Posting solely so I know when the nameservers have switched over.
Admin Heads Up
There may be some downtime in a couple of weeks. I’ve hit my limit with the current host and will be looking at transferring to a new one once finals are over and I have time to deal with the hassle. Hopefully it’ll go easily, but last time I did this it was a pain in the ass and took the site out for a few hours. (Surprisingly, people actually noticed.) Anything prolonged will be noted on the Tumblr account, which I will have more time to check once summer break starts. Once the site transfer is done and I’ve had a few days to sleep off exam stress I plan to get at least a post or two out.
So, as anyone who has managed to stay following this blog over the years knows, I no longer post all that often. Once a year is a pretty big deal at this point. Part of that is because I’m well past the point in my life where I think about being trans very often. I’m heading toward fifteen years on, I can’t remember the last time I went to a trans group, being trans is kind of just background noise. It’s relevant, yes, but it’s not a focal point.
The other part is that I’m not entirely sure what to post. Trans blogs and the trans (and queer, really) community in general are heavily coming out focused. There’s not a whole lot out there for what to do once you’re already out. That’s partially for the same reason I no longer post much, the longer you’re out the less it tends to matter, but I think it’s also a little because no one knows what to say. It’s easy to give binder recommendations or talk about starting T. Everyone’s excited about that first shot, everyone’s nervous about coming out. These are topics we’re all comfortable and familiar with. It’s harder to talk about never quite getting past dysphoria or being frustrated about having been on T for years without fully passing (yeah, that’s me, I’m unlucky). Those things are depressing, but they’re also somehow things we don’t consciously think of. Probably in part because of how depressing they are.
I think there is a need for a “what now?” side of the community though. In particular for those of us with crap genetics who are still trying to deal with passing issues several years on. In recent years I’ve started looking at being trans a lot like how I look at my depression: something that isn’t going away and that I therefore need to learn how to live with long term. Ideally with healthy coping mechanisms rather than being cranky all the time.
Issue is, I still don’t know what to post. I know I want to put together a post on how I’ve learnt to deal with dysphoria/not passing long term, but other than that I’ve got nothing. So if anyone is actually still reading this and has something I’ve not covered (or that might need to be covered again given how much has changed since I came out), drop a comment. I can’t guarantee I’ll get to it quickly, I’m currently back in school and taking an insane course load, but with summer coming up I’ll have some free time.
Gender, Politics, and Being Old
I have been out for over ten years now. Heading quickly toward fifteen, actually. I have seen the transition from transsexual to transgendered to transgender to trans* to trans to I think now we might be on “gender expansive”? I’ve watched genderqueer go from that thing college lesbians identified as before transitioning to a full umbrella term in its own right. I’ve watched the emergence and near disappearance of genderfucked and it’s various spelling variants. I’ve watched as the first generation of trans children have grown up and the transition from 20 being a young age to come out to it being considered too old to bother. I’ve seen trans women on screen portrayed sensitively and by actual trans actresses. I’ve seen being trans go from something most people didn’t know existed to a full fledged political issue, complete with religious backlash. A surprising amount has happened in the last decade, especially when it comes to trans issues.
But one thing hasn’t. And it’s that I still don’t fucking understand genderqueer.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to misgender someone if they tell me they’re genderqueer (at least not intentionally, I am human). I’m not going to use the wrong name or pronouns or tell them they don’t get to identify that way. Now that I rarely go to trans groups and therefore don’t have to put up with people telling me I’m genderqueer it really doesn’t impact my life. So I don’t particularly give a fuck. But I am still confused.
See, I don’t get this concept of “feeling like” a gender. Or not feeling like a gender, for that matter. What the hell is a gender, anyway? I identify as transexual for a reason and that reason is that my body — specifically my primary and secondary sex characteristics — does not fit what my brain tells me it should be. Gender has fuck all to do with that. That’s just social and I can ignore social crap. I’m a gender non-conforming, gay trans man, I ignore social crap all the damned time.
From what I can tell from having asked around and generally existed in queer spaces, it all seems rather wrapped up in the very gender norms people claim to reject. I cannot count the number of times a genderfluid person has said to me that they “feel like a boy” on one day because they want to wear jeans and hoodies and “feel like a girl” on another day because they want to wear makeup and pretty dresses. I don’t think I have ever once heard a genderqueer/genderfluid person say that they “feel like a boy” one day so they’re going to wear a fabulous glitter tuxedo jacket and kilt. Or that they “feel like a girl” another day so they’re going to wear their favourite softball jersey and comfy sweats. It’s all wrapped up in stifling as all hell gender norms.
And that…concerns me. As a gender non-conforming trans man who was significantly more gender conforming as a girl, it worries me that so many young people are playing so strongly into gender roles. Because if “feeling like a boy” requires stereotypical boy things then where does that leave me? Where does that leave the fourteen year old right now who feels the way I did at fourteen? Who can’t figure out why breasts make them so uncomfortable and being mistaken for a boy immediately cheers them up….but who also loves old movies with Audrey Hepburn and reads things like Emily Post’s Etiquette guides for fun and could not play a sport if their life depended on it. Who fantasises about adult life involving a partner who dances on top of Pride floats in his underwear and excuses to wear purple velvet tux jackets. What happens to that kid when even the queer community reinforces the idea that being a boy/man must involve only the most conservative gender norms? How do they find their space?
A genderqueer person went to the Oscars earlier this week — and didn’t get taken away in handcuffs for using the bathroom. I think that is amazing. That is so much more than I ever expected when I came out. Yes, even in LA. But as amazing as it is and as happy I am that we’ve managed to get to this point despite the bathroom laws and the bigots and the Dr Zucker’s continued status as the expert on trans children, I still wonder and worry about what will happen to the kids like me. I was an anomaly within the trans community when I came out because I was too gender non-conforming. I got laughed out of trans groups and shamed for continuing to enjoy pink and glitter — despite the fact that this was the height of metro so even straight guys were wearing pink. Then the culture shifted a bit and I got called a conformist and bigot because I identify as a man, without any sort of trans qualifier, and view myself as having a medical condition.
Now, I am an adult. I can handle those things. I have learnt to accept the fact that I’m too queer for the transmedicalist types while also being too binary identified for the current incarnation of the trans community. But I don’t believe I am the only person to ever feel the way I do. The world is too large for me to be unique in that regard. And right now I don’t know that a kid today will have any better luck finding a space than I did.
Quick PSA: Basic Sex Ed for Teens
I’ve been getting a disturbing number of sex related queries that I can only hope are from teenagers lately. This is not remotely a sex ed blog, but when multiple people get here with search terms like “is it safe to have sex with jeans on” something really has to be done.
So, for all of you who are wondering about sex, go check out Scarlet Teen. It has all the information you’re too afraid to ask your parents, including information for queer and questioning teens and young adults.
Personal Musings on Transition and Futility
Every now and then I’ll get a string of posts about butch lesbians and/or masculine women on my Tumblr dash and think to myself “I could do that”. Because at this point I’ve been out for a fucking decade and still only get read properly half the time so it’s not like I’m getting any benefit from the needle I jab into my thigh once a week.
Then I remember that I tried doing that. I tried doing that my entire life until I came out. It never quite worked. It wasn’t awful or anything, I’ve never been quite as dysphoric as some guys. It was just…off. I found the phrase “female to male transsexual” and knew that it fit. I never had to think about it.
Even at my most feminine (which still would’ve fallen easily into the realm of “soft butch”), I never seemed to manage the whole “girl” thing well. I found out after I came out that a number of my friends didn’t realise I wasn’t a cis guy. Something about me is irrevocably male. I don’t know how or why or even what it is, really, but “girl” and “woman” don’t fit.
Life would be so much easier if they did. I was a badass girl. I’m gay and rather swishy and these days resemble a young Tim Gunn more than anyone else, but I’ve also always wanted to be the best at everything. Growing up that meant running faster, climbing higher, and fighting harder than any of the boys. It meant working as hard as I could to ensure I had won the respect of anyone I associated with. Until I came out I fully expected that I’d be the “first woman” something simply because I refused to accept anything else. (First woman Marine Corps sniper was my ideal goal, but I’d have taken President.)
I never had trouble being taken seriously as a girl. I never had trouble ensuring straight boys/men listened to me. I was never considered bossy or bitchy or any of the other insults that are often hurled at strong women. It’s only when people view me as the gay man I am that I encounter problems. Then all of a sudden I’m vapid or silly or otherwise not worth listening to.
It’d be nice to be able to throw that away. To be able to go back to being a masculine-neutral woman who was considered competent rather than frivolous. Unfortunately, that’s not a real option. It didn’t fit growing up and it doesn’t fit now. Sometimes I wish it did. If nothing else, I make a really cute soft butch.
Things I wish people had been more candid about when I was coming out
In January I hit nine years since I first came out. That’s nine years of reading forums and message boards and LJ and Tumblr and various other online resources. It’s nine years of support groups and activist groups and attempts at finding other trans guys who don’t make me want to shoot myself or them. In a couple of weeks it’ll been nine years on various forms of T (not accounting for the times I had to go off for monetary reasons). That’s not as long as some of the veterans in the community when I was coming out, but it feels like a lifetime ago. In that time I’ve found that there are a few things that guys tend to talk around without really going into detail. I’m going to try to cover them here.
- Ass hair. Seriously. Ass hair. Everyone makes this sound like hair on your ass cheeks, but that’s not necessarily it. It also means hair growing around your asshole. Which means one day you’re wiping your ass and realise there is hair coming out of the crack. You know how when your arm is down there’s sometimes pit hair showing between your arm and torso? Like that only with your ass. Just a warning, trying to take a pair of scissors to it is very tricky.
- Not everyone passes right away. Not everyone passes at all. Most guys will. Most guys will go on T and pass at least within a year or two. Some of us are incredibly unlucky though and will continue to be read as “something in between” indefinitely. I look almost exactly like my father did when he was 20. I have cousins a year old and a year younger who look like darker skinned versions of me. I still get read as a butch woman about 40% of the time. That’s just genetics. Accept it, find a way to make it work for you, and move on.
- There is no such thing as a “standard” dose of T. Let me repeat that, there is no such thing as a standard dose of T. There are doses that are more common, doses that doctors are more comfortable with, but there is no guarantee that that will be the dose that works best for you. I am currently on 200mg/wk of injectable T. That is double what everyone said was the “standard” dose when I was coming out. That is the dose that I require in order to have testosterone levels in the mid-range for cis man of my age. I know other guys who are on as low as 25mg/wk. Get your blood work done, keep track of your levels, and find out what works best for your specific body.
- Stealth isn’t an all or nothing deal. You don’t have to either never tell anyone ever or come out to every single person you meet. It’s not that simple. I’m out to my doctor, my partners, and the guy who had medical power of attorney when I first moved here. In California I’m out to almost everyone I know. In Israel every single person I know. It’s ok to decide as you go along. It’s ok to decide that you feel comfortable enough to come out in one area but not in another. The only thing to be a little aware of is that if you put it online it’s not going to go away no matter how hard you try so be a bit more cautious there.
- The name you pick when you first come out doesn’t necessarily have to be the name you keep forever. I’m in the process of changing my name for a third time. Why? Because the first time I didn’t realise how much I don’t enjoy being out and had already made myself too easily outed as a trans guy online. Now I’m realising that picking a nondescript white name has never felt quite right. I didn’t realise how important being Latino was going to become to me because in California every other person is Latino so it doesn’t really matter. Yes, it is kind of a logistical nightmare. Yes, the people who know I’m trans do make fun of me. Yes, the people who don’t know do ask questions. None of those things are impossible to deal with though. You might want to make the transition a little easier by keeping whatever name you currently go by as a middle name, but at the end of the day it’s your life. Everyone else will adjust.
- Fat does not shift when you start T. God do I hate how people phrase that. Your body fat does not magically move around on its own. That’s not how it works. What happens is that T tells your body to store new fat in different locations. If you continue to store new fat without using up whatever fat you already had stored you will simply end up with fat in both traditionally male and female areas. This is a good reason to eat healthy and get regular exercise. Don’t starve yourself, don’t force yourself to run fifteen miles a day, just be sensible. We all know that living off Burger King isn’t a good idea if you can avoid it. This isn’t new information. T already puts us at higher risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and RBC count, do yourself a favour and don’t make things worse by ignoring your overall health.
- There is nothing wrong with deciding that transition isn’t for you. There’s a tendency within trans circles to whisper about “detransition” and going off T and how so-and-so is a girl again. Ignore the whispers. They’re idiotic. You are the only person who knows what is going on inside of your head. If you go on T and find you don’t like the effects, if you cringe at the idea of chopping off your breasts, if you find you were confused or pressured or dealing with trauma or whatever might be the case, that’s not a big deal. You’re the one who has to live with your body. You’re the one who has to live with however society views you. Do what makes you happy.
The Secret World of Alex Mack (or how media made my childhood easier)
When I was growing up there was this show called The Secret World of Alex Mack. It was a tween-oriented series centred around a girl (Alex Mack) who was accidentally covered in this industrial goop and developed weird powers. Like most shows of the time, the target audience was gender neutral and included an opposite-gender best friend. Every time someone asks me how it is I had very few problems with gender growing up I point to this show because it’s such a perfect example of the slightly odd period of the mid-90s I grew up in.
Note that Alex wasn’t meant to be a tomboy, she’s an average girl in a suburban town. Who happened to dress not that differently from me.
Alex got girlier as she got older, but particularly early on the girly girls were portrayed as slightly different from ‘normal’.
It wasn’t just Alex Mack either, most of the media I grew up on featured boys and girls that weren’t that different from each other. See: the abundance of flannel even on the very much teenage girls Angela Chase and Rayanne Graff from My So-Called Life, particularly when contrasted with Sharon Cherski, Angela’s childhood friend.
Back to Sherwood and The Adventures of Shirley Holmes were also favourites of mine, but they weren’t nearly as popular and are therefore difficult to find images for. Are You Afraid of the Dark? always featured at least one tween girl in a backwards ball cap and ripped jeans.
The thing I think a lot of people forget is that the late 90s US was still very much inspired by grunge. Teen and tween clothes were largely baggy, shapeless, and hobo-like. It’s not something I enjoy now, but as a child it meant that there was no pressure to dress like a Spice Girl because no girls dressed like that. It wasn’t until I was in the latter half of high school that the fashion influences of pop music really started hitting California. Before that girls may have wanted to look like Britney Spears, but no school and very few parents would have allowed it even assuming they could find the clothes.
In contrast, most of the kids I know now watch things like The Haunted Hathaways
Or Good Luck Charlie
Or A.N.T. Farm
Even shows like Liv and Maddie feature a tomboy who would have been considered girly when I was growing up.
I can’t imagine being a little trans guy right now. All of the girls on TV and in movies seem to be these perfectly coiffed, slender beauties who need some sort of frill or pastel to be fully dressed. Yeah, I probably would’ve realised sooner if this is what I had to go off of, but I also would have been miserable for many years because there is no way I could have come out to my parents.
Passing when you don’t pass
I’m back home (San Francisco) for a few weeks and it’s been bringing up a ton of memories (both good and bad). One of those is of starting T. Made me realise that I’m heading toward 10 years on T now and oh my god do I hate so many of you.
See, I am still hairless (don’t mind really), scrawny (mind a lot), high voiced (eh, whatever), “delicate” (fuck everyone), and otherwise feminine enough that I pass somewhere around 50% of the time in most areas. Here I pass closer to 95% of the time, but it’s definitely an exception.
I also am only out to around 5 people where I live. In the entire time since deciding to transition, I’ve had problems with questions/rumours about my being trans a grand total of three times. Once because I made a bad call about a guy who ended up being an asshole.
I’ve been meaning to write a post on how I manage this almost since I started this blog, but I never got around to it. I think I always told myself that at some point I’d start passing more and then I could write about it from a more detached perspective. That doesn’t look to be happening so I’m doing it now.
Most of what helps me avoid having to out myself is probably not all that helpful to most other people. I seem to have had a fairly unique childhood that ends up being closer to that of guys who came out as children/early teens than guys who came out around 18-22 like I did. I’m going to list them anyway though in case they’re helpful to anyone else.
- I’m Latino. The average male height in Mexico is 5’7″. That makes me short even by those standards, but not as short as when compared to the US average of 5’10”. (Some sources say Mexico’s average male height is 5’5″ which is closer to the average height of men in my family.)
- The men in my family are equally small. This is one that will not apply to most guys who have issues passing. I have old family pictures that show my uncles with no real body or facial hair. When my cousin moved in with me it helped because he’s 18 now and just barely an inch or two taller than me. People just assume my family has odd genetics (which we do) and move on.
- I had a very neutral childhood. I’ve never been afraid of talking about my childhood or pulling out pictures of me as a kid because for where I grew up it wasn’t particularly girly. One of my sisters sent me a box of childhood pictures she rescued from our parents and other than a handful (first communion, various weddings, quinceañera) they’re all boyish enough. I was in middle school in the mid-90s, the boys’ and girls’ sections of clothing stores looked basically the same. Bit more blue in the boys’ sections.
- I have no issues lying. This seems to be a big one trans guys have problems with. I don’t give a damn about lying to someone if they ask if I’m trans. They are asking about my genitalia, I see no reason to act like the basic rules of polite society are still in play.
- I have friends who also have no issues lying. The people who I’m out to know that they are 100% expected to lie if someone asks them if I’m trans. This is something I think is a basic requirement of an ally. I do not care what your opinions on lying are, outing a trans person has serious consequences and cannot be taken back. You shouldn’t do it if you aren’t willing to risk ruining someone’s entire life.
- I have an answer for everything. This came with practice. I moved around a lot when I was first transitioning which meant I had to deal with new people asking the same questions over and over. It took a few rounds, but after a while I learned how to deal with any question that might come up.
- I don’t take outings seriously. This is hard. Really hard. I’ve found that the best response to an outing by someone who’s not close to you is to laugh though. Treat it like a joke. Play confused. If they’re an old boyfriend/hook-up make a comment about how they probably wish that was true because at least then they’d have an excuse for the god awful sex. Roll your eyes and say that it’s sad how limited their imagination is — of course the tiny, feminine-looking guy is trans. Totally the first time you’ve heard that before. Idiot can’t even come up with something original.
- I keep my trans-related politics quiet. I am still involved with trans politics. I do still go to support groups and work on basic access issues. I just don’t make it my entire life. I work primarily as an ally. I use the words “they” and “them” a lot. The trans groups I go to are all out of my city. People know I’m stealth so they know not to out me. Occasionally this does require not correcting someone when they’ve said something offensive or generalising, but honestly I have to do that sometimes even with the oppressed groups I’m open about being a part of. Sometimes it’s better to save the fight for another time.
- Really I think the biggest one is that I’m confident and unapologetic. Yeah, I’m short. I’m “dainty”. I have a high voice and I can’t lift heavy things and I tend to squeal over cute animals. I don’t hide those things though. I don’t give a damn if other people have a problem with them. I expect people to treat me as the man I am regardless of my physical appearance. And 99% of the time they do. It usually confuses them a bit at first, but they adjust.
Obviously most guys aren’t going to have a family where the guys still look 12 well into their 40s. That’s not exactly a common thing. Neither is being on T for a decade without passing 100% though. Most of you will be read as a guy after a few years on T. For those of us who don’t, there are ways of managing. It just takes trial and error and a ton of patience. More patience than the guys who pass after two months can appreciate. It’s not easy and it’s not particularly fun, but our options are either adjust or be miserable. Personally, I try to avoid misery if I can.
An Ode to Black
Summer seems like an odd time to remember a love of black, but hear me out.
Black is slimming. Which is not important to everyone, but think for a moment about two of the biggest issues trans guys have: breasts and hips. Even a simple black t-shirt will mask breasts and hips better than a t-shirt of another colour. A black vest/waistcoat is even better.
Black is lengthening. This is actually true of any monochrome ensemble, but it works best with black. Put on a button front shirt, a black vest, and black trousers. You will look slimmer, taller, and less curvy. Try the same thing with a black t-shirt and black trousers. It won’t remove as much of the curve (vests really are amazing for that), but the rest will still apply.
Black is versatile. It can be both formal and casual depending on what you’re wearing and how you accessorise it. Even a button front shirt, vest, and trousers can be dressed up or down. (I had to wear this basically every day for years, trust me. You can do a lot with accessories.)
Black can be cool in summer if you pick the right fabrics. 100% natural fibres are your friend. Personally, I still won’t wear all black in summer unless forced because I think it looks stifling. I’ve had to before though and sticking with cottons and linens makes it bearable even in 100+ degrees (F) with humidity. Avoid poly blends like the plague because they don’t breathe and make life hell. If you can find black on black seersucker snatch it up. You’d be amazed at how cooling black is when it’s black seersucker.
Basically black is awesome. Fitted black is a trans guy’s dream. A well-fitting, all black outfit is flattering on damned near everyone. The only times I’d say to avoid it are weddings (sends a message of disapproval) and conservative job interviews (I’d add a subtle pinstripe and white shirt to soften the look up a bit). Maybe the beach, but even there you could get away with black board shorts and a fitted black t-shirt.