Pulling from the search term queue

These are always a bit fun and I’m working on some stuff that takes a bit more thought so I need a break.

Do trans guys like straight girls better than bi girls?
Hell if I know, I’m not into girls at all.  I can say that I was really uncomfortable dating bi guys early in transition.  Not for the usual “omg, he’s going to cheat on me” bullshit reasons, but because I was always terrified they’d see me as more girl than guy or something in between.  It was very much my own insecurity and I’ve slowly gotten better about it as I’ve transitioned.  Other guys didn’t care or even sought out bi partners so they wouldn’t have to deal with the body issues that come up when a straight girl/gay guy dates a trans guy.  I’m sure if you look you’ll find a few trans guys who are actively biphobic as well as ones who are bi themselves.  Like everything else, it’s all down to the individual.

“gay men are misogynists”
Oh come on.  That’s like saying “straight women are homophobes”.  Some gay men are misogynists, most aren’t.  The whole “gay men hate women” idea is so 90s.

“bob marley on the kenyan internet”
o.O  WTF?  How’d you even get here?

Can FtMs like men?
Yes.  I do.  Many of the guys who read this do.  This isn’t 1970, there are no longer the same expectations that there used to be.  You can thank Lou Sullivan for that.

“not trans enough ftm”
Yeah, I don’t think I know a single trans guy who hasn’t felt that way at some point. It seems to be something of a rite of passage, especially in areas where there’s only one way to be a “real” trans guy. I wouldn’t worry about it too much, some people (including doctors and therapists) are just assholes. If transition makes you happy then go for it. You’re the only one who has to live in your body.

Do transmen menstruate?
Some. Depends on the guy and how his medical treatment (if he’s interested in any) is going.

One more Formspring: Clothes

What advice do you have for smaller transguys in terms of finding clothing? Nothing too fancy is necessary, I’m a college lad.
– Anonymous

How small and what kind of proportions?  I’m short with dancer/gymnast proportions (long, lean arms and legs, no torso to speak of) so I tend to go with either boys’ sizes or smaller men’s sizes in slim cuts.

If you’re more square or just out of kid sizes I’d go with places like H&M and TopMan, anywhere that stocks a men’s XS/XXS (usually these places cater to metro and/or emo college boys).  If you can afford it, Abercrombie (kids, not A&F) has a nice selection of clothes in the “between boys’ and men’s” size range.  For anyone who can get to a Celio, I maintain their shirts are magic.  I end up wearing the same size as a far better built friend, it’s awesome.

I also recommend learning to sew.  I know, you’re probably busy enough with college, but it’s a great way to get well fitting clothes for very little money.  Besides, it means that if you find something you like that needs a tiny bit of alteration you can do it yourself.

Sissyphobia and the FtM community

When I went to my first FtM meeting I expected to find out more about local doctors, how to tell my parents, what to do about dating…basic, “I just came out and I’m bloody terrified” stuff.  I figured there’d be guys in all stages of transition and a variety of different personalities and gender expressions.  I grew up with guys, I knew how varied they could be and I assumed that trans guys would be the same.

Oh how wrong I was.  I showed up in layered polos and jeans, standard college-age apparel for where I was living at the time.  Almost as soon as I walked in a random guy came up to me and said I couldn’t wear pink any more because it’s a “girl” colour.  Another guy told me I needed to stop using so much inflection when I spoke.  Yet another told me to start wearing relaxed fit jeans even lower on my hips and baggier shirts.

The meeting was an hour long.  During that time every single thing I did was ripped apart as “too girly” or “too gay”.  Nevermind that I had stated in my introduction that I am gay, none of the guys at the meeting seemed to understand that that meant I’m attracted to men.  They were all largely the same person, early T guys who considered themselves straight and masculine.  They wore the same clothes, had the same hair, and hung out in the same places.  After the meeting they all went out to lunch at a diner popular with a certain segment of the lesbian community.  I was invited, but left before the food came as I was getting sick of them making jokes about an effeminate gay man who was seated a few tables away.  (Yes honey, I’m sure you are more “manly” than he was.  Too bad that’s not the same as being more of a man.)

It’s been long enough now that FtM meetings have changed quite a bit.  At the very least, most guys now know that you can be gay and trans at the same time.  However, one thing that hasn’t changed is the subtle disdain for any man who is neither genderqueer nor masculine.  There is an obvious answer as to why trans men as a group tend to have an overblown fear of anything that might be perceived as feminine, but there’s no reason for why we continue to allow it.  Misogyny is a fairly common after effect of coming out, but we certainly don’t allow that (and rightly so).

This is a particularly large problem for guys who are just coming out.  There’s a tendency to shelter ourselves within the FtM community when we first come out, something that’s fully understandable (I tried), but also leads to certain issues.  How can you develop a realistic idea of what cis men are like if you’re never around any?  It seems that most ideas about men within the FtM community come from the community.  I’ve noticed that at most FtM meetings there will be a large portion of newly out guys and maybe one or two who’ve been out for years and are fully passing.  Generally the only one is the moderator.  Of course there’s a skewed view of what men are like, few of us have ever interacted with any.

So how can we stop portraying all men as caricatures from the 1950s without also losing the sense of solidarity that comes from associating with people like yourself?  I’d start off with not berating the guys who don’t fit a certain image.  Don’t assume that the guy in glittery red Converse wants to butch up.  Stop telling people that in order to pass they need to wear one specific uniform.  Not only does it not work for everyone (I always passed better in tighter clothes), it also may make us feel more uncomfortable than dresses and heels.  Let people decide what kind of man they want to be for themselves.

That would all be helped by checking out all the different types of guy there are.  Turn off your television, get away from the sporting goods store, and go to the gayborhood.  No, not the lesbian section.  Go to a bookstore or coffee shop frequented by gay men.  DON’T try to get laid, you’re just here to watch.  Notice how they’re all different.  Some guys swish, others are more subdued, most probably don’t look all that different from the guys on a local college campus.  Don’t have a gayborhood?  Go see whatever theatre production the high school is putting on.  Find the nearest environmental group.  Check out an artsy cafe. Just get away from the stereotypically male areas and see what else there is.  Not all men are sports watching, beer drinking, hygiene lacking beasts.  Actually, most men aren’t.  Just like most women aren’t fussy, cooking, cleaning, vapid bimbos.

Really, that’s a great way of looking at it.  Every time you start to think “oh, well, men do [stereotypical thing]” switch it around.  Instead of “men sit with their legs wide apart and scratch their balls” think “women sit with their ankles crossed and fuss with their aprons”.  Sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it?  I’m sure some women act like June Cleaver (a friend of mine actually loves to and gets all dressed up), but most don’t.  The same is true for men.  Some men act like Tarzan, but most don’t.  For one thing, loin cloths get rather cold in December.

Moving past transition

Note from N.A: The next few posts are all set to a timed schedule as it’s Prom, graduation, wedding, and Pride season so there’s no guarantee that I’ll have time to sleep until at least July.  Apologies if it takes me a bit to respond to your comments.

Those of us who decide to physically transition tend to get a bit obsessive about it after coming out.  There’s this giant rush of name change, hormones, surgery, holy crap do I pass?  I’ve already talked about not making your entire life about transition (because, in all honesty, it’s annoying even to those of us who’ve been there), but I’ve never really touched on what it’s like to be past that phase.

See, for most of us physical transition eventually ends.  Either you’ve done everything you want to do or what you want isn’t currently available.  You’re a guy.  You’ve been a guy for years and no one questions it anymore.  If you’re on T you see your doctor once or twice a year like anyone else and that’s about it.  If you want a lower surgery result that isn’t currently available you may keep checking out research, but it’s no longer the center of your life.  You’re just a guy.

Problem is, physical transition can take years.  I know guys who spent the whole of their twenties working toward their next transition goal — after all, surgery costs money and in the US isn’t generally covered by insurance.  By the time we’ve met all of our goals we’re almost entirely different people from when we started out.  So what do you do when all of a sudden this huge part of your life is ending?

Really it depends on the person.  I want to finally get braces.  Other people realise they’ve been neglecting their non-trans related physical or mental health.  I’ve noticed a number of the younger guys looking at how to start families.  Many of us put off educational or career goals because our dysphoria was just that bad.  Even more put off travel until we could get our passports straightened out.

One thing you shouldn’t do is start getting bitter about all the things you may have missed out on due to being trans.  I admit, I’m guilty of this myself from time to time.  It doesn’t help anyone though, all that happens is that I get depressed and frustrated.  Instead focus on all the things you still can do.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to go scuba diving or hang gliding.  Maybe you want to give back to the community somehow.  I want to learn how to play bagpipes.  Whatever it is, go for it.  If you’re not saving for some form of surgery any more you have extra cash, may as well put it to use.

Speaking of extra cash, what do you do with all the money you’re saving from no longer having to worry about paying for surgery?  I suggest saving and investing a portion only because so many of us focus on trans-related issues to the point of completely neglecting everything else.  I have absolutely no savings other than my top fund.  I didn’t realise this until I finally hit my goal (in January) and went so crazy spending that an older friend pulled me aside and asked what the hell I thought I was doing.  I’m still pretty young and I come from a family where there isn’t money left at the end of the month so it didn’t even occur to me that I should probably start saving for retirement or a home or any of those other things that middle class Americans dream about.  He was right though, just as there came a point where I’m no longer focused on transition, there’s going to come a point where I’m no longer in my 20s.  If you don’t have savings and you don’t know where to start, find someone who can explain the basics.  It’s not the most intuitive thing in the world, but it’s not impossible either.

There is one thing that quite a few trans guys who transitioned in their late teens and early 20s want to know, but that I know nothing about: kids.  I’m sorry about that, I’m not really the guy who ever made starting a family a priority.  I know I might want one some day, but we’re talking about 10-15 years down the line.  Even then, I’ve always known that if I ever wanted kids I’d adopt.  It’s still such a new idea for trans people to have kids after transition that there’s not really a whole lot of information out there.  The only advice I can give you is to run a few Google searches.  I know different GLBT community centers have seminars on starting a family when you’re trans, if there’s one near you that’s as good a place as any to start.

Yes, random Googler, you can get off after lower surgery

At least, everything I’ve read and everyone I’ve talked to has said it’s possible.

Other questions that have come up recently:

– NO, gay men who date trans men are NOT straight.  Honestly people, we’ve gone over this a million times already.

– NO, you cannot put your guy name on your FAFSA before you’ve legally changed it.  I’m sorry, but you’re just going to have to deal with it.

– YES, you can be gay and trans.  See the rest of this blog.

– NO, colleges and universities in the US are not required to place FtM students in male dorms (in the vast majority of states, there are exceptions).  There is no federal law stating that you have a right to a dorm that matches your gender identity, it’s all up to state and local laws and how accommodating the school in question is willing to be.  Some places are better than others, ask questions and look around before you make a final decision.

– YES, your high school/college/whatever can make a rule stating that you must wear a dress to graduation (assuming of course that there’s no protection for trans* people in the non-discrimination policy).  It sucks, but it’s allowed in the workplace as well.  Women can be required to wear dresses and skirts as long as their dress code is not considered more of a burden than men’s.  The good news is that often if you explain the situation to enough people (calmly, rationally, and politely) you can get an exception made.

– NO, trans men who like pink are not automatically genderqueer.  Don’t get me started on this one again, I’ll just end up ranting.

– YES, there will be a real post again soon.  Just been busy lately.

Creating a grown up wardrobe

Hi, my name is NotAiden and I am a shopaholic.

I.  Love.  Clothes.  Always have, I just love matching textures and colours and creating a unique outfit.  However, when I came out I had no idea about how to build a professional man’s wardrobe.  Professional woman sure, but man?  Don’t you just throw on a button shirt and coat and be done with it?  Besides, I could never wear any of that tailored stuff, my boobs would show!  For years I stuck with a slightly modified version of the traditional transman uniform: polo shirt, jeans, sneakers.  My polo was plain coloured and worn tighter than any self-respecting straight boy would consider, my jeans were hip huggers, and my sneakers had never seen athletic work of any kind, but I still dressed like a college kid.  Just a gay college kid.

Then I started working in a place that absolutely, 100% required dress shirt and slacks.  I cannot begin to tell you how bad I looked.  Bright shirts in a way that screamed “send me back to the 80s!” instead of the “yeah, I’m gay, so what?” look I was going for.  A couple of years after that and I’m suddenly giving presentations to new grads about how to dress professionally.  How on earth did I get here?  I have no idea, but while I was talking to all these guys who aren’t that much younger than me I realised that a lot of what I was saying would be useful to trans guys — particularly those of us who are in professional environments or about to be.  College kids and those of you in more creative fields can ignore this, your dress rules are different.

Let’s start with the basics.  All of these are a bit boring and will probably make most of you go “but I want to express myself!”  Don’t worry, they’re just the foundation.  Once you have these taken care of you can start adding pieces that are trendy or unique.

First up: a basic white dress shirt.  Yes, it’s dull.  It’s also classic.  Every guy needs a white cotton dress shirt in his closet.  Why?  So that when the great guy your best friend set you up with says he’s made reservations at a restaurant that has a dress code (and is WAY out of your price range) you don’t have to run out and hope you find one at 3AM.

Details: Plain white cotton.  No polyester or silk, no peaking, no button down collars, no stripes, nothing.  You want this to be so basic that you barely even notice it.  That way it goes with everything.  Cuff type is up to you, but I recommend standard button because that way it can be paired with a sweater.  I love French cuffs (cuff links = more accessories) so I have two versions of this with different cuffs.  The button cuff is for sweaters and slightly more traditional events, the French cuff is for everything else.

Fit: See this picture?  It’s perfect.  If you’re slim and post-top or really small chested, go ahead and get yours a bit tighter.  Just be aware that you may need to replace it more quickly than you’d like, especially if you’re currently pre-T.  Do NOT buy a shirt that you can “grow into”.  We’re not children any more, our clothes should fit properly.  There is very little that looks more sloppy than a grown man in a dress shirt a size too large for him.  Other major don’t: NEVER wear this shirt untucked.  Jeans, khakis, dress slacks, doesn’t matter.  Tuck in your shirt.

What are you wearing with that shirt?  A pair of flat front grey trousers.  Not jeans (not for that expensive restaurant anyway), not black trousers, certainly not shorts.  Why not black?  It’s not versatile enough and too formal for many occasions.  Grey can go from business casual to formal and be paired with brown and navy, you can’t do that with black.

Details: Flat front.  Slate to charcoal (yes, those are different colours).  Lightweight wool.  No cuff unless you’re tall.  This is another item that you barely notice.  If after you’ve been on T a few years (or if you’re not planning on starting T in the near future) you find a brand that fits well and comes in several different shades of grey I suggest snatching them all up at once.  A good pair of dress trousers is worth gold, especially in the pre-T years when you’re trying to mask a female body type.

Fit: Again, look at the picture.  They’re not falling off his ass, but they’re also not so snug you can see his balls.  You want a pair that will just rest where they need to be without a belt.  Notice that this man does have a bit of hip and butt.  Not a huge amount, most of us probably have more pre-T, but he’s not a perfectly straight line either.  It’s not until you get down past his butt that his trousers shift to hanging straight down.  They’ll continue to go until they hit his ankle where they will make ONE clean crease as they connect to the top of his shoe.  If you’re not sure about length err on the side of long and find a good tailor.

Ok, you’ve got your shirt and trousers picked out, now what?  It’s spring and a bit chilly outside?  Well that’s why you have a selection of sweaters in your closet.  I like cashmere, but if you can’t afford that (I can’t always) there’s also your standard acrylic, wool, and poly-cotton blend.

Details: Single colour.  Lightweight.  Crewneck.  Have at least one grey, one black, one navy, and one brown, the other colours are up to you.  I have a HUGE selection of sweaters because they’re an easy way to change the tone of an outfit.  Spring Pride planning?  Baby pink.  Christmas dinner?  Cranberry red.  Shabbat service?  Sky blue.  Ribbing, different neck styles, and a rainbow of colours are all fine here, that’s why we’re wearing neutrals for our slacks and shirt.

Fit: Loose enough to not show odd creases over your dress shirt, but tight enough to fit nicely under a blazer.  Once again, the picture is about right (are we sensing a pattern here?).  Sleeves should still comfortably reach your wrists when your arms are extended, but not go past the crease where your thumb meets your hand.  Wear your nice shirt when you go try these on, that way you don’t come home with a bunch of wrong sizes.  (Oh, and don’t wash your cashmere sweaters, their lifespan increases drastically if you dry clean them.)

Alright, second date time.  This time you’re going somewhere a bit more casual first, maybe to a movie or nice little cafe in the arts district.  You don’t want to be too dressy, but you want to look nice.  This is where your jeans come in.

Details: Semi-dark wash.  Boot cut.  Bit of fading and whiskering at the hips and thighs.  Why boot cut?  It looks good on just about everyone without being too casual.  It’s classic, but also trendy, if you look at older celebrities (and by ‘older’ I mean above 25-30) you’ll notice that they mostly wear medium to dark boot cut jeans.  The fading and whiskering make them look comfortable with a t-shirt, but still dressy enough to be paired with your nice shirt.

Fit: Snug around the hips and butt, slim through the knee, loose from knee down.  There’s also a style called “relaxed boot cut” or “casual boot cut” that works very well for guys who are either thick (muscular, heavy, or big boned, doesn’t much make a difference in jeans) or gangly because it allows for a bit more room in the seat.  Should rest just below your navel, touch lower if you’re pre-T and need to mask womanly hips.  Other than that, just make sure the bottoms don’t drag on the ground when you walk.  If you’re short (like me) you can take longer jeans into your tailor and ask that that they keep the bottom seam when they’re adjusting the length.  This is another where I suggest snatching up every pair you can afford once you find a brand and size that fits well.  Jeans change so often that it can be difficult to find the right ones even a year later.

Between the jeans and white shirt you’re all set for a cafe, but what if after that you guys are going to see a bit of community theatre?  Jeans are a bit casual so you’ll need to dress them up with more than a shirt and sweater.  Luckily, you own a black blazer.

Details: Black.  Three button.  Lightweight wool.  Single breasted.  No pattern, stripes, obvious buttons, or other accenting.  If you want to go crazy with your other blazers go right ahead, but you should have at least one boring type in your closet.  I suggest also having a navy and a grey for different occasions, but black will dress up jeans better.  Three buttons help with that and also look good on just about everyone.

Fit: Slim, but loose enough to go over a sweater.  You want there to be just the tiniest bit of shirt peeking past the cuffs when you bend your arm.  See the picture for an idea and if you’re not sure go to a good suit/tuxedo store for a fitting.  If you’re pre-T and get funny looks pretend you’re 12 and being sent to a fancy boarding school.  (No, seriously, the conversations alone are worth it.)  Never button the bottom button, always do the middle one (when standing, when seated you unbutton it), and do the top if you like the way it looks.  Never put your coat on the back of your chair unless you plan on never resting against it.  Majority of people won’t notice, but the most posh will see it as a sign of poor breeding and it’ll put horrible wrinkles in the fabric.  If you’re warm there are coat checks for just this reason.

You’ve gone on two dates with this guy, but now you have to go away for a weekend (sorry) to see your brother get married.  Obviously you’re going to need a suit.  You don’t want black because that’s usually for funerals, it’s a spring wedding so navy is a bit dark, but tan is a bit light, and you’re certainly not going to wear white.  In comes the classic grey suit.

Details: Single breasted.  Two or three button.  Lightweight wool.  Plain as you can get.  This is the least offensive, easiest to forget suit you can find.  Presidents and Prime Ministers wear various shades of grey for a reason.  You want to look like your suit could just as easily be worn today or in 1912.  If you don’t have many reasons to wear a suit you can get a coat in the same fabric as your grey trousers instead.  If you’re going to wear suits often I suggest having at least a light and dark grey in addition to your pinstripes, blacks, navies, etc.  If you really like the dressed up look get three piece suits so you can opt for or against the vest (waistcoat to the non-Americans).

Fit: Tailored.  Go and get fitted, it’s worth the money and you usually get a discount on whatever you buy that day.  Scope out a few places first though, you want to see well dressed businessmen making up most of the clientele.  American or Euro cut is up to you, I opt for three-piece Italian because I’m a snob and American cuts make me look bulky.  Once again, never do up the last button on your coat.  On a vest it’s optional, but most people skip it so they have a bit more moving room.

These next few are largely US-centric, though I’ve seen an Englishman here and there wear them as well.  Not so much with the French and Danish guys so if you live outside the US check out your local men before buying anything.

First we have the classic khaki/light coloured chino.  These are for casual office days, family picnics, and any other time you want to be dressier than jeans, but more casual than wool.

Details: Flat front.  Light to dark tan.  I suggest a colour darker than this and closer to what you’d find at Old Navy if you’re only going to have one pair.  This light and you really don’t want to wear them pre-Easter or post-Labour Day, it looks a bit silly.

Fit: Same as your grey trousers.  You can wear these a teeny tiny bit longer than dress trousers, but I prefer to err on the side of dressy just in case I need to wear them somewhere I need to be impressive.  Just make sure they’re not too tight, khakis show off an overly-large bulge much easier than jeans and usually a bit easier than dress trousers.  You don’t want to look like you’ve got an erection at the company picnic.

A good pair of knee-length shorts are essential for most US summers and many US springs.  Hell, I needed these for a few winters in California.  Khaki is a good colour that goes with everything and can be either “dressy” (for those company picnics you don’t have an erection at) or casual.  Just please don’t wear them on your European tour, you make the rest of us look frumpy.

Details: Flat front.  Khaki, olive, or tan.  Knee-length.  The rest is all about personal preference.  I know guys who love these shorts, but I wouldn’t buy them because I like mine to look good even when they’re all crumpled because I left them in the dryer for three days.

Fit: As long as they cover your ass and come to your knees (no lower!) you’re fine.  One of the advantages to shorts is that they’re considered casual wear so there aren’t as many rules to follow.

Yes, that is the dreaded polo shirt.  I want you to notice a few things though.  It’s plain.  It’s worn without an under-shirt.  It’s well fitted.  It’s tucked in.  This is how well-dressed adult men wear their polo shirts.  The only time this rule is not applied is when the shirt is worn with casual shorts (like my rumpled ones).  You don’t wear a polo shirt with jeans therefore you never have to worry about whether or not to tuck it in.

Details: Get a black one and then pick your favourite colours.  I have a baby pink and a turquoise blue.  If you wear polo shirts more often you’ll want to get more, but my job requires dress shirt and slacks so I don’t have need for many.

Fit: Like the picture, generally.  Sleeves shouldn’t go past the elbow, stomach and chest shouldn’t stretch, and it should be long enough to tuck in.  The major exception to this is if you never need to wear one with slacks.  The only time I wear my polo shirts are when I’m also wearing shorts so mine are all fit to rest just below my belt line.

Now we move on to the finishing details: coats, shoes, belts, and one more sweater.  We’ll start with what you’re wearing with your nice grey trousers and suit: black dress shoes.

Details: Black.  Slip on.  Leather (or faux-leather if you’re vegan).  Why black?  They can be both dressy and semi-casual so you don’t have to worry about whether to wear black or brown to that dinner with your boyfriend’s boss.  The slip on is for the same reason.  These are actually a bit more formal than I would recommend for a foundation pair, but they’re just so pretty.

Fit: …You do know how to buy shoes, right?  This is one of those things that doesn’t really change based on sex.  They either fit or they don’t.  Snug enough to stay on, but loose enough that they don’t hurt your feet.  There are charts and weird measuring thingies.

Obviously you need something to keep up your trousers and suspenders/bracers went out in the 50s.  This is why you will own a basic black, leather (or faux-leather), silver buckled belt.

Details: This exact belt.  It’s so classic that you can find one at about every clothing store in the world.  I don’t care what your other belts look like, you should have at least one like this.  Why?  Because it goes with everything from your suit to your khaki shorts.  If you want one with a hidden buckle or braided leather you can get that too, but make sure you have this first.  Otherwise you’ll be trying to find a belt that doesn’t dress down your suit or dress up your jeans and end up having to make a midnight trip to Target.

Fit: It should.

If you live in a warm climate you can ignore this one.  For the rest of us, this is an example of an appropriate coat to go with your suit and/or dress trousers.   It’s warm, it’s classy, it goes with jeans as well as slacks, it won’t be out of style by next winter.

Details: Black.  Wool.  No embellishments, fancy buttons, or anything else that would make it stand out.  You want a coat that’s easy to mistake for someone else’s when you’re grabbing it off the rack.  I always opt for a pea coat because I think they look cool and I have the long arms and legs to pull it off.  Most shorter guys will want to go with a single breasted option, same with wider guys.  If you’re tall and lean you can get away with most anything.

Fit: Large enough to go over a suit coat, but slim enough so you don’t look like you stole it from a 300 pound sailor.  Like everything else, the picture is a great example.

For the times when you want to dress down your jeans and khakis or dress up your shorts you’ll want a pair of brown athletic oxfords.  They’re nicer than sneakers, but more casual than your dress shoes.  And if you need to you can run a heck of a lot faster in them.

Details: Brown.  Versatile.  Lace-up.  You want these to be able to go from a Saturday morning meeting to your niece’s soccer game without looking out of place.  I just bought myself this exact pair, but if you want to go even more versatile you could get something more like these.  Still casual enough for jeans, khakis, and most shorts, but you could also wear them to dress down your grey trousers (but not your suit!) which isn’t something you could easily do with the shoes pictured.

Fit: They’re shoes.  They should fit like shoes.  One special note though: if you’re wearing these with a belt the belt should be brown.  Always match your shoes and belt.  It’s one of those stupid little rules that people notice subconsciously.

Other things you should have, but lack real “rules”:

– Sandals to wear with your shorts.  Not Birkenstocks or the cheap, plastic and foam things you get at the dollar store.  Grown man sandals.  Leather/faux-leather, brown, and dressy enough to wear to company barbeque.  I opt for a more closed style because I always manage to lose them if there’s not a strap in the back, but go with what makes you comfortable.

– Swim trunks.  If you’re pre-top add a rash guard as well.  If you just want a classic type that blends in go with a solid coloured pair that hits near the knee.  If you’re me and you like freaking out the HRC crowd you can get a hot pink, glittery booty short style.

– Casual sweaters.  Note that I said sweaters, not hoodies.  You want something that’ll look appropriate with your dress slacks and khakis.  No, college and/or team sweatshirts do not count.  I prefer military styles in grey and navy, other guys like cable knits and fisherman sweaters.

– Whatever it is you want to wear for lounging around your house on the weekends.  I am a complete and total slob when I don’t have to leave my apartment.  I will spend all weekend in my underwear if I can get away with it.

And the final rule: break the rules.  These are just basics, they should take up a teeny tiny portion of your closet.  I have pinstripe suits, button shirts with graphic designs, belts made from silk ties, and a million other things that wouldn’t be put on here because they’re trendy and artistic instead of timeless and classic.  I rarely wear my polo shirts or shorts and I don’t even own a pair of khakis because my job and home life don’t give me reasons to.  However, I wear black dress shirts with some sort of embellishment almost every day for work.  Use this as a barometer instead of checklist.

Guest Post: Sexism Exists!!!! Thoughts and solace from a gay trans man.

Ever since I was a little trans boy living as a girl, I’ve felt the need to protect the girls and women in my life from those who are abusive.  Perhaps it was my childhood environment that led to this – I grew up in a dirt-poor, “white-trash” household with a distant mother, a sister who was sexually abused, and an estranged father.  I didn’t know love, affection, respect, boundaries, discipline, and feminism.  Life was hard and women were treated the worst.

Lucky for me, I was a very strong “girl” – I could beat any boy in the class at arm wrestling, sprinting or basically anything to do with strength.  I was very rough and tumble and was often referred to as a tomboy because I was so dominant and refused to wear dresses.  I don’t bring this up to brag, in fact, I hated standing out that much, regardless of how much I actually used my talents.  You see, I am a gentle soul – I am very sensitive, highly anxious, and slightly autistic.  I’m also extremely protective of what I hold dear – perhaps a reaction to my childhood – which directs my attention toward people who get treated unfairly, usually women  I’ve never fit in myself, so when I see injustice, I feel the need to stop it.

When I was young, my version of stopping injustice involved beating the perpetrator up.  Sure, I wouldn’t recommend it, but at the time, it seemed appropriate.  If the boys decided it was “Friday Flip Up Day”, in which they hassled the girls who were wearing skirts, I patrolled the area where my friends were hanging out at recess.  This is not an exaggeration.  My first fight involved me punching a boy who tried to kiss my friend on the cheek and then chased her when she refused – this was in 1st grade.  At recess I stood guard always making sure that my friends didn’t have to worry about what they boys were up to.  For my work, I was rewarded with loyal friends and boys who hated me for humiliating them.  To me, it was a fair trade-off and I continued until I could no longer fend the boys off (about sixth grade).  [I would like to point out that I was never officially punished. In fact, many of my teachers thought it was awesome.]

To this day, I abhor sexism and the insidious ways that it keeps women and girls in their place and elevates men who don’t deserve the praise.  I became an official feminist in college, although it never became my field of study (I prefer math and science), but I definitely dabbled and had friends who were also ardent feminists.  They taught me a lot of what they learned in classes and I appreciated the knowledge.  This knowledge led me to all sorts of places and perhaps the most important – accepting my transsexuality.  When I came out to my friends, I was under the erroneous assumption that they would accept it as well, but I was wrong.  They didn’t understand, they refused to talk about feminism anymore, they called me a traitor, they stopped calling.  I felt betrayed, cast away, discarded.    Often I wondered how much is due to the underlying anti-trans sentiments of some feminist arguments or to the ingrained transphobia in our culture.  Most of me, though, no longer cared, as I had lost everything that was dear to me for speaking my truth.  My world felt twisted and upside-down – it didn’t make any sense.  How could something that felt so right for so long, suddenly make me feel like a monster when I had done nothing wrong?

What I can see now that I couldn’t see then is that both sides felt betrayed.  We all lost innocence about feminism that day or at-least were faced with the limitations of feminism.  As someone who was assigned female and was forced to live the life of a straight woman for 20 years, I do have insight into how women are treated.  But I maintain that I will never know what its like to actually *be* a woman.  I never was one.  I just looked like one – an impostor, a fake, a doppelganger.  My friends believed that I was a woman, so when I told them that I really wasn’t one, they thought I was denying my womanhood and implying that manhood was much better.  They thought I was buying into the patriarchy and believed that to be a woman was one of the worst things you could be.  This is very far from the actual truth of why I transitioned and their assumption that my motivation was flawed led to all sorts of recriminations.  I transitioned because my mind says male and my body said female.  I wanted them to match and for that I have been called a traitor, an impostor, a liar, a chauvinist pig, a tool of the patriarchy, etc.  It took me a long time to come to terms with the accusations I faced from my feminist friends.  A part of me agreed with them and felt extreme guilt that my decision to transition could make me just as bad as the boys who harassed my friends as a child.  I didn’t want to be like them.  I didn’t want to be that guy who thinks they are better than women solely because they’ve been trained to think that way.  I was also aware that gaining male privilege can make trans men become sexist jerks.  I vowed to not become that kind of man.

I’ve been living my life as I’d always wished for 8 years now.  I am an effeminate gay trans men who loves the company of women.  It took me a long time, but I have finally come to terms with the limitations of feminism and understand that my former friends did the best they could do with the information they had, as did I.  Neither side won or lost.  I still fight against sexism and believe that women need their spaces away from men.  I’m somewhat of an outsider now, but I like to look in to see how strong and powerful women can be and just happy that slowly things are getting better.  I know that I can’t give them the male privilege that I’ve gained, but I can still watch out for their safety.  I can still stand up for them when they need it.  I can still be their friend and listen when they need an ear.  I still care and no matter how hard they push me away, I will always be there.

In closing, If you’re a trans man reading this, please take this to heart.  Let your former life guide you, but know that you are not betraying anyone by transitioning and living your life to the fullest.  By the power vested in me you are now absolved of all guilt you are feeling.  Just one thing before you to take the plunge — don’t forget about the sisters you left behind.

Kian has been living as a gay transman for most of his 20s.  Nerdy, quirky and fey, he often spends his time thinking and writing about gay and trans politics.  He loves to learn and cook and looks for hairy men who do the same.

Requisite disclaimer: All opinions expressed in guest posts are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of NotAiden.

Bathrooms and “The Plague”

As most people here know, I’m about 90-99% stealth.  That is, there are only a handful of people in my metro area who both know who I am offline and that I’m trans.  About half are people I’ve slept with, maybe a third are doctors or other medical personnel, and the rest are friends or random people who needed to know (for instance, the financial aid counselor at my university).  Obviously this means I use only the men’s restrooms, locker rooms, etc.

There are just a couple of problems.  First off, I come from a family where even the non-trans men get called “ma’am” until about 30.  When I started T I figured I’d have to wait until at least 40 to pass easily and I’m fine with that, one of the advantages to coming from a gender-ambiguous family is that I know just how common feminine looking guys are.  The bigger issue is that the, uh, monthly horror didn’t stop until about a month ago (and I’m still not 100% sure).  So what do you do when you want/need to use the men’s room, but have to deal with female cycles?

  1. Tampons are your friend.  I had intense dysphoria until the T started kicking in so I couldn’t use them until a year or so ago, but if you can stomach the idea I highly suggest it.  They’re easier to get rid of than most alternatives.
  2. Also useful, but something I could never in a million years use: divacups/other reusable tampon-like things.  They freak me the fuck out (I’m afraid of it getting stuck, sue me), but I know guys who swear by them.  If you’re comfortable, go for it.  I would’ve if I ever worked up the balls.
  3. See if you can find a single stall.  I know, basic Trans 101, but I tend to forget things like this when I’m nervous so I thought I’d remind everyone.
  4. Don’t panic.  For god’s sake, don’t creep into the bathroom like you’re trying to take naughty pictures or something.  Nothing makes a person stand out more than trying not to stand out.  Unless you’re in a gay setting, the guys aren’t looking at you.  It’s a thing, no one wants to be the one caught checking out another dude.  Just pretend it’s the ladies’ room and walk in as if you’ve been doing it your entire life.  Worst that happens is some guy tries to be nice and point you in the direction of the “right” bathroom (at which point I suggest acting really offended or embarrassed — embarrassed tends to work better if you often get called “son” and want to go for the pretty-boy-adolescent thing).
  5. The vast majority of guys will never notice the sound of you unwrapping whatever protective measures you decide to use.  However, if you’re concerned (I still am sometimes) you can learn to unwrap things in your pocket with a bit of practice.  Backings get a bit of pocket lint on them, but they stay well enough.
  6. If you have to toss something in the trash, carry a bag with you.  Wrap item in toilet paper, put in bag, and dump on the way out.
  7. Packers can be placed in front of maxi-pads if you’re so inclined.  The sticky backing actually really helps them stay in place.
  8. Yes, pads do work with most men’s underwear.  I’ve heard boxers are a problem and I can guess why, but I don’t wear them so I’ve never tested it out.
  9. Find a coping mechanism.  For me that week was always the most dysphoric time.  Until recently I was barely functional, it was that bad.  If you have the same issue, try to find something that makes you feel more manly.  For me it was drag performance, being around a bunch of guys in gowns made me feel like I fit in.
  10. By the same token, avoid your triggers.  I absolutely refused to watch any porn during that time, it just reminded me of what I don’t have.

So now you know, it is possible to deal with the more annoying aspects of having a uterus while not giving up your life as a guy.  It takes some practice and a certain amount of confidence, but it’s possible.

Note: If you’re still cycling after a year or so (some would say six months) you should talk to your doctor.  Same goes for breakthrough bleeding after not cycling for several months.  It’s not always a problem (in my case it was just a reproductive system that refused to die), but with this sort of thing it’s better to be sure.

Guest Post: Internalized Transphobia and What It Means to You

Often when trans people look for advice on dealing with internalized transphobia, we find a definition and are told to find a therapist.  Not finding this helpful for most trans people, I would like to offer an alternative.  Rather than focus on the definition of transphobia, I would like to concentrate on the individual beliefs, or myths, that comprise transphobia, particularly for gay FTMs.  Myths shape our thought processes because they are usually firmly held,  taught to us at a young age and are repeatedly reinforced by the culture we live in.   While you may have come to terms with being trans and have started transitioning, you may still have these myths in place that serve to diminish your self-esteem and self-worth.

The following is a cognitive-based approach that I learned in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and has proven useful for me in combating inner myths that mirrored transphobic cultural ideas.  Myths are not universal.  Some of the myths that resonate with me will resonate strongly with you, some will not at all.  Disregard the ones that don’t apply to you and address the ones that strike a chord, as these myths are the probably the root of your self-hate.  My list of myths about being an effeminate gay trans man is very personal, as these are the ideas that shaped how I saw and judged myself during the first few years of transition.   I’m sure that you can think of myths that didn’t occur to me or don’t apply to me, so I encourage you to do this in addition to the following exercise.

The next step involves rewriting your personal myths so that you can start to pick them apart and eventually make your personal belief system more positive.  When you rewrite a myth, it can be anything from subtle change of one word to a complete reorganization of the idea.  A rewrite should challenge the original myth and be personal.  I cannot rewrite myths for you, although I will provide examples of rewrites that resonate with me.   Why?  This is about you and how you see yourself.  Only you can change this and hopefully you can start here.

Myth #1
My lack of a penis means I’m not really a man.

My rewrites:
My lack of a penis means that I’m not a typical man.
My lack of a penis has no bearing on my manhood.
My lack of a penis is not my fault.

Myth #2:
I’m only pretending to be a boy.

My rewrites:
I’m not pretending to be anything.
I’m being true to myself.

Myth #3
I’m not a real FTM transsexual because I’m too feminine.

My rewrites:
FTM transsexuals come in many varieties and I happen to come in the fey, gay and fabulous variety.
My inner sense of being male has no relation to my feminine gender expression.

Myth #4
My attraction to men means I’m not a real FTM.

My rewrites:
My attraction to men has nothing to do my gender.
FTMs can be attracted to anyone.

I encourage you to start with these three and see if you can come up with rewrites that resonate with you.  Below you will find more myths that I compiled in a list for you to start tackling.  Remember these are personal myths, so there there are no right or wrong ways to rewrite a myth.

•    I’m not a real gay man because I was born female.
•    I’m just really confused and other people probably know better.
•    I must not be a real FTM because I used to wear dresses.
•    I like to have sex with my front hole so I must not be a real FTM.
•    I’m a freak and don’t deserved to be loved.
•    If I could just try harder I would be happier with my assigned sex.
•    I must be defective.
•    I’m too pretty to be an FTM.
•    I’m a fag hag, not a fag.
•    When people call me “she” it means they know the real truth.
•    Being trans is a choice and my decision to take hormones and have surgery means I’m weak.
•    I’m reinforcing the gender binary by transitioning.
•    Transitioning is radical and must be done only as a last resort.
•    No one will want to date me.
•    I’m betraying women by transitioning.
•    I’m disgusting.
•    I’m buying into the patriarchy by transitioning.
•    I’m short and nobody likes short men.
•    I have to butch up in order to be a proper FTM.
•    I’ll never truly know what it’s like to be a man.
•    I’m FTM so I must like girls.
•    I’m not a real FTM transsexual if I don’t get bottom surgery.
•    My personality will change on hormones and I will become a different person.
•    All of my problems stem from my transsexuality.
•    I will never be happy.
•    I will always be considered a freak.
•    I’m never mistaken for a boy, so I must not be a real transsexual.
•    To be a successful FTM transsexual, I must pass at all times.

Now the rest is up to you.  Rewrite as many or as few as you need to.

Please note: I am not a psychologist, a therapist or a mental health counselor.  My only qualifications include 10 years of therapy, 6 years of transition, an obsession with psychology and a sincere desire to help my fellow trans sisters and brothers come to terms with their genders.  If this is not helpful, please let me know.  If it is very helpful, please let me know.  I am open to all suggestions, comments and concerns, as this is the first time I have attempted this.

Kian has been living as a gay transman for most of his 20s.  Nerdy, quirky and fey, he often spends his time thinking and writing about gay and trans politics.  He loves to learn and cook and looks for hairy men who do the same.

Gender as a social construct: Why it’s problematic

I’ve been seeing this over and over in certain segments of the trans population and it’s starting to get on my damned nerves.  Transpeople — 100% binary identified transpeople — claiming that gender is entirely a social construct.

This is a problem.  Why?  Because if gender were entirely socialised I wouldn’t exist.  Nor would thousands of other binary identified transsexuals.  If gender were solely an issue of socialisation it would be possible to train me to be a nice little girl.  My parents tried that.  It failed.  Pretty miserably.

I don’t know if transpeople realise what they’re saying when they spout this stuff or if they’re getting gender identity confused with gender roles.  Either way, something needs to be done.  Society has tried claiming that all gender is devised by social rules and restrictions before, it was called the 1970s.  This was the peak of egalitarian feminism, a time when women were insisting that the only differences between them and men could be traced back to early childhood rearing.  If you raised your daughters to like trucks and swords instead of dolls and dresses they’d turn out just like any little boy.  If you raised all of your children to like trucks and dolls equally they’d never prefer one over the other.

They were wrong.  For the first proposal we have David Reimer.  A young boy whose penis was cut off in a botched circumcision when he was an infant.  His parents were told to raise him as a girl, that way he’d be able to have surgery and hormones as he got older and no one would be the wiser.  Even better, he had a twin brother which meant they could be a perfect test case for the nurture over nature theory.  Unfortunately for all involved, David had no desire to be a girl.  As early as age three he was exhibiting frustration very similar to what transpeople go through.  Ultimately David was told about his medical history and made the decision to live as his birth sex.

For the second idea there are so many individuals that I couldn’t begin to list them all.  Most children I grew up with were given the option to play with any toys they wanted.  Girl, boy, it didn’t matter.  I knew boys who played with dolls and girls who played with trucks.  There was no value placed on either, but each and every child still had a preference.  The majority of boys preferred trucks and the majority of girls preferred dolls.  There were exceptions and a good number of us would pick Lego over anything else, but the general rule remained.  As far as I know, I’m the only transperson from the people I grew up with — and I was a doll kid.

So, now that we’ve established that no amount of socialising is going to change a person’s gender, let’s look at where people might be getting things confused.

One explanation I hear quite often is that transpeople only exist within the framework of a gendered society.  If we were to remove all gender everyone would be at a happy medium.  I’d be willing to accept this idea if I didn’t know people who were raised in almost entirely gender neutral environments.  My elementary school, for example, didn’t have “girl” or “boy” bathrooms.  We had one single stall per classroom (two per class in kindergarten and first grades) that anyone could use.  Instead of lining up by girls and boys we’d line up by dark shoes and light shoes.  My family was the only one in the neighbourhood that cared remotely about gender.  It wasn’t until middle school that anything became separated, and even then it was only locker and bathrooms.  Yet everyone I know from that time is binary identified.

My theory is that people are confusing gender identity with gender roles.  Gender identity is an innate characteristic that cannot be changed.  It’s a far broader spectrum than Western society would have you believe, but in most people it’s pretty stable.  Gender roles, on the other hand, are how society expects people of a particular gender to behave.

For example, I am a guy.  As a guy I am expected to have “masculine” traits.  These traits are almost overwhelmingly aggressive and cold.  “Men hunt, women cook.”  “Men fight, women compromise.”  “Men bully, women nurture.”  “Men are good at maths, women are good at writing.”  I’m sure we’ve all heard these and many more.  The problem is, they’re neither true nor static.  As society evolves so do gender roles.  Fifty years ago a woman even running for President would have been unheard of.  It simply wasn’t the sort of thing women did, politics was a man’s world.  Yet today there are women leading countries around the world and no one bats an eye.

By the same token, gender roles change as you travel.  In Japan sweet foods are considered “girly”, men aren’t expected to like them.  In the US men are allowed all the sweets they want — though chocolate is generally seen as something women like more.  In my Mexican-American family dancing was seen as something all people should do, even my macho, tattoo-covered, cholo uncles.  If you couldn’t dance you were going to lose your wife to someone who could.  This meant that at least twice a year my uncles would trade in their baggy jeans and A-frame shirts for the tight, sparkly outfits most people associate with mariachi bands and escort their wives to a night of folklorico dancing.  It wasn’t considered gay or effeminate, it was part of being a “real” man.

Now, if we abolished all gender roles would there still be transpeople?  Probably.  At the very least, there’d still be transsexuals.  Why?  Because while being seen as a man is important to me, having a penis is pretty frickin’ important too.  In fact, it’s more important to me than being seen as a man.  If I had to pick between people constantly thinking I’m a woman, but having a penis and being seen as a man, but not having a penis I’d go with the penis every time.  For one thing, it’s hard for people to argue if you whip it out.  For another, it’d make me immensely more comfortable with my body.

Which is really what it all comes down to.  The difference between transitioning due to a sense of being a man and transitioning due to a desire for a male body.  It’s possible to want both (I do), but some people fall very much on one side or the other.  Those who are fine with their bodies probably would do well in a completely genderless/gender-role-less world.  Those who aren’t would still require some form of medical intervention.