Gender, Politics, and Being Old
What kind of man do you want to be: a guide for trans men
FAQ: Gay Men and Gay FtMs Redux

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.

Words and Identity

March is kind of an interesting time for me, transition history wise.  It’s the month I got my legal name change (both times), the month I started T, the month I switched to injections, and the month I brought up my gender issues to my therapist.  Because of that I end up thinking about transition this time of year even though I’ve hit a point where it’s mostly not a day to day issue.

At the moment that means thinking about an exercise my therapist had me do when I first started looking at transitioning.  She had me write down every ‘female-gendered’ term I could think of and then whether or not I identified with it.  A fairly easy sounding task, but surprisingly difficult when you’re still a bit confused and unsure of yourself.

Looking back, not too much has changed.  It is interesting, though, which words caused a larger response.  Girl wasn’t a word I could place either way.  Still don’t, really.  I just don’t care.  Woman was a definite “no way” and now is more of an “eh, whatever”.  Tomboy I detested and realised I didn’t identify with at all even though that’s what I’d resigned myself to years earlier.  Wife will likely never be a word I’m comfortable with.  Mija and mijita to this day cause larger dysphoria issues than anything else.  I have more problems being called that than I do with not having a penis most days.  Ma’am I hated then, but now has lost most all meaning.  Miss I cannot stand, but it has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with it not being a word I’m accustomed to being used for anyone over twelve at the absolute oldest.  Lady I didn’t identify with then and identify with even less now.  Princess I think I will always hate.  Diva I considered too feminine then, but now I take a certain amount of pride in it.  Mother did and still does send “DO NOT WANT!” shivers down my spine.  (Interestingly, I can’t identify with Father either, though it at least comes closer.)  Mum/Mummy I surprisingly don’t have too much of an issue with other than thinking it’d be a bit weird, but Mom/Mommy and Dad/Daddy make me want to run away screaming.  Daughter didn’t bother me then, but does now.  (I’m not too comfortable with Son either.)  Girlfriend has never been a word I particularly wanted associated with me.  Aunt made me uncomfortable then, but now doesn’t cause much of a response outside of “WTF”.  Sister I was 100% ok with then while now it feels…wrong.

Most of the changes I can attribute to simply becoming more secure in my identity.  I still get misread about a quarter of the time and likely will for the foreseeable future.  The men in my family simply don’t have very masculine features, I’ve gotten used to it.  I had to learn to deal with being called “ma’am”, otherwise I’d spend a good portion of my life being angry at the world.

Other ones shifted in the opposite direction for much the same reason.  I spent my entire life before transition with my main identity being “big sister”.  I come from a large family and because my parents both worked long hours to ensure we lived in a neighbourhood with good schools (mostly for my benefit) I did a significant portion of the child rearing.  Every time I was praised or punished by my parents some variation of “setting a good example” was mixed in.  It wasn’t a gendered term to me when I was first coming out, just something I was.  Now that I’m removed from that setting I have a much harder time with it.

I’m curious to know how much these will change as more time passes.  I don’t know, for instance, how much of my objection to the parental terms is gender and how much is simply not having much of a desire to be a parent.  I don’t really feel comfortable with any of them so I suspect it’s more to do with the role than the gender.

Forum Down

The forum got hacked and was sending out mass emails that caused the entire site to get suspended.  I have removed the forum for the time being.  It may go back up in the future, but at the moment I can’t seem to remember to check it for spam regularly so it clearly was not of much use.

I’ve also updated the wordpress installation.  As you can see, that’s messed up the formatting of a few posts.  I’m hoping to get to most of them tonight, but it may take a day or two to get everything back in order.

I would like to thank whoever it was that messaged me to tell me the site was down.  In the future, if something like that happens the best way to contact me is through an ask at the account.  I can also be emailed at

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.

Birthright for the Trans* Person

Note: This is not a post on the political or religious aspects of Taglit-Birthright Israel.  It is also not at all endorsed by the programme.  It is a personal post designed to help trans* people decide whether or not the trans aspect of their identity will be a problem on the trip.  All information came from either my own experience or that of trans* friends (most of whom are male identified with a few women and genderqueer people mixed in).  Your experiences may vary.

Now that that’s out of the way, this entire post will essentially be a series of “it depends”.  Taglit-Birthright is set up in such a way that every trip is different.  If you go with an Orthodox operator your experiences will be different than if you went with a Reform or Conservative or non-denominational one.  I will try to give the best information I have from a group of approximately 25 friends and acquaintances (not including myself) who went on trips with various operators in the winter and summer of 2011.  Most of us went with nondenominational or Reform groups with one deciding on an Orthodox trip.  There are still a handful of people coming back from the summer 2011 tours so this may be updated in the future.

All tours have gender-segregated rooming.  Generally you will be three to a hotel/kibbutz room with your gender being whatever is listed on your passport.  Some trips have the same rooming all ten days, others rotate so you share time with everyone of the same gender on your trip.  If for some reason you can’t get a passport in your correct gender (keep in mind the updated rules so this no longer requires surgery) there were two people who got correct room assignments after calling their trip operator and explaining the situation.  This requires speaking to both your tour operator and your guides once you get to the airport to make sure they know what’s going on.  If you go with a friend you can also ask your trip operator if it’s possible to upgrade to a double room for a small fee.  This system is designed for young married couples going on trips together, but some organisers were willing to make exceptions to ensure maximum traveler comfort.  It is not, however, an option any of us took.  Unfortunately, all aspects of gender on the trip will be very binary.

Oddly enough, the only problem any of us had with bathrooms were the few times we were with other Americans who weren’t on our trip.  Most of the time you will be with your tour group so expect bathrooms to be full.  If you’re pee-shy you may find yourself waiting until you get back to your hotel for the night.  All bathrooms, even the ones at the tourist Bedouin site, involved stalls with modern plumbing so no worries about having to pee in a bush or anything.  No one reporting back found a single gender-neutral bathroom on their trip, but we obviously didn’t see all of Israel so they may exist somewhere.

Religious sites:
The only gender-segregated site any of us visited was the Kotel (Western Wall).  None of us trans people had issues accessing the side of the Wall we wanted, however there were two cis women who were given some trouble accessing the women’s side.  In general if you can pass for a 12 year old boy you should be pretty ok.  There were people who visited both sides without problems if you are interested in that.  I’m not sure I’d recommend it as it requires a particular type of androgynous appearance, but it’s something to keep in mind if you have a non-binary identity.

You will also spend at least one Shabbat in Israel during your trip.  Generally this means the option for services at an Orthodox shul even on non-denominational trips.  Once again, none of us had problems going to whichever section we felt most comfortable in.  Some of the nondenominational trips offer either services or a discussion group, several people took the discussion option which was entirely gender neutral.

A visit to the Dead Sea is a standard part of the Birthright itinerary.  This is where things got most tricky for us.  The changing cabanas at the Sea are group style with five or six people changing in front of each other.  There are bathrooms.  You’re not meant to change in them, but on my trip I certainly wasn’t the only guy using them for that.  Those of us who are pre-top didn’t get any questions about our rash guards as the Sea is rather notorious for causing rashes on people with sensitive skin.  I will warn everyone to not shave anything for two or so days before going because the salt will get into every little nick or cut and burn like you would not believe.

This is where things will vary the most.  On my trip there was one other trans guy (who I knew vaguely from synagogue, go figure) who was out to everyone.  He had no problems at all being out, everyone was incredibly respectful and polite.  I had to field a few questions that were fairly easily brushed off with “no, my family just has shit genes”, but after that there wasn’t a problem.  Honestly, I think I was being a little paranoid because I’m not used to being in groups of cis people with the level of trans knowledge my trip mates had.  Everyone else’s experiences ran the full spectrum from “stealth and fine” to “stealth and way too many questions” to “out and fine” to “out and uncomfortable”.  Even people who went with the same organiser on different buses had wildly different experiences.  I suggest going with a friend so that at the very least you have one person you feel comfortable with.

The Israelis:
Every Birthright trip includes at least 3-4 days with Israeli young people joining you on the trip.  No one has had a problem with them so far.  In many cases people felt more comfortable with the Israelis than with their American peers.  For my part, the best friends I made on my trip were with some of the Israelis I met and eventually stayed with after I extended my stay.  Do not be afraid to talk to them, their kindness and acceptance has been one of the few things everyone I’ve talked to has agreed on.

It’s a pretty widely held belief that Birthright is what you go on to get laid.  In many ways that’s true.  I don’t think any of us have been on a trip where at least a few people weren’t screwing around with each other.  You’d think it’d be difficult with that whole three to a room thing, but most people stay up late in the night chatting in various rooms so you can usually kick your roommates out pretty easily (or ask them to join in…)  Obviously this poses problems for those of us who are stealth.  I did not get laid on my trip (not that I’d have turned down a few of the guys…), but the out guy who was with me did.  If you’re out and interested in someone it follows pretty much the same rules as any other hookup with the added challenge of having to sit on a bus with the person for the next however many days.  None of us who are stealth did anything more than have a drunken makeout session, but the challenges of stealth are about the same in any group of people sharing a small community: you never know who might tell what.  Don’t expect true love or anything, 99% of what happens are casual flings people forget about by morning.  Take protection, consider your own needs and wants, and have fun.

Other information:
There are some aspects of every trip that do feel rather like hetero Jewish matchmaking.  This is irritating to everyone queer and not a single one of us ended up on a trip where we were the only ones (even the one girl who went on an Orthodox tour) so don’t feel like you’ll be left out in your grumbling.  Like in any other group, family tend to find each other.  Luckily, the heterocentric parts are very short and very small and likely something you won’t even really remember compared to the whirlwind of the rest.  All trips go at a clipping pace, you barely have time to breathe let alone think about the two seconds of heteronormativity.

Like I said at the beginning, it depends on your group.  The majority of us had very good experiences and will be recommending the trip to anyone who asks, but there were a few who were less than satisfied.  Of the less than thrilled people, most were more irritated by non-trans aspects of the trip (it’s ten days with largely upper-middle class, educated, white Jews, you can imagine the problems when discussing oppression).  If you’re worried sign up with a friend or sibling you can rant to at the end of the day or see if you can put it off until your passing is closer to 100%.

Fun, if not particularly polite way to deal with butch lesbians insisting on assuming you’re one of them

My salon does quite a bit of promoting for Pride.  It’s good for business and I think we only have one straight staffer so it’s kind of a big thing for us.  Which means that today I was manning our booth while wearing Kurt’s ‘Born This Way’ shirt.

Apparently having ‘LIKES BOYS’ in giant letters across my torso was not enough to deter the lesbians.  Every couple of minutes one of them would come up to me and talk about how great it is to see a lesbian in hairdressing.  (It’s not really, I know at least as many lesbian hairdressers as I do gay men.)  Normally I’m very polite about this.  I’m used to educating and this sort of thing happens to all the cis guys in my family too so I don’t consider it a big deal.

Today I got frustrated.  When a woman (who looked strikingly like Chaz Bono when he first came out) came up to me wearing a ‘dip me in honey and throw me to the lesbians’ and talking about how inspiring I was I immediately started calling her ‘sir’.  Repeatedly.  Even after she corrected me.  I did that over and over and over again until finally one woman got frustrated and asked why I assumed she was a man.

“Why did you assume I’m a woman?”

She didn’t really have an answer for that.