Passing when you don’t pass

I’m back home (San Francisco) for a few weeks and it’s been bringing up a ton of memories (both good and bad).  One of those is of starting T.  Made me realise that I’m heading toward 10 years on T now and oh my god do I hate so many of you.

See, I am still hairless (don’t mind really), scrawny (mind a lot), high voiced (eh, whatever), “delicate” (fuck everyone), and otherwise feminine enough that I pass somewhere around 50% of the time in most areas.  Here I pass closer to 95% of the time, but it’s definitely an exception.

I also am only out to around 5 people where I live.  In the entire time since deciding to transition, I’ve had problems with questions/rumours about my being trans a grand total of three times.  Once because I made a bad call about a guy who ended up being an asshole.

I’ve been meaning to write a post on how I manage this almost since I started this blog, but I never got around to it.  I think I always told myself that at some point I’d start passing more and then I could write about it from a more detached perspective.  That doesn’t look to be happening so I’m doing it now.

Most of what helps me avoid having to out myself is probably not all that helpful to most other people.  I seem to have had a fairly unique childhood that ends up being closer to that of guys who came out as children/early teens than guys who came out around 18-22 like I did.  I’m going to list them anyway though in case they’re helpful to anyone else.

  • I’m Latino.  The average male height in Mexico is 5’7″.  That makes me short even by those standards, but not as short as when compared to the US average of 5’10”.  (Some sources say Mexico’s average male height is 5’5″ which is closer to the average height of men in my family.)
  • The men in my family are equally small.  This is one that will not apply to most guys who have issues passing.  I have old family pictures that show my uncles with no real body or facial hair.  When my cousin moved in with me it helped because he’s 18 now and just barely an inch or two taller than me.  People just assume my family has odd genetics (which we do) and move on.
  • I had a very neutral childhood.  I’ve never been afraid of talking about my childhood or pulling out pictures of me as a kid because for where I grew up it wasn’t particularly girly.  One of my sisters sent me a box of childhood pictures she rescued from our parents and other than a handful (first communion, various weddings, quinceañera) they’re all boyish enough.  I was in middle school in the mid-90s, the boys’ and girls’ sections of clothing stores looked basically the same.  Bit more blue in the boys’ sections.
  • I have no issues lying.  This seems to be a big one trans guys have problems with.  I don’t give a damn about lying to someone if they ask if I’m trans.  They are asking about my genitalia, I see no reason to act like the basic rules of polite society are still in play.
  • I have friends who also have no issues lying. The people who I’m out to know that they are 100% expected to lie if someone asks them if I’m trans.  This is something I think is a basic requirement of an ally.  I do not care what your opinions on lying are, outing a trans person has serious consequences and cannot be taken back.  You shouldn’t do it if you aren’t willing to risk ruining someone’s entire life.
  • I have an answer for everything.  This came with practice.  I moved around a lot when I was first transitioning which meant I had to deal with new people asking the same questions over and over.  It took a few rounds, but after a while I learned how to deal with any question that might come up.
  • I don’t take outings seriously.  This is hard.  Really hard.  I’ve found that the best response to an outing by someone who’s not close to you is to laugh though.  Treat it like a joke.  Play confused.  If they’re an old boyfriend/hook-up make a comment about how they probably wish that was true because at least then they’d have an excuse for the god awful sex.  Roll your eyes and say that it’s sad how limited their imagination is — of course the tiny, feminine-looking guy is trans.  Totally the first time you’ve heard that before.  Idiot can’t even come up with something original.
  • I keep my trans-related politics quiet.  I am still involved with trans politics.  I do still go to support groups and work on basic access issues.  I just don’t make it my entire life.  I work primarily as an ally.  I use the words “they” and “them” a lot.  The trans groups I go to are all out of my city.  People know I’m stealth so they know not to out me.  Occasionally this does require not correcting someone when they’ve said something offensive or generalising, but honestly I have to do that sometimes even with the oppressed groups I’m open about being a part of.  Sometimes it’s better to save the fight for another time.
  • Really I think the biggest one is that I’m confident and unapologetic.  Yeah, I’m short.  I’m “dainty”.  I have a high voice and I can’t lift heavy things and I tend to squeal over cute animals.  I don’t hide those things though.  I don’t give a damn if other people have a problem with them.  I expect people to treat me as the man I am regardless of my physical appearance.  And 99% of the time they do.  It usually confuses them a bit at first, but they adjust.

Obviously most guys aren’t going to have a family where the guys still look 12 well into their 40s.  That’s not exactly a common thing.  Neither is being on T for a decade without passing 100% though.  Most of you will be read as a guy after a few years on T.  For those of us who don’t, there are ways of managing.  It just takes trial and error and a ton of patience.  More patience than the guys who pass after two months can appreciate.  It’s not easy and it’s not particularly fun, but our options are either adjust or be miserable.  Personally, I try to avoid misery if I can.

What kind of man do you want to be: a guide for trans men

One of the advantages we, as trans men, have is the opportunity to almost completely remake ourselves.  No one is too surprised if we undergo a few personality shifts as we come out and transition and they’re not likely to say much unless those shifts are negative.  It’s a great time to experiment and figure out not only who you are, but who you want to grow into.

I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity.  It’s the kind of thing you have to be in the right mental place to do and not knowing where your next meal is coming from is not conducive to that place.  Lucky for me, this isn’t something that it’s ever too late to think about.  It’s like having sex: the right time is when you’re ready.

How does one go about becoming the man they want to be?  I’m not sure anyone has an answer to that.  I do know what I did (and am still doing, being the person you want to be is a lifelong process), but that may not be the process for you.  Like everything on here from wardrobe to T effects, take it as a jumping off point and customise until you get what works.

  1. What are your values?  In order to know who you want to be you have to know what you value.  I am a major fanboy geek and always have been so for me this was easiest when I thought of it as belonging to a particular Hogwarts House or Faerie Court (yes, I’m that kind of geek).  I like logic and reason and restraint and originality and curiosity and self discipline and compassion and ambition and thoughtful loyalty.  I like people who know what they want and will do almost anything to get it, but I don’t like people who wilfully hurt others for no reason other than that they can.  I like people who can argue for things they disagree with because they understand the reasoning even if they think it’s flawed.  I like people who are curious about the world around them.  I believe morality and ethics are most often grey areas with no clear right or wrong.  I believe there is a time for friendship and a time for competition.  I believe that winning by cheating isn’t winning at all.  I believe that taking advantage of loopholes in rules isn’t cheating, it’s being intelligent.  I believe that some things can only be obtained by hard work while others require natural talent.  All of these things shape who I am and want to be.
  2. Do you live up to your values?  Not everyone does.  Everyone slips up from time to time.  I place a very high value on self-discipline, but I am honestly complete crap at it myself.  I admire hard work, but I get frustrated more easily than most anyone I know.  Make a list of the areas you are managing and those you need to work on.  Then pick one area each month or quarter or year to put a conscious effort into.  At the moment I’m trying to work on my self-discipline.  This is an ongoing project for me.  The ADHD means that it’s harder than it is for the average person and I’ve had to learn to be a bit easier on myself when I screw up.  I know that I can do it though because I was incredibly good at it when I was in a highly structured environment as a teenager.  So I work at it.  And work at it.  And work at it.  And slowly I’m improving.
  3. What image do you want to present to the world?  Anyone who says appearance doesn’t matter is either naive or lying.  Appearance doesn’t matter in terms of your value as a person.  It certainly makes a difference in the way the world treats you.  If you dress like a dudebro people will assume you are a dudebro.  Maybe that’s not fair, but it’s still reality.Who do you want the world to see when they look at you?  Even if you can’t present that way yet, it’s a good thing to know.  Try to picture it in your head so you know what you’re working toward.
  4. Is your desired image realistic?  This is important.  If I had my choice I’d present as a 5’10”, gorgeously toned, effeminate-leaning-dapper man with perfect hair, striking eyes, and a larger than average cock.  I’d be James Bond’s gay cousin.  (Ideally Pierce Brosnan Bond, definitely not Daniel Craig Bond.)  I am 5’0″, have almost no ability to build muscle mass, and hair that has to be forced into submission.  (You can guess how the cock issue is going.)  My ideal image is not going to happen unless someone invents body swapping technology.What I can do is go for the effeminate-leaning-dapper part.  I can cultivate the confidence and grace that I admire.  I can work toward particular qualities rather than physical attributes.  (And I can spend three hours beating my hair into submission every morning.)
  5. What might need to change in order to meet your desired image?  I am going to be 100% honest here: I am not remotely like the moderately effeminate, dapper gentleman I would ideally like to be.  I am klutzy.  I am awkward.  I am constantly putting my foot in my mouth.  I could use some work on the “calm and collected” thing.  These are not things that necessarily need to change.  They don’t hurt me.  I could accept them and move on.  I just don’t want to.  Much like how I don’t feel comfortable with breasts, I don’t feel like certain aspects of myself are me.  Those parts I work on changing.  I take ballet, I consciously correct my posture, I try to think before I speak (that one’s hardest).  Like with the self-discipline, slowly these things are changing.
  6. What parts don’t fit your desired image, but you like them anyway?  This is not about changing who you are.  It’s about learning how to make who you are show through to other people.  It’s about consciously being who you are instead of subconsciously being someone else because of your socialisation and what’s easy.  I am kind of a sarcastic ass.  I’m ok with that.  I will never be the kind of person who is considered “nice”.  I am cynical and often derisive and I don’t have patience for stupidity.  Those things don’t fit with the “dapper gay gentleman” image and I am not remotely willing to change them.  They’re a core part of who I am right along with being attracted to men.  I am willing to learn to suppress those things when necessary to get what I want, but that’s as far as I’ll go.  My friends and family will always have to accept my less than nice side.
  7. How much effort are you willing/able to put in?  Not everyone has the same emotional, physical, or financial resources to do everything they’d like.  Not everyone wants to put in all the resources they can.  If I was rich I’d hire myself a team of tutors and trainers and stylists and wardrobe consultants and tailors and personal assistants so I didn’t have to think of all the details myself.  I am not rich.  Wish I was, but I most definitely am not.  I also have depression and ADHD and a few chronic illnesses that mean I don’t always have the energy to do more than get out of bed and take care of my dogs.  On those days I have to simultaneously try to remember that the phase will pass, avoid beating myself up, and attempt to do at least one thing more than I think I’m capable of.  Managing to wash my hair is a big deal.  You have to decide how much you can put in, sometimes on a daily basis.  Maybe that means learning to stand up straight and look people in the eye, maybe it means buying a brand new wardrobe and taking classes at night for a new degree.  It depends on your resources and desires.
  8. Do you have a way of keeping track of progress?  If you don’t try to keep track there’s a better than even chance that you won’t notice change.  It’s like with T where the changes are small enough and slow enough that you don’t tend to realise how much is different until you see someone after time apart or you look at old pictures.  I keep a journal.  It’s not much, just random things I write down throughout the day, but I can look back and see that a month ago I didn’t mark a single thing off my ‘to do’ list while now I’m getting through at least half.  Part of that is getting better at putting down things that need to get done and avoiding things that I know aren’t likely to happen and part of it is a slow improvement in self discipline.  The actual journal parts show that I’ve become much better at articulating what might have triggered a depressive episode and help provide a few clues as to things I should avoid.  (Watching Criminal Minds alone is a sure way to give me nightmares.)
  9. Is it time to re-evaluate?  Once you’ve started this should be asked periodically.  Maybe once a month, maybe once a year, whatever works for you.  This is particularly true if you’re also early in transition or a teen to young adult.  (Not because you’re flaky or anything, adolescence and young adulthood are just natural times of personal growth and experimentation.  You’re most likely going to be a different person at 40 than you were at 22.)Transition is an awkward time for most people.  If you look around at early transition guys you’ll notice that we seem to revert back to adolescence even if we’re well past it.  It’s not surprising when you think about it, we’re learning to be men as much as a thirteen year old is.  It just means that we tend to do a lot of exploring.  Things we think fit us when we first transition might not six months down the line.  After being read as male regularly for a few years we tend to settle down.  If you’re in a space where you’re testing things out it’s a good idea to check in once and a while and make sure that the testing is working for you.  I know that for me the early months of transition meant a lot of tossing out traditional trans concepts and trying to create my own.  Later on I had to work at removing all of the misogynistic attitudes I’d picked up early in transition (I’m still working on that one).  More recently I realised that trying to be polite and nice all of the time was making me nearly as uncomfortable as being a girl did.  As you try things out you’ll find that some work and some don’t.  Don’t be afraid to toss out the things that don’t work.
  10. Are you done?  I don’t actually think a person can ever really be done with this because no one will ever be perfect, but I needed a tenth point or it was going to drive me mad.  In any event, if you reach a point where you’re happy with who you are and don’t think you need or want to change anything else then stay there.  Check in once and a while to make sure you’re living up to your values and enjoy the person you are.

FAQ: Gay Men and Gay FtMs Redux

Alright, this post is one of the most popular pages on here, but it’s a bit outdated so I’ve decided to write a new one. Let’s start with the basics: what is a gay FtM? In this case I’m using it to mean trans men (however you want to define that) who are attracted to men, including cis men. There are plenty of trans men who are attracted to other trans men without being attracted to cis men, but this isn’t going to focus on them. For many of us the bigger question is whether or not a cis guy will ever be willing to date/sleep with us. The answer is…it’s complicated. It depends on a variety of factors that I’m going to try to cover here. This is all based on my own experiences in various cities and countries at different stages of transition. Like everything on this site, your experiences may be different. Yay for diversity.

  1. Perceived gender. The ‘perceived’ part of this is important. I know, you’re a guy.  That’s great.  That doesn’t matter if no one else can see it.  If you go to a gay club or group or event and all anyone sees is a straight woman or lesbian you’re not going to have much luck.  Why?  Gay men are (get this) attracted to men.  If they don’t know you’re a man they’re probably not going to be attracted to you.  Are there exceptions to this?  Yeah, of course.  I know I dated gay cis guys before coming out, some of whom knew I was a girl and others who didn’t, but that’s fairly uncommon.  It also tends to cause issues as the guys question their sexuality.  So if you’re no-ho or pre-T or early-T or whatever don’t expect to pull at a night club.  Coming out to a group of guys and then eventually dating one of them?  Bit more likely.  The random, anonymous sex bit is harder to do when not passing though.
  2. Perceived gender expression.  Again, ‘perceived’ is important.  If you’re like most trans guys chances are you’ve vastly overestimated how effeminate you are.  Here’s a hint: if you prefer a lumberjack look most guys will consider you butch.  They don’t know about your My Little Pony collection or ballet training.  Even if they did, they may not consider that enough to override the flannel and cargo jeans.  Consider it a bonus, effeminate guys of any orientation or genital configuration tend to have a harder time finding dates/sex.  Sissyphobia is still alive and well in the world, including the gay community.  Biggest difference between you and a cis guy here is that you’ll probably get at least one variation on “why didn’t you just stay a girl?”  Yes, it sucks.  No, chances are you won’t be alone forever.  It just makes everything a little more difficult.
  3. Age.  The world has changed a lot in recent years.  There’s more knowledge of trans guys, including gay ones, than ever before.  We’ve been on the news, in TV shows, and in gay men’s publications.  Sometimes this is useful, it means we have less educating to do.  It can also be a problem when guys think they know everything already.  I’ve found the younger a guy is the more likely he is to be open to the idea of dating/sleeping with a trans guy.  It’s not a 100% thing, but in general younger guys don’t have all the “oh crap, they’re trying to make me straight” hangups older guys do (for good reason) and tend to know at least enough to not think you’re a drag king or something.  That doesn’t mean go for 18 year olds if you’re 40 or something (that tends to not go well regardless of genitalia), but keep it in mind when deciding how to go about coming out.
  4. Subcommunity.  I will never understand why this is, but bears and leather daddies have always been the nicest, most accepting guys I meet.  If I was into them I’d totally be having more sex right now.  If gay trans guys blogging about their sexual experiences are any indication, they’re also pretty open to trans guys in their community.  I wouldn’t know, it’s not my thing.  Go you if it’s yours though.
  5. Preferred ‘type’.  This goes in combination with your own perceived gender expression.  Guys who are perceived as neutral or masculine tend to be able to go for anyone they want.  Guys who are perceived as effeminate get strange looks when we’re attracted to other effeminate guys (exception being hipster effeminate).  It’s stupid and heterocentric, but that’s the way things are for now.  It is entirely possible to be an effeminate guy who is into other effeminate guys and still find sex/dates, it’s just another thing that’s a bit more difficult to navigate.  It also seems to be getting easier as time goes on which is nice.  Just be prepared for straight people constantly asking “so who’s the girl?”
  6. Sexual preferences.  This is in combination with all of the above.  Guy who’s read as a feminine straight girl and is into effeminate guys and really wants front hole sex is going to have more trouble than a masculine, passing guy into neutral guys who hates anyone going near his vagina.  In my experience if you’re effeminate the assumption is you like stuff up your ass so if you prefer strapping one on you’re going to have to say that.  Only not in those words, they’re likely to make people think “lesbian”.  Which brings in the next factor.
  7. Language and how you try to pull.  Guys, this isn’t straight girl flirting.  Being coy is more likely to turn other guys off than get you laid.  Spend a few weeks just watching gay guys interact without trying to get any.  Learn what the cues are and how they’re different from whatever messages you’ve internalised.  Then go practice without expecting to actually succeed.  Be prepared in case you do of course, but don’t be too disappointed if you don’t.  It takes a while, even for cis guys.  Unless you are exceptionally hot you’re going to have to work at it a bit.  Everyone does.  Only difference is that you also have to find a good way to come out.
  8. Confidence.  This is probably the one I’ve seen guys (cis and trans) have the most trouble with.  Remember what you learned in middle school?  That idea that no one wants to be with someone who doesn’t like themself?  It’s true.  If you walk around with body language that says “I’m so disgusting, no one will ever love me” then chances are no one will.  I know, that sounds harsh.  Unfortunately, the world at large is not going to accommodate your self-esteem issues.  If you don’t believe that you’re hot then fake it.  Stand in front of a mirror and pretend you are the hottest guy in the world.  You will feel like a moron at first because it’s just an awkward thing to do, but eventually you’ll get over it.  Keep doing that until it feels natural.  While you’re doing that work on your actual confidence. Find a good therapist, start volunteering, whatever works.  You will be amazed at how big a difference being comfortable with yourself makes.
  9. Sociability.  I want to make something clear: you do not have to be a club kid.  You don’t even really have to be all that outgoing.  If you don’t like partying or going out with large groups then don’t do it.  Honestly, why would you want to attract someone who’s into that if you don’t want to participate in it?  However, I keep seeing trans guys sitting on their computers all day and whining that they’re not getting laid.  Well no shit!  You’re not even trying.  Get up off your ass and go meet people.  Sign up for for all I care, just don’t expect the universe to send you a boyfriend via FedEx.

…I wanted to make this an even 10, but that’s all I can come up with right now.  Really guys, there are a wide variety of factors that play into whether or not you’ll get laid.  Some of them are related to being trans and some of them aren’t.  Just get out there and start trying.  Be prepared for disappointments, everyone experiences them.  Don’t let fear hold you back though.  Only person that’s hurting is yourself.

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.

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.

“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.

Sexual attraction to trans men

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How young is too young?

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

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

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

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

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