This is a follow up to the largest (at the time) survey for trans-people, conducted in 2009. At the time, 6,400 people participated – this one is aiming for upwards of 700,000!
Take the survey here: U.S. Trans Survey
It is available through September 21, and it will be repeated (probably with changes) every 5 years. It will help policy makers enact change, so it’s super important! It covers a wide range of topics and possible types of discrimination, from housing to health care, coming out to relationships, sexual orientation, disability status, education level, income, etc. Interestingly, it didn’t cover mental health status. It asked a couple questions about suicidality and current levels of depression, but nothing about mental health history or diagnoses. That was the one thing I found to be lacking.
At the end of the survey, there is a chance to write in your own story! Whether you want to elaborate on a time you were discriminated against or you want to share a time you were treated with respect, you get free-form write. I’m not sure how long they let you write – I wrote pretty briefly about the time I was hospitalized and the staff treated me with respect.
The survey is pretty lengthy – it’ll take 30-60 minutes. But it doesn’t time out or anything – I came back to it about 2 times because I was doing some other things.
If you identify as trans in any way (genderqueer, bigender, agender, transman, transwoman, etc.) you should totally take this survey! (And there is a place to write in how you identify, if you don’t identify with any of the choices offered!)
My partner and I met up with friends in Pittsburgh last week. We did a bunch of fun stuff – Andy Warhol Museum (on his birthday!), ate at a church converted into a brewery, saw an outdoor concert at an art gallery…
But I was most impressed by a contemporary art museum called The Mattress Factory. It was housed in 3 buildings on the same block. There were some permanent art installations that took up whole rooms and kinda blew me away. One in particular was called, “It’s all about ME, Not You,” by Greer Lankton. I’d never heard of her before, so I did a little bit of research (both at the gift shop and later, online).
The room was a fantasy version of her actual bedroom in Chicago. It had an astroturf carpet and was filled with hand-made dolls and shrines. Shrines for Jesus, Patti Smith, Candy Darling… There were Raggedy Ann dolls and Troll dolls. It’s hard to see, but the bedspread and floor next to the bed is overflowing with prescription bottles (all hers).
Greer Lankton was born in 1958. She transitioned in 1979, which was so long ago that it’s still simply stated that she had “sexual reassignment surgery,” or “a sex change,” as if that’s all that transition entails, as if that’s an appropriate way to sum it up. I wonder what it would have been like to transition in that era. She went to Pratt Institute and lived in NYC for years before moving to Chicago. She made a name for herself in the art world by making realistic dolls of friends and celebrities.
Wikipedia says she transitioned while she was a student at Pratt, and it states, “She had previously been the subject of a local newspaper article about people transitioning to a new gender.” I tried to search for this newspaper article online with no luck. I am so curious about what it would have said!
She struggled with drug addiction and an eating disorder and passed away in 1996, shortly after finishing this installation at The Mattress Factory. It became a permanent room in 2009.
At the gift shop, we saw a poster that featured Greer Lankton and many other famous transgender people. My partner ended up buying one and so did our friends. The posters were made as a way to raise funds for MOTHA (Museum of Transgender Hirstory and Art.) This is a museum that is not physically in existence yet, but it will be once enough money is raised. It’ll be in San Francisco (of course!) Even though it’s not yet built, the MOTHA is already doing all kinds of stuff – just check out their website.
If you’re ever in Pittsburgh, make sure to check out The Mattress Factory, and especially this one particular room on the third floor of the main building! And if you’re ever in San Francisco at an unspecified date in the future, be sure to go to MOTHA!
I know I’m behind on the celebratory Pride post – this really is when my city celebrates Pride. Why it’s not in June, I’m not sure. Yesterday was the parade and festival, and today is a picnic. There were some other events throughout last week too, but I wasn’t really in the loop. Usually we just march in the parade, whether it’s with an actual group, or just kind of infiltrating, doing our own thing.
We dressed up in fun outfits, like every year. I gotta say though, that personally, it’s losing its excitement. It used to be such a thrill. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older, or because I’ve done it so many times, but it’s just sort of meh, now. Nothing lately has felt exciting – maybe that’s part of rebounding from all I went through lately. I hope the world takes on a shimmer, once in a while, again soon…
This year, my partner’s employer (a food co-op) was in the parade, so we marched with them. They had 2 banners, some people dressed up in produce costumes, and a couple of shopping carts holding buckets of soapy solution to make giant bubbles with. And also a dog, riding in a cart. I handed out coupons for $5 off $25 purchase – we got rid of 600 coupons!
After the parade, we went and ate burritos and then came home to relax. We watched a documentary on Tig Notaro.
Then we went out to a bar for an event called BRAWL (Broads Regional Arm Wrestling League). They sporadically hold events at different bars, and it’s always a fund raiser for some organization. This time it was the gay alliance. Lady arm wrestlers take on a whole persona and have an entourage go out into the crowd and drum up bets for who will win. There are two winners – the strongest arm, and the one who raises the most $$. They had names like Malice in Wonderland and Beth Amphetamine. It was pretty entertaining. There was an announcer, referee, and DJ to enhance the hype.
I guess it was cool to see some people while we were marching and to go out to an event. I haven’t been doing much of that lately. I asked my partner about it, and she said I haven’t seemed very engaged lately. I agree with that. When will that return? She says I should just keep putting myself out there and going through the motions. I agree with that too.
A couple of months ago, I wrote about my aversion to antidepressants and how I’ve felt like testosterone has been acting well, in that way for me. A reader had asked if I have experiences with being on antidepressants while starting T, and since I hadn’t, I asked for thoughts from others. That post is here:
I’m going to elaborate on some of those thoughts now because I am currently depressed. I’ve been feeling this way for close to two weeks now, and I acknowledge that it might be a little while before I really pull out of it. It’s not all that surprising or hard to swallow. I suffered from a break from reality and a manic episode 6 weeks ago, and then I spent some time (weeks) in a hypomanic and slightly agitated state. Usually what follows naturally is a rebound depressive episode. My brain is still sorting itself out.
I’ve been spending a lot of my free time sitting and thinking. Or laying down and thinking. Or sleeping. The thinking isn’t doing me any good / getting me anywhere. It’s a lot of dead ends and connecting things to fear responses. But it feels like all I can do at times. Reading has been challenging. Socializing has been challenging. Feeling like doing anything extra has been challenging. Writing (surprisingly) is doable, and always has been when I’m depressed (as long as it’s personal writing as opposed to fiction or academic writing). I’ve been feeling forgetful, and like it’s tough to grasp the details of what is going on around me.
I’m trying to go easy on myself – not berate myself for sleeping 10-12 hours a night. Accepting help from my partner and telling her how much it’s appreciated. Letting myself off the hook for not conversing with others the way I’d like to be, or not doing the things I should really get around to doing…
Things that are sad are even sadder than they’d normally feel. I haven’t been crying; instead I feel a sinking numbness. Things that should be joyful and exciting are just things that happened. Hopefully I’ll feel the joy and excitement later on, like a delayed response once I’m past this? Like I’m storing up the joy for later? Because some good things have been happening; I’m just not feeling it.
There is a bright side though, and that’s what I wanna focus on. I still do think that testosterone is acting as an effective antidepressant. Not so much on my mind / thinking, but definitely on my body / energy. Although I’ve been oversleeping, when I’m awake, I feel good. I don’t feel drained of energy or crushing physical pain, which is so common with depression. It’s not hard to go through the motions of living, even though I really am just dragging my brain along for the ride right now. That feels like a win.
My psychiatrist keeps asking, “How is your depression,” and saying, “If you’re depressed, we’ll add an antidepressant.” And I keep saying (so far) that my depression is fine. I don’t want to add more pills.* I know this is stubborn thinking, and if it goes on too long, I hope I’ll have the wits to just gracefully change my tune. But I really feel like this is a blip, and within a month, I’ll be feeling more like my usual self.
And that’s another win – a lot of times, that depressed feeling is accompanied by a conviction that it will never lift. I don’t feel that. I feel like I’ll be out from under this in no time.
And my brain and I might be friends again before I know it.
*I had been on Geodon, an atypical antipsychotic that was causing some strange hormonal side effects for me. I’m currently switching to Latuda, another atypical antispychotic that has been approved in the US for about a year now. I’m hoping this will go better.
Yesterday, my partner and I met up with my childhood best friend and her family; they were in town for the holidays. They have two kids, ages 6 and 3, and the three year old was overwhelmingly interested in me. I’ve never had this experience before – usually kids stay their distance, giving me sideways glances or staring and staring and staring. I’ve been interacting with kids more at school (while I’m working) a little more lately, realizing that although I’m a janitor, I am also an authority figure they see regularly, who can help point them to preferable behaviors. (No running, no going down steps sideways, no slamming and throwing your garbage in the general area of the garbage barrel at lunch, etc.)
This was a very different dynamic though. We were hanging out at a nearby public greenhouse and plant conservatory, and the three-year-old daughter took any opportunity to climb all over me, instruct me to pick her up and throw her up in the air, and get right in my face. She was overhearing everyone use male pronouns for me, and she yelled, 2 inches away from my face, “you’re a girl!” And then again. And again. “You’re a girl!” We all laughed. It was funny. Because she’s three. It was also the most jarring thing I have experienced in a very long time. Her mom went ahead and explained very simply and directly that I get to say who I am, not her, and everyone has their own feelings about who they are, and only they get to say. She tested this with, “you’re a boy!” but then went on to state, “I’ve never seen a boy who sounds like a girl.” “I’ve never seen a boy who looks like a girl.” And again. And again. Holy cow, kids love repetition!!!
She also declared many times that I am her mama. Whoa. (She later clarified that she was making a joke.) Again, all of this is funny and easy to let slide because she is a three year old, but I gotta admit it was actually hitting my psyche a little bit. It helped that her mom (my friend), let us know she often does this. She’s super outgoing, and she’ll hone in on one adult of a group she’s with, and that person is 9 times out of 10 the most handsome adult male of the group. I’ll take it!
I have been considering what might happen if I increased my testosterone levels. And these exchanges really sunk in, as one more thing, in a way that makes me feel motivated to move in that direction where I appear and sound more masculine. I am still positive that I do not want to live my life as a visible male, but how cool would it be if people had some serious trouble knowing? I would love that (as long as they were respectful in the not-knowing).
This kid’s reaction was interesting, because usually it’s kids more than anyone else, who are not quite sure whether I am a girl or a boy. If I am asked this question, it’s coming from a child. I’m usually not told, strongly and forcefully, by someone making eye contact, two inches away from my face! Haha.
A couple of days ago, I hit my big 1.75 year milestone! (Haha.) I’ve been doing quarterly updates about changes on testosterone, and I’ll probably just continue at that pace.
Changes: There are none to report. Nothing new at least. I had increased my dose from 1 pump of 1% (Androgel) to 2 pumps of 1%, from roughly August through November. I did this because my blood work had come back with low levels. Er, by “low levels,” I mean back into a normal female range (I believe I was at 64 ng/dl). So after increasing and having more bloodwork done, I saw my doctor in November, and she told me my levels were at 210 ng/dl. I was surprised by this – not because it’s bad; just because it did not feel like I was up in that range at all. (A female range is roughly 14-75; a male range is between 300 and 800). I had been aiming for roughly 100 ng/dl; to find out I’d more than tripled my level felt hard to believe.
I hadn’t been experiencing a drop in my voice. Or more hair on my body. Or an increase in sex drive or appetite. To clarify, I have experienced some changes over time – just nothing new in a long time. Here are some past posts about it, if you’re interested:
My doctor wanted me to decrease the dosage a little bit. I strongly feel that I am going to do what I want to do and not what my doctor wants, in this regard. BUT, I’m super curious to see what the lab work will come back as, with a slight decrease. Because so far, the amount I’m taking has not appeared to correspond directly with the amount in my blood stream. Not in a sensical way, at least. So, for now, I’m using 1 pump of 1.62%, daily.
Like I said, there’s nothing new to report. So I’m going to just riff off of one thing I’ve really been enjoying. Feeling warm!!! It’s not so great in the summer, but right now I’m reveling in it big time. I’m typing right now wearing jeans and a t-shirt. This would not have been possible in winter months before taking testosterone! (Because we keep our house pretty chilly, to try to save $$$.) I can step out of the shower and not feel like I am shaking and shriveling until the point I have all my long johns and sweatshirts on. I can just kind of step out of the shower and take my time getting dressed. I can walk around with damp hair, and it’s not intolerable. My partner reports that sometimes it is too hot when we’re sleeping and I’m spooning her, in the dead of winter, even up in our uninsulated attic (which is where we sleep). Never heard that complaint before taking testosterone.
I love feeling warm when it is cold!!!
And finally, a couple of pictures of my face, to illustrate that it is possible to take testosterone for this long and still look pretty much the same (if that’s what you’re trying to going for – I am…)
Last Saturday morning, my pet rabbit passed away. It’s been almost a week now; it definitely feels like mourning, but I can’t quite elaborate beyond that. I’m functional, I don’t feel continuously sad, but it is a process for sure.
She lived in the dining room, which is where my “office” is (office means dining room table with my laptop and piles of disorganized papers and other crap.) I spend “internet time” here in my office. I write blog posts from my office. We’d sort of be hanging out, sort of not, while I was in my office. I’d be looking in on her – checking on her, all the time. Things feel disorienting now – her bunny gate is behind the TV right now. I can now glide from room to room with ease. her cage where she ate and drank and pooped and peed is in the basement right now. Her rug has been brought to the curb. The dining room is now a hard wood floor. She isn’t here. I keep having phantom impulses to go check on her, feed her, pet her, pick her up, etc.
She was 12 years old – that’s really old for a rabbit! I got her in my Junior year of college. For those last two years of college, it was pretty much just her and me, in the apartment. People didn’t come over. I didn’t have a social network. Later in her life, I would joke with friends that the reason she doesn’t like people is because she was never socialized properly. It’s pretty much true. She never really got used to other people (except my partner – she did like my partner a little bit).
She loved bananas! She loved being pet over her eyes, for some reason. She would just sit there, if you were covering her eyes with your hands. Her name was just “Bunny,” but usually I called her “Bunn-a-roo,” or “Choo-cha-ree” or “Choo-char-i-o” (that last one, sung to the tune of “Notorious” by Duran Duran). We called her “Bunn Ball” when she was compacted into herself, to conserve heat. We called it “Chicken Leg,” when she was all splayed out, her back legs totally exposed, trying to cool off. We called her “Bunny-on-Meth” when she was shedding, her fur coming out in tufts every which-way. We called the towel right outside her cage her “patio.”
My partner and I sometimes talk about pets as they relate to queer people. You know that stereotype about lesbians and cats? I think there’s something to that, although it’s not specific to lesbians and it’s not specific to cats… I think just more in general, people who do not follow prescribed narratives (whether they’re queer or not) sometimes find a very different space for pets in their lives. Sometimes pets become more like children. Sometimes people who face more adversity need more from their pets – more comfort, more routine, more of a sense that they are needed. A mutual reliance. I think that bond has the potential to run much deeper.
I felt that. I miss her.
This was a huge reservation for me, before I started testosterone. I had read enough personal accounts and spoken to enough friends that I had this somewhat common narrative in my mind: someone who is FTM was primarily attracted to women before starting hormones. Orientation then opened up / shifted, and this person now is attracted to both / all genders, or is now more attracted to men, or even exclusively attracted to men. One common idea surrounding this is that the person always was attracted to men (if even just on a subconscious level), but could not fathom being intimate with a man, while being seen as a woman. Another related idea is that the person identifies so strongly with being queer, that once he is finally perceived as a man, a new type of queer identity is now possible – one that may have been appealing all along.
OK – I’m done with the generalizing! It’s super uncomfortable for me to paint broad strokes and write about a hypothetical person in such a detached manner. I just wanted to get some initial thoughts down, some type of framework in which to plug my own narrative into. Whether these ideas are all that accurate or common is largely beside the point. The important part is that they were looming large for me. I had some serious fears about it.
While I was coming out (sort of?) as a lesbian (sort of?) in my late-teens, I was mostly just befuddled. I didn’t really understand physical and sexual attraction. I thought I was probably just a late bloomer. Now I understand that I’m probably a demisexual. Although this (somewhat recent) revelation is fascinating, I don’t feel a strong attachment to this label or a strong need to figure out my sexual orientation in all ways, shapes, and forms. It never caused me to feel much of a disconnect from others. I mean, I generally felt a lot of disconnect from others, but I didn’t look to my sexuality as a way to figure out why that was. It’s kinda, meh, for me… Fascination, and not a whole lot more. (Which is interesting because I usually love love love picking things apart! Haha.)
I’m gonna jump over a whole bunch of years and land somewhere in my late 20s. I’d been with my partner (she is a cisgender female, for the most part) for about 4 years at this point, and we were experiencing a long-term lull. We weren’t connecting. Everything felt dulled, foggy, I think for both of us (for different reasons). I was feeling more and more drawn to guys, all around me, and could not sort out whether that was because I needed to be a guy, or if it was a sexual orientation thing (again, the lack of the physical attraction part was confusing. It was more of a cerebral thing.)
I kind of decided that it was both. I fantasized about a totally different life, where I was a guy, and I was with a hypothetical guy. However, I did not want to break up with my partner. I strongly felt that the tough place we were in was circumstantial and situational, and that we could work our way through it. I wanted to work our way through it. I wondered if a big key to working our way through it was: for me to transition. I felt this heavy burden of a circuitous fear: I need to transition in order to get out of this place and improve our relationship; if I start transitioning, my gut is telling me that I will be even more drawn to guys, and I will want to end our relationship in order to pursue that.
I vividly recall, at one point, completely breaking down and telling her, while crying, that I was attracted to masculinity. She didn’t seem surprised, or threatened; she didn’t shut down. She stayed there with me, in that moment, and replied, “one of the many pitfalls of being in a queer relationship.” I appreciated that reply so much, in the moment. It felt like relief. Sometimes, I make things overly-fraught; she brings it back down to earth.
She has since elaborated that she did indeed feel the heaviness of the situation. Although we weren’t talking about all of this directly at the time, she recently told me that she knew. And that she was going to support me in transitioning (whatever that looked like to me) unconditionally, at the risk of losing me along the way. Wow.
While trying to sort that out, some life changes occurred that vastly improved things. My partner got a new job, we shifted our approach to friendships, I went back to therapy. Our relationship improved by leaps and bounds.
It was about two more years before I really found myself at that crossroads of needing to try testosterone (although I no longer planned to transition in that common-narrative way). That fear was still there. Although it felt like we had a solid foundation to work from, I worried, would things shift between my partner and me? Would I start to be drawn exclusively to men? Where would that lead us? I started testosterone anyway.
Testosterone has changed things for me, but not in those ways I feared. I’m attracted to my partner and also I’m attracted to men. Sometimes I’m attracted to women; mostly, I’m attracted to androgyny and effemininity (effeminate men). I don’t know what that all adds up to; I just call it “queer.” The nature of attraction feels a little less cerebral, and a little more physiological than before. I like that. I think I still fall under the category of demisexual, for sure, but it does feel different. My partner and I talk about all of it. None of it is threatening to her. None of it feels worrisome to me. It’s all just puzzle pieces, that, although not straightforward or common, make more sense to me than my sexuality has ever made sense before.
About five months ago, I did a phone interview with Monica Hesse of the Washington Post, as a potential candidate for an upcoming article about non-binary genders. She was planning on spending a few days with the person / people she selected; it wasn’t just a matter of chatting with her over coffee. It sounded really intensive and potentially uncomfortable at times. I thought the interview went well, and I talked to my partner about the possibility of her hanging around with us for a while. My partner was game. I was game.
I got back to her with a few reservations: When might this be, exactly? (I really love being able to plan ahead.) And, would you be coming to my work?!! (I am not out at work as non-binary, and I could not fathom her being there with me, at all.) She assured me that it was not a necessary part of her article, and it’d totally depend on who she ended up going with and what everyone was comfortable with. She seemed well versed in trans issues and understood the need for partial anonymity or a potentially incomplete story.
She had a lot more phone interviews to get through, and as we messaged back and forth, it became clear her interest in me was waning. I was pretty bummed. It sounded like something I was ready to challenge myself with! Of course, the disappointment faded with time. I’ve been looking forward to catching the finished article. Here it is!!!
I think this article is really well done. It covers important ground: pronouns, the internal isolation such an identity can bring (when society has no starting point for understanding), family and friend relationships, coming out issues. There is nothing sensational or hyped up about it – the reporter seems well informed and sensitive.
A major thing struck me. This article is about a very young person. Kelsey is 18 years old. They are at a completely different life stage than I am at. The article follows them over the entire summer. It appears that the reporter spent many many days with Kelsey, over a matter of 4 months or so. We get a glimpse into what’s going on, as they have concerns about clothing. As they have difficult conversations with their mom. As they go to a therapy appointment to discuss the possibilities of going on a low dose of testosterone. As they talk about teenaged things with their teenaged friends. As they meet someone they found through OKCupid, for the first time in person. As they pack up and plan for life at college.
“They will go to college. They will study engineering. They will get a job. They will find a partner and make a home. They will begin with finding a T-shirt.” This quote sums up the tone of the article.
Had I been the subject, it would have been nothing like this at all. I’ve been to college (glad that’s over with!!!). I have a job. I have a partner. We have made a home. I have a T-shirt. In fact, I have many T-shirts. Haha.
This story is no doubt important. However (and I’m definitely biased here, bordering on ageist maybe) I think it’s really really necessary that there are representations of older, established non-binary people. It’s not just a young people’s thing. (Not to imply that young people will be growing out if it – they won’t be!) I just mean that it’s not just something someone is focusing on at the time when they are naturally growing into their identities, just at the beginning of starting new chapters of their lives. There is, relatively speaking, a lot of representations (if even just online only) of young people, starting to question and figure these things out.
Gender identity issues are multi-generational. They are lifelong, and they come with different sets of challenges at different stages in life. I hope more media outlets will start jumping on the bandwagon (in respectful ways!) and more articles will pop up, with more frequency, soon. And that those articles will focus on other identities within non-binary genders, and different age brackets, different ethnic backgrounds, different socioeconomic backgrounds, etc.
And if I’m not seeing it, I’ve toyed with the idea of writing my own article, here. Like, pretending I am a reporter, looking in. Look for that in the near future, maybe!
It’s been a year and a half! I increased my dosage of Androgel, slightly, about 3 months ago (from 1 pump of 1% daily to 1 pump of 1.62% daily), and still, I’m not seeing physical changes (which is still a big part of my goals). I have still not yet missed a day – applying the gel feels of utmost importance to me, as a part of my daily routine.
Nothing can be new forever, unfortunately. Naturally, I no longer have that same emotional reaction to applying the gel (anticipation, excitement). And I haven’t been thinking about it in the same ways as I did every single day for that first year (how totally fucking awesome it is). Still it feels very much essential. It’s not nearly as constant, but I do still reflect on how different things are for me now.
– I am grateful that I consistently feel like eating at regular intervals now.
– I’m grateful that I no longer feel quite as debilitated by anxiety-induced adrenaline surges
– I’m grateful that physical sensations make more sense. Pain actually feels painful. I don’t recoil from affectionate touches. When I take a deep breath, I feel a sense of calm and a connection to my body. Etc. forever.
– I’m grateful that sex finally makes sense, and that I get to be a part of it (usually. At least it’s much improved.)
– I’m grateful that although I’m still moody and seem to feel emotions relatively strongly, it’s become more manageable, and rarely manifests in self-destructive ways anymore.
– I’m grateful that I don’t feel so cold all the time!
– I’m grateful that things just feel easier, across the board.
I am genderqueer (in case you didn’t already know!) and am continuing to carve out a space in between genders. Or, to mix and match genders as I see fit. I feel like I’ve made a ton of progress in terms of finding that place where I feel like myself, in my own skin. Yet, not nearly enough progress in terms of seeing that identity reflected back to me from the world around me. This just means I have a long ways to go (And society has a much longer way to go. C’mon society, get with it!) until I really feel comfortable with the ways I’m seen by others. Luckily, that part is not nearly as important as the part about how I see myself. 🙂
Initially, I feel like I was being hyper vigilant about not crossing over into any masculinizing territory, especially with my voice dropping. As time has gone on, I’m not quite so concerned with this (although I’m not actually trying for it either.) I do wonder if my attitudes will change more, in this vein, and I’ll start to want to increase my dose even more and cross into that territory. Only time will tell. As of now, I’m feeling comfortable with where I am.
Here’s where I’ve been (there are lots of details about the subtle physical changes in these past posts):
And finally, a couple of pictures of my face: