Tonight at 10PM (9PM central time), PBS is screening a documentary called Real Boy. If you’re hanging at home tonight, check it out!!
I had the opportunity to see this film twice now:
Last fall, my neighbors and I went, as part of the annual LGBT film festival where we live. I’d have to say that I was a little bit jaded at that time – here is yet another story about young, white, binary, trans-masculine people. Seen that / heard that!!!
The parts about his (Ben’s) mom, and family dynamics were what held it together for me. My neighbor was really touched by it in a different way – there was a lot about singing/songwriting/creativity, and also about recovering from substance abuse and other destructive behaviors.
Then, two weeks ago, I went with my spouse and her parents. It was a free showing, and the two main “characters” were there in person to answer questions and play some of their music as well. I felt really happy that we all saw it together – we then went out to eat and talked about how we related or didn’t, with the movie. Awesome conversations.
I would say that, for me, the second time’s the charm, haha. For one thing, closed captioning was on, so we could all listen and read the dialogue simultaneously, which was kinda necessary because some people mumble more than others. I got a lot more out of it – the way that Ben’s navigating his new life / roles / perceptions as a very young person (I can’t imagine transitioning at that age!!! Hormones are already on full alert and then to mix it up so drastically, must be stressful – both positive and negative stress.) And the male bonding that was going on between the characters felt a lot more touching to me this time for some reason. He has a mentor / protegee dynamic going on with an older musician, and then a housemate / brotherhood with a trans-guy he met through mutual friend.
In terms of content notes, I would give this warning: Topics that are potentially sensitive to those in recovery are brought up: mostly grappling with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as self-injury and family issues / rejection. Also, we follow along as Ben and his housemate move forward with getting top surgery with Dr. Garramone in Florida.
I’d say catch this movie if you can! Although it didn’t really speak to me the first time, I came around to really like it!
With everything else that’s been going on lately, I completely forgot that my one year anniversary was on June 1st. I think I was aware on some level, because I’ve been super vocal with my spouse, the past few days, about where I’m at with this process. So I’ll try to distill those diatribes into something that makes sense!
Most importantly, within the past few weeks, I would say I have grown increasingly more comfortable with the off-beat sensations that I have going on. Nothing is painful, per-se, but there’s still a lot of tenderness. I am finally OK with my spouse resting her head there without warning, and in addition, I’ve realized that the more I ignore/avoid that area of my body, the more it will stagnate. ??? (That’s just a hypothesis, but I hope there’s some truth to that – I’ve been trying to actively “manhandle” some spots, in the hopes that’ll promote more nerve growth, haha.)
I am over the disappointment of it not being picture perfect. At first I was angry with the surgeon (Dr. Rumer). I held onto this anger for a long time. But, as I noted at 6 months, I had been poking and prodding around my rib-cage a lot more, and I came to the conclusion that my bone structure is asymmetrical, and she (the surgeon) had to work around those idiosyncracies, and in the end, I think she did her best. I’m sure it would have looked more even if I had gone with DI, but peri was one of the things I was not negotiating on. I already have scarring on my chest, from my self-injuring behavior years ago, and I really wanted no additional scarring, if possible. And that was accomplished. (Aside from my drain holes – those scars are still visible!!!)
My nipples, I believe, can be “tweaked,” (haha) for sure. They look like they got shrunk and melted on – I think a different surgeon can really change the size and shape and it’ll make me much happier. I am not going with Dr. Rumer any-further. I was supposed to have my one year appointment either in person or over skype, on Thursday, but I cancelled it all together. I am done, and am only now looking ahead to revisions. The appt. wasn’t even going to be with the surgeon – just a nurse-practitioner, like I did over skype at 1 months, 3 months, 6 months, etc. I’m done.
I am grateful that insurance reimbursed a large part of it – I really didn’t think I stood a chance with that.
And, just to wrap up, I want to reiterate how important this step was for me: It’s not just that now I can wear tighter shirts and I don’t have to consider whether to bind or not, etc. It has really affected my self-esteem, self-perception, and social comfort. When I get dressed, I am excited to see how the shirt falls now – does it accentuate my pecs (which are now one of my favorite parts of my body), can I layer things in an interesting way, can I wear this as an open shirt and consider wearing a necklace as well?… etc. Sometimes I will wear two outfits in one day, just to try out new-to-me fashions!
I told my spouse the other day that I used to just feel dumpy all the time, and she was shocked – she said I never looked dumpy. Now it’s the opposite – I feel snazzy!
I’ve been injecting 50mg per week. OK, not exactly true – after the first 2 weeks, I increased it to 80mg, because I felt like it. Similarly, when I was on Androgel, I wasn’t great at sticking with the script. Not sure why, but I have a guess that it’s because I wanna exert control over this area of my life. It just doesn’t really seem like a big deal in terms of consequences, and it makes me feel better…
Even with the higher dose (Just for perspective – 50 is moderately low and is a common starting dose. 100 is also a common starting dose, so I’m not doing anything way out there), I really have very little to report, which feels like a bummer to me – I was expecting more!
(Just a note: This post is a little confusing because I have “started T” twice now. When I say Androgel, I’m talking about 4 years ago. And when I say injections, that means what I’m currently doing.)
When I started Androgel (very very low dose), it was like, WHOA! It felt like night and day, within the first couple days. Here’s what I reported 5 months in, if you’re curious: 5 months on T without physical changes. (This, unfortunately. is my earliest account, because I hadn’t started the blog until I was 5 months in!)
I guess I expected it to be like that, only tenfold, because my dose is now definitely not very very low. Honestly, I don’t know how to compare the two doses, since they are administered so differently. I tried to find info online about this, and could not find a single thing. If anyone has something on this, such as, “____mg of inject-able T = ____mg of Androgel,” please let me know! I’m pretty sure there’s no straightforward way to calculate this because, for example, everyone absorbs topical substances differently…
Anyway, I am experiencing these shifts, in little ways, again… A little bit hungrier, a little bit of a higher sex-drive, a lot of “warm and fuzzy,” etc.
but this time around, I’m paying a lot more attention to physical changes (in a way where I want them, not in a way that I’m being hyper-vigilant about them not happening, like the first time around with the Androgel). And so far, nothing! Maybe just the slightest shift in voice. Oh well, no big deal. I can be patient.
I think what’s going on is, when I started Androgel, I had nothing to compare that to. All the sensations I was experiencing were vast improvements over what I had going on, previously. It truly was seeing the world and myself in a brand new way. Decreased anxiety was mind-blowing because I’d never felt that – the ability to take a deep breath and really feel it? Whoa. Actually sensing my body as present/grounded, and not half-dissociated 24/7? Incredible!
And it’s more like now, I’ve been free of anxiety for a long time at this point, due to a psychotropic drug that I never want to stop taking. And the warm and fuzzy and the heightened sex drive? I’m glad to see a return of these sensations (for sure!!!), but it’s more like, “Oh, right, I like this,” as opposed to, “Wow, I have never experienced this before and it is the best thing ever!”
That’s all I got so far!
A couple of days ago, something suddenly dawned on me: It finally clicked why things weren’t looking too good in terms of symmetry. I previously had not paid attention, but my rib cage is actually fairly uneven. I’ve known that my hips are askew for forever – I have mild scoliosis. My waist is off – it goes straight down on the left side, and curves in on the right. We all have these little quirks… Other things: my eyes are not the same – one eyelid is droopier than the other. One nostril is a little bigger than the other. You know that swirl everyone has within their hair (cowlick)? It’s never dead center, is it? – It’s over to one side. Some people even have 2! My point is, we’re all a little different, even on a structural level. And I had been ignoring/avoiding my chest and rib cage – possibly because of the dysphoria surrounding that area.
I knew there was a weird dent on the left side, but beyond that, my ribs were pretty foreign to me. Recently, I started poking around. The bones are not in the same place, between my left and right! The left side even juts out a little further than the right.
Despite this, my breasts actually had been symmetrical, but that’s probably because there was all that extra tissue as a buffer. When the surgeon went to take that all out, bones were a hindrance as to what she could do, I’m finally realizing. (And yeah, I am actually that skinny that my ribs stick out a little bit. I wish I had some more meat on me there!)
I recently took some photos, so that finally, I could post my results on transbucket (you can check it out – you just have to create an account to access the website, first). And I found that things don’t look as bad, through the camera lens, as they do when I’m scrutinizing every little thing in the mirror. I had also taken photos of my chest, pre-op, and this was the first time I looked at those since surgery – my breasts seem a lot bigger than I remember them! Haha.
Here’s what I wrote on transbucket (a summary of sorts):
“Had surgery in June of 2016. Was reimbursed for 40% of the total cost, which I wasn’t expecting! This surgeon and her staff were subpar with patient care and availability. I have barely seen / spoken to Dr. Rumer during this process. All follow-up appts. (been doing them through Skype) have been with a physician’s assistant. The only other time to see her will be at the 1 year-follow-up.
I was not completely satisfied with the results (although these pics don’t look too bad). The left side is larger than the right, and the nipples are uneven, a little sunken in, and (at 6 months) purplish in color. It’s tough to see from the pics, but I believe some muscle tissue was taken out on the right side, and there’s a dent to the right of the nipple. Sensation is touchy, but slowly improving. I recently realized that my rib cage is not symmetrical, so that may have impacted my results.
I plan on seeking a nipple revision, at the least, in the future. Since I would have to pay more for this, from Dr. Rumer, I will be looking at options elsewhere as well.
At the time of surgery, I was not on T. I’d been on a super-low dose prior, for 2.5 years, but I do not think that impacted my musculature.
More information can be found at: https://janitorqueer.com/category/top-surgery/ ”
Here are past updates about top surgery, documenting as I go:
4.5 months after top surgery: 4.5 months is an odd point – but it seems worthwhile to write now, mostly because within the last couple of weeks, sensation has been returning at a faster rate. and I want to make note of that. …
3 months after top surgery: I did not expect to feel much different other than a cerebral satisfaction regarding being able to wear anything from now on. But it’s more of a gut- level confidence. …
1 month after top surgery: I can live with that for now, but I doubt things are going to change enough for it to actually look good. I’m not happy with the results. …
2 weeks after top surgery: Right now, there is not enough symmetry, in multiple regards. …
6 days after top surgery: Everything went smoothly, except for the fact that the surgeon was about to do the wrong procedure. …
My spouse and I attended more films than ever before, at the annual LGBTQ+ film festival in our town, recently. Most of these links are to trailers; a couple are to the film’s website directly. I highly recommend the first 6, and then I don’t recommend the 7th at all.
Suicide Kale – This film was shot in 5 days, with no budget. Even without stipulating that, it’s an intriguing and complex look into the dynamics between 2 lesbian couples at a lunch party, and what happens when one of them finds a suicide note tucked away somewhere. Sounds like it’d be intense, but it’s actually fairly lighthearted and humorous. Very well attended, mostly women in the audience.
Paris 05:59: Theo and Hugo – This film takes place in real time, as two men fall for each other in a love/lust at first sight type-of-way. Things start out in a laid back, sexually explicit environment / vibe, but quickly become complicated as the two grapple with an emotional twist, and whether the connection is worth working through it. Super well attended; roughly 98% men, 2% women.
Closet Monster – This might have been my favorite one this year. It’s a coming-of-age story of an 18-year old boy coming to terms with his gay identity, complicated by flashbacks of a hate crime he witnessed as a young child. There were body horror elements to the film, which I was really into. Plus, Isabella Rossellini’s voice is featured as a talking pet hamster! Well attended, very diverse audience, including young adults, which isn’t usually the case.
Strike A Pose – This also was possibly my favorite one this year. It’s a documentary about the 7 dancers who went on tour with Madonna in 1990, and where they’re at now. Not all of them are gay! Some of them had a lot of secrets at the time, and they are now much more open about things. Way more emotional than I would have thought, going into the film. Very well attended, diverse audience but definitely mostly men.
Girls Lost – A film from Finland. Magical realism. 3 tight-knit female friends, about 14 years old, are frequently bullied at school but find solace in each other and a greenhouse they regularly retreat to. Suddenly, a magical flower appears; they drink the nectar and turn into boys, for about 12 hours. One of them realizes he is transgender, and he becomes addicted to the feelings the nectar brings. At the same time, he is self-destructive, in an effort to understand himself. Really well attended, diverse audience.
Real Boy – This is a documentary spanning over a few years, as a singer/songwriter FTM person starts his transition. It focuses on the relationship between him and his mom, between him and a best friend who is also trans, and between him and another trans singer/songwriter who is a little older and acts as a mentor of sorts. Issues that are discussed: hormones, sobriety, top surgery, family dynamics. Also really well attended, diverse audience including young adults, which is not generally the case.
Lovesong – This was a flop. My spouse and I were attracted to it partly because it stars Jena Malone, and also it seemed like a complex story-line. It was fairly complex, but they characters were not at all likeable. Two female friends who go way back, dabble in acting on their attraction to each other, at various points spanning a few years. Kinda boring. Sparsely attended, mostly women.
My spouse and I diligently filled out audience participation ballots for each film, and a survey about the festival in general. My most important feedback: more films with trans characters please. And also, please make it more affordable.
4.5 months is an odd point – but it seems worthwhile to write now, mostly because within the last couple of weeks, sensation has been returning at a faster rate. and I want to make note of that.
I was really afraid I was going to be left with a huge amount of sensation lost permanently. That’s definitely what it felt like for a while. Despite being fully aware that it takes months, years even, for nerves to come back in fully, or to the extent that they are going to.
It was just really uncomfortable to have something touching anywhere around my chest, because of the not feeling of the thing. I didn’t even really want to be touching it myself, but I did / do, every day, to massage the areas around the areolas. I worried about carrying boxes when I came back to work, but that actually was fine; I’m not using my chest as a balancing point as much as I thought I did – it’s more abs, I think.
Earlier, I’d say that there was numbness for about an inch radius around each nipple. And it seemed to stagnate there, for a long time. Now, I have feeling everywhere except the nipples. Is it the same kind of feeling as before? Not quite, at least not yet, on the right side especially. Light touch feels normal; pressure still feels tender in a lot of spots. I’m super happy about this progress.
Something else that is slowly changing, I’d say, is my overall expectation. I’m still not happy with the results, and I’m sure I will eventually get a revision (nipple revisions if nothing else). But it isn’t something that bothers me. I’d say I went through a week (OK maybe 10 days) of being really down and disappointed, early on. After that, it felt like, OK, it’s actually good enough, for now, so no need to keep harping on it.
I got a lot of feedback that it’d be best if I just lowered my expectations about how good it could look. Many cis-people have weird chests, many trans-people have botched chests. I had mixed feelings:
– I’m totally grateful for how it is, as opposed to how it was. I am continuously happy about it, every day. Can I be happy about it and still want it to be better? Definitely. It can be tough not to compare it to other chests I’ve seen, but, in general I’ve just been comparing it to how it was. And in that regard, I’m psyched.
– It’s true that many people end up with really bad results. And I feel angry about that, like, why aren’t the standards better yet?? But, I know nothing about it, from an anatomical perspective, and I’m sure there are so many factors that go into how well it can be executed, beyond what we commonly know about.
– I saw a lot of shirtless men this summer, and paid a lot more attention than I used to. Many men have chests that are not quite desirable, but every one was symmetrical. I know it’s common for women to have one breast bigger or shaped differently from the other, but I gotta say, I’ve never seen an asymmetrical cis-male chest.
Overall, I think it helps to hear that adjusting your expectation will help in the long run (even if the knee jerk reaction is something along the lines of, “butt out!” Haha.) I strongly believe this is happening naturally, without me trying to change the way I am thinking.
I thought that since my chest was so small, it would be easy to get it right. Now I’m thinking, whoa, no, it’s way more complicated than that, and I barely know the first thing about it.
What I do know is that my surgeon does not offer free revisions (although the cost I was quoted, more or less, seems reasonable). Also I know it is not a priority for the foreseeable future. I imagine that within a year or two, I will have consulted with a few surgeons (I’d definitely hesitate to go back to my original surgeon) and I’ll be moving forward from there. I’m in no hurry.
So, I’ve been listening to this one podcast religiously since its beginning in December of 2014… it’s kind of a guilty pleasure; it’s a straight up advice column! It’s called Dear Sugar; the “Sugars” are Cheryl Strayed, of Wild fame – the book, the movie (starring Reese Witherspoon), the attitude, and Steve Almond, who wrote Against Football, among many other books and essays. They also always bring in an “expert,” or someone who can speak from personal experience about the person’s question.
They have fielded numerous letters about relationships, family dynamics, friend betrayals, weddings, lies and secrets, infidelity, personality clashes, (surprisingly, nothing that I can remember about work drama or school issues…) A couple of them have been about lesbian and gay -centric problems: parents who are unsupportive, partners who are still in the closet, etc…
I have been waiting for something that relates to trans-people. Finally, after a year and 9 months, they tackle it!
And… it’s totally underwhelming.
Have a listen, here: I’m a Transgender Man, Seeking Acceptance (For reference, it’s 39 minutes long.)
I mean, I think it’s great for the general population. So, it’s a good start. They read two different trans-men’s letters, and they seem to be at different points in their transitions, so that’s cool.
The first guy is in college, and he’s feeling great about his path and the people around him and everything – everything except for his parents, who just will not get on board. This, I feel, is super common.
The second guy seems to be a little more established, in a career, and he’s navigating the world of dating. He is concerned that since he is short (5’2″), does not have a lucrative career (social worker), and does not have a penis, he may be unlovable. This, too, seems like a pretty common concern.
The “Sugars,” in general, use radical empathy as a basis for starting a dialogue. And, in this case, since they don’t know how it feels to be transgender, they take the angle that,
“The best way to begin to understand an experience very different from your own is to listen to the stories of others. This week, we read the letters of two transgender men who are struggling to find love and acceptance. The Sugars discuss with Cooper Lee Bombardier, a visual artist, writer and transgender man.”
According to his bio, Cooper “has been a construction worker, a cook, a carpenter, a union stagehand, a welder, a shop steward, a dishwasher, a truckdriver, a bouncer, and a housepainter, among other things, for a paycheck.” He’s currently super successful with the writing and the art. He sounds super cool!
Steve Almond starts off talking about the first time he met a trans-woman. It was slightly cringe-inducing, but also definitely a worthwhile story. Then they get into the letters, and introduce Cooper. He, as a guest, is eloquent and upbeat, but he does keep it pretty basic, and seems somewhat detached from his own personal stories. There is a really great moment though where Cooper says he’s been “transitioning” for about 15 years, and when the Sugars ask him how old he was when he started, he says, “in my early 30s.” They sputter about how young he looks and how could this be? And he replies, “I moisturize.” And then later, “It’s the trans-fountain of youth, you know…” and there’s lots of laughing, and Cheryl says, “Sign me up!”
One thing that Cooper says really well in discussing the first letter is,
“We wrestle with these feelings for so long, that by the time we articulate it to somebody, it’s like a bottle bursting open. …And we tell our parents and we expect them to get it, like, tomorrow. Even though we’ve been struggling with it for years and years, right? And so I think that… it’s really hard to be patient when we’ve waited so long to kind of actualize and realize that this is what’s going on for us. But for those relationships that we do want to bring along with us, we do need to offer some patience, even though it’s hard.”
When discussing the second letter, they telescope it out, to bring it to the wider theme of anyone who feels like they are unloveable, and how to change that internal notion. Cheryl says, “This is a universal conundrum. …Am I too fat to be loved? No. Am I too poor to be loved? No. Am I too fill-in-the-blank to be loved? No.” They touch on how his height and his career might factor into this, and no one makes one further mention about the fact that he does not have a penis. Is it because they think it’s not important to talk about? No, I kind of doubt it – I think they are finding it too awkward to address. And/or, in being respectful, they feel that it’s not up to them to talk about a trans-person’s genitalia (or sex life, or surgeries, or…) which is definitely important that we’ve gotten that far, but in this case, it was right there, in the letter, and it just got straight up ignored.
I do really hope they expand the dialogue about what it feels like to be a transgender person. I have been thinking of writing in, for a while now, and I only feel more motivated after listening to this. I’m planning on it; I’ll let you know.
I’ve never especially liked sports – playing sports or watching them. I used to play soccer and soft ball as a little kid. (Ok – maybe I liked sports as a kid). In middle and high school, I played a few sports for one year each: softball, volley ball, lacrosse, track. I did not have much fun. My constant was cross-country running. I did that for all 6 years, 7th-12th grade.
I’ve always liked the Olympics though. I particularly remember the 1994 winter games in Lillehammer, Norway and the 1998 winter games in Nagano, Japan. They kinda dropped from my radar between then and 2010, when the winter games were in Vancouver, and my spouse and I watched a lot of it. (It’s always more likely for us to catch the winter games because hibernating lends itself to more TV watching.)
My spouse and I were watching women’s gymnastics last night (the US commentators were really getting to me like never before!!!), when a commercial popped on. I have not watched any actual TV (the kind that includes commercials) since the night before I got top surgery, and I usually do my best to tune them out because they are so infuriating, but this one was like, BAMMMM!
It features Chris Mosier, who is an American transgender advocate, triathlete, and speaker. (I had to look him up to see what he’s all about.) He is the first known out trans-athlete to join a U.S. national team – Team USA sprint men’s team for the 2016 World Championship. Apparently, trans-athletes who have undergone hormone replacement therapy for one year and pass Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) tests are allowed to compete without restriction. This has only been in effect since January. Until then, trans-athletes had been in a sort of limbo. In many ways they still are. Although he is not competing in Rio, apparently there are two trans-athletes who are, though their identities are not public. They remain closeted, for now at least.
According to an article last week in Rolling Stone,
“Mosier expressed that often, worrying about how other athletes, the public and organizations will react is what delays trans gender athletes when making the decision to come out. It’s possible for transgender athletes to compete without making public announcements of transition. Knowing he had the option to privately navigate sports as a man, it took Mosier years to decide to come out publicly as a trans gender athlete. But he did so to set precedence. ‘It’s like running the four-minute mile,’ he explains. ‘First people say it can’t be done. Then someone does it. Then it’s done again and again, faster and faster – just because the impossible was possible.'”
“Just because the rules allow it doesn’t mean that everyone is ready to accept it. Public opinion is the challenging piece.”
Having Nike on board, with this groundbreaking commercial, will certainly help! Although Nike (like any large corporation), is an evil behemoth, I am so psyched about the fact that they made this commercial. Good one.
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.
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
18. respiratory infections
20. abdominal pain
21. digestive issues
22. breast changes
23. breast tenderness
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.”
“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.”
-multiple sports bras
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.
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.
It can happen, and the most effective way it can happen is through personal anecdotes and connecting emotionally with someone (one reason I write this blog!). It’s going to happen through one-on-one conversations, as opposed to on a mass scale (although you never know… things do tend to snowball after a certain point!), and (unfortunately) it’s most likely not going to happen by pointing out facts and statistics to someone.
A study was just published in last week’s issue of Science Magazine. I heard about it through This American Life‘s most recent episode called For Your Reconsideration. If you want to hear the pertinent content, click on the link – there’s a player right on that page, and just skip ahead to the times between 22:20 and 29:00.
It’s about canvassers going door to door to talk to people about transgender issues, and the data was recorded and processed. The canvassers (who were both transgender themselves, and allies – and both were equally effective!) utilized a persuasion technique that’s been developed for close to 50 years by the LGBT Center in California. It’s called analogic perspective taking: “By inviting someone to discuss an experience in which that person was perceived as different and treated unfairly, a canvasser tries to generate sympathy for the suffering of another group—such as gay or transgender people.”
This tactic has not worked so well with age-old topics such as abortion, probably because everyone has such solidified ideas ingrained into how they think about those issues. Trans-issues are relatively new, and people are proving to be fairly malleable if approached in certain ways. In many cases, people aren’t even sure what
“transgender people means.” Canvassers had an informative video with them if this was the case.
So for example, there’s an audio clip from one voter, and he is stumbling over wordage. He says, “There is one thing that disturbs me. A man that is a fag using man’s clothes* and going into a ladies’ bathroom. That I would not like.” The canvasser spends time explaining the difference between “gay” and “transgender” (mentioning that we don’t use the word “fag,” and the voter apologizes). The voter is the one who starts to reflect on his own experiences, and by the end of the conversation, he says, “I’m glad to be talking to an intelligent person that made me think about my own background. That it was very old.”
This occurred in Miami: in 2014, the county passed an ordinance banning discrimination against trans-people, and the canvassers are trying to convince voters that’s a good idea in case of backlash. “56 canvassers—some transgender, others not— knock on the doors of 501 people living in Miami. As a control, some of the interviews focused not on transgender discrimination, but on recycling. In all cases, the 10-minute interview included a survey before and after to measure people’s attitudes regarding transgender people, as well as follow-ups ranging up to 3 months later.”
The goal is to get the voter to engage in a conversation, saying the words themselves, sort of so they’re able to hear their own opinions, and to see if there’s any wiggle room. A lot of times, there is! One out of 10 voters changed their minds over the course of a 20 minute conversation. And when surveyed 3 months later, the change appears to have stuck.
This is so striking! It made me envision myself going door to door. Could I do that? I’m not sure, but more likely, I could see myself being a part of a panel, and even more likely, I could see myself trying to get my writing out to a wider audience…
To make good on that, I’m going to post this on facebook! (Something I rarely do.) I’m gonna spread the word through my local indymedia too! Any way possible.
I feel like there is hope.
All quotes are either from This American Life, or the Science Magazine article, here: “For real this time: Talking to people about gay and transgender issues can change their prejudices.”
Also, as a note, there’s information about a study that came before this one, that was most likely falsified. While this is intriguing, it kind of diverts attention away from the amazing findings of this more recent, scientifically sound, study. So just kinda gloss over that controversy…
*I’m pretty sure he meant to say, “women’s clothes.”