“There is something star-crossed about trans couples sometimes,” Boyd says when I meet up with her a few days later. “I was very much in love with my husband, and I will always miss being married to that person. The thing that helped me around it a little bit was realizing I was never married to him, I was married to somebody who looked like him and who I could project all that himness onto, but when I go back and look at our wedding photos, it’s like, ‘She was making such a valiant effort to look like a man, like a groom.’ I never married a guy, I married a woman.” – Helen Boyd
I was interviewed for an article titled “My Husband Is Now My Wife” for New York magazine recently, and while the online version isn’t up yet, the issue is out.
So if you’ve shown up here as a result of it, some info:
Ever After, the third that I’m currently writing, I haven’t sold yet, and am still seeking an agent & publisher for it.
Please feel free to search this site for whatever resources you’re seeking: this blog is more than a decade old and it there’s a lot to find, but here are the basics:
- our message boards (the mHB forums)
- the private partners list I run and moderate
- my letter to a wife who just found out
There’s a recent interview with me in Salon, Dan Savage’s podcast where he asked me about how often crossdressers transition, and of course, feel free to contact me (email@example.com) if you have a question.
I’ve removed any and all ads that were on this site with some hope that that might get me through some of the more porn-sensitive “net nannys” and filter systems used. I regularly hear from readers that they can’t access this blog when they’re at Panera or the local hospital or at work, so I thought I’d give this a shot.
I was never very good at figuring out how to get Google Ads to filter their content and which ads wound up on my site and frankly, it was never worth very much anyway, especially not since FB when people stopped coming to the actual blog to read my stuff. I’m not sure if people realize how much ad revenue went down even for tiny blogs like mine as a result of FB, but it did.
Anyway, if you’re a regular reader or user of the MHB boards, I do always appreciate donations to cover the cost of hosting and the like.
If you haven’t yet taken NCTE’s current trans survey, get to it! It will close on Monday, 9/21, & it’s important they hear all your voices.
By *all*, I mean especially those who tend not to do online surveys or who are otherwise often cut out by mainstream trans representation:
- those who have stayed married
- crossdressers who identify as trans*
- genderqueer individuals
- older trans people
- trans people of color
Please, folks, this is your chance to get counted. If you tried before and it didn’t work, do try again: they’ve got a fitter system in place.
Because I’ll be teaching him Tuesday, I thought I’d share this piece by Douglass on why he was for women’s suffrage:
“At this distance of time from that convention at Rochester, and in view of the present position of the question, it is hard to realize the moral courage it required to launch this unwelcome movement. Any man can be brave when the danger is over, go to the front when there is no resistance, rejoice when the battle is fought and the victory is won; but it is not so easy to venture upon a field untried with one-half the whole world against you, as these women did.
Then who were we, for I count myself in, who did this thing? We were few in numbers, moderate in resources, and very little known in the world. The most that we had to commend us was a firm conviction that we were in the right, and a firm faith that the right must ultimately prevail. But the case was well considered. Let no man imagine that the step was taken recklessly and thoughtlessly. Mrs. Stanton had dwelt upon it at least six years before she declared it in the Rochester convention. Walking with her from the house of Joseph and Thankful Southwick, two of the noblest people I ever knew, Mrs. Stanton, with an earnestness that I shall never forget, unfolded her view on this woman question precisely as she had in this Council. This was six and forty years ago, and it was not until six years after, that she ventured to make her formal, pronounced and startling demand for the ballot. She had, as I have said, considered well, and knew something of what would be the cost of the reform she was inaugurating. She knew the ridicule, the rivalry, the criticism and the bitter aspersions which she and her co-laborers would have to meet and to endure. But she saw more clearly than most of us that the vital point to be made prominent, and the one that included all others, was the ballot, and she bravely said the word. It was not only necessary to break the silence of woman and make her voice heard, but she must have a clear, palpable and comprehensive measure set before her, one worthy of her highest ambition and her best exertions, and hence the ballot was brought to the front.
There are few facts in my humble history to which I look back with more satisfaction than to the fact, recorded in the history of the woman-suffrage movement, that I was sufficiently enlightened at that early day, and when only a few years from slavery, to support your resolution for woman suffrage. I have done very little in this world in which to glory except this one act—and I certainly glory in that. When I ran away form slavery, it was for myself; when I advocated emancipation, it was for my people; but when I stood up for the rights of woman, self was out of the question, and I found a little nobility in the act.”
It’s that bit at the end, which I’ve cited before, which is the best argument for being an inclusive social justice ally – a little nobility is where it’s at.
Today, on September 10th, people around the world will take action to raise awareness as part of World Suicide Prevention Day. At The Trevor Project, we fight this fight 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The statistics are staggering: the risk of suicide for lesbian, gay, bisexual, or questioning youth is three to four times higher than their straight peers. Even more heartbreaking, the risk of suicide for transgender youth is even higher.
With your support, we can help prevent suicide. This past year, we reached nearly 200,000 youth through our crisis intervention and suicide prevention services. Our amazing staff and volunteers worked hard to answer more calls on our Trevor Lifeline, take more chats and text messages on TrevorChat and TrevorText, and support more members on TrevorSpace, our safe social media platform for LGBTQ youth and allies. So today, thanks to their efforts and supporters like you, more LGBTQ youth than ever before were able to turn to The Trevor Project—even in their darkest moments.
We are so proud to be making this impact, but our fight is far from over. Last year, the demand for our services was higher than we could meet. So, starting this year, in response to increased demand for our digital services, we are launching important new initiatives to help bolster our prevention efforts. These initiatives include the expansion of hours for TrevorText, the introduction of a critical suicide prevention research effort, and the launch of a more interactive and mobile-friendly version of TrevorSpace.
Take action today, on World Suicide Prevention Day, and help us keep this important work moving forward. Please advocate and raise awareness about our efforts, educate your community about the challenges LGBTQ youth face, or help provide crisis services through volunteering with The Trevor Project. Most importantly, so that we can continue the life-saving work that we do, please donate to The Trevor Project and consider making a regular contribution through one of our monthly or annual giving programs. We rely on you, our supporters, to directly impact our LGBTQ youth, their educators, parents, friends, and allies.
Help save even more LGBTQ lives on World Suicide Prevention Day.
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth. For more information visit TheTrevorProject.org
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call the Trevor Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386
I first met Kristy after she had been working for a month at one of my El Pollo Loco restaurants in Thousand Oaks, California. Kristy is a tall dark haired Latina, transwoman in her late twenties. While observing her, the first thing I noticed was a caring and good natured attitude with our customers. She was our first transgender employee and I was anxious to meet her. The manager who hired her put her front and center at the cash register, which is where she belongs. She is great with customers. As we got to know each other she told me the story of what had happened at a previous job with Taco Bell. Kristy had worked at a Taco Bell in the Ventura County area. Though she clearly identified as a woman, the manager told her she must use the men’s bathroom. While using the bathroom one day, she was sexually molested by a customer. Her employer’s response was to tell her, she could use the women’s room but only when no other women are inside. One time, while using the women’s restroom, a female customer entered after Kristy was inside. This customer complained to her husband about a man dressed as a woman in the ladies room. Her husband pressured store management into firing Kristy. Unfortunately, her story is not unique. I have heard so many stories just like hers from other transwomen.
The basic need for any transgender person to get a foothold in this world is to have a decent job. Today transwomen are more than twice as likely to be living in poverty. There are considerable barriers both social and legal to obtaining a job as well as to transition while on the job. More than 3 of 5 transgender persons work in states that have no protection for gender identity in the workplace. Based on six studies done between 1996 and 2006, 20 to 57 percent of transgender respondents said they experience employment discrimination, including being fired, denied a promotion or harassed. Though even more difficult to measure, transgender people also face considerable barriers in the job application process. Even in California, which has laws in place against gender discrimination in the workplace, transgender workers are often treated at best as second class citizens.
In Kristy’s situation, over a year had gone by and it was past the statute to file a lawsuit. I was disappointed. I wanted Kristy to have justice. We also need high profile lawsuits to let employers know there will be severe punishment for gender discrimination in the workplace. In the end though, it is possible that the transgender success stories told by employers, will bring about the greatest change. Kristy has done extremely well with us. Our customers adore her. Today she is the general manager of our busiest restaurant and I could not be more proud of her. In fact the restaurant she manages is ranked number two our of over 400 units in the El Pollo Loco chain for quality and customer service. We are now at six trans-employees and growing. Two others have made it into management. I am quite certain there will more success stories to follow.
I have to admit first that I don’t like musicals. Never have. I don’t understand them as a genre or as a medium.
But of course Fun Home the book has a special place in my heart – I’ll be doing a lecture for all the first-year students on the novel in early November – so I really had to see it.
Two things stuck out to me: her father was played by a heavier set, frumpier kind of guy than I thought was accurate. None of her drawings of her father struck me that way – instead, I saw a slender, muscular guy who was still in the prime of his life, even if he was (of course) closeted and a jerk of a dad. I felt like the choice disappeared his sexuality more than it might have. That said, he was still fantastic – amazing actor, singer, everything else. But I wanted to see the guy in the very 70s cut-off denim shorts; it strikes me that his story is very different otherwise.
The song I expected to make me cry – “Ring of Keys” – was not the one that did. It was “Telephone Wire” that got me – that desire to connect with him, that knowledge that she both does, and doesn’t. Or does as much as is possible, considering him.
What was really remarkable was the presence of Bechdel-the-artist onstage the whole time. As much as her voice and her text are part of the book, you’re very rarely aware of her presence otherwise, or made aware of it, and that in the musical she is always onstage, always watching her own memories unfold, occasionally commenting on them (physically or verbally) made it, in a sense, a play about the artist creating the book. The book has that in it, but it brought that post-modern quality to the front in a very direct, very accessible way.
What was lost – a big loss for me – were all the literary references, the drawings of the places, the books and their visible titles, the queer literary history. I don’t think there’s a mention of either Proust or Wilde, and no, I have no idea how they might have pulled that off, but it disappointed this geek a little.
Still, as per Playbill, Lisa Kron says: “There’s a deep river of yearning that flows through Alison’s book that made it ripe for translation into the musical form. This is a family that is profoundly alienated from their own powerful emotions. But because music is such an efficient emotional delivery system, we could it it to convey the oceans of feeling swirling below the surface of this checked-out family at the same time the dialogue and lyrics are showing us how little access they have to any of that feeling.”
And THAT, it does, and does amazingly well.
What an awesome little excerpt from my friend and author Zoe Dolan’s book about what it’s like to date as a trans woman. Probably NSFW, and not for the faint hearted.
Once I was living as female, but before sex change surgery, my dreams were bounded by what I came to identify as the Cinderella Syndrome. I loved to go dancing, since on the dancefloor I could sink into the beat and movement around me. Men would come and go, drifting toward me and away, and sometimes closer and closer until we were dancing with our hips together. I felt the heat of their breaths upon my skin and the beads of sweat on the back of their necks as I ran my hands along their spines and floated up into a kiss.
But I always dreaded what I sought most: a moment of intimacy. At that point my coach would turn back into a pumpkin and my gown would disappear in an instant.
When I was studying abroad in Leiden, Holland, during law school, I met a handsome Italian whom I’ll call Adriano. At a get-together with other students, he stared across the room at me the whole evening. I tried to ignore what was happening, to no avail. I could not sustain conversation with whomever I was talking to. After a few minutes I got up to leave; but he intercepted me. The next thing I knew, I was in a conversation with him, trying to catch the breath he was taking away.
Adriano was tall and broad-shouldered, with curly dark brown hair and clear golden brown eyes. He spoke fluent English with a slight Italian accent. He had recently decided on law as an undergraduate major. He had the opportunity to come check out the Netherlands and thought he’d take the adventure north to broaden his mind. Basically, he was perfect. Continue Reading
In order to celebrate the birthday of Leslie Feinberg on this day 1st September, a free .pdf of their most celebrated book Stone Butch Blues is being made available free of charge to whoever wishes to access it. Now a very popular text on many gender and sexualities courses, Leslie’s partner – Professor Minnie Bruce Platt – wants to make the book freely available.
In life, Leslie was an activist and advocate for the rights of LGBTQ people. Their communist values and their belief in open and free access to information are celebrated with the launch of this free eBook.
(via Sinclair Sexsmith, the ever awesome)
Recently I blogged about some of the challenges that trans people who live out here in Hollywood, a.k.a. America’s Liberal Dream Factory, face when it comes to health care.
Let me underline exactly what those challenges mean. First, let’s look at the big, broad, macro level of Hollywood optics. I’ll use two celebrity examples; let’s make it clear that since I know nothing of their own health care needs or realities, the “examples” are purely hypothetical.
Eddie Redmayne is a talented actor who will appear in the film The Danish Girl as Lili Elbe, one of the modern world’s first transsexual women. Mr. Redmayne is, as far as I know, a cisgender (meaning non-trans) man. If the film was made under Hollywood-based Screen Actors Guild agreements, Mr. Redmayne would most likely qualify for the Motion Picture Health Plan. So we have a cisgender man playing a transsexual woman in a big-budget blockbuster movie who qualifies for his male-oriented health care because…well…he’s human, and a man.
Laverne Cox is an award-winning actress who has appeared on Orange is the New Black, and is an outspoken, eloquent advocate for rights of trans people. Let’s say she made a film, or worked on a T.V. series under the Hollywood SAG agreement and had enough hours to qualify for health care. She might qualify, but the plan would still be able to refuse her trans-specific health care, in spite of her humanity and legal status as a woman.
Not being an idiot, I don’t think that’s likely to happen, and really, Ms. Cox’s health care is none of my damn business. But let’s make a theoretical comparison to Mr. Redmayne; Laverne would be a trans woman playing a part (trans or not) in a movie or series with contracts that include coverage under the same plan, but whether she gets trans-specific health care is completely up to the administrators of the plan. If the administrators decide that her care was part of that two-word exception “gender change”, they would be within their rights to refuse her.
Mr. Redmayne, playing a trans woman: no problem. Ms. Cox, a real trans woman: we’ll get back to you. Continue Reading
I read a beautiful piece by Kai Cheng Thom over at XO Jane where the author starts by stating:
When I was 19, I read an article in Guernica magazine stating that the average life span of a transgender person is 23 years old. The article confirmed what I had already known for about a decade: I was doomed to a nasty, short, and miserable life. I was going to be poor, maybe homeless, definitely unemployable. I was going to be subjected to emotional and sexual violence (and in fact, I already had been), and then I was going to die, probably brutally murdered. They would print the wrong name on my grave. You know, the good old transgender story.
Kai Cheng Thom is right. It has become too much of the standard narrative of transness, and, as I pointed out years go, the focus on death in this community – especially as an outreach tool directed at cisgender people – has always bothered me. When I saw this piece, I realized this is too important not to mention.
We’re Scaring Ourselves to Death, by Loree Cook Daniels
In 1994, anti-gay crusader Paul Cameron published a paper claiming that the average life expectancy of gay men was 43, a full 30 years less than the national average life expectancy of U.S. men. He argued the life expectancy disparity was evidence of how unhealthy the gay lifestyle is. (A much-less quoted statistic from the same paper found that lesbians were 487 times more likely to die of murder, suicide, or accidents than straight women.) The statistic spread like wildfire, and was even repeated publicly by top government officials. It very well may have slowed progress toward LGBT equality.
I think of that history and cringe every time my Facebook newsfeed repeats the new “statistic” that the average lifespan for trans women of color (or Black transwomen, depending on the source) is 35. Not only is the statistic false, but it can be fatally dangerous. The difference is, this time we’re doing the damage to ourselves.
There is not and never has been a comprehensive list of people in the U.S. who are gay and/or trans. As far as I know, there are not and never have been any nationally representative studies following all gay men and/or all trans people from birth to death to determine the timing and cause of every death. Given those facts, where are these “statistics” on life expectancy coming from?
In Cameron’s case, the stats came from gay community newspapers’ obituaries. These obituaries – particularly in 1994, at the height of the AIDS epidemic – were of known/out LGBT people who some other (usually) LGBT person had reported to the newspaper. Given the ageism of the LGBT community – younger activists often have little or no contact with old LGBT people – and the fact that older generations are still less likely to be out, very few of these obituaries mentioned the deaths of old people. So the deaths that were listed tended to be of young and middle-aged people, resulting in a very low average life expectancy.
When I first heard the 35 years old life expectancy figure, I asked the person who offered it where it came from. She told me she had heard it at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. When I inquired further, she said it came from someone who had averaged all the ages of everyone listed on the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) website. This site lists people who are believed to have been murdered. Although any murder is horrible, the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of us – including transwomen of color — die of something other than murder: heart disease, cancer, dementia, accidents, etc. Scientists who have done long-term follow-up of known transgender people have not found that we are more likely to die young.
Murder, on the other hand, is mostly a young people’s phenomena. In the U.S., the average age at which all murders take place is in the 30s, exactly in line with the average age of trans people who are murdered.
Why does this matter? Because we are scaring ourselves to death. I can’t count how many times my Facebook feed has included responses like, “I feel hopeless” or “I feel suicidal” from someone reacting to the 35-year “statistic” or the seemingly endless repetition of the details of every single trans death that has been identified this year. Again, the murders are horrible. But scaring each other into feeling hopeless is not helpful. Most of us will live a long time, and we need to have hope to heal our past traumas, invest in our future, and have enough energy to help each other through the rough spots. We can ask for our allies’ help without using tactics that harm the very people we’re trying to help?
The SCOTUS ruling on same sex marriage is huge because people can finally marry yay! but there are so many other innumerable things. Today I went to get a new passport and they ask for the name of your spouse. Before the ruling, because we are both legally female and our marriage was only legal through loophole, I don’t know what would have happened or what the correct thing to do would have been: naming her could have been seen as fraud, and not naming her might have been, too. That was the weird place we were in before. Would they have rejected my application? Would the county clerk get twitchy? Maybe I would have had to go home and get our marriage certificate (proving we’re married) and her name change papers (proving she was the man I married).
What was nice today is that I just filled it out.
Someday someone will fill it out and not even think about it afterwards.
No matter what hypocrites get exposed (Josh Duggar, & there will no doubt be others from the “family values” crowd), I just can’t enjoy the mass doxing that is the Ashley Madison hacking.
Maybe I work too much with couples in long term relationships who are trying to work out all kinds of things in the face of crossdressing and transition and identity and I know how complex and conflicting decisions made within a long term relationship can be.
Maybe it’s because when I read this advice I notice an incredible lack of empathy for a man who is mourning someone he loved, and who he obviously loved deeply.
Maybe it’s because I’ve had to stand down criticism and ostracism for becoming non monogamous myself. Maybe it’s because as someone who’s been practicing ethical non monogamy for a few years now, I’m amazed at how difficult it is for people to make a distinction between cheating and becoming non monogamous with the full consent and acceptance of your spouse. Maybe it’s because I’ve been on the wrong end of that puritanical glee that’s going around.
Maybe it’s because of the Brave New World this mass doxing implies.
Maybe it’s because men tell me about their lives, and like Rachel Kramer Bussell, I never met a married guy on Ashley Madison or OK Cupid who didn’t make me sad (but not so sad I had anything to do with them). I met men married to lesbians who had a great life and great marriage but no sex. I met men who were trying to keep it together for the children. I met men who had made their kids their top priority post divorce who didn’t want another relationship, who were broken and exhausted by a previous one. I met closeted lesbians married to men who couldn’t come out because of work but wanted a woman in their life who didn’t require a relationship.
I often wondered if, as a culture, we should have a day when people didn’t have to honor their commitments and could, instead, find some measure of what they were seeking, a kind of bacchanal escape valve. I’ve often wondered if we didn’t spend so much time judging other people if we might try to understand the kinds of pain that people try to salve with sex.
So I can’t share the popcorn or the schadenfreude, because in not so long marriages will be ending because of this, and maybe a lot of those marriages were ones that should have ended long ago. But others would have gone unharmed by a spouse’s ignorance, as Dan Savage points out. I just hope spouses who suspect their partners remember a few things: (1) if your spouse isn’t on the list, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, (2) that just because s/he is, doesn’t mean it did, and (3) make sure that you really really really want to know. What I hope, instead of this sleuthing, is that the people who did sign up admit to it so that they might start to have a conversation about what it was they were missing, about what they hoped to gain, and that maybe, just maybe, they might figure out a sane way to call it quits or to rebuild.
More soon. Right now, though, I’m feeling a little heartbroken by humanity and by the glee other people are taking in others’ misfortune. If this mass doxing only effected the raging hypocrites out there, it would be one thing, but it won’t. Even if it does expose the dogs and serial cheaters, it’s going to cause so much hurt in so many ways for so many people doing their imperfect best to be happy
A friend who prefers to be anon wrote this on FB a few days ago, and I thought it was important. In the midst of all the ooh la la about I Am Cait – which is doing some good, I think – there are a lot of people having conversations about transness more openly, and for those of us who are trans or who are partners to trans people – we get to hear a lot of them second-hand.
And a lot of what people say can hurt, and I’m sure a lot of us are reeling with this kind of stuff, so to say: you are not alone. Take care of yourself.
Conversation overhead at the next desk over (& some thoughts):
Person 1: Caitlyn Jenner, you know, I can get him wanting to be a woman…
Person 2: I always thought he looked like a woman.
Person 3: He is super feminine, too.
Person 1: Right?! I can see him dressing like a woman, but I don’t get wanting to keep dating women.
Person 3: Yeah, that doesn’t make any sense to me. Why become a woman if you’re still going to be attracted to women?
Person 2: As long as he still has his you-know-what, I guess? But then…
The conversation continued for a while; these are three folks in a different office who are always very friendly to me. This brief instance illustrates some experiences that trans people know too well and that I am often both privy to and shielded from (until/unless I disclose) because of what I look like. (I often find myself in situations where the cis people talking have no idea I’m trans and expect me to agree with them or validate them – and it always makes me wonder if they would have started talking to/with/around me at all if they “knew”):
1. Cisgender people of all stripes (this includes, sadly, many cis folks who aim/claim to be allies) feel authorized to scrutinize and weigh in on trans peoples’ narratives and bodies, and to describe trans people however they (cis people) please. In this convo, eg, using the pronoun “he” despite talking about someone – Caitlyn – who identifies as a woman, & framing Jenner’s femininity as fascinating or worthy of note (show me any woman ever on the cover of Vanity Fair who wasn’t femmed up? why is Caitlyn’s femininity more interesting than cis femininity? <– there is a long, pathologizing history of this vis a vis trans women). The implications of this Cisgender Commentary are more extreme for some trans people than others; but I can attest that this impacts all of us to some degree.
2. There are still many widespread misunderstandings and assumptions about gender / embodiment / sexuality and the relationship among the three. There is something many cisgender people find truly mind-blowing about those of us who are or have been fluid across boundaries of gender & sexuality (in all directions). These misunderstandings and confusions are often directed at or expressed about TGNC individuals (trans & gender non-conforming) in the form of anxiety. TGNC people become, really, used by straight, cis people to help them wrap their minds around the complexity of ALL of our genders and sexualities – and then we are tossed aside (still seen as the *real* misfits) once the cis person has figured out what they wanted/needed to know or discover about themselves. This happens more often, and more intensely and with higher stakes, to some trans people than others.
3. Personal note: I have become remarkably (eerily!) desensitized to everyday gender assumptions, body policing, and trans-related microaggressions – or at least to my own emotional response to them. It wasn’t until writing this down that I realized how many emotions I was just tamping down. We are saturated with gender; our society is truly obsessed with it. If I were to record every single gender-related instant over the course of the day, between bathroom selection and “sir”s and “he”s/”she”s and gendered jokes and locker rooms and how others interact with me and haircuts, the number would be extremely high. So, like many folks with gender non-conforming experience (though we experience these issues to varying degrees and in various contexts), instead of waiting for the world to change to be more inclusive of TGNC people I’ve adapted to try my best not to let these constant reminders alienate me.
My wife commented: I feel like I’m so encased in protective carbonite at this point, I barely hear the dog-whistles, the micro-agressions, the idiocy, the ignorance, and sometimes the hate.
Don’t get me wrong, I pass (still) and that makes a huge difference (mostly). I know it shields me. But as trans-issues become brighter under the media spotlight and I see people I know on TV and hear people talk earnestly about it (mostly in ignorance but I’ll take the earnestness)… I just want to put another layer of carbonite on.
I can’t be the only person who transitioned years and years ago who thinks this, right?
And I added: I realized people wanted to ask me (often wildly inappropriate) questions, which is kind of how I became who I am. Because I never wanted, still don’t want, any earnest-but-otherwise-good-but clueless cis person to ask them if they’re sure they’re not crazy, about their genitals, to comment on how they might pass better, or the rest. I love you all. It’s been a rough couple of months, & while I want to believe Cait has started a conversation, the blowback feels pretty menacing right now.
So how are you, my lovely readers, dealing with all of this?
I’ve put Ashley Altadonna’s writing on this blog before and this piece, in particular, is so amazing. It’s also so great to hear from trans women and men 10 or more years post transition; so often trans community is made up of people who are about to transition, transitioning, or only have recently, so getting some perspective from those who are further along the road and deeper into their lives post transition is particularly useful, and Ashley is particularly heartfelt.
Congratulations on reaching this next step in your gender journey! I am so proud of you! I wanted to give you a little heads up on what’s coming your way over the next decade. You never quite made it to Eagle Scout, but you know, ”Always be prepared.”
You are going to love and hurt and laugh and cry more than you ever imagined you were capable of. For the first few weeks, maybe even months you’ll feel sort of like an imposter, like everyday is Halloween and you’re the only one dressed up. It’s sort of exciting getting to be a whole new person but eventually that feeling will fade and you’ll just be you again, only the real you this time.
Lady friends will give you a ton of clothing and make-up advice early on. In fact, most of your friends will take your transition amazingly well, except for one from high school, who after hanging out with you twice as Ashley, will stop talking to you completely, and you’ll never really know why. That other friend, the one who told you that you’d be a social outcast and that people would throw bricks through your windows…he’ll come out as gay six years later.
Your family is very supportive. Even your 78 year-old Grandma tells you she loves you no matter what. True, your father has some difficulties with your new gender at first. He’ll be nervous about you meeting his side of the family, which in turn makes you nervous. When you finally do, it’s fine. Your cousin will tell you she cried for the boy you used to be. You will tell her you envied her girlhood growing up.
You will talk to you ex-girlfriend, the one you first came out to. She tells you, that after she told her mother about your transition, her mother said it was almost like the boy you used to be died. You will feel that way too, like you sort of killed yourself, to live. You will grieve for the guy you were at times.
A few months later it actually will be Halloween. You’ll be a friend’s party. Some drunken dudes will debate your gender right in front of you, questioning whether you’re a “woman or a man”. (They will not be the last people to do this, btw). You’ll be about to tell them they can just ask you when one of them will grab your breasts, laugh and say, “Oh my God, I can’t tell!” You will know what it feels like to be objectified.
You’ll go to a club for 80’s night. While dancing you’ll see a girl you used to have a crush on. She asks you why you’re dressed like that. You tell her you are transgender. She’ll say, “Thank God I never went out with you!” Another night at the same club you will be very drunk and a guy will pull you by the arm down on a couch next to him and his friend. You’re surprised by the force he uses. He’ll ask you if you do this all the time, or if tonight was just “something for fun”. You tell him you do this all the time. He’ll say, “You’re pretty cute!” as he slides his arm around you. Your friends will pull you away and tell you it’s time to go.
Both gentlemen and assholes will hit you on. You will face harassment and mockery from random strangers on the street, honking car horns, and indecipherable words yelled at you from speeding cars. In one particularly frightening instance, a middle aged asshole on a motorcycle will pull up to you as you’re waiting for a bus, tell you he’s, “seen you around the neighborhood,” and ask you if you’ve been “fixed”. He will proposition you for anal sex. You will actually fear for your safety.
At the time, you’re still working at the bank and bookstore. The bank will transfer you to a different branch, one with a single user bathroom just so no one has to share the restroom with you. Human resources will also create a policy where no one is allowed to talk about “personal business” on the job, out of fear that someone will say something offensive, and you’ll sue the company. They will forget to mention this to you, so you’ll assume that everyone at your new branch hates you. Who knows? Maybe they do.
At the bookstore the difference is like night and day. Your bosses and co-workers are very welcoming to your new gender identity. For the most part they politely ask questions, and tell you how great you look. You use the women’s restroom everyday and no one cares. Eventually, your transition is a non-issue. You’ll quit the bank 3 months later ‘cause who needs that stress?
A few years later you end up working for a nationally renowned feminist, progressive sex toy store. Your job is fun and you get to help people have better, healthier sex lives. You also help a ton of trans & genderqueer customers get the products they need to be and feel better about themselves. You convince your bosses to start carrying more products for trans ladies and even teach some classes on transitioning.
You’ll wait in longer lines for the bathroom. You’ll never know what to do with your hair or reliably find shoes in your size. You never stop biting your nails no matter how many times you try and give up and try again. You’ll learn to try on every item of clothing when you go shopping, because a size 14 in one brand does not mean a size 14 in another. You will know the torture of high heels and stabbing pain of broken underwire bras. You will try to learn to follow while slow dancing and suck at it.
You will eventually play onstage and have band again. When you see a picture of yourself from the show you’ll be struck by how similar you look to the female rocker you revered in high school and college.
You will be excited for your first Pride event only to have an older butch lesbian tell you, upon trying to enter a “lesbian-only” space that you don’t, “really count as a woman” and will refuse to let you in. This notion of “womyn-born-womyn” only spaces and the belief that trans women are somehow “fake women” will be archaic notions long before you began to transition, but are still sadly a thing 10 years later.
You’ll witness a rapid revolution of trans rights and activism, seeing trans folks gracing the covers of magazines, starring in TV shows, being granted benefits, and opportunities that you thought would be impossible just a few years before. At the same time, trans women (especially those of color) will continue to be killed at a rate much higher than the national average. Politicians will keep introducing discriminatory bills, and blocking legal protections for jobs, housing, healthcare and more. You’ll wonder why your friends and family aren’t more appalled and motivated to help, but you’ll come to realize they are dealing with their own struggles and causes, and this one is yours.
You end up making some short films about gender and your transition and they will play at LGBT film festivals all over the Europe, Australia, and the U.S. Your films will be picked up for distribution. You even start a film company, Tall Lady Pictures. You’ll share phone calls, emails and even Christmas cards with a wonderful trans woman from North Carolina you’ve never met, but sincerely hope to one day.
Actually, you meet a lot of trans women after transitioning, and find even though they are nice people; you find you have little in common with them besides your gender identities. You feel a connection to a few, but they tend to move away or go stealth and stop talking to you. A lot of times you’ll feel alone. Other trans ladies tell you that you inspired them and that they look up to you. You’re grateful to have helped them while wishing more folks had been there for you.
You will question you femininity a lot. Like a TON. You will doubt your looks and your ability to be female more than you care to admit. You know part of this is the impossible standards society sets for women, but that doesn’t help. Every time someone misgenders you it makes it that much worse, especially when those people have known you as Ashley for years. Struggling with body image and feeling like you aren’t feminine enough to be considered female, is probably be the hardest, most frustrating part of your transition and the part nobody really prepared you for.
Your girlfriend, however, will be your blessing through all of this. She is always there for you, supportive and incredible. She is your best friend, who makes you laugh like nobody else. She comforts you when you are sad. She takes care of you when you are sick. Sometimes she gets jealous of the attention your transition receives. You are able to understand her needs better than when you were a guy, because you know the irrationality of hormone-based mood swings and feeling upset for no real reason. You two will travel the U.S. and Europe together. In Paris you’ll want to propose to her, but you’ll wait another year.
You’ll finally get married after 7 years of dating. Your father will walk you down the aisle. Your brother will make you cry with his best man speech. Marriage equality is another 4 years in the making, so you marry as man and wife; though essentially you have a legal “gay marriage”.
In 2013, over 15 years after you first came out as transgender, you will finally have your gender confirmation surgery. You are eternally grateful to all the friends, family, therapists, doctors and organizations that helped you reach this milestone.
In preparing for surgery, you will undergo more awkward/embarrassing situations than you could’ve ever imagined. You’ll spend hours on hold and fighting with insurance companies. When the day of your surgery arrives, you’re so nervous you can’t stop shaking as they prepare to wheel you into the ER.
Your surgery is a complete success. You at last have the lady parts you always wanted. You will in no way regret your decision to have surgery, and bonus: the female rock star you idolized will email to congratulate you! You know this isn’t the end of your transition. In reality, it feels like the beginning of the rest of your life.
Love you lady,
Because my last guest author used the term “political correctness” I feel the need to comment on it. I won’t edit to that degree, but I do like to clarify why I don’t, and won’t, use this term.
I remember when ‘politically correct’ started being used. It was a term meant to deride activists and other progressives who didn’t want to be called things that were pejorative, racist, insulting or otherwise unfortunate.
You know, like adult women not wanting to be called girls, and black people not wanting to be called the N word.
We were, then as now, derided for being oversensitive, pushy, and annoying for insisting on being called things that brought us respect and didn’t identify us only in the context of white-het-capitalist-racist patriarchy. Nutty, I know.
In the classroom I’ve noticed it is a term that has somehow become neutral, that even progressive students use it casually to mean things like “language policing” or the like. When students and colleagues do use it neutrally, I often ask them to define it, first: what do we mean when we say it, and what makes it a bad thing, exactly? To call marginalized, oppressed people things that don’t further marginalize and oppress them? I mean, how is that not cool?
So I’m pleased to see this piece by Julia Serano outlining some of its current usage. She says:
In other words, “political correctness” is merely a pejorative wielded by those who wish to protect the status quo. But of course, the status quo is always evolving. The proverbial line in the sand that determines which words or ideas are acceptable within civil discourse and which ones are deemed to be beyond the pale is constantly shifting over time.
The key words here are ‘civil discourse’ by which we mean both what’s considered polite and what we, as a citizenry, consider appropriate.
& That is all it is – no more & no less. Some of us are trying to evolve culture into something that looks a little more humane, a little more fair, and a little less deadly, and believe that language can and does shape reality.
Here’s a controversial piece from Zoe Dolan, lawyer, author, and friend, in a smart piece about why, when it cones to dating – amongst other things – talking about genital surgery is important. I have always reserved the right to talk about these things with trans people and with trans partners because I do a lot of work around sex and relationships, but I stopped a few years ago in any public forums because of the ridiculous obsession – especially with penises – when trans stuff comes up. (I’ll be posting something a bit later about the term “political correctness” because I really, really can’t stand it.)
The conversation goes like this:
Him: Do you mind if I ask you a personal question?
Me: Yes, I have a vagina. Yes, I have a clitoris, and also labia majora and labia minora. Yes, I feel sensation and I can have orgasms — both vaginal and clitoral. And yes, I self-lubricate; but who ever said no to a little coconut oil?
Him: Wow. That’s amazing. Thank you for being so open. I’ve been curious but afraid to ask.
I’ve written before, and I maintain: my view is that there’s no shame in the human body. We all have one.
Nevertheless, a politically correct script of deflection dominates public discourse when it comes to sex change surgery. This condescension shames people into believing that questions arising out of natural curiosity are somehow overly intrusive, and that inquiring about the medical aspects of being transgender is wrong.
Take, for example, John Oliver’s Transgender 101 that recently went viral.
The monologue began with a discussion of “dumb mistakes” that the media make. His point was, apparently, that “[i]t is no more okay to ask transgender people about their sex organs than it would be to ask Jimmy Carter whether or not he’s circumcised.”
He concluded, “[T]heir decision on this matter is, medically speaking, none of your [bleep]ing business.”
While the privacy that others may choose deserves respect, there is fallacy in the proposition that everyone should know better than to pursue understanding of a subject to which they have yet to be exposed. Continue Reading
Go take it. Tell your friends to take it.
Knowledge is Power.
“He doesn’t know she has family. She had her mom. She had her nephews, brothers, and sisters that person didn’t think about what he did,” Rendon said.
The family is trying to raise funds to bury their loved one. Donations can be made by calling 816-745-2904.
I can’t share the details because they break my heart. Last night, learning this news, I just crumpled. For those of you who don’t understand any of this violence, here’s a brief piece in Time about it. I don’t know that it explains anything at all to anyone who is sane and not full of hate.
I’m worried about all of you these days. Please be careful out there. Let someone know who you’re seeing and when.