Last week was Pride in this mid-sized city I live in. The theme this year was “Stand Out: [Live] in Color.” For the first time ever, I attended a week’s worth of events; it was pretty awesome!
On Monday, my spouse plus my drag buddy and her boyfriend and her friend from out of town all went to a panel discussion / conversation called “Fabulous Lives: [Drag] in Color.” The purpose was largely to honor a bar owner and drag queen named Naomi Kane who had passed away a few years ago. Everyone wanted to share their impressions of her (both her essence, and literally doing hilarious impressions of the way she talked and her signature phrases / philosophies). My drag buddy and I used to perform at her bar. One of the old school drag kings from that time was on the panel, as well as the drag queen who regularly hosted the weekly show. We got recognized as fellow drag kings; the vibe of the event was full of love and emotion for the scene and community.
On Thursday we went to another venue for a DJ night and drag queen show. I got picked out of the audience (unwittingly but not totally unwillingly!) along with 2 others to play a game involving a bucket strapped to my groin area with a dangling tennis ball – thrust your body in such a way as to get the ball in the bucket. I lost, but still got a complimentary beer koozie. The important part is I felt more than comfortable up there on stage doing something so completely silly.
Satutrday was the parade. My spouse and I (again) marched for their employer, a food co-op. It was just us and 2 other people! We had a lot of fun though – it felt like the perfect combination of laid-back and exciting. We were right behind the local goth nightclub, and the DJ was driving his goth-mobile, playing gloomy / angsty mostly 80s music, which was a great soundtrack! One of the other marchers with the club told us he’s taking requests. I asked for “Swamp Thing” by The Chameleons. After we were done in the parade, we stepped to the side to watch the rest. When there was a lull, two kids, probably around age 10, ran across the street, directly to me, and handed me a heart shaped rainbow balloon. I have no idea why, but it pretty much made my parade! My spouse and I used the balloon in our photo shoot we did back home.
Then that night, I went out to a dance party with my spouse’s sister and a group of her friends. It felt really good to get wrapped up in dancing. And!!! Completely out of nowhere, a guy approached me and said,
“Hey, are you Kameron.”
“We did a David Bowie thing together.”
“Oh, yea, cool… At The [name of venue.]”
“No, it was the one at The [different venue.] I was the promoter. I never paid you.”
“Oh, OK yeah I remember.”
“I owe you $50. Here!”
And he just handed me the money! This was like 6 or 7 years ago, and I hadn’t seen or heard from him since! I didn’t even go by “Kameron” at that point. I was so amazed this was happening, I gave him a hug. He laughed. Then I went back to dancing, but I’ve been telling this story over and over again ever since, haha.
Sunday we went to the picnic. Saw more drag. Hung out with friends. Said hi to more people.
I like the fact that this year it was a full week of festivities! Here are some pics:
WordPress sent me a notification today letting me know that it’s my 5th anniversary of blogging here. So I’m scrambling to do a celebratory post!
When I started this blog, I was trying soooo hard to navigate my gender identity and to find a community. I’d say the first year or two was spent feeling like my blog was not enough, just continually putting myself out there and obsessing about how to connect with others through this method. I spent hours, daily, reading as many other blogs as I could find, about gender. After about 2 years, I think I started to feel secure in my writing voice, if not quite my gender yet. I really settled into writing regularly, and I got so much enjoyment out of it – this more than any other creative endeavor, for a long time. I’d say that within the past year, that’s shifted again, and I’ve felt pretty disenfranchised. I get way more “views” than ever before, mostly thanks to this singular post: 28 risks of chest binding. People love a good scare. They love to google things that could go wrong. I’m definitely proud of that post – I put a lot of work into that one. And I do love the fact that once they find my blog through that route, it seems like the majority of people poke around a little more and go deeper. (This is based on what I can tell from “stats.”) But the sense of community I felt so strongly has dwindled over time. People have stopped posting / I have stopped finding new blogs to read. There are a few mainstays that I haven’t quite kept up with; I’d like to remedy that…
The way I decided to celebrate this milestone is to pick 5 blog posts that I think got overlooked (one per year). Either I put a lot of emotional energy into them and didn’t get much feedback, or maybe I just think they’re worth checking out – they withstand the test of time, something like that…
2013: From whimsical musings to invasive rumintations on transitioning – This was my 10th post ever, and I really think I zeroed in on the psychological push-pull of not feeling like either gender for the first time here. I even used some of what I wrote here much later, in an essay that is forthcoming as part of an anthology published by Columbia University Press. For real! The date keeps being pushed back, but it will be within a year – I’m sure I’ll have updates as that approaches.
2014: The Soft Sell (upping the ante) – This was my 30th post. It was mostly about: despite the fact I may have been solidifying my gender identity more and more, I was waaaay behind in telling a lot of the people in my life about it. The blog was a great outlet to be semi-private but also just feel it out as I went. The term “the soft sell” came from my therapist – that was her reaction to me telling her the half-assed way I had come out to my parents. When she said that, all I could picture was the members from Soft Cell, one of my fave bands. That has always stayed with me. Hah.
2015: I came out to the principal of my school (workplace) – This post was definitely not overlooked, but I still think it’s worth highlighting. I came out to her waaaaay before I actually actively came out at work, and I strongly feel like the fact that I did that, that I put those roots down, gave me hope toward my final destination. It also breaks down the divide I feel between the “janitor” and the “queer” parts of my identity – this blog has continually felt out where that line is, where it crosses, where they are distinct, etc. I just really like this post because it addresses a lot of that stuff head-on.
2016: Drag king stories #5 – This is definitely my favorite entry within this ongoing series I’ve been doing. I wrote it in honor of Prince’s death (the actual show took place in June of 2012) – the fact that I got to emulate Prince at a really well attended event meant the world to me, and the fact that I performed one of the songs with my drag partner/buddy’mentor made it all the more special. We were both regular drag performers at a gay bar in 2006 and 2007. Before I could articulate where I wanted to go with my gender, I got to act it out in all kinds of fun and creative ways, harnessing music and dance and costuming and make-up. Being a drag performer was a big step in my journey – this post really showcases that, I think.
2017: Jeepster (working title: I got an oil change and got my mind blown) – this is a real oddball post. I’ve always said that the three things this blog is about are: gender, being a janitor, and mental health, and this one here really crystalizes a mental state that was temporary (thankfully!) I had just recently gotten through the thick of a manic episode, and the residual disorganization / megaorganization is still very much apparent in the writing here. I think I want to highlight it because I’m currently working on a 16+ page piece where I just try to remember as much as I can about my most recent hospitalization. This is a companion piece.
And I’m gonna cop out and not do 2018 because the year’s not done yet! Plus, it’s my 5th anniversary, so I’m highlighting 5 posts. Makes sense. Here’s to 5 more years!
Dear friends and family of trans-people,
It can be super challenging, on multiple levels, when a loved one comes out to you, especially if it never occurred to you that they might be transgender. You might not know where to turn, or what resources to access to help you navigate the changes they (and you) will be going through. There ARE resources though, plenty of them, and support groups (if not locally in your area, then definitely on the internet). It is not up to the transgender person to be your sounding board, your therapist, your coach, or your educator. In addition, as you work through it in your own way, please put a damper on the “transition as death” narrative. It is trite, outdated, and toxic.
If you feel like you are mourning a death, that’s fine – all feelings are valid (etc.) But why would this be something you need to work out publicly? We are very much alive. Almost always, transition is actually close to the opposite of death – it’s a time to finally feel out who we actually are. We may have felt like a “half-person” or a “shell of a person” or, to put it in those same grim terms, like a “walking dead person.” I know I did prior to transition, quite a bit. Coming out was a celebration of life. I feel like I have so much more to live for now.
When you claim that the person you knew has died, you are implying that the person we are becoming is not worth getting to know, or that we have slighted you, tricked you, we are to blame for your feelings of loss. And, actually, we aren’t even “becoming” a different person. We are the same person, just finally in technicolor, finally kaleidoscopic, however you want to look at it. If you took the time to see how much we settle into ourselves, how often our worst mental-health issues start to soften around the edges, how we can be more present in the moment, more peaceful, more calm, then you might understand that it is so far from a death that the analogy is utterly ridiculous and laughable.
Please reflect on the ramifications of claiming we have died.
And now for some hard evidence! Two sources that have been recently on my radar have had me in hyper cringe mode as they talked about the “death” of their transgender loved one.
First, an episode of the podcast Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People: I generally love this podcast, and in fact, I’ve written about it before, because there have been 2 prevous episodes highlighting transgender narratives. If you wanna check that blog post out, it is: Beautiful / Anonymous: Trans-related episodes.
Episode #116, sensationalistically entitled She Killed My Father is a much harder pill to swallow. The gist is that the caller is an only child, the adult child of a transwoman who came out later in life (in her fifties), much to the surprise of those around her.
Caller: “Sometimes it feels like this person killed my father. And in a way, that’s right. You know, I, well, think about it this way: When you lose… my father, as a male, does not exist anymore. This person is gone. And normally when that happens, you have this grieving period, you have this ritual, this ceremony, you can go to this funeral or this memorial service and people bring you food and people give you cards and people just give you your space and they really support you and they let you process that. But for me, um… especially with my dad… I don’t have a dad anymore, and this person came in and said, ‘Your dad’s gone. Now it’s me….'”
Chris: “Wow. This is, this is, by far, out of all the calls we’ve ever done, one that is so much to wrap one’s brain around.”
Blaaaaaaaaaah!!!!! To be fair, I am just isolating this one thing, and of course it’s way more complex as we hear more of her story: Her father is also bipolar, and has issues with boundaries, always wanting to be more of a “buddy” than a parent, stuff like that. But really, nothing excuses this framework the caller has set up so starkly. Can’t get past it!
The second instance I’ve recently come across is in a book called, At The Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces. This book is co-authored by both mother and son, and it is in many ways a difficult but worthwhile read. It’s rich in its depth and complexity. Both authors are not afraid to show their wounds and flaws, and, to be sure, some of that is cringe-worthy.
She (the mother, Mary Collins) delicately sidesteps the specific “my daughter has died” scenario, but she has an entire chapter entitled “Mapping Modern Grief,” and there’s plenty of comparisons to the death of her father at a young age, as well as, “I am grieving the loss of my daughter,” “I understood my daughter would never return,” and this mindboggling way of looking at it: “My emotional journey with Donald seems to more closely mirror more nebulous losses, such as moving away from someone I will never see again.”
Not as in-your-face with the death imagery, but just as chafing, on an emotional level.
I wanted to highlight this change, on testosterone, because I’ve vacillated so much over time, and it seems worth noting. Initially, this was the thing I feared the most. It’s one of the changes that happens early on, is irreversible, and is most noticeable. I wanted to avoid it all together, partially because I wasn’t ready to come out beyond what I was comfortable with (my community and friends). I didn’t want this change to “out me” before I was ready. Also, I didn’t want to tip the gender balance – I wanted to be, over-all, androgynous and not definitively masculine in any way.
When I was on a low dose of Androgel (for over 2 years), I successfully kept things right where I wanted them. Then I went off T completely for a while, and in that time, I started DJing for a community radio station. I didn’t like listening back to my shows at first, so I just didn’t. They felt cringe-worthy. Eventually I started listening, and improving, and switching things up. I started to find my voice, suuuuuuper gradually.
About a year in, I was ready to plunge into T-injections and all the changes that may come along with that, including my voice dropping. I had already come out with family and at work and had changed my name legally, so those things were no longer road-blocks.
It was a bizarre and largely private thing to go through. I don’t talk all that much in my daily life, to begin with, so it was a lot of testing out the changes, daily, in my car alone. And then also the radio show, weekly. I know there were times when my voice cracked, but I haven’t listened back, specifically, for that. I’m sure I could find those moments, in the archives, if I really wanted to. But I don’t! Haha.
Fast forward, and I am super satisfied with my voice as it is now. I have a hard time relating to how tortured I felt about it in the past. Along with increased confidence and comfort with my body and my place in the world, my voice just feels natural. It also just feels so much easier to find words, to converse in all sorts of situations, and to be more out there. It is awesome in so many ways.
In preparing for my 100th radio show, I did go back to those first few shows and listened to them probably for the first time. And they WERE totally cringe-worthy, haha. My voice was stilted and stiff; I sounded so unsure of myself. I did a cool thing where I isolated some of the sound clips from those early shows, and then I played them live, on my 100th show. Here’s me, talking about lunch over the course of a handful of shows, before T-injections, and then me interjecting over top of that – you can really notice the change in my voice that way! Also my best friend was there in the studio – she’s the third voice on this track:
My hair is the longest its ever been. It’s also only 3/8 of an inch, on the sides. I cut and buzz it myself. I’m not sure whether it was a conscious decision (probably partially conscious), but as my face has become more masculine, I’ve grown my hair out in the back so that it falls over my shoulders slightly. Also, it has gotten a lot more curly since I’ve been on testosterone.
I was initially on a low dose of Androgel for a few years, and there were really only 2 reasons that I stopped, in December of 2015: 1) I wasn’t sure what it was doing for me, at that dose, anymore. And 2) Was it causing my hairline to recede? That was totally freaking me out!
Two years later, I was ready to give testosterone another try. The pros I envisioned (lowered voice, redistribution of fat and muscle, heightened libido, bottom growth) outweighed the cons I was pretty sure I’d come up against (feeling hotter, sweatier, potential hair growth and hair loss.) And now that it’s been close to a year and a half, on a “regular” dose of injections, I’m still “in it” with that balance. I don’t love all the changes. But I love some of the changes more than I dislike others.
Hair is a big factor. Probably the biggest factor at this point. I’ll start with the easiest, most fun change:
Happy trail!!! I’ve always wanted a happy trail, and now, finally, I have one. That’s all I got to say about that. It is awesome!!!
Facial Hair: I do not like the increased facial hair at all. I regularly – daily – pluck out chin and moustache hairs with tweezers. I kind of love this activity – it’s satisfying to grab and pull out, one-at-a-time, each hair. However, it’s more and more time-consuming, over time, as I have more to pluck out. In addition, I’m sure I’m missing a bunch, especially finer hairs that can be seen in the sunlight. Is this OK? I guess for now, but it is a fine balance. You know that old belief that may or may not be true? That if you shave, the hairs will come back in thicker and darker? I kinda believe that. I don’t want to take that chance with my face. Also, I’m not ruling out electrolysis, as a long-term solution, if it really feels that overwhelming in the future.
Hairline: My hairline has definitely changed since being on testosterone. I have a much more pronounced “widow’s peak.” This is worrisome. Balding definitely runs in my family. I feel vain about it. As of now, I just arrange the curls on the top of my head so that they fall forward, curly bangs covering up male pattern baldness. But I’m not sure if I get to do this forever. Probably not.
I also got some hair growth going on in other parts of my body, like my lower back and legs – all this feels neutral and natural. I’m neither bothered nor excited about it.
I’m actually leaning toward lowering my dose now, as it gets warmer out. I don’t want to feel overheated and smelly and sweaty. And if a lower dose will slow some of the balding down, I’d probably feel better about it. As long as my menstrual cycle doesn’t come back – that’s the balance I’m aiming for right now… I’m sure I’ll feel differently at other points as well, but this is where I’m at.
I haven’t written one of these since 2014! That’s way too long! My spouse and I just watched Another Earth for the second time, and I had forgotten that the protagonist, Rhoda, is a high school janitor. Heads up – this post might contain spoilers! And also, although I’m being critical and having fun with it (the portrayal of a janitor), I actually really do love this movie (hence, the wanting to watch it for a 2nd time!)
She doesn’t start out as a janitor. She’s a promising student that just got accepted to MIT, but her path takes a sharp turn when she kills a wife and child in a drunk driving accident. She spends the next four years in prison, instead of college, and when she gets out, she struggles with even wanting to be alive. When talking to a social worker about a job placement, she says,
“I don’t wanna really be around too many people or do too much talking.”
And that is, in a nut-shell, what being a janitor is all about! She gets placed at West Haven High School. We see her in a bunch of scenes at work. I’ll try to break it down a bit:
Uniform: She’s wearing workboots in the style of Timberlands. She has a hoodie and a full-body jumpsuit on over that. Plus a beanie. It is winter, but this is what she’s wearing while working in the building, and she is WAY overdressed! I’d be sweating bullets in this get-up, plus the footwear is too heavy-duty. Even running sneakers would be better – you do a ton of walking as a janitor. I wear a t-shirt, pants, and sneakers, and I still get hot – school buildings are usually kept super warm.
The Work: We see her pushing her cart through the building, mopping halls, and scrubbing at bathroom grafitti. This is fairly realistic, although where I work, we have an auto-scrubber for halls, and I’d never use that much elbow-grease on anything the way she’s going at that grafitti – I’d blow out my ligaments! I already struggle with “tennis elbow” from regular repetitive motions. Not worth it!
Storyline: There’s a sub-plot where her co-worker, Purdeep, is noticeably blind, and you’re left wondering how he gets his job done without seeing. Then, one day, Purdeep isn’t there, and Rhoda asks about him. The reply? He’s not coming back because he poured bleach in his own ears. This was the 2nd incident – he had previously blinded his own self by pouring bleach in his eyes.
“He said he was tired of seeing himself everywhere.”
Later on, there’s a scene where Rhoda visits him in the hospital, and she writes letters on the palm of his hand in order to communicate with him. It’s a tender connection, but other than that, I’m not sure what’s being coveyed through this other than here was a janitor who incrimentally lost his mind and self-destructed. ???
There’s one other scene, early on, that I think is really relevant. She runs into an old classmate at a corner store, and from his demeanor, it’s apparent he’s super surprised to see her, and he knows all about what happened to her, going to prison and everything. Their dialogue reads, starting with him asking,
“So, are you working?”
“West Haven High.”
“Yeah? What do you teach?”
“I clean the school.”
“Oh, that’s cool. …That’s probably very … therapeutic.”
It might not be apparent from the words, but his tone is sooo condescending, his classism is really shining through. I often tell people that I’m a janitor, and I feel fortunate I don’t come up against this kind of bias, generally. But there was a long period of time where I did feel shame about my job, especially because I work for the same school district I went to school at, and I too was a “promising” student, and I actually did go to college (and not prison), and I would brace myself for those moments where I might run into someone I knew from school.
In November of my senior year of high school, I had an appointment to see a counselor – my mom had set it up for me. I’m not sure who she contacted or what route she took to find this person – I should ask her. I never ended up going to them though because, a week before the appointment, I went to a psychiatric hospital. I talked to people there. And when I got out, I started seeing a therapist who was affiliated with that hospital. I went to her for the rest of that school year, plus my freshman year of college. I remember talking to her on the phone from my dorm room, and seeing her whenever I came home on breaks.
She quickly and easily became my favorite adult. I always looked forward to seeing her. I didn’t talk much. I had no template for how to converse, basically. She chipped away at that naturally, gradually, over time. Sometimes we would role-play. I often came home from our sessions and wrote out, word-by-word, our conversations. It’s really neat to read back through those!
She was the first person to ask me about gender, and specifically, if I was comfortable with my female body. I had just seen Boys Don’t Cry (my mom was reluctant to let me see it, but I was persistent, and she took me), and I told my therapist all about it. She asked me about different aspects of my body, and I admitted that I don’t like this or that about it, I don’t shave my legs, etc. But I essentially told her I couldn’t see myself as a man.
I started to go to a youth group through the local gay alliance that spring, and it was super helpful to be able to talk about those experiences from the group, with her. Plus I had a crush on someone at school – in my memories, it feels like 90% of our sessions were taken up talking about that, specifically. She always made me feel like there was potential and hope there. In the end, she was right. Kinda. In some ways. But that’s a different story!
Last week, I uncovered a cassette tape that has her name on it, in my handwriting. I knew exactly what it was – I always knew this tape existed. I had just misplaced it for a long time. I’d been passively searching for it for years, actually.
I put it in my tape deck, which is right behind me where I’m sitting now, and pushed “play.” I thought I would have some visceral or nostalgic reaction to her voice, but for whatever reason, I didn’t. It was just her, reading from a script, going through a guided relaxation full of visualizations. It was kinda cheesy. Nothing that actually felt like a connection.
As I was planning my radio show this week, I incorporated about 2 minutes of this tape, layered with an instrumental track.
When I went to therapy on Wednesday, I brought all this up – finding the tape, planning on including it on my show, thinking about her again. My current therapist knew her – they were collegues. I told her I was thinking about trying to contact her, but I was at a loss because she got married (changed her name) when she moved to North Carolina.
I’ve half-heartedly tried to “google” her once or twice, a long time ago. For whatever reason, it felt super weird and I didn’t pursue it any further. But actually talking it out, at therapy (and I’m talking about the here-and-now, current therapist) made it not seem strange at all. People do these things. They reach out, try to find important others from their pasts, all the time.
I’m gonna do it! I’m pretty sure I tracked down her phone number online. Now I just gotta figure out what I’d say in a message. My voice sounds male now – I’m gonna have to explain that. I have a different name. Yet another coming out. What am I gonna say?!
Stay tuned for the conclusion, where I actually talk to her, if it all works out…
A couple of weeks ago, a new zine, made by non-binary people, launched. This first issue’s theme is sexuality and romance, and it can be purchased here, on Etsy: Mx. Zine
The cost is sliding scale / pay what you want, and all profits will be donated to Trans Lifelife (a crisis helpline for trans people) and/or Black & Pink (queer prison abolitionists). How cool is that?!
I just got mine in the mail, and I highly recommend it. It’s 16 pages of poetry, photography, drawings, mini-comics, and prose. It’s on really nice paper and is in color. I first found out about it from AJ, a member of a facebook group that I’m also a part of. I reached out and asked them a few questions to get a better sense of the scope of the project.
Kam: What is your role in the group, and how did you get involved?
AJ: I don’t have an official name for my role in Mx., but I’m somewhere between an organizer and editor. I’d had the idea for a collaborative project made only by non-binary people, and had quite a bit of support from the community, and was able to gather a group of interested NBs. I laid out the basics, but a lot of the details were fine-tuned by suggestions and polls. Then people submitted their content, and I arranged it into the final product!
Kam: What are some of the long-term goals for this project?
AJ: I really hope this will head in the direction of a queer based distro, where we’d also distribute music, art, and other zines. I’d love to see the proceeds from that go towards getting radical queer and feminist literature into the hands of young queers.
Kam: Do you come from a writing / publishing background? Have you made zines before?
AJ: I do a lot of writing for fun, but it’s not exactly a background. I’ve made several small zines before, but this was the first big project.
Kam: What are some ways newcomers can get involved?
AJ: Join our Facebook group! It’s a general group for recruiting and updating on upcoming projects. Our next issue will be along the lines of Queer Liberation and Revolution, and we’d love to hear from new contributors! https://www.facebook.com/groups/mxzine/
Kam: What are the pros and cons, in your opinion, in using a printed medium when so much around us is digital / digitized?
AJ: I’m definitely one who prefers holding what I’m reading, but also it can be a lot easier to get out if we’re going through a distro (which I’ve been working on trying to do). I also find people more likely to pass around and share zines rather than sending files. People who might not have a computer, or who have a hard time reading from them also benefit from physical copies.
There are definitely benefits to having it digital as well, and it makes it accessible to more people. People can zoom in for larger text or invert the colors if that helps them. We’re also making a text-only document with image descriptions that will be available upon request.
Kam: How did the title for the zine get selected?
AJ: The title Mx. was decided by a poll in our Facebook group. I wish I could tell you who suggested it, but I’m not sure. The runner-up was “Enbious Vibes,” which I also liked a lot.
Kam: Do you yourself identify as non-binary?
AJ: Yes! (In fact, everyone who collaborated on the zine identifies somewhere outside the binary.) I label my gender simply as “Queer.” I’ve bounced around with different labels since I was thirteen, but I feel this describes me best, at least at this point in my life. I don’t like trying to use more specific labels (e.g. genderfluid, demi-boy/girl), since so many people define them differently. I do love that there is so much new terminology floating around, and there can be a lot of personal empowerment in choosing a specific classifier for yourself, and then fine-tuning its description to best suit your experience. Me personally, I feel empowered by emphasizing the blurry lines of gender.
Thanks to AJ for the interview, and, again, get yourself a copy!!! Here: Mx. Zine
I’ve been a part of an all-volunteer, community radio station for over two years, and it’s been an incredible experience, across the board. I’ve met a bunch of new people, learned how to use technical equipment, and have found my voice in a very fun way! The station is a combination of music shows of all genres, and talk shows covering an array of topics. I listen to a lot of them, on-and-off, while I work. A few weeks ago, a friend alerted me that one of the talk-show DJs was perpetuating a transphobic paradigm. I downloaded the show to hear it in its entirety, and then I decided to write him a letter in response. Essentially, he sought out a video from a certain Dr. Michelle Cretella and took her side, as she chipped away at the topic of puberty blockers for transgender teenagers.
I decided not to link to her video, here in this blog post, because I’d rather people not see it! But if you want to, you can totally search it out (and it would probably make the following letter I wrote make more sense.) I watched it. It was terrible.
Here is an edited version of what I wrote and had delivered to the DJ:
Dear [Radio DJ],
I’m a fellow DJ, and I’ve been enjoying tuning into your show for a while now. The first one I heard was all about the importance of eating healthy, nutritious foods, and I was totally into it.
Your show from two weeks ago, and your discussion about transgender puberty blockers as institutionalized child abuse, however, hit me right in the gut; I feel so strongly that I decided to write from my own experience in the hopes that it’ll bring up new considerations.
I found the video clip that you shared to be sensationalistic and oversimplified. It is not all of those things all at once: puberty blockers, “mutilation,” sterilization. It is a very gradual process, and it involves listening to the child at every step of the way, which, it turns out, is actually a worthwhile thing! Children start to understand gender at around age 3. If their gender is incongruous with their sex, it is certainly possible for them to start to feel this as young as they are. The key questions medical and therapeutic providers keep in mind, over time, is: are they consistent, are they adamant, and is it increasingly apparent that they are becoming more and more uncomfortable?
If so, preminary actions can be taken to alleviate these intense feelings, and none of them are “undoable” at this stage. Maybe the child wants to feel out what it means to be called a different name and be referred to with different pronouns. And then, possibly, maybe they want to switch back. No harm done. Children can be very much androgynous before puberty hits, as they are testing out what feels right. I can attest to this 100% – I was a tomboy who was often “mistaken” for a boy. It was vital for me to be able to explore this without much pushback.
Dr. Michelle Critella hit the nail on the head when she said, “If a child can’t trust the reality of their physical bodies, who or what can they trust?” This is at the crux of what it means to be a transgender person. When puberty hits, their bodies betray them in monstrous ways. Many of the changes that occur at puberty cannot easily be “undone.” Namely, voice drop and body/facial hair in boys, and breast development in girls. Puberty blockers essentially allow for bided time. More time to understand the situation of the child, now bordering on a teenager.
At this stage, the best thing to do is to keep options open as the child continues to grow into who they are. If they can put off puberty for a little longer, it can literally be a life saving pathway. Down the road, they may be turning to more permanent changes, such a surgery and hormone replacement therapy (taking hormones that fit with their gender identity.) And yes, “sterilization” is one of many factors that would have to be a part of the discussion (and that’s a complex thing in and of itself that I’d need to learn more about. Basically, there are options.) These choices, which are being made by both the transgender person and their family (ideally) and a therapist, are far from “institional child abuse,” because the alternatives are far more drastic. Suicide, homelessness, drug and alcohol abuse, physical and sexual abuse, brutal bullying, are all very real for transgender teens. If they are listened to, believed, and being guided through steps that help them holistically, there’s nothing better than that!
Being transgender is not a “lifestyle” and it’s not a choice. It runs much deeper than that. It is at the core of who someone is, and people grow into their true selves in myriad ways. If they start to know that pathway as early as the age of 3, then, yeah, that could be one of the ways someone gets to where they need to be, as they continue to figure it out. During your segment, you questioned, “Who are they?” “They” are transgender people and the allies who listen to them.
If you’re interested in continuing this conversation, I would gladly be a guest on your show. Better yet, it’d be amazing to get a group of transgender people with very different backgrounds to come on and speak from their own experiences.
Let me know if that could work out.
-Kameron, fellow DJ and transgender person.
I’ve been binge-listening to Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, a podcast hosted by comedian Chris Gethard. The premise is so super basic: He “tweets” out the phone number when he is in the studio, and whoever ends up getting through talks with Chris, anonymously, for exactly one hour. Sometimes it’s just chit chat, sometimes the caller has an agenda and they want to make the most of this platform. Sometimes it’s funny, but more often, it’s sad, intense, and heartfelt. I’ve heard the experiences of someone in an abusive relationship, someone who escaped from a cult, someone who was a heroin addict, someone who was in an inappropriate relationship with their teacher, and so much more – including two episodes in which the caller is a trans-person.
What Not To Ask A Trans Person (Episode #54) In this episode, Chris deviated from the formula a bit – every so often, instead of taking a random call, he’ll ask people to leave a “pitch” as a phone message, and he will reach out to one of those people. In this case, the caller is a 28 year-old transman who is engaged to a transwoman… and, unfortunately, that’s about all we get to know about him as a person. The majority of the call is Trans-101 stuff – we are STILL only at this basic level with the general population. Chris puts his foot in his mouth a couple of times (he makes it clear this will be inevitable.) At one point he uses the word “transgender” as a verb, when he meant to say “transition.” Also, this exchange was super cringe-worthy:
Caller: “Even people who are not in any way transphobic, most people don’t know a lot about the experience being trans or the trans community, so they tend to be very curious. And this is fine, except that often it ends up that often trans people end up being … put in a position of having to answer all their questions, sometimes very invasive questions … like, what your genitals look like.”
Chris: [Talks super eloquently about mental health in the trans community, transphobia, and other vulnerabilities. Then says] “I do like that the first one you did mention was people asking you about your genitals. That’s gotta get real old real fast. That being said, on behalf of everybody who is wondering, I wonder what your, what your eh, your your…” and then he trailed off. DUDE. The caller handled it really well, making it super clear that that’s not a question that you ask people.
Chris: “Are there any stories… Is there any real life shit you can put out there and just make it eye opening of like, ‘yeah, this shit is real.’ You know?”
Caller: “You know, like, I think … the biggest thing is like, maybe stop murdering trans people.” He said this so casually that I laughed out loud.
One other thing that the caller pointed out that I’d never really thought about before was when talking about the high percentage of trans people who have attempted suicide – I always saw that as some concrete indicator of how outcasted the population is, how brutal society has been toward trans people. But for someone who is apt to brush that off and think that trans people are just mentally ill to begin with, that person will just cement it in their mind further that of course trans people want to kill themselves. They’re crazy. That’s demoralizing to think about.
Coming Out, With Katie Couric (Episode #77) This one also deviated from the normal format in that it was the second episode ever where Chris had a co-host. (The first one was episode #37 with Hannibal Buress.) Apparently Katie Couric reached out to him, really wanting to come on his show! The only thing I’d heard about her, any time lately, was that she botched an interview with transgender model Carmen Carrera in January 2014, asking things such as, “Your private parts are different now, aren’t they?” And then later, Laverne Cox stepped up, came on her show, and told it like it is, namely, (and yep, I’m reiterating this from just a few paragraphs ago) That’s not a question that you ask people!
Since then, I’d basically villified Katie Couric in my head, just assuming she’s too mainstream and out of touch. But, as she tells it, she had the opportunity to just edit all that garbage out, and she decided it was important to leave it in as a teachable moment, and admit her mistakes. And then! She went on to produce, along with National Geographic, a whole documentary called Gender Revolution, which came out in February of 2017. I had no idea.
So when the random caller for this particular episode happened to be a trans-woman (and she had no idea Katie Couric was there with Chris when she called), it feels serendipitous. And it’s a lot more interesting and personal than the other episode I’m highlighting, largely because it feels more meandering and off-the-cuff. Chris, again, is a little off (he isn’t usually, haha!) and Katie Couric is super thoughtful and poised. I kinda like her after this, even. The caller is at the very beginning of her journey, as a 20 year-old junior in college, studying math and economics. She has only told 6 people so far, and she’s just dabbled in painting her nails, little things like that. She’s been on estrogen for two weeks. She’s not yet comfortable seeking out support from other trans people, experimenting with clothing in private, anything along those lines.
It’s super interesting to hear from someone who is just starting to feel out her gender identity, as opposed to many of the voices from the trans community who seemingly have a lot of it figured out / are much further along in their journey.
Highly recommend these episodes!