HRT and Invalidation

Dear Queer, I am an amab trans woman. For much of my life I identified as a woman, but had to (and still have to) keep it secret from much of my family and friends in fear that they might disown me or worse. I have considered HRT but am currently very incapable of affording it. Not only that, but I’m not 100% sure I want to undergo HRT. I feel as though my identity is constantly being dismissed and erased, even among my queer friends, simply because I haven’t undergone -or don’t fully plan to undergo- HRT. There isn’t much I know regarding the procedure, and there aren’t many resources available in my area. Do you have any general advice for my predicament?

First and foremost I want to apologize for the way people have treated your hesitance with HRT. That’s really not cool, and I’m sorry that you have felt invalidated for this, because that should not happen. The fascination and borderline objectification of the trans body is unfortunately not limited to those outside of queer communities. You are a woman, your body belongs to a woman, and that does not become more or less true just because of what it looks like. Having access to hormone therapy is a privilege that many do not have, for reasons similar to your own. It’s expensive, it requires support, and it’s a process.

Here are some great resources RE: trans health that will be immensely helpful for you to look into:

http://www.icath.org/default.html
http://transhealth.ucsf.edu/
http://www.amsa.org/AMSA/Homepage/About/Committees/GenderandSexuality/TransgenderHealthCare.aspx
http://thefenwayinstitute.org/

Two things to keep in mind, that these websites will confirm to some degree: you do not need to “live as ___” for a certain amount of time before you qualify for HRT. Also: not everything estrogen will do to you is permanent, and stopping treatment is always a possibility. I know you’re kind of on the border about whether or not to even consider it an option, but I want to make sure your ambivalence is not only a result of the permanence or ease of access. I’m giving you these resources not because I want to back any of the pressure you’ve felt towards it, but because I want you to have as much information as possible in case it becomes something you want and a possibility in your life. A lot of things go into what most people consider a “full transition” – but what parts actually matter to you? Don’t wrap your life and your decisions around what people perceive to be The Trans Experience, I don’t think that will ever really fulfill you emotionally.

If you would feel comfortable, I would really encourage you to talk to your queer friends especially about the way they treat your identification as a woman. I can’t stress enough that I want you to reject those who say that you need to undergo this MASSIVE physical transition in order to be validated in what you already know and have known for a long time now. I specify the queer friends because you do have the common ground of belonging to a gender/sexual minority with them, there’s less ground to cover and they will undoubtedly have more empathy than those who aren’t queer. Honestly, a good conversation starter is the recent Janet Mock and Piers Morgan debacle; Janet Mock is incredibly articulate in the fact that, though a physical transition was something she wanted and benefited from, that’s not what made her the person she is.

I hope I said something constructive, please feel free to write back for clarification or whatever else you might need. Good luck!

Oly


Not Presenting, But Present

Hi. I am, as far as I can tell, a non-binary trans girl, but I am by no means whatsoever “out”. If I am not presenting or in a safe environment/place in life to tell people, is it wrong of me to be in spaces, use resources, or participate in discussions meant for queer or trans people? [Does my problem make sense? I don't know, I feel really conflicted with myself.]

This definitely makes sense and it’s… complicated! I think first and foremost you need to keep yourself in mind. Obviously, you don’t need to ‘present’ to be trans. You don’t need to announce to a room that you’re queer – either through words or through dress – to validate what you know is true about yourself, or even what you think could be true about yourself. I absolutely do not believe that you should feel in any way required to remove yourself from situations that you want to be in or would benefit from just because you aren’t out. Those spaces are still there for you, those resources are still yours to use, and those discussions are about you and about people like you. There aren’t a lot of queer people who haven’t gone through life being in the closet in some way; queer life is not restricted to those who have the ability (and in many ways, the privilege) to wear it on their sleeves. ‘Presenting’ as trans is a complicated concept, anyway, but I don’t want to get into that. I think the biggest potential obstacle would be queer people who don’t perceive you as such being somewhat wary with your presence. Given the way you phrased this question, I don’t think this is even slightly going to be an issue, but I think the biggest thing to keep in mind as someone who is passing/perceived as not queer is to not talk over the queer people around you, in the spaces and in conversations. And that’s really just a precaution for a situation that I don’t think is very likely. Bein’ queer is hard, you deserve to think of and for yourself. That space is yours, those resources are yours, and when you feel comfortable, those discussions are yours as well! I hope this helped, and good luck!


Genderfluidity and Hormone Therapy

I was designated male at birth, but I identify significantly more often as feminine than masculine. I’ve been referring to myself as genderfluid, but I think I fall somewhere on the male-to-female trans spectrum. Is hormone therapy something to consider if I don’t know if I identify fully as a woman, but want a feminine body?

I’ll be honest with you, I really don’t know a lot about hormone therapy! I only know a handful of people who undergo/have undergone it and it’s never something I’ve very seriously considered by myself, so my knowledge on the specifics of it are little to none and I can’t really draw on that in responding to this. But I think the real question is, do you think the result of hormone therapy will be beneficial to you? Because just from this question and the way it was phrased, it feels like the answer is yes (but that’s up for you to decide!). You don’t need to identify within the gender binary to want the physical changes that come with certain trans-oriented medical treatments, just as looking a certain way will never qualify or justify your gender identify any more than you want/need it to.  Don’t hold yourself to the expectations that people have of those who undergo hormone therapy when your comfort and happiness is something that could be tremendously improved! There are some cool people over at Hall health that are way more qualified to talk to you about this in its specifics and in the actual process of making this massive transition, and I really encourage you to go talk to someone about it. I hope this helps and I’m sorry that I don’t have more to offer from my end on this. Good luck!


Testing the NonBinary Waters

Ive always known myself to be a cis girl, preferring she/her pronouns, grouping myself with girls, etc but Ive never really felt 100% girl??? Only very very recently have I started to consider the possibility of me being any other gender and I’ve started to personally consider myself as agender. I just feel it fits me better, but I’m so used to understanding myself as being a girl so I don’t want to go through telling everyone I know to refer to me by they/them pronouns only to find out that I am no longer comfortable with that identity. I just really dont know where to go to from here? Do I wait and think about it some more? Is there some way I can try out being agender?

First and foremost I just want to say that I 100% support anyone and everyone exploring the different shades of their own gender, whether you ultimately identify with what you were assigned at birth or not. I think it’s really productive, fosters empathy, and ultimately just leaves you more satisfied with yourself. That’s my two cents, both from my own experience and from observing my friends and peers. I think your last question is really powerful, and I just want to give you a short answer: yes.

You sending me this message makes me think that you’ve thought about it enough to just need a bit of affirmation. Exploring different or new aspects of your gender identity does not require you to dissociate from what you’ve affiliated with in the past. Pronouns are pretty powerful, and what I recommend more than anything is telling a handful of the people you’re closest to (maybe even who you talk to most) that you want to try new pronouns. I completely understand not wanting to commit yourself to something so vague and malleable, but I also want you to understand that it’s okay for something to feel right at one time and not feel right at another. This is something new that you’re exploring, and I don’t want you to restrict yourself because you’re nervous it won’t pan out. In terms of how you interact with others, language is what’s most important, in my opinion. If you ask a few people to refer to you with they/them, hold them to it (for the sake of you not being frustrated, I would hit up the most queer-literate friends you know first).

You don’t need to burn your dresses and start binding and cut your hair and whatever else is strongly associated with nonbinary identities to BE nonbinary. There’s no one way to be not cis, so I say just focus on what draws you to the idea of being agender, or even what not being a girl means to you. Personally, I associate myself very strongly with the idea of nonbinarism, and maybe even lean towards my own concept of masculinity, but my favorite outfit still involves a skirt and tights and I look damn good with the right eyeliner. It doesn’t make me less nb. Do whatever feels right in the moment, try to not ascribe behaviors and appearances to specific genders, and see how that feels. And don’t be afraid that what you’re doing and what you’re exploring won’t be what you want down the road, just grow with your understanding of gender and test the waters a little bit in regards to how you let people refer to you. I hope this helps, try to have fun with it, and good luck!


the question of happiness

Gender and sexuality are staring you square in the face, one finger in the air, and it’s not a thumbs-up. Don’t get me wrong, i mean no disrespect; i just mean to bring to your attention the big queer elephant standing in the middle of the room. Why must our conversations always be drowned out by sounds of grinding teeth? i lost your love in translation and you misplaced my trust. This was a two way street until we drove head first into each other: this is me and i know you can’t understand it right now, but take a deep breath and believe me when i say: this is where i am happy. That’s all it’s about. That’s all it’s ever been about. Happiness.

Long drives made me happy. Sleepy too. Daddy would look into the rearview mirror to see my face, half asleep, lulled into a semiconscious state of bliss by the perpetually morphing landscape that accompanied an evening drive. Smiling he would ask, “Tum kush toh ho na?” gauging his parenting skills, his paternal worth, on a simple question, “You are happy, aren’t you?” i remember long pauses, absolute psychological dissonance, weighing his fatherhood against my chemical imbalances seemed cruel. Having grown up in the age of obedience, i knew what he wanted to hear and the merit my answer held. “Yeah.”

i never understood how you could expect me to be happy, when every canyon on your brow tells me you are not. Would you have answered in the same breath as i, if i had asked you this question? A lie out of good intension? Seemingly innocent, this question pinches nerves. Especially today.

My happiness, despite its absence then, meant something, intangible, but something. And now, in its purest form, my happiness is a “delusion”, a cross-cultural misconception, “unnatural”, and unreal. Unraveling my every itch, i am finally me, and in this place of self-recognition, i feel like living. But in my life, in my reality, you seem to find no pride in my self-discovery, my greatest accomplishment. My parade beacons only to be drained of its hue because your rods and cones have eyes of their own. Where are your questions now, when i am, for once, ready to answer without fear?

And when i did ask you, “Ma, are you happy?” i heard the same ageless pause, felt the same dissonance, and understood your obligatory response, “Of course.” But that smile- that smile said, “Baby, for you i can try.”


we never capitalized our i’s

a, s, i, wi, we, she, he, they, them, me. sasha for long, and aparajeeta for longer. “Hey you” for short, and a smile for shorter. Growing up, i was never called by my given name, always by sasha. It seemed to fit better than “someone who can’t be defeat,” someone whom i never felt i was. i was too sensitive to declare victory over a life not yet started and too young to accept a gift in namesake, unearned. “sasha” was a name that nicked the heels of a name too long to laugh with and too divine for the monotony that dictated everyday life. “sasha” was not too frilly and not too heavy, the s’s fit my curves and the a’s echoed my art. “sa”-mba my fun, “sh”, i was quiet, but not for long, “a”- bbreviated compassion. sasha’s fluidity ebbed and flowed in sync with my being, supple like gender and free like children. What a coincidence that i would be who i was called.

In school we learned about pronouns: he, she, it, they, them, we. but never in context of choice or identity. Somehow it was a factual truth that John was a “he” and Ashley was a “she”… And “sasha” was just “sasha”. i was always, and still am to many people in our life, a “she”. Dictated by prehistoric grammar laws and narrow-minded orthodoxy, we were shielded from self-declarative free form expressions. i often caught myself oscillating between “she-self” and “he-self”, seeking refuge somewhere between blue and pink. In the confines of my mind, i explored the gender grey shamelessly, interjecting everyday talk with mixed self-references: “i’m a nice guy” and “i’m a Jersey girl” all in the same conversation. As i found solace in these ambiguous mental spaces, and toyed with my gender expression, “sir”s and “he”s became souvenirs, giggles, and smiles and squeals of joy. For me, it seemed like a step closer to the middle path.

My imaginary friend was genderqueer, far before I even knew what that meant. Mai-no: pronounced may-no, literally translated “girl no”. Mai-no transcended pronouns, referred to as “he” on some days, “she” on other days, and “they” every day in between. Gender fucking was their superpower, my favorite thing about them. There was nothing they couldn’t do: keeper of my sentiment and sorter of my Legos, they had no glass gender ceiling that kept them from cars or crayons or anything else.

As i graduated from childhood, Mai-no stuck with me, existing less as an external entity and more as a person i talk to in my head, another part of me. i always tell people, whatever works: he, she, ze, this, that, and the other thing. But i often catch myself referring to myself as “we”, a symbol of the unity, encompassing all of my identities. i don’t expect people to refer to me as “we,” or to understand who “we” is. This said, i recognize that pronouns are used for ourselves too. i could refer to myself as “i”, or “we,” and just as we deconstruct our public pronouns, we must be in touch with our private pronouns.


Toe my god

I’m sure you’ve all heard the news by now. There is, in this country, at least one woman who paints her son’s toenails pink (and happens to be the creative director for J Crew and therefore has access to national marketing campaigns). Shocking, right? I know I was completely shocked.

While I tend to belong to the camp that believes that if something is seriously no big deal and doesn’t deserve national media freak out, then giving it even more attention to point out how stupid it is will only make it worse (in other news, why are we still talking about Sarah Palin?), I think this whole situation is hilarious so I’m going to offer some of my own thoughts. Also, some of Jon Stewart’s thoughts.

The “debate” on this has been ridiculous. Many national media figures that have jumped on it have asked, in their “I’m-a-very-serious-and-concerned-reporter” voices, what kind of harm this might be doing to the woman’s son. Because as we are all aware, toenail polish is very dangerous and has been known to infect small children with gender identity crises.

Somehow they make the vast rhetorical leap from talking about a picture in an ad campaign to claiming that J Crew celebrates transgender children, or (gasp) gender bending.

As if transgender children and gender bending shouldn’t be celebrated. The implicit argument here is that parents should enforce rigid gender roles on their children no matter what the child wants, and that if they have gender non-conforming children they shouldn’t love them for who they are.

“It’s an attack on masculinity,” says some guy with “Dr.”  in front of his name who gets paid to commentate on Fox News.

Not the masculinity! Anything but the masculinity! If these sorts of challenges to our rightful system of gender hierarchy continue undisputed, soon all boys will have to wear dresses, women will be able to own property, go to college, have careers, and vote, and gender non-conforming folks will actually be considered to be real people and not less than human! This must end!

In all seriousness, though, the thing that bothers me about this is doesn’t have anything to do with gender. It’s that the mother and son in the ad are “bondvertising,” as Jon Stewart put it. The photo isn’t just an adorable picture of a mother and a son, it’s a clothing ad designed to sell a product, which to me feels super creepy.

In solidarity,

Maggie


Happy spring break!

In honor of spring break, and because I’m too lazy to write a real post with, like, words and stuff, here are some cool things!

white privilege lolcats (found them here, and there are lots more)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joan Jett throwing it down on gender expression

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Bs6QT82Tu4&w=480&h=390]

 

Seattle classic, TEAM GINA

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JfQ_ptzFv7M&w=480&h=390]

 

omg cute!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yk-RM_xmGEY&w=640&h=390]

 

love love,

Maggie


stuck between a sandwich and a queer place

I was a bender from the start: letting my female playmates choose their imaginary personas first, knowing very well they would hop on the opportunity to clinch the “the girl”, “the mom”, “the damsel in distress”, just so I could subtly flex my inner masculinity. Somebody had to be “the boy”, it might was well be me: the matchbox master, the playdough prince, I knew how to be a gentleman. And looking into mirrors I saw muscles, brawn, bravery, a little superhero, as opposed to the sheepish demeanor and delicacy that my “sex” expected of me. The Clark Kent behind the Superman was a little girl who, like everyone else, grew up bound and beaten by heteronormativity. Barbies were dusty while Legos were worn, and despite my claustrophobia in the tight gender dichotomy, I pinched nerves to squeeze into the mold everyone was telling me I was supposed to fit.

Gently, I lowered trembling toes into the ice bath of femininity, hoping this would cure the natural cognitive dissonance that precedes self-actualization. And all I got was a cold: confusion and frustration. Yes, my body was female, but it wasn’t “female”. Somehow, femininity was one person: white, tall, and skinny. Any deviation from this strict model could hardly be considered “female”. So She was who I had to be and every form of interaction with the world confirmed this. Femininity was the standard I had to meet, according to the TV, according to the books, according to my peers. I quickly realized I there were things I couldn’t change about myself, physical things, no matter how “white” I acted or how tall I stood. Losing weight, on the other hand, seemed simple enough. Eat less. Exercise. Piece of cake.

As the kid who spent recess talking to trees and spiders and clouds, I was no social butterfly: making friends was a kamikaze mission. With the little self-respect I had on the line, I waxed and waned, peaking out of my shell every once in a while, only to feel like a Martian child. I saw my quirky personality and misshapen body as failed prerequisites to the normal and happy lives my peers leading. I knew they were happy, because my body kept them laughing daily, weekly, yearly. Fitting in meant the acknowledgement of my existence, even if that existence wasn’t one I identified with. I became fixated on Femininity, “being like all the other girls”, as it seemed like the only escape from the taunting, and the concurrent self-hatred.

Beginning in innocence, I took up sports in middle school. It was a great way for me to express my true gender in an acceptable way, and, as a side effect, it was way for someone who was legitimately overweight to exercise. My parents were excited for me to have an opportunity to make friends, but friends weren’t made and, given my obsessive nature, exercising became a perpetual preoccupation; it was “all in the name of the sport”. Any free time I got was dedicated to working out. The minute I got home I would make any excuse to go up to my room to pump out 3 sets of 20 push-ups. I spent the hours leading up to soccer practices sprawled out across my bedroom floor stretching muscles I didn’t know I had. And I would make sure to get to practice early and stay late after to run laps. As soon as I got home I would shower and change, only to sweat all over again. Sets had to be done in odd numbers and reps had to be done in multiples of 5 greater than 10, incomplete sets would have to be redone, and the rules were ridged and infinite. It was insanity. I would work out until I cried, and it was never enough.

Before I got into high school I had moved across the country. Having thought I left my sports and obsessive exercising behind, I felt the need to compensate by controlling my food intake. I had no friends to hold me accountable for what I was doing, and I thought nothing of it. Why would skipping lunch be of any concern? I gave myself excuses to justify my behavior: I had homework to do or I needed to study. It wasn’t all bad though; all the time spent not eating was spent writing. It was as an outlet for my mental misconduct. I would spend a lot of lunch periods alone scribbling burning frustrations, angers, and sadness into overused notebooks. This regurgitation of pure emotion was keeping me grounded as I melted into a deep and long episode of depression. I spent many afternoons and evenings after school sleeping or lying in bed staring at the wall, sometimes missing dinner. I was constantly exhausted, and as it took its toll on my energy levels, I found new methods of manipulation. I would chew entire packs of gum, hoping to curb my hunger. What I didn’t realize at the time was that the main ingredient in that chewing gum was a laxative, and it secretly contributed to my obsession. I would negotiate with myself, punishing myself through self-mutilation and self-destruction whenever I broke my self-imposed discipline. My body was a slave to my mind.

When I finally decided to get back into sports, my obsessive exercising became justified again. In fear of fainting on the track, I would take my 100 calorie pack into the bathroom stall right before practice and eat as quietly as I could. I couldn’t stand to eat in front of people, as if eating was a physical projection of the mental view I had of my own body. My wounded self-image continued to lead me astray, and by the time I graduated I had failed a class, gotten caught smoking at school, experimented with drugs, and was dangerously dependent on alcohol. I had gained and lost weight continuously through high school, and no matter what I looked like or how much I weight I still wasn’t happy. My methods of coping only made matters worse.

What began as quest of self-discovery, ended up as a journey through hell. Gender and self-image became my Goliath, and the controlling nature of my lifestyle gave me comfort, falsely reassuring me that the battle could be won through pure determination. When I knew Femininity had no space for my child-like ambitions and my playground creativity, the starving didn’t stop and my self-love was obsolete. Despite my fair share of warning signs over the years, passing out, throwing up, losing and gaining massive amounts of weight, I was unaware of the severity of these issues up until a few months ago. My image of masculinity never included eating disorders, I just couldn’t see the heteronormative booby-traps that were set out on my exploration of body and gender. In this story, there are no superheroes. Reclaiming my body would be a never-ending war waged between me and myself.