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.

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.

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.

Practical reasons for lower surgery

  1. Public bathrooms and showers would be a hell of a lot easier to deal with.
  2. No more worrying about what would happen if I was in a car accident or something.
  3. Wouldn’t always have to disclose to someone in case of medical emergency.
  4. Less worrying about potential health emergencies in general.
  5. Wouldn’t have to wonder about what’ll happen when I’m old and possibly need to go to a nursing home.

It’s not enough to change my mind (figure I should at least enjoy what I’m adding to my body), but things like this have been kind of nagging me all week.  Just finished a cross-country road trip that required going through the south and having a penis would’ve made that a hell of a lot less stressful.  Not too much more because I’m still…me, but enough that it would’ve been nice.  For all that penises are fun, there are also some decent non-sexual reasons to get one.

Fuckin’ Finally!

First I have work, then I have to fumigate my apartment (note: always trust your instinct when it comes to pet-sitters), then my ISP decides to turn into evil incarnate, I’m amazed there are actually still hits on here!

I still have comments I need to get to so if there’s anything major anyone’d like me to know hit me up on e-mail (notaiden[at]gmail[dot]com).  For now here’s a question from the Formspring.

I saw you mention on your Tumblr that you could “legally apply for a women’s college.” (But have no intent of doing so.) Does that mean your paperwork says female? And if that’s the case, how do you work around that as a stealth/mostly-stealth transguy?
– cadethedo

My paperwork right now is a mix of damned near everything. Male license and passport, female birth certificate, social security listing, and health insurance, FtM on my GP’s medical records (he’s awesome). Since I’d have to register for school under my SS info (it’s required to match up for FAFSA) I could apply to a women’s college. I’m just not all that interested.

As for stealth, it’s pretty easy. The only time I have to disclose is when an employer runs a background check and then only to the person seeing the paperwork. It does require having some measure of trust in the people you work for so I’m always extra careful about screening potential bosses. I also make it very clear that this is my personal medical information and imply that spreading it around could cause legal problems. It’s not technically true in the vast majority of areas, but I can live with that.

Bathrooms and “The Plague”

As most people here know, I’m about 90-99% stealth.  That is, there are only a handful of people in my metro area who both know who I am offline and that I’m trans.  About half are people I’ve slept with, maybe a third are doctors or other medical personnel, and the rest are friends or random people who needed to know (for instance, the financial aid counselor at my university).  Obviously this means I use only the men’s restrooms, locker rooms, etc.

There are just a couple of problems.  First off, I come from a family where even the non-trans men get called “ma’am” until about 30.  When I started T I figured I’d have to wait until at least 40 to pass easily and I’m fine with that, one of the advantages to coming from a gender-ambiguous family is that I know just how common feminine looking guys are.  The bigger issue is that the, uh, monthly horror didn’t stop until about a month ago (and I’m still not 100% sure).  So what do you do when you want/need to use the men’s room, but have to deal with female cycles?

  1. Tampons are your friend.  I had intense dysphoria until the T started kicking in so I couldn’t use them until a year or so ago, but if you can stomach the idea I highly suggest it.  They’re easier to get rid of than most alternatives.
  2. Also useful, but something I could never in a million years use: divacups/other reusable tampon-like things.  They freak me the fuck out (I’m afraid of it getting stuck, sue me), but I know guys who swear by them.  If you’re comfortable, go for it.  I would’ve if I ever worked up the balls.
  3. See if you can find a single stall.  I know, basic Trans 101, but I tend to forget things like this when I’m nervous so I thought I’d remind everyone.
  4. Don’t panic.  For god’s sake, don’t creep into the bathroom like you’re trying to take naughty pictures or something.  Nothing makes a person stand out more than trying not to stand out.  Unless you’re in a gay setting, the guys aren’t looking at you.  It’s a thing, no one wants to be the one caught checking out another dude.  Just pretend it’s the ladies’ room and walk in as if you’ve been doing it your entire life.  Worst that happens is some guy tries to be nice and point you in the direction of the “right” bathroom (at which point I suggest acting really offended or embarrassed — embarrassed tends to work better if you often get called “son” and want to go for the pretty-boy-adolescent thing).
  5. The vast majority of guys will never notice the sound of you unwrapping whatever protective measures you decide to use.  However, if you’re concerned (I still am sometimes) you can learn to unwrap things in your pocket with a bit of practice.  Backings get a bit of pocket lint on them, but they stay well enough.
  6. If you have to toss something in the trash, carry a bag with you.  Wrap item in toilet paper, put in bag, and dump on the way out.
  7. Packers can be placed in front of maxi-pads if you’re so inclined.  The sticky backing actually really helps them stay in place.
  8. Yes, pads do work with most men’s underwear.  I’ve heard boxers are a problem and I can guess why, but I don’t wear them so I’ve never tested it out.
  9. Find a coping mechanism.  For me that week was always the most dysphoric time.  Until recently I was barely functional, it was that bad.  If you have the same issue, try to find something that makes you feel more manly.  For me it was drag performance, being around a bunch of guys in gowns made me feel like I fit in.
  10. By the same token, avoid your triggers.  I absolutely refused to watch any porn during that time, it just reminded me of what I don’t have.

So now you know, it is possible to deal with the more annoying aspects of having a uterus while not giving up your life as a guy.  It takes some practice and a certain amount of confidence, but it’s possible.

Note: If you’re still cycling after a year or so (some would say six months) you should talk to your doctor.  Same goes for breakthrough bleeding after not cycling for several months.  It’s not always a problem (in my case it was just a reproductive system that refused to die), but with this sort of thing it’s better to be sure.

Stealth vs Out: Decision Making

Last time I recounted my story of going from 100% out to 98% stealth.  This time I’d like to go through some basics to help people make a conscious decision about how open they want to be.  I’m of the mindset that it’s better to know where you stand on these things so you know what to do if an awkward situation ever comes up.

Let’s start by asking some basic questions.  First off, where are you in terms of your personal transition?  I’m about as far as I’m gonna get for a few years.  I’m on T and just waiting for it to kick in, but top is being put off because I have no money.  There’s not much more I can do at this point so it’s just a matter of waiting and saving.  Socially, I’m accepted as a member of the local gay male community and no longer have to explain that whole trans thing to most people.  Occasionally I’ll meet someone who’s had experience with other FtMs, but they’re always discreet enough to let themselves be known in very discreet ways rather than asking outright.

Why do we ask this?  Because different phases in transition require different levels of disclosure.  I don’t have to be out anymore, but that’s recent.  A year ago I couldn’t have gotten away with introducing myself as a guy and having people accept it without question.  A no-op, no-ho guy who never passes probably isn’t going to get the luxury of being stealth.  Sometimes we have to be out even when we don’t want to be.

Next question: Where do you see yourself five years from now in terms of transition? I always  had a hard time with this one which is probably part of why I was so open early on.  It didn’t occur to me that five years (or less) in the future I wouldn’t need to explain myself, let alone want to.  It’s a good question to try to answer though, especially if you’re still very early in things.  Personally, I see myself post-top and 100% passing (as opposed to the 80ish% I have now).  I’ll be close to 30 then (dear god…) and hopefully to a point where even guys who are used to FtMs no longer ask questions.

Now’s where it starts to get tricky.  In five years, if all goes according to plan, how comfortable do you think you’ll be disclosing your trans status? This is a hard one just because it kind of requires seeing into the future.  The only reason I know I won’t be comfortable disclosing in the future is that I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum and know what they feel like.  Still, it’s worth at least attempting to answer questions like these early on.

All three of these questions were pretty general.  They weren’t designed to tell us which particular individuals to come out to, that’s something that takes a lot more in depth thought.  Instead they show us where we are now and where we may be in the future.  That helps us figure out how to prepare.  I know I won’t want to be out in five years so I make an effort to keep my trans-related life separate from everything else.

That’s why I don’t post photos, I don’t use my real name, and I try to keep identifying details limited.  I asked a friend to host this blog so it’s on a different webspace from all of my other online activities and I don’t list it anywhere in connection with my real name (so no Facebook, LJ, MySpace, etc.).  When I come out to people I make it very clear that this is private information.  I’m careful to only come out to people I trust to keep it to themselves.  This means no anonymous sex, but that’s not really my thing anyway.  If it was I’d have to find a way around that.

Now, this doesn’t mean that I completely distance myself from the trans community.  There are a couple of local trans support groups I go to occasionally, mostly because I feel like SOMEONE should show that we’re not all the same.  I avoid the online trans community because I tend to get into fights, but obviously I keep this blog.  I spoke at a trans symposium in June, but I made sure to use a nickname because speakers were listed online.  I use the same nickname for any news articles or medical studies I agree to participate in.  There is a way to keep a balance, it just requires some extra thought.

Stealth vs Out: The Neverending Dilema

One of the things all transguys have to deal with eventually is how open they want to be about their trans* status.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t start thinking about this until it becomes a problem — whether because we didn’t realise we weren’t out already or because suddenly people we don’t want knowing have found out.  I actually had both problems at the same time which is at least amusing, if also a little frustrating.

The first thing to realise is that there are more options than simply “no one knows, ever” and “everyone in the world knows, from my mom to the mailman.”  We just looked at the spectra for sex, sexuality, gender, and gender expression, look at disclosure as another spectrum.  On the one end you have deep stealth and on the other there’s 100% out.  Some people are on the ends, but most fall somewhere in the middle.  Where you fall can also shift as you transition and figure out your own comfort levels.

I fall closer to the stealth end simply because I hated being the token tranny.  Could not stand it, felt more uncomfortable then than when people considered me a weird little tomboy.  So I tend to not tell anyone.  If I’m likely to try getting in someone’s pants then they get to know, but other than that I avoid the topic entirely.

That said, it wasn’t always like this.  When I first came out I was all gung-ho “yay, trans pride!” and figured I’d be out to all of my friends, regardless of whether they saw me as a girl or a guy when we met.  For a while this worked out simply because early in transition it’s nearly impossible to get the right name and pronouns out of people unless you’re open about things.  Being stealth wasn’t even an option at that point, it was either out myself or deal with people thinking I was a girl.  So I blogged and told people and participated in studies and even was in a few news articles (this was back when transguys were THE hot news topic).

Then I moved.  All of a sudden I didn’t have to be out.  People assumed I had some sort of glandular problem, but they weren’t questioning what was in my pants.  It took me a while to realise this, but once I did I was thrilled.  No more having to explain gender theory, no more awkward questions to avoid, all I had to do was be myself.  Until they started Googling my name.  One person found out and told another person who told another person and it all went to hell.

That was when I realised that I don’t really like being out as trans.  It was a great option when I was starting, but as I grew into myself it started being more and more uncomfortable.  Problem was, it’s ridiculously difficult to take things off the internet.  Eventually I managed to change over all my old blogs and convinced the people who’d found out to keep it to themselves.  That still left all the studies and news articles I was in.  The studies weren’t as big of a deal simply because they all had their own privacy plans in place so even I can barely tell that I’m Patient X.  The news articles on the other hand…well, let’s just say that six months of calls only showed me that reporters are rarely (if ever) willing to change even a word of something that’s already been published.

I lived with just about everyone in my world knowing about my status for a little over a year.  Any time I met someone knew I wondered if I should tell them myself or wait for them to find the articles online.  Most of the time I waited.  About 3/4 of the people I didn’t tell eventually asked me directly after trying to find my Facebook or MySpace or the articles I was starting to write for the local gay press.  There was always a bit of a shift after people found out, I was no longer just another one of the guys.  That irritated me more than anything else, I had been more accepted as just another flamingly gay teen long before I ever even came out!

That was when I found out I’d be moving again.  I had applied for a study abroad programme with no real hope of getting in, but ended up being more qualified than I had expected.  With four months to prepare, I had plenty of time to decide what I wanted to be different.  I knew that I absolutely, 100% did not want to be out unless I was the one telling people.  I still hadn’t fully figured out when to tell, but I knew that I didn’t want them to find out via Google.  The only way I could even begin to do this was to change my name a second time and even that wasn’t a guarantee as name changes are public record.  Still, I didn’t figure people would be interested enough to look through stacks of records in a different country.

So let’s recap.  I came out, figured I’d always be out, was very public about being trans, moved, realised I didn’t have to be out, tried to be somewhat stealth, had people find out via internet, and went through a second name change in order to be given my preferred level of privacy.  It all worked out in the end, but it was kind of a pain in the ass and not how I’d do things if given a second chance.

Which is why I’m always a little concerned when newly out guys start posting things online without any concern for their anonymity.  It’s easy to assume that you’ll always be out, the early days of transition are intense.  There’s an immense pride in discovering yourself, particularly once you find a community of people who understand.  Few of us consider that there may come a time when we don’t want to be out to everyone, something that is exacerbated by the fact that most trans* support groups (both on and offline) are predominantly populated by the newly out/early in transition.  It’s the downside to so many transmen going the exact opposite route and never speaking to other transguys again, but that’s a topic for another day.

Disclosure: When, Where, Why, and How

If any of you follow my Tumblr log you’ll know that I posted a FML post about a woman who’s husband didn’t disclose his trans history until after the wedding.  If you don’t follow the Tumblr log, but have read the last post in here you’ll know that I’m having some issues with an intense crush on a guy I know.  If you somehow got here via Google or whatever else…well, you can probably imagine that telling people about being trans isn’t the easiest thing to do.

Now, this is a very contentious issue within the trans community.  Everyone has their own opinion on disclosure.  These are my methods and why I use them.  Don’t assume that everyone feels the same way.  In fact, assume that no one feels the same way.  It’s easier.

When:  This is always the trickiest part for me.  I prefer to disclose before things get sexual, but after I’m at least 80% sure that it’s likely to happen soon.  In my case this generally means even before serious make out sessions, I prefer to be safe rather than sorry.  Finding the right balance is close to impossible, most of the time I just go on gut instinct.  It becomes doubly hard because I’m not into casual sex.  Other transguys hook up in clubs, bars, or online, but I have this thing where I need to know someone before I’m comfortable showing them my bits.  So I end up having to weigh whether or not I’m willing to lose the person I disclose to as a friend as well as a potential sex partner.  It’s…frustrating, to say the least.

Where: Because I only disclose to people I already have a relatively good relationship with and always before things get heated I feel perfectly safe disclosing in a private place.  Sometimes this means my place, sometime theirs, it really depends.  I try to avoid disclosure in public areas just because I’m hyper paranoid about someone overhearing (the local gay community is rather incestuous), but in most cases public is safer.

How: Slowly and carefully.  Sometimes I pull out the scrapbooks (family of photographers), others…well, let’s just say I’m pretty well known for speaking before I think.  Often I start online with vague chats about transpeople in the news to see if I can gauge their general understanding of the subject.  A couple of times I’ve gotten lucky and they’ve known a transguy already so I’m pretty well set.  Most of the time their closest understanding of trans issues has to do with liking a particular drag queen.  Either way, if I can get the initial “this is what a transman is” conversation out of the way first things tend to go over better.  At the very least, they know what the hell I’m talking about.

I’ve yet to determine a perfect way of telling people.  For one thing, I don’t think I’ll ever get over the intense fear that builds up as I wait for the right setting.  If at some point I find that one thing works better than others, that’ll be awesome and I’ll post about it.  For now I mostly stutter my way through and hope for the best.

Why: Ah, the big one.  Why do I disclose so early?  Why do I disclose at all?  Well, I don’t have a penis.  I don’t care how much transmen try to say that a T enlarged clitoris is like a mini-penis, when it comes to expectations of what your boyfriend has below the waist that simply does not cut it.  Not disclosing is a damned good way to get myself killed.  This is something transwomen have to worry about far more than transmen, but I’m not willing to put myself at risk like that either way.

Yes, people should be accepting.  No, it probably shouldn’t matter.  Yes, it is wrong for someone to kill a sexual partner for being trans (or any other reason, to be honest).  However, this is not a perfect world.  People fuck up.  People get upset.  People do things they wouldn’t otherwise even consider.  Using the “but they’d be in the wrong” excuse as a reason to not disclose is stupid, immature, and not going to help you once your head has been bashed in.  This is not a situation where I’m interested in making a political point, it is a situation where I just want to be sure I get out with minimal damage (both physically and emotionally).

I also believe that it’s just fair.  When you enter a sexual relationship with someone there are certain expectations.  These expectations differ based on the situation, but there are expectations.  In my case one of the expectations is a penis.  Most of the time another expectation is that I’ll top.  My being trans drastically changes the realities of these expectations.  Whatever partner I have has a right to know and accept that sex/a relationship with me is going to be different from what they were expecting.  I’d expect the same respect in return, if I pull down their pants and find out that they’re trans too I’m going to be pretty annoyed.  Not necessarily because I don’t like transmen (though I have a difficult time finding any I connect with on a personal level), but because I was expecting a penis and would like to be able to consent to any changes in that plan.

In my case there’s the added problem of needing to know someone before getting naked with them.  If I’m having sex with someone there’s a decent chance I’m already pretty emotionally invested.  This is part of why I prefer to tell sooner rather than later.  Once I’ve made out with you and gotten to a point where I’m used to being physical it becomes more and more difficult for me to handle the loss if you’re not ok with the trans issue.  I’d rather disclose early and avoid the pain that comes with waiting too long.  The earlier I disclose the more likely I am to be able to handle a friendship, once I get past a certain point that option simply becomes to emotionally distressing.

Again, all of this is just my personal views on the subject.  Different people have different opinions.  I don’t agree with all of those opinions, but not everyone agrees with mine either.

Why hello there insecurity, been a while since I’ve seen you.

I have been socially transitioned since about age 12.  I didn’t formally come out until I was 20, but I have exactly one friend who considered me a “girl” as a child.  He was my only straight friend and had a crush on me that lasted…well, until I came out.

The early social transition means that I didn’t have nearly as steep of a learning curve as most other transguys (particularly gay ones).  I know gay cues, I know how to interact in male-only circles, I’m pretty comfortable in any situation that doesn’t require me undressing.

Yet, every now and then…something happens.  I’ll get shot down, one of my friends will deal with transphobia, a string of days will go by where I don’t pass…it can be anything.  Any tiny little thing and my confidence disappears.  All of a sudden I start second guessing myself, I start wanting to crawl into a cave and stay there until everyone I know has moved on and I can make a fresh start.

I don’t really want to do this.  I’ve already made about 50 different fresh starts in my life and each time I’ve been upset about losing contact with old friends.  I don’t like fresh starts, even if they make my life easier in the short term they’re still vastly depressing in the long term.

I just wish there was some way for me to be fully confident in how people perceive me.  That’s really what it comes down to, this intense fear that something I say or do is going to ‘give me away’.  It’s slowly getting better as I pass more often, but because I still don’t I spend a substantial amount of time thinking about it.

This time it’s because a friend of mine was auditioning for a part in a show his local gay choir is doing.  Nice guy, passes a hell of a lot better than I do, has an amazing voice.  He’s been a member of this choir for a little over a year and made some great friends.  Several people have commented on how great his voice is so he figured he’d get at least a small part in the show.  Goes to the first audition, all goes well…second audition and the casting director just kind of looks at him and essentially says “no way in hell”.

Now, logically I know that this has absolutely nothing to do with him being trans.  For one thing, he’s not out.  I also know that it has nothing to do with me or my local gay chorus.  I know for a fact that there are at least two guys besides me who are trans and I suspect a couple of others.  A few of the guys know, but haven’t said anything outright.  I’d guess that most of the people I care about most don’t know just because they’d have said something.

Either way, I’m now terrified that all of a sudden people are going to find out and hate me and I’m going to have to run away or something because I will not be the token tranny.  I hate being the token tranny.  I hate being seen as trans before anything else, that’s simply not who I am.

It doesn’t help that there’s this really cute new guy I am totally crushing on.  He’s gorgeous.  Bright red hair, green eyes, freckles, completely not the kind of guy I usually go for.  Normally I’d be flirting, but right now…I’m not so sure.  I want to go hide in a cave until this stupid secondary puberty phase is over and I can be 100% positive I pass.  Unfortunately, with my genetics that could take another 5-10 years.

Even with my early socialisation, I’ve managed to miss so many of the traditional gay boy experiences my friends had.  The giddy first boyfriend, stupid self portraits to show off newly developed pecs…anything that requires a male body I missed out on.  I don’t want to miss anything else.

It’s kind of ironic, really.  Growing up I didn’t realise that I wasn’t like all of my gay guy friends until I was nearly 16 (which is when they all started getting laid).  I’d talk to older gay men who didn’t come out until they were in their 30s or 40s and feel so horrible about all the things they didn’t get to do.  It never once occurred to me that one day I’d be in a similar position.