I think it’s great for the general population.  So, it’s a good start.  They read two different trans-men’s letters, and they seem to be at different points in their transitions, so that’s cool.

The first guy is in college, and he’s feeling great about his path and the people around him and everything – everything except for his parents, who just will not get on board.  This, I feel, is super common.

The second guy seems to be a little more established, in a career, and he’s navigating the world of dating.  He is concerned that since he is short (5’2″), does not have a lucrative career (social worker), and does not have a penis, he may be unlovable.  This, too, seems like a pretty common concern.

The “Sugars,” in general, use radical empathy as a basis for starting a dialogue.  And, in this case, since they don’t know how it feels to be transgender, they take the angle that,

“The best way to begin to understand an experience very different from your own is to listen to the stories of others. This week, we read the letters of two transgender men who are struggling to find love and acceptance.  The Sugars discuss with Cooper Lee Bombardier, a visual artist, writer and transgender man.”

According to his bio, Cooper “has been a construction worker, a cook, a carpenter, a union stagehand, a welder, a shop steward, a dishwasher, a truckdriver, a bouncer, and a housepainter, among other things, for a paycheck.”  He’s currently super successful with the writing and the art.  He sounds super cool!

Steve Almond starts off talking about the first time he met a trans-woman.  It was slightly cringe-inducing, but also definitely a worthwhile story.  Then they get into the letters, and introduce Cooper.  He, as a guest, is eloquent and upbeat, but he does keep it pretty basic, and seems somewhat detached from his own personal stories.  There is a really great moment though where Cooper says he’s been “transitioning” for about 15  years, and when the Sugars ask him how old he was when he started, he says, “in my early 30s.”  They sputter about how young he looks and how could this be?  And he replies, “I moisturize.”  And then later, “It’s the trans-fountain of youth, you know…” and there’s lots of laughing, and Cheryl says, “Sign me up!”

One thing that Cooper says really well in discussing the first letter is,

“We wrestle with these feelings for so long, that by the time we articulate it to somebody, it’s like a bottle bursting open.  …And we tell our parents and we expect them to get it, like, tomorrow.  Even though we’ve been struggling with it for years and years, right?  And so I think that… it’s really hard to be patient when we’ve waited so long to kind of actualize and realize that this is what’s going on for us.  But for those relationships that we do want to bring along with us, we do need to offer some patience, even though it’s hard.”

When discussing the second letter, they telescope it out, to bring it to the wider theme of anyone who feels like they are unloveable, and how to change that internal notion.  Cheryl says, “This is a universal conundrum.  …Am I too fat to be loved? No. Am I too poor to be loved? No. Am I too fill-in-the-blank to be loved? No.”  They touch on how his height and his career might factor into this, and no one makes one further mention about the fact that he does not have a penis.  Is it because they think it’s not important to talk about?  No, I kind of doubt it – I think they are finding it too awkward to address.  And/or, in being respectful, they feel that it’s not up to them to talk about a trans-person’s genitalia (or sex life, or surgeries, or…) which is definitely important that we’ve gotten that far, but in this case, it was right there, in the letter, and it just got straight up ignored.

I do really hope they expand the dialogue about what it feels like to be a transgender person.  I have been thinking of writing in, for a while now, and I only feel more motivated after listening to this.  I’m planning on it; I’ll let you know.

this will not define me

Originally published in the zine, Not Trans Enough.  Written by geoff; reprinted with permission.

not trans enough zine

if you were to look at me or hear me speak, you’d probably think that i am a cis dude. i could list off all the reasons why that isn’t so. i could just say that i am genderqueer. i could make it known that i am non-binary. or i could just share all that i know about these aspects of myself. i definitely do not look, act, or sound genderqueer or non-binary and i am especially not thought of as trans. well at least i feel that i do not look like or live up to this cultural imagination of what it means to be trans, genderqueer or non-binary.

i never “came out of the closet.” i never had individual conversations with friends or family members. i didn’t even have a facebook status update sharing this new and important part of my life. i never came out. i never really changed my outward appearance to become genderqueer although i wish i didn’t have facial hair. instead i started to live my life more openly, honestly and more as my true self. my process of becoming genderqueer was an inside job.

genderqueerness appealed to me because it meant that i no longer had to live like a man. it meant that i no longer had to fall short of the ideal of being a man. it meant that i could start to reject the masculinity that is toxic and violent. it meant that i could be this tiny five foot one and a half tall person trying to live a just life in an unjust world. one thing it didn’t mean was that my male privilege just disappeared once i started to identify as genderqueer.

yes, i still benefit from male privilege even though i identify as genderqueer. this male privilege is complicated and contextual. it’s something i never really thought about or ever needed to consider. i feel genderqueer on the inside but i know that most people read me as a dude. being a genderqueer tomboy femme feels right. although my gender identity challenges gender expectations, i still live in this world that genders people as men or women. as de from my interactions with people that are close to me, i get gendered as a man. even though i identify as femme, i do not experience constnt sexual harassment, gendered or sexual violence.

in my early 20s and before i ever identified as queer in any way, i used to wear women’s pants by goth brands like lip service and tripp. the pants were skinny enough to fit my slim petite figure but were really tight around the crotch area. i also used to wear cyber goth platform sneakers. i had a pair of “swear alternative” shoes that had a 4 inch platform. i only wore them out once. i stopped it all. i couldn’t deal with the looks and i didn’t feel comfortable or confident in what i was wearing so i stopped. i was scared. i stopped expressing this femme aspect of myself to feel safe. i traded aesthetics for security.

“not trans enough” deeply resonates with me. this statement expresses my sentiments of feeling out of place within the “trans community.” it conveys the discomfort that i feel when i say that i am genderqueer, that i use they/them pronouns when i am surrounded by people that have an authentic trans story to tell. the “real” trans story that’s about experiencing struggles, dysphoria and medical transition. i do not wish to put down any of these struggles or experiences rather i hope to add my experience to diversify the trans narratives. i share my experience to validate it. i share my story to affirm other peoples’ sentiments if they too feel “not trans enough.” i think that all trans people are amazing. i dream of a future where trans people don’t constantly live with discomfort, where trans women and transfeminine people do not face disproportionate rates of violence against them, where trans people do not just struggle to survive but thrive and where trans people are honoured for the beautiful people that they are.

geoff is a mixed race gender queer of filipinx descent living as a settler on colonized land known as toronto, turtle island, traditionally land of the haudenosaunee, mississaugas of the new credit, huronwendat and other indigenous peoples. they identify as a sober addict in recovery. they wish to politicize their experiences with substance use and sobriety while unraveling the limited representation of the addicted body. more of their work can be found at https://livingnotexisting.org/

3 months after top surgery / 6 weeks back on T

Physically, I feel 100%, and I’ve felt that good for the past month – like in terms of lifting, stretching, and moving my body.  Aesthetically, I’m still not happy, but I’m starting to get used to / feel OK (for now!) with how things look (I’m sure I’ll be looking at revisions down the road, but I’m not going to worry about that right now.)  Sensation-wise, I’m a little worried, but I know it’s still early on.  My nipples are still numb, and it feels numb/tender within about an inch radius around both nipples.  I’m looking into making some gotu kola oil to massage into the tissue; apparently that’s supposed to help with nerve damage.  Better late than never, right?

I have my 3 month follow-up appointment with the physician’s assistant on Tuesday, via Skype, and I’m not really looking forward to that…

It’ll be fine…

Otherwise, I’m super happy.  I’m so happy to be wearing what I want to wear and also of walking around the house without a shirt on (which I did do, previously, but not as much, and not while my spouse was around.)  A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to a friend, “I did not expect to feel much different other than a cerebral satisfaction regarding being able to wear anything from now on.  But it’s more of a gut- level confidence:  I feel like my posture is different; I walk differently, I carry myself differently.  This is what makes it all worth it.”  That pretty much sums it up.

Also, I’ve been using 2 pumps of Androgel, daily, for 6 weeks now, without any doctor supervision.  I just had some extra bottles laying around, and I felt like starting again (after being off of it for… 6 months?)  I contacted my local LGBTQ clinic via email (which is new for me – previously I’d been getting Androgel from a doctor who was reluctant to be a part of my trans-related health) but after more than a week, I haven’t gotten a response.  So, I plan to call soon.  I’m thinking about trying injections, short term.  I think I’ve gotten about as far as the gel will bring me, and I STILL want to look and sound slightly more masculine.  Like, enough so, so that people are confused, or at least they’re hesitant to actually say “ladies.”  So sick of the “ladies.”  It happened again today.  Blah.