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

From the frequent search terms: Going stealth

“can transmen ever go stealth”

This is going to depend on your definition of ‘stealth’ and what it is you want to do to your body. Do you want to never have to tell anyone in your life that you’re trans, including sexual partners? If you want T, top, and lower surgery you can probably find some way of pulling that off. More if you want a meta. Want to do that, but don’t have any interest in lower surgery? That’s going to be pretty damned difficult unless you plan on never taking off your pants or ending up in a situation where you’re incapacitated (which you can’t really control).

I’m what I call ‘mostly stealth’ or ‘I just like my fucking privacy’.  My doctors know I’m trans. The guys I fuck know I’m trans. *Most of the people I knew before transitioning know I’m trans. When I was still moving around a ton there was always one non-fuck who knew and was given medical power of attorney in case of emergencies. Very occasionally one of the teenagers I mentor will be told I’m trans (almost always because they’re considering transition themselves). Oh, and my boss knows because she got a gender no-match letter. In total in my current city I think six people know I’m trans and I live with four of them. My boss, my boyfriends, one of the guys in my theatre group, and the two teenagers I have guardianship of. Expand that to the rest of the country and the number goes up a bit, but still hovers around 0.5-1% of the people I know and interact with regularly.

I haven’t had lower surgery. I’m not likely to have lower surgery in the near future unless the options change. I’m 5’0″ and maybe 110 pounds dripping wet. I’m a small, rather atypical guy with a gender presentation that’s been described as “Kurt Hummel in Harry Potter”. I’m also lucky enough to have photos of cousins who are just as small and atypical as I am so that people assume late bloomers run in my family. Which they do, my father was just as scrawny and androgynous looking as I am until he was in his early 30s and he was a Marine. Guys who don’t have my particular family background will likely have a harder time brushing things off as “oh, it’s just genetics”. Luckily, you’re also far more likely to start passing within a year or two on T. With my genetics I knew that wasn’t going to happen.

That’s actually where problems come in. Many trans guys find themselves accidentally becoming stealth. T changes can happen largely without us noticing, especially for the guys who start passing quickly. One day you wake up and realise that none of your new friends know you’re trans and have to decide whether you want to tell them or not. For some guys that’s great, they wanted to be stealth from the time they came out. For other guys it feels like ignoring a part of themselves. It’s not really something you can know for sure until it starts happening.

So can trans guys be stealth? Yeah, sure. The bigger question is, do you want to be?

*This is an odd quirk of my own history I didn’t discover until after I’d started this blog. For most people everyone you know before transitioning will know you’re trans.

It’s that time of year again: Some notes for the guys starting T

For some odd reason every year starting in late September and running until early November there seem to be an influx of guys starting T and asking questions.  Maybe it’s that the guys away from home for college can start the process when the school term does or something, I dunno.  In any case, here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. No, you probably aren’t growing more facial hair after your first shot.  I’m sorry guys, but the chances of that happening are so small that you have a better chance of seeing a dolphin in Missouri.  I want you all to look at your younger brothers or cousins or whatever tween to teenage boys might be around.  Look at how long it takes for the more visible parts of puberty to hit them.  Trans guys in the US usually take less time because our doses are higher and more constant than the natural levels a cis guy would get during puberty, but two weeks is way too short a time to see changes like that.
  2. Correlation does not equal causation.  If you start T on Monday and feel like your throat is sore on Tuesday that does not mean the T caused it.  Maybe it did.  Maybe you’re experiencing one of the preliminary signs of a voice drop.  More likely you spoke too much/too loudly or are getting an early season flu.
  3. T does not magically turn you into an asshole.  This is what I consider to be one of the most dangerous myths of testosterone.  T can do many things, including lowering your anger threshold and making you more impulsive.  However, those things are still your responsibility to deal with.  If you lash out at your boyfriend that is not the T making you do so, it is your own inability to control your temper.  I said and did many douchey things when I first started T, but that doesn’t mean the T made me aggressive.  It simply means I needed to learn to channel my frustration into more constructive things, something I should have learned regardless of my hormone levels or gender identity.  Take some responsibility for your actions instead of giving the trans man’s version of “boys will be boys”.
  4. You will not die if you miss a shot.  Around March there will be emails coming in from guys asking what will happen if they miss one shot because they think their prescription will run out before the refill comes in or they can get to the doctor.  The answer is most likely very little.  You might feel a little tired or run down or emotional.  You might also feel the same as you always do.  The reality is that damned near every guy on T will miss a shot or two over the course of his lifetime.  Prescriptions don’t get filled on time, life gets hectic and you forget, some surgeons require time off T before they’ll cut you open, it happens.  Try to be as calm about it as possible (I know, the first time is a bit scary) and the time will go by faster than you think.
  5. Take pictures.  Many of us are uncomfortable with pictures, but trust me on this one, you’ll want them later.  Even if you never want to let anyone else see them, being able to look at how different you were ten years or a year or even six months ago is amazing on those days when you feel like you’re never going to be done with transition.  So take a ton.  Develop a secret relationship with your webcam if that’s what makes you most comfortable.  Just make sure you’re documenting it somehow.
  6. Advocate for yourself to the very best of your abilities.  Ask your doctor questions.  Know why they’re making the suggestions they are.  Ask to see your lab results and what they mean.  If you’re uncomfortable with a decision ask if there are any other options.  If your doctor wants to take you off T for some reason ask about risks and if it’d be possible to do whatever cis guys with the same condition would.  Often doctors just don’t know what to do with us so their response to everything is “it’s the T”.  Educate yourself so that if something like that comes up you can at least ask questions and make a more informed decision.
  7. At the same time, do not endanger your health for the sake of T.  I have to admit to my own faults on this one.  When I started T I experienced an increase in problems with my asthma and eczema, two things that only bothered me once or twice a year after I was 14.  I was wheezing and itching all over the place, it was awful.  I spent months trying to convince myself it was just a coincidence or something else that had happened around the same time.  I finally did tell my doctor, but not before torturing myself because I was afraid he’d force me to stop therapy.  Worst part?  It turns out the compounding pharmacy I was going to added a mild scent I hadn’t noticed to their gels and I was having a reaction to that.  I asked them to stop adding it to mine and suddenly I was back to normal.  All that for something that was so simple to fix.
  8. Everyone changes at a different rate.  Some guys start T and within three months everyone thinks they’re a cis guy.  Others are still being called “she” after several years.  It all depends on your personal body chemistry and genetics.  Look at the guys in your family.  If they’re hairy you’ll probably be hairy.  If they’re all lean muscle you’re probably not going to look like the Hulk.  Try to be patient and avoid comparing yourself to anyone else.  When things get hard pull out that set of pictures I told you to keep so you can see that you are different, even if it’s not as much as you want.
  9. Doubling or tripling or otherwise adjusting your dose without supervision will not make you change any faster.  This is part of why you need to know about your lab results and educate yourself about what’s reasonable for a guy around your age.  If you are consistently getting T levels within a male range upping your dose is more likely to hurt than help.  Never forget that after a certain point T converts to estrogen.  If your levels are low and your doctor doesn’t want to talk about changing your dosage then that’s something to debate, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking that more = better.  I know guys on lower doses than I am who are seeing much more visible results in a shorter period of time.  Once again, it’s all individual.
  10. Don’t be afraid to take a break.  This is one of those things that is more common to do than it is to talk about.  If for any reason at all you feel like you need to reevaluate taking T or transitioning then take a break.  Stop and think about it if that’s what you need.  Sometimes we need to get away from something in order to figure out it’s what we want.  Some of us may think we want T only to find out that we don’t really.  There is nothing at all wrong with needing time to understand what’s right for you.  Even if what’s right for you is not taking T or deciding not to transition.  Other people may not understand that, but their opinion is not nearly as important as you feeling comfortable in your own skin.

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.