On Wednesday, a friend posted on social media that he had an extra ticket to go see singer/songwriter/trans icon/punk rocker Laura Jane Grace in the next town over, and did anyone want to take him up on it? My first reaction was, “Oh wow! I would love to see her!” Followed by, “Damn, I have to work, like always.” (I work till 9:30pm – not conducive to having much of an evening social life.) The more I thought about it though, the more I was like, “Well wait! I have all kinds of time I could use. Why don’t I just be freaking spontaneous for once and do this thing?”
I’m so glad I did! The show was the following night, and it was beyond incredible, on many levels.
One of the levels: Today, serendipitously, marks the 20th anniversary of the release of Against Me!’s debut album, Reinventing Axl Rose. From reading Laura Jane Grace’s, memoir (Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock’s Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout), this was not Against Me!’s first release, but I’m not sure how you would find the earlier stuff, mostly dubbed cassette tapes and a poorly recorded 12″ EP. There are two more well known early EPs: they contain some of the earlier versions of songs that found their way onto this first LP… So back to Reinventing Axl Rose: This album had a huge impact on me. The brother of the person I was seeing at the time (2003), handed me a CD copy he had burned, along with a handwritten note of the tracklisting. In general, his taste in music was super obscure, but not quite what I was into, so I was a little dubious. But damn, listen to this record! – It’s one of the most solid, versatile punk albums of all time. It has everything: anarcho-inspired lyrics, syncopated dance beats, both electric and acoustic guitars mixed with rough around the edges production, anthemic sing-alongs, growling and grimy vocals, and it even ends with a lullaby (“8 Full Hours of Sleep”). All eleven songs are so incredibly solid. And it was recorded over 2 days, for $800, which makes it all the more impressive. This album reminds me of being 21, mostly alone, trying to muster the energy to do anything. It reminds me of the guy who gave me the CD, and all the times he picked me up in his lilac colored Chevy Prizm to go grocery shopping together, and then maybe even also make dinner together and watch a movie, barely having much to say to each other, but just enjoying the music.
Laura Jane Grace came out as trans in 2012, and she continued on in Against Me! but also struck out on her own, playing acoustic shows. Since the pandemic, I’ve wandered into a handful of local shows, but this was the first big intentional show I’ve been to in the roughly 2 years. What a joyous return! There were so many queer and trans kids there, right up front and center, singing along to every lyric, even to the songs that are now 20 years old, possibly older than they were (I know from the X’s on their hands, when they threw their hands above their head, clapping along, or throwing a fist up into the air, that they were underage. My heart soared.) Older queer and trans people were there too, and punks, of course. She played 4 songs from that first album:
“Pints of Guinness Make You Strong”
“Those Anarcho Punks are Mysterious…”
“Reinventing Axl Rose”
“Baby, I’m an Anarchist!”
On stage, she was magical: riffing in between songs, flashing her intensely crazy grin, sharing anecdotes from her life. She covered “Androgynous,” by The Replacements, a song I don’t actually like (I might get some hate comments for this, but I think Paul Westerberg is way overrated), but I liked when she did it; from her, it’s coming straight from her heart.
She had three new songs, one which involved a quick costume adjustment: she asked someone up front to hold her guitar, went offstage for a second, and came back with a shapeless black Adidas hoodie. She declared it her “dysphoria hoodie,” saying she’s had it for so long; she used to use it to hide her body. Said you don’t have to be trans to have a dysphoria hoodie; having body issues isn’t exclusively a trans thing, of course, but most trans people can probably relate so hard. She put it on, with the hood up, took the guitar back, and launched into this story-within-a-song. I’m not generally a lyrics oriented person, but with her, I want to know it all!
Last week, I got my hair cut by a professional for the first time in over 20 years. Why haven’t I done this sooner?! I was aware that I had acquired some stubborn habits around my hair, and I was planning to go to someone to intervene, but it still took me a long time to follow through and book an appointment.
Hair salons / barber shops are one of the most gendered spaces someone can enter. That is the biggest reason I’ve avoided them for so long. I have never been to a barber. Starting at age 8, I decided I needed my hair cut short, like a boy. My mom took me to Hairzoo, a unisex salon with 8 locations in Western, NY (and, strangely, one location in Santa Monica, CA). I just wanted a fucking bowl cut, but the stylists, every time, talked about a “feathered look,” tapered down to the neck, etc. I kind of hated going there as a kid, but I tolerated it because it was the best avenue toward the ultimate goal of keeping my hair short. As I got older, my mom met a friend who did hair, so we’d go to her kitchen and I’d get my hair kept short.
At age 18, a friend buzzed my head for the first time, and I immediately knew I needed to procure my own set of clippers.
I got my hair cut professionally one final time, at age 19, at a salon in my college town. It wasn’t a bad experience. Actually, it was probably one of the best hair styles I’ve ever had – I had bleached hair at the time which was growing out. Long natural brown roots. I asked the stylist to keep the tips of the blonde, and she actually followed my instructions, and I had a cool frosted effect (am aware this fashion trend is very much dated. But in 2001, it looked awesome!) The person I had a crush on, who didn’t talk to me much, complimented me on my hair shortly after this cut. It doesn’t get much better than that!
A few factors contributed to me never going back in there though: I hated the “culture” I had walked into when I went to that salon. Too many ladies and women talking too much and too emotively, basically. Plus there was the price factor. I didn’t have the spending money, as a college student, to keep doing that. So I pulled out my clippers and any pair of scissors I had laying around and hacked away at my hair every so often until I actually got pretty good at it. (Getting kinda good took a while. I definitely had some hair disasters. I usually went for either a mohawk or bowlish cut / undercut. One time, I shaved everything off completely, down to using a razor.)
The mohawk eventually morphed into a mullet-hawk and then just a full on mullet. I have been rocking a mullet for a solid 15 years. I stopped bleaching it about 15 years ago as well. It was ravaging my scalp. But I did pick up another bad habit around this time: a friend emphatically stated that he stopped using hair products. Only baking soda as shampoo and apple cider vinegar as conditioner. I followed suit because I didn’t know whether hair products were working for me and there are just way too many and I liked the idea of being stripped bare. And also getting rid of fragrances. I started the regimen but quickly discarded the vinegar – too smelly – in favor of a fragrance-free conditioner. But the baking soda stayed. It was a point of pride.
In retrospect, it was probably drying out my hair and scalp like nothing else! For so long!
I started testosterone in 2013, and it’s brought on two major changes to my hair: It suddenly made my hair very, very curly (it had always been wavy, but now we’re talking sausage curls inverting inward toward infinity) and a receding hairline. The receding hairline has been such a concern that it’s been the major reason I’ve gone on and off T, over the years. (I finally started taking Finasteride a month ago – it has yet to be determined whether it’ll help, long-term.)
Anyway, jump back in time to just a week ago. For months, I had been toying with the idea of at least consulting with a professional, if not actually letting them cut my hair. And I had someone in mind – someone who is an acquaintance, so at least I already know them, and they’re an expert on curly hair, and they curate their space to be non-gender specific, and they work alone. Pretty much, the perfect person. I booked the appointment. I kept the appointment.
And, I’m so super happy I followed through. We talked about habits I’d been doing for years, if not decades, that haven’t been working for me. She verified baking soda is no good regularly, but could be good as a cleanser, maybe monthly or so. She suggested some products that are known as “no-poo,” basically shampoos that don’t foam up, act more as conditioners, and maybe that’s all I’d need. And I told her about how I’ve barely cut my hair in a very long time, maybe just 1/8 of an inch to take care of split ends, but I’m aware that’s not nearly enough but I can’t get myself to cut more because I just want more of my hair in light of the receding hairline and I pull hairs from the back and sides forward in an effort for more coverage and it’s really not working for me, not to mention my split ends and knots. (Wow, OK, that was a run-on sentence!) She acknowledged that it made sense I was trying to do the things I was doing. Then she proceeded to start cutting (after I consented to that) and it was like AN INCH OFF! and I was a little freaking out. Until I realized it made almost no difference in actual hair coverage. It just looks smarter and cleaner. And, no one in my regular daily life has yet noticed I’ve gotten my hair cut at all, which to me, means it’s a resounding success. Because I didn’t want my hair to look much different. I just wanted to clean it up and learn some ways to take care of curly hair. I want healthy hair, now, and I think I can achieve that. Maybe I can actually coax it to grow longer, over time. That’s the dream! I tipped her 40%. I’m pretty happy overall.
I like to keep tabs on when I go on and off testosterone, and I’m pretty far behind this time around. About a month ago, I went back to my stash of Androgel 1.62%. I had stockpiled it years ago, and at this point, I had 2 bottles left, which had expired 2 years ago. I figured I might as well use them up (they still seem effective, just not sure if it’s less effective than they once were) rather than throw them out. I’m doing 2 pumps per day; at that rate, each bottle lasts one month. So when I run out at the end of January, I’ll probably just switch over to injections – I also have testosterone cypionate 200 mg/ml stockpiled. Probably enough to last me 6 months.
I’m doing this without going to an endocrinologist, physician, or through Planned Parenthood or some other type of clinic. I just don’t think that I need to. I think that I will be on testosterone short term, again, and by the time I’m back off it, seeing a medical professional would have barely been worth it. I kind of think I might cycle on T for 6 months / off T 6 months, back on, back off, for a while. And I’ll have to go back at some point to get more, so I can be monitored again at that point.
It seems to be a larger trend that as time goes on, the decisions are more in the patient’s hands anyway, and access is much improved. More and more Planned Parenthoods are offering HRT, for example, through an informed consent model, and you can get started the same day that you made your appointment. This is amazing! No more blood work, no lying about your gender identity to make sure you’re going to get your prescription, no waiting for months for the initial appointment and then weeks after that appointment for the prescription. Next time I need some, I’m just going to do this.
While I was off of testosterone, some stuff changed. The best thing that happened was that I gained a lot of nerve sensation back, in my chest. I am beyond thrilled by this! I assumed that at the point I was at (3 years since top surgery), healing had plateaued, and that was all I was gonna get. After a few months off T though, things started changing pretty drastically. Areas that were numb started to get back more feeling. Areas that were painful if I touched too roughly were no longer painful. I would even go as far as to say that erotic sensation has started to return, slightly. Things still aren’t the way they were, but it’s a huge improvement, especially since I had given up!
Oh also! My receding hairline had been worrisome – it was a big factor in my decision to go off T last spring. I imagined it would just halt the hair loss, but in fact, hairs started growing back in the area I assumed was now “bald”!! I’m talking about my temples – little hairs grew back in! I didn’t even know that could happen. Super psyched by that!
Even though these are huge pluses, things had gotten off balance again, and by going back on T, I feel more balanced (until I’m not, again… I know it’ll happen.) The weather was getting colder, and I just felt too cold. The joints in my hands and arms ached. Now that I’m a month in, pain, gone! The biggest reason for the shift, though, is just much more nebulous. Somehow I was being pegged as female by strangers again. I have no idea why: it’s not like my voice or face shape changed back! It must be an aura or a smell or like, pheromones or something. Or maybe a way of carrying myself? Whatever it was, it wasn’t sitting right. And I’m feeling good with that decision.
Will check back in when I’m not good with it, again. Probably within a few months, if the past is any indication of the future…
So I’ve been blogging for a while now, and I haven’t said a whole lot about my spouse, basically out of respect for their privacy. But they actually have a lot to say! Here’s just a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes:
Over the last 6 years that Kameron has been recording his gender transition journey, I have always appeared in his writing as the supportive spouse. That’s a role I have been happy to fill. Happy to be part of a couple t hat goes against the standard narrative of couples perceived as “same-sex” who split when one comes out as transmasculine/trans male. I never felt that Kameron’s transition challenged my sexual orientation—I am that rare non-binary unicorn who discovers their identity all at once, albeit belatedly. I never thought I was a lesbian, if anything other people read me as asexual. As I came into my own queer sexuality and genderqueer identity, I was falling for a pansexual gender non-conforming guy (I have no idea how he would define himself, this is how I experienced him). I embraced the po-mo complexity of my attraction to his particular queer blend of femininity and masculinity.
For me, being genderqueer gave me permission to play with my gender presentation. I had fun thrifting to build a wardrobe that reflected the spectrum of my gender expression—t-shirts from the boys section, day-glo green femme sweaters, bright blue doc marten boots, mini-skirts, baggy pants and flannel shirts. I felt more confident taking up space, and attracting the attention of other gender non-conforming queer people. But once I found myself romantically involved with someone (before Kameron), my partner assumed that I was “the more feminine one.” I felt pressured to present more femininely to heighten their tenuous, new expression of masculinity.
Now when I look back at the past 13 years of my life, I question whether I presented femininely because I internalized that pressure and carried it forward into my relationship with Kameron. Was this shift an unconscious assimilation to ease moving through the world? Or did I truly want to grow my hair out, wear skirts/dresses, and feel included in feminist spaces?! What a mindfuck! Being genderfluid makes life hella complicated. I have identified as a genderqueer femme, but that feels too limiting now. My gender expression has shifted again in the last 3 years toward a more masculine presentation. I feel more comfortable with how others see me now but I am sure that I am still perceived as a queer woman. The pendulum has simply swayed from femme to butch.
While Kameron’s transition didn’t threaten my sexual orientation, I did find myself at times feeling like I was getting left behind. I started to have strange pangs of jealousy—I had a much larger chest and have felt dysphoric about it since it first developed, but I wasn’t the one getting top surgery. I was the one sitting in a waiting room and I was the one keeping track of how much blood was accumulating in his drains, taking time off to help him with early recovery. Where were these ugly resentments coming from? I was so dissociated from my feelings and my body that it took years of watching Kameron’s transition unfold for me to start exploring my gender identity more.
It’s funny that we didn’t talk much about our gender identities with each other, I cocooned myself a bit and started parsing out what felt good and what didn’t. “She” was icky, so I asked Kameron, some close friends & family members, and co-workers to start using “they/them/theirs” for me. Ah, a sigh of relief. Then more discomfort would surface, I couldn’t wear bras anymore, not even sports bras. I threw them all away and got advice from Kameron
on various binder options. Another sigh of relief. Then a sudden surge of agitation when a friend starting dating someone with my given name. I had already been obsessively browsing Celtic baby name websites but now I felt an urgency to rename myself. Overall, I feel more comfortable with my gender now, but it still doesn’t feel like enough. I have started low-dose testosterone (shout out to Planned Parenthood for using an informed consent model) and am scheduling a top surgery consult soon. I am hoping that these steps will help alleviate my dysphoria, as it feels ever present now that I have stopped compartmentalizing it. These flooding feelings has been difficult to manage, and I’m currently battling a flare up of past restrictive eating habits.
For the longest time I couldn’t bear the attention of physically and socially transitioning. And I didn’t feel trans enough. I questioned why I had to do the emotional labor of explicitly coming out to be seen as non-binary. This has been an ongoing test of my tolerance for vulnerability. I need to be my authentic self for me, but the acknowledgement of others is overwhelming. I am a private person, I don’t have a blog, I keep a written journal. I guard my inner world with ferociousness and have a hard time trusting others. So far most people have been supportive and reached out to let me know so, but others have quietly noted signifiers (like changing my name on social media accounts) without comment. While the attention is exhausting (mostly due to my anxiety in these interactions), the silence of others is more painful. These silences have spurred me to have more in-depth conversations with those who do reach out, to push shame away and invite friends in.
**Potential spoiler alerts for Orange is the New Black, season 7**
My spouse and I were watching Season 7, Episode 8 a couple of weeks ago, and a familiar face suddenly popped up! In Piper’s story line, her sister-in-law gets the two of them to go on a transformative wilderness retreat. The leader of the retreat, Rio, is someone I used to perform drag with!!! When I saw her, on TV, I wanted to shout, That’s Windz! But since I’m historically bad at face recognition, I waited until the credits, to confirm that the actor, Linday Coryne, was for sure the person I’m remembering.
In the scene, she is teaching Piper and a group of ladies, how to hunt with a bow and arrow. She has a handful of lines, one of which is, ““Recognize the bow as both arbiter of death and provider of life; recognize the multitude that exists within each of you; be proud of it.” She’s like, part hunter, part spirit guide.
We didn’t have a whole lot of overlap, in real life. By the time I started performing in 2006, she was moving to Baltimore (if I’m remembering correctly). But she’d come back home to visit periodically and perform with the “Muthers Boyz.” I was also there, some of those nights, performing and/or watching.
Windz was the star. Within the context of this dark and dingy gay dive bar, he seemed more like a megastar. The crowd ate it up, everything he did. I definitely felt some envy toward him, at times; I looked up to him. On the other hand though, our approaches, attitudes, and motivations seemed so far from each other that it wasn’t much use to try to compare myself to him. He was doing his thing, which was very different from my thing.
The following are just my impressions and things I remember (which might be fuzzy). We didn’t actually know each other or have many conversations…
Sometimes, he put a lot of work into his costumes, especially when he was emulating Michael Jackson, which was one of the things he was most known for. His impression was spot on. Other times though, it seemed like he went on stage in just what he might have been wearing that day anyway, business casual or whatever, with no drag make-up, facial hair, or flourishes. His repertoire of songs was small. I definitely saw plenty of repeats within the few times I did see his performances. But what he did, he had it down, and he always looked like he was having a blast up there. Really drew in individuals from the audiences, creating special moments.
I, on the other hand, struggled to connect with audience members. I didn’t particularly want to; sometimes I wished I could be doing my performances in a vacuum instead. Being at a bar, at that time, was uncomfortable for me, but I was driven by the gender-play; the opportunities to try out being someone else. And for me, it was a one and done kind of thing. Once I did a song, I never did it again. (There are a handful of exceptions to this.) Like, it was onto the next thing. I was going to learn another song, try a different vibe, try new costume elements, get the essence of the original performer or time period or mood of the song or whatever. A lot of times, for me, it was silly or it was out there, robotic or other-worldly or very much effeminate or even aggro/punk. I wanted to get the whole range of gender expressions, try it all, experiment. I also used drag to work through a lot of feelings at the time. But that’s a story for another post…
I remember one time, the two of us were backstage together, and Windz said, “Maybe you should do some Duran Duran. People would be into that.” I thought to myself, “OK, at least my ’80’s vibe is shining through, but I’ve already done Duran Duran!” Haha. In Windz’s world, maybe it was more like, you collect a handful of “signature songs,” and you cycle through them. Like a radio station. For me, it was more like I was a kid in a record store, pulling out vinyl and looking for the next thrill.
I am, essentially, a kid in a record store, pulling out vinyl and looking for the next thrill. I literally do this a lot.
These photos are not the best, but they’re all I got. This was from a time before digital photography. Do you remember,way back when, taking a photo and not being able to instantly see if it turned out well or not? And then you really have only 24 chances (or 36 if you splurged for a 36 shot roll of film), and then you’re gonna pay around $7 for those 24 pictures, and after you pay, then you finally get to see whether it’s a good shot or not??? OK, so I’m fibbing a little bit. Digital photography was a thing (this was probably 2007.) It’s just that I didn’t yet have a digital camera. I brought my Pentax film camera with flash, down to the bar to try to capture some of the performances.
Windz was very aspirational. And it paid off! Holy shit – she (the person, not the drag king) is an actor on TV and stuff!!! I was super floored to recognize her on TV! I hope to see her in lots more stuff; I want to see more gender-nonconforming people in more roles in the media, like, all the time!
Two days ago, I abruptly hit a wall in my transition journey. But it’s more like that wall had a secret corridor that I’m now turning down, without really slowing down – just taking a moment to look back, and all around me, and then moving on in this other direction. The decision to stop T for the time being doesn’t actually mean that I’m losing forward momentum. I was expecting it all along. At some point. At the same time, it wasn’t premeditated or planned I just realized, now is the time, all of a sudden, and then I mentioned it to my spouse, and that was that.
The number one reason to stop, for now, is ongoing concerns of losing my head hair. And the number two reason is that uncomfortable sensation of feeling overheated, which is much less welcomed as warm weather approaches.
I’ve been here before. That was, specifically, January of 2016. I feel so grateful to my past self for so diligently recording where I was at, every step of the way, so that I can get super specific about where I was vs. where I am! It feels like a coherent narrative, of sorts. In the fall of 2015, I had been on Androgel for roughly a year and a half, and I had lost sight of why I was doing it and what, exactly, was it doing for me. I switched doses, I went off-and-on, and then in January of 2016, I just went off all together. I ended up being off T for one full year. And then I tried out injections, which I’ve been on now for over 2 years.
And now, again, I’ve lost sight. I’ve been worried, daily, lately, about my receding hairline, and I can’t make sense of all the numerous products on the market to help that. Rogaine, Finasteride, DHT suppressants, etc. Instead of figuring out what might help, it just makes more sense for me to go off T, until I feel differently, which I know I will, again, at some point, in the not-so-distant future.
I do not look forward to getting my period again. That is going to be horrible.
Other than that though, I don’t foresee any major issues. Mental health-wise, I feel super stable and good. I don’t expect that to change much. Oh, also, I’ll be pretty happy about not seeing more and more facial hairs popping up. Not a fan of my own facial hair! I’ll be glad if that stabilizes for a while and I don’t have to think much about it.
I predict (and my predictions have been pretty far off, historically!) that I’l be back on T by November or December. We’ll see! Oh, also I guess I’ll have to tell my endocrinologist. Do I have to go to my upcoming appointment if I’m not taking hormones?! (Answer: No.)
Hey, I have an essay in this anthology, Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity, which is finally being released by Columbia University Press, officially on April 9th, but you can go ahead and order your copies now! This has been roughly 5 years in the making, and through that time, I went through lots of different edits and re-writes with Micah Rajunov (genderqueer.me), one of the two editors. Both he and Scott Duane did tons of behind-the-scenes work to make this happen. I just sat around, for the most part, and waited to see what was going to become of it!
The time-frame was so long that I pretty much forgot what I wrote. And I was a little apprehensive to revisit it. When I first heard news of the release date, I had a mixture of emotions: excitement and pride, to be sure. But also a little bit of hesitation, like, would I still identify with whatever the hell I had written?! Would I be cool with everyone, friends and family, reading it? I decided not to overthink it; when I got my copy in the mail, I posted this pic to my social media, and just let what was gonna happen, happen. However, I still hadn’t read it! I was stalling. My spouse went ahead for me, and reported back, which helped me get used to the idea. When I first tried, I couldn’t read it linearly – I just skipped around and tried to get the gist, get a sense before finding out all the details. Then I went back and started with the anthology from the first contributor, and when I got to mine, I finally did read it all the way through. Phew. I’m almost done with the whole book now. Lots of really amazing, diverse stories.
People started ordering their own copies. My grandpa and my aunt have already read it and connected with me about it! I ordered a dozen to give to friends, my therapist, my local Out Alliance’s library, etc. It’s starting to feel real, and the excitement is growing, now that I can kinda wrap my head around it.
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.
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…
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.