The TIC (Translating Identity Conference), 2018

In addition to the PTWC and Gender Odyssey, The TIC is a well established, long-time running, trans- and gender specific conference that happens every year at the University of Vermont in Burlington.  I went once prior, in 2005, but I can’t remember a whole lot – really just attending a workshop led by DRED, drag king, actress, etc. about gender expression and clothing as play.

This year, my spouse and I decided to check it out and make a trip of it.  In addition to the conference (which is packed into one day, this year, November 3rd), we, walked around Burlington a lot, and we also took a ferry across Lake Champlain into Plattsburgh, where we met with some friends.

Here’s a rundown of what I got out of the conference!

We eased into the day by going to Fluid Identities Within the Classroom and the Workplace:  A Dialogue Toward Trans Liberation in Binary Spaces.  It was an interactive structure where we spend time talking with the people around us and then reporting back to the whole group, and also writing our own thoughts on post-it notes that were then displayed out in the hall for the rest of the day.  It was pretty basic, information-wise; what felt worthwhile was hearing about others’ experiences.

I then went to Q&A:  Queens and Activism.  This was a presentation led by two local, politically active drag queens, in character, which was pretty entertaining.  It was framed as, “Here’s us and what we’re doing and all about us,” which could have been limiting, but they’ve been involved in so much that although it was Vermont specific, it was a great way to show both the people behind the queens, and the range of avenues to help LGBTQ people and causes, making it fun along the way.  Such as Drag Queen Story Hour.

Next up was lunch, which was provided at a subsidized cost, within the same building as all the workshops.  That was totally awesome!

Next I went to Take Your Top Off:  A Top Surgery Information Session and Show and Tell.  This was just like the show and tells I’ve been to at the PTWC, but on a much smaller scale, and with more general information provided up front.  I decided pretty much on the spot that I was going to participate, which is a huge deal for me because I’ve only been topless in front of other people (excluding my spouse!) on 2 other occasions.  I mostly decided I felt comfortable because is was such a smaller and more intimate group of people and because I thought I might likely be the only one up there who could show an example of the periareolar procedure.  And I was right on both counts – there were about 12 people up there taking their shirts off, as opposed to upwards of 40-50, at the PTWC.  And I was the only one who hadn’t had DI (double incision).  Each person took a turn on the microphone, talking about their surgeon, their experience, nerve sensation, cost, and overall satisfaction.  Then people could come up to talk to us individually.  One person came up to me to say, “I have a consultation with Dr. Rumer [my surgeon] next week.  I already paid and everything.  Should I just scrap that and cut my losses?”  This was based on me not having all that much positive to say about Dr. Rumer.  I think I did a pretty good job talking it through with this person, trying to open them up to as many possibilities as I could, something I never really was able to do for myself.  I feel like I have a lot more to say about this, but it could easily take up way too much space, so I’m going to stop here for now.  Maybe a separate future blog post!

I went to Trans in the Workplace Panel.  I always like to go to at least one panel – it’s a good way to just sit back and hear personal experiences from a good cross-section of different perspectives.  This one featured an agender person who works in bars and also is self-employed as a sex educator, a trans-woman who is an EMT and also works in an urgent care facility, a trans-man who works for the state as an advocate for those who are incarcerated, and a non-binary trans-person who is a gym teacher and also makes and sells bow ties.

Finally I went to Transmasculine Caucus, a safe space set up in a circle, with a mod, to talk about whatever anyone wanted to bring up.  I was one of the few people older than 22, it seemed, which made it tougher to feel motivated to speak up, but I did manage to talk on 2 occasions.  Topics ranged from name change and being carded before a gender marker change, to always appearing much younger, sexual orientation shifts after hormones, and much much more.

The final event was the keynote, with CeCe McDonald, a transgender prison reform activist who had been sentenced to 41 months for manslaughter.  (Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black has said she plays her character as an homage to CeCe, and she is producing a documentary about her story.)  It was very off-the-cuff, informal, and full of energy.

Compared to the PTWC, this conference was much smaller, which came with a lot of benefits!  People seemed much more friendly, just striking up conversations with those around them; it just had a more intimate vibe overall – I felt more comfortable speaking up, participating, and just people-watching / feeling a part of things.  I’d definitely go again!

 


The PTWC (Philadelphia Trans-Wellness Conference), 2018

I’m waaaay behind on this post (the conference was Aug. 2-4), but I had a lot of notes and always meant to type them up.  I was clearing off our dining room table and unearthed them, so here we go!

It’s been a couple of years since my spouse and I attended, and this time around, we made it a part of a bigger vacation, which I definitely am going to want to do again in the future – this time, we stopped in the tiny town of Narrowsburgh, NY, for 2 nights and went on a lazy river tube ride down a 5 mile stretch of the Delaware river.  Then we continued on to Philly, where we reconnected with friends we hadn’t seen in a while.  Fortuitously, they happened to be dog-sitting / house-sitting at a really swanky and spacious condo that was only a 20 minute walk from the conference center.  Way more convenient than all those times we walked in the heat and humidity from South Philly, in the past.

The first workshop I attended was called Trans Community in Crisis:  Mental Health and Peer Support.  It was led by IV Staklo, who is the Hotline Program Director at Trans Lifeline.  This was totally worthwhile because before attending this workshop, I never seriously considered volunteering for a hotline.  And in the process of learning about it, I could completely wrap my head around that possibility – I actually do have what it takes.  (All it takes for Trans Lifeline is:  you yourself have to identify as trans, you need access to a phone and internet, you need to have follow-through and accountability and be active in the online group.)  I’ve been going through the online training to become a volunteer operator.  It’s about 32 hours of self-guided slides and webinars; it’s going way slower than I anticipated, but I’ll get there eventually.  The workshop itself was a lot of distressing statistics – things like 60% of trans-clients have had to educate their therapists.  53% of trans-people have avoided going to the hospital when it was necessary because of past trauma and harassment.  88% of trans-people have had suicidal ideations throughout their lives…  (All of these statistics are coming from the 2017 National LGBTQ Task Force Survey – I’m only isolating a few of the more alarming ones…)

Next, I went to Token:  The Role of Trans POC Within the LGBTQ Community.  The presenter was Giovonni Santiago, a transman living in northeastern Ohio.  His style was more of a motivational speaker, full of energy and personal stories to accent his points.  I especially liked the Q and A, where people asked him about burnout and how best to say, “No,” when to know that you need to say, “No,” etc.

Friday, I started out by going to Top Surgery Show and Tell.  It was my third time at this particular workshop – it’s always crowded and full of anticipatory energy.  I didn’t participate (but stay tuned for my summary of another conference, in which I did participate!)  These types of workshops are sooo important because the info that’s out there online is fairly sparse, and this is one of the few chances to take a close look in person, at real people’s bodies.

Then I went to Let’s Talk About Our Junk, led by Dalziel Leone, a transman from Kenya.  He started out by talking about his own path and then opened it up so that it was more of a group discussion.  An older person who just recently started his transition talked about choosing celibacy out of necessity, and how incredibly, he was starting to reassess all of that.  Someone else talked about transitioning within a long-term relationship, and really got into the nuts and bolts of how that played out in his case.  A younger person shared about how their parents are immigrants from Liberia, and they can’t even accept their kid being gay, let alone trans.  They said their parents’ reactions have been that Africans aren’t gay, and maybe you need to get in touch with your African roots, go back to Africa to find yourself, etc.  I found the immediate assumption of intimacy in this audience to be pretty extraordinary – oftentimes people need a long time to gear up to tough and frank conversations like this.

After that, I then went to FTM Bottom Surgery Show and Tell.  I’ve considered going many times in the past, but I always felt too intimidated.  This time I just went for it.  It was just like Top Surgery Show and Tell, but with far less people actually standing up there.  I think there were 5 guys, whereas with Top Surgery, it’s more like 40 or so.  This led to just more time to hear more from them afterwards, as audience members kind of clustered around, asking questions and getting a closer look.  At this time, it did not lead me to feel more motivated to pursue bottom surgery, but the experience was still invaluable.

I ended the day by going to Trans On Set, a panel discussion among trans media makers.  We watched 15 minutes of footage first, film reels and portfolios of sorts, from the panel members.  Then we heard about how they’ve navigated disclosing their status or not, dealing with transphobia in the workplace, stuff like that.  For me, this felt like a more passive workshop, a good way to end.

Then we didn’t go on Saturday at all!  We enjoyed time with our friends more and just had a much less anxiety-inducing time of it, overall!  Another thing that was new – my spouse attended a bunch of workshops in the “professional track” cluster and learned a lot of pertinent stuff for their future career!


5 recent LGBTQ+ films to check out

My spouse and I had a lot of fun going to a bunch of fims during this year’s local annual LGBTQ+ film festival!  I liked all the films we picked out this time around.  Here’s a little more about them (some of the links are to trailers while others’ are for the films’ websites:

Pulse – This Australian film was part of the “ImageOut There!” series, it definitely took some interesting twists and turns.  What if people could surgically switch bodies, like for example go from a disabled teenaged male body to a “picture perfect” teenaged female body?  This is what Olly chooses to do, with his/her reasonings unfolding slowly throughout the movie.  A different and unique perspective leaning a little too heavily on the fantasy of what it means to be a woman:  not much insight but plenty of pitfalls.

Man Made – This may be my all time favorite movie I’ve seen at the festival over the years.  I cried a lot (and that’s saying something because lately tears are super hard to come by!)  It’s a documentary that follows the journeys of 4 transgender men as they prepare for the only all-trans bodybuilding competition, in Atlanta, GA.  Their stories are heartwarming, heartbreaking, and they hit on a bunch of emotional points in between.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cola de Mono – This Chilean film was also part of the “ImageOut There!” series.  It’s a feature length that focuses on one family on Christmas eve, 1986.  The men in the family have been “cursed” by homosexuality, and the next iteration is now playing itself out.  It’s super melodramatic, definitely campy, but not in a fun way.  They undertones are full of hypersexuality, perversion, ritual, and horror.  The film takes its name from a traditional drink similar to egg nog, which translates into “monkey’s tail.”

 

Studio 54 – I didn’t really know anything about the behind-the-scenes, so I learned a lot!  The documentary featured a lot of interview time of the more “silent” partner, Ian Schrager (the more public partner, Steve Rubell, passed away from AIDS / hepatitis in 1989.)  My spouse pointed out that it was a smart idea not to rely on a bunch of famous people being interviewed about it – that seemed like the easy choice, but this way the film spoke for itself a lot more.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – My spouse was super psyched this was part of the festival, because they had heard of it and had just finished reading the novel that the film is based on.  It takes place in Montana in 1993; when Cameron is caught in the backseat of a car with her girlfriend, she’s sent to a conversion therapy camp called God’s Promise.  It was awesome to see this with a theater full of people because there were so many sound bites that got big laughs (although the writer and director didn’t seem to account for those interruptions, there wasn’t a beat for us to catch up, meaning we ended up missing dialogue because we were laughing so much.  At one point, the audience burst out with a round of applause!)  This was thoroughly entertaining and also disturbing – a more dramatic partner piece to “But I’m a Cheerleader.”

 


Happy pride weekend, full-on week-long style

Last week was Pride in this mid-sized city I live in.  The theme this year was “Stand Out:  [Live] in Color.”  For the first time ever, I attended a week’s worth of events; it was pretty awesome!

On Monday, my spouse plus my drag buddy and her boyfriend and her friend from out of town all went to a panel discussion / conversation called “Fabulous Lives:  [Drag] in Color.”  The purpose was largely to honor a bar owner and drag queen named  Naomi Kane who had passed away a few years ago.  Everyone wanted to share their impressions of her (both her essence, and literally doing hilarious impressions of the way she talked and her signature phrases / philosophies).  My drag buddy and I used to perform at her bar.  One of the old school drag kings from that time was on the panel, as well as the drag queen who regularly hosted the weekly show.  We got recognized as fellow drag kings; the vibe of the event was full of love and emotion for the scene and community.

On Thursday we went to another venue for a DJ night and drag queen show.  I got picked out of the audience (unwittingly but not totally unwillingly!) along with 2 others to play a game involving a bucket strapped to my groin area with a dangling tennis ball – thrust your body in such a way as to get the ball in the bucket.  I lost, but still got a complimentary beer koozie.  The important part is I felt more than comfortable up there on stage doing something so completely silly.

Satutrday was the parade.  My spouse and I (again) marched for their employer, a food co-op.  It was just us and 2 other people!  We had a lot of fun though – it felt like the perfect combination of laid-back and exciting.  We were right behind the local goth nightclub, and the DJ was driving his goth-mobile, playing gloomy / angsty mostly 80s music, which was a great soundtrack!  One of the other marchers with the club told us he’s taking requests.  I asked for “Swamp Thing” by The Chameleons.  After we were done in the parade, we stepped to the side to watch the rest.  When there was a lull, two kids, probably around age 10, ran across the street, directly to me, and handed me a heart shaped rainbow balloon.  I have no idea why, but it pretty much made my parade!  My spouse and I used the balloon in our photo shoot we did back home.

Then that night, I went out to a dance party with my spouse’s sister and a group of her friends.  It felt really good to get wrapped up in dancing.  And!!!  Completely out of nowhere, a guy approached me and said,
“Hey, are you Kameron.”
“Yea!”
“We did a David Bowie thing together.”
“Oh, yea, cool…  At The [name of venue.]”
“No, it was the one at The [different venue.]  I was the promoter.  I never paid you.”
“Oh, OK yeah I remember.”
“I owe you $50.  Here!”

And he just handed me the money!  This was like 6 or 7 years ago, and I hadn’t seen or heard from him since!  I didn’t even go by “Kameron” at that point.  I was so amazed this was happening, I gave him a hug.  He laughed.  Then I went back to dancing, but I’ve been telling this story over and over again ever since, haha.

Sunday we went to the picnic.  Saw more drag.  Hung out with friends.  Said hi to more people.
I like the fact that this year it was a full week of festivities!  Here are some pics:

DSCF4589DSCF4598

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getting called up on stage

And here’s my archive of past prides:
Happy pride weekend, much belated
Happy pride weekend, and The People
Happy pride weekend, and BRAWL
Happy pride weekend

 


Friends and family need to stop framing our transition as a death (open letter style)

Dear friends and family of trans-people,

It can be super challenging, on multiple levels, when a loved one comes out to you, especially if it never occurred to you that they might be transgender.  You might not know where to turn, or what resources to access to help you navigate the changes they (and you) will be going through.  There ARE resources though, plenty of them, and support groups (if not locally in your area, then definitely on the internet).  It is not up to the transgender person to be your sounding board, your therapist, your coach, or your educator.  In addition, as you work through it in your own way, please put a damper on the “transition as death” narrative.  It is trite, outdated, and toxic.

If you feel like you are mourning a death, that’s fine – all feelings are valid (etc.)  But why would this be something you need to work out publicly?  We are very much alive.  Almost always, transition is actually close to the opposite of death – it’s a time to finally feel out who we actually are.  We may have felt like a “half-person” or a “shell of a person” or, to put it in those same grim terms, like a “walking dead person.”  I know I did prior to transition, quite a bit.  Coming out was a celebration of life.  I feel like I have so much more to live for now.

When you claim that the person you knew has died, you are implying that the person we are becoming is not worth getting to know, or that we have slighted you, tricked you, we are to blame for your feelings of loss.  And, actually, we aren’t even “becoming” a different person.  We are the same person, just finally in technicolor, finally kaleidoscopic, however you want to look at it.  If you took the time to see how much we settle into ourselves, how often our worst mental-health issues start to soften around the edges, how we can be more present in the moment, more peaceful, more calm, then you might understand that it is so far from a death that the analogy is utterly ridiculous and laughable.

Please reflect on the ramifications of claiming we have died.
Sincerely, Kameron

And now for some hard evidence!  Two sources that have been recently on my radar have had me in hyper cringe mode as they talked about the “death” of their transgender loved one.

First, an episode of the podcast Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People:  I generally love this podcast, and in fact, I’ve written about it before, because there have been 2 prevous episodes highlighting transgender narratives.  If you wanna check that blog post out, it is:  Beautiful / Anonymous:  Trans-related episodes.

Episode #116, sensationalistically entitled She Killed My Father is a much harder pill to swallow.  The gist is that the caller is an only child, the adult child of a transwoman who came out later in life (in her fifties), much to the surprise of those around her.

Caller:  “Sometimes it feels like this person killed my father.  And in a way, that’s right.  You know, I, well, think about it this way:  When you lose… my father, as a male, does not exist anymore.  This person is gone.  And normally when that happens, you have this grieving period, you have this ritual, this ceremony, you can go to this funeral or this memorial service and people bring you food and people give you cards and people just give you your space and they really support you and they let you process that.  But for me, um… especially with my dad… I don’t have a dad anymore, and this person came in and said, ‘Your dad’s gone.  Now it’s me….'”

Chris:  “Wow.  This is, this is, by far, out of all the calls we’ve ever done, one that is so much to wrap one’s brain around.”

Blaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!  To be fair, I am just isolating this one thing, and of course it’s way more complex as we hear more of her story:  Her father is also bipolar, and has issues with boundaries, always wanting to be more of a “buddy” than a parent, stuff like that.  But really, nothing excuses this framework the caller has set up so starkly.  Can’t get past it!

The second instance I’ve recently come across is in a book called, At The Broken Places:  A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces.  This book is co-authored by both mother and son, and it is in many ways a difficult but worthwhile read.  It’s rich in its depth and complexity.  Both authors are not afraid to show their wounds and flaws, and, to be sure, some of that is cringe-worthy.

She (the mother, Mary Collins) delicately sidesteps the specific “my daughter has died” scenario, but she has an entire chapter entitled “Mapping Modern Grief,” and there’s plenty of comparisons to the death of her father at a young age, as well as, “I am grieving the loss of my daughter,” “I understood my daughter would never return,” and this mindboggling way of looking at it:  “My emotional journey with Donald seems to more closely mirror more nebulous losses, such as moving away from someone I will never see again.”

Not as in-your-face with the death imagery, but just as chafing, on an emotional level.


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…


Mx. Zine

A couple of weeks ago, a new zine, made by non-binary people, launched.  This first issue’s theme is sexuality and romance, and it can be purchased here, on Etsy:  Mx. Zine

The cost is sliding scale / pay what you want, and all profits will be donated to Trans Lifelife (a crisis helpline for trans people) and/or Black & Pink (queer prison abolitionists).  How cool is that?!

I just got mine in the mail, and I highly recommend it.  It’s 16 pages of poetry, photography, drawings, mini-comics, and prose.  It’s on really nice paper and is in color.  I first found out about it from AJ, a member of a facebook group that I’m also a part of.  I reached out and asked them a few questions to get a better sense of the scope of the project.

Kam:  What is your role in the group, and how did you get involved? 

AJ:  I don’t have an official name for my role in Mx., but I’m somewhere between an organizer and editor. I’d had the idea for a collaborative project made only by non-binary people, and had quite a bit of support from the community, and was able to gather a group of interested NBs. I laid out the basics, but a lot of the details were fine-tuned by suggestions and polls. Then people submitted their content, and I arranged it into the final product! 

Kam:  What are some of the long-term goals for this project? 

AJ:  I really hope this will head in the direction of a queer based distro, where we’d also distribute music, art, and other zines. I’d love to see the proceeds from that go towards getting radical queer and feminist literature into the hands of young queers.  

Kam:  Do you come from a writing / publishing background?  Have you made zines before? 

AJ:  I do a lot of writing for fun, but it’s not exactly a background. I’ve made several small zines before, but this was the first big project. 

Kam:  What are some ways newcomers can get involved? 

AJ:  Join our Facebook group! It’s a general group for recruiting and updating on upcoming projects. Our next issue will be along the lines of Queer Liberation and Revolution, and we’d love to hear from new contributors! https://www.facebook.com/groups/mxzine/  

Kam:  What are the pros and cons, in your opinion, in using a printed medium when so much around us is digital / digitized? 

AJ:  I’m definitely one who prefers holding what I’m reading, but also it can be a lot easier to get out if we’re going through a distro (which I’ve been working on trying to do). I also find people more likely to pass around and share zines rather than sending files. People who might not have a computer, or who have a hard time reading from them also benefit from physical copies.  

There are definitely benefits to having it digital as well, and it makes it accessible to more people. People can zoom in for larger text or invert the colors if that helps them. We’re also making a text-only document with image descriptions that will be available upon request.  

Kam:  How did the title for the zine get selected? 

AJ:  The title Mx. was decided by a poll in our Facebook group. I wish I could tell you who suggested it, but I’m not sure. The runner-up was “Enbious Vibes,” which I also liked a lot.  

 Kam:  Do you yourself identify as non-binary?   

AJ:  Yes! (In fact, everyone who collaborated on the zine identifies somewhere outside the binary.)  I label my gender simply as “Queer.” I’ve bounced around with different labels since I was thirteen, but I feel this describes me best, at least at this point in my life. I don’t like trying to use more specific labels (e.g. genderfluid, demi-boy/girl), since so many people define them differently. I do love that there is so much new terminology floating around, and there can be a lot of personal empowerment in choosing a specific classifier for yourself, and then fine-tuning its description to best suit your experience. Me personally, I feel empowered by emphasizing the blurry lines of gender. 

Thanks to AJ for the interview, and, again, get yourself a copy!!!  Here:   Mx. Zine


Beautiful/Anonymous: Trans-related episodes

I’ve been binge-listening to Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People, a podcast hosted by comedian Chris Gethard.  The premise is so super basic:  He “tweets” out the phone number when he is in the studio, and whoever ends up getting through talks with Chris, anonymously, for exactly one hour.  Sometimes it’s just chit chat, sometimes the caller has an agenda and they want to make the most of this platform.  Sometimes it’s funny, but more often, it’s sad, intense, and heartfelt.  I’ve heard the experiences of someone in an abusive relationship, someone who escaped from a cult, someone who was a heroin addict, someone who was in an inappropriate relationship with their teacher, and so much more – including two episodes in which the caller is a trans-person.

What Not To Ask A Trans Person (Episode #54)  In this episode, Chris deviated from the formula a bit – every so often, instead of taking a random call, he’ll ask people to leave a “pitch” as a phone message, and he will reach out to one of those people.  In this case, the caller is a 28 year-old transman who is engaged to a transwoman… and, unfortunately, that’s about all we get to know about him as a person.  The majority of the call is Trans-101 stuff – we are STILL only at this basic level with the general population.  Chris puts his foot in his mouth a couple of times (he makes it clear this will be inevitable.)  At one point he uses the word “transgender” as a verb, when he meant to say “transition.”  Also, this exchange was super cringe-worthy:

Caller:  “Even people who are not in any way transphobic, most people don’t know a lot about the experience being trans or the trans community, so they tend to be very curious.  And this is fine, except that often it ends up that often trans people end up being … put in a position of having to answer all their questions, sometimes very invasive questions … like, what your genitals look like.”
Chris:  [Talks super eloquently about mental health in the trans community, transphobia, and other vulnerabilities.  Then says] “I do like that the first one you did mention was people asking you about your genitals.  That’s gotta get real old real fast.  That being said, on behalf of everybody who is wondering, I wonder what your, what your eh, your your…” and then he trailed off.  DUDE.  The caller handled it really well, making it super clear that that’s not a question that you ask people.

Later on:
Chris:  “Are there any stories… Is there any real life shit you can put out there and just make it eye opening of like, ‘yeah, this shit is real.’  You know?”
Caller:  “You know, like, I think … the biggest thing is like, maybe stop murdering trans people.”  He said this so casually that I laughed out loud.

One other thing that the caller pointed out that I’d never really thought about before was when talking about the high percentage of trans people who have attempted suicide – I always saw that as some concrete indicator of how outcasted the population is, how brutal society has been toward trans people.  But for someone who is apt to brush that off and think that trans people are just mentally ill to begin with, that person will just cement it in their mind further that of course trans people want to kill themselves.  They’re crazy.  That’s demoralizing to think about.

Coming Out, With Katie Couric (Episode #77)  This one also deviated from the normal format in that it was the second episode ever where Chris had a co-host.  (The first one was episode #37 with Hannibal Buress.)  Apparently Katie Couric reached out to him, really wanting to come on his show!  The only thing I’d heard about her, any time lately, was that she botched an interview with transgender model Carmen Carrera in January 2014, asking things such as, “Your private parts are different now, aren’t they?”  And then later, Laverne Cox stepped up, came on her show, and told it like it is, namely, (and yep, I’m reiterating this from just a few paragraphs ago) That’s not a question that you ask people!

Since then, I’d basically villified Katie Couric in my head, just assuming she’s too mainstream and out of touch.  But, as she tells it, she had the opportunity to just edit all that garbage out, and she decided it was important to leave it in as a teachable moment, and admit her mistakes.  And then!  She went on to produce, along with National Geographic, a whole documentary called Gender Revolution, which came out in February of 2017.  I had no idea.

So when the random caller for this particular episode happened to be a trans-woman (and she had no idea Katie Couric was there with Chris when she called), it feels serendipitous.  And it’s a lot more interesting and personal than the other episode I’m highlighting, largely because it feels more meandering and off-the-cuff.  Chris, again, is a little off (he isn’t usually, haha!) and Katie Couric is super thoughtful and poised.  I kinda like her after this, even.  The caller is at the very beginning of her journey, as a 20 year-old junior in college, studying math and economics.  She has only told 6 people so far, and she’s just dabbled in painting her nails, little things like that.  She’s been on estrogen for two weeks.  She’s not yet comfortable seeking out support from other trans people, experimenting with clothing in private, anything along those lines.

It’s super interesting to hear from someone who is just starting to feel out her gender identity, as opposed to many of the voices from the trans community who seemingly have a lot of it figured out / are much further along in their journey.

Highly recommend these episodes!


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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Getting a pap smear as a transmasculine person

I don’t have a gynecologist.  I haven’t had one for probably 15 years.  The reason for that is because I felt so out of place there, so I let that aspect of my health passively slip away.  I’ve always gone to the dentist twice a year.  I was really into chiropractic care for years, consistently.  I’ve gotten eye exams.  I regularly go to a therapist and a psychiatrist.  I even have a primary care physician, and more recently, an endocrinologist.  But I’ve neglected and avoided anything related to my junk (this is just my preferred term for what I got going on down there…)

My last pap smear was in 2012, and I went through that because it was a prerequisite for getting testosterone gel.  That was enough of a motivating factor to go through that.  It was super painful and anxiety inducing, but I had done it!  Since then, there’s been no reason to get it done again, in my mind.  Prior to 2013, I’m not sure how long it had been.

About a year and a half ago, I was on a panel  with two other trans-people, in front of a group of health-care professionals, talking about our experiences with health services.  I mostly talked about my experiences with top-surgery consultations, but during the Q & A, the three of us were asked about sexual and reproductive health.  I was super open about how uncomfortable I am with this aspect of health care, and how I have avoided it.  I even felt a stubborn pride about it – something like, “if I avoid it, that verifies how little I relate to my junk.”  This really makes no sense whatsoever, and why exactly is this a point of pride?  My two peers were much more proactive – they had had lots of experiences with making sure their needs and check-ups were on track.

Two weeks ago, I was eating lunch with a super close friend.  She was mentioning something about her menstrual cycle and about how she needs to get her routine check-up.  I told her how long it’s been since I had a pap smear, and she seemed aghast.  I said I wasn’t going to be getting one either.  She said something to the effect of, “But you have to.”  She sort of role played a scenario in which hypothetically something scary is found, like HPV or cancer, that could have easily been avoided by just getting regular screenings.  The emotions she was pouring into it were what got me.  I kept going back and forth between, “OK, I will get it done,” and “No way never again!”  The conversation stayed with me.

A couple of days later, I had a lump in my armpit.  I’d never had anything like that before.  My spouse told me I should get that checked out.  This was something that was more straightforward!  I could definitely go to the doctor for something like this!  I called and got an appointment for the next morning.  Then it dawned on me that I should be getting a pap smear.  I waffled back and forth for a while, wondering if I’d be able to get myself to call back.  I finally did, pitching my voice as high as I could so it would be apparent that this request would not be totally incongruous.  Blah.

The pap smear was just as painful as the other times I’d gotten one, but I would say it was less anxiety-inducing.  What helped me get through it was trying to stay present in the moment, in the room.  I did this by talking with the nurse practitioner.  “This room is cold.”  “Please use the smallest one possible.”  “This is really hurting.”  Etc.

I gotta admit I do not know the exact reasons pap smears are important – what is being tested, etc.  But I do think I will be more on top of getting them every few years from now on…

To top this all off, on Saturday we were out in the woods with some friends.  Sunday morning, I felt something chafing on my chest, and when I looked, there was a tick latched in right on my nipple!  Eeaughhhh!!!  My spouse tweezed it and pulled it in half.  Half of it is still embedded in my skin.  I’m thinking it will work itself out on its own.  She talked to our friend on the phone – he regularly gets ticks and gets them tested in groups, after he’s collected a bunch.  So far so good but lyme disease is a scary possibility.  Do I have to go back to the doctor?!