Hair

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.


Contacting my first therapist – backstory

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 letter to address transphobia

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.


One year on testosterone

Today is a year on T-injections, 50ml / week.  I’d been on Androgel prior to this – from March 2013 to November 2015.  During that time, I didn’t experience many physical changes at all, which was what I was looking for at the time.  And it’s kind of the reason I stopped too – it became unclear what the purpose was, as if it didn’t make much difference whether I was on the gel or not.

So for that whole next year, I was trying to square away other elements of my transition, not sure whether I’d get back on testosterone or not.  It just felt like I wanted to get top surgery, change my name, and transition further socially before I would potentially want to pursue a level of hormones that would definitely change things in a noticeable way.  In the summer of 2016, it started to feel like the next step.  I was still pretty regularly seen as female everywhere, and more than anything, I wanted to be more firmly planted in the middle.

It took about 6 months to get an appointment and get started on injections.  I was doing intramuscular injections at first for about 9 months, and not liking it.  The need to get psyched up in order to jab in the needle was not fun.  When my endocrinologist gave me the option to switch to subcutaneous, I jumped at tat.  I am loving this method.  I wrote about making the switch here:  9 months on T-injections

I like being on this dose of testosterone a lot more than I thought I would.  The only aspects I’m not liking are the facial hair growth and the loss of a sense of smell.

I would say that I am seen as male more than I am seen as female, now.  That’s huge.  I don’t want that to tip too far in that direction, but so far, so good.  I’m still legally female, and I still almost always go into women’s bathrooms and dressing rooms.  I’ve never been stopped or questioned.

There are a lot of changes I could write about in depth, but right now I feel like focusing on my voice.  When I started Androgel, I was overly anxious about my voice changing, in particular.  I think it dropped ever-so-slightly, and I freaked out and lowered my dose even further.  And that worked – it didn’t change any further.  When I started injections, I was aware that my voice would probably be the most noticeable thing changing, early on.  And I was OK with that – something had shifted over the years.

I’m a DJ on a free form community radio station, and I’ve done an hour-long show regularly every week for the past two years.  It’s been a total blast.  And, it’s been a way to effortlessly track the changes in my voice.  When I hear pre-T recordings, my reaction is total cringe.  Which is quite the shift, since I used to want to “preserve” that register.  Now I really hate it!  And I love how it’s changed.  I can never go back, and I’m totally fine with that!

Aaaand, here’s my face:

 

one year

before injections

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


I’m not a man, but am I a boy or boi?

Recently, while in the midst of yet another gender confusion stream-of-consciousness ramble, directed at my therapist, she reminded me, “You used to tell me that you didn’t think you felt like a man, but you wanted to be seen as a boy.”  But that was like 15 years ago, when I was 20, 21 years old.  At that point, it wasn’t that much of a stretch to be seen as a 15 year old boy.  Right?  Or at least, not nearly as much of a stretch as a 36-year old (me, now) wanting that same thing.  Do I still want that?  Not really, anymore.  But, it is happening at this point, sometimes, more than ever before.  (Well maybe not more than when I was 10 years old and there was no way to tell me apart from a boy of that same age..)

When I was first grappling with what it meant to be transgender, one of the first terms I latched onto was “boi.”  It’s a deviation of “boy,” something that’s queer and edgy but also kind of  just “testing the waters,” experimental, non-committal.  Wikipedia has a whole slew of other meanings for “boi,” which is worth checking out, here.

It seems that this term has fallen out of popularity, similarly to how “hir” and “ze” have given way to “they.”

I gotta admit I don’t identify with “boi” anymore.  Nor do I feel like I am a boy.  BUT!  There are certain things that are great about being seen that way.  When people mistake me for a 16 year old boy, I feel like I will live forever!  Hah, not really, but there is something exciting about it.  I almost always get carded unless I’m at a place where people know my face.  Fine by me!

Sometimes I have trouble inhabiting this body.  it has gotten waaaaaaay easier since top surgery and testosterone.  BUT!  Do you know what’s cool about this body?  The size of my body is exactly between “boy’s” sizes and “men’s” sizes, in every way.  I love that – it’s kind of perfect.  I can wear boys XL shirts (as long as the sleeves are long enough) or men’s XS shirts (kind of hard to find).  Men’s pants start at size 28 waist, and boy’s pants end at size 30 waist.  I fall right within that range – lately since testosterone, going more toward the 30.  Boy’s size 20 means 30X30 which is pretty much perfect, if I can find them.

And shoes!  Boy’s go up to size 6y (the “y” stands for youth).  And Men’s start at size 7.  Either of these fit me.

I wear unisex size small t-shirts.  I wear both boy’s and men’s underwear, but gravitate more towards boy’s because it’s generally waaaaaaaay cheaper.

When I was 20, 21, a close friend and I strongly identified as “bois,” together.  We played catch with baseballs and mitts, or frisbees, countless times.  We peed in the woods, whenever we had to go, no big deal.  We worked on an organic garden, we went camping and swimming in the lake in just our briefs and A-frame tank tops.  We got free ice creams at the place my brother worked.  She now identifies as a bisexual woman.  And I identify as trans, as genderqueer, as non-binary, as queer.

But, although I have a history with it, I probably would not say that I am a “boi.”

 


Drag king stories #7

Back in October, I was asked to be a part of a group performance art piece, an interpretation of John Cage’s Variations III.  We were given a sheet of transparent plastic with 42 circles on it.  Our task was to cut out each circle, take a 11 X 8.5 inch sheet of paper, drop the circles onto the white paper, clear any circles that landed outside of the paper and also any circle that wasn’t overlapping with another circle.  Then we took a photo of our “circle configuration.”  Mine looked like this:
We were then supposed to distill this pattern into a “score” that would span 2 hours (including 5 minute breaks for every “event.”  According to the directions, “Starting with any circle, observe the number of circles which overlap it.  Make an action or actions having the corresponding number of interpenetrating variables (1+n).  This done, move on to any one of the overlapping circles, again observing the number of interpenetrations, performing a suitable action or actions, and so on.  Some or all of one’s obligation may be performed through ambient circumstances (environmental changes) by simply noticing or responding to them.  Though no means are given for the measurement of time or space … or the specific interpretation of circles, such measurement and determination means are not necessarily excluded from the ‘interpenetrating variables.’  Some factors though not all of a given interpenetration or succession of several may be planned in advance, but leave room for the use of unforseen eventualities.  Any other activities are going on at the same time.”

So, in less dense terms, 24 performers were given a space of roughly 4 feet by 6 feet, all in one big room.  And we could do any activity we chose, for a length of two hours, off and on, as was guided by our circle permutation.  So, basically, I had 9 circles which meant 9 events, and I tried to have each overlap “dictate” how each of the 9 events was structured.  The performance was on December 1st.

I decided mine would be about doing drag.  There was really nothing else that made sense.  Drag has been the only form of performance art I’ve done, and I was excited to, in a way, deconstruct and leave up to chance, the way it played out.

I brought an alarm clock radio with a tape player, 100 cassettes tapes all in a display case, 9 wigs & hats, 4 skirts, 2 pants, one dress, a bunch of shirts and coats and belts and cumberbunds, 4 shoes & boots, a makeup bag, 4 “microphones,” a mirror, a blow dryer, and a hair buzzer.  I think I was the performer with the most “stuff,” and over the course of 2 hours, I proceeded to make a mess of all of it, within my space.  This was reminiscent of any time I would do drag.  After a show, my room would be a disaster of dress-up options.

So, for each of the 9 events, I threw “circles,” onto the ground (including cds, tokens, bracelets, and mason jar rings).  I then pretended to have these circle formations dictate what I wore and what tape I played.  In a vague sense.  It all did work out in the end – I had 9 different outfits and 9 different songs, all chosen at random.  Some of those included REM – Drive, XTC – Summer’s Cauldron, Tears for Fears – Shout, and Kate Bush – Jig of Life.  I didn’t know these songs by heart, so I just pretended to lip-synch.  Due to the cacophony in the room though, I was the only one who could hear the clock radio anyway – I had to hold it right next to my ear!

Other peoples’ actions included baking things, bicycling, playing instruments, creating play-dough art, playing video games, reading aloud, dancing, and much more!  Observers just walked among us.  It was unclear whether they were supposed to engage with us or not.  One guy did come up to me and ask if he could talk to me.  I said, “Sure.”  He said he thought earlier I had silver lipstick on and now I don’t, so what happened?  I said, “Oh, that lipstick was so old it didn’t go on right.  It was all clumpy.  So during one of my breaks, I went to the bathroom to take it off.”  “Was that part of what was supposed to happen?”  “No!”  And we both laughed.  He asked more questions about why did you do this, why not this?

Afterward I talked to a handful of acquaintances – it felt good to be social.  That guy came back up to me and said, “You know, when you put on the lipstick, you really had me convinced.”  “Convinced of what?  That it looked bad?”  “No, that you were a woman.”  “Oh, whoa, OK, so, I’m a little bit of both.  As is all this stuff.”  I gestured to all my clothes and junk, still strewn about.  My two friends I was talking to backed me up, which felt awesome.

I think ultimately, I was going for that response, for people to be confused about what genders I was playing out or not playing out.  So even though his forwardness made me uncomfortable in the moment, it was an important element, or “takeaway,” from the night.


World mental health day / Nat’l coming out day 2017

These days occur consecutively every year – October 10th and 11th.  It’s a good chance to kind of look back and take stock.  And to see where I was at; here’s what I wrote last year:
World mental health day / Nat’l coming out day 2016

Before talking about this year, I just want to note that last year I said,  “I’d say within the next 6 months I’ll be out at work and everywhere else.  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!”  I’ve reached that point!!!  Well, everything except that little plastic rectangle, but that is in-process (see below)!

This past year in my mental health landscape:  I thought I was stable in a way that couldn’t be rocked, but actually I ended up back in the hospital again with another manic / psychotic episode.  I know my loved ones went through a lot of stress and strife, but, in comparison to past episodes, this felt like a breeze, and it even felt healing in many ways.  I do want to try to write about this, but I’m not quite there yet.  Hopefully soon.  I spent two months out of work, I got raised to triple my prior dose of Seroquel (a drug I continue to like a lot – a first for me), and now I’m down to double my prior dose.  I’m off of any antidepressants right now.  I’m worried I will lapse into another depression, but so far, so good.  I’m starting to finally address the issues I’m having with oversleeping.  But, to be honest, if oversleeping is the worst thing to come out of being in a really good place mentally otherwise, then so be it, I guess…  For now at least.

In terms of National Coming Out Day, coming out is happening all the time, and I’m glad to be in a place where I’m neither invisible nor fearful of having to come out again and again and again.  I love every opportunity.  Take yesterday for example:  I didn’t realize it was National Coming Out Day until that night when I went on facebook after work.  And during that day, I had two instances of coming out.  While I was working in the cafeteria during lunch, a kid asked me, “Are you a boy?”  I replied, “I’m neither.  I’m a little bit of both.”  He replied, “Really?!”  And I said, “Yeah!”  I had a big smile on my face.  Then later in the afternoon, I realized that my new boss(?) got his plastic rectangle with his name “engraved” and it was now on the custodial door, and I’ve been waiting for mine since January, when I changed my name.  So instead of getting worked up about that, I just wrote down on a piece of paper what I wanted (so there’d be no confusion) and explained to the administrative assistant that Mr. [last name] has his on the door and I’ve been waiting for mine.  She apologized for forgetting to include mine in the order, and said she would go ahead and order mine.  I gave her the paper:  It said, “Mx. [last name].”  She verbalized that back to me to make sure it was right, and I said, “Yep.”  I should have that up hopefully within a couple of weeks, finally.  This feels like such a victory!

There’s one other thing I want to mention regarding mental health:  I started listening exclusively to a new-to-me podcast.  By this, I mean, I listen to podcasts every day while at work.  And previously, that would be somewhere between 5-8 different ones at any given time.  Right now, for whatever reason, I’m just listening to one, all day every day.  I’m sure I’ll get tired of it and get back to some of my other ones, but for now, it’s pretty mesmerizing.  If you’re interested in checking it out, it’s called the Mental Illness Happy Hour.  It is definitely not for the faint of heart.  The host jokes that he does not give advanced notice for triggers because he would have to stop every couple of minutes to announce another Trigger Warning.  And it is absolutely true.  There is a lot of stuff about abuse of all kinds, dark secrets and shame, both sexual in nature and just like, the kinds of stuff that randomly pops in your head and you hate yourself for thinking it.  The host lightens things up by being in turns uplifting and darkly humorous.  Each show is somewhere between 2-3 hours (!?!), and he’d read people’s surveys they’ve sent in anonymously, and he will also interview one person per show.  He’s doing all this seemingly on his own, and he’s making a living off of it.  I’m kinda obsessed right now.


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!


I was in Turkey and Greece!

So I went on a really big trip this summer – I visited my brother!  I flew into Istanbul, stayed with him there for two nights, and then we rented a car and went up to Sile on the Black Sea, Yalova on the Marmara Sea, the city of Bursa, and Ayvalik on the Aegean Sea.  We took a ferry to the Greek island of Lesbos / Midilli.  We also saw ancient ruins in Bergama and went to a Turkish bath with natural hot springs in Inegol.  We crammed a lot into 10 days!  This was my first time overseas since 11th grade, when I took a class trip to England and Scotland.  It was the first time I’d seen my brother in three years – it was pretty great to reconnect.  We did lots of swimming and hiking and we also went to a Whirling Dervishes festival, which was going on continuously for 114 days of summer.

If you wanna read more, I wrote about this trip, through the lens of someone who is non-binary, here!  I wrote about TSA stuff, but more excitingly, I wrote about feeling more comfortable in a “male” role in a way that I am not, in America.  I even swam without a shirt on, in front of others – something that I didn’t plan on ever doing!
Traveling Non-Binary:  Gender Perceptions in Two Cultures

The website is called Transgender Universe, and I’ve written for them before (this is my 4th piece).  I like switching it up with blog writing every now and then.


Trichotillomania and taking testosterone

I have a mild case of trichotillomania.  It’s come and gone during different times in my life, and it’s always been specific to the hair on my face, not on my scalp.

Trichotillomania, to paraphrase wikipedia, is an impulse control disorder, also known as “hair pulling.”  It’s generally triggered by anxiety and stress, and is usually treated with CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy.)

In the past, I have honed in on eyebrow and eyelash plucking, using my thumbnail and pointer finger-nail as tweezers.  It hasn’t been bad over-all, like I still have eyebrows and eyelashes, it’s just that my left eyebrow is a little bit sparse.  It’s barely noticeable.

I also would get chin hairs, from time to time, starting in adolescence, and I would pluck those too, with my fingers or tweezers.  This was, apparently, “pro-social” behavior, because I was socialized as a female, and therefore, it’s necessary to eradicate any hint of a mustache or “chin whiskers.”  ???  I mean, there’s a whole industry just devoted to that – bleaching the “mustache,” laser-hair removal, waxing, etc.  Blah!

Still though, I keep pulling those hairs out not as a gendered statement, but rather because I liked the sensation of getting at them from the follicle, that very specific and very minutely visceral feeling of a “pull” away from something rooted underneath some of the layers of the skin.  It’s much more satisfying to get them with my fingernails, but I also use tweezers, so I can get ’em all!  The reason I’d say it’s within the realm of “trichotillomania” is because I will do this out in public and I can’t seem to get myself to stop.  It’s not just in front of my bathroom mirror.  It’s during break at work, with people sitting in the same vicinity.  It’s during a meeting, because I am bored.  It’s during a movie with a stranger sitting two seats away.  Etc.  Honestly, it doesn’t feel like a big deal.  It’s a rough life to be constantly conforming to societal standards, at least in my opinion…

Facial hair, for me, is a hard limit.  I do not want a beard.  If I have a shadowy mustache, that’s fine by me, but that mustache never stays for very long before I start plucking out each hair individually.  It’ll always happen eventually.

Now that I’m on a regular-ish dose of testosterone, I am getting more facial hair.  And I just will not give in and shave.  First off, I don’t feel like it!  I prefer my methods, even if it ends up taking 10 minutes per day – more or less – to “groom” my face.  Secondly, I do think that I believe that old wives’ tale, on some level, about the more you shave, the thicker and darker the hairs will fill in.  I do not want to do anything that could potentially promote more facial hair growth.

I do realize this is a little bit counter-intuitive (is that the phrase I’m looking for?)  Like, most people who are taking testosterone are embracing the full effect, whatever that means for them.  But as someone who is non-binary, it’s a little trickier.  Like, I like this effect, but this other thing screams “masculine” a little too loudly, and I’m not really feelin’ it.  Something to that effect.

If my facial hair growth ever did start to feel unruly / out of my control, and / or the “grooming” ritual were creeping up toward closer to a half hour per day, something like that, I would not rule out laser hair removal  At this time, it just seems a little too extreme, expensive, and unnecessary.  But, hey, with this kind of journey, sometimes you never know what is coming up next!