Things I wish people had been more candid about when I was coming out

In January I hit nine years since I first came out.  That’s nine years of reading forums and message boards and LJ and Tumblr and various other online resources.  It’s nine years of support groups and activist groups and attempts at finding other trans guys who don’t make me want to shoot myself or them.  In a couple of weeks it’ll been nine years on various forms of T (not accounting for the times I had to go off for monetary reasons).  That’s not as long as some of the veterans in the community when I was coming out, but it feels like a lifetime ago.  In that time I’ve found that there are a few things that guys tend to talk around without really going into detail.  I’m going to try to cover them here.

  1. Ass hairSeriously.  Ass hair.  Everyone makes this sound like hair on your ass cheeks, but that’s not necessarily it.  It also means hair growing around your asshole.  Which means one day you’re wiping your ass and realise there is hair coming out of the crack.  You know how when your arm is down there’s sometimes pit hair showing between your arm and torso?  Like that only with your ass.  Just a warning, trying to take a pair of scissors to it is very tricky.
  2. Not everyone passes right away.  Not everyone passes at all.  Most guys will.  Most guys will go on T and pass at least within a year or two.  Some of us are incredibly unlucky though and will continue to be read as “something in between” indefinitely.  I look almost exactly like my father did when he was 20.  I have cousins a year old and a year younger who look like darker skinned versions of me.  I still get read as a butch woman about 40% of the time.  That’s just genetics.  Accept it, find a way to make it work for you, and move on.
  3. There is no such thing as a “standard” dose of T.  Let me repeat that, there is no such thing as a standard dose of T.  There are doses that are more common, doses that doctors are more comfortable with, but there is no guarantee that that will be the dose that works best for you.  I am currently on 200mg/wk of injectable T.  That is double what everyone said was the “standard” dose when I was coming out.  That is the dose that I require in order to have testosterone levels in the mid-range for cis man of my age.  I know other guys who are on as low as 25mg/wk.  Get your blood work done, keep track of your levels, and find out what works best for your specific body.
  4. Stealth isn’t an all or nothing deal.  You don’t have to either never tell anyone ever or come out to every single person you meet.  It’s not that simple.  I’m out to my doctor, my partners, and the guy who had medical power of attorney when I first moved here.  In California I’m out to almost everyone I know.  In Israel every single person I know.  It’s ok to decide as you go along.  It’s ok to decide that you feel comfortable enough to come out in one area but not in another.  The only thing to be a little aware of is that if you put it online it’s not going to go away no matter how hard you try so be a bit more cautious there.
  5. The name you pick when you first come out doesn’t necessarily have to be the name you keep forever.  I’m in the process of changing my name for a third time.  Why?  Because the first time I didn’t realise how much I don’t enjoy being out and had already made myself too easily outed as a trans guy online.  Now I’m realising that picking a nondescript white name has never felt quite right.  I didn’t realise how important being Latino was going to become to me because in California every other person is Latino so it doesn’t really matter.  Yes, it is kind of a logistical nightmare.  Yes, the people who know I’m trans do make fun of me.  Yes, the people who don’t know do ask questions.  None of those things are impossible to deal with though.  You might want to make the transition a little easier by keeping whatever name you currently go by as a middle name, but at the end of the day it’s your life.  Everyone else will adjust.
  6. Fat does not shift when you start T.  God do I hate how people phrase that.  Your body fat does not magically move around on its own.  That’s not how it works.  What happens is that T tells your body to store new fat in different locations.  If you continue to store new fat without using up whatever fat you already had stored you will simply end up with fat in both traditionally male and female areas.  This is a good reason to eat healthy and get regular exercise.  Don’t starve yourself, don’t force yourself to run fifteen miles a day, just be sensible.  We all know that living off Burger King isn’t a good idea if you can avoid it.  This isn’t new information.  T already puts us at higher risk of high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and RBC count, do yourself a favour and don’t make things worse by ignoring your overall health.
  7. There is nothing wrong with deciding that transition isn’t for you.  There’s a tendency within trans circles to whisper about “detransition” and going off T and how so-and-so is a girl again.  Ignore the whispers.  They’re idiotic.  You are the only person who knows what is going on inside of your head.  If you go on T and find you don’t like the effects, if you cringe at the idea of chopping off your breasts, if you find you were confused or pressured or dealing with trauma or whatever might be the case, that’s not a big deal.  You’re the one who has to live with your body.  You’re the one who has to live with however society views you.  Do what makes you happy.

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.

Guest Post: How I Figured Out I Was Trans, the short version

When people ask me how I knew I was trans, I often don’t know where to start.  There were all sorts of signs that I was trans throughout my childhood, but being as this was before the internet, I had no idea that transitioning was a possibility.  Like many trans people, it wasn’t one thing that let me know I was trans, it was a thousand tiny things that piled up into a narrative.  Eight years after transitioning, I still have moments when I remember tidbits from my life that confirm my transness.  These tiny moments didn’t make sense at the time, but in hindsight I can see what they meant.

Some trans people talk about being in the wrong body and some talk about not liking their social role.  For me, it was a strange combination that led me to transition.  The biggest thing, the one that trans people don’t like to talk about, is sex.  Yes, sex – I figured out that I was trans through having sex.  It started in the summer of 2000.  I was a junior in college and had just started dating a older man (lol, he was only 26, but it felt like a huge difference at the time).  The sex was great in the beginning, as I had gone a long time without any sexual contact due to my extreme studiousness and shyness.  After a month though, the sex turned bad; I felt locked up, stoic and frigid.

Being the perfectionist that I was, I spent days poring over sex books to figure out what I was doing wrong.  Convinced that I just wasn’t doing it right, I made it my goal to explore sex like I never had before.  I watched porn, bought toys, went to the strip club, read erotica, subscribed to Abercrombie & Fitch’s catalogue (my first softcore gay porn!), but nothing helped consistently.  I started to think it was physical, so I went to the doctor’s – nothing wrong there.  I practiced kegels, read up on kama sutra and tantric sex, tried the positions with my boyfriend, all to no avail.  Slowly sex became a chore that I loathed doing – a fact that is depressing as hell when you’re horny.  The only thing that helped was having sex right after waking up.  Curious, I started a dream journal.

One afternoon, I was waking up from a short nap in which I hazily remember having sex with a man.  Normally, this would have just been considered a good use of daylight hours, but this time I had a penis and I was the one penetrating him.  The dream was so vivid, so electric, that I thought about it for months, totally confused as to why I would have a dream like this.  It didn’t make any sense.  I tried to put it out of my mind, but a big part of me liked it so much, I started to have this dream every night.

After a few months of this, I furiously started researching the internets.  I came across a picture of a masculine presenting female-assigned trans person.  Floored, intrigued, excited and scared, I slowly I came to accept that my dream was telling me something important and that the only way I would figure it out was to break up with my boyfriend and explore my sexuality with other people.  Three months later, I chopped my hair off, graduated from college and somehow became convinced that I should start my experiments with women.

When graduate school started in the fall, I started dating another grad student – a woman.  My goal was to somehow embody my dream, to somehow feel male, so dating a woman seemed like the natural thing to do and I went with it.  At first it was new and exciting, just like my last relationship, but after a month of sex in which I never took off my clothes, I got bored and anxious.   I also felt like a fraud cause she thought I was a lesbian, but making her come did absolutely nothing for me.  After five months of exploring sex (including BDSM lite) with her, I took to the internet once more.

This time, thankfully, I came across a message board full of queer and trans people.  I spent months reading the archives, searching for some truth that mirrored my own.  I stopped having sex again, started to obsessively study myself in the mirror and make myself as masculine-looking as possible.  I lifted weights every day, starved myself, started shopping in the men’s side of the store and, most importantly, I started having the special dreams again, except this time they were more explicit and longer.  Jolting energy spilt through my penis, like I’d imagine a cis guy would feel and it was very unlike the orgasms and feel of vaginal sex.  I had a masculine chest, fur, fuzz on my face and I found myself furiously sucking my imaginary partner’s cock like I never had in real life.

Up until this point, it had never occurred to me that gay trans men existed.  In my dreams, I was a man having sex with a man, but acknowledging this out loud to other people scared the shit out of me.  So I continued on my quest to look more masculine while entertaining the possibility of sex with lesbians who digged people like me.   Convinced that I was disgusting, not worth dating and certainly not sexy, the attention and ego boost were nice.   I had some odd encounters with lesbians, but the spark wasn’t there.  I felt mostly dead down there when it came to having sex with women.

Slowly my dreams became more elaborate and I started wondering what else was possible.  Just going to a gay porn website was enough to make me start shaking and sweating at this point.  It felt forbidden and wrong.  It took me a full year of thinking before I finally downloaded some gay porn.  At first, I was confused.  I mean, I had sex with plenty guys growing up and I’d seen plenty of penises, but seeing gay porn for the first time made me feel completely ignorant of male sexuality.  I watched the twinks giving each other blowjobs, examining their bodies and noticing how skinny and smooth they looked.  Then one of them starting topping the other and my mouth literally gaped open – I thought “that’s exactly what my dream was like!!!”.  A part of me didn’t want to watch anymore (they weren’t my type and they looked rather sickly), but I couldn’t look away – it was calling my name.   Scared to death that I was really a gay man, I told myself that it wasn’t my cup of tea and that perhaps I was into the type of sex that has never existed in real life.

Meanwhile, I took steps to start testosterone therapy for my physical transition and graduated from college.  I moved to a new town and met some gay men for the first time in my life at age 23.  This is when my life started – I’m not exaggerating.  My new role as a man was being accepted rather easily with the help of testosterone-induced masculinization, a very trans-friendly community and top surgery, but making that step into gayhood became some sort of looming monster.  The closer I became with one of my gay friends, the more apparent my sexuality became to others, the more I couldn’t ignore the truth.  I finally came out, which surprised no one (apparently I make a rather fey man).  In less than a week after coming out, I was making my privates hurt from the constant masturbation from just the release of finally accepting myself.  Soon, I went after the real thing and for the first time in my life, my sexuality felt easy, not forced.  I no longer had to get in the perfect position, think of England, or imagine I was somewhere else.  I could be in my body and feel the electricity and most importantly I could share it with someone else, like humans were meant to do.

This isn’t to say that my sex life is easy and that I have no issues.  When I’m with a cis guy, I immediately feel less than a man – how do you come to terms that someone ran off with your penis before you born and not feel inadequate?  A lot of times, men aren’t interested in having sex with me once they know I’m trans.  On the street, if you saw me you’d never know that my package was manufactured at some plant in China.  Naked, well, you’d be really dense not to notice that my penis is quite small, much like an overgrown clit (testosterone makes it grow, a lot) and that I can’t fuck you with it.   Some don’t care that I have a vagina and some really like it.  I try to tell myself that being trans is like being short – it’s much harder to find people that are into you, but it’s not impossible.  Sometimes, my lack of a penis keeps me from cruising for a date.

Those times I’ve had sex with men who didn’t care, who fucked me all night (yes, I’m a bottom), who either didn’t notice or didn’t care that they had the only penis in the room when there were usually two, have given me years of contentment.  I was a gay man with them, just like any other guy and we enjoyed each other’s bodies like gay men tend to do.  I’ll never forget those times when I could forget that I was born female.  Like the dreams that started it all, they are seared into my brain and they make me feel alive even when I’m alone for yet another saturday night.

I may not make sense to you.  That’s alright.  It took me years for me to make sense of myself.  But I do exist – I’m not weird, or disgusting…. I’m just gay and male and trans.  For a few years I lived my life as a straight women, but not since my first gay sexual experience have I felt any longing for my former life or like I could just turn back.

You’ll never know what it’s like to be trans (unless you are actually trans) and that you’ll never know what it’s like to be a gay trans man (unless you are one), but that doesn’t mean you can’t accept it.   This is me.  I am gay and I am a man.  Take my word for it, otherwise I’ll have to bore you with more details of my mostly uninteresting life and then you’ll be really sorry you asked because you couldn’t understand.

Kian currently lives in NH with his two cats. He would be wicked excited if he didn’t have to move to a ginormous city to the south in order to have a fulfulling sex life (he’ll miss the snow and the ice-skating too much.) He can be reached at kian217 at gmail dot com if you’re interested in conversation, an argument or in sending a nicely worded hate letter.

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

Oh honestly

Yes, geniuses, trans men are perfectly capable of ‘having sexual intercourse with a woman’.  Seeing as how most trans men have at least a passing interest in women (us gay ones notwithstanding), it has to have been done at some point.  Strap ons exist for a reason.  I’m sure there are other ways, but it’s not exactly my area of expertise and at the moment I’d like to use my general prissiness as an excuse for not even attempting to think about it.  You’ll all just have to use your own imaginations.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 girl.   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

Passing and Testosterone

There’s this myth that every trans guy will magically start passing after six months to a year on T.  It’s bullshit.  Flat out bullshit.

No one can tell you when you’re going to start passing.  I’ve been on T since I was 20 (I’m in my mid-20s now) and I’m still in that gender ambiguous phase.  Based on my genetics that’s likely to last until I’m in my mid to late 30s when I will finally look like a college boy.

I’ve mentioned my cousin in comments a few times, but I don’t think I’ve ever posted about him.  He’s a year older, gay, flaming, and looks almost exactly like me.  He has a Y chromosome (and therefore a penis, the lucky bastard), but other than that we could pass for twins.  Often do, actually.  Both of us get mistaken for girls on occasion, neither of us can grow facial hair worth anything, and I actually have a deeper voice.  We’ve both had our T levels checked (me for dosage, him to see if anything’s wrong) and we’re both easily within the mid range for guys.  Men in our family are just really late bloomers.

Point is, T is never going to override your genetic predispositions.  If you come from a line of really feminine looking women and late blooming men it’s going to take you longer to pass than a guy with handsome women and burly men in the family.  Relax a bit.  Go in, check your levels, see how they’re doing.  If they’re within male range you’re just going to have to sit and let your body go at its own pace.  I know this is a pain in the ass (trust me, I know), but eventually you will start passing.  Remember, the effects of T are cumulative.  Cis guys don’t go from little boy to grown man overnight.  It takes time.  That’s not something we always want to hear, but there it is.

Downsides to being seen as a man

I’m sure everyone knows the problems associated with being trans. We’ve all heard horror stories, I don’t think there’s a trans person out there who’s managed to transition without some sort of crap being thrown their way, and even if by some miracle you do, there’s always someone else who can share their trauma.

What’s not often talked about are the problems associated with being seen as a man in society. With apologies to the non-US readers, I’m going to focus on society here because it’s what I have the most experience with.

  1. There are no organisations that specifically work to protect men’s rights. In most ways I have no problems with this, the organisations that exist to protect women and minority rights were formed because society at the time was walking all over them. However, I do think it’s important for guys to realise that they’re no longer going to have access to political and legal teams designed especially for them unless their issues are GLBT or race related.
  2. Very few people believe that domestic abuse, rape, or sexual assault can be perpetrated against men. I see this far more often than I like to think about, a man will call the police because his partner (male or female, I’ve witnessed both) is assaulting him and the police act like nothing is wrong. Men can be victims, there’s not some magical bubble that protects us.
  3. If a man is abused there are virtually no areas for him to seek support. Men are not allowed in the vast majority of rape/sexual assault survivor support groups. There are no shelters specifically for battered men. Programmes for survivors of domestic abuse almost universally do not accept men. If a man does seek help for abuse or rape he is generally considered to be weak and something less than a “real” man. Prison rape is considered a joke rather than a real problem that needs to be solved. Gay men in particular have to deal with society believing they somehow “asked” to be raped.
  4. There are no men-only academic/professional organisations. Like the first one, I don’t consider this to be much of a real problem. I just wanted to make sure people recognised that once they start passing there aren’t going to be any more bonding experiences like at the Society of Women Physicians conference. Brotherhood experiences are largely limited to fraternities, G/B/FtM groups, some religious organisations, and more conservative orders like the Elks Lodge. Even those can be hard to find depending on your area.
  5. Men — particularly gay men — are seen as potential paedophiles. I like kids, before I came out I was an active volunteer for local youth groups and a very popular babysitter. That stopped as soon as I started passing. I can no longer smile at a child without people glaring at me as if I were fondling myself. Every single one of my father friends has at least one story of how random women will try to stop their children from going to them. Men cannot volunteer with children (even if they have one) without having people question their motives.
  6. Men are considered automatic threats. This is one I know of more from other people than myself. I’m not a threatening person, too small and flaming. Other people, however, have expressed concern about women and children assuming they’re someone to be afraid of. For god only knows what reason, we have it drilled into us that men always have the potential to explode. I hear this far more often from my (visibly) non-white friends and guys who dress in punk, goth, or hip hop styles so there are likely racial and cultural tones to it as well. I’d say definitely, but that whole anecdata =/= data thing has been drilled into me pretty well.
  7. Brotherhood experiences are generally seen as unimportant and anti-feminist. I like all-male areas. I enjoy being part of a group of guys without all the hassle that comes with adding women to a group. I grew up in male-centric circles, it’s just something that I got used to. Unfortunately, any time an event tries to exclude women without some religious or sexual-orientation related reason it’s seen as a threat. Women can have women-only events all the time without many problems, but we haven’t quite figured out the men’s side to that yet.
  8. Everyone expects you to be able to lift heavy things. I am a very small person. Most women are larger than I am. Yet for some reason when I was working retail everyone thought I could lift giant, heavy boxes. It was amazing, people who thought I was a girl would help me lift boxes of tissue paper, but if they thought I was a guy they’d expect me to be able to carry entertainment systems that weighed more than me. Even now in salons, I’m expected to move around boxes of product far more often than any of the women. I don’t know why people assume that all men can lift things regardless of how big they are, but they do.
  9. There has not been a men’s-lib movement. Like a lot of other things on this list, I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. We’ve never needed a men’s liberation movement, men are already pretty well set. However, there are some social changes that came out of the women’s lib movement that guys could still use. Increased gender expression options, ability to be a stay-at-home dad without being seen as a freak, that sort of thing. More and more women are trying to tie issues like that into the feminist movement and while I appreciate the effort, it has the rather nasty implication that all men’s problems centre around women’s problems. Not really the “we’re all equal” message that I prefer.
  10. There’s a small subset of people who will insist on trying to make you feel bad for being a guy. This is a particular brand of radical feminist that I absolutely cannot stand. They’re rare, but fucking loud. These are the women who gave rise to the term “man-hating lesbian”. They think all trans men are traitors, all trans women are infiltrators, all straight women are pawns, all straight men are violent beasts, and all gay men are rabid misogynists. They are not happy people to be around. If you encounter one I suggest quickly heading for the nearest exit. Do NOT try to engage them in debate, it will only hurt your head.

Really being a guy isn’t so bad. You don’t get random guys catcalling you as you walk down the street, no one cares if you’re having a bad hair day, you can be grumpy without everyone insisting you’re PMSing, it’s a pretty sweet deal. There are just a few things that can take a bit of adjusting to if you’re not used to them.

Pulling from the search term queue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.