I started writing occasionally for a website called Transgender Universe. Here’s the first article that I’ve posted! It’s about pride flags being burned in my neighborhood, following the election, and then an impromptu rally, as a response to this hate crime.
(This first appeared on Transgender Universe, here: From Burning Pride Flags to a Neighborhood Rally)
The morning after the election, I woke up to a text from a friend who said, “Hi! We’d like to get a rainbow flag to hang at the house in solidarity after what happened yesterday. Do you know where we could purchase one?” When he had said, “what happened yesterday,” I figured he meant Trump, but once I got on facebook, I saw that two pride flags had been burned in my neighborhood the evening before. Talk about getting hit close to home! It is being investigated as both arson and a hate crime, but so far there are no suspects.
So I looked up information for the gay pride store that had been a mainstay in our city, first opening in 1989 as a leather and fetish supplier, and later changing ownership a couple of times and morphing into a place that had something for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community. I was shocked and saddened to learn that it had closed in August with the death of the current owner. So instead I recommended a couple of novelty stores to my friend, hoping he’d be able to track one down.
“AS THE EVENTS UNFOLDED, IT BECAME APPARENT THAT THERE WAS NOWHERE, LOCALLY, TO GET A PRIDE FLAG BECAUSE EVERY PLACE HAD SOLD OUT!”
As the events had unfolded, it became apparent that there was nowhere, locally, to get a pride flag because every place had sold out! A fellow neighbor had ordered 120 more flags, and she was formulating a plan to get these out to people and acquire more, flooding the area with rainbows.
On Friday evening, another friend in the neighborhood had texted me to see whether my spouse and I were going to the rally in the morning (I feel fortunate that I have so many friends who are in the loop, because there are times when I am totally living under a rock!). I said, “Yes,” as if I knew all about it (ha ha), and we made a plan to go together.
And so, my spouse and friends (a queer couple with a 10 year-old son) and I walked over to a nearby park Saturday morning, carrying signs and wearing fun outfits. As we approached, I felt a wave of emotion, moved by the size of the gathering, the amount of rainbows flying in the air, and the openness of everyone there.
Mary Moore, the organizer and the neighbor that ordered the flags, stood up on a table to announce the intentions of this rally: to hand out more flags for community members to show solidarity, and to show LGBTQ+ members in this neighborhood how much support is out there. Mission accomplished, by leaps and bounds! There were so many allies and families, along with people who identify as LGBTQ+. I walked around the outskirts of the crowd, taking photos and scoping out all that was happening. There was a station for people to make rainbows out of ribbons, as well as a spot to make construction-paper rainbows. Someone was doing face painting, and there was also a place to sign up to order a flag, because the 120 that Mary had ordered for the rally had sold out in 9 minutes!
The director of the local gay alliance also stopped by, got up on the table, and delivered a similar message of hope and love. I started to feel more comfortable, and moving into the crowd and approaching people with signs, asking whether I could take their photograph. I saw a couple of acquaintances, and where I would normally be too shy to strike up a conversation, in this environment, I went right up to them to say hey and chat for a while. My spouse and friends also connected with neighbors we know, as well as meeting a few new people.
I posted a photo album of the event on Facebook and watched my social network do its work, spider-webbing outwards from friends I had tagged, to friends of friends and beyond. I also messaged Mary, the organizer, to thank her and to ask her a couple of questions.
“…I LEARNED THAT SHE HAS BEEN AN ALLY AND SUPPORTER OF LGBTQ+ RIGHTS FOR A LONG TIME.”
We talked on the phone for a bit this morning, and I learned that she has been an ally and supporter of LGBTQ+ rights for a long time, even doing advocacy work in Washington DC. She said that for the past 8 years though, she could ease up because there was someone in the White House who was pushing for the same things; she could focus on her career, working as a lawyer in private practice, and on her family.
She first heard about the 2 flag burning incidents from a friend, while picking her kids up from daycare. Her husband had heard about it through the website, nextdoor.com, which acts as a community bulletin board and a way to connect with others nearby. I just joined, myself, to see what it’s all about (and to try not living under a rock quite so much). Sure enough, 5 days ago, there was a post from one of the victims of the hate crime, stating, “I hang a rainbow flag on my front porch and someone burned it down. Thankfully my house didn’t catch fire. The [police are] currently investigating; please keep an eye out for suspicious behavior in the area.”
And then, as a response, Mary Moore created the event, “Let’s Gather to Support Our Community.” She wrote:
In response to the burning of two rainbow flags in [our] area, let’s stand together and show that our community is tolerant and welcoming, regardless of who you love, where you worship, where you were born, your political affiliation, the color of your skin, or how much money you have. Many people in [our] neighborhood have been buying rainbow flags to put out in solidarity and to give to friends. … Would people be interested in organizing a central meeting place this weekend or next to give out flags and just to stand with our community in solidarity? … Please comment below if you would be interested in a gathering like this, if you have or can buy flags to distribute, and/or if you can assist with finding a location for this gathering. If there is interest, then we can set up a formal event on here.
I know that this is just one of many issues and injustices within our communities and that we are all so very busy, but we have to start somewhere and do what we can with what we’ve got every day. Let’s not be bullied or let our neighbors be bullied.
It all came together from there. I want to personally thank Mary Moore for showing my friends, my spouse, me, and everyone else who could be there for how much we are supported by our neighbors!
Regarding our rainbow flag status: We don’t have one, but when we moved into our house ten years ago, we dubbed it the “Rainbow Ranch” (it’s really a Colonial), and I spray painted a rainbow on our garage door. I sure as hell hope that never gets burned down – we just put a new roof on it a couple years ago!
Content note: crassness, body humor
1: “We’re Trendy”
My spouse and I were at a bar on the beach with another couple a few weeks ago. My friend (who is also trans) and I went to go get us some drinks. It was packed inside, and we had to squeeze past a long line for the bathrooms to get to the bar. On our way back with the beers, as we were squeezing by again, a woman was saying, “Hell, with this line, I could just go into the men’s room. You know, like transgenders. That trendy right now.” And, without really seeing her or stopping or anything, not missing a beat, I said, semi-loudly, “We’re trendy.” My friend repeated, “Yeah, we’re trendy.” According to my friend in the re-telling, she had a taken aback type reaction, but I didn’t see it; I just kept walking.
2. “Nearly A”
Last night on our way to go brush our teeth, my spouse looked in on our guest room / my gigantic clothes pile. There was a bra on top of one clothing mound, and she picked it up and said, “What is this?!!” I told her it’s a bra. She kept it coming with the, “Why do you have this?” and “Where did this come from,” etc. And I said it was mine and I was saving it for if I ever wanted to dress up like a girl.
“This is so tiny; it’s a training bra,” she said.
“No it isn’t! This was my bra!!!” (I was being mock angry.)
I started fumbling with it in my hand, looking for a tag so I could prove to her it was a bra. It was kind of curled up, so I unrolled it and showed it to her.
It had a model number, and then it said, “SIZE: Nearly A.”
We both burst out laughing.
3. “A Bag of Dicks”
Today, I was filling in for my supervisor, so I was working the day shift. The principal wanted me to clean up the front of the school, pick up sticks and garbage, sweep the walkway, stuff like that. So I did that for about an hour and a half before I decided that was good enough. I took the bag of trash around back to the dumpster, and as I passed the cardboard dumpster, I noticed a feminine looking backpack, a style that seemed older than elementary school age kids, just perched on top of cardboard boxes, at the perfect height where it was right where those side slide-y doors open. I flipped the flap of the bag, because I’m that kind of curious, and with just a glance, I realized that it was filled with dildos and vibrators, of all sizes and shapes, all of them different shades of pink. I quickly put the flap back and walked inside, mulling this over.
I texted my spouse:
“There is a bag of dicks in the cardboard dumpster today.”
“Haha, what?!” and then later, “What were the bag of dicks?! Haha”
“Like, literally! i took a pic on my crappy phone but didn’t turn out great cuz i wasn’t gonna touch them”
“Haha, why did the school have those?!”
“Someone swung by for a secret dump”
I then texted my co-worker, who was going to be at the school within the next half hour:
“There’s a bag of dicks in the cardboard dumpster.”
I just left him hanging until he got to work (I also texted some friends about the bag of dicks). Then, since this was one of the most exciting things that’s ever happened at work, I brought him right out to show him. He was pretty surprised, but I do get the sense he’s seen lots of weird stuff in his time. He asked me if I told anyone about it and what should we do? I said, “No!” Just my spouse, and I was gonna just dump it in the actual dumpster, not the cardboard one. But, like, maybe a little later (cause I was pretty sure he was going to investigate on his own). Sure enough, later on he approached me, and told me that he did a little digging and there were some latex gloves in there too and gym socks and also a gift card for Subway. Haha. He said, “fly your freak flag” a number of times. I felt a little more emboldened next time I went to throw out trash, and rooted around in the bag with my gloves on before throwing it into the trash dumpster. Yep, lots of dicks in there.
Originally published in the zine, Not Trans Enough. Written by geoff; reprinted with permission.
if you were to look at me or hear me speak, you’d probably think that i am a cis dude. i could list off all the reasons why that isn’t so. i could just say that i am genderqueer. i could make it known that i am non-binary. or i could just share all that i know about these aspects of myself. i definitely do not look, act, or sound genderqueer or non-binary and i am especially not thought of as trans. well at least i feel that i do not look like or live up to this cultural imagination of what it means to be trans, genderqueer or non-binary.
i never “came out of the closet.” i never had individual conversations with friends or family members. i didn’t even have a facebook status update sharing this new and important part of my life. i never came out. i never really changed my outward appearance to become genderqueer although i wish i didn’t have facial hair. instead i started to live my life more openly, honestly and more as my true self. my process of becoming genderqueer was an inside job.
genderqueerness appealed to me because it meant that i no longer had to live like a man. it meant that i no longer had to fall short of the ideal of being a man. it meant that i could start to reject the masculinity that is toxic and violent. it meant that i could be this tiny five foot one and a half tall person trying to live a just life in an unjust world. one thing it didn’t mean was that my male privilege just disappeared once i started to identify as genderqueer.
yes, i still benefit from male privilege even though i identify as genderqueer. this male privilege is complicated and contextual. it’s something i never really thought about or ever needed to consider. i feel genderqueer on the inside but i know that most people read me as a dude. being a genderqueer tomboy femme feels right. although my gender identity challenges gender expectations, i still live in this world that genders people as men or women. as de from my interactions with people that are close to me, i get gendered as a man. even though i identify as femme, i do not experience constnt sexual harassment, gendered or sexual violence.
in my early 20s and before i ever identified as queer in any way, i used to wear women’s pants by goth brands like lip service and tripp. the pants were skinny enough to fit my slim petite figure but were really tight around the crotch area. i also used to wear cyber goth platform sneakers. i had a pair of “swear alternative” shoes that had a 4 inch platform. i only wore them out once. i stopped it all. i couldn’t deal with the looks and i didn’t feel comfortable or confident in what i was wearing so i stopped. i was scared. i stopped expressing this femme aspect of myself to feel safe. i traded aesthetics for security.
“not trans enough” deeply resonates with me. this statement expresses my sentiments of feeling out of place within the “trans community.” it conveys the discomfort that i feel when i say that i am genderqueer, that i use they/them pronouns when i am surrounded by people that have an authentic trans story to tell. the “real” trans story that’s about experiencing struggles, dysphoria and medical transition. i do not wish to put down any of these struggles or experiences rather i hope to add my experience to diversify the trans narratives. i share my experience to validate it. i share my story to affirm other peoples’ sentiments if they too feel “not trans enough.” i think that all trans people are amazing. i dream of a future where trans people don’t constantly live with discomfort, where trans women and transfeminine people do not face disproportionate rates of violence against them, where trans people do not just struggle to survive but thrive and where trans people are honoured for the beautiful people that they are.
geoff is a mixed race gender queer of filipinx descent living as a settler on colonized land known as toronto, turtle island, traditionally land of the haudenosaunee, mississaugas of the new credit, huronwendat and other indigenous peoples. they identify as a sober addict in recovery. they wish to politicize their experiences with substance use and sobriety while unraveling the limited representation of the addicted body. more of their work can be found at https://livingnotexisting.org/
This piece was first published in the zine, Not Trans Enough. Written by Rhiannon Robear; reprinted with permission.
One night this summer, I was at the gay club looking glam, and having a smoke break outside with my friends. A cis gay guy came up to us and started talking about trans things in that “you’re a visibly trans and/or gender non-conforming person so I’m about to lay down all my trans knowledge, thoughts, and critiques for you” kind of way (a.k.a. completely unasked/unwanted). Overall it was a real drag, and I brushed him off mostly, but then he held my hands and looked me in the eyes and said, “baby, I know you’re trying to be the belle of the ball, but the reality is you’re built like a 6 foot amazon linebacker, and you need to work that.” I was taken aback like where the fuck do you get off telling me who I am and what I should do. But as much as I hate entertaining cis-notions of what trans people are or should be, what he said was true, and deep inside me I knew I felt that and it was the first time someone told me that I could &should be a woman on my own terms.
The reality is: I’m 5’11, probably between 250-300 pounds, hairy as all hell, and I wear size 13 women’s shoes: I’m a big girl. I spent years of my life identifying as a gay man, and trying to work at accepting and loving my body & myself in a culture that taught me that being fat & being femme made me undesireable, unattractive, and inferior. It took me YEARS to be comfortable with who I am, and that process has changed me, and how I value myself – simply put: I don’t do things for other people anymore, I do things for myself.
I identified as non-binary for the past two years, and over this time, I’ve slowly began to come into myself as a woman, and I’m currently in the process of coming out as a transgender woman. It’s very exciting and liberating and I’m now out at work and am ‘test driving’ my new name and pronouns. This being said, what I am most dreading about coming out isn’t being faced with disapproval or abandonment (I am privileged with supportive family and friends), but more about those in my life forcing feminine ideals upon me when I start to identify as a woman and not strictly non-binary.
In a perfect world, would I like to wear a full face of make-up, have minimal to no body hair, have a feminine physique, and be read 100% of the time as a woman? – SURE! But the reality is, I work two jobs, I’m a full time student, and I’m involved in a couple different organizations, and I don’t have time for that. My emotional well-being is like, “you work at 8am, you don’t have time to put your face on for an hour every morning,” “you literally can’t even reach your back hair, how are you supposed to regularly keep that shaved,” etc. Luckily for me, I think that the resilience I learned as a fat & femme gay man allows me to be comfortable in my own skin regardless of others’ perceptions. I also recognize the privilege of being comfortable enough with myself & my gender to not be dysphoric to an incapacitating extent wherein I need to hold my body to a standard for public consumption.
Why yes! I AM a woman with a hairy back – if it bothers you I’ll hand you a razor and you can shave it for me! Until then please fuck off with your gendered policing and let me live my life on my terms.
Rhiannon Robear (she/her) is a 24 year old white trans woman living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She is a social work student, and is involved in many different campus and community organizations devoted to trans, queer, and feminist justice. In her spare time she likes to knit, crochet, and watch tv shows. Feel free to follow her on twitter @haliqueer or email her directly email@example.com
Three years ago today, I made my first post on this blog. It was this:
low-dose testosterone for the rest of my life.
At that point, I was feeling very unsure of myself. It was more like, “low-dose testosterone for the rest of my life???” Being able to do that was of utmost importance; it was something I was strongly identifying with. But, if too many physical changes were happening and I didn’t like it, I felt like that meant I failed. I hadn’t heard of anyone else trying to maintain an inbetween-ness through hormones before. The only resource online I could find at the time was this series, through the Original Plumbing blog:
I Was a Teenage Unicorn
I had also met Micah at the Philly Trans-Health Conference. His blog was a goldmine of information.
I decided to start my own blog, to add to the conversation. And I really could not have fathomed how much it would help me connect with others and gain confidence in my choices. Thanks for connecting with me, everyone!!! There’s really nothing like it, at least for me, as someone who expresses myself easiest through writing and likes to read what is going on in other people’s heads.
Three years later, I already haven’t been on low-dose testosterone for the rest of my life, but that’s no big deal in the larger picture, I can now see. I had been off of it for about 6 months. Actually, as of 5 days ago, I am back on it, on a day-by-day basis, just because I feel like it.
So, to celebrate 3 years, I thought I’d pick out a few posts, and then also talk about some future writing goals.
According to my stats, my top 5 most visited posts are these:
28 risks of chest binding – I wrote this recently. And then I posted links to it on a couple of facebook groups (first time I’ve really done that), and it kinda took off. This is probably the closest I’ve gotten to “going viral,” haha. It has 3 times as many views as my next popular post, which is:
Can hormones change my sexual orientation? – I wrote this early on, and I’m glad it continues to get a lot of traffic on a steady basis. A lot of people are curious about if and how hormones could maybe shift sexual orientation.
Bathroom anxieties: a genderqueer janitor’s perspective – I also wrote this early on, and I think that if I were to write it over again, there would be lots of edits. But I’m leaving it as is, for now. It’s a document of a time, I guess.
One year on testosterone without physical changes – This got a lot of traffic because it got a boost from Micah. I asked him if he’d share it on his social media outlets. Thanks, Micah!
A story about what it feels like to be bigender – I’m also really glad this gets a lot of traffic because I worked pretty hard on it, and I think it’s really illuminating and informative. I don’t identify as bigender, but a lot of people are curious about what it means to be bigender.
Two posts that I’m considering deleting, because they pop up in people’s searches too much and are probably off-topic:
Ruling with elf wisdom – People want to know what it means to “rule with elf wisdom,” and this post isn’t going to tell them anything about that. It’s actually about a name I was considering going by, which means “ruling with elf wisdom.” But then I nixed that name. So it’s not even relevant any longer…
Office work and trans-YA fiction – People search for “office work” pretty frequently, but I’m not sure why! And this is barely about that – it’s about how I volunteered in the office at my local gay alliance for a while, but it’s more about some YA books I was reading while sitting there, bored, in the office.
Other than that, most of my search results have seemed relevant, which is good! A lot of questions about taking testosterone while on other psychotropic drugs, about being trans and using the bathroom, about different terms under the “genderqueer” umbrella… It seems that just as many searches are about janitors as they are about being trans. I guess I feel kind of weird about that because even though being a janitor is a big part of my identity and a semi-big part of this blog, I don’t feel like I’m representational of janitors in general, for when people are searching for info about janitors… Oh well.
Here are some of the more bizarre search terms that have led people to my blog:
“commercial work schedule disorder” – I once wrote about shift-work disorder, so that’s probably where they landed.
“literotica drag king” – I like that word! I’m going to start using it!
“MTF tree house transgender” – Once my spouse and I stayed in a tree house while on vacation. And I mentioned that. Haha.
“images of scrap books to be made for bf” – Not sure. I’ve never mentioned a scrap book or a boyfriend.
“are janitors off on snow days at school” – YES THEY ARE! PAID DAY OFF!
“why would another male janitor pee all over your bathroom” – Damn, I do not know dude.
“queer mullet” – I am queer and I do have a mullet. More information about this can be found here: Queer/Trans- visiblity: (flannel + mullet).
For the future, I would like to continue to take academic papers and studies, and distill them into something that is relate-able. That’s probably my favorite thing to work on. If anyone knows of any, let me know! I’ll continue to document my life too, of course.
Thank you to Austin (T Minus Zero) for choosing me for the chain style Liebster Award. The way it works is, if you’re chosen, you then choose a bunch of other blogs you like, and it branches out from there. I imagine the pattern of these awards swirling, dead-ending, and splintering/multiplying, over time, forever and ever. It’s a great opportunity to find out about other blogs and connect with one another.
I have a tendency to not follow the rules completely, but if I choose your blog and you would like to follow rules, here they are:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Answer the 11 questions the blogger gives you.
3. Nominate bloggers who you think are deserving of the award but also help promote newer bloggers with less followers.
4. Tell the bloggers you nominated them, in a comment on their blog.
5. Give them 11 questions of your own.
I’m going to do a conglomeration of questions that were posed, on a couple of blogs. If I choose your blog, you can answer these same questions, and/or come up with your own:
- What was your first thought when you woke up this morning? “I’m going to sleep longer.” Then, woke up again, and again, “I’m going to sleep longer.” Over and over again. I slept 11 hours. Like usual.
- Why did you start this blog? To connect with other people, to have a record of a time in my life.
- Boxers or briefs? Boxer-briefs.
- What’s your favorite Prince song? Uptown. I usually don’t think too much about lyrics, but I love these:
Baby didn’t say too much
She said, “Are you gay?”
Kinda took me by surprise, I didn’t know what to do
I just looked her in her eyes and I said, “no, are you?”
Said to myself, said
“She’s just a crazy, crazy, crazy little mixed up dame
She’s just a victim of society and all its games”
Now where I come from
We don’t let society tell us how it’s supposed to be
Our clothes, our hair, we don’t care
It’s all about being there
FYI: Stevie Wonder’s favorite Prince song? – Darling Nikki
- What makes you smile?
Finding something that I really like for a really good deal, and then buying lots of it, so I have some in reserves.
- What important values do you live by?
Everything in moderation, avoid debt, help others when you have energy and it feels good (otherwise don’t worry about it), try to leave a record of things that are important, connecting with people is one of the most worthwhile things to put energy into (even if it’s often hard), just do your thing.
- Who do you credit with instilling those values?
My spouse, my mom, my buddy, my therapist, Hugh Cornwell.
- What goals do you have for the rest of 2016?
Get through top surgery, get some much needed electrical work done on our house, take a couple of summer trips, go camping in the fall, start using intro and outro music on my radio show.Now check out these awesome blogs!Dear Cis People
Let’s keep this snowballing!
It can happen, and the most effective way it can happen is through personal anecdotes and connecting emotionally with someone (one reason I write this blog!). It’s going to happen through one-on-one conversations, as opposed to on a mass scale (although you never know… things do tend to snowball after a certain point!), and (unfortunately) it’s most likely not going to happen by pointing out facts and statistics to someone.
A study was just published in last week’s issue of Science Magazine. I heard about it through This American Life‘s most recent episode called For Your Reconsideration. If you want to hear the pertinent content, click on the link – there’s a player right on that page, and just skip ahead to the times between 22:20 and 29:00.
It’s about canvassers going door to door to talk to people about transgender issues, and the data was recorded and processed. The canvassers (who were both transgender themselves, and allies – and both were equally effective!) utilized a persuasion technique that’s been developed for close to 50 years by the LGBT Center in California. It’s called analogic perspective taking: “By inviting someone to discuss an experience in which that person was perceived as different and treated unfairly, a canvasser tries to generate sympathy for the suffering of another group—such as gay or transgender people.”
This tactic has not worked so well with age-old topics such as abortion, probably because everyone has such solidified ideas ingrained into how they think about those issues. Trans-issues are relatively new, and people are proving to be fairly malleable if approached in certain ways. In many cases, people aren’t even sure what
“transgender people means.” Canvassers had an informative video with them if this was the case.
So for example, there’s an audio clip from one voter, and he is stumbling over wordage. He says, “There is one thing that disturbs me. A man that is a fag using man’s clothes* and going into a ladies’ bathroom. That I would not like.” The canvasser spends time explaining the difference between “gay” and “transgender” (mentioning that we don’t use the word “fag,” and the voter apologizes). The voter is the one who starts to reflect on his own experiences, and by the end of the conversation, he says, “I’m glad to be talking to an intelligent person that made me think about my own background. That it was very old.”
This occurred in Miami: in 2014, the county passed an ordinance banning discrimination against trans-people, and the canvassers are trying to convince voters that’s a good idea in case of backlash. “56 canvassers—some transgender, others not— knock on the doors of 501 people living in Miami. As a control, some of the interviews focused not on transgender discrimination, but on recycling. In all cases, the 10-minute interview included a survey before and after to measure people’s attitudes regarding transgender people, as well as follow-ups ranging up to 3 months later.”
The goal is to get the voter to engage in a conversation, saying the words themselves, sort of so they’re able to hear their own opinions, and to see if there’s any wiggle room. A lot of times, there is! One out of 10 voters changed their minds over the course of a 20 minute conversation. And when surveyed 3 months later, the change appears to have stuck.
This is so striking! It made me envision myself going door to door. Could I do that? I’m not sure, but more likely, I could see myself being a part of a panel, and even more likely, I could see myself trying to get my writing out to a wider audience…
To make good on that, I’m going to post this on facebook! (Something I rarely do.) I’m gonna spread the word through my local indymedia too! Any way possible.
I feel like there is hope.
All quotes are either from This American Life, or the Science Magazine article, here: “For real this time: Talking to people about gay and transgender issues can change their prejudices.”
Also, as a note, there’s information about a study that came before this one, that was most likely falsified. While this is intriguing, it kind of diverts attention away from the amazing findings of this more recent, scientifically sound, study. So just kinda gloss over that controversy…
*I’m pretty sure he meant to say, “women’s clothes.”
I’m much more of a writer than a conversationalist – and definitely not a public speaker. Tons of people have a fear of public speaking. I don’t mind being in front of audiences, so at least I have that first hurdle out of the way. I just have a fear that I won’t be able to talk naturally and coherently. Despite this, I’ve had aspirations for a long time to verbally share my experiences, be on panels, join the speakers’ bureau, etc. I’ve talked a few times in front of audiences, mostly as part of drag performances. I’ve gotten around the talking thing by preparing statements ahead of time, reading out loud what I’ve written.
I’ve never seen someone on a panel read before, but I figured, I could do it! Why not? I had seen a message posted to a facebook group, from an acquaintance who works for Planned Parenthood. She was organizing a half-day of training about trans-healthcare for the PP health center staff: clinicians, nurses, health center managers and front desk staff. It was going to include a 45 minute panel, and she was looking for trans-people to talk about their experiences with health services – both positive and negative.
I thought my recent consultations with surgeons for top surgery would illustrate a stark contrast, so I emailed her about it and included links to these two posts:
She wrote back saying it’d be great to have me, and I could certainly read out loud. Over the weekend, I edited these so they’d work better spoken out loud, and I tried to cut them down shorter. Because, dang, they seemed short when I wrote them, but it takes more time than you’d think to read things out loud!
I arrived at the venue Monday morning, and I wasn’t even that nervous! I recognized one of the other people on the panel, which was cool. The third person came in shortly after, and we introduced ourselves – her name is Leah.
I went first to get it out of the way; I introduced myself and then just launched into it. I think, in retrospect, that I was talking too loudly (definitely not quite my natural speaking voice) but, that’s OK – better too loud than too quiet I guess. The other two people went, and they both did an awesome job speaking off the cuff. We answered a bunch of questions, and I was grateful that the person on the other side of me naturally answered first, giving me time to formulate something to say. It all went really well – people had great questions! (As an interesting aside, there were about 75 people in the audience, and it appeared to be made up of 1 man / 74 women.)
The organizer then presented us with gift bags and gift cards, which was awesome! I feel like the norm is that panel participants are just volunteering, so that was awesome that we were compensated. We lingered while the group wrapped up their training, ate some bagels and had some coffee, and then stuck around in case anyone had any further questions. No one did, but we got lots of compliments and thanks, as people were leaving.
This was totally worthwhile and something I’d like to do more of. I’m not sure how I will transition from reading things into actually becoming a speaker, but, well, it’s something to work on.
The next day, one of the bloggers that I’ve been following for a while, The Overflowing Closet, wrote this post (as part of the 30 day trans-challenge she’s doing: Day 8 – “How do you deal with being misgendered in the beginning of transitioning by people?” She started by saying, “Yesterday I gave a talk in front of 75 medical staff and personnel about my experiences being transgender and seeking medical help. The crowd was filled with people who wanted to provide better services for trans people, and one of their biggest concerns was misgendering people.”
I suddenly realized that the Leah I had met the day before is the same Leah whose blog I’ve been reading! Has this ever happened to you? Where you’re reading a blog and then you meet someone and then you connect the dots in between? Such a cool experience! I contacted her to see if I could share this, and she said of course.
So hey, here’s to making something out of all this writing and online connecting with people!
Thank you to ftmfml and Topher Bigelow (Musings of a Life in Transience) for choosing me for the chain-style Very Inspiring Blog Award! These community-driven awards are a great opportunity to find out about new blogs and connect with one another. I’m going to spread the inspiration along by choosing some blogs I’ve been enjoying lately.
If I chose your blog and you want to participate, here are the “rules”
– Thank the blog writer(s) who nominated you
– List the rules
– Nominate other amazing blogs and leave a comment to them to let them know you nominated them.
– Share some fun facts about yourself
Here are some blogs – make sure to check them out!
Hmm, some fun facts…
– Last week was my 2 year anniversary of writing this blog; that seems like a pretty big deal.
– I like all foods except for raw onions. Even though I liked meat, I’ve been a vegetarian for over 10 years.
– Right now I’m reading a book called Struck by Genius. It’s a memoir about a guy who was attacked and suffered a traumatic brain injury, and the ways in which he changed immediately afterward, both positive and negative. He was suddenly able to understand mathematical concepts and theories; his vision changed in a way where he saw lines and geometric patterns emanating from everything. He started to draw what he was seeing as a way to explain the math he was coming up with. On the other hand, he developed pretty severe OCD and PTSD and, for years, he was agoraphobic. OK, I guess I’m writing fun facts about him instead of about myself, but that’s alright! I wonder if he has a blog…
I’ve checked in on things here and there, post-college. But, for the most part, I dropped out. Gender identity became too overwhelming to unravel, and I more-or-less gave up for a number of years. Tried not to think about it. Tried not to dwell on whether or not I should take testosterone, get top surgery, come out yet again, any of that. I continued to use the internet for emailing, connecting with the local anarchist community, and promoting events I was involved in. Maybe to do some online shopping once in a while. Oh, and to download music. I was alternately only kinda happy, and not happy at all.
I finally, fortunately, hit a breaking point and started sorting my way through. I got back into therapy and decided on some steps that would help me become the person I see myself as. I’m fully embracing my non-binary trans identity and finding ways to express that. I’ve been on a low-dose of testosterone for over 2 years now. I’m considering top surgery. And a legal name change. I find that I want to talk all about every aspect of this, and more, in depth, long-term.
A turning point for me was meeting Micah (http://neutrois.me) at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference in 2013. I had been on testosterone for two months at that point, and I was soaking up everything he had to say, as the facilitator of a workshop called, “Non-Binary Transition: Exploring the Options.” I went to speak to him briefly after his presentation; he handed me a “business card” for his blog.
A month later, I started my own blog. I’ve had locked and “friends only” online journals before (on the aforementioned Diaryland and LiveJournal, as well as Blurty), but this feels very different. I am engaging with people I have never met before. I am being quite public about my life experiences, vulnerabilities, hopes, and desires. I am reading masses of other blogs about gender identity, daily. I feel very much a part of a community and an ongoing dialogue. Recently, I wrote about how it feels to be given a diagnosis, and I also asked for recommendations for resources to give to my therapist. I got a bunch of feedback – links to articles, recommendations for books, people making sure I’m aware of the WPATH-SOC. One person even offered to forward me a copy of the letter they just wrote (on their therapist’s behalf) in order to move forward with top surgery as a transmasculine (but not FTM) person. I took them up on it and felt this overwhelming rush of support and happiness at this free flow of information.
The following year, I went back to the Philly Trans-Health Conference, and this time, I was able to connect with a handful of people, people I’d met through online channels. It would be essentially impossible for me to approach a stranger and connect. With a lot of the groundwork already established, it was much easier to find the people I was looking for. A couple of people even approached me; they knew of me through my blog.
I don’t think we tend to seek things out we cannot yet handle. Throughout my gender identity explorations, I was pretty closed off because I just was not there yet. I didn’t meet people online or seek out tips for binding or masculine hair styles. I needed to be fairly isolated within myself and see where that led me. I now feel like I want to share as much as possible, and connect with others going through things I might have gone through, or am currently going through.
We are not living in a queer/trans utopia, but through online channels, it is possible to create that illusion, even if just for brief moments of our day. The Internet allows for these fringe groups to flourish, for people to find each other and change the world, one blog post, YouTube video, web comic, and/or tweet at a time.