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.

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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.

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Alex got girlier as she got older, but particularly early on the girly girls were portrayed as slightly different from ‘normal’.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Or Good Luck Charlie

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Or A.N.T. Farm

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Even shows like Liv and Maddie feature a tomboy who would have been considered girly when I was growing up.

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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.

Edit: Apologies to any visitors out there using screen readers.  I switched the alt tags from descriptives to cut down on the number of parents emailing me because Precious got to a site talking about transsexuals and homos and god only knows what else via an image search for whatever kiddie show they like.  The images are, in order, an Alex Mack S1 promo, Alex and Ray, Alex and a more girly girl from the show, Angela and Rayanne from My So-Called Life, Sharon Cherski from the same show, one of the girls from Are You Afraid of the Dark, and promo shots for The Haunted Hathaways, Good Luck Charlie, A.N.T. Farm, and Liv and Maddie.

Sexual attraction to trans men

I’m going to tell everyone a little story.  It’s a short story, but the point of it is rather important.

About a year ago I met this guy.  Maybe 5’3″, very slight build, higher than average voice, effeminate in a somewhat unusual way, and pretty as hell.  I’ve rarely met women prettier than this guy, he’s the classic androgynous pretty boy type.  A bit too pretty for my usual tastes actually, but we started talking and hit it off great.

Well, we start talking and hanging out more and I start learning more about him.  Turns out he’s one of the few guys I know who will call out anti-feminist crap.  He has a ton of lesbian friends.  He knows more about women’s health than I do.  After a while I start realising that he has almost every single trans guy “marker” there is.

I am thrilled.  I’d gone through a series of bad transphobic rejections and was in serious need of an ego boost.  I figure this guy’s cute, we get along well, and it’s starting to look like he’s trans too so I have one less thing to worry about.

Then I take him to one of my kick boxing lessons.  We’re in the locker room getting showered and changed after and I catch a glimpse of his crotch.  Guy isn’t trans.  Not by a long shot (no pun intended).  He turned out to be trans-friendly, but is definitely not trans himself.  Luckily, I noticed before making an ass out of myself.

Point of the story is that even trans people can make baseless assumptions about another person’s genitalia.  I know that there’s no fail proof way of knowing what’s in a person’s pants unless I ask, but I did it anyway.  Why?  Because parts of the community (trans people and allies both) insist that it’s possible to have a sexual attraction to trans people — which implies that you can spot a trans person before they’re unclothed.

The truth is that there’s a difference between being androgynous or visibly gender non-conforming and being trans.  Do they often go together?  Yeah, especially for early transition people or those who identify outside the gender binary.  That doesn’t mean that they’re automatic trans indicators though.  In reality there are androgynous and gender non-conforming cis people just as there are ‘invisible’ trans people.  You never really know so it’s best not to assume.

10 Moments that really WEREN’T clues

I already did a post on the times that I probably should’ve known something was up, but I feel like it’s important for people to realise that even those of us who did have a lot of “classic” trans traits also often had some moments that weren’t so “typical boy”.

When I decided that my name was Anastasia. Emphasis on the ‘STAH’, not ‘stay’. I was adamant that people pronounce it properly. I was in preschool and hated my name with a passion, but Anastasia sounded just different enough to work. I was also a pretentious little brat who probably needed to be brought down a peg or two.

Which is why no one was too horribly surprised when I sent in photos of myself to John Robert Powers without telling anyone when I was six. It never went anywhere because unsolicited headshots in envelopes addressed in crayon (pink with sparkles and unicorn stickers so that it stood out) don’t tend to be taken very seriously. Ended up being my parents’ favourite “awww, she’s so cute!” story for years though.

I also loved my dance lessons. Sure, I refused a tutu and danced all male roles, but you could not make me miss a class. I had to be drugged to keep me from sneaking out when I caught chicken pox, that’s how obsessed I was. (Funny part is, I’m not a natural dancer. I can do ballet, but get me in a club and I start looking like Mark Cohen.)

When I wasn’t dancing I could generally be found playing with pretty dresses and tiaras. I loved dress up. Sometimes I was a fireman, but often I was Belle or Aurora or Jasmine. I was the kid with no siblings close to my own age (the closest one is college aged now) so when I was at home I had to be able to entertain myself. That generally meant dress up and other imaginary games.

Even outside of dress up, I adored books with strong heroines like Nancy Drew and Jo from Little Women. I was always a reader and while I did like my high fantasy and old mythology (English and Irish folklore being favourites), I was still a sucker for anything where the girl kicked everyone’s ass. Heck, I still read American Girl books whenever they come out with a new character.

I didn’t change all that much after I started going to school as a boy either. I still wore pink and purple (more purple than pink) and painted my nails. This wasn’t considered a weird thing for boys at my school, I was actually one of the more tame ones because my light up high tops didn’t have pink laces, only white glitter.

Speaking of nail polish, I had an entire collection of fun colours. Other kids my age collected My Little Pony or action figures, I had a bathroom cabinet full of nail polish. Mostly various shades of blue, but also a lot of silver, gold, and clear with glitter. I’d change the colour every night when I decided what I was going to wear the next day so that it’d match.

I was also obsessive about my hair (and eventually skincare). When I was seven I made up a chart and staged an experiment to figure out which brand and type of hair product worked best for me. As I got older and puberty made my skin rebel I repeated that for different skincare routines. Cleanser, toner, exfoliating scrubs, masks, moisturisers…my medicine cabinet still looks like a diva exploded.

Actually, looking back I realise that quite a few of my “girly” habits revolved around being image obsessed. I would spend hours picking out the perfect outfit. Always something that a baby Kurt Hummel or (for those of you older than 15) Simon Doonan would wear, but I didn’t figure that out until I was older. One of the biggest reasons I couldn’t handle the classic passing tips was that I hated looking like a slob. Even in my tomboy days I insisted on making sure colours coordinated and patterns didn’t clash. I was wearing horribly oversized shirts and jeans, but damned if I was going to make things worse by pairing chartreuse with violet or some other nonsense.

Any or all of these in a little boy would’ve been clues to possible future sexuality (and very much scorned by my macho-man relatives). However, I was considered a little girl. This meant I was behaving much as expected. Yes, I socially transitioned myself. Yes, I refused to admit that I was considered a girl until freaking high school. My family didn’t know that though. To them I was a safe enough balance between tomboy and appropriately girly.

Which is one of the biggest problems with using childhood and past gender expression as a guideline for transition: most of us don’t fit one category or the other. Especially those of us who are effeminate guys, so much of what would be considered rather queen-y in a little boy is perfectly acceptable for a little girl. There are some minor differences in how it’s expressed, but rarely anything that can be quantified.

Effeminate FtM Passing Tips

If you’ve been out for more than a month you’ve probably heard the standard passing tips.  They haven’t changed since I came out and I’m pretty sure they were old even then.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if they date back to when the first group of butches figured out that they were actually straight guys.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with these tips really, they’re just not the greatest if you ever want to wear something other than baggy stripped polos and cargo pants.  Me, I couldn’t handle that.  I figured if I was going to come out I should at least be able to wear what I wanted.  Some guys are cool with sacrificing personal style for passing ability until they start T, I’m just not one of them.  This is for all the guys who feel the same way.

Hair:
Original tip: Only go to barber shops.
My tip: Go wherever makes you comfortable, but make sure you ask for square shapes. Insist that they avoid round shapes at all costs. That probably makes no sense to you, but the stylist will know what you’re talking about if they’re even remotely good.

Original tip: Keep your hair short in back and on the sides, but avoid crew cuts and punk styles often chosen by butch lesbians.
My tip: Remember that square shape thing?  Repeat it.  Play with styles until you figure out which one works best for your passing ability.  For me that meant shaggier looks, more along the lines of mid-90s California surfer styles.  Don’t know why, but I always pass best with long hair.

Original tip: Never comb your hair forward, always back or to the side.  Use gel if you have to.
My tip: Do what works best for you.  I found that not combing my hair worked best.  If I just rolled out of bed or jumped out of the shower and ruffled it up with some mousse I’d be great, if I actually spent any time on it people would decide I was a girl.

Body:
Original tip: Work out, especially your arms and chest.
My tip: Be healthy, put on muscle if it makes you feel better, but don’t worry about it if you’re not the type to care.  Actually, be wary of building up your pecs too much, sometimes it can make your chesticles stick out more and therefore hinder your passing ability.

Original tip: Use light mascara to make your body hair look darker and more coarse.
My tip: Ok, I’ve actually only seen this one once.  Still, it’s pretty ridiculous.  First of all, your arm hair is not going to be what keeps you from passing.  Second, what if you get wet?

Original tip: Use binders so that you have a perfectly flat chest.
My tip: Guys aren’t board flat.  If you look at guys past puberty you’ll notice that most vary based on weight and muscle tone.  Broader/heavier guys are more likely to have a bit more slant, leaner/skinnier guys tend to be pretty plank-like.  Go for what fits your build rather than assuming you should bind to the point of damaging yourself.

Clothing:
Original tip: Wear white undershirts under striped polo shirts.
My tip: If the frat boy look is what you’re going for then by all means, get the stripped polo.  If not, I suggest plain polos in colours that suit your skintone or the look you’re going for.  Skip the undershirt, even most straight guys stop wearing them around high school.  And for the love of god, don’t get it three sizes too big.  Try on a few sizes (just ask for directions to the changing rooms and go in whichever one they point you to) going from largest to smallest.  When you get to the one that makes it look like you have boobs/a uniboob stop and get the next size up.

Original tip: Dress conservatively to avoid being mistaken for a lesbian.
My tip: Pick a look and cultivate it.  I started off with Abercrombie metro-gay which meant a lot of casual, fitted button front shirts and artistically bleached jeans in the cooler months and bright, layered polos with crumpled cargo shorts when it was warm.  It was similar to the butch lesbians in my area, but because my clothes were far more fitted I rarely got mixed in with them.  When I lived in London and Paris I played up looking young and went for a schoolboy thing with rich toned sweaters and striped ties (hey, it got me laid).  Right now I’m having fun with bright button shirts, mixed patterns, and a million hats and scarves for a sort of Marc St. James meets later-seasons Emmett Honeycutt look.  They’re all different, but they’re all me and that’s what’s important.

Original tip: Wear loose fitting trousers low on your hips.
My tip: Follow your own shape.  I know guys with naturally large hips and asses who have to wear baggy cargo jeans if they’re ever going to pass.  Other guys are more like me with nice bums, but almost no hips to speak of.  Pick out a bunch of styles, try them on, see how they look.  I’ve met guys who pass best in skinny jeans so it really is very individual.  Keep in mind that different brands fit their trousers differently so you may end up with relaxed fit at one store and straight leg at another.

Original tip: Chunky boots look more masculine and give you a male swagger.
My tip: Wear chunky boots with a suit one more time and I will take you out back and beat you with a stiletto.  I don’t care what Chris Colfer is wearing, bondage boots are not appropriate for all occasions.  Wear them with jeans, fine, whatever, but for anything involving a khaki or dress trouser you need a pair of dress shoes.  Oxfords are a classic choice, as are loafers and even wingtips if you think you can pull them off.

Mannerisms:
Original tip: Men take up more space, sit with your arms and legs wide apart.
My tip: Yes, then scratch your crotch and demand the nearest woman bring you a beer.  You’re a man, not a Neanderthal.  Act like it.  Be polite.  Be well spoken.  Be nice to little old ladies and respect little old men.  Say ‘please’, ‘thank you’, ‘you’re welcome’, and ‘excuse me’.  Know how to give a firm handshake without intimidating people smaller, weaker, or less confident than you.  Ignore everyone trying to turn you into a jackass and become a gentleman instead.  It may not help you pass immediately, but when you do people will value you more.

Original tip: Don’t talk with your hands/pitch your voice down at the end of sentences.
My tip: Go to the nearest place you can watch guys you want to be like without seeming creepy.  For me this was a coffee shop on Castro Street, but not everyone’s lucky enough to live in San Francisco.  Sit there for a while and figure out what they have in common.  Maybe they’re animated, maybe they’re subdued, maybe they all like to wear neon striped hats.  Whatever it is, try it out for a bit.  See how it feels.  If you like it, keep it.  If not, ditch it.  Do this until you figure out what’s comfortable for you and who you are.  Everyone else can go fuck themselves.

Really the point of all this is that there’s more than one way to be a man.  The ‘classic’ passing tips give one way and there’s nothing wrong with that way.  It’s just not the only way.  You have to decide what kind of man you want to be, no one else can tell you.

Once you figure that out it’s just a matter of knowing how to pull it off.  Generally, as long as you’re consistent people won’t even blink.  It’s when you try looking like a frat boy while speaking and acting like a queen that you run into problems.  The incongruence is what tends to get us read as women, not necessarily the mannerisms or even appearance.  Luckily, most of us are pretty consistent when allowed to dress and behave how we want.

How young is too young?

As I’m sure all of us “old timers” have noticed, kids are coming out at younger and younger ages.  I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, the sooner a kid can be themself the less trauma they’ll have to deal with later.  However, I do wonder whether or not some of the very young kids (say, six and under) are capable of expressing themselves well enough to have their needs met.

How do you know if a kid is trans or just gender variant?  At what point do you decide that social transition is less risky than aiming for some sort of middle ground?  I don’t know that there are any good answers to these questions other than “if the kid is hurting themself something needs to change.”  Not all kids are the self-harm type though, in fact they seem to be the exception.  So how do you know if your daughter who likes boy clothes and calls herself David is trans or not?

I worry that more liberal parents are taking almost too liberal of a stance on trans kids.  I worry that we’re taking kids and forcing them into yet another box that they may or may not fit in.  What happens if you socially transition little David and then he’s too scared to tell you he’s not really a boy, just a little girl who likes trucks?  Young kids are so easily swayed, especially when it comes to things like gender.  They’re little, their brains can’t accurately grasp the subject at hand so how can they possibly answer what is very much an adult question?

I wish parents could see that they have more options than just transition or repression.  Particularly with the youngest kids, they’re still so fluid in their identities it seems almost cruel to box them in.  What is so wrong about just allowing kids to be kids for a while?  Save the big gender questions for when they’re a bit older, when they can at least see more to it than wearing dresses or ties.  I know there’s pressure to make kids conform once they hit school age, but that’s what adults are for.  We’re meant to help guide kids to understanding and accepting differences, not force everyone to pick a box.  Let Susie wear the ‘boy’ uniform and Danny play with dolls, they’re not hurting anyone.

I fully support and accept the idea of older kids transitioning, but with these tiny ones I wonder.  It seems that rather than becoming more open to the idea of gender variance we’re simply finding another way to diagnose and treat it.  As an effeminate man, I can’t support that.  What happens when a parent finally ends up with a kid like me?  Sure, I’m trans, but I also don’t fit most people’s idea of what a ‘man’ is very well.  I did a lot of the classic FtM things like insisting on boy-ish clothes and not having girl friends, but I was also a little swish-stick.  I worry that this new class of parents is enforcing gender stereotypes in ways they’re not aware of.

Choosing not to transition

“Can I know I’m trans and still not transition” – search term

Simple answer?  Up to you.  There’s no rule that says you have to transition (socially or physically) as soon as you know you’re trans, just like there’s no rule that you have to run out and have gay sex immediately upon figuring out that you’re gay.

Of course, if it was that simple it wouldn’t be something people ask.  Question is, what does being trans mean to you?  Some people have very little dysphoria, they don’t feel the need to transition.  I liken it to having a very mild form of depression and being able to handle it with journalling or good friends instead of medication or therapy.  Different people just experience their dysphoria in different ways.

So how do you feel?  Are you ok with the world seeing you as a girl (or guy, if you’re MtF)?  Do you feel fine in the body you have?  If both of those are the case then go for it.  I couldn’t do it, but I’m not the one who has to live your life.  Everyone’s different.  I’ve had more than a few guys tell me they could never transition to be an effeminate man and that’s fine.  It’s not for them.  Maybe transitioning isn’t for you.  Maybe you’re cool to just know in your head that you’re a guy and let everyone else keep thinking of you as a guy.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with that as long as you’re happy.

There is a warning though.  Often “choosing” not to transition is more a form of denial than a well thought out decision to maintain happiness.  Transitioning is scary, it means changing everything you know.  You have to worry about what happens if you end up changing your mind (which always seems so much more common than it actually is), how people are going to react, and, if you have kids and/or a partner, how it’s going to affect them.  It often seems easier to just ignore any dysphoria you may have and pretend everything is fine how it is.  Sometimes that’s true, but if it’s not, well then you end up in a situation where you’re miserable for no good reason.

It doesn’t all have to be transition or ignore.  You could decide to tell a few close friends and relatives, create yourself a sort of gender oasis.  Maybe you wear guy clothes and use a gender neutral name, but let everyone except your friends and family consider you a girl.  Maybe you’re happiest being a girly girl in public and a manly man at home.  Whatever it is, it’s your choice.  No one can tell you how to handle your gender except you.  Sit, think, maybe experiment with a few different options.  If something works that’s great.  If not try again.  Eventually you’ll figure out what makes you happy.

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.

Gender norms and pets

This past week a couple of seemingly unrelated things happened to make me wonder how everyone genders (or doesn’t gender) their pets.  One of my friends is trying to adopt a puppy and my section of the power grid decided to take an extended vacation.  Normally I wouldn’t bother mentioning either of these, but because I was bored and had nothing to do except try not to set my apartment on fire with an over-abundance of emergency candles I decided to head out and explore my new neighbourhood (just moved, for those of you who don’t read the Tumblog).

One of the stores I found was one of those trendy, posh dog stores.  The kind that caters to fashionable types with lap dogs in purses.  I like dogs (who doesn’t like cuddly animals?) and thought I’d stop in to see if there was anything I could get for my friend’s potential pup.  Not like a new puppy owner can ever have too many chew toys or balls to chase.

I was absolutely floored by how much of what was sold was gendered.  Pink, furry dog collars with “Diva” and “Princess” written on them in script.  Red plaid collars with “Butch” or “Killer” in block capitals.  Now, I suppose you could make a case for a pink, furry “Diva” collar being for gay men and the red plaid “Butch” ones for lesbians, but I don’t think that’s really what the manufacturers had in mind.

I hit up Target later to stock up on more candles and a camp stove and decided to see what their pet section looked like.  More gendered collars, toys, beds, clothes, etc.  Maybe it’s just me, but when I had dogs I never really put them in gender specific things.  Hell, they didn’t even have gender specific names.  So is this a new trend or is it something that’s been going on forever and I just didn’t notice?  Do you guys get gender specific accessories for your pets?  Anyone out there with a boy dog and Diva collar?

FtM 101: Sex, Sexuality, Gender, Gender Expression

This is something I probably should’ve posted months ago since it’s so useful for explaining not just transsexuality, but also how I can be a gay, effeminate FtM transsexual.  Back when I started this blog it was everywhere though so I figured I didn’t have to.  Apparently the trans community has changed a lot since then.

Everyone take out a piece of paper.  On that paper draw 4 horizontal lines.  Label the top line “Sex”, the second line “Sexuality”, the third line “Gender”, and the final line “Gender Expression”.  So now your paper should have something like this on it:

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Now we need to add descriptions for the end points.  So on the Sex line label one side “Male” and the other “Female”.  Sexuality gets a bit tricky because people get confused by “gay” and “straight” when the person is trans.  So in this case we’re going to put “attracted to men” (or just “men”) on one side and “attracted to women” (or “women”) on the other.  Gender gets “Man” and “Woman” and Gender Expression has “Masculine” and “Feminine” (or butch/femme, masculine/effeminate, whatever similar words make you more comfortable).

Go ahead and add a marker in the centre of each line.  For Sex we’ll assume this is what most people would consider “true hermaphroditism” (horrible word, use “intersex person with ovotestes” instead).  In terms of sexuality it could be bisexual, pansexual, or whatever new word for “I like people, not parts” is in vogue at the moment.  The midpoint for gender would be genderqueer, bigendered, two-spirit, etc.  For gender expression we’ll call it androgynous.  Label these if you want, I’m not going to because it takes up too much space.  Now we have something like this:

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Time to define our terms and fill in where we fit.  Sex is the physical sex we were born as.  Most of us were given an easy male or female and have found no reason to question that.  Some people have an intersex condition and therefore fall somewhere along the line.  In my case, my sex is considered female (though I’ve started to wonder).  Dot goes all the way at the far right end of that line.

Sexuality encompasses the people we are sexually attracted to.  Transmen are included with men and transwomen are included with women.  If you like “women and transmen” you really need to go read this because that’s a controversial (at best) view to have.  If you only date people who identify outside of the gender binary go ahead and put your dot in the middle or even somewhere off the line if you feel that fits you better.  I’m pretty boring, I like men.  So my dot goes all the way on the far left end of the line.

Gender is where it starts to get fun.  This is your internal sense of whether you’re a guy or a girl.  If you identify as non-gendered put your dot off the line.  Genderqueer leaning towards guy?  Somewhere towards the left of the middle.  Once again, I’m boring.  My dot goes all the way at the far left because I identify as 100% male.

Now we’re onto gender expression.  This is where people get confused.  Gender expression is not gender identity.  Just because I like glitter and stuffed animals does not mean that I’m something other than male.  I simply have a different way of expressing my gender.  I’m a bit of a queen, much like my non-trans friends.  My dot goes towards the far right, but not all the way to the end.  So now my paper looks like this:

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One thing I see more and more newly out kids doing is saying “well, I’m not FtM because I’m not really guy-ish enough…”  You don’t have to be macho to be a transguy.  Just because you’re not a perfect 1950s image does not mean you have to identify as genderqueer.  If you really do feel like you’re not a guy or a girl then that’s great, but don’t say it because you think there’s only one way to be a guy.

By the same token, just because you like sports and cars and…I dunno, spitting doesn’t mean you have to be trans.  Plenty of tomboys exist in the world.  My mother is one of them, she’d be vastly offended if anyone implied she wasn’t a woman.  That’s why gender and gender expression are split, it all comes down to how you feel inside rather than how you present outside.

Finding Our Place: Social Acceptance for Non-Traditional Transmen

I tend to get into fights when in areas designed solely for transmen.  Actually, I tend to get into fights when in areas designed for transpeople in general.  It’s odd for me because I do have trans friends (both men and women), it’s the only way I would have managed the early days of transition.  However, I can’t seem to get along with the trans community in general.  At least, I can’t online.  In person it’s a little better.

The reasons for this are two-fold.  First of all, I’m not a gender/women’s studies major.  I don’t do queer theory.  I don’t care about the latest research on gender socialisation.  Just about everything being said now was debunked with the Reimer case in 70s so I’m not sure why we insist on going back to it.

The second reason is that I’m simply not like the vast majority of the trans community.  Rather, I’m not like either of the sides that present themselves online.  I’m not masculine enough for the man’s man FtMs, but I’m also not genderqueer.  I have a very distinct, binary gender identity, but my expression isn’t stereotypical.  I like glitter and I’m not afraid to say so.

I’ve come to terms with this.  I no longer really care if I’m accepted within the trans community because I don’t need a trans support system.  I’ve hit a point where every few years I may need a factual answer to a specific question, but beyond that I’m pretty good.  What concerns me is what will happen to the guys coming out who are like me.

That’s why I have this blog.  There aren’t a whole lot of guys like me, I realise that.  Most guys fall into one of the two major camps, either masculine or genderqueer.  However, if I help even one scared kid realise that he isn’t alone then the time and effort put into this are worth it.

I do wish there was somewhere else these guys could go.  Somewhere that has passing tips for effeminate guys, suggestions on how to bind while still wearing tight shirts (hint: it’s not always possible), ways to pass without sacrificing who you are.  I can do some, but let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like having a bunch of people you can go to with a problem.  Unfortunately, I don’t know enough guys like me to set up something like that.  Let alone guys like me who have transitioned, most of us simply assimilate into the gay male world.

There’s Femme-FtM on LiveJournal, but they’re more genderqueer than FtM transexual.  Beyond that, the vast majority of guys on there aren’t effeminate in the “flaming queen” sense of the word.  Lots of emo, scene, and punk.  If you want to gauge your ears you’ll be welcomed with open arms.  Some anime-style bishounen (did I spell that right?) if that’s your style.  Not so much for the guy whose ideal look is a cross between Brian Kinney and Emmett Honeycutt (from Queer as Folk for all you youngin’s).

Dreamwidth has a few trans groups that are more open to effeminate guys, but none of them are very active.  I’m not sure the mod for most of them has checked in in a few months.  Other than that there’s not really anything.

It’s too bad.  Effeminate men in general are marginalised, transmen even moreso.