3 ways I have asserted my gender identity, recently

As top surgery results and testosterone have been working their magic, I have felt less hung up on how I am perceived.  This is great news!  I feel less drained when I go out in public, generally.  I’ve taken things into my own hands when I feel like I’ve needed to, and this had not been psychically difficult, by any means!  Here are some ways I have been true to my non-binary identity:

1.  I Tampered With My Driver’s License.
Since I don’t live in Oregon or California, I still have to legally be either “Male” or “Female.”  Although I legally changed my name to something more masculine, I opted to remain “female,” legally.  This has led to feelings of dysphoria, but being “male” would have anyway, as well.  So, as of a few months ago, I decided to put a bright neon sticker over my “Sex” on my driver’s license.  At first it was neon orange.  Currently it’s neon green.  The color doesn’t make too much of a difference – just the fact that no one can see whether it’s “M” or “F” is huge for me.  I’ve shown it at the pharmacy, bought beer with it, gotten “carded” at restaurants, shown it to bouncers at bars and nightclubs.  No one has commented or had an issue with it – they just need to know how old I am, and that I am who I say I am!  That’s it.  (As an aside, when I traveled abroad, I did take the sticker off, because I didn’t think TSA agents would be too thrilled about that…)

2.  School Pictures
I am an elementary school janitor – every year, I go through the same routines:  first day of school, winter concerts, spring concerts, curriculum nights, open house, book fair, the 5th grade breakfast, last day of school, etc.  No one can forget school pictures!  They happen within the first weeks of school – this year, it was a week ago, today.  As a staff member, I have to participate, and then I get some free photos, and I get a sheet of all the faculty and staff, every year.  In the past, I have gone by the initials that I used to go by, which was “KT” and then [last name].  Unless I wasn’t feeling like speaking up (which was the case on a couple of occasions) I made sure the picture company had me down as “KT” instead of “Mrs.,” “Ms.,” or “Mr.”  This year, surprisingly, I “passed” as male, as I saw the picture lady write down, “Mr.” and then ask me what my last name is.  Without hesitating, I gave her my last name (new, legally changed), and then said, “Can you change that ‘Mr.’ to ‘Mx.’?  It’s neither ‘Mr.’ nor ‘Ms.’ ”  She replied, “I guess I can,” and I watched her cross out what she had and re-write “Mx.”  It was awesome!  I kinda can’t wait to get my sheet of faculty and staff photos this year.

3.  Playing It By Ear, As I Go
This last one is a bit of a contradiction -I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I cannot assert my non-binary identity in every and all cases, so, if people are given a heads-up that I’ve changed my name and pronouns, in some situations, that is good enough.  Especially at work.  Teachers have been great about switching over.  And I honestly don’t know how many of them get the nuances I’ve tried to convey.  A couple of them for sure, because they asked me questions, and I had some really satisfying conversations.  But in addition to this, there’s a larger group of people who are slowly hearing about it (or not) by word of mouth – mainly buildings and grounds workers.  Electricians, plumbers, HVAC specialists, people I see now and then, but certainly not every day.  If they get that I am a trans-person, and they are respectful, then, that is good enough.  There’s this one guy who is over at our school a lot.  A few weeks ago, he took me aside, and, obviously nervous about the exchange, he said, “So, I just want to know, because we are friends… It’s Kameron now?”  He was just verifying something he wanted to make sure he was getting right, and, in my eyes, I was really psyched about this because he’s a guy that I think other workers look up to.  So, the more positivity around it, the better.  The less nasty gossip behind my back, the better.  And, to that end, I just went to a union meeting two days ago, and the secretary addressed me by my old moniker, “KT.”  I almost didn’t correct her, because… I don’t know… the picking your battles thing, I guess.  BUT!  Someone else corrected her, someone that I didn’t know knew yet!  And so, I riffed off of that, asserting, “Yep, it’s Kameron now.  I changed my name.”  She shrunk into herself at hearing that, but, whatever.  Another buildings and grounds guy took it from there, telling me loudly that his “niece” just transitioned recently into his “nephew.”  We sat down and continued to converse so that anyone and everyone could hear, if they tuned in.  He was just overjoyed to be accepting “Shane,” his middle-school-aged family member.   At no point did I try to assert that I was neither male nor female.  If he got the gist that I am trans, and he spreads the word with a positive attitude, then that is better than good enough.  Acceptance, even if limited in understanding, is still worth it!


Jeepster

Content note:  This post might not make a whole lot of sense unless you really like 70’s and 80’s music and/or gender.  And writing and the English language…

In my city, there are two chain-type places to go to get an average oil change within about a half-hour wait.  One also sells it’s brand of oil (nationwide? internationally? not sure).  The other is more of a gas station / car wash place.

For the sake of anonymity, I’ll call them:
LV – the oil specific place
SD – the gas station

I almost always go to SD because my parents give me coupons for free oil changes there, every xmas.  And also because there is one on my way to / from work.  About 3 years ago, I started trying LV a couple of times, but I concluded that it was too expensive, and I switched back.

I was overdue for an oil change, but I didn’t want to go to the SD in the suburb where I work, cuz I don’t really want to be seen out and about, while I am out of work for medical reasons.  So I went to one in a further away suburb.  I had been there once before, and it was kind of anxiety provoking (in my head, at the time).

Why?  Because the style was Drive Thru, as opposed to giving the mechanic your keys and sitting in a waiting room.  “Drive Thru” is one of my longest lasting fears, almost bordering on a phobia before I reigned it in a few years ago.  This included parking garages, anything with a “gate,” car washes, etc.

Anyway, I made it through no problem, but I was noticing all these little “masculine touches” / masculine underlying communications, body language, etc.  Stuff that’s barely worth paying attention to.  Stuff I generally am not around because normally I’d be sitting in a waiting room.  An example would be a giant truck in line honking, just because he(?) wanted to get an attendant to come over ahead of time for some reason.  (As opposed to reading signs to find out the information).  These are all assumptions, of course, but I’m just saying I was in tune to things in a different way than I normally would have been.  And I was the opposite of anxious.

While waiting in my car, I was listening to a mix CD that a friend gave me in our early 20’s.  Before he hardly knew me.  And now he’s one of my longest-lasting, solid friends here locally.

While hypo-manic currently, I’ve been spending most of my time at home organizing and cleaning and catagorize-ing things.  One thing I uncovered was this mix CD, which he had titled, “A DRUM IS A THING IS A DRUM,” (all caps.)  which, for me, is reminiscent of Wire’s album (one of my favorite albums ever,) “A BELL IS A CUP UNTIL IT IS STRUCK” (all caps.)  The song that stood out the most, from the others was:
T-Rex – Jeepster.  So GLAM / FLAMING / FLAMBOYANT!

When the CD ended, I could overhear what was playing in the garage / mechanic dock.  It was:
Elton John – Benny and the Jets.  SO GAY!

Anyway, I got the oil change and then went to this place that used to be called The Stereo Shop.  It’s now called something like, “Digital audiophile visual environments.”  I wanted to go there because there was a used cd / record store in the back of this high end Hi Fi Sound Equipment store.  When I got there, I asked the guy at the front about the cd store, and he said it wasn’t there anymore.  It had moved.  I asked if he could write it down for me, and he did.  I don’t think any music was playing in there, or if it was, I didn’t pick up on it.

Back in my car, I was listening to a station that claims it is the only station that matters (that’s their “tag line.”)  A song came on that is unusual for their roster, and also happens to be a song I sing along with / almost know by heart.  That would be:
David Bowie – Diamond Dogs SO GLAM!

I got to the new location, and realized they didn’t open for another 45 minutes.  So I went down the road to another record store.  When I walked in, what happened to be playing?
THE CARS – MOVING IN STEREO!!!  In my book, it doesn’t get any more classic / fabulous than that.

I was really just browsing, not looking for anything in particular.  A bunch of stuff popped out to me as “must have’s.”  I got a handful of 7-inches, and a couple of records.

I’d recently started thinking I need to upgrade a few records, if I come across copies in better condition, because I am a DJ (That’s a Bowie song!), and it sucks to play crappy sounding vinyl.

Five days prior, I’d told a friend that I probably need a new copy of Culture Club’s “Colour by Numbers.”  Me ‘n this record have a loooooong history together.  It doesn’t get any more basic than that.  Sure enough, at this record store, they had two options!!!  Either:
An original, still factory sealed, for $9.99, or
An original, still with the plastic plus promo stickers saying “Grammy Nominee,” and “All New Songs!” (and then it listed 4 song titles.  This one was $10 even.
I went with the one with bonus stickers!
(PS – $10 is pretty much the most I’m willing to spend on a record, and it better be pristine and/or hard to find!)
Another exciting find was:
PETE SHELLEY* – HOMOSAPIEN* (Elongated Dancepartydubmix) !!!

Anyway, back to the story:  So I bought this stuff and went back to the music store I had really wanted to check out.  It was small and quiet (I think he was playing music, but I have no recollection of anything playing!) and there were just a couple of older dudes coming in and out, with special requests and just to shoot the breeze.  I was only there for about an hour, but I left with a HUGE HAUL.  I spent more on records and cds than I ever have before (meaning within one store at one time.)  Almost everything I found was $5 or under, and it was an extreme pick-through type situation.  Meaning, don’t go looking for anything in particular, just start looking at everything!

I had a nice conversation with the owner while he rung things up (in a way so as not to distract him, haha, he was super methodical with his calculator and his mechanical receipt machine.)  I told him he’s got lots of great obscure stuff, and I might be back within 6 months or a year or whatever.  He asked me if I live here or am passing through.  I said I went to his old store with my mom a lot and he then seemed to maybe remember me.  I said I do live here, I’m a DJ, I like 80’s music, etc.  It took him a long time to ring everything individually, so I started browsing to pass more time.  Found 3 more cds to buy, and then, as a last minute thing, the “DAVID BOWIE” category within the records popped out.  There were two records in there:
DIAMOND DOGS* (pristine and currently hard to find) for $15.98 and
LET’S DANCE* (pristine and currently hard to find) for $9.98

I bought Diamond Dogs because that more or less completes my Bowie On Vinyl collection (no new pressings or record store day garbage, haha.)  I left Let’s Dance behind because I already have it, but, hey everybody,

LET’S DANCE, everybody, DIAMOND DOGS and BENNY AND THE JETS included!  We’re all HOMOSAPIENS, we’re all JEEPSTERs, MOVING IN STEREO, sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll…

_________________________________________________

*All Capital Letters

NOTES:

This is, by far, the longest post I’ve ever written. 

Does the song “Bye Bye Love” by The Cars have 3 F-Bombs in it?  Also, are they saying, “It’s OMG Style.”???

Pete Shelley was the lead singer of original English punk-rockers, The Buzzcocks.

Another exciting find was TWO copies (one for me, one for my friend) of a pink marbled vinyl original 7″ EP by The Stranglers from 1977, one of our fave bands!  They were $4.00 each.  (Hugs Work!)

I’m listening to The Cars S/T debut while I write this.

If you haven’t yet, check out the music video for “Hello Again.”  It’s prob on youtube or some shit.


Big, Burly, and Beautiful

This piece was first published in the zine, Not Trans Enough.  Written by Rhiannon Robear; reprinted with permission.

One night this summer, I was at the gay club looking glam, and having a smoke break outside with my friends.   A cis gay guy came up to us and started talking about trans things in that “you’re a visibly trans and/or gender non-conforming person so I’m about to lay down all my trans knowledge, thoughts, and critiques for you” kind of way (a.k.a. completely unasked/unwanted).  Overall it was a real drag, and I brushed him off mostly, but then he held my hands and looked me in the eyes and said, “baby, I know you’re trying to be the belle of the ball, but the reality is you’re built like a 6 foot amazon linebacker, and you need to work that.”  I was taken aback like where the fuck do you get off telling me who I am and what I should do.  But as much as I hate entertaining cis-notions of what trans people are or should be, what he said was true, and deep inside me I knew I felt that and it was the first time someone told me that I could &should be a woman on my own terms.

The reality is:  I’m 5’11, probably between 250-300 pounds, hairy as all hell, and I wear size 13 women’s shoes:  I’m a big girl.  I spent years of my life identifying as a gay man, and trying to work at accepting and loving my body & myself in a culture that taught me that being fat & being femme made me undesireable, unattractive, and inferior.  It took me YEARS to be comfortable with who I am, and that process has changed me, and how I value myself – simply put:  I don’t do things for other people anymore, I do things for myself.

I identified as non-binary for the past two years, and over this time, I’ve slowly began to come into myself as a woman, and I’m currently in the process of coming out as a transgender woman.  It’s very exciting and liberating and I’m now out at work and am ‘test driving’ my new name and pronouns.  This being said, what I am most dreading about coming out isn’t being faced with disapproval or abandonment (I am privileged with supportive family and friends), but more about those in my life forcing feminine ideals upon me when I start to identify as a woman and not strictly non-binary.

In a perfect world, would I like to wear a full face of make-up, have minimal to no body hair, have a feminine physique, and be read 100% of the time as a woman?  – SURE!  But the reality is, I work two jobs, I’m a full time student, and I’m involved in a couple different organizations, and I don’t have time for that.  My emotional well-being is like, “you work at 8am, you don’t have time to put your face on for an hour every morning,” “you literally can’t even reach your back hair, how are you supposed to regularly keep that shaved,” etc.  Luckily for me, I think that the resilience I learned as a fat & femme gay man allows me to be comfortable in my own skin regardless of others’ perceptions.  I also recognize the privilege of being comfortable enough with myself & my gender to not be dysphoric to an incapacitating extent wherein I need to hold my body to a standard for public consumption.

Why yes!  I AM a woman with a hairy back – if it bothers you I’ll hand you a razor and you can shave it for me!  Until then please fuck off with your gendered policing and let me live my life on my terms.
Rhiannon Robear (she/her) is a 24 year old white trans woman living in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  She is a social work student, and is involved in many different campus and community organizations devoted to trans, queer, and feminist justice.  In her spare time she likes to knit, crochet, and watch tv shows.  Feel free to follow her on twitter @haliqueer or email her directly rhiannonmak@gmail.com


28 risks of chest binding

Some well known information about binding was finally proven empirically, for the first time ever, and published last week in Culture, Health, and Sexuality:  An International Journal for Research, Intervention, and Care.  The data was collected in the form of an online survey, where participants self-reported about their preferences, habits, and symptoms, as it relates to binding their chests.  The sample size was 1,800 people, from 38 countries, ages 18-66 years old, who were either assigned female at birth, or intersex, but encompassed 70 different gender identities.  The data was collected in April and May of 2014.

I highly recommend reading this article.  View the full article here:  Health impact of chest binding among transgender adults:  a community engaged, cross-sectional study.

Although very little from this study may be surprising among people who have experience with binding, this data is so important, because sometimes it takes surveys and studies to change public opinions, and hopefully that continues to happen sooner rather than later.  Specifically, if harmful effects are proven, maybe pressure will be put on health insurance companies so that more people can access top surgery.

Risks

97.2% of respondents reported at least one negative outcome from binding.  The most common symptoms were:

1. back pain (53.8%)
2. overheating (53.3%)
3. chest pain (48.8%)
4. shortness of breath ((46.6%)
5. itching (44.9%)
6. bad posture (40.3%)
7. shoulder pain (38.9)

Other symptoms included (and some of these are really severe):

8. rib fractures
9. rib or spine changes
10. shoulder joint “popping”
11. muscle wasting
12. numbness
13. headache
14. fatigue
15. weakness
16. lightheadedness/dizziness
17. cough
18. respiratory infections
19. heartburn
20. abdominal pain
21. digestive issues
22. breast changes
23. breast tenderness
24. scarring
25. swelling
26. acne
27. skin changes
28. skin infections

From the article:

“Although binding is associated with many negative physical health outcomes, it is also associated with significant improvements in mood and mental health. In response to open ended questions about mental health effects and motivations for binding, participants consistently affirmed that the advantages of binding outweighed the negative physical effects.  Many participants said that binding made them feel less anxious, reduced dysphoria-related depression and suicidality, improved overall emotional wellbeing and enabled them to safely go out in public with confidence.”

The most surprising finding from this study was,
“Commercial binders were the binding method most consistently associated with negative health outcomes, possibly because such binders have the potential to provide more compression than other binding methods. This finding is inconsistent with community perceptions that commercial binders represent the safest option.”
Another thought about this though:  binders were the most common, by far, so people are wearing these longer, and more consistently than other methods, which allows more severe symptoms to start to be apparent.  That seems pretty logical and straightforward.

Methods

different methods for binding your chest
The methods people reported using are as follows, from most common to least common:
-commercial binders
-sports bras
-shirt layering
-multiple sports bras
-elastic bandages
-athletic compression wear
-neoprene compression wear
-duct tape or plastic wrap
-belts, scarves, tight fabric, back braces, undersized swim suits, girdles, panty-hose

The first time I bound my chest, I used duct tape, for a drag show.  This was about 10 years ago.  I quickly moved on to ace bandages.  Shortly after, a trans-friend gave me one of his old binders that had stretched too much for him to feel comfortable in.  It was too big for me, but it was pretty effective anyway.  Still, I didn’t like it at all, preferring to just layer my shirts.  Over the next 10 years, I’ve purchased 2 binders from Underworks, and 3 binders that were actually almost tolerable, just compressing the breast region, and from the outside looking like a ribbed tank-top.  Still, I didn’t like it at all, and only very rarely wore any of these things.  Like, if we were going out and then going to a movie, I might wear the binder, but as soon as we’d get to the movie theater, I’d go to the bathroom just to take the thing off, because it’s not a huge deal, while sitting in the dark.

Many many people wear binders every single day, for over 8 hours per day, for years.  This study aims to understand how prevalent negative outcomes are, identify the risk factors, and develop evidence-based recommendations for health care professionals and people who bind.  I hope this study paves the way for future changes.  I’m just picturing binders coming with the warning, “May cause dizziness, drowsiness, headache, numbness, swelling… [etc.]  Talk to your doctor if…

If you’re interested in another study about trans- and gender non-conforming people, Here’s an interesting one that I summarized:  “A Gender Not Listed Here.”

 

-Works cited: Sarah Peitzmeier, Ivy Gardner, Jamie Weinand, Alexandra Corbet & Kimberlynn Acevedo (2016): Health impact of chest binding among transgender adults: a community-engaged, cross-sectional study, Culture, Health & Sexuality.


Queer / Trans -visibility (flannel + mullet)

When I first started coming out as a lesbian(?) at age 17, I was paranoid that people would be able to tell my sexual orientation just by looking at me.  I suppose it didn’t concern me enough, though, to change my appearance.  I had tried that in 9th and 10th grade (grew my hair out long, actually went to the mall with people and looked in the womens’ sections), and I couldn’t keep it up.  I wore a lot of hoodies, a lot of flannel, saggy pants.  I wore this one down vest that my mom had made when she was in college, all the time.  My hair was dyed bright orange at that time; it was really short.  The first person I came out to was my childhood best friend.  I was totally freaked out to be talking about this out loud; I managed to ask her somewhere in there if it was obvious.  This was really important to me.  She probably could sense my discomfort and stretched the truth to tell me what I needed to hear.  She told me no.

Later on in college, my hair styles and fashion sense got even more bold.  I had fluorescent sneakers before florescent sneakers were a thing.  (They were classic style Sauconys.  I had one pair that had a color gradient from hot pink to yellow, and one pair that did the same thing between bright blue and purple.  I sometimes wore one of each.)  I started bleaching and cutting my own hair, usually into a mohawk.  I only shopped at thrift stores:  if the article of clothing was in the boy’s / men’s section, and it popped out on the rack, it’d probably appeal to me.  I knew I enjoyed standing out, but I didn’t think of it as a queer look, specifically.  So when I got a note slipped under the door of my dorm, from someone who had a crush on me (a girl!), I really questioned how she knew how I was gay.  I deduced it was the teeny tiny rainbow ribbon I wore on my backpack.  Because, that’s what it was there for!

When I told her about this much later, she just laughed, and I think it suddenly clicked at that point:  I looked queer, and I was glad about that.  And I probably always looked queer.  In retrospect, that was a good thing.  I was no longer mortified by the idea of that.

Trans and queer people fall everywhere within visibility spectrums, and that either does or does not match where they would ideally like to be.  It is possible to control it somewhat, to experiment with clothing, mannerisms, etc., but sometimes you just are who you are, and it’s often preferable (in my mind at least) to get comfortable with that.  Of course it’s not always, in the world we live in, preferable:  there are issues of safety to take into consideration.  But in an ideal world, it’s great to really just  be able to settle back into how you naturally tend to present, whatever that looks like.

I wear a lot of flannel, and I have a mullet.  Lesbian stereotypes.  (Even if they are outdated), I’m not a lesbian.  I just happen to like plaids and this hair style.  The reason for the mullet:  I don’t want to have long hair, but I do want my thin, slender, feminine neck to be framed by hair, to obscure it.  It works in making me less self-conscious – I’ve had this hair style for probably over 10 years now (It morphs into a sort of mull-hawk in the summer months)…  I think mullets have shifted from lesbian / 80s rocker into queer hairdo territory.  OK, actually I don’t know of other people sporting mullets, but if I did, I’d see them as queer!  As for flannels, those are versatile and timeless.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m visible as a trans-person.  I would like to be, but I’m not sure what to do to increase visibility, other than wearing a teeny tiny pin on my bag (haha.)  I like the idea of being visibly queer, but cringe at the thought of being seen as a lesbian.  I think I’ll get to where I want to be, slowly, eventually.  For now, I’ll just continue to rock this mullet and collect those flannels.

flannel, mullet

flannel, mullet

 

flannel, mullet

flannel, mullet

1.5 years on testosterone

flannel, mullet


“Passing” at church

I don’t go to church, but I made an exception last Sunday for my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary.  My family surprised them there and attended service with them, then we took a drive to the church they were married at to take some photos, and then we went out to a fancy lunch.

It was awesome to see their surprise.  And to meet some of the congregation.  I realized I never see my grandparents outside of a family context, so it was novel and exciting to see them interacting with their church people and see them being celebrated by the entire church.

One congregant in particular was super outgoing and came over to introduce herself before the service started.  She went down the row of where we were in the pew, and we all introduced ourselves.  When she got to me, she asked, “Is this a grandson?”  And my grandma replied, “Granddaughter,” even though I have told her (and my whole family) how I identify.  This lady didn’t seem to catch that or care, and when I told her my name (the name I’m using with family, for now), she heard something different which was fine by me!

She came back after the service and pressed some more.  She said,

“I think I’ve met you before!  Were you with him [pointing to my uncle] outside of Dick’s Sporting Goods one time?  I definitely remember that.”
“No, I don’t think I ever was,” I replied.

We went back and forth a little more until it got cleared up that it was actually my adult male cousin who had been with my uncle.  (We look nothing alike, he’s big and has huge muscles and facial hair, but I thought it was pretty awesome!)

It’s strange that these occurrences never seem to fluster my family members (maybe they’re uncomfortable on the inside though) yet they can’t seem to integrate how I identify (and how I’m sometimes seen by others) with how they interact with me.  Some of them are trying though – three in particular are consistently using male pronouns while the rest of the family responds with female pronouns.  Maybe there will be a critical mass at some point where the tables turn.  I hope…


“Passing” at work

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about work.  During my depression, I was in and out of work a few times, totaling 8 weeks of sick leave.  It’s been difficult to get back into the swing of things.  Some changes were made, and I wasn’t in the best place to acclimate to new routines.  It’s starting to get a little better, just in time to get disrupted again for summer cleaning (switching from an afternoon/night shift to a day shift starting the week after next.)

But this post isn’t really about that work stuff.  It’s about something that brightened my day yesterday.  A parent of a student saw me as male, and it made my day.  I know the term “passing” is problematic because it connotes a deception is taking place and it sets up a discrepancy amongst those who “pass” and those who don’t – it shouldn’t be about that!  We are who we are.  Despite all this, I really like the word and feel like it describes my experience.

Here’s a few past posts where I talk about it:
Recent instances of passing
Passing as a teenager yet again
Thirty-one year old kid working as a school janitor
Rumors flying around the kindergarten classroom

I feel like people generally see me as female.  I gotta say I’m even (very pleasantly) surprised when I’m seen as male; I feel I am not masculine enough.  When I am seen as male, “passing” accurately describes the experience, because I am not male (I am definitely not female either).

Yesterday, a dad and his son approached me while I was cleaning.  The son forgot his spelling homework and had to get access to his classroom.  I said sure and which room and we went there.  I unlocked the door, turned on the lights, and stood waiting, because that’s what we’re supposed to do.  The kid came back from his desk with a book but no spelling homework.  The dad asked,

“Where’s your homework?”

The kid sputtered, “I guess when we were clearing out our desks I must have put it in my bag?  But I do need this book.”

“So we just bothered this gentleman for no reason?”

I said, “That’s totally fine.  At least you got your book!”

The dad continued, “Tell him you’re sorry.”

“Sorry.”

“Not a problem.  You guys have a good night.”

I was conversing with these people and spending more than a second in their presence.  And the dad saw me as male!!!  And whether the kid knows I’m biologically female (I’m not out at work… yet!) he didn’t say anything one way or the other.  It felt really validating.  I held onto that feeling as long as I could.

In other news, the NY Times is giving trans-people an opportunity to tell their story in 400 words or less.  It’s totally awesome!  Here’s the link to what’s out there already, and a chance to share your own story:  Tell your story.  I already told my story!


Kids have strong opinions about my gender

Yesterday, my partner and I met up with my childhood best friend and her family; they were in town for the holidays.  They have two kids, ages 6 and 3, and the three year old was overwhelmingly interested in me.  I’ve never had this experience before – usually kids stay their distance, giving me sideways glances or staring and staring and staring.  I’ve been interacting with kids more at school (while I’m working) a little more lately, realizing that although I’m a janitor, I am also an authority figure they see regularly, who can help point them to preferable behaviors.  (No running, no going down steps sideways, no slamming and throwing your garbage in the general area of the garbage barrel at lunch, etc.)

This was a very different dynamic though.  We were hanging out at a nearby public greenhouse and plant conservatory, and the three-year-old daughter took any opportunity to climb all over me, instruct me to pick her up and throw her up in the air, and get right in my face.  She was overhearing everyone use male pronouns for me, and she yelled, 2 inches away from my face, “you’re a girl!”  And then again.  And again.  “You’re a girl!”  We all laughed.  It was funny.  Because she’s three.  It was also the most jarring thing I have experienced in a very long time.  Her mom went ahead and explained very simply and directly that I get to say who I am, not her, and everyone has their own feelings about who they are, and only they get to say.  She tested this with, “you’re a boy!” but then went on to state, “I’ve never seen a boy who sounds like a girl.”  “I’ve never seen a boy who looks like a girl.”  And again.  And again.  Holy cow, kids love repetition!!!

She also declared many times that I am her mama.  Whoa.  (She later clarified that she was making a joke.)  Again, all of this is funny and easy to let slide because she is a three year old, but I gotta admit it was actually hitting my psyche a little bit. It helped that her mom (my friend), let us know she often does this.  She’s super outgoing, and she’ll hone in on one adult of a group she’s with, and that person is 9 times out of 10 the most handsome adult male of the group.  I’ll take it!

I have been considering what might happen if I increased my testosterone levels.  And these exchanges really sunk in, as one more thing, in a way that makes me feel motivated to move in that direction where I appear and sound more masculine.  I am still positive that I do not want to live my life as a visible male, but how cool would it be if people had some serious trouble knowing?  I would love that (as long as they were respectful in the not-knowing).

This kid’s reaction was interesting, because usually it’s kids more than anyone else, who are not quite sure whether I am a girl or a boy.  If I am asked this question, it’s coming from a child.  I’m usually not told, strongly and forcefully, by someone making eye contact, two inches away from my face!  Haha.


Recent instances of passing

Some trans* people strongly dislike the notion of “passing,” because it implies a deception is taking place.  They’re not passing as male/female, they just are male/female, whether others see them as such or not.  I definitely respect and appreciate this viewpoint; for me personally though, I embrace “passing.”  I relish the times I pass as male because although I don’t feel myself to be male, exactly, it feels awesome and validating when that’s what others see.  If this were to happen 100% of the time or even 18% of the time, it’d start to feel disorienting, alarming even.  But when it happens on occasion, it’s one of my favorite things ever!

It happened three times in the past two weeks.  And, it was not only thrilling, but totally unexpected and unprecedented.  Because in the past, I’ve passed at a distance, or with kids, or maybe with people who are much much older than me, or I pass until I start speaking, etc.  But two out of three of these recent occasions, I was fully interacting with someone roughly my age (meaning:  making eye contact, conversing, spending more than a couple seconds in their presence).  I’m not sure if this has ever happened to me before, or if it has, it’s been a long time.

Makes me think that testosterone is doing something very subtly, above and beyond appearance.  Like an aura or an energy or something that can be sensed by others.  Because I look the same as I always have; I sound the same.  The only thing I can think is that my shoulders might be slightly more filled out now; I might have a little bit of a different stance because of that.  Ultimately, if it’s an either/or, in my opinion, I think I look female, and I love it when people think otherwise!

At Work:  It was spring break, so the building was almost empty except for my co-workers and me.  We were eating lunch, and my co-worker saw through the window that UPS had just pulled up, so I went down to receive and sign for the packages (usually administrative assistants would do that.)  I let him into the office, talked to him about how everyone’s on vacation, small talk like that, etc.  I signed his form, and he said, “Thank you, sir!.”  I said, “You’re welcome.”  And walked away, beaming.

At The Mall:  My partner and I never go to the mall.  Seriously.  We have been together for 7 years and have been to a mall together once before, in that time.  (Oh wait, no, twice.  We went mini-golfing in a mall for a friend’s birthday.)  In addition, I have been to a mall one time by myself in that time.  We really had to go to the Apple store though because she finally upgraded to a smart phone, and then proceeded to smash the screen by dropping it on a concrete floor.  Her protective case was on its way, in the mail!  So we were just going to go there and see if they could do anything for her – a long shot, but might as well try…  They could not do a single thing for her but they were very nice about it, as if they were her good buddy and just could not let her down, haha.  We then walked out of the Apple Store and were directly confronted by a kiosk selling phone cases and a sign saying, “We fix phones here.”  She asked, “how much?”  It was reasonable and was only going to take 20 minutes.  Seemed like a good option, so we watched the guy work his magic with teeny tiny screwdrivers with magnetic tips.  He talked to us about how he’s only 22 years old and he already owns 10 of these kiosks.  He’d just gotten back from Miami Beach for a entrepreneur conference, and he was on his way to Seattle.  We chatted with him about phones, what there is to do for fun here, etc.  I left to go find a bathroom and come right back.  Then I left to sample teas at Teavana and come right back.  Then I wandered away into a clothing store.  My partner got her screen replaced(!!!) and when she came to get me, she told me that while I was gone, the kiosk guy asked her if I was her boyfriend!  She told him “Yes.”

At the Public Market:  I was looking at mushrooms when a little girl (3 years old?) turned and almost hugged my leg, thinking I was her mother.  When she realized I wasn’t she startled, and then asked, “Is you a goioiol?”  “What?”  “Is you a goioiol?”  I squatted down to her height and clarified her question, “Am I a boy or girl?”  “Yeah.”  “I’m a little bit of both.”  She seemed to accept this.

Other recent instances in which I passed:

Effeminate pirate orders fruity drink on party boat
Passing as a teenager yet again
Thirty-one year old kid working as school janitor


Rumors flying around the kindergarten classroom

A couple of days ago at work, I was passing by 2 kindergarteners who were putting on their boots, getting ready to go home for the day.  One whispered to the other, “Is she a boy?  She looks like a boy.”  I thought it was super cute – it’s cute how kids think that if they whisper, there’s no way you can hear them.  It’s cute how kids’ gender categories are only “girl” and “boy,” no matter how old the person they’re talking about is.  It’s cute how kids are so curious.

Then tonight, a book fair was going on.  A mom and her daughter arrived a little early and the mom asked me where it was being held.  We were about half- the-hallway’s-length away from each other; I gave her directions to the cafeteria.  She said thanks and I started to turn the corner when I heard her say, “Oh, I was just wondering?”  I turned to face her again and she continued.
“What’s your name?”
I told her my name, which is a slightly androgynized version of my very feminine name.
She said, “Oh ok, sorry, I thought you were someone else.  My apologies.  For my daughter.”
“Sure, no problem.”  She then told me her name (I forget now) and, “Nice to meet you.”

I walked away from that having no idea what motivated those questions or who she might have thought I was.  No one ever mistakes me from someone else.  I don’t mean to be boastful, but I’ve been told that I have a very distinct face so many times that it’s become a source of internal pride.

As I thought it through, all I could imagine was that this was a kindergartener here with her mom (she looked to be kindergarten age).  The kids had been increasingly wondering whether I am a boy or a girl, and this one kid even spread the word to her mom.  And her mom was helping clear it up for her.  I’d rather it not get cleared up!

This is why I’m seriously considering going by a masculine-sounding name.