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!


Bathroom anxieties: a genderqueer janitor’s perspective (pt. 3 / summer edition)

The bathrooms (all except for two) at the school I work at are getting a complete makeover this summer!  (This is only a part of the remodeling / demolition that’s been going on – it’s been a fairly chaotic and atypical few months.  Most of the time it feels like, how is all of this going to be completed by September 4th?!)

Here’s a quick rundown of the bathroom count:
3 boys gang bathrooms
3 girls gang bathrooms
1 mens staff bathroom
1 womens staff bathroom
2 gender-neutral staff bathrooms
1 girls gym teacher bathroom
1 boys gym teacher bathroom
1 nurse’s office gender-neutral bathroom
7 classroom gender-neutral bathrooms
2 girls single-use bathrooms
1 boys single-use bathroom

I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that my workplace has more bathroom options than pretty much anywhere else, ever.  As a genderqueer person, I have never stressed out about where I was going to go pee.  Never, until this summer.  All bathrooms are out of commission except for one girls gang bathroom and one boys gang bathroom.  “Gang,” in this case, means that more than one person can enter and use the bathroom at a time.  I am missing my gender-neutral option!

Before I came out at work, I was using both womens and gender-neutral bathrooms.  After I came out at work, I gradually transitioned to only using gender-neutral bathrooms.  One good thing about all this upheaval is that when they’re done, there will be 4 more gender-neutral bathrooms than there had been previously.  !!!  !!!

Until then though, I’ve had to make some tough decisions.  As the bathroom options started to shrink (due to demolition), I was getting creative, for a while.  For example, I realized there was still a toilet not yet destroyed in on of the classrooms, and I was using that for a while.  My co-worker, who knew I’d been only using gender-neutral options, asked me, “So which bathroom are you going to use?”  Being semi-facetious, I replied, “I’ll use the womens for #1 and the mens for #2.”  And I actually was doing that for a while.

But then I started running into other people who were also using the bathroom as the pickings got slim.  And I started getting nervous.  I’d rather people saw me as male and used he/him/his pronouns for me than not.  Some people get that I’m neither, and that’s great, but I don’t need the whole school understanding this nuance.  Things have been so much better for me since coming out; I just want to keep up that momentum.

So I made a stark, black and white decision, that I was going to use the boys gang bathroom, no matter who was around or who wasn’t around.  It was tough to wrap my head around because, since top surgery, coming out, and being on a regular dose of T (in that order), I’ve been in all sorts of bathrooms depending on the context, how I’m feeling, and what the options are.  But I STILL prefer and gravitate towards womens rooms.  And I STILL have not been stopped or questioned once.

But, in this case, I’ve been feeling like I gotta do this because I’m trying to assert and simplify my identity so everyone gets the picture / is on the same page.  It’s been working.  Almost everyone (except my former supervisor who keeps leeching onto the building) uses he/him/his pronouns for me.  Essentially, I haven’t been wanting to confuse people or have them question where I’m at.  Even the contractors – all of them have been calling me “buddy,” and that actually feels really good!

It defintely has been nervewracking though.  A few times, I almost ran into the girls room when I heard that someone was in the boys.  I’ve never been in a mens/boys room with other males.  (Er, actually, maybe a handful of times when I was traveling in Turkey, but that’s it.)  But I stuck it out and passed them at the urinal in order to use the stall.  Or was in the stall and heard them using the urinal.  Or at the sink, etc.  I went into the boys room while B&G (buildings and grounds – for the district) workers were around, while my co-workers were around, while (female) teachers were around.

And in the end, it’s all been OK.  (It was a little less nerve-wracking, overall, because contractors were made to use a port-a-potty outside.  Sucks to be them!)  All I mean by that was that there were way less males using the school’s boys bathroom.

As soon as I can though, I will be right back in those gender-neutral, single stall bathrooms, which will be all over the place!!!

Wanna see other posts I’ve made in this series?  Here they are:
Bathroom anxieties:  a genderqueer janitor’s perspective
Bathroom anxieties:  a genderqueer janitor’s perspective (pt. 2)

Oh, and, as always, I’ve been all over both the girls and the boys bathroom, in order to clean them, daily.


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

IMG_20180719_191241

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

 


5 years of writing here

WordPress sent me a notification today letting me know that it’s my 5th anniversary of blogging here.  So I’m scrambling to do a celebratory post!

When I started this blog, I was trying soooo hard to navigate my gender identity and to find a community.  I’d say the first year or two was spent feeling like my blog was not enough, just continually putting myself out there and obsessing about how to connect with others through this method.  I spent hours, daily, reading as many other blogs as I could find, about gender.  After about 2 years, I think I started to feel secure in my writing voice, if not quite my gender yet.  I really settled into writing regularly, and I got so much enjoyment out of it – this more than any other creative endeavor, for a long time.  I’d say that within the past year, that’s shifted again, and I’ve felt pretty disenfranchised.  I get way more “views” than ever before, mostly thanks to this singular post:  28 risks of chest binding.  People love a good scare.  They love to google things that could go wrong.  I’m definitely proud of that post – I put a lot of work into that one.  And I do love the fact that once they find my blog through that route, it seems like the majority of people poke around a little more and go deeper.  (This is based on what I can tell from “stats.”)  But the sense of community I felt so strongly has dwindled over time.  People have stopped posting / I have stopped finding new blogs to read.  There are a few mainstays that I haven’t quite kept up with; I’d like to remedy that…

The way I decided to celebrate this milestone is to pick 5 blog posts that I think got overlooked (one per year).  Either I put a lot of emotional energy into them and didn’t get much feedback, or maybe I just think they’re worth checking out – they withstand the test of time, something like that…

2013:  From whimsical musings to invasive rumintations on transitioning – This was my 10th post ever, and I really think I zeroed in on the psychological push-pull of not feeling like either gender for the first time here.  I even used some of what I wrote here much later, in an essay that is forthcoming as part of an anthology published by Columbia University Press.  For real!  The date keeps being pushed back, but it will be within a year – I’m sure I’ll have updates as that approaches.

2014:  The Soft Sell (upping the ante) – This was my 30th post.  It was mostly about:  despite the fact I may have been solidifying my gender identity more and more, I was waaaay behind in telling a lot of the people in my life about it.  The blog was a great outlet to be semi-private but also just feel it out as I went.  The term “the soft sell” came from my therapist – that was her reaction to me telling her the half-assed way I had come out to my parents.  When she said that, all I could picture was the members from Soft Cell, one of my fave bands.  That has always stayed with me.  Hah.

2015:  I came out to the principal of my school (workplace) – This post was definitely not overlooked, but I still think it’s worth highlighting.  I came out to her waaaaay before I actually actively came out at work, and I strongly feel like the fact that I did that, that I put those roots down, gave me hope toward my final destination.  It also breaks down the divide I feel between the “janitor” and the “queer” parts of my identity – this blog has continually felt out where that line is, where it crosses, where they are distinct, etc.  I just really like this post because it addresses a lot of that stuff head-on.

2016:  Drag king stories #5 – This is definitely my favorite entry within this ongoing series I’ve been doing.  I wrote it in honor of Prince’s death (the actual show took place in June of 2012) – the fact that I got to emulate Prince at a really well attended event meant the world to me, and the fact that I performed one of the songs with my drag partner/buddy’mentor made it all the more special.  We were both regular drag performers at a gay bar in 2006 and 2007.  Before I could articulate where I wanted to go with my gender, I got to act it out in all kinds of fun and creative ways, harnessing music and dance and costuming and make-up.  Being a drag performer was a big step in my journey – this post really showcases that, I think.

2017:  Jeepster (working title: I got an oil change and got my mind blown) – this is a real oddball post.  I’ve always said that the three things this blog is about are: gender, being a janitor, and mental health, and this one here really crystalizes a mental state that was temporary (thankfully!)  I had just recently gotten through the thick of a manic episode, and the residual disorganization / megaorganization is still very much apparent in the writing here.  I think I want to highlight it because I’m currently working on a 16+ page piece where I just try to remember as much as I can about my most recent hospitalization.  This is a companion piece.

And I’m gonna cop out and not do 2018 because the year’s not done yet!  Plus, it’s my 5th anniversary, so I’m highlighting 5 posts.  Makes sense.  Here’s to 5 more years!


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.


Voice drop

I wanted to highlight this change, on testosterone, because I’ve vacillated so much over time, and it seems worth noting.  Initially, this was the thing I feared the most.  It’s one of the changes that happens early on, is irreversible, and is most noticeable.  I wanted to avoid it all together, partially because I wasn’t ready to come out beyond what I was comfortable with (my community and friends).  I didn’t want this change to “out me” before I was ready.  Also, I didn’t want to tip the gender balance – I wanted to be, over-all, androgynous and not definitively masculine in any way.

When I was on a low dose of Androgel (for over 2 years), I successfully kept things right where I wanted them.  Then I went off T completely for a while, and in that time, I started DJing for a community radio station.  I didn’t like listening back to my shows at first, so I just didn’t.  They felt cringe-worthy.  Eventually I started listening, and improving, and switching things up.  I started to find my voice, suuuuuuper gradually.

About a year in, I was ready to plunge into T-injections and all the changes that may come along with that, including my voice dropping.  I had already come out with family and at work and had changed my name legally, so those things were no longer road-blocks.

It was a bizarre and largely private thing to go through.  I don’t talk all that much in my daily life, to begin with, so it was a lot of testing out the changes, daily, in my car alone.  And then also the radio show, weekly.  I know there were times when my voice cracked, but I haven’t listened back, specifically, for that.  I’m sure I could find those moments, in the archives, if I really wanted to.  But I don’t!  Haha.

Fast forward, and I am super satisfied with my voice as it is now.  I have a hard time relating to how tortured I felt about it in the past.  Along with increased confidence and comfort with my body and my place in the world, my voice just feels natural.  It also just feels so much easier to find words, to converse in all sorts of situations, and to be more out there.  It is awesome in so many ways.

In preparing for my 100th radio show, I did go back to those first few shows and listened to them probably for the first time.  And they WERE totally cringe-worthy, haha.  My voice was stilted and stiff; I sounded so unsure of myself.  I did a cool thing where I isolated some of the sound clips from those early shows, and then I played them live, on my 100th show.  Here’s me, talking about lunch over the course of a handful of shows, before T-injections, and then me interjecting over top of that – you can really notice the change in my voice that way!  Also my best friend was there in the studio – she’s the third voice on this track:


Hair

My hair is the longest its ever been.  It’s also only 3/8 of an inch, on the sides.  I cut and buzz it myself.  I’m not sure whether it was a conscious decision (probably partially conscious), but as my face has become more masculine, I’ve grown my hair out in the back so that it falls over my shoulders slightly.  Also, it has gotten a lot more curly since I’ve been on testosterone.

I was initially on a low dose of Androgel for a few years, and there were really only 2 reasons that I stopped, in December of 2015:  1) I wasn’t sure what it was doing for me, at that dose, anymore.  And 2) Was it causing my hairline to recede?  That was totally freaking me out!

Two years later, I was ready to give testosterone another try.  The pros I envisioned (lowered voice, redistribution of fat and muscle, heightened libido, bottom growth) outweighed the cons I was pretty sure I’d come up against (feeling hotter, sweatier, potential hair growth and hair loss.)  And now that it’s been close to a year and a half, on a “regular” dose of injections, I’m still “in it” with that balance.  I don’t love all the changes.  But I love some of the changes more than I dislike others.

Hair is a big factor.  Probably the biggest factor at this point.  I’ll start with the easiest, most fun change:

Happy trail!!!  I’ve always wanted a happy trail, and now, finally, I have one.  That’s all I got to say about that.  It is awesome!!!

Facial Hair:  I do not like the increased facial hair at all.  I regularly – daily – pluck out chin and moustache hairs with tweezers.  I kind of love this activity – it’s satisfying to grab and pull out, one-at-a-time, each hair.  However, it’s more and more time-consuming, over time, as I have more to pluck out.  In addition, I’m sure I’m missing a bunch, especially finer hairs that can be seen in the sunlight.  Is this OK?  I guess for now, but it is a fine balance.  You know that old belief that may or may not be true?  That if you shave, the hairs will come back in thicker and darker?  I kinda believe that.  I don’t want to take that chance with my face.  Also, I’m not ruling out electrolysis, as a long-term solution, if it really feels that overwhelming in the future.

Hairline:  My hairline has definitely changed since being on testosterone.  I have a much more pronounced “widow’s peak.”  This is worrisome.  Balding definitely runs in my family.  I feel vain about it.  As of now, I just arrange the curls on the top of my head so that they fall forward, curly bangs covering up male pattern baldness.  But I’m not sure if I get to do this forever.  Probably not.

I also got some hair growth going on in other parts of my body, like my lower back and legs – all this feels neutral and natural.  I’m neither bothered nor excited about it.

I’m actually leaning toward lowering my dose now, as it gets warmer out.  I don’t want to feel overheated and smelly and sweaty.  And if a lower dose will slow some of the balding down, I’d probably feel better about it.  As long as my menstrual cycle doesn’t come back – that’s the balance I’m aiming for right now…  I’m sure I’ll feel differently at other points as well, but this is where I’m at.


Contacting my first therapist – backstory

In November of my senior year of high school, I had an appointment to see a counselor – my mom had set it up for me.  I’m not sure who she contacted or what route she took to find this person – I should ask her.  I never ended up going to them though because, a week before the appointment, I went to a psychiatric hospital.   I talked to people there.  And when I got out, I started seeing a therapist who was affiliated with that hospital.  I went to her for the rest of that school year, plus my freshman year of college.  I remember talking to her on the phone from my dorm room, and seeing her whenever I came home on breaks.

She quickly and easily became my favorite adult.  I always looked forward to seeing her.  I didn’t talk much.  I had no template for how to converse, basically.  She chipped away at that naturally, gradually, over time.  Sometimes we would role-play.  I often came home from our sessions and wrote out, word-by-word, our conversations.  It’s really neat to read back through those!

She was the first person to ask me about gender, and specifically, if I was comfortable with my female body.  I had just seen Boys Don’t Cry (my mom was reluctant to let me see it, but I was persistent, and she took me), and I told my therapist all about it.  She asked me about different aspects of my body, and I admitted that I don’t like this or that about it, I don’t shave my legs, etc.  But I essentially told her I couldn’t see myself as a man.

I started to go to a youth group through the local gay alliance that spring, and it was super helpful to be able to talk about those experiences from the group, with her.  Plus I had a crush on someone at school – in my memories, it feels like 90% of our sessions were taken up talking about that, specifically.  She always made me feel like there was potential and hope there.  In the end, she was right.  Kinda.  In some ways.  But that’s a different story!

Last week, I uncovered a cassette tape that has her name on it, in my handwriting.  I knew exactly what it was – I always knew this tape existed.  I had just misplaced it for a long time.  I’d been passively searching for it for years, actually.

I put it in my tape deck, which is right behind me where I’m sitting now, and pushed “play.”  I thought I would have some visceral or nostalgic reaction to her voice, but for whatever reason, I didn’t.  It was just her, reading from a script, going through a guided relaxation full of visualizations.  It was kinda cheesy.  Nothing that actually felt like a connection.

As I was planning my radio show this week, I incorporated about 2 minutes of this tape, layered with an instrumental track.

When I went to therapy on Wednesday, I brought all this up – finding the tape, planning on including it on my show, thinking about her again.  My current therapist knew her – they were collegues.  I told her I was thinking about trying to contact her, but I was at a loss because she got married (changed her name) when she moved to North Carolina.

I’ve half-heartedly tried to “google” her once or twice, a long time ago.  For whatever reason, it felt super weird and I didn’t pursue it any further.  But actually talking it out, at therapy (and I’m talking about the here-and-now, current therapist) made it not seem strange at all.  People do these things.  They reach out, try to find important others from their pasts, all the time.

I’m gonna do it!  I’m pretty sure I tracked down her phone number online.  Now I just gotta figure out what I’d say in a message.  My voice sounds male now – I’m gonna have to explain that.  I have a different name.  Yet another coming out.  What am I gonna say?!

Stay tuned for the conclusion, where I actually talk to her, if it all works out…


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