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 It is trite, outdated, and toxic.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.
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.
In November of my senior year of high school, I had an appointment to see a counselor – my mom had set it up for me. I’m not sure who she contacted or what route she took to find this person – I should ask her. I never ended up going to them though because, a week before the appointment, I went to a psychiatric hospital. I talked to people there. And when I got out, I started seeing a therapist who was affiliated with that hospital. I went to her for the rest of that school year, plus my freshman year of college. I remember talking to her on the phone from my dorm room, and seeing her whenever I came home on breaks.
She quickly and easily became my favorite adult. I always looked forward to seeing her. I didn’t talk much. I had no template for how to converse, basically. She chipped away at that naturally, gradually, over time. Sometimes we would role-play. I often came home from our sessions and wrote out, word-by-word, our conversations. It’s really neat to read back through those!
She was the first person to ask me about gender, and specifically, if I was comfortable with my female body. I had just seen Boys Don’t Cry (my mom was reluctant to let me see it, but I was persistent, and she took me), and I told my therapist all about it. She asked me about different aspects of my body, and I admitted that I don’t like this or that about it, I don’t shave my legs, etc. But I essentially told her I couldn’t see myself as a man.
I started to go to a youth group through the local gay alliance that spring, and it was super helpful to be able to talk about those experiences from the group, with her. Plus I had a crush on someone at school – in my memories, it feels like 90% of our sessions were taken up talking about that, specifically. She always made me feel like there was potential and hope there. In the end, she was right. Kinda. In some ways. But that’s a different story!
Last week, I uncovered a cassette tape that has her name on it, in my handwriting. I knew exactly what it was – I always knew this tape existed. I had just misplaced it for a long time. I’d been passively searching for it for years, actually.
I put it in my tape deck, which is right behind me where I’m sitting now, and pushed “play.” I thought I would have some visceral or nostalgic reaction to her voice, but for whatever reason, I didn’t. It was just her, reading from a script, going through a guided relaxation full of visualizations. It was kinda cheesy. Nothing that actually felt like a connection.
As I was planning my radio show this week, I incorporated about 2 minutes of this tape, layered with an instrumental track.
When I went to therapy on Wednesday, I brought all this up – finding the tape, planning on including it on my show, thinking about her again. My current therapist knew her – they were collegues. I told her I was thinking about trying to contact her, but I was at a loss because she got married (changed her name) when she moved to North Carolina.
I’ve half-heartedly tried to “google” her once or twice, a long time ago. For whatever reason, it felt super weird and I didn’t pursue it any further. But actually talking it out, at therapy (and I’m talking about the here-and-now, current therapist) made it not seem strange at all. People do these things. They reach out, try to find important others from their pasts, all the time.
I’m gonna do it! I’m pretty sure I tracked down her phone number online. Now I just gotta figure out what I’d say in a message. My voice sounds male now – I’m gonna have to explain that. I have a different name. Yet another coming out. What am I gonna say?!
Stay tuned for the conclusion, where I actually talk to her, if it all works out…
A 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
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.
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!
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:
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?!
This year was the 25th anniversary of our local annual LGBTQ+ film festival! We made an effort to invite friends to different films this time around, which was fun – connecting with some people we hadn’t seen much lately was nice. Most of these links are to trailers, and a couple are to the films’ websites.
Beach Rats – I went to this one by myself, and I was surrounded by gay men, for the most part. There’s something about that that I really embrace; it doesn’t happen often enough. The general story-line is that this young man is living a double life – hanging out with his friends drinking, smoking pot, playing handball, going to Coney Island, getting a girlfriend. When he’s by himself though, he turns to online websites to hook up with older men. I like the way it was filmed. Really sparse. And the story-line takes an unusual twist.
Tom of Finland – This is the Finnish entry for best foreign language film for the upcoming Academy Awards – how cool is that?!! This was a really well done bio-pic. I really didn’t know much about him other than what I saw of his drawings. He fought in WWII. He had a complex and interesting relationship with his sister. He had a long-lasting partner. He had fans all over the world, but especially in California, and they made sure he knew he was celebrated, flying him in for parties he inspired, etc. Highly recommend!
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson – You can watch this movie on Neflix if you want. So, this is really only some of the story. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the production of this film and who’s work is being credited, which we only found out about the day before we were going to see it. Here’s one article that gets into all the details: What Would Trans Art Look Like if it Was Only Made By Trans People? To sum it up in one sentence, a trans-woman of color – Reina Gossett – has been working on a film about Marsha P. Johnson, and she had done a ton of legwork and archival studying. Then this dude – David France – swoops in with his finances and his connections and essentially steals the work that had been made thus far. So, our experience was a little bit soured, but I have to admit it was still a good film. And I hope Reina Gossett is still feeling empowered to move ahead and create her own film – the more films that will educate people about transgender people and issues, the better. I just realized I didn’t say anything about what this film is about – so go watch it on Netflix! Haha.
Alaska is a Drag – This one was kinda campy. It features twins who are stuck living in Alaska – a gay guy working at a fish cannery, learning boxing, and fantasizing about making it big as a drag queen, and his sister who has cancer and is getting regular treatments, but her spirits are high, indulging in the world of drag her brother creates. It was so-so. Definitely different, but not all that compelling.
Freak Show – This was SUPER campy. Directed by Trudy Styler (Sting’s wife!) A kid has to move to a southern state and attend a super conservative high school. His mom is Bette Midler, er, I mean, a mom played by Bette Midler. He endures bullying on top of bullying and hate crimes and more and more violence. He then decides to up the ante and run for homecoming queen. Laverne Cox has a small role – that was one of the best parts. Also, costuming was stunning, but otherwise, I wasn’t a huge fan.
Saturday Church – This centers on a 14 year old boy named Ulysses. Similar themes as Freak Show, but the approach is a little more realistic. He starts to question his gender identity amidst bullying at school and conservative viewpoints from relatives. He meets other gender variant people of different stripes, they all convene at a youth service / shelter on Saturday nights. Kate Bornstein plays the person in charge of the space!!! They eat together, attend “balls” together, and talk about hardships. I liked this film a lot!
I surpassed my best guess at a timeline. When I started in January, I gave the whole venture 6-8 months. I thought I’d start getting uncomfortable with the level of masculinization by that time, and I’d stop. Not for good, just for a while, to level back out, and then most likely start again within another year or two. Something like that. BUT! I really like what’s going on. I like everything except for the facial hair growth, and that’s been pretty minimal thus far. Minimal enough to manage, without having to shave. I like my voice, the muscle growth, legs getting hairier, and clit growth. I haven’t noticed my hairline receding any further than it already has (I was on a low dose of gel for 3 years and saw my hairline change). And I really really really like the cessation of menses. I never had severe symptoms with that, but having it as one less thing, showing up to deal with, cyclically, is a really big plus.
Today was also my 3rd appointment with an endo, and I have a new one now (the one I started with moved to Oregon). I liked her immediately. She wrote down notes. She was curious if my psychiatrist sees other trans-patients, and if I like her, so that she can have someone to refer others to. Same with my therapist. She wanted to know about my experience with my top surgeon. I gave her my full report. She just seemed to really want to get a grasp on who’s who within trans-health, and to glean a lot of that information from actual patients, which felt really validating.
I asked her questions about needle gauges, and she asked me if I was interested in sub-cutaneous injecting. I said, “yes!” even though I hadn’t thought about bringing this up in particular, in advance. It’s just something I’ve heard other trans-people on testosterone talk about as an easier and less painful route. But I assumed it was something totally different, like a different style needle, possibly a different type of oil, etc. I learned it’s not – you just use a significantly smaller needle, and inject it into fat instead of muscle.
This next paragraph is going to be kinda graphic, heads up if you have a needle phobia! So, imagine using a fairly long and thick needle and just jabbing that straight down into your quad muscle, perpendicularly. And then having to push the oil out of the syringe, which does take some force because the oil is thick. This has been painful, to varying degrees, and often there is blood. Sometimes my muscle is sore that night and into the next day. Now, instead!!! I’m gonna get to use a thinner needle, and just slide that in at an angle, but fairly parallel with the skin. It’ll only have to go in a half inch or so, not one-and-a-half inches. It’ll still be hard to push the oil out and in, but just the fact that it’s a layer of fat and not a thick meaty muscle sounds pretty good to me! I can’t wait to switch over! I’ll have to watch some videos or something. The endo did suggest I could come in and a nurse practitioner could show me, but I think I got it.
The one thing about the appointment that felt a little off was she gave me a quick exam, with all my clothes on. This was in itself was fine, although I was caught a little off guard.. She checked my lymph nodes, breathing, throat, etc. Then she said to lay down, and even though I was wearing a t-shirt and hoodie zipped up all the way, she kind of put her hands under there and said she wanted to take a look at my chest. Maybe she could have asked. I probably would have said sure. But she was like, touching my nipples and commenting on skin retraction. And it felt weird. It’s not like it was lingering in a bad way. I pretty much immediately got over it. It was just very unexpected.
And, like always, here’s my face:
This actually happened a few months ago – she was fired from a nearby college on May 24th. It’s only now hitting larger news outlets because there are now three state-level civil rights complaints, trying to get her re-instated. I read about it in the newspaper while at work, yesterday.
She was treating transgender students who came to her with a previous diagnosis. She was definitely qualified to do so, having gone through many hours of training in trans-health care, attending a conference sponsored by WPATH (World Professional Association for Transgender Health), etc. She was doing this at the college’s expense, which just makes it seem like it was condoned by the college, right?!!
WPATH’s stance is, “With appropriate training, …hormone therapy can be managed by a variety of providers, including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and primary care physicians.” Apparently, this was outside the scope of what the Student Health Center did, but this was never communicated to her. The termination came from out of the blue.
Hormones are prescribed for other reasons at the health center, with no problem. Birth control, ovarian disease, and low testosterone are all treated regularly.
Interestingly, the information on the Student Health Center’s website changed two months after her firing: While it had said, “comprehensive primary care,” and “continuity of care,” it now says, “basic primary care” and has no mention of continuous care. At least they’re being accurate about the downgrade???
This just angers me to no end because this doctor took it upon herself to step it up and become well versed in an area that, for whatever reason, makes so many medical professionals so squeamish and stand-offish. And if this was something she did of her own volition, and it was well within the standards of care, then back it up! What was the university afraid of? There are standards in this field, despite the fact that the medical professions are grotesquely behind the curve with this, in general. A bunch of transgender students were left in the lurch.
The college’s associate vice president of student wellness was quoted as saying, “We are fortunate to be situated in [city], where there is a strong medical community rich with resources.” As if to say that students can just go elsewhere. I’ve tried “elsewhere” around here, as an adult, and it was a super-frustrating process. If I think back to who I was at age 18 or 19, disrupted care at the on-campus center in this regard would have definitely sent me into a tailspin and/or mental health crisis. I would have felt like I didn’t have the means or psychic energy to find out another path. I would have felt deeply cut, in a personal way, by my institution’s sudden change in policy.
It just seemed like this college was at the forefront – it could have laid the groundwork for other area places of higher education to follow. And then it just took a huge leap back into the wrong direction. One step forward, two steps back sometimes I guess, right?
I had a bunch of problems with getting continuous care. I was first getting hormones from a sketchy-ass doctor. I finally felt so disgusted with his practice that I sought out another path. I went to one specifically because she was listed as being LGBT friendly and knowledgeable. That ended up being wrong basically – she told me she didn’t know how she had gotten on that resource list. I had to have a pretty heated conversation with her – her stance first was that I could come to her for primary care, but I should continue to get my hormone prescriptions through that other doctor. I told her I wasn’t going to do that. She told me this was beyond her scope and if she had a male patient with low-testosterone, she would not even monitor him for that reason.
We finally landed on a compromise. She would continue to prescribe what I was already at, and she would monitor that. If I wanted to make any changes though, I would have to do that through other means.
When I did want to make other changes, I first got on a long waiting list for an LGBT-specific clinic. I kept hearing negative stories about the quality of care there, so I decided to also try another approach: an endocrinologist. I had to get on a long waiting list for that, as well. I’ve been going there since January, and so far, I’m happy because I don’t have to deal with the PCP anymore. Getting an endo was not like adding yet another medical professional and another series of appointments. It was more like, instead. Unless I get like, a rash or something, then I’d go back to my PCP.
All of this was hard enough, and I am an adult who has worked really hard at advocating for myself. Thinking back to who I was as a student I would have withered under this kind of stress. Students need to be able to access trans-specific care on their campuses. Period.
A note about the lack of specifics in this post: I left out the doctor’s name and the name of the college, city, etc. because that’s been the way I’ve always operated with this blog, in order to keep some anonymity. I’m not sure anymore whether it’s all necessary, but I’m not about to try to figure that out here-and-now. If you’d like specifics and the names of the sources I got a lot of this information from, just leave a comment, and I’ll get back to you!
As top surgery results and testosterone have been working their magic, I have felt less hung up on how I am perceived. This is great news! I feel less drained when I go out in public, generally. I’ve taken things into my own hands when I feel like I’ve needed to, and this had not been psychically difficult, by any means! Here are some ways I have been true to my non-binary identity:
1. I Tampered With My Driver’s License.
Since I don’t live in Oregon or California, I still have to legally be either “Male” or “Female.” Although I legally changed my name to something more masculine, I opted to remain “female,” legally. This has led to feelings of dysphoria, but being “male” would have anyway, as well. So, as of a few months ago, I decided to put a bright neon sticker over my “Sex” on my driver’s license. At first it was neon orange. Currently it’s neon green. The color doesn’t make too much of a difference – just the fact that no one can see whether it’s “M” or “F” is huge for me. I’ve shown it at the pharmacy, bought beer with it, gotten “carded” at restaurants, shown it to bouncers at bars and nightclubs. No one has commented or had an issue with it – they just need to know how old I am, and that I am who I say I am! That’s it. (As an aside, when I traveled abroad, I did take the sticker off, because I didn’t think TSA agents would be too thrilled about that…)
2. School Pictures
I am an elementary school janitor – every year, I go through the same routines: first day of school, winter concerts, spring concerts, curriculum nights, open house, book fair, the 5th grade breakfast, last day of school, etc. No one can forget school pictures! They happen within the first weeks of school – this year, it was a week ago, today. As a staff member, I have to participate, and then I get some free photos, and I get a sheet of all the faculty and staff, every year. In the past, I have gone by the initials that I used to go by, which was “KT” and then [last name]. Unless I wasn’t feeling like speaking up (which was the case on a couple of occasions) I made sure the picture company had me down as “KT” instead of “Mrs.,” “Ms.,” or “Mr.” This year, surprisingly, I “passed” as male, as I saw the picture lady write down, “Mr.” and then ask me what my last name is. Without hesitating, I gave her my last name (new, legally changed), and then said, “Can you change that ‘Mr.’ to ‘Mx.’? It’s neither ‘Mr.’ nor ‘Ms.’ ” She replied, “I guess I can,” and I watched her cross out what she had and re-write “Mx.” It was awesome! I kinda can’t wait to get my sheet of faculty and staff photos this year.
3. Playing It By Ear, As I Go
This last one is a bit of a contradiction -I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I cannot assert my non-binary identity in every and all cases, so, if people are given a heads-up that I’ve changed my name and pronouns, in some situations, that is good enough. Especially at work. Teachers have been great about switching over. And I honestly don’t know how many of them get the nuances I’ve tried to convey. A couple of them for sure, because they asked me questions, and I had some really satisfying conversations. But in addition to this, there’s a larger group of people who are slowly hearing about it (or not) by word of mouth – mainly buildings and grounds workers. Electricians, plumbers, HVAC specialists, people I see now and then, but certainly not every day. If they get that I am a trans-person, and they are respectful, then, that is good enough. There’s this one guy who is over at our school a lot. A few weeks ago, he took me aside, and, obviously nervous about the exchange, he said, “So, I just want to know, because we are friends… It’s Kameron now?” He was just verifying something he wanted to make sure he was getting right, and, in my eyes, I was really psyched about this because he’s a guy that I think other workers look up to. So, the more positivity around it, the better. The less nasty gossip behind my back, the better. And, to that end, I just went to a union meeting two days ago, and the secretary addressed me by my old moniker, “KT.” I almost didn’t correct her, because… I don’t know… the picking your battles thing, I guess. BUT! Someone else corrected her, someone that I didn’t know knew yet! And so, I riffed off of that, asserting, “Yep, it’s Kameron now. I changed my name.” She shrunk into herself at hearing that, but, whatever. Another buildings and grounds guy took it from there, telling me loudly that his “niece” just transitioned recently into his “nephew.” We sat down and continued to converse so that anyone and everyone could hear, if they tuned in. He was just overjoyed to be accepting “Shane,” his middle-school-aged family member. At no point did I try to assert that I was neither male nor female. If he got the gist that I am trans, and he spreads the word with a positive attitude, then that is better than good enough. Acceptance, even if limited in understanding, is still worth it!