11.28.2010

So Does This Mean You Want a Penis?

I stumbled across this project by accident while procrastinating my NaNoWriMo Novel. The artist is L.Weingarten and the project pretty much speaks for itself.

If you are interested anonymously add your "question" in the comments....

It seems fair that people are curious about transgender people. It seems to me that until recently transgender folk have sort of flown under the radar, been quiet and closeted and more timid in coming out. Perhaps this is becasue it is more challenging to the social fabric of society  because so many other things are based on biological sex rather than gender including sexual orientation. The notion of gender is  ingrained in us from the moment we're born and while I am all for educating people because I feel education eliminates ignorance and can alleviate fear which in my opinion is at the root of all violence. But while we are undergoing this great re-education about gender  I would like to also point out that while someone might be curious about "how the whole tranny thing works" the questions they may ask may be completely inappropriate. I have posted about this a few times and I have come to realize there is more than enough information out there in internetland for most people to become well versed in the innies to outies and vice versa of a transgender journey.

This doesn't mean we are obligated to answer questions that are too personal or make us feel uncomfortable. If we were to turn the tables and ask others these questions, we would be labelled nosy and pervertedly curious. No one's sex life, body, medical choices, genitals, or self expression are anyone's business but your own. But before this becomes another rant, here is the link to the project website. I have included the artist's statement under an image from the project the content of which hits close to home for me. Enjoy.


This ongoing body of work explores the power dynamics inherent in the questions asked of transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and gender-variant people.

Many documentary photographic projects that deal with trans issues exploit the genders of their subjects, pointing to an "otherness" or inappropriately exoticizing their bodies. A Series of Questions seeks instead to make visible the transphobia and gender-baiting that can become part of everyday interactions and lives, forming a fuller picture of the various lived experiences. In so doing, this work contrasts with the dehumanizing approaches that predominate the images made of transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and gender-variant people, which often focus solely on their gender or trans status, or use them to further a specific point about social construction and gender.

The subjects hold signs depicting questions that each has had posed to them personally— some by strangers, others by loved ones, friends, or colleagues. Presented on white wooden boards, the questions are turned on the viewer, shifting the dynamics under which they were originally asked, and prompting the viewer to cast a reflective, self-critical eye upon themself, revealing how invasive this frame of reference can be.


As a greater number of subjects and questions are accumulated, a relentless conversation of questioning emerges. Attention is directed not on the backgrounds of the transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, or gender-variant subjects, but on the dynamics at work in these conversations. I am interested in uncovering the typology of these questions, discovering what categories of questions emerge as the script of power dynamics and interrogation is flipped.



To see more images from the project visit
www.lweingarten.com/projects/ques/

11.26.2010

Six months on Testosterone

Six months seemed really far away six months ago and my one year anniversary seems just as far into the future. Lots of big big changes this month both in my personal and professional life. Lots of projects and plans for the future. Still waiting to hear from the ministry of health about my surgery. God sometimes it feels like this will never end.

Acne: Thank god for antibiotics. I am enjoying some relief from the really bad acne. While I have some scarring I am happy to report that the large painful zits are disappearing. I still have acne mostly on my back and shoulders but I noticed there is a definite relation to the injection cycle and to diet. Cutting out fatty greasy food and cutting down on dairy has helped a lot. Drinking lots of water has helped too so I am enjoying clearer skin.

Body: Ok so I thought it would be interesting to take photo of my body before I started T and six months and a year. So far all I have learned from this is that I need to hit the gym! I have gained quite a bit of weight although I am not sure if some of it isn’t just body mass migration (or perhaps mass body migration?). I think it’s time to start watching what I eat and trying to get a little more exercise during the week. While I still play hockey once a week the fact that I have a desk job now has impacted the amount of daily exercise I am use to getting. Being in the arctic during the cold dark winter doesn’t exactly entice one to get out and exercise either but at least I can watch what I eat. Come spring I think I will start biking to work.

Drawers: Still no sign of mother nature! Seriously, love it. No monthly mood roller coaster, no unexplained crying, none of it. This will be the last post about my drawers… be glad there’s no more news about my hairy butt crack!

Hair: Hair is coming, slowly but surely. Arm hairs are certainly looking masculine. Hairy knees, wrists, hands, chest, belly, inner thighs, calves probably toes but I haven’t really bent down to check. I feel like I am losing some hair from my head as I seem to be shedding out a new hairline. Hairs on my towel, t shirts, sweaters and pillows. There’s a chance I’ll develop male pattern baldness…have to figure out what to do with my ears if that’s the case….maybe toques will come back in style….

Mood: It’s ben a bit of a rocky month mood wise. Big changes including the break up of my relationship and severe bouts of homesickness are making a positive attitude challenging. I have taken on a big project every month to keep my mind and hands busy and it seems to be working. I am feeling a little more settled here for the time being but I am making a plan to return to my beloved home within the next 18 months if I can. I am hoping that my time here will create opportunities for me to move home sometime hopefully before the next arctic winter!

Voice: My voice keeps dropping. It changes a little more every month. Singing is still out of the question and my karaoke career has been put on hold while I await the final drop and settle of the vocal chords. People who haven’t talked to me ina while have marked on how much my voice has changed. I have no record unfortunately except my videos from last summer. Made a recording at six months and will make another on the nine and twelve month markers. Should be mostly settled within the year.

Other: Been staying really busy as mentioned. Writing a novel in the month of December and hoping to get a second job in December. I am going to pay off my debts and hopefully save some money so I can return home or at least go for a visit. Unsure at this point where my life is headed. I need a plan.

Clothes that used to fit are now getting too small in the arms and shoulders. My pants fet better and my belt needs a new hole. Could use a little less around the middle but until it warms up will have to eat less ‘till I can exercise more. Got a permanent job at a the graphic design and printers owned by the same company as the newspaper. Will learn some new skills while I am there and hopefully be able to get some design work done as well… going to need a portfolio to get a kick ass job when I return.

11.14.2010

Gender, Brain, and Body: the Battle for Scientific Supremacy

I have been following a blog by a man named William Harryman called The Masculine Heart which is about masculinity and the search for the authentic tender heart of men. I am attracted to this site because it is open minded, talks about gender as something beyond the body and avoids reinforcing social stereotypes of men that foster misunderstanding. William seems to be a genuine and kind man and being able to learn about the true hearts of men has been truly inspiring.

Recently there was a post on the site linked to a podcast by Natasha Mitchell of ABC radio national (Australia) discussing the biology of the human brain, the effect of hormones, the fallacy of the premise of scientific study in gender research and the differences between male and female brains. You can listen to it here: Battlelines: science, sex, brains and gender

I listened to this podcast with some interest and then with mounting trepidation. As a transgendered individual I was horrified to hear of the multiple surgeries to "normalize" female patients born with genetically high testosterone levels and masculinized genitals. As is the case with many intersex individuals, decisions made by doctors or other medical "experts" that determine gender based on the presentation of genitals has been proven to be devastating both physically and emotionally.

I worry that inconclusive evidence in the area of gender study be it biological, psychological, sociological,  or medical will blur the real problems of gender being a social construct linked to sex and endocrine biology. I would hate to think that I would be stuck in this girl body because my body's biology trumps my brain and gender identity. If I were and forced to be "trained" or "re-educated" to be a girl like some think they can "re educate" a person to be straight suggesting there is something wrong with us and that to be fixed we need to be normalized ergo heterosexual and cisgendered.

With the help of testosterone and hopefully surgery soon, my body is becoming more masculine. I am getting the broad shoulders and deep voice, my body is getting hairy, and above all I am happier now, in control of my emotions, more comfortable in my own skin. Soon, I will finally have the body that more closely matches my soul.

For science and scientists, educators and researchers: a healthy and friendly relationship between body and brain is what medicine, psychology, sociology, etc. should be striving for (and supporting) with respect to gender and sex. I would hate to think that transgendered, homosexual, or other gender variant individuals could be denied medical care, basic human rights, happiness, or freedom of sovereignty over their body and spirit based on some fishy misinterpreted scientific study: "but you only think your a boy, science says otherwise."

11.10.2010

National Novel Writing Month

If you read this blog then you know I have signed up for the National Novel Writing month the goal of which is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. It works out to 1667 words per day which doesn't seem so bad unless you miss one, or two, or even three. Then you need to write 6000 words just to catch up to where you can once again write just 1600 words a day.

Okay so I have been procrastinating a little bit and I might not make it by deadline but I am bound and determined to give it my best shot even if I have to call in sick on the 29th and 30th. I posted a widget on the sidebar so if you are so inclined you can check back once in a while and see just how far behind I get!!

So for those of you who asked, here is the first little introduction/preface/prologue to my developing novel. I hope you enjoy.


    The thunder never seemed to stop but he couldn’t be sure since he was drifting in and out  of consciousness. Jack’s dreams were filled with images of ice and rock, the knocking of a small wooden boat against salty whitecaps, clenched fists, and shouts threatening him with death. Bodies blackened around him, the stench of scurvy rotted teeth and shit nauseated even his memory. His father’s stubborn crazy voice haunted him. He wasn’t sure anyone else had survived but was too weak to mourn their loss. Secretly he prayed he was the lone survivor.
     The first time he opened his eyes it was dark. A rock seemed to burn next to the bed. A strange smelling smoke filled his nostrils and burned inside of his skull. It wasn’t a smell he recognized. Jack was covered with the fur skin of something that used to be alive and by the smell of it whatever hadn’t been dead too long. His tongue felt like it didn’t fit in his mouth and his head pounded. He turned toward a figure kneeling beside him, it nodded and grunted for him to drink from a stone saucer. The liquid was bitter and oily. He tried not to choke on it as it slid down his throat. A chunk of something fatty was placed between his lips and the figure nodded again to encourage him to eat. It was disgusting but his stomach ached. Delirium and months on a ship made him feel as if he was perpetually falling.
    He dreamed between short periods of lucidness. Sometimes Jack couldn’t tell if he was awake or asleep or floating someplace on a raft between the two worlds. He dreamed of swimming under sky blue ice, eating fish and sliding along snow on his belly. The howling and yipping of wolves was inside his head but as the pack brushed past his legs while he ran he was sure he was hallucinating. There were lights that danced across the dark purple sky, tinkling flaming green ribbons; a kind of magic only the Vikings might have known. He tasted blood from the moon, and sat around the carcass of a great wide horned beast feasting on wet flesh with a giant white bear and a mermaid. The bear had hair so soft and fine and so white he could have sworn it was made of stars. The mermaid was brown and fatand wrinkled like a walrus with huge heavy breasts that hung over her spotted green torso and when she laughed the whole earth seemed to shake. The strange dreams carried on and underneath it all was a quiet vibration like the feet of a thousand soldiers.
   He guessed that the figure caring for him was a woman her soft hands washed his face and fed him. He could hear her singing and sometimes humming while she sewed something from what looked a bit like leather. She brought him solid food and he ate what he guessed was fish wrapped in a thick wet leaf. It tasted not too bad and finally he had enough strength to prop himself up and hold a wooden cup of hot tea-like liquid. He looked at her as she held some sort of dried meat for him and she smiled.
    Two more days passed before he was strong enough to be guided out of the dark room by his nurse, she was stronger than he imagined. When his eyes adjusted to the light the land was like nothing he had ever seen in his young life. The land stretched as far as he could see with no buildings or signs of civilization. The earth undulated in ripples and parts of it seemed to be alive with a palpable motion. The thrumming sound was there, the same endless thunder in his dreams only quieter, as if the vibration was coming from beneath his feet.
    The air smelled of nothing but the brine scent of the sea drifting on the cold breeze. His skin erupted in goose flesh and a shiver ran through his body. Again, he felt as if his bones had been frozen and were just now warminginside his body. He felt the woman grip him tighter to keep him from falling. In the bright light of the sun he realized that this was not a woman at all bit a sturdy little man with a very pretty face. The nurse wasn't much taller than himself. Jack tried to speak but his voice was a ragged whisper. And his giant tongue was heavy and dry. The stranger shook his head and mumbled something pointing at the horizon. Jack scanned the valley and blinked a few times as the dark rippling form he thought was a hill came into focus as a giant swarm of animals. He couldn’t make out individuals as the mass of tiny bodies writhed across the ground all headed in the same direction with single-minded determination. The man beside him made a noise in his throat and began speaking in a language Jack had never heard. Jack’s body was weak and ravaged from the ocean crossing. His fingers and toes had been bitten by frost over the winter as he watched his father slowly go mad.  In the spring when the ice separated and freed the ship everyone wanted to return home including Jack. Only a few men were willing to follow Henry further into the new world but his son was not one of them. The crew threw them all off the ship, turned east, and headed toward home leaving the group stranded in a foreign land with a lunatic at the helm.
    The eight of them sailed around the bay for days, his father intent on mapping the entire thing. The madness was clear to the others when Henry insisted they could make it through the passage and back to England in time to watch the mutineers hang. Jack was pretty certain William and Thomas had died of despair and frustration. Philip and Edward, who had abandoned ship with only their loyalty to a madman to feed them, perished before the storm even hit. Francisco, Herman and his father were likely drown in the bay, their bodies probably washed up on a rocky shore and feasted upon by scavengers. How Jack had survived the cold water and made it to shore when he’d never learned to swim he could only accept as a miracle of God.
    The dreams still came to him in the dark and even sometimes in the middle of the day. Fish with horns, hairless dogs, black foxes, giants, a thousand talking black birds and a giant flying eyeball swirled around in his head. He wanted to draw. He somehow conveyed to the little man what he wanted and with a crude quill on a long piece of skin he made pictures of his dreams from animal blood. Jack almost never thought of his father and was simultaneously relieved and terrified to find himself alone in a barren wilderness. The pictures on the skin grew more elaborate as he tried to recreate the dreams as accurately as his limited artistic skills would allow.
   His companion in the darkness sang quietly while he sewed and women came and went giggling at Jack's curly hair and blue eyes. They brought food that was foreign to his tongue as the language to his ears. His companion took him on longer and longer walks every day and he felt the urgency in the little man’s voice as the wind got colder. Jack realized there was another journey for him on the horizon; soon they would be following the animals’ path.
   It was only hours later after a long nap that the little man set the boots down in front of Jack and urged him to put them on. The pathches of paper thin red scar tissue on his feet had just recently formed and his toes were still tender but the boots made him feel like he had brand new feet. The little man pulled a heavy skin jacket over Jacks head and took his hand. He looked around the little room for a moment as if making sure there was nothing he was forgetting and they headed out into the sunset toward the sound of the thunder. They walked for what seemed like hours but since the sun never seemed to set it was hard for Jack to tell how long they had been walking. He was pleasantly surprised at his endurance and although he was still tired his body seemed to move without him even thinking and the rhythm of the vibration kept him moving.
   His mind found its own way into the dreamland as if the resonance of the thunder were a key to unlocking a door between worlds. Jack seemed to be able to see things he could not explain but these images were so different from his dreams. As the thunder got louder the images became clearer. He saw another little man with a belt made of skin and covered in blood. Through the star speckled darkness he could see cold, figures falling out of the sky and writhing out of the sea. There were buildings built of secrets, more boats, shiny coins, barking dogs, a plague, yellow rocks, hundreds of men with tools and machines, holes dug deep into the earth, dizziness, sadness, and a boy….
   Jack nearly crashed into the back of his companion unsure if he had been sleep walking. The little man pointed to a bump on the horizon and made a noise. Jack looked at him and smiled. He had no idea what else to do. The little man smiled back and Jack was struck with a sorrow so profound he could not understand it. The images flooded back and this little man was in all of them somehow. He couldn’t explain it but knew in that moment that he was there for some reason and he wanted to find out what that reason was. Why had he survived and no one else? How had this man found him when there didn’t seem to be anyone else around at all? Jack had no idea where they were headed or what would be there when they arrived. He just let his feet carry him across the earth following the little man humming quietly to a song he had heard over and over in his dreams.

11.07.2010

Gender Identity Crisis Revisited

Things have been really rocky on the home front of late...my girlfriend and I have decided to back up and back out of our relationship to a point where we can both tolerate each other. I have been kind of a jerk and both of us have been avoiding having  the conversation about my transition and our relationship. A lot of our relationship difficulty is because I just feel so lost in the space between the lesbian woman she fell in love with and the man I am on my way to becoming.

My body is becoming a vessel like the one I always imagined my spirit should have but it doesn't yet feel comfortable or familiar. I have been pulling away from nearly all amorous contact with other life forms. My body is awkward and I am getting very self conscious about the way I am perceived. My girlfriend reads as a lesbian and most people here know her as a lesbian. There is a pretty large and out group of gays and lesbians in this small city and most people are pretty good at reading lesbians and gays. When I go out with my girlfriend to a place where people don't know us things get muddy. My girlfriend is pretty obviously a lesbian and when we are out as a couple my identity is suddenly in question once again. When she calls me sweetheart or baby or wants or hold my hand or be affectionate in public I feel like I am being outed as a liar; as if I am parading around in a charade pretending to be something I am not. Worse, I am sure she feels this too.

I love my girlfriend very much. I am not sure how to deal with this feeling of being stuck in a place where I can't move through the rest of my life as a guy because my identity (and by proxy my girlfriend's identity) will always be questioned. People give us odd and sometimes nasty looks when we walk through a mall holding hands and this has really started to bother me. I am tired of being stared at and whispered about. I just want to be a guy, a normal looking guy and not have anyone question that because of how I look or how my girlfriend looks.

Sure you might be saying that sounds shallow and insensitive and I would probably agree but imagine how you might feel if your partner were transitioning and suddenly people started looking at you as straight, or gay or lesbian. How would you deal with it? How would you deal with all the questions, the very personal questions about your sex life and sexuality? How would it be different if you and your partner had been together for a long time and you had to explain to your family, your co-workers, your children? What if you just started dating someone and they told you they were born a different gender? Would you still date them?

Yeah it's complicated isn't it. I don't want my girlfriend to feel like she has to explain to her friends or acquaintances that I'm not really a guy. That has happened a few times and not only does it really hurt, it also undermines my identity and reinforces the idea that trans people aren't really men or women but are still truly bound to their original biology.

So we finally talked about it and decided to start over in a platonic place and see what happens. So far the tension has disappeared and life has returned to some semblance of normal. I am not sure how things will progress in the future but we are going to just take it one day at a time so both of us can figure out if this relationship will survive a double dose of identity crisis.

11.04.2010

Red Taped to a Chair in the Waiting Room of the Ministry

I got a call this afternoon from the medical people in charge of my case, yeah apparently I have a case...  and to tell you the truth, I panicked. I got all nervous and felt like crying and it's been a long time since that happened. I was excited and nervous and angry and impatient but eventually a got a few answers.

Apparently, they (the ministry of health) are waiting for paperwork and recommendations and diagnoses and case histories from my psychiatrist so they can review my case. It sounds like there is a chance that I might get surgery covered and it is just a matter of time depending on what they find in their review. Assuming they agree to cover the cost, the next issue which I should have seen coming, is that more than likely they expect me to go to a different hospital, to a different surgeon, (never mind I've already had the referral and consultation) in a city over 800 km from home, and away from my family. I am going to plead my case IF they decide they approve funding for surgery. Why they think I should have to drive 3 hours to get on a plane to fly almost 1000 kilometers to stay in a hospital and recover in a hotel away from my family and my doctors is beyond me... well honestly you know its a government thing when.... the reason they would have me do that instead of letting me get the surgery in a hospital in another province that is closer to my home and family and my doctors is because the hospital where I already have a surgeon (who just needs confirmation of payment) is not in the province where I pay taxes and health care premiums.

So here I am after calling and calling for two months, finally talking to somene who might be able to help me. I asked my case worker to fax the request directly to my psychiatrist's office instead of having them wait and wait and wait for the snail mail to arrive....it's been a month already and they have received nothing... I am hoping that by the end of next week they have what they need and I can get onto the next phase of waiting: the review process.

Eventually they will send me a letter letting me know if I qualify for funding or if there are more hoops for me to jump through, and then things could go a couple ways.... I could end up having to wait to get a referral to another surgeon in my home province and then wait some more for a consultation and then wait some more for a surgery date. How long do you suppose that will take?  OR they may decide after my heartfelt and well argued statement about how having surgery outside my home province will actually SAVE them money they might let me have surgery in a place where I already have a referral, a surgeon, a doctor, and I will be closer to my family, and closer to home.

But till that happens I will sit quietly taped to this chair in the hurry up and wait department of the ministry of health....

god how old are these magazines....

11.01.2010

Oh Jeebus what have I done?

I am participating in the NaNoWriMo....National Novel Writing month. 50,000 words in 30 days. Ready, Set, GO!

I am trying to get better at actually sitting down to write instead of letting the evenings slip away while watching tv and checking facebook every fifteen seconds. So if I write something I find particularly excellent I might just post it here. I don't know if you can follow the progress of my novel or not but I will keep you posted on the current word count and after a bit more exploration I'll see if you can follow it!

No promises that it will be in order or make any sense...national novel editing month isn't until March!!!

Wish me luck!