9.25.2010

Four Months on T

Month Four

Acne: All I have to say about this is the acne at this point totally sucks. I have huge deep sore welts on my and seem to have some spectacular talent for creating little blackheads. I am scrubbing my back daily with Pears soap and using a sulphur based acne cream intended for adults. It seems to work really well but if I miss a day or two and I suffer for it. I have a doctor’s appointment next week so will definitely be asking for something to help before they start scarring.

Body: The  changes that are occurring with my body seem to have slowed down a bit his month. Once in a while I definitely feel like I am retaining water which I understand is part of  T-therapy. I have experienced some swelling in my legs and hands and am definitely feeling fatter than I am used to. I am excited to be filling out and am slowly getting used to having a thicker heavier frame. It seems odd that the body I have inhabited for 35 years is no longer exactly familiar to me but is somehow feeling more comfortable…

Drawers: Still growing bit by bit, simultaneously my best friend and worst enemy… I’ve been doing research on bottom surgery options and am considering which options may or may not be right for me.

Hair:  Hair is growing in thicker and instead of just being fuzzy. The hair on my legs is starting to look more natural. I have now got hairy knees and upper thighs. My inner thighs are definitely looking more masculine. I do have the odd hairless ankles that prove how much I believe in the beauty and power of socks. My stomach is growing soft blond hairs that are getting longer and darker every week. Haven’t grown any hair on my arms or chest or feet or back…..thank goodness. Facial hair is coming in slowly, one hair at a time on my cheeks along the jaw line and slowly creeping down my side burns. Have pretty good hairs growing on and around my chin but none on my face. I am constantly pushing back my moustache’s eta…

Mood: This month the déjà vu of pubescent antisocial behaviour has been overwhelming. I have been depressed about a lot of things and have pretty much pulled out of most of my relationships. I am not much of a friend these days, spending most of my time alone. Being away from my home in BC is hard too even though I have a really great job. I miss my friends, school, and doing something I really really enjoy. I am having trouble making friends because I feel awkward and afraid that no one will understand me and I am not sure if or when to tell people about my transition. I still feel very insecure if I am not binding and recent events around hockey and dressing rooms have made me feel more insecure about my body and my identity.

Voice:  This has definitely changed. I don’t know if it is going to drop any more but the changes that have occurred so far are feeling more and more male to me. I speak fairly quietly these days; unsure with my new voice. When I get excited and I raise my voice it cracks and wobbles and I usually end up coughing because the “rattle” feels like I have a cold or sore throat. Hopefully it will settle into it’s new normal sometime in the next two months.

Other: Passing. This word is pissing me off and making me feel like a liar and I am having difficulty wrapping my head round feeling the need to justify who I am. I almost never have anyone “mistake” me for a woman. It’s interesting that with lower voice and the “right” clothes people don’t look for other clues, ie my chest. I am going to talk to my doctor and hopefully get some help with my acne problem. I am also hoping that more physical activity will help with my mood and self-confidence.

9.22.2010

First Night at Hockey

It's official. I am currently stuck in between genders. At my first hockey practice this week I felt really awkward and out of place. I have decided to play with the women's hockey recreational team who allow men as drop in players which is fine with me. I am not ready to play on an all men's rec team; the other rec hockey team is mixed but once again I would have to decide which dressing room to use and explaining tits to a bunch of guys or facial hair to a bunch of ladies.... I don't know would be more difficult. Playing on a team where I know a lot of the players is less weird despite the stares I currently endure from the women who don't know me.

Playing with a lot of women I already know who don't care one way or the other where I dress, makes it easier to sit alone in a dressing room. When I signed up they left it up to me to decide where to change. I could dress with the girls or dress by myself which was awkward. I think it will become even more difficult later when that dressing room becomes the men's dressing room....I am too far into my transition to feel comfortable in the ladies dressing room and not far enough along to feel comfortable in the men's.

The woman in charge has been very accommodating but I am still extremely anxious about changing. Even if I had my own dressing room I would feel even more like the outsider, the one who doesn't fit in anywhere. I really want to play this year but the anxiety is making it difficult to enjoy what should be an enjoyable recreational experience.

I can't play in a binder because I am afraid of getting hurt if my binder gets too tight or impedes my breathing. Dressing alone this year seems to be my only option and although it will be a little lonely in the dressing room I know that when I am ready to move into the men's room I will be confident and comfortable and only a little less scared.

9.15.2010

Paranoia and the Gossip Girl

Life never seems to level out and get boring which is a good thing and a bad thing. I could use a little less drama in my life particularly when it is the result of someone else's  issue. Here's the scoop: Last week a woman started working with us whom I met last year. She knew me as a woman, a lesbian, my former self, from playing in a golf tournament and occasionally playing softball together. I never really liked this person but had no problems getting along with her when the situation dictated it. Now she and I work at the same place and I have a few concerns about her presence as I fear it will affect my relationships at work.

When I was hired, I told my boss and her supervisor that I was trans. One other person who works with me knows for sure my situation because I told her; she is great and doing extremely well at remembering to use male pronouns etc. I am sure there are a few other people who have figured it out for themselves but are polite enough to keep it to themselves and don't treat me any differently now that they know.

The thing I am pissed off about is that I feel like I have been outed quite against my will and by someone who has no right to gossip about me to my co-workers in order to make friends and fit in. Now it is a huge assumption on my part that this is the case and here is where things get messy. I am not afraid to be honest with someone about my transition if they have the balls to ask me face to face. I am not ashamed of who I am but at the same time I do not feel like I am obligated to tell people that I used to be a woman. I don't think that is anyone's business and yet somehow I feel as though by not disclosing this information I am somehow a liar by omission.

I am fairly confident that this woman has told my "secret" to at least a couple of my co-workers and I hesitate to use the word secret because it implies deception. I am finally living as the person I have always been which is more truthful than trying to conform to the betrayal of my biological sex. Now most of the time I wouldn't really care about the motives or agenda of someone who is obviously out to step on anyone she can to advance her career, acceptance, or whatever but this time I am unsure if I am just being paranoid or if this is really happening. The other frustrating part is that I feel like I can't find out the truth without betraying myself  and revealing my trans status only to somehow feel I should defend myself and my identity. I have no proof she has said anything. I only have a significant change in behaviour to gauge whether or not this situation is real or in my head. I would confront the gossip girl but I am sure she would lie to me.

Tomorrow I will go to work and hope that the whispers and giggles, the cold shoulders and sideways glances aren't malicious, that I was just seeing things. I am hoping the instant silences that occur when I walk into a conversation isn't because I am the topic of discussion. No. Tomorrow I will go to work and pretend there is nothing wrong. I will be polite and helpful as usual and hopefully no one will say anything if I decide to wear my bright blue T-shirt which reads: Bad Estrogen.

9.14.2010

Hockey Locker Rooms

Hockey season starts in a couple weeks. I really want to play but being a pre-op tranny doesn't help when trying to figure out where to get into gear. So many things I have written about seem to repeat themselves over and over again and prove repetedly the absolute binary in outr culture's assumption of gender. I am unsure how to feel about hockey as yet but the same anxiety over doors has reared it head once again: do I change with the ladies or the men?

I should probably mention that I intend to play with the women hockey association and while the majority of players are female, there are not usually enough players to have a game, so they allow men to play as drop in players to keep the numbers up. There is no hitting, and no slap shots. It's basically a way to get off the couch at least one night a week and have some fun. Most of the women that play hockey are women I know and most of them are lesbians who don't really care about where I change.  The problem is I don't feel like I should be changing with the women since I have decided to transition, not because of any sexuality thing but because I feel as though I am taking advantage of a unique situation. Maybe I should?

While the women's change room is definitely the place I would feel the safest, I am not sure how the women who don't know me would feel about having a hairy low-voiced guy named Marcus there. The other thing is that no matter how I look or who I am comfortale around the fact remains that I have had to choose a comfortable gender presentation and I chose male. Yes currently my body betrays my gender but if I am going to fit in with the other guys how will it look if I am changing with the women. Are the guys going to be so freaked out by me that I should fear for my safety or is that just another one of those things that women are taught to believe? Maybe those guys will be supportive or even ambivalent to me and just be glad have another guy around despite the fact I still have tits.

A pre-op friend of mine joined a mens football team this summer and was playing in the mens league. I always meant to ask him how his teammates dealt with him being a tranny, if it was awkward, if they all knew about his transition or if it was something he felt he needed to disclose. How did it go in the dressing room and was he ever afraid for his safety? I know that people up here are pretty open-minded about things and pretty laid back but at the same time it only takes one person who thinks that round pegs should go in round holes to beat you till you can't see to make you fearful of all people.

I have asked the administrator about playing as a regular member, to see if I can play on a regular basis. I am going to suck it up and take my chances and change in the mens locker room. I will probably wear a bra and binder and wear a t-shirt under my gear which will be really hot but that's ok. If I actually have my top surgery this year maybe next winter I can consider playing in the other mixed hockey league as well. Thank goodess I don't have to make this decision for curling!

Hopefully no one will ask why I don't wear a jockstrap!

9.11.2010

Secret Clubs of Junior High

I was thinking more about the pedagogical theory of separating girls from boys to learn about puberty. Why is it that girls and boys are separated and taught about the facts of life in a homogenous environment? What is the theory behind separating the sexes instead of letting the girls learn about male puberty and the boys learn about girl puberty. Would there perhaps be less mystery and disparity between the sexes if we knew more about how each other experience growing up? What if girls could understand about how testosterone affects a boy's body and boys learned how estrogen affects a woman's mood? What on earth would happen if girls and boys had a greater understanding of each others biology? Would it be easier to understand gender if we had a more solid understanding of how hormones affect a body, any body? Can gender be freed from biological sex or is our culture too ingrained with what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl?

I was listening to the radio today and there were mothers talking about being out in public with their teenage 13/14/15 year old daughters. They were talking about how they would ream out an old man for looking at their daughter but if an older woman looked at their son they wouldn't say anything despite the fact that their sons were only 13/14/15 as well. So there is definitly and without question a disparity in expectations of how men and women are supposed to act and what sort of public interaction is acceptable between men and women particularly with respect to age. But there are some seriously harmful implications in this type of thinking.

These mothers made assumptions about the intentions of the men who were looking at their daughters. A man alone with a younger female child is too often looked at as a sexual deviant or criminal and a woman's instinct is to protect that child from the male sexual predator. Unfortunately this creates a problem. A long time ago I made a similar assumption about a situation where I observed a man talking to and playing with a young girl 3/4 years old on a jungle gym. I recognized the young girl's parents and warned them about the creepy guy hanging out with their daughter. Turned out to be the girls uncle. Oops. That incident made me realize that I had been conditioned to see men with young girls as criminals, creeps, and sexual predators. How are men then to interact with their children? How are girls or boys to learn about having a positive male role model when society has cast such a despicable shadow across any relationship a man has with a child? Particularly in this day and age of broken families and single parents, how can a father build a relationship with his child when people seem to be quick to label him a danger?

Would having had some understanding about the growing pains of each other help mend this distrust and fear that is experienced and spread throughout society? Is there a way to mend the rift between the sexes and come to some new understanding about gender? Perhaps if we all had to endure the same awful movies and learned a little more about the biology of each other we could come to understand a little more compassionately how every ones soul fits differently into their body.

9.07.2010

You Want to Know What?

It's true that a lot of things change when your begin hormone therapy. Yes, things in my pants have changed, along with my voice and other parts of my body. I am going through a second puberty. This is the price I have to pay to become the man I have felt I am for years. It is a right of passage, a test of will  and at times feels like a test of my faith by way of suffering. This self inflicted puberty is the hard part.  I must suffer, endure and sacrifice, to achieve the goal of feeling complete. The acne, mood swings, depression, frustration, and anti-social feelings of a teenager are not fun when you are an adult. These behaviours are not acceptable at thirty-six. I am supposed to have moved beyond all this but what others don't understand is puberty is miserable no matter how old you are and hormones play a larger role in your emotional well being than you might expect.

The first time through puberty I knew what to expect to a certain degree, tits, menstruation, zits, weepiness. There were bad films, questions scrawled on scraps of paper and put in a box during health class, bad drawings, terrifying images of childbirth, and embarrassment. I was going to become a woman despite my disappointment and protests. I experienced migraines from the intensity of hormone fluctuation. But my friends were all going through the same thing, the feelings of awkwardness and the need to create an independent identity. We were all growing, leaning to deal with our emotions, and swimming the shark infested waters together. I knew where I was headed despite the fact the boys' beach looked like way more fun.

There are a couple of things about this puberty that are different than the first time...besides the hair growth, dropping voice and muscle development. I am alone. I have no one to share this experience with me. Almost all of my friends are all settled in their bodies, in their identities, and busy doing things like having babies, buying a house, travelling the world, having successful careers. A few other things are different as well.

I don't remember people asking me about my genitals when I was twelve. How much pubic hair have you got? Are you satisfied with the aesthetic of your vagina? Do you want to get breast implants? These are not questions I remember being asked during my first puberty. I never enquired about the size,and shape of a penis, or  about the masturbation habits of my male friends. But now that I am an adult going through a second puberty, people feel compelled to ask me these things. Most of the time I don't mind explaining to people how things work with hormone therapy and transitioning. I think it is important to educate people because being informed about something makes it much easier to understand and therefore more difficult to hate. I don't mind if someone is asking to understand for their own  transition. But simple curiosity does not give you the right to ask me about the most private parts of my life.

You can ask me if I would be willing to answer some questions and depending on how well I know you I might indulge you. How would you like it if I asked about your sex life, details about your genitals or sex life, or the private parts of your relationship? If you are going to ask me questions of a personal nature related to my transition here are some things I would hope you would consider:

  1. Consider where we are. Is this something you would ask me in a grocery store, at the wal-mart, in a pub, or at a party? I might be willing to talk to you but not in front of a bunch of other people. Consider who else may be around. Please don't put me on the spot.
     
  2. Don't ask me questions when you are drunk or otherwise intoxicated. I understand you feel less inhibited when you've had a couple but seriously, if you want to know have the guts to ask me when you're sober.
     
  3. Do some research. Google shit. Look it up. Wikipedia. Do you still need to ask me about the physical effects of testosterone or has your curiosity been satisfied with a little internet research?
     
  4. Do you know me well enough to ask me this? If you don't know my favourite colour, the name of my dog, where I used to live, what my art is about, or one thing I am really really passionate about, you don't have any right to ask me about my puberty because you don't know me.
     
  5. Ask yourself why you feel you need to know. Is it because you want to know about me or because you need something to talk about with your friends? Are you speculating about it whispering about it or talking about it behind my back without knowing anything about me? If that's the case, don't bother even talking to me about my transition. Your compass is broken.

A couple of my friends are trans (hi boys!) but have already completed the hardest part of their puberty, they are swimming miles ahead of me and the shore is in sight for them. I have tried to follow my own rules when asking them questions about their transitions. I know how awkward it is to be asked these questions and frankly some of it is none of my business. My friends  have been extremely generous sharing information with me. We have had conversations that only trannies can appreciate because we have shared many of the same, often painful, experiences. We are brothers who have survived or are enduring a second puberty. So please, remeber the words of great mothers everywhere: think before you speak. Sometimes silence is golden.

9.06.2010

Gender Atheism

I remember being frustrated when people would ask me if I was a girl or a boy. Kids and adults alike never seemed to ask me what my name was, just what my gender was. I never realized how rude a question that was until later, as if what was between my legs was far more important than my name, where I am from, whether I prefer cats to dogs, or if I believe in God. No one cared about anything like that when they saw me.  First and foremost they had to be able to label me: girl or boy? Then they could proceed to make assumptions about me based on whether or not I conformed to the expectations of said gender.

Are you a girl or a boy? That is probably one of the most humiliating things you can ask a person. Most of the time it happens in public, people don't usher you aside to ask this, they don't lean across the counter and whisper it, they demand it of you in front of others, as if in shaming you somehow you will be exonerated for your lie. How many times have you been asked this by someone who appears angry that you dare show yourself without making it obvious that you are either apple or orange? Man or woman? As if there are only two choices and the Gordian knot of gender and sexuality could be untied to reveal just four strings male/female/straight/gay. But that still doesn't take into consideration gender. Gender is not about sexuality, and it is not about biology exactly, it's more of an expression of your inner self: your spirit. In fact I am pretty sure I could argue that gender is an entirely fabricated idea.

The idea that all biologically estrogen based creatures feel, act, are interested in, motivated by, and desire the same things is preposterous. Similarly the notion that all testosterone based biological creatures have carbon copy spirits is ridiculous. Gender is an expression of spirit and the idea that someones gender is "wrong" is as stupid as claiming that someone's culture is wrong. Sexuality is fluid, you can be straight or gay or someplace in between. For most people yes they have either a "boy" container  or a "girl" container for their spirit but the spirit inside that container may not always be what one would expect to find inside. That expectation comes from a long history of what has typically been expressed by each of these containers and what society has dictated acceptable. Boy containers may not always hold "blue" spirits and girl containers may not always contain "pink" spirits but because society has told us "pink" spirits go in girl containers and "blue" spirits go in boy containers. That is what we have come to accept as normal. How great would it be if spirits could choose the containers into which they are born. Unfortunately, society has dictated for a long time that our spirits are expected to twist and conform to match our biological body instead of allowing our spirits to shape our bodies into whatever form is most comfortable and satisfying.

Gender isn't really a concrete thing that you can put your finger on. It is personal for everyone; Gender is the a part of your spirit that expresses the ways in which you interact with your body: it is the ghost in the machine. How one relates to their own body should be a completely independent decision and it certainly should not be something that is regulated, legislated or discriminated against because each person has their own way to relate to their body: love it or hate it. Having the power and ability to chose how that body looks, acts, feels, and interacts with other bodies should be something that is as important as one's freedom to control of their own life and future, to choose their job, their lover, their, dog, their supper, their clothes.

Everyone has the right to be happy and to interact with their body in any way they see fit. To not allow someone that freedom is akin to torture, imprisonment and slavery. And seriously, what is the motivation behind keeping someone from being happy? From being able to choose for themselves? Ask yourself what is the motivation for someone who would deny this freedom to anyone? If society decided all our bodies should be the same, if we were all to be thin, or white.....

9.02.2010

Bear Bergman Sprained my Brain

The last time I was in a city that had a big bookstore, well actually eight or nine of them, I tracked down a book I had been wanting to pick up for a while now: The Nearest Exit may be Behind You by S. Bear Bergman, a trans guy who is a gender theorist and outlaw with a wicked sense of humor. I have laughed out loud a number of times reading his latest collection of essays. While his prose is lighthearted for the most part, there are a few times when the questions he's posed have really got me thinking about the way people think and the challenges trans people face when dealing with a culture that tends to prefer binary thought process.

When you think about the way our culture interprets information there always seems to be a binary. Politics, sexual orientation, health, race, economics, and of course gender are all separated into two categorical majorities and the leftovers, because they are minority, are swept aside as unimportant and/or complicated. There are two major political parties in Canada and the US. Sexual orientation is usually considered binary, straight or gay, bisexuals may just indecisive and possibly insatiable? Top or Bottom, Butch or Femme, Smoker or non smoker, Black or White, Hero or Villain, Rich or Poor (who are you kidding there is no middle class), Employed or Unemployed, Believer or Non-believer, Cat-Lover or Dog-Lover, Mr or Mrs, Man or Woman, Penis or Vagina? We have divided nearly everything into one of two categories and then subdivided those categories into two more categories and so on. Then a grey area comes along and people freak, and don't know what to do with something they might have to carry around in their pocket for a while because there is no slot, no drawer, no hole, no shelf, no jar, no box to definitively check, or name to place upon this thing that you can then label with absolute certainty.

I exist in the place where these boxes overlap. I am where the  black and white intersect where you are almost positive you know I am one thing only to find a little something to doubt. I am not what you think you know. Bear Bergman asks hard questions that make me think more theoretically about gender, passing, responsibility, socialization, psychology, and sexuality. As if I don't have enough to think about without my bedtime reading making me feel like I need to pull an all-nighter doing research. I haven't finished the book yet but I will be posting a few of my ideas about what he has written. I am always surprised to find another person who understands me, when I read his essays I can see many of my own thoughts and experiences and for a little while at least I feel a little less alone.