2.29.2012

Semantic Scribbling

I have been working on a document at work that basically is the sexual education curriculum for the entire province and I've had the opportunity to do a little behind the scenes education on the topic of gender identity. There is a LOT of information available about transgender identity disorder, transgender "lifestyle", gender expression and what have you. Unfortunately not all of it is accurate or applicable or relevant or correct  for that matter. Much like that age old game of telephone someone somewhere screws up the message and that error is copied and carried over again and again until it somehow becomes fact.

I was impressed by the clients willingness to learn and include the correct information even though I think there is a little further to go I was pleasantly surprised by the reception to my suggestions on how to improve the content. Lucky for some trans kid out there now or in the future who will actually be able to get his or her hands on the correct information.

I was a little surprised by the misconceptions and misunderstandings contained in what has been a thoroughly researched document and I wonder if it is not unlike the era not so long ago when HIV and AIDS "education" was still full of misinformation and speculation as we learned more and more about the disease and its pathology. I suppose the same holds true for notions of gender and in some respects sexual orientation since when discussing these two things together things seem to get muddier instead of clearer.

When I had my intake meeting at the psychiatrist to confirm a GID diagnosis, I was given a package that described in detail variations of gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation. I quickly came to understand that gender and sexual orientation are tied to physical markers of male and female biology. The problem lies in the fact that presentation of a thing doesn't necessarily make it that thing. OK what the hell am I talking about: the use of the words heterosexual or homosexual to describe a transgender person's sexual orientation is inadequate because it only serves to bring attention once more to their body in relation to their desire.

If a married MTF person decides to transition (assuming her cisgender wife stays with her) her sexual orientation does not change. She is still attracted to her wife just as she was when she had to exist in the body of a man. Once she transitions and is read as female by others  however she will be labelled a lesbian and "suddenly" become a homosexual. Do you see how ridiculous this is? Not to mention that somehow her partner has now also become a lesbian by this definition.

Let's make this even more complicated. A cisgendered butch lesbian is out an a date with her cisgender femme partner. To many people they will both appear to be straight but again this is based entirely on the perspective of the viewer, not on the reality of the sexual orientation of either woman.

I'm not suggesting there aren't other sexualities just that these particular terms: homosexual, gay, lesbian and straight tie the idea of sexual orientation to the body and as we all know we are more than just a body. Pansexual, bisexual, omnisexual, whatever other terms all work equally as well to eliminate the body from orientation.

Trying to explain the nuances of gay and straight and how they relate or don't relate to gender identity makes things difficult yes. There is a simple solution that finally made it off the dispute page and onto Wikipedia. The words are androphilic and gynephilic. Androphilic describes a person who is attracted to men. Gynephilic describes a person who is attracted to women. Neither word implies a biological sex, or gender identity. What exactly is a homosexual transgender? without modifying it with a word like "man" or "female" those two words together don't really tell you anything.

My androphilic trans friend who is currently going through his transition is becoming visibly queer. This doesn't make him gay it makes him appear gay to others– his sexual orientation hasn't changed because he cut his hair short and changed his name, nor because he started hormones. He only appears gay because of how his body is perceived.

I'm pretty sure I have now outed myself to the entire office having had the educational gender discussion pretty much in front of the entire art department but honestly I feel ok about that. It felt good to be able to educate a few people and have them be receptive to actually learning. I know how lost I felt (and still do sometimes) without anyone around to talk to and I can't imagine what that might be like for a teenager. Finally getting my confidence back makes me think I might like to have a little more active participation in teaching people about gender identity.

This isn't difficult. It's not theoretical physics. WE can educate ourselves and our peers so that we can hang onto all the identities out there who just don't fit neatly into little boxes. I'm a gynephilic kinda guy who still identifies as queer....figure that one out! So just like learning to program a VCR (back in the day), or how to use a Mac, we CAN do it. It just takes a little effort.

2.27.2012

Chest Surgery Update

my dog ears aren't this cute
It's been 8 months since I had top surgery and I haven't posted much about what's been going on for the last three months mostly because there hasn't been much to post about. I've been talking to my doctor about getting revisions to fix the dog ears under my arms and he has been awesome so at the moment here is what's been going on:

I called the surgeon's office and asked about getting a consult for revisions via email. When I heard back, the result was a little disappointing but not really unexpected. Of course there was no way that I was going to pay more for the revision out of my own pocket than what the province paid for me to have the entire surgery in a hospital with anaesthetic and the works. apparently there is a scale for what constitutes revision and cosmetic. I suppose if I had breast cancer and needed a new boob or wanted the dog ear fixed I'd be "allowed" but as it stands now I am only cosmetically disfigured? or perhaps my results are satisfactory on a scale of aesthetics (provided they aren't on anyone else's body but mine). Go figure.

Like I said before I have the most amazing family doctor EVER and he has lined up a referral to a general surgeon here in town who should be able to snip off the extra skin and sew up the two little flaps and splish splash I'll be back in my kayak in just a few days instead of weeks. I have the appointment in just a few short weeks from now so will keep mu fingers crossed that the surgeon is willing and able to repair the pooches under my arms.

So till then it'll be sweaters and my parka which is probably a good thing since the temperature is still hovering around -20C!

2.10.2012

Chick Flicks and the Altered Male

The good old days of being able to put on a sappy movie and have a good cry are over. It's true men will never understand why women watch so-called chick flicks, or even what it means to have or need "a good cry". The reason women don't understand why men just don't get "it" is because women don't have testosterone. Now I would be really interested to hear from my trans sisters who have opted in favour of the big E and given up their testosterone to find out if they now "get it".

I've had a couple of really depressing and frustrating days and I am not yet used to the new emotional framework I have going for me here. On one hand I have socialization telling me men don't cry and on the other I have the experience of living life as a woman for 34 years. Before I began my transition I experienced life as a series of catastrophes and jubilations. I had a severe hormone cycle that rivaled bipolar disorder. I experienced migraines in high school most likely as a result of an undiagnosed hormone imbalance and heap a bunch of long running family issues on top of that and you are looking at a recipe for disaster.

I felt so out of balance and so out of whack most of the time, but the worst part was feeling out of control. Not knowing how to or being able to control my emotions was very difficult and unfortunately I alienated many people in my life. Once I started Testosterone I found that I suddenly felt I like I had control over my emotions. I could actually make a decision based on facts and reason and NOT be swayed by emotions like guilt someone else's manipulation. I started to say no when I didn't want to do things. I found myself asking for what I wanted and not being suddenly overcome by tidal waves of emotion. I have more patience. I am less irritable and more likely to be able to sit in the same room as someone who drives me crazy and just let them be. I find I am more stable, more steady and feel better prepared to deal with any surprises good or bad that might come my way. I am finally the captain of my own vessel.

Life has leveled out. Testosterone has done many great things for me and I can't imagine being without it ever again....(although the Testosterone shortage at the moment has me a bit apprehensive). It is as if my body has been missing an essential ingredient up to this point and now finally my life is re-balancing itself. There is one thing though....sometimes I do want to watch 13 going on 30 or Sweet Home Alabama and eat a tub of peanut butter chocolate ice cream. But now, thanks to T, it isn't really an option since crying isn't really something I do much anymore. And when I need to as I've learned....I can't. How do you like that.

I'm stuck now kind of, not able to cry when I feel like I need to and yet thankfully I know I still can (thanks to a few manipulative commercials I saw over the Christmas holiday). What I'm not sure of is how I am going to deal with feeling crappy and not having access to my usual go-to coping mechanism. Please don't tell me physical exercise because seriously, no one enjoys running at -35C. And no, the gym is not an option for me as I'm not prepared to share locker room space with strangers. I know I could probably do some sort of fitness right here but frankly I am just too damn lazy for that. Fishing, sure, kayaking yes, hiking for sure but running up and down the stairs to break a sweat? I'll pass.

So while I try to figure out what might make me feel better besides some temperatures above zero and a little more sunshine, I think I'll stick to the vitamin D supplements and drawing. A little Iron Chef Japan never hurt either.....unless you are what's for dinner!