I can’t believe there’s still so many intense conversations to be had! Why does it take forever?!
In general in our neighborhood, my spouse and I don’t have a rapport with people. Like, at best, I watched our next-door neighbor’s cat one time, and we went to a backyard fire at her place twice, like two summers ago.
We also have a neighbor a few houses down who borrows our lawn mower a lot. This is the guy I’m talking about today – I ran into him yesterday, off our street.
I was walking on a major road nearby, to a coffee shop to write some letters to friends. (I am still out of work on medical leave right now.) He saw me first, from across the street. We probably have only seen each other once or twice since last summer. He’s always super friendly, so he was shouting, “Hey, hey, how are you?” and crossing the street at the same time. I steeled myself (slightly), and returned the greeting, meeting him partway to shake his hand and ask how he’s been, what he was up to.
He was walking home after buying his lotto tickets, etc. but that’s neither here nor there. We talked about past neighbors that he’s kept up with, and about his plans for retirement. I told him my spouse was going back to school in the fall for a master’s program. (Oh, hey, PS: blog-friends, my spouse is doing this big thing coming up. Grad school!!!)
Then I told him that I legally changed my name to Kameron. And that I got my passport and driver’s ID and everything changed over. He asked me if this was a good thing, and I said, yeah, yeah it is. Then I realized he just has no idea, so I spelled it out – I said, “I’m transgender, I’m actually more in the middle, not like I am going to become a man. But like, at work and my friends and family, I use male pronouns, ‘he/him/his.'”
He started to get it then, and as soon as he did, he started apologizing. For being invasive, or something, I guess? I just kept repeating, “No, you’re fine. It’s not personal. This is a part of who I am. So, like my parents are all good with it, everyone’s all good. It just took me a long time. There’s a lot of discrimination. Like, say, fifteen years ago, it wasn’t even OK just to be gay. Things are changing though.”
He definitely got that. It immediately sunk in. He said, “Oh yeah, like you might have been depressed and now things are better for you? I bet people deal with suicides and stuff, right?” I said “Yes, and even bullying and hate crimes and everything. It’s bad. I mean, I don’t like to be negative, but yeah, it can be bad.”
He then proceeded to ask about operations and surgeries, and I just said, “Well, that part of it is personal. So, I mean, I’ll figure that out as it comes. But for now everything is all good.” He does not need to know about my top-surgery status or anything else of that nature, for sure!
He started apologizing again, haha.
I shook his hand again and said he was free to borrow our lawn mower if he needs it. We exchanged more pleasantries and parted ways. I felt really good about it. He kept referring to my spouse as my girlfriend, but hey, I can’t correct the man on every little detail. He got the gist of the most important stuff for now, and that’s more than fine by me! It felt like another tiny weight lifted off. Dang, how much extra “weight” am I actually carrying?! That’s still a mystery that is becoming just a little bit clearer…
Tonight at 10PM (9PM central time), PBS is screening a documentary called Real Boy. If you’re hanging at home tonight, check it out!!
I had the opportunity to see this film twice now:
Last fall, my neighbors and I went, as part of the annual LGBT film festival where we live. I’d have to say that I was a little bit jaded at that time – here is yet another story about young, white, binary, trans-masculine people. Seen that / heard that!!!
The parts about his (Ben’s) mom, and family dynamics were what held it together for me. My neighbor was really touched by it in a different way – there was a lot about singing/songwriting/creativity, and also about recovering from substance abuse and other destructive behaviors.
Then, two weeks ago, I went with my spouse and her parents. It was a free showing, and the two main “characters” were there in person to answer questions and play some of their music as well. I felt really happy that we all saw it together – we then went out to eat and talked about how we related or didn’t, with the movie. Awesome conversations.
I would say that, for me, the second time’s the charm, haha. For one thing, closed captioning was on, so we could all listen and read the dialogue simultaneously, which was kinda necessary because some people mumble more than others. I got a lot more out of it – the way that Ben’s navigating his new life / roles / perceptions as a very young person (I can’t imagine transitioning at that age!!! Hormones are already on full alert and then to mix it up so drastically, must be stressful – both positive and negative stress.) And the male bonding that was going on between the characters felt a lot more touching to me this time for some reason. He has a mentor / protegee dynamic going on with an older musician, and then a housemate / brotherhood with a trans-guy he met through mutual friend.
In terms of content notes, I would give this warning: Topics that are potentially sensitive to those in recovery are brought up: mostly grappling with drug and alcohol abuse, as well as self-injury and family issues / rejection. Also, we follow along as Ben and his housemate move forward with getting top surgery with Dr. Garramone in Florida.
I’d say catch this movie if you can! Although it didn’t really speak to me the first time, I came around to really like it!
My co-worker’s last day was yesterday. He is moving on to work security at one of the middle schools. Some people have a lot of co-workers; I really only have just one. I have a supervisor, a co-worker, and then a 3rd person who works per-diem 4 hours per day (so, a co-worker, but it doesn’t feel the same.) We didn’t actually work “together,” but we worked at the same time, and for the majority of each day, it was just us in the building (along with after-school activity groups.)
He started roughly 3 years ago, and we got off to a rocky start. I can’t really explain it, but it wasn’t just rocky – it was jarring, and jagged. It was, in effect, a disastrous mix. Things slowly repaired themselves, with time and effort, and I learned a ton about human connection and priorities, during this process. Maybe someday I’ll really write about that, but it won’t be here.
In some ways, we are opposites he grew up in a rough part of the city and now lives in the suburb I grew up in, and he generally stays put out there. He seems to know everyone there. I moved to the city as soon as I was able to, and I never spend time in that suburb, unless I stop at the grocery store after work, or get gas, etc. I feel a comfortable level of anonymity within the city…
We had a complete turn around within the time we worked together – he was the person I confided in the most. He actively participated in being my ally in a bunch of different ways. I wrote about this a little, over a year ago, here:
I came out to my co-worker
As soon as I told him about my preferred name, he started using it when no one else was around. He called me “Kam-Ron” at first, and then just shortened it to “Kam.” This later became, “Killa Kam” and “Cuz.” He lightly pressured me to come out at work when he could feel it was imminent. I appreciate it more than he’ll know. Well, he does kinda know – I explicitly told him yesterday that I wanted to thank him for being my ally, most specifically.
Super early on, he organized a district-wide work happy hour at his dive bar. I was the only one who showed up. Later, he narrowed down the guest list, and our co-workers / kitchen staff hung out one time outside of work. That was a first! He later bonded with me through my enthusiasm with a local community radio station I volunteer with. He came on the air with me on two occasions, taking pics and putting them on facebook and just hyping it all up in general. One time, we met for lunch before work. That was a first.
Last night, I picked us up some tacos from that place we had lunch the one time, and we just chit-chatted one last time. He had gotten a bunch of cards from students, like whole classes-worth, and a couple of gifts from teachers. He was exuberant, like he often is, gesticulating a lot, not sitting down, etc. I was low-key, like usual, trying to offset that a bit. While still being interested / engaged.
I’ve never met anyone like this person. I observed the ways he navigates through situations with my eyes and ears perked. Out of everything I learned from him, I think the most all encompassing thing was what he summed up as “teamwork makes the dream work.” (He would say this a lot.) But not teamwork in the way I knew of teamwork – this is a different brand of teamwork. I thought of “teamwork” as doing the same thing at the same time with another person or group of people, until the job was done. But whenever I tried to enact that with him, we would usually clash. His teamwork involves a network of small favors with as many people as possible, like, “I do this, which motivates you to do that,” kind of thing. Which may or may not work depending on the other person, but he is an extremely motivational person. In addition to just going way above and beyond, in that rare situation which arises from time to time, just to help you out.
He made a personal connection with probably almost every single person, whether principal or teacher or part-time staff, in the entire school. And now he’s moving on to go do that in a school that’s twice or maybe three times as big.
I’ll miss him.
I also wrote about the co-worker I had before this co-worker, here:
Saying goodbye to my mentor / co-worker
That was when he retired, two and a half years ago.
A reader asked,
What are the do’s and don’t’s when asking a trans*person about their experience?
What are 2-3 questions (or as many as you like) that one should NOT be asking a transgender person?
What are 2-3 questions (or as many as you like) that one SHOULD be asking a transgender person?
This reader happens to be the marketing coordinator of Simmons College, the third US women’s college to accept students who identify as transgender. She was wondering if I’d like to add to the conversation in the form of a blog post. Sure! So, officially:
I am participating in Trans*forming the Dialogue, Simmons College’s online MSW program‘s campaign to promote an educational conversation about the transgender community. By participating in this campaign, I will be offering my perspective on what TO ask and what to NOT ask trans*people.
The first thing to think about: it totally depends on how well you know the person! So, let’s break it down:
If this is someone who is a stranger, and they just introduced themselves to you, saying their name back to them is a great way to start out affirming who they are. Also asking, “What are your preferred pronouns,” is important so that you can address them to other people in the way they want/need. This is a little tricky because we’re specifically talking about visibly trans-people here. You could be meeting many trans-people throughout your life and not even know it!
Then, personally, I would steer the conversation away from trans-related topics, unless they bring it up. Oftentimes, trans-people don’t want to talk about more personal aspects upon meeting someone new. So any other great questions fall into the general getting-to-know-you category. “What brings you here?” Or, “How do you know so-and-so?” Or, “How’s your day been so far?”
If you are talking to an acquaintance and want to get to know them better, instead of asking direct questions about their experience, you could share some of your own – what was your childhood like, what was puberty like? Chances are your new acquaintance has a lot to say about growing up and will feel more comfortable sharing if you share first. Do NOT ask, “do you feel like you are trapped in the wrong body?” This is a trope perpetuated by the media that not all trans-people relate to. It’s kind of a sensationalized way of putting it. It is a sound bite. Asking about their experience is a great way to get a better understanding about how broad and different “trans-narratives” really are.
If you are a friend / ally of a trans-person, there is a lot you can do and ask! You can specifically ask, “What can I do to support you?” It might mean correcting pronouns in the moment in social situations for your trans-friend. (I know I have a hard time with this, and if someone does it for me, it feels affirming.) It might mean exploring gender expressions together – maybe going out and trying on different clothes or trying out makeup together. If you are a trusted friend, more personal questions to help you understand would probably be appropriate. “What does gender dysphoria feel like?” “How would you define your gender?” “Where are you in your coming-out process?” These questions can spark great conversations that let your trans-friend know you are engaged and interested and want to help if possible.
If you are in an intimate relationship with a trans-person, asking a lot of questions is essential! Transition related decisions will affect both of you, emotionally, financially, and energy-wise. It’s important not to press for a timeline or throw in your two cents about what your partner should be doing. You will need to adjust to the natural pace (it is a long process) and understand that there is going to be a lot of uncertainty. “What can I do to support you?” works well, but your partner might not really know in the moment. There will probably be times when gender dysphoria and frustrations are acute – during those times, just being physically present and not asking any questions might be best. In the bedroom, asking what is OK is a must. The way trans-people feel about their bodies and about sex can be wildly in flux and change from day to day. Asking, “Is this OK?” or “what if I did this?” or “What feels good right now?” is going to be better than phrasing things in the negative, such as, “What is off limits right now?” or “Where can I touch you?” These kinds of questions might lead to shut-down mode.
Questions that are never appropriate are, “Have you had any surgeries yet?” “What are you going to do about your beard?” “Do you think you will be able to pass?” Or anything else related to their bodies and their appearance. This is personal and could be triggering. Not all trans-people have the same goals or timeline. Also, some people are non-binary, and their transition goals might look very different.
If you don’t know the trans-person very well yet, and you are not sure what is OK and what is not OK to ask, just use this rule of thumb: Is this something you would ask a cisgender person? Other than the preferred pronouns question (important question you might not ask a cisgender person) this will get you far in a social situation.
My co-worker just retired on Friday. This is someone I’ve seen almost every day for the past 8 years – not many people in my life I can say that about! (My partner, and others at work, basically.) I will miss him a lot. Some people have a lot of co-workers. I really only have just one. I have one supervisor, one co-worker, and one other person on the cleaning staff who is only there for 4 hrs a day (more of a higher turnover. A co-worker, but it doesn’t feel the same).
We didn’t actually work “together,” but we worked the same hours and we were still a team. I clean the first floor, and he cleaned the second floor. We probably only saw each other for a total of a half-hour every day. Still, I felt very connected with him. We commiserated together. We listened to each other. If I needed anything, I knew I could go to him. I knew if I helped him out with something, I was being highly appreciated for it.
I’d have to say he taught me more than any other person, in my journey to becoming a janitor who is very good at his job. He always had an opinion about how things should be done. And he had a lot of tricks-of-the-trade up his sleeve. He always wanted to pass those on to me (and anyone else who had the patience to learn from him – most didn’t). He was really difficult to understand. He’s from the Caribbean and has a super thick accent. He also has a speech impediment (I believe) on top of that. Over time, I began to be able to understand every word out of his mouth. Most people – teachers and other people in the building – could really understand roughly half or less of the things he was saying. Even after interacting with him every day for years and years and years. Sometimes I felt the urge to be his interpreter, but I think he might have felt insulted, so I really only did this if it really seemed necessary.
One of my favorite word-disconnects he uttered, was anytime he was talking about someone with Alzheimer’s, it would come out sounding like “Old Timers.” How great is that? I’ve pretty much started using that in my own lexicon. There are plenty of other neologisms and intonations I’ve adopted from him. Just one way I will always remember him.
There was a party for him after school in the library (this is the first “library party” I’ve attended – usually I haven’t felt like I was welcome / I haven’t gone). We ate cheese squares and broccoli & cauliflower. We drank Pepsi and had sheet cake. He made a brief speech and he cried. I was touched. He was presented with a few gifts, including a scrap book the Social Committee made for him. I contributed two pieces for it. This is what I wrote:
I think that he saw me as male. Or at least as not female. He always referred to me as “Man,” or, more like, “Mon” (the Caribbean thing). He was old-school in a lot of ways, but he never once tried to do something for me (unless he was showing me a better way to do it) or told me I couldn’t do something / lift something. I always appreciated that. There’s no way I’ll ever forget him. He impacted my life in ways he may never know…
I came across a question and answer from a nationally syndicated advice column the other day. I read this in my local newspaper and got such a kick out of it I brought it home to share with my partner:
My 7-year-old daughter loves playing with her 13-year-old brother’s toys. She has her own toys, but she does not play with them because she said that boys’ toys are “way cooler.” I don’t know what “way cooler” means, but I would prefer my girl to play with her toys. Do you think I am wrong for thinking this way, or should I find “cooler” girl toys for my daughter to play with?
-Daddy’s Little Girl, West Orange, NJ
Your son’s toys will be fascinating to your daughter no matter what they are, because they belong to her big brother. Her desire to play with them shows her interest in connecting with him. Chances are, if you bought her duplicates of all of his toys, she would still choose to play with his. This could be extremely annoying to your teenage son, who is probably doing his best to grow up and be independent.
Suggest to your son that he devote some of his time playing with his sister. Enjoying a bit of her brother’s attention should help her to become less obsessive about his toys. Suggest that your son let her play with one of his toys on a regular basis as long as she agrees that she will not touch any of his other toys without his permission. Negotiating playtime and boundaries should help them to find a comfort zone.
When I read this, it felt like a tiny victory. This parent was, essentially asking what to do about the gender-anxiety-inducing situation of her offspring playing with the wrong type of toys. Should she find cooler girl toys so her daughter will be more drawn to the right ones? She wants her girl to play with girl toys.
Normally, I’d be miffed that the advice columnist didn’t address the question / concerns. But in this case, it’s so refreshing that gendered toys was not touched on whatsoever. Rightly so – seems like a non-issue. Also ignored was the impulse to buy more toys and control the daughter’s desires. Instead, the columnists focused on cultivating a good relationship between the brother and sister based around spending time together and creating boundaries. And also pointing out how the 13-year-old must feel about all of this.
It’s not about girls’ toys and boys’ toys. It’s about family dynamics and finding what’s best for everyone. The columnist gets it! Spread the sentiment!
Happy almost Halloween! I thought I’d celebrate by digging deep into my writing archives to see if I could find something festive. It may not be all that festive, but it does seem apt – I found something I wrote 12 years ago, on Halloween day, that touches on gender identity, costumes, and anxiety.
A little back story for what is to follow: I was a Junior in college, and I was taking an awesome class called Imagining Herself, a cross-class between Women’s Studies and English Literature. The book list was from some Gender Studies Dream Team (for 2002, at least):
Leslie Feinberg – Stone Butch Blues
Riki Anne Wilchins – Read My Lips
Zora Neale Hurston – Dust Tracks on a Road
Kate Bornstein – Gender Outlaw
Audre Lorde – Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
And others that I can’t remember anymore. Unfortunately, I didn’t read these books (well, I’d already read Stone Butch Blues on my own). I couldn’t. I was having some major depressive issues, which really put a damper on what I was capable of doing. I hadn’t told any professors I needed help yet, but I would be doing so in the very near future. The professor’s name was Katrina (not her real name). I sort of had a girlfriend at the time, whom I’ll refer to as “girlfriend?” Question mark, because I was never clear on whether we were actually together. Girlfriend? had been in this class the semester before me, so the professor had a clear memory of her.
Here’s what I wrote on Halloween, 12 years ago:
More than ever, I became terribly anxious in Imagining Herself today. I think because we were discussing Stone Butch Blues, and I felt like I was supposed to be adding to the discussion, yet I couldn’t say anything. I’m one of five people in class who are potentially VERY focused on issues raised in that book. These other classmates all contributed a lot. I contributed nothing. I just couldn’t. Katrina even brought attention to me because of the zines I’ve been handing in for my project. She wanted me to talk about some of the stuff.
“[Janitorqueer’s] been doing these amazing zines,” she told the class. I felt like I was in elementary school again, simultaneously hoping for and fearing any kind of attention. “Can you share with us your thoughts about what you’ve been writing about, after reading through Stone Butch Blues again?” I hadn’t read through Stone Butch Blues again. I hadn’t yet read ANY of the books for class. I feel guilty and like a fraud. I stared straight ahead. Said, ” … um … ” in almost a whisper. My mind was totally blank. Why does this happen? She acknowledged my discomfort by asking me if we should just move on. I said, “yeah.”
I thought I might cry. How awful would that have been. I tuned out completely to avoid that scene, and that worked really well. I came back to reality within a few minutes. But for the rest of class, all I wanted to do was grab all of my stuff and run out of the room … go and hide. I have this urge often in class, but it’s never been THIS intense. Sometimes I want to slip through the edge of the floor, but not today. I just wanted to explode out, to escape.
Girlfriend? was brought up during the discussion! We were talking about clothing and performance, and Katrina asked me, “You know [your girlfriend?], right?” I nodded. Because I referred to girlfriend? a few times in my zines, she must have made the connection. Then she addressed the class. “Girlfriend? uses clothes as a performance all the time. She is always playing … she’ll wear goth, hello kitty, Ragedy Ann (girlfriend? prefers to call this one “Bag Lady”) … and when she came into class the day people were instructed to wear particularly masculine or feminine clothing, something different than normal, she said that this isn’t any different for her than any other day because she’s always playing. She feels comfortable dressing extremely masculine and/or feminine.”
A classmate asked, “Did she have pink hair for a while last year?” and I nodded, yes. “Oh, ok, I had a class with her. She is really interesting.” Katrina: “Yeah, she’s very bright.” Classmate: “Political Science major?” I nodded again.
I don’t think I’ve ever thought of girlfriend?’s incredible attention to clothing as “playing.” I thought of it as this valley girl thing she does. This thing which is sometimes tedious and sometimes fun and goofy. (She is really excited about creating me as a goth girl for Halloween.) To look at it as a carefully planned out form of play makes me respect it much more. I feel proud that I “know” her. I feel especially tender toward her, or something, ah, I don’t know! Anyway …”
I remember that Halloween. She dressed me up in her clothing and did my hair and make-up. I liked it. She was dressed as a school-girl gone wrong, or something to that effect. It was a really warm night, and we kind of just walked around a lot, stopping in at this party and that party, maybe acquaintances of hers. (I had no idea. As per usual, I was out of it, dissociating.)
It makes me think about all the things we can be expressing with our clothing choices, gender-wise and otherwise. And although Halloween costumes are extremes, all sorts of outfits can be seen as “costumes.” Getting dressed up in formal wear? Costume. Even business casual? Still, costume. Work out clothes? Total costume. If it’s not a t-shirt, hoodie, button-up shirt (mostly flannel), jeans, corduroys (or gym shorts, sweat pants for lounging around), hiking boots, or skater shoes, to me, it feels like a costume. Which isn’t a bad thing at all! Costumes have their times and places – I love costumes! But I will not compromise and wear clothing that does not allow me to feel like myself, when that’s all I wanna be.
Another blog writer covers some similar concepts, here – Becoming Hope: Masks
Oh, and completely coincidentally, this year I’m going as a goth boy for Halloween.
What’s your take on costumes?
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.
My partner and I made it through this party I’d been half-dreading, a party to celebrate our prior unification ritual. It was a lot of things, but largely, it felt validating and joyous, in a chaotic sort of way. It was fun; we would not do it again! It was a different kind of experience for me; I was on a natural high for so long, it was starting to get tedious. I mean, I’ve had a lot of extreme highs and lows in moods, over much longer periods of time, but this was somehow different. Somehow much less scary. I felt confident that even though I felt this way, I could depend on myself to do whatever it was I needed to do. It was a high that was not really all that fun, in its duration. Maybe I am growing up.
High extended roughly, from Thursday (kicking the planning for Saturday into high-gear,) till Tuesday (by then, we were in Northampton, MA for the start of our vacation, and the long drive to get there felt like it happened in a snap.) I wasn’t hungry; I wasn’t sleeping well. I was able to just keep going and going and going regardless. I didn’t particularly feel euphoric or excited (I mean, I did at times, but not sustained.) I basically started feeling like all I wanted was to get a full night’s sleep, an entire meal in my stomach, and to come down from wherever up-in-the-clouds I was.
On our vacation, we stopped through Northampton and Spencer, MA before heading up to a tiny town (talking about a town with a church and a convenience store. No gas station.) in central Maine. We stayed with two friends who have an awesome cabin they’ve basically created themselves, over the past 10 years. It sits on 50 acres of land, and they live there part time. We went blueberry picking (organic! $1.50/lb!!!), swimming in a very cold lake (when the air temp + rain hitting lake was even colder), trouncing through the woods a bit. We kicked back, did some reading, connected with our friends, and heard stories about / met some of their neighbors.
At a rest stop on the way up there, I did an awkward dance with an older woman over the fact that I was in the women’s bathroom. She spun around to walk back out and check if she was in the right one, sort of touching my shoulder to prevent a collision between us, saying she’s checking that this is the right bathroom. I smiled and said, “Yep, it is.” This, surprisingly, does not happen to me often at all. I can’t even remember the last time. I enjoyed the experience (since it wasn’t threatening or uncomfortable, was in a way validating.)
On our way back home, we stopped to stay in a tree-house! And on our way from Maine to this tree-house, my partner read aloud an article from the August 4, 2014 edition of the New Yorker (p.24 – “What is a Woman? The Dispute Between Radical Feminism and Transgenderism”). I’ve never picked up a New Yorker before. (I think maybe my partner hasn’t either, because she commented, “There are a lot of comics in here!” Haha.) It had been given to us by our friend in Maine, because she knew we’d be interested in this one article.
Imagine driving on winding roads through rural VT, rain coming down, having previously been bored out of my gourd, tired of our musical selections. And suddenly being fully engaged in this topic that seemingly came out of nowhere (I mean, I know it came from the New Yorker; I just mean I wasn’t prepared for it, but it surely was a much needed distraction right then.) At various points, I interrupted my partner to argue passionately both with the article itself and with the radical feminists the article was about.
Some of the gists:
– Not all, but some radical feminists still feel that transwomen are not women and will never be women (and that they benefit from male privilege…?). These rad-fems continue to want to exclude transwomen from women-only spaces, and to invalidate their experiences in numerous other ways. They reject the notion that someone could feel intrinsically female or male, and that all the ways that women and men are different are due to sociological forces and learned experiences only.
– The common term for these rad-fems is TERF (trans-exclusionary radical feminists).
– Some TERFs are detransitioners, and TERFs often cite detransition as proof of the fallibility of transgenderism. (Expert reports state that the percent of people who detransition is somewhere between 1% and 5%. This is higher than I would guess, but hardly significant enough to attempt to build a case.)
– Some TERFs face threats, both in their personal and professional lives. Situations have become so escalated at times, that they must be escorted by security to events and go underground in their academics.
There was so much more to this article (such as why FTMs are OK, but MTFs are a threat -??? Maybe I’ll return to the article for a more in depth future post); I highly recommend seeking it out if you can. It was eye-opening for me because even though I’ve heard of this term (TERFs) and understand the basics of the arguments, this really painted a picture. On the one hand, TERFs’ arguments are terribly weak and seem fueled by fear and a lack of understanding, with no efforts to begin understanding.
On the other hand, I find myself empathizing (just a little.) “TERF” is not a self-describing term. It is essentially yet one more slur, coming from others in sexual/gender minorities – people all too familiar with slurs themselves, usually. These women have fought passionately (sometimes for decades and decades, creating groundbreaking groundwork) for changes in the view of what it means to be a woman, and now they’re kinda in over their heads here. One final passage from the article that really sums up how this sub-group of rad-fems must feel,
“[These] radical feminists find themselves in a position that few would have imagined when the conflict began: shunned as reactionaries on the wrong side of a sexual-rights issue. It is, to them, a baffling political inversion.”
About a month ago, I switched my Androgel dosage slightly. From one pump of 1% daily to one pump of 1.62% daily. I didn’t do this because I’m looking for more masculinizing changes. (I’m not looking for this, still.) I did it for these reasons:
- I started on 1.62% initially, so I still had extra bottles of it. I hate wasting things.
- I have been told by pharmacists, twice, that 1% is going to be discontinued, and I should get my doctor to switch my prescription to 1.62%. I’ve even been given coupon incentives to switch to 1.62%. I think that the pharmacists are lying to me, and I will continue to ask for 1% until I absolutely cannot get it any longer. It really freaked me out though, so I want to “test out” whether I’d be alright on 1.62% in case I abruptly need to switch in the future.
- I’ve been feeling low, emotionally, and somewhat anxious. I was hoping a slight increase might help jump-start me out of this funk. (This has not happened, unfortunately. I fully expect to be back to my normal self once summer is over though.)
- My biggest reservation in increasing to this dosage, was my voice dropping. That seemed like the one change that was on the precipice to shift, and I was really resistant to that for a very long time. (Over a year.) I continually brought it up in therapy. (Her responses: “Why? Because you depend on your voice for x, y, and z?” “Why? Because you need your vocal range to stay exactly the same?” “Why? Because your singing range is of utmost importance?” Etc. Haha.) For whatever reason, I’ve been letting go of that. It’s no longer a worry. And I’m fairly sure my “voice” is largely the same still, while my vocal range has indeed shifted, if that makes sense.
Another big change to highlight in my gender identity journey:
I finally came out to all of my extended family, on both my mom and dad’s side of the family. I did this through emails. (I’ve talked with my nuclear family in person.) I largely did this because in some cases, I hadn’t shared anything personal about myself in a very long time, if ever (the fact that I’m in a relationship, the fact that we got married, etc.) So it seemed like in sharing long-overdue news, I might as well throw in this other important-to-me stuff. In other cases, I was inviting relatives to our having-gotten-married party (happening in 2 days!), and I needed them to know these things about me in advance.
Almost everyone at the party will be referring to me using male pronouns (my friends have been consistently doing this for years now which feels awesome), and I wanted those who didn’t know, to at least know. I shared that I don’t feel either male nor female. I shared that I’ve been on a low-dose of testosterone, and what that’s doing for me specifically. I shared that my partner and I don’t use the terms “lesbians,” “wife,” etc. to refer to ourselves. I shared that I prefer male pronouns, and I may legally change my name in the near future. I welcomed any questions.
The most common response I got was: no response. Which is OK. A few people replied in affirming ways, acknowledged what I’d told them, and that felt so awesome. No one had any questions. No one disparaged me or said anything inflammatory or negative. None of the responses (or non-responses) surprised me. None of this process changed the way I relate to my family. In some ways, I’d like to change the way I relate to my family. I would like to be closer with them. But I’m not going to put all the pressure on the coming out process as a way to get me there… If I did, everything would fall flat.
Next up on my gender-identity related to-do list: come out at work. YIKES!
Also, just a note: I’ll be on a “true vacation” next week – one devoid of using the computer!!! I’m psyched about this (and kinda really need it), but I will surely miss keeping up on blogs (it’s become a major part of my daily routine.) I have a post scheduled, but other than that, I won’t be around for a while…