What kind of man do you want to be: a guide for trans men
FAQ: Gay Men and Gay FtMs Redux
Swimming for pre-top FtMs

Birthright for the Trans* Person

Note: This is not a post on the political or religious aspects of Taglit-Birthright Israel.  It is also not at all endorsed by the programme.  It is a personal post designed to help trans* people decide whether or not the trans aspect of their identity will be a problem on the trip.  All information came from either my own experience or that of trans* friends (most of whom are male identified with a few women and genderqueer people mixed in).  Your experiences may vary.

Now that that’s out of the way, this entire post will essentially be a series of “it depends”.  Taglit-Birthright is set up in such a way that every trip is different.  If you go with an Orthodox operator your experiences will be different than if you went with a Reform or Conservative or non-denominational one.  I will try to give the best information I have from a group of approximately 25 friends and acquaintances (not including myself) who went on trips with various operators in the winter and summer of 2011.  Most of us went with nondenominational or Reform groups with one deciding on an Orthodox trip.  There are still a handful of people coming back from the summer 2011 tours so this may be updated in the future.

Rooming:
All tours have gender-segregated rooming.  Generally you will be three to a hotel/kibbutz room with your gender being whatever is listed on your passport.  Some trips have the same rooming all ten days, others rotate so you share time with everyone of the same gender on your trip.  If for some reason you can’t get a passport in your correct gender (keep in mind the updated rules so this no longer requires surgery) there were two people who got correct room assignments after calling their trip operator and explaining the situation.  This requires speaking to both your tour operator and your guides once you get to the airport to make sure they know what’s going on.  If you go with a friend you can also ask your trip operator if it’s possible to upgrade to a double room for a small fee.  This system is designed for young married couples going on trips together, but some organisers were willing to make exceptions to ensure maximum traveler comfort.  It is not, however, an option any of us took.  Unfortunately, all aspects of gender on the trip will be very binary.

Bathrooms:
Oddly enough, the only problem any of us had with bathrooms were the few times we were with other Americans who weren’t on our trip.  Most of the time you will be with your tour group so expect bathrooms to be full.  If you’re pee-shy you may find yourself waiting until you get back to your hotel for the night.  All bathrooms, even the ones at the tourist Bedouin site, involved stalls with modern plumbing so no worries about having to pee in a bush or anything.  No one reporting back found a single gender-neutral bathroom on their trip, but we obviously didn’t see all of Israel so they may exist somewhere.

Religious sites:
The only gender-segregated site any of us visited was the Kotel (Western Wall).  None of us trans people had issues accessing the side of the Wall we wanted, however there were two cis women who were given some trouble accessing the women’s side.  In general if you can pass for a 12 year old boy you should be pretty ok.  There were people who visited both sides without problems if you are interested in that.  I’m not sure I’d recommend it as it requires a particular type of androgynous appearance, but it’s something to keep in mind if you have a non-binary identity.

You will also spend at least one Shabbat in Israel during your trip.  Generally this means the option for services at an Orthodox shul even on non-denominational trips.  Once again, none of us had problems going to whichever section we felt most comfortable in.  Some of the nondenominational trips offer either services or a discussion group, several people took the discussion option which was entirely gender neutral.

Swimming:
A visit to the Dead Sea is a standard part of the Birthright itinerary.  This is where things got most tricky for us.  The changing cabanas at the Sea are group style with five or six people changing in front of each other.  There are bathrooms.  You’re not meant to change in them, but on my trip I certainly wasn’t the only guy using them for that.  Those of us who are pre-top didn’t get any questions about our rash guards as the Sea is rather notorious for causing rashes on people with sensitive skin.  I will warn everyone to not shave anything for two or so days before going because the salt will get into every little nick or cut and burn like you would not believe.

Tripmates:
This is where things will vary the most.  On my trip there was one other trans guy (who I knew vaguely from synagogue, go figure) who was out to everyone.  He had no problems at all being out, everyone was incredibly respectful and polite.  I had to field a few questions that were fairly easily brushed off with “no, my family just has shit genes”, but after that there wasn’t a problem.  Honestly, I think I was being a little paranoid because I’m not used to being in groups of cis people with the level of trans knowledge my trip mates had.  Everyone else’s experiences ran the full spectrum from “stealth and fine” to “stealth and way too many questions” to “out and fine” to “out and uncomfortable”.  Even people who went with the same organiser on different buses had wildly different experiences.  I suggest going with a friend so that at the very least you have one person you feel comfortable with.

The Israelis:
Every Birthright trip includes at least 3-4 days with Israeli young people joining you on the trip.  No one has had a problem with them so far.  In many cases people felt more comfortable with the Israelis than with their American peers.  For my part, the best friends I made on my trip were with some of the Israelis I met and eventually stayed with after I extended my stay.  Do not be afraid to talk to them, their kindness and acceptance has been one of the few things everyone I’ve talked to has agreed on.

Sex:
It’s a pretty widely held belief that Birthright is what you go on to get laid.  In many ways that’s true.  I don’t think any of us have been on a trip where at least a few people weren’t screwing around with each other.  You’d think it’d be difficult with that whole three to a room thing, but most people stay up late in the night chatting in various rooms so you can usually kick your roommates out pretty easily (or ask them to join in…)  Obviously this poses problems for those of us who are stealth.  I did not get laid on my trip (not that I’d have turned down a few of the guys…), but the out guy who was with me did.  If you’re out and interested in someone it follows pretty much the same rules as any other hookup with the added challenge of having to sit on a bus with the person for the next however many days.  None of us who are stealth did anything more than have a drunken makeout session, but the challenges of stealth are about the same in any group of people sharing a small community: you never know who might tell what.  Don’t expect true love or anything, 99% of what happens are casual flings people forget about by morning.  Take protection, consider your own needs and wants, and have fun.

Other information:
There are some aspects of every trip that do feel rather like hetero Jewish matchmaking.  This is irritating to everyone queer and not a single one of us ended up on a trip where we were the only ones (even the one girl who went on an Orthodox tour) so don’t feel like you’ll be left out in your grumbling.  Like in any other group, family tend to find each other.  Luckily, the heterocentric parts are very short and very small and likely something you won’t even really remember compared to the whirlwind of the rest.  All trips go at a clipping pace, you barely have time to breathe let alone think about the two seconds of heteronormativity.

Overall:
Like I said at the beginning, it depends on your group.  The majority of us had very good experiences and will be recommending the trip to anyone who asks, but there were a few who were less than satisfied.  Of the less than thrilled people, most were more irritated by non-trans aspects of the trip (it’s ten days with largely upper-middle class, educated, white Jews, you can imagine the problems when discussing oppression).  If you’re worried sign up with a friend or sibling you can rant to at the end of the day or see if you can put it off until your passing is closer to 100%.

Fun, if not particularly polite way to deal with butch lesbians insisting on assuming you’re one of them

My salon does quite a bit of promoting for Pride.  It’s good for business and I think we only have one straight staffer so it’s kind of a big thing for us.  Which means that today I was manning our booth while wearing Kurt’s ‘Born This Way’ shirt.

Apparently having ‘LIKES BOYS’ in giant letters across my torso was not enough to deter the lesbians.  Every couple of minutes one of them would come up to me and talk about how great it is to see a lesbian in hairdressing.  (It’s not really, I know at least as many lesbian hairdressers as I do gay men.)  Normally I’m very polite about this.  I’m used to educating and this sort of thing happens to all the cis guys in my family too so I don’t consider it a big deal.

Today I got frustrated.  When a woman (who looked strikingly like Chaz Bono when he first came out) came up to me wearing a ‘dip me in honey and throw me to the lesbians’ and talking about how inspiring I was I immediately started calling her ‘sir’.  Repeatedly.  Even after she corrected me.  I did that over and over and over again until finally one woman got frustrated and asked why I assumed she was a man.

“Why did you assume I’m a woman?”

She didn’t really have an answer for that.

Recent searches

While I’m working on a couple of more in depth posts I thought I’d go over the search terms I’m apparently fairly high ranked for, but haven’t actually addressed.  Figure if people are going to get here from them I should at least make sure they get information.

when you start taking testosterone ftm will you get wet dreams?

Let’s start off by defining ‘wet dream’.  Technically the ‘wet’ part comes from a guy ejaculating while sleeping which isn’t always a part of trans guy orgasm so in that sense, no, you won’t necessarily have wet dreams.  General sex dreams during which time you orgasm?  Yeah, possibly.  Sex dreams without orgasm?  Also possible, even likely depending on how your sex drive ends up and whether or not you remember your dreams.   I know I definitely have had my share, but I also had a few pre-T. Just a naturally horny fucker.

what is a gay ftm?

I think I may have covered this in the FAQ (at least, I really hope I did), but since the search didn’t point there for some ridiculous reason I’m going to answer it again.  Note that the following are the most basic definitions designed for the hardcore beginner and do not account for every possible identity permutation.  FtM: Female to Male trans* person.  Generally someone born female who is actually a guy.  Gay: In this case, guy who is into guys.  So a person who is gay and FtM would be a trans person who identifies as a guy and is sexually/romantically interested in other guys.  (Hint in case you’re confused: if this person was not trans they’d probably be considered straight.)

why do transmen wear earrings

Why does anyone wear earrings?  Because they bloody well want to.  Cis guys wear earrings, why can’t I?  I like earrings, they’re fun accessories.  Just because I’m a guy doesn’t mean I have to be Rambo or something.

i am ftm transgender, and i want an effeminate voice

This is an interesting one that I wasn’t expecting.  Honestly, I don’t think it’s a good idea to force your voice to do anything it doesn’t want to do naturally.  Your vocal chords are very sensitive things that are easily hurt.  However, there are different speaking patterns that can be read as more feminine/effeminate based on region.  For example, in the US it’s very common for people to consider men who don’t speak in a monotone effeminate.  Most trans guys end up sounding effeminate by accident because we’ve had social training as girls, but if you’re worried just take all the stuff trans guys say to do to sound masculine and reverse it.

Suggestions?

I know, I’ve been awful about updating lately.  Problem is, I have no idea what to post about.  Being trans is even less a part of my life than it was back when I started the blog.  I’ve done most of the 101 type stuff already so I’m a bit stuck on what to do next.

Since I’m not the one who actually reads this I figured I’d ask.  Anything you guys want to hear about?

On being stealth

I just got an inbox full of questions about being stealth and why and how that affects me so rather than respond to each of them individually (sorry guys, I don’t have quite that much free time) I figured I’d do a post.

First of all, it’s important to note that stealth is just as much of a spectrum as gender.  On one end you have “everyone up to and including the cashier at McDonald’s knows I’m trans” and on the other you have “I don’t even tell my sexual partners”.  In between there is a whole lot of grey area.

I’m about two ticks away from the far “don’t tell anyone” end of the spectrum.  My sexual partners know (it’d be damned near impossible for them not to), as do my doctors, friends from my pre-transition days, and a few very close friends in each city I’ve lived in.  One of the things about me is that I have a chronic illness so it’s important that at least one person nearby knows in case I end up in the hospital or something.  I carry a card with me at all times stating both my trans status and every medical issue I have just in case I need emergency treatment.  It’s a little annoying and could lead to outing if I’m not careful, but my health is more important to me than staying stealth.

That’s really what stealth is about, figuring out what’s important to you and adjusting your life to meet those priorities.  For me it’s important to just be one of the guys.  I don’t consider myself to have had a girlhood so much as a childhood and I seem to have missed every aspect of female socialisation I’ve heard talked about so I don’t think the trans part of me is all that big of a deal.  It’s not even so much that I’m annoyed by people thinking of me as a girl as that I’m confused by it.  I don’t get it.  I think of my pre-coming out days and just see me, not a girl or a boy or anything other than a kid/teen who went to LGBT youth groups and loved biology and would not shut up if you got them near a stage.  I don’t identify with the whole ‘sisterhood’ idea and I’m not sure anyone who grew up in my town could be said to have had a traditional upbringing so the ‘female to’ part of FtM isn’t really something I think about.

Which is why I’ve never had a problem staying stealth.  I don’t feel stifled by it.  I’ve never had a conversation where I’ve felt like I was hiding something.  I’ve never had to stop myself from saying something that would out me.  I talk about my childhood all the time (actually, I think people might be sick of hearing about it) without problems.  I never did anything specifically for girls so I’ve never had to lie.  Some of what I grew up with was a bit odd for a little boy, but in my town it wasn’t odd.  For instance, I was a cheerleader when I was younger, but there were a good dozen or so boys on the squad so it never really occurred to me to hide it.

This is probably why I don’t consider stealth to be nearly as big of a deal as most guys who transitioned around the same age a me.  I had a childhood experience that more closely resembles that of the kids socially transitioning around eight or nine now than that of other guys who transitioned at 20.  I don’t really know why other than that I was raised in a unique area and was apparently a fairly androgynous kid, but that’s how it turned out.  Stealth wasn’t even really a question when I was coming out.  I knew I’d come out, transition, pass, and never look back.  Nothing else made sense to me.

Now, that’s not to say I ever wanted to completely leave the trans community.  I don’t particularly like most of it and I want to strangle about half the people at every group I go to, but from the second I realised there wasn’t much of anything for guys like me I knew I wouldn’t be able to leave entirely.  I just don’t do activist work as a trans guy.  I go to groups that aren’t in the city I live to make sure guys coming out know that there are options beyond genderqueer and masculine binary guy.  I work with LGBT groups to make them more trans inclusive as an ally rather than a trans person.  I do youth outreach and mentorships both as a gay man and as a gay trans man (that’s one other person I’m out to, the co-ordinator at the local BB/BS) depending on what’s needed.  Most of the time I don’t have to be out, but occasionally there’ll be a kid who needs someone to talk to.  I keep this blog.

It’s about finding a balance.  For me that balance sways toward being more stealth.  For other people it’ll go more toward being out.  All options are just as valid and no one should be told otherwise.  We’re different people with different needs.  Nothing at all wrong with that.

Just because you’re a man does not mean you need to be a douche

Something I’ve been noticing as I make friends with younger guys: there’s a horrible trend of coming out, passing, and suddenly becoming the world’s biggest pain in the ass.

I’ve seen some sweet, polite, well mannered, privilege checking guys turn into people I never want to see, let alone be associated with.  It’s more than a bit sickening.  Particularly since I know you’re all capable of more.

This is everyone’s reality check.  I know that passing means suddenly you’re allowed — and even expected — to buy into a ton of negative behaviours.  I know that it can sometimes be tricky navigating what is and isn’t considered ‘normal’ for a guy.  That doesn’t mean you should accept all of it.

Stop taking up two seats on the bus just because you can.  If you can fit in one seat you should sit in one seat.  It’s only polite.  Stop reacting to everything with physical violence.  Not only does it show a complete lack of brain power, it’s going to get you in some serious trouble if you mess with the wrong guy.  Stop forgetting the table manners I know your parents taught you.  No one wants to see your half-masticated food.  It’s gross.  Stop laughing when the guys around you tell a sexist/homophobic joke.  I don’t care if it means you don’t fit in, you don’t need to be playing into oppression.  You’re better than that.  And for god’s sake, just because you can scratch yourself in public doesn’t mean you should.  If your hand is down your pants I’m going to assume you’re playing with yourself and in most places that’s a crime.

I know, it’s awesome that you now have license to be a disgusting slob of a caveman.  That doesn’t mean you should.  For one thing, most people — man, woman, or otherwise — don’t want to date a caveman.  For another, it’s going to create bad habits that are difficult to break when you need to act like a gentleman for something like a job interview.  Think about it for a second.  Do you want to be the tool on ‘Tool Academy’?  I know I don’t.  I laugh at those guys.  I don’t know how the hell they’re still getting laid.  So cut the crap and grow up.

I’m a MTF teen and I just don’t think that life is worth living for. I can’t tell you just how much I hate myself and how ashamed I feel for being this way. I just hate myself & there is nothing I can do about it. How do you deal with it?

One day at a time. Some days are horrible. Some days are amazing. On the horrible days I remind myself that it’s only one day and there will be others that are better.

I also make sure to remind myself that *there is nothing wrong with being trans*. NOTHING. We cannot help how we were born. I don’t think I can stress that enough. People will tell us that we’re sick or deviant or evil. It is *not true*. We are human beings who happen to have an incongruence between our mental and physical selves. People who have a problem with that are the ones who need to change. Not us. We are just as deserving of love, respect, and all the good things in life as everyone else.

If anyone knows you’re trans and is supportive, talk to them. Let them help. Our friends are often far more willing to help than we think they will be. If no one knows, call an LGBT youth line. People talk about The Trevor Project in terms of suicide prevention all the time, but they don’t mention that staff members are also there to listen to anything teens need to talk about. Call them. If you can’t call they have an online chat for teens who are not suicidal, but may need to talk on Fridays. If you’re outside the US there are international resources too. I don’t know what they are, but I have non-US readers who can leave any help they might have in the comments.

Ask me anything

“But you have female socialisation!”

I cannot begin to explain how much I loathe statements like that.  They’re most often said by women trying to explain why they prefer trans guys to cis guys so I don’t really have to deal with them, but when I do…very little pisses me off faster.

Why?  Because there is so much wrong in that one simple sentence that I’m not entirely sure where to start.  It assumes that all women have some magical girlhood experience.  It assumes that the little girl in a rich, white New York family is socialised the same way as a Latina in the LA ghetto.  It ignores that socialisation differs based on time, location, socio-economic class, race, religion, and a whole host of other factors.  It implies that trans women will never be “real” women because they’re missing this mystical childhood socialisation.

Beyond that, it gives trans guys way too much credit.  It says that we must instinctively understand and agree with issues like rape culture because we were raised as girls.  I’m trans and I gotta say, half of what people talk about when they mention rape culture never once occurred to me.  I’m not automatically a better feminist because of my genitalia.

It could be said that I missed everything because I socially transitioned myself so young.  I can believe that.  I’m not the only one with these problems though.  Ask a group of trans guys about their upbringings and you’ll get a mixed bag of answers.  Some will say they 100% were socialised as girls and they understand what that means.  Others will say gender wasn’t an issue in their upbringing because they were treated the same way as cis guy relatives.  Others will say they were socialised largely as a boy by accident.  Still others will have a range of answers somewhere in between.

Being trans does not make me a more enlightened breed of guy.  In fact, being trans has often worked against my ability to understand feminism.  It took a very long time for me to be able to understand that just because I didn’t experience a certain aspect of being seen as a girl doesn’t mean no woman has.  It took even longer for me to recognise my own internalised misogyny and start to work through it.  I’m sure I still have issues I haven’t noticed yet.  So please stop acting like I’m magic.  I’m not.  I’m just as capable of being a jerk as any other guy.