Trans on the Internet Part 2

This is Part 2 of an essay I was hoping would be published in an anthology.  That project fell through (total bummer), so I’m posting it here.
Here is Part 1:  Trans on the Internet Part 1
___________________________________________
Why did I not just “google” these terms?  Well, because in 2001, “google” was not a well-known verb.  OK, so why did I not just “Yahoo search” stuff at random or Ask Jeeves, the kindly butler?  I do not really know the answer to that, other than to say it’s not quite how I tend to process things.  I’ve never even googled my own name.  Rarely, if ever, have I searched for a former classmate on Facebook.  As opposed to casting a wide net and surfing the web, I prefer to find my own little ways to engage, and then exhaust those channels to no end.  So instead of finding out everything I could about the term “transmasculine,” for example, I stuck to one thing for a very long period of time:  obsessively looking at transition photos on LiveJournal’s community “FTMVanity” (without ever once posting my own picture.)  I branched out slightly, eventually, to also check out the photos at XXboyz (http://kaeltblock.fr/xxboys/portfolio/).  I was, unsuccessfully, looking for myself.  I finally got up the nerve to join “our_own_path” (another LiveJournal community, about non-binary transition / non-transition options), but, again, never once posted.  I preferred to use the Internet to stay within my comfort zone and engage that way.  Instant messaging people I already know well in real life, pouring my heart and soul into a private online journal (housed at Diaryland.com), downloading music through Napster, and… that’s about it.

I’ve checked in on things here and there, post-college.  But, for the most part, I dropped out.  Gender identity became too overwhelming to unravel, and I more-or-less gave up for a number of years.  Tried not to think about it.  Tried not to dwell on whether or not I should take testosterone, get top surgery, come out yet again, any of that.  I continued to use the internet for emailing, connecting with the local anarchist community, and promoting events I was involved in.  Maybe to do some online shopping once in a while.  Oh, and to download music.  I was alternately only kinda happy, and not happy at all.

I finally, fortunately, hit a breaking point and started sorting my way through.  I got back into therapy and decided on some steps that would help me become the person I see myself as.  I’m fully embracing my non-binary trans identity and finding ways to express that.  I’ve been on a low-dose of testosterone for over 2 years now.  I’m considering top surgery.  And a legal name change.  I find that I want to talk all about every aspect of this, and more, in depth, long-term.

A turning point for me was meeting Micah (http://neutrois.me) at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference in 2013.  I had been on testosterone for two months at that point, and I was soaking up everything he had to say, as the facilitator of a workshop called, “Non-Binary Transition: Exploring the Options.”  I went to speak to him briefly after his presentation; he handed me a “business card” for his blog.

A month later, I started my own blog.  I’ve had locked and “friends only” online journals before (on the aforementioned Diaryland and LiveJournal, as well as Blurty), but this feels very different.  I am engaging with people I have never met before.  I am being quite public about my life experiences, vulnerabilities, hopes, and desires.  I am reading masses of other blogs about gender identity, daily.  I feel very much a part of a community and an ongoing dialogue.  Recently, I wrote about how it feels to be given a diagnosis, and I also asked for recommendations for resources to give to my therapist.  I got a bunch of feedback – links to articles, recommendations for books, people making sure I’m aware of the WPATH-SOC.  One person even offered to forward me a copy of the letter they just wrote (on their therapist’s behalf) in order to move forward with top surgery as a transmasculine (but not FTM) person.  I took them up on it and felt this overwhelming rush of support and happiness at this free flow of information.

The following year, I went back to the Philly Trans-Health Conference, and this time, I was able to connect with a handful of people, people I’d met through online channels.  It would be essentially impossible for me to approach a stranger and connect.  With a lot of the groundwork already established, it was much easier to find the people I was looking for.  A couple of people even approached me; they knew of me through my blog.

I don’t think we tend to seek things out we cannot yet handle.  Throughout my gender identity explorations, I was pretty closed off because I just was not there yet.  I didn’t meet people online or seek out tips for binding or masculine hair styles.  I needed to be fairly isolated within myself and see where that led me.  I now feel like I want to share as much as possible, and connect with others going through things I might have gone through, or am currently going through.

We are not living in a queer/trans utopia, but through online channels, it is possible to create that illusion, even if just for brief moments of our day.  The Internet allows for these fringe groups to flourish, for people to find each other and change the world, one blog post, YouTube video, web comic, and/or tweet at a time.
___________________________________________

What are some ways in which you found out about trans-identities?

Trans on the Internet Part 1

Last July, I submitted a proposal for an essay to a new and exciting anthology all about the ways transgender identities inform the internet and vice versa.  My proposal was accepted, and I submitted my piece for editing in December.  I was stoked!  Unfortunately though, I just heard word that the editors are not moving forward with the project (due to workloads and paid work vs. passion filled but unpaid work).  So I figured I’ll publish it on my blog.  Not nearly as exciting, but still something!  (I’m breaking it into two parts because it’s pretty long).

I am right on the cusp of Generation X (slackers) and Generation Y (millennials).  I’m on the borderlands of a trans identity. I’m on the verge of grasping/rejecting technological innovations.  I’m comfortable right where I am, hanging out at the edge of all these precipices.  Due to my age , gender identity, and complex feelings about technology, I find myself neither here nor there in terms of what feels best.  I continue to mix and match as I go, remaining critical along the way.

I was born in 1981, which means I most definitely did not grow up with cell phones or internet access.  Even though they were available in the 80s, we didn’t have cable television, a microwave oven, or a portable telephone either (picture a tan rotary telephone mounted to the wall, with a long, coiled cord).  I have always been wary of new technologies as they slowly embed themselves into our collective landscape and my individual lifestyle.  The transitions never feel seamless.  They always impact me greatly, imprinting upon my memories…

The first time I used a microwave:  I was a kid.  I was at the grocery store with my dad, and there was a station where you could microwave your own bag of popcorn.  Like many people do all of the time, even after 20+ years of practice, we burnt the popcorn, popped open the microwave door, and let the stench waft out, affecting shoppers within a 100ft radius.  I felt mortified and ashamed.  My dad seemed unfazed, but we didn’t try again.

The first time I used a cell phone:  It was 2003, and I was a senior in college.  My parents had given me a cell phone during our visit with no further discussion really, other than it was covered under their family plan.  I buried it somewhere within my apartment and continued to use my landline (however infrequent that was).  My mom later commented to me, “We can never get ahold of you!  Why don’t you answer your cell phone?”  Honestly, I can’t say.  It just felt anxiety inducing.  At some point, I must have gotten the hang of it – of being forever accessible – because I now am the proud owner of a Samsung flip-phone and I carry it everywhere.  I see the benefits of this, but I’m only partially on board.  I rarely text, I keep my phone on vibrate, oftentimes I let a call just go to voice mail, and I call back when I am ready.

The first time I used the Internet:  We had a super slow dial-up server called Prodigy.  It was 1998.  Again, I can’t recall any discussion amongst my family about what the Internet is and what can we do with it – suddenly it just was.  I recall going on a message board to talk about music.  I talked about REM with a stranger for a while before he abruptly asked me what size bra I wear.  I felt a mixture of complex emotions before simply replying, “an A cup, I think.  I don’t really know.”  He replied, “Oh, that’s alright sweetheart, that’s enough for me to work with.”  How did he know my gender?  How did this space for nerds and fans devolve so quickly into a space for pervs to jack-off?  I didn’t engage; just signed off.  I don’t remember going back on the internet much after that until I got to college; my usage was very limited, and remains, in many ways, fairly limited, even today.

The ways I use the internet has definitely progressed and shifted, but I am far from the seamless IRL/virtual world many people appear to inhabit.  I do not have a smart phone nor do I plan on ever getting a smart phone.  I have “online time” and “offline time,” and I need those two to be separate.  You’ll never see me walking down the street, seemingly talking to myself or staring at a screen.
My trans identity has shifted along with the ways I view the Internet, over time.  It has blossomed and bloomed, halted and shriveled, sputtered and shuddered and begun to bloom again.  In terms of deep soul searching, the Internet has never been my go-to place to glean information.  The library was that place.  I spent countless hours (hours enough to rival Internet time) in the “HQ” stacks of my college library.  Specifically HQ 71-79:  “sexual deviations, bisexuality, homosexuality, lesbianism, transvestism, transsexualism, sadism, masochism, fetishism.”  For all that time spent searching, I didn’t do a whole lot of actual reading – many of these books were so dense and research-centric.  I would often just go there to try to clear my head.  Just sit.  One particular book does stand out above the rest though:  Loren Cameron’s Body Alchemy.  Filled with stunning photographs and personal stories, I could find glimpses of myself amongst these pages.

Stay tuned for Part 2, where I flesh out these ideas, fill in some gaps, and really get into my trans-identity a lot more.