I have not come up against very much resistance or ugliness as I’ve come out, in stages, in different ways, over the span of like 18 years. I’ve been called rude things out car windows. I’ve had uncomfortable and disconcerting medical appointments. I’ve faced silence-as-acceptance(?) from certain family members. I’m still dealing with people not grasping the right pronoun, or referring to my spouse as my “friend.” But these things have been few and far between, and although they do add up, they don’t feel terribly crushing. Most of the hardest feelings have come from within, and not outside forces.
Two weeks ago though, something came up that was deliberate, that would affect me long term, and that I can’t just let go. It’s my name plate at work.
I’ve worked at this school for over 10 years, and I’ve struggled to find my place within the rest of the staff. As a default, I’ve been distant and out-of-the-loop for the most part. It took me 6 years to get a name on the custodial door at all, and that only happened when a new person started and he got his name on the door. Then it was suddenly, hey, wait a minute! I had been fine without one, or so I told myself, because I’d rather not have one at all than be a “Miss” or a “Ms.” or later a “Mrs.” or even a “Mr.” All of those feel cringe-worthy and totally wrong for me. So when I was actually asked, and I said, “KT [last name]” and that was accepted, I was thrilled. That was the name I went by. It felt right. At the time.
And then it didn’t. I came out at work last December. Holy what, that was a year ago! Part of this included talking to the principal about my name and pronoun change. I also made it clear that I was not transitioning to male, exactly, and I’d like it to be known I identify as in the middle or as a little bit of both genders. She replied that that distinction was not necessary, and that was more of a private thing. PS- It isn’t. It’s my identity. Instead of deciding I needed to clarify in that moment though, I attempted to grasp onto other compromises and specifics. So that, when she asked me about my name on the custodial door, it was immediately a no-brainer. “Mx. [last name].” It’s another option, I said. It is in use. It’s a thing, I tried to assure her. I said, “If this is representing my name, then I don’t feel compelled to spell out [in a coming out email she was going to be sending on my behalf] how I am neither gender. The title will speak for itself, and people can ask me if they want.” The principal nodded. It felt very much like we had agreed on this. She had told me that it could say whatever I wanted although she would like there to be some uniformity with everyone else’s. Mx. seemed perfect. I assumed there was follow-through on this.
As the months went by and I still didn’t have a name on the door (my supervisor had ripped off my old one), I wondered what was a reasonable amount of time to wait before asking what’s going on? But then I was out of work in May for mental health reasons. And then it was summer, and stuff like that doesn’t get done over the summer. I again had a new co-worker. I decided I would just ride in on his coat-tails. It would be easier, and that was the route I preferred to take at that time. And sure enough, within the first couple of weeks of school starting back up in September, he got his name on the custodial door. And I still didn’t. It was Mr. [last name]. I went to the administrative assistant that day and asked about my name. She apologized for not adding mine to the order, and she said she’d order it right then and there. I gave her a piece of paper where I had written it out, so there’d be no confusion: Mx. [last name].
It took 2 months, but it finally came in 2 weeks ago, but it was all wrong. I checked the custodial mail slot like I do most days, and I was appalled to see two new name plates: one for me and one for my co-worker – both of them were our first and last names. No titles at all. My ears turned red, my pulse quickened. I paced around a little, trying to move forward with my work while processing this. The principal was still in her office, adjacent to the hall where these mail slots are. I started to gear up to approach her, but then I hesitated, thinking I should wait until I’m more levelheaded. I didn’t get a chance to decide because right in that moment, she left.
My first, more general thought was that this is disrespectful in a classist sense. Why should ours be the only names that don’t have a title with them. Other thoughts spiraled out from there, most prominently, “I don’t want to have to deal with this!”
When the name got put on the door, I told my co-worker that’s not what I wanted. (He failed to change out his name plate, so mine was the only one with a first name). I then told the administrative assistant, and she said this was the principal’s decision. Which I already figured; I just didn’t want to talk to her! For 5 days in a row, I gathered myself to go talk to her, only to be met with her on her way out the door right in that moment. So finally when passing her in the hall on the 6th day, I asked, “Can I talk to you before you leave today?”
That worked! I talked to her and it was no big deal on her end. I wrote out what I wanted, for a third time, and she said it’d be ordered the following day. Which was yesterday. We’ll see how long it takes this time around; at this point it’s been over a year!
I surpassed my best guess at a timeline. When I started in January, I gave the whole venture 6-8 months. I thought I’d start getting uncomfortable with the level of masculinization by that time, and I’d stop. Not for good, just for a while, to level back out, and then most likely start again within another year or two. Something like that. BUT! I really like what’s going on. I like everything except for the facial hair growth, and that’s been pretty minimal thus far. Minimal enough to manage, without having to shave. I like my voice, the muscle growth, legs getting hairier, and clit growth. I haven’t noticed my hairline receding any further than it already has (I was on a low dose of gel for 3 years and saw my hairline change). And I really really really like the cessation of menses. I never had severe symptoms with that, but having it as one less thing, showing up to deal with, cyclically, is a really big plus.
Today was also my 3rd appointment with an endo, and I have a new one now (the one I started with moved to Oregon). I liked her immediately. She wrote down notes. She was curious if my psychiatrist sees other trans-patients, and if I like her, so that she can have someone to refer others to. Same with my therapist. She wanted to know about my experience with my top surgeon. I gave her my full report. She just seemed to really want to get a grasp on who’s who within trans-health, and to glean a lot of that information from actual patients, which felt really validating.
I asked her questions about needle gauges, and she asked me if I was interested in sub-cutaneous injecting. I said, “yes!” even though I hadn’t thought about bringing this up in particular, in advance. It’s just something I’ve heard other trans-people on testosterone talk about as an easier and less painful route. But I assumed it was something totally different, like a different style needle, possibly a different type of oil, etc. I learned it’s not – you just use a significantly smaller needle, and inject it into fat instead of muscle.
This next paragraph is going to be kinda graphic, heads up if you have a needle phobia! So, imagine using a fairly long and thick needle and just jabbing that straight down into your quad muscle, perpendicularly. And then having to push the oil out of the syringe, which does take some force because the oil is thick. This has been painful, to varying degrees, and often there is blood. Sometimes my muscle is sore that night and into the next day. Now, instead!!! I’m gonna get to use a thinner needle, and just slide that in at an angle, but fairly parallel with the skin. It’ll only have to go in a half inch or so, not one-and-a-half inches. It’ll still be hard to push the oil out and in, but just the fact that it’s a layer of fat and not a thick meaty muscle sounds pretty good to me! I can’t wait to switch over! I’ll have to watch some videos or something. The endo did suggest I could come in and a nurse practitioner could show me, but I think I got it.
The one thing about the appointment that felt a little off was she gave me a quick exam, with all my clothes on. This was in itself was fine, although I was caught a little off guard.. She checked my lymph nodes, breathing, throat, etc. Then she said to lay down, and even though I was wearing a t-shirt and hoodie zipped up all the way, she kind of put her hands under there and said she wanted to take a look at my chest. Maybe she could have asked. I probably would have said sure. But she was like, touching my nipples and commenting on skin retraction. And it felt weird. It’s not like it was lingering in a bad way. I pretty much immediately got over it. It was just very unexpected.
And, like always, here’s my face:
A few days ago, I found out about an upcoming project called We’re Still Here: An All-Trans Comics Anthology, edited by Tara Avery and Jeanne Thornton. It is slated to be released in January, pending enough funding through their kickstarter campaign. When I first checked it out, it had been “live” for one day, and had already reached $15,000 of it’s $17,000 goal. Today, a mere 5 days later?!!! It’s at $35,126 – more than double of that goal!!!
That means, I’m assuming, that the artists are going to get paid even more $$. They were going to be getting paid $25 per page – I wonder if that’ll get raised to $50 / page. Hopefully!
I pre-ordered my copy and cannot wait to get to read it in its entirety!
In the meantime, I asked one of the authors, whom I met online through a Facebook group, how they got started / how they found out about contributing.
Me: How did you get into graphic arts? Do you have formal training or are you mostly self-taught?
Kyri:I have been drawing since I was old enough to have motor control to move a crayon around, and telling stories for almost as long as that. My early focus was on animals, but I branched out to people, stories, and comics in late elementary school when I discovered manga. That’s held on for the long haul. I went to a liberal arts school instead of a traditional art school, which turned out better for comics anyway because I could minor in creative writing. I focused mostly on printmaking in college, which translates really well to comics – a lot of thinking in sharp black and whites and the graphic quality of lines, and how a reproduced image reaches large audiences.
Me: How did you first hear about this project?
Kyri: I’m part of a comic creator’s group in Boston, the Boston Comics Roundtable, and someone there signal boosted the open call for submissions – I can’t for the life of me remember who. I almost didn’t send in a submission packet, and actually ended up submitting something a week late, because I was a little intimidated by the people in charge and the people who were already part of the project. I’m so glad I pushed past my fears, though, and I’m really excited to be published alongside all these fantastic trans artists
Me:How did you narrow down the story that you wanted to tell? Is it your “quintessential” coming-out story, of sorts, or something more tangential?
Kyri:I knew when I first saw the open call and the concept for the anthology that I wanted to do something about my bodily experience with both gender dysphoria and chronic illness. I have fibromyalgia and hypermobile joints, and it really affects how I’m able to present on any given day. Binding can really hurt my ribcage if I’m not careful, and sometimes the compression just ends up hurting my muscles because of the constant contact, even if I’m binding correctly. Being chronically ill also means I’m not as fit as I once was, and the extra weight means I get misgendered constantly, even when I am attempting to present androgynous/masculine. I think that most people tend to think of the thin attractive model of androgyny when they think of what it means to be agender or demigender, and there’s just not enough discussion around diversity of trans bodies outside of our community. There’s also this pervasive and weird idea that you can only be “one thing” so convincing people I’m both trans AND have an invisible disability is an ordeal sometimes. I wanted to do something to touch on all of that, and ended up with an autobio comic in which my body is compared to a house.
Kyri Lorenz: Hailing from the mountains of Northern Colorado, Kyri Lorenz is an agender jack-of-all-trades creator with a long history of meddling with concepts of nature and identity. If it involves creation and inspiration, Kyri is there, getting their mitts all over it and learning how best to make it serve their whims. Most of the time, this is easy and the technique or medium is more than happy to comply. Sometimes, it takes a little more finagling, but there’s always something to show for it at the end.
They got their BA in Visual Arts from Hollins University in Roanoke, VA, and are currently living and working in Cambridge, MA. See more of their work at kyrianne.com.
There is still roughly one month left to pre-order your copy, and to get additional perks if you’re into that. Just click on this donate link! DONATE NOW.
With everything else that’s been going on lately, I completely forgot that my one year anniversary was on June 1st. I think I was aware on some level, because I’ve been super vocal with my spouse, the past few days, about where I’m at with this process. So I’ll try to distill those diatribes into something that makes sense!
Most importantly, within the past few weeks, I would say I have grown increasingly more comfortable with the off-beat sensations that I have going on. Nothing is painful, per-se, but there’s still a lot of tenderness. I am finally OK with my spouse resting her head there without warning, and in addition, I’ve realized that the more I ignore/avoid that area of my body, the more it will stagnate. ??? (That’s just a hypothesis, but I hope there’s some truth to that – I’ve been trying to actively “manhandle” some spots, in the hopes that’ll promote more nerve growth, haha.)
I am over the disappointment of it not being picture perfect. At first I was angry with the surgeon (Dr. Rumer). I held onto this anger for a long time. But, as I noted at 6 months, I had been poking and prodding around my rib-cage a lot more, and I came to the conclusion that my bone structure is asymmetrical, and she (the surgeon) had to work around those idiosyncracies, and in the end, I think she did her best. I’m sure it would have looked more even if I had gone with DI, but peri was one of the things I was not negotiating on. I already have scarring on my chest, from my self-injuring behavior years ago, and I really wanted no additional scarring, if possible. And that was accomplished. (Aside from my drain holes – those scars are still visible!!!)
My nipples, I believe, can be “tweaked,” (haha) for sure. They look like they got shrunk and melted on – I think a different surgeon can really change the size and shape and it’ll make me much happier. I am not going with Dr. Rumer any-further. I was supposed to have my one year appointment either in person or over skype, on Thursday, but I cancelled it all together. I am done, and am only now looking ahead to revisions. The appt. wasn’t even going to be with the surgeon – just a nurse-practitioner, like I did over skype at 1 months, 3 months, 6 months, etc. I’m done.
I am grateful that insurance reimbursed a large part of it – I really didn’t think I stood a chance with that.
And, just to wrap up, I want to reiterate how important this step was for me: It’s not just that now I can wear tighter shirts and I don’t have to consider whether to bind or not, etc. It has really affected my self-esteem, self-perception, and social comfort. When I get dressed, I am excited to see how the shirt falls now – does it accentuate my pecs (which are now one of my favorite parts of my body), can I layer things in an interesting way, can I wear this as an open shirt and consider wearing a necklace as well?… etc. Sometimes I will wear two outfits in one day, just to try out new-to-me fashions!
I told my spouse the other day that I used to just feel dumpy all the time, and she was shocked – she said I never looked dumpy. Now it’s the opposite – I feel snazzy!
Today marks 3 months on T-injections. My prescription is for 50ml / week, but I’ll admit I was using more than that for the first 6 weeks. I’ve been doing 50 regularly for the last 6 weeks though, leading up to my blood test, because I really do want to see where the levels are, at that amount. I have an appointment on Thursday with the endocrinologist to discuss this. I’m going to ask to be put on a higher dose. Which I may or may not bump myself up to. I… just really like to stockpile testosterone and to have some personal control over it.
Changes have been occurring at a comfortable pace. I’ve gained maybe 8 pounds, mostly in my abs, shoulders, and pecs. I get more dark hairs on my chin and upper lip, which just means I gotta use the tweezers more often! My voice definitely dropped within the last month – I’d say that is the most noticeable thing. And I have mixed feelings about that, because it is such a permanent thing. But, so far I’d say I’m getting used to it and will probably ultimately be happy about it.
We went to Easter Sunday at my Aunt’s, and it was the first time I’d seen my relatives since these changes have occurred. I felt a little self-conscious, because they do know I’m trans and that I changed my name and some of them know about my top surgery. But I haven’t said I am on testosterone. And I’m not gonna. It will just be.
Being out at work has been going super well. Everyone is consistent with “Kameron.” The “he/she,” “Mr.” etc is all over the place, which is overall fine by me because my gender is all over the place, and at least everyone knows that I said, “Kameron/he/Mx.”
Other than that, it’s been pretty low key. It’s certainly not as big a deal in my head as getting on Androgel, 4 years ago, was. I imagine I’ll be on the injections for a few more months at this point. And then on and off of them, sporadically, for the rest of my life. Probably.
I came up with a new term in my head, today, to describe my gender. I’m definitely not “mannish,” but I do think that I am “male-ish.”
Here’s my face: Other than not being able to get the lighting right, I think that my cheeks and neck have filled out a bit…
Oh, also, I almost forgot! I barely got my period this month – it was way late, and it was sooooo light, at that. That was awesome. It kinda freaks me out that that’s all it takes, and there are no health consequences(?) for the cessation of menses. But, I guess it’s relatively normal, like with birth control and stuff…
Also, yesterday at work, we were using swing machines, which is uncommon (extra work over break). And they require a lot of upper body strength. I’d normally be sore after that, but today? Not sore!
About half of the people in my life are aware of the fact that I socially changed my name. I came out to friends, about half of my exended family, and I’m working on work. But what about those other isolated areas we run into from time to time? The pharmacy. The bank. The library. The car mechanic. The eye doctor. The chiropractor. Places that have your legal name on file or places you have to use cards that have your legal name on them. Personally, in these cases, I’ve done nothing – just gone with the default. I guess it’s because the hassle of explaining isn’t worth the infrequency of the encounters and the impersonal nature of the relationship anyway. But more than that, it’s about the frustration I would feel if I did explain and then they reverted to my legal name the next time I was there, anyway. In my mind. that seems highly likely. Partially based on times I have asserted a different name and/or gender, and it wasn’t observed.
Yesterday, I went to the dentist. That’s an example of one of these places. I’ve gone to the same place since I was a kid, so they use an even older version of a nickname that is long gone almost everywhere else in my life. It’s almost cringe-worthy. But I still had decided it wasn’t worth the effort. However, this time, when I walked in, the receptionist greeted me and immediately said that when she had called (the day before, appointment reminder), she had noticed that I have a different name on my voice mail. She had some forms in her hand and asked if I’d legally changed it? I said no not yet, so she kind of said, well, we’ll save these forms, but go ahead and put it in parentheses on this form that you need to update so we know what your preferred name is. We will be sure to use it here. She then proceeded to ask me how I spell it, said she liked that spelling, and chatted about how much it costs to legally change your name and was I going to do it soon, etc.? I took the form and delighted in leaving the GENDER: CHECK ONE: M F blank. I wish I could do that all day long: fill out forms and blatantly leave that blank. (Well, maybe for one day – all day every day would get super tedious and I would totally want to quit that job if that were a job.)
The dental hygienist opened the door and announced, “Kameron.” That was me! At no point had the hygienist and the receptionist talked while I was there, so there must have been a conversation before I got there. I followed her to a room to get my teeth cleaned, and it was the best teeth cleaning ever.
Unfortunately, it all went south from there: When I went to pay, and the receptionist said, “Alright lady! Let’s get you scheduled for your 6 month appointment.” What is with the “lady?” Seriously. I get lady-ed and ladies-ed ALL the time.
This 3 month period has been the most turbulent in terms of applying Androgel. I had increased my dose over the summer from 1 to 2 pumps, and then in October I increased to 3 pumps. From November 19 – Deceember 5, I was off T completely, something I had not done since I started. And then starting December 5, I went back on at 4 pumps.
The reason for the increases is that I’m looking for some masculinizing changes to happen. They haven’t yet, even though I have quadrupled my dose. Maybe I just need to be more patient. I got a blood test done yesterday and have a doctor’s appointment on Monday – I will be super curious to see what my testosterone levels are at. I feel like I should be well within the male range. If I continue to not see changes, I may have to decide to switch to injections, but I hope I don’t have to. I’m not looking for a drastic change, and I’m surprised this dose, which I believe is within the standard range for someone transitioning, isn’t doing anything. Maybe it’s just still too early.
The reason I stopped T for about 2 weeks was because I’m told that in order to get top surgery, the surgeon should be telling you to be off T before and also after, to help prevent blood clotting. The surgeon I’m looking into requires being off T for a total of a month. I’d never tried being off T before, and I wasn’t about to try it for a first time right as I’m gearing up for a major life event. So I thought I’d do a practice run. It didn’t go too well. Maybe some of it was in my head, but I did not feel all that great. (Although, I have to say I don’t feel great right now either; of course countless factors contribute to how you feel.) I definitely felt like my body hurt more, I didn’t feel like eating as much (something I have trouble with anyway), and I felt colder, for sure. My mood plummeted, but it was still within a range I could tolerate… I might do another practice run at some point to feel more confident about it; I do not like the idea of being off T in order to have surgery, but I know it’s important.
Here are some past posts in this series. In earlier posts, I talked a lot more about the effects of testosterone. I guess it’s starting to get a bit redundant!
And, as always, some pictures of my face:
I have two consultations within the next two weeks with surgeons. I can’t believe I made it this far – I didn’t always know I would get top surgery. Even now, I’d say I’m about 99% certain, but I’m still hesitant to talk about it or write about it. I’ve never written about it here other than just quick, vague mentions.
There were some hang-ups I had to work to get past (and I’m still working through) in order to allow myself to feel like I can do this:
It is a want, not a need. I don’t need this – I’d say it’s been a persistent nagging feeling for years and years and years, but never an intolerable feeling of disgust or revulsion. If my chest is not a source of gender dysphoria in a way I can’t live with, can I still get top surgery? Yeah, why not? It will definitely improve my quality of life. Throughout adulthood, I have fantasized about wearing t-shirts or tank tops in the summer, without a binder. I avoid binders when I can, which leads me to another hang-up…
My chest is small. My chest is so small that it seems like I could just live with it how it is. Can’t I just live with it? It’s not cumbersome; I don’t have to do much to hide what I have. In the winter, it’s not much of a problem. I can just layer and I don’t have to bind. In the summer, I think about it all too much. Sometimes I bind; other times I just attempt to layer and be hot.
Ultimately, my chest doesn’t look how I think it should look, and if I have the means to change that, I don’t see why I shouldn’t. Urgency (and my lack thereof) plays a role in whether I think I get to do this, but I can get over that. I think. I have a lot of shirts I’d like to wear, but don’t. Because they don’t look right. I spend a lot of time thinking about how my body could look different.
For a very long time, I thought I would get top surgery one day, but I had no idea how to make a first step. Which just tells me I probably wasn’t ready yet. It seemed so daunting as to be impossible. Finally, this summer, I was corresponding with a trans-guy I know locally, and he said he got surgery in our city. That blew my mind – I didn’t know there was anyone here.
I started looking at a Facebook group where others had written about their experiences with her, and I could suddenly wrap my head around moving ahead. I called and booked a consultation for a month away. As soon as I did that, more doors opened up. I could suddenly envision traveling, meeting with other surgeons, all the stuff involved in getting top surgery, usually. I did minimal amounts of research (I already know a bunch of surgeons by name – I’m sure I will do more research. It’s going to be a long process) and called Dr. Rumer’s office, about 5 hours away. I’ll be traveling just to meet with her. That seems huge. She waived the consultation fee because I have been to the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, one of the many places she presents at. That’s pretty cool.
These consultations happen to be only 3 days apart – it’s going to be a busy week, coming up.
In some specific ways, and not at all in other ways. No one has ever told me that I’m not trans enough, but if they did, that just wouldn’t resonate at all. No one should be policing others’ lived experiences in any way. Being trans doesn’t mean you have to fulfill A, B, and C. If you identify as trans, you get to identify as trans!
The first time I really seriously considered that I was trans was in January of 2002. I went to an event at my college, and wrote in my journal afterward,
“Tonight I went to a presentation on transgender rights, mainly because I barely know what transgender means let alone the politics of the subject.
This would be the entry where I write about how I liked being called Tough Guy by drunk people, and how I liked it when this drunk guy mumbled that I look like a boy.
I guess … I am trans.
Apparently, transgender is much broader than I thought, and there are many cases of discrimination that I was not aware of. I’d like to learn more about this.”
After that, I never really looked back, re-evaluated my identity, or hesitated to call myself trans. Even when some friends around me started to shift from identifying as “genderqueer,” to identifying as “FTM” and started transitioning. Even when I was the only one in this support group who was not actively transitioning or planning to ASAP. Even when I attended a social group called “Guys’ Night Out” despite not being sure I was “one of the guys.” They were all trans, and I also was (am) trans.
I’ve gone to a handful of local trans-related events, some political, some social, and some creative. I haven’t walked away feeling an affinity with the people in the space, but that really has nothing to do with gender identity. My inability to connect with other trans people in real life is not because I’m not trans enough. It’s because I’m not social enough. I wish I could connect more, but I’m not pushing myself right now.
I am very secure in my transhood.
However, when you throw societal views into the mix, it gets tricky (sticky, icky). The biggest example of this for me is work. If I were trans enough, I would be out at work, and I would transition. It would be difficult, but it’d be relatively straightforward. Since I’m in this in-between land (which I strongly feel is where I fit), I’m in this limbo at work (and out in public as well). I have come out to the principal of my school (workplace), but have made no further efforts. Because I do not feel trans enough to ask for changes.
I just feel like typing that again – I do not feel trans enough to ask for changes, at work or in public. No one at work uses my preferred name or pronouns. I haven’t asked them to. My friends and community are behind me 100% – everyone has been amazing with my recent social name change. Family is trickier, but they all do know. What do I do about work though? Maybe I wait till I have legally changed my name. Maybe I talk further with the principal to figure out a plan. I do feel she would support me. As of now, I’m doing nothing, indefinitely…
Every day at work, I talk in a relatively high pitch (for me). Then I get in my car and talk to myself or sing in my (newer) lower register. Why don’t I talk that way at work? I can’t really answer that.
Not everyone is as supportive or knowledgeable as my friends and community. I went to a meeting recently, and we all went around and introduced ourselves. I included my preferred pronouns in my introduction. The person across from me scoffed. I felt not trans enough. Not trans enough for mainstream society, at this time.
I wonder will this change in my lifetime? And if not really, can I at least contribute in some really small ways to small changes around me? Can I at least get everyone in all the bubbles I occupy (this means work and out and about in public) on board? I think that I can, but it’s going to take me a lot longer than I’d like.
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!