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

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.

What would you do if you thought that someone might threaten to out you because of a disagreement between the two of you?

I honestly have no idea. I’ve had guys out me before because of their own political ideology and it’s awful. I’d probably deny it. I don’t like lying, but if I could get away with it I would. It’s more important to me to be seen as just another guy by my larger community than it is to be 100% honest.

Ask me anything

I’m bi and trans, and I’ve only ever dated other bi’s. I know that there are plenty of gay and straight people who date trans people, but I know that I would always be worried that I’m inadequate. Do/did you have that problem? How did you get over it?

This is amusing to me because I actually have the *opposite* problem. I have problems dating bi/pan guys because I’m always worried they’ll see me as a girl or something ‘in between’.

So…I guess I don’t really have any advice for you. My issue with bi/pan guys has gotten better since I started passing better and became more comfortable with myself. That’s about it.

Ask me anything

Have you dated an FtM? Would you?

I have. It’s not that big of a deal. I’m into guys, trans guys are guys, I’m good.

I *don’t*, however, top vagina. I’ve tried. It was really awkward and kind of terrifying.

I also haven’t dated anyone — trans or cis — who identified as anything other than male. So no genderqueer trans guys or trans as an identity trans guys. Not necessarily because it’s a deal breaker, but because I tend to not get along with those guys. We look at our gender and histories in such fundamentally different ways that there end up being fights. That’s fine for friends, but way too tiring for a relationship.

Ask me anything

Hrm.  Reading again that second part makes a bit less sense.  I haven’t dated anyone who identifies as anything other than male regardless of genital configuration is probably a better phrasing.

Trans Service Dog Handler

Something not a lot of people know: I have a service dog.  When I was 18 my depression was manifesting in dissociative episodes that were only made worse by medication.  California law regarding assistance animals is amongst the most liberal in the country so I talked to my parents and my therapist and we decided a dog might not be a bad idea.

I love my service dog.  She’s like an extension of me now, I can’t imagine going anywhere without her.  However, having a dog while coming out made life rather more difficult.

First there was the practical side.  I got kicked out when I came out to my parents.  For a while I was homeless.  My dissociative episodes had gone away when I came out to myself, but came back when I was homeless.  Trying to find a shelter that will take in someone with a service dog is damned near impossible.  The response was generally “well there’s an animal shelter over there.”  Just in case anyone’s wondering, you have to train a service dog to stay home when they’re hitting retirement age.  Simply ripping them apart from their person is a great way to traumatise them.  That’s even assuming I could have survived without her which, at that point, wasn’t very likely.  She was the only reason I hadn’t cracked completely.

The problems didn’t entirely stop even once we had a place to live.  There are a few things you get used to having a service animal.  You have to advocate for yourself to be allowed in stores, you have to explain to your doctor, in the case of psychiatric assistance animals you have to explain why you can’t just “buck up and deal with it”.  You have to get used to people staring at you.  People look at you when you have a service dog.  They want to stop and pet the dog or ask you questions.  Kids are drawn to you like magnets.  All of that can pose a problem when you’re in the awkward, just starting out phases of transition.

There is no hiding if you are a trans person with a service dog.  There is no melding into the background and hoping people won’t notice you.  They will and they will probably come up and talk.  If you are visibly gender variant and considering a service dog you need to understand this.  All service dog handlers are warned about unwanted interaction with people, but it’s especially true of people who look ‘different’ in any way.

Now, the upside to this is that most people don’t want to talk to you, they want to pet the dog.  If you have a dog who can handle that (mine can, but she’s been specifically trained for it) it’s not so bad.  You have to allocate an extra half hour to go anywhere because you’ll be stopped by 15 kids on the way, but it’s not horrible.  If your dog is the type who gets distracted from work when pet (or comes from a training organisation that discourages petting) you’ll have to get used to saying a firm ‘no’.  A very firm no.  For some reason people can’t seem to get that word through their heads unless it’s accompanied by “fuck off”.

You also have to learn to deal with doctors.  When doing intake to start T I had to answer a bunch of questions to make sure I was capable of giving informed consent.  Let me tell you, telling the intake coordinator that you have a service dog due to dissociative episodes from depression does not make you look particularly sane.  I can’t really blame them, but it was still frustrating to have to explain myself.  It doesn’t stop either, every time I see a new doctor I have to convince them that I’m rational enough to stay on T.  If I just tell them the dog’s for my epilepsy (which she’s also been trained for now) it’s a bit better, but then they get all worked up about the possible physical effects.  It’s a bit of a no-win situation, you just have to learn to fight with them.

There are a few cool things about having a service dog.  She is great at helping me make friends.  If you’re in a new group of people having a service dog is an instant ice breaker.  Sometimes the response isn’t entirely positive, but there’s always someone who wants to come up, talk, and pet the dog.

She’s also pretty good at warding off violence.  Something about that bright service dog vest just screams “too pathetic to kill” to would-be bashers.  I’ve been bashed with her with me before (retraining after that is hell), but it’s far less common.

I do recommend that you train your dog to go into an instant sit-stay when someone else has their leash.  Part of this is in case you ever need emergency medical treatment, but it’s also because a dog who bites even in defense of you is likely to be considered unfit for work.  Some dogs have been put down for defending their handlers.  That’s not even getting into the PETA wankers who think it’s cool to try “liberating” service dogs.  I’ve taught mine an emergency command that essentially means “do not move unless the ground opens up beneath you” for situations like that.

There is a ton to think about if you’re considering a service dog, but even more if you’re trans — particularly early transition trans.  Know that while a dog will likely make parts of your life easier, they will also make parts harder.  Transition tends to be one of those.  It’s not impossible, not by any means, but it’s more of a challenge.  If you don’t want extra attention while you’re in the ‘in between’ phase a dog is probably not the best idea.  If you are at all worried about being kicked out wait to get the dog.  I am not kidding.  As much as my dog helped me get through that, it wasn’t fair to her.  Your dog relies on you for virtually everything, it’s like having a really helpful three year old.  Make sure you take both of your needs into account before you decide.

Things to prepare before you come out

We all hope that our relatives will be accepting when we come out to them.  Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.  If you live with your family (or anyone else who can toss you out) and are even slightly afraid of them reacting poorly there are a few things you should have ready.

A friend.  Someone you’ve already come out to who knows the situation and can be on call to pick you up to crash with them for a few days.  Usually relatives who flip out only need a day or two to calm down and come to their senses.  Rarely will you get the relatives who refuse to see or speak to you again.  When you do you generally have some warning beforehand.  If that’s the case make sure you have a place you can stay until you find your feet.

Clothes and toiletries. Enough to last you a week, longer if you have the potential catastrophe parents.  Make sure to include at least one set of dress clothes just in case the reaction is worse than you expected and you can’t get back for a while.

Documentation.  ID, passport, social security card, insurance card, birth certificate, any other identifying documents that are applicable in your country and/or needed for school/work.

Money. As much as you can save.  If your family has access to your bank account carry it in cash so they can’t cut it off.

Numbers for local GLBT organisations.  LGBT centers, queer shelters, PFLAG, anyone you can possibly find in your area that might be able to help.  Note that if you are under 18 you may not be allowed access to adult shelters.  However, they may still have other resources they can point you toward so keep their numbers anyway.  If you are over 18 most queer youth services (including shelters) run into the early 20s.

A sense of humour.  If the worst case scenario happens and you end up not being able to go back home you are going to need this to survive with your sanity (mostly) intact.  Learn to laugh at some of the more absurd situations you find yourself in.  It’s not easy, but it does make things seem a bit better.  One from my homeless days: I had spent most of the day walking from one soup kitchen line to another and had finally gotten to the one for the shelter (which formed at 2PM for a 6PM opening).  I was wearing the vast majority of my wardrobe with what little else I owned shoved into a Marine sea bag that I’d been carting around with me for weeks.  I drop my stuff, sit on the bag, and settle in for the four hour wait.  It’s cold, I’m feeling sorry for myself, and just when I think things can’t get any worse it starts to snow.  In San Fran-fucking-cisco.  I honestly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  In the end I did both.  Shitty situation, but funny if looked at from the right (twisted) viewpoint.

Above all, have a plan.  It doesn’t have to be this plan, just as long as you have something to fall back on.  Nothing quite like having to flee your own home in the middle of the night with no warning.  It’s really not a situation you want to find yourself in.

Trans Pride vs Gay Pride

I am not at all a poster child for trans pride.  I take no joy in the fact that I am trans, at best I consider it a kind of annoying condition that allows me a different view of the world than most people.

However, I have an incredible amount of gay pride.  My selection of gay pride t-shirts is ridiculous enough to need a rotation because they don’t all fit in my closet, damned near everything I own has a rainbow sticker or button on it, and I spend quite a bit of my free time working with *gay youth.

What’s the difference?  I think it’s a combination of things.  First off, there has never been a time in my life where being trans has felt like a positive thing.  I don’t subscribe to the gender binary smashing ideology so for me being trans is most often a pain in the ass.  Being gay isn’t always a picnic, but the bad times are at least balanced out by the good.  Yes, I may be assaulted for no reason other than my rainbow scarf.  I also get to experience that kind of giddy feeling when I’m first interested in a guy and all of the fun that is going to a truck stop diner with fifty other gay men in various levels of drag.

Which leads into the second reason: community.  I don’t feel any connection to the trans community.  I interact with it because I want other guys to know that there is more than one way to be a man, but if I were to stop tomorrow I wouldn’t miss it.  Part of this is due to ideological differences, but most of it is because I honestly don’t view being trans as an important part of my identity.  Clearly this is not the case with my sexuality.  I can’t really say for sure why other than that being gay plays into my day to day life far more than being trans.

People don’t know I’m trans.  I’ve reached a point where the things that used to scream “look, you’re different!” at me (bathrooms, packing, swimming, etc.) are so instinctive that I don’t think about them unless I’m having a particularly bad day.  Everyone knows I’m gay.  The woman working the register at the grocery store at least assumes I’m gay even if she doesn’t know for sure.  I could try to mask it, but I’d only be hurting myself.  So I get daily reminders of my sexuality in the form of whispers and odd looks and the occasional yelled taunt.  I also get the “family” looks and knowing smiles and sometimes a flirtatious gesture or two.

It helps that I choose to express my sexuality in a certain way.  I don’t have to be effeminate.  I don’t have to get involved with gay organisations.  I don’t even have to go to gay clubs.  If it really bothered me I could change.  The thing is, I don’t want to.  I did straight drag for a while when I first came out.  It sucked.  I made the conscious decision to say fuck what people think, I’m going to be who I want.

I didn’t get that option with trans.  It was either transition or kill myself.  People say “oh, you don’t have to physically transition, you can learn to live with your body,” but they don’t know what it’s like to wake up every day and wonder who that person in the mirror is.  I didn’t choose to start T because I wanted the changes, I chose to start T because my brain already viewed myself as having those changes and not having the visual image match up with the mental one was driving me slowly insane.  I never once got a choice in the matter.  Not if I wanted to continue being alive (which, admittedly, is not always as clear as it should be).

That’s not to say I’m not proud of what I’ve accomplished since coming out.  I am incredibly proud of what I’ve done and the person I’ve become while also dealing with depression and dysphoria.  However, that is pride in myself, not pride in the conditions.

*I also work with trans youth, but that’s more rare.