5.31.2011

TransCanada Border Crossing

I finally got something published. With all of the great encouragement I have been receiving from readers here (and all the practice didn't hurt) I finally submitted a piece based on this blog for publication...and it was accepted! The feminist blog Gender Across Borders hosted a series of essays titled Behind the Mask of Masculinity. There are some really great essays I highly recommend checking them out. Masculinity is examined from many different angles but interestingly many essays seem to come to a similar conclusion:  gender is not defined by biology and masculinity specifically seems to be a quagmire. There is no real concrete definition of masculinity and since many men are working diligently to erode an archetypal image of the male, deciding what makes a man masculine in the 21st Century is definitely up for debate.

As I continue to explore what it means to be a man and learn more about the man I want to become I find blogs and places where people are free to share their thoughts extremely helpful. Sometimes there is someone who can just say something that clicks for you and suddenly a place that was once dark has light. I have had a few moments like that in my life. Figuring out your own identity or realizing that you are not alone in how you feel can be a life saving experience. With that in mind, I would like to share a few things with my dear readers who came here looking for a place where they might finally feel they aren't so alone after all:

There are a couple of places I have found particularly helpful and enlightening that made me feel more at home with the idea of living my life as a good, honest man. First, to a wonderfully inspiring and gentle man named William Harryman who writes one of my favourite blogs called The Masculine Heart. (Thanks Bill, if not for your tweet about the GAB Blog I might still be looking for a place to publish my first paper!) This is a wonderful oasis of male role models, open-minded, open-hearted and honest thoughts from men in all walks of life. Every time I visit this site I am filled with pride and hope for the male species. If you are interested in expanding your own notion of masculinity I highly recommend reading this. For all the women out there who have lost faith that wonderful men still exist, I urge you to spend some time reading what men really think and feel about the world and their place in it. You might be surprised.

If you haven't heard of The Art of Manliness by now then you haven't been reading my blog enough! This is a virtual encyclopedia of masculinity and appeals to men young and old. There is a lot of advice in the comments that is just as useful as the blog posts. There are articles on just about everything you can think of from personal grooming and clothing, work and finance, personal betterment, education, to all the "lost skills" like how to clean a gun or how to chop down a tree. As a bonus, there is a weekly podcast you can download for free from itunes. Now there really is no excuse for being anything but a perfect gentleman.

Another great resource is TransGuys.com a blog and website by fellow Canadian Joshua. There is a TON of information here as well as a blogroll that might help you in your quest for all things FTM. Josh spends a lot of time testing out products for us so we can get the best products without having to spend all our hard earned cash trying to find the best fit. It's so much easier to become the man you want to be withthe right binder and packer and if you are awaiting surgery or just want to experiment with your budding masculinity I recommend a visit.  There is a great FTM community there as well and a mapping project that marks 650+ of the site's over 2000 members on a map. Maybe you are surrounded by Trans guys and you didn't even know it!

Finally if you feel like there is just no place left to turn there is an advice columnist who will answer anything and put the question up to his readers where answers to your problem might get solved up to twenty times! Matt Kailey's Tranifesto is another great resource for FTM guys looking for answers and resources. Matt is a great resource for older transgendered guys (and gals) out there as he works specifically with elderly trans issues like health care and retirement. He is an American guy so much of his knowledge and advice is not applicable for Canadians but issues about masculinity and gender are definitely not confined to any single country!

This blog has helped me in so many ways not only personally but creatively as well. It started out as a journal mostly for me to keep track of my thoughts and experiences while transitioning but it has turned into so much more than that. I wanted to make this a place where guys looking for an honest experience could come and seek advice and maybe find themselves reflected in my experience. I know it was such a relief to find I was not alone and to be able to see what I was in for! I hope that some of you have found it informative and supportive and I hope that if it has helped you in any way that you will share it with your friends, your family and your trans brothers. Thanks for reading!


5.20.2011

The First Aniversary of T and I

Today has been marked on my calendar for a whole year. Today is my one year milestone and here I am with broader shoulders, a deeper voice and eyebrows that no longer look out of place. Last year this place looked so far away and somehow I feel like there should have been more of a change, I should look more different than I feel I do. A year ago, I was apprehensive and excited and nervous and I couldn't imagine how testosterone might affect me and I have to say that without a doubt it has been the best thing I have ever done for myself.

Testosterone has made me feel at home my body again. As a kid I never felt awkward about my body until puberty, which started around 10. This time around, puberty has been a tolerable annoyance because I know from now on I will be the man I have always dreamed of. Instead of imagining myself as a man, today I finally feel like one.

I was afraid when I started Testosterone that I would lose myself and become someone no one would recognize. I was afraid of losing my friends, my family, the only identity I'd ever known.  I was afraid that I would be alone, that no one would understand me. I worried about being"outed' and made feel like a liar, and honestly I still feel that way a lot of the time. I am hoping that fear will all but disappear once I have top surgery and no longer feel like my body is betraying me every step of the way.

It's difficult to be a transexual. There are so many things that I didn't even consider when making the journey across what is most definitely a boundary.  It's difficult to re-invent yourself, to learn new behaviours and unlearn old ones to be accepted as one gender or the other. It is difficult to re-write your history with different pronouns for fear that you might lose precious childhood memories. I felt like I was taking something away from my family. It's hard to hear people talk about gender and gender identities and not be paranoid and horrified at some of the things people will say. Ignorance still runs rampant among the masses. Often I wish I could drop a bomb into a conversation (of course you know a transexual, you've been working next to me for the last five months haven't you?) and just be out; anyone who knows me knows I am a terrible liar.

One year isn't that long. It isn't long enough to have everyone remember to use my new name or even accept my transition. It took less than a year for my relationship to end because of my transition, and I still haven't figured out how the hell I'm supposed to re-introduce myself to old acquaintances.

A year is also a really long time. It's a long time to wait for a moustache, or funding for surgery, or finally feel like I don't want to step off the sidewalk in front of the next speeding car. It was long year of late nights and time spent sorting out me. People told me I was being selfish, self-absorbed, narcissistic, unreasonable, and acting like a jerk. And they were probably right. But there was no one who could help. I probably should have seen my psychiatrist on a more regular basis.

The past year has been the best and the worst all wrapped up into twelve long months. People don't recognize your voice on the phone particulary fun when you are trying to access your insurance/banking/student loan/medical/cellphone information. Friends and family stop talking to you and start talking about you. Relatives will ask each other questions they can't answer instead of picking up the phone and calling you for answers: they don't recognize you as the same person they always known. It's weird for them too. I found out who my real friends are. I found friends and allies I didn't even know I had. Some people are angry with me, others are proud of me. Some will get over it, some won't. Some won't care or even have thought about it. It's been a year and I'm ready to just be me. I want to surround myself with people who are supportive and accepting.

There is still a long journey ahead and I will continue to share all my thoughts and milestones with everyone who has been following along or checking in periodically. Seriously this next year I am on the hunt for a moustache.....stay tuned.




5.15.2011

Manly Late Night Bike Adventure

  by sonofcoyote
My unfortunate sneakers
It's just about midnight and I am doing a load of laundry, washing a pair of jeans, a pair of socks and my sneakers. Why my sneakers? Well, I had an adventurous day.  It started out terrific. I slept in, then went out and grabbed a Tim's coffee and cinnamon bun and stopped into Canadian Tire and picked out a new seat for my bike; one with a little more padding, and a simple foam tie down rack for my kayak. I was feeling a little adventurous and energetic and the beautiful weather spurred me on to get outside and get a little exercise.  I took my fishing rod hoping that I could find enough open water to drop a line. No luck. My favourite fishing spot, one of the lakes just on the edge of town, was still covered in ice so I decided to hike along the shore for a while, take some pictures and enjoy the scenery. I sauntered along, taking photos and enjoying the weather, the quiet and the solitude. The sky clouded over and a nice breeze picked up, the weather was perfect and I stayed for a few hours, listening to the birds and watching the ice rot. Eventually I get hungry and headed home for supper.

There really wasn't much appealing to eat so I decided to go get groceries.  I grabbed what was on my list and a few other items and headed back home. I finally ended up eating leftovers, as my dinner plans were spoiled by the ferry still not being in*  Disappointed and more than a little frustrated that I couldn't get a burger and a vanilla milkshake I decided that since it was still warm and light out I would try out my new bike seat. I thought it would be the perfect time to ride downtown and figure out how much time it will take me to get to work.   
*Goods can't be trucked into the city during break up and freeze up as there is no bridge over the Mackenzie river. In the spring the river has to melt an the water has to be high enough for the ferry to be able to cary freight across and in the fall the river has to freeze enough for the ice road to be strong enough to support the weight of the tractor trailers. This can last up to 6+ weeks twice a year.

 I left the house at 9:45pm. I rode towards the trail that runs along the lake that is in the middle of town as there is a short cut of sorts that basically will deliver you smack into the downtown core.  I was pretty happy since it takes me at least that long to drive downtown and with no parking at work and gas at 1.39/l (x4=per gallon) I figured it wouldn't hurt me to ride my bike to work during the summer. The trail is paved with little boardwalk bridges over the swampy bits and the views of the lake are really beautiful. I checked my watch and it took me only 15 minutes to get there so I thought if the trail was this nice I would just ride it all the way around the lake and back home.

I rode past city hall and past the museum and the legislature and continued on the now gravel path into the trees. I was amazed at how green things were and how tall the trees seemed. There was a patch of rock that I had to hike over with my bike in tow but thought, eh, the trail will get better soon. And then there was more rock. And then some more. And that was when I noticed that my back tire was losing air. Not so fast that it was totally flat but I was hoping like hell that I would make it home (or at least out of the bush) before it totally smushed.

So now I was hiking through the trees over the rocks with my bike. The trail isn't that long so I wasn't really worried about it. I knew it would be light out for at least another hour so I didn't panic. The trail finally came into view and I rode up a small dirt hill to the top where the phrase "oh shit" popped into my head. The trail was completely covered with water. And when I say trail, I'm not talking paved trail, I'm talking the trees were knocked out of the way....mostly, to make a path across the rocks. So I detoured a bit around the water and back onto the drier portion of the trail. I pedalled through some squishy grass and some moderately deep puddles and then the small swampy lake of groundwater appeared. I'm pretty sure I heard a squirrel laugh.

Now at this point I'm going to say that if I was still being ruled by estrogen it is likely that I would have sat down some place (dry) and cried but testosterone has an interesting side effect. I call it the "Oh, really? Watch this" effect. I'm sure you've seen it, maybe it's even happened to you a couple of times. Someone says, You can't do that, or I bet you won't..., or something to that effect and then the testosterone effect kicks in and you say: "Oh really? Watch this." Well that's exactly what I said to that swamp. My shoes, and my jeans from the knees down however, fell victim to my flat tire and the testosterone effect. I tried biking through it but eventually the flat tire and the eight inches of mud under a foot of water got the best of us and I had to step off the pedal and into the quagmire. And so I walked (dragged?) my bike through the swamp and the mud until we came to rest in a dry spot at the bottom of a steep rock-covered hill. I had lost sight of the trail markers and decided that up the hill was the best option if for no other reason than to figure out where the hell I was.

By this time I was getting pretty tired having basically packed my bike through the bush and swamp and muck for about 40 minutes. At the top of the hill I realized that I had taken the "easy" path through the bush instead of over the rocks but I would now exit over by the airport road and not by the hospital which I had intended. At the top of the hill I found the dirt path that led to the road but realized I hadn't tightened my seat enough and it had been jarred loose by all the hiking. But with wet pants and shoes, a flat tire and wobbly seat I finally biked the last 2 km home.

Tomorrow I think I will stay home, patch my tire and make art. I don't care how nice it's supposed to be!

5.08.2011

Transexual Male Privilege

Male privilege. I am not exactly sure what this is but on a couple other sites I visit regularly there sure seems to be a lot of talk about it. I'm not sure what the privileges are that I have been missing but so far as transitioning is concerned I haven't noticed any sociological "perks", in fact where I live being a white male doesn't offer much. Affirmative action has classified all people into four categories and white men who weren't born in this province  are very last on the list.  I haven't had a increase in salary over the women in my office, I don't get any extra vacation days, or more health care.

I do recognize that there are places that men appear to have a certain "privilege" but it seems to me that this privilege is shared amongst them in groups such as country clubs, golf courses, business conventions, sports arenas, and politics. I am not interested in any of those places so perhaps I may never acquire this "privilege" or feel like I am being missing out on some sort of real or imagined status. 

It is interesting to view the ides of gender from both sides of the binary and as I slip quietly from one side of the spectrum to the other I find that the whole idea of sex linked gender inane. The attempt to keep gender separated by sex is like trying to keep milk separate from coffee when it's in the same cup.

While trying to figure out what this "male privilege" might include I discovered that there is quite a movement to debunk the myth of male privilege and suggest that women are more likely to benefit from their gender within society than men are. They offer some pretty valid arguments and I would be curious to know how it is perceived by transgendered and transsexual individuals. Since this notion of privilege is tied directly to gender I am interested to see if a transsexual perceives a loss or gain in privilege and if this acquisition of power and status is linked to the success of one's gender presentation.

The only privilege I have that I didn't before is feeling comfortable and normal in my own body. I enjoy the "privilege" of having strangers call me sir, using the male pronouns: he, him, his and walking around feeling like a normal guy.