Trans Day of Visibility

I know I’m late on this one since Trans Day of Visibility was Saturday, but since it was a big weekend for my interfaith household (Passover and Easter) you’ll have to forgive me. I was busy cooking up a storm and cleaning house; basically all the wifely duties involved in Seder. But I did want to talk about why visibility is both important for me and complicated.

Diverse visibility is what allowed me to discover who I am and the lack of visibility is what held me back. As I’ve discussed before, there were many signs as a kid that I didn’t fit the masculinity mold. But the biggest reason I never figured out who I was back then was because I knew absolutely nothing about trans people or nonbinary identity. I grew up in a subculture so isolated from the diversity of the real world that I didn’t even know any out gay people much less terminology around gender. And even as I started to enter queer spaces in college, I didn’t see how I fit into that picture since the only trans people I saw at that point were more binary focused in a way I didn’t think I could access. So I just called myself a gender-nonconforming ally for a long time.

And as I started to re-explore my identity again in my mid-20s, I knew then that there was some level of queerness because of my affinity for queer and trans people but I couldn’t see myself in the people around me who were mostly either assigned female at birth androgynous or transmasculine. Eventually someone who I was dating gave me the push I needed to consider how broad a term genderqueer can be and how that could apply to me. And as I began to look harder for representation of assigned male at birth genderqueer people, I discovered people that I finally felt like I fit in with like Jacob TobiaAlok Vaid-Menon, and Jeffrey Marsh.

And that’s why I started this blog. So that people on a similar path to me can see themselves represented and some of the steps I’ve taken, the fears I have, and the reality of nonbinary life. I don’t want anyone to assume that I can speak as a representative for any demographic but for my voice to add to the diversity of identity and opinion out there online.

And that brings me to the downside of transgender visibility. Too often the voices of people with the most privilege like Caitlyn Jenner are the ones that get boosted. And believe me when I say that Caitlyn DOES NOT speak for the majority of trans people. And when cisgender people write about trans people, they often twist the narrative to fit preconceived notions of transition. So if you really want visibility, boost the unfiltered voices of a diverse spectrum of trans and nonbinary voices.

I am visible every day. It is impossible to escape the hypervisibility of being me in a very cisnormative world. But visibility only does me good if people are actually listening to what trans people say and not just telling the same old misinterpretations of our actions and intentions. So if you are reading this blog and listening to the stories told by my trans siblings, thank you. I appreciate that you are seeking the source and learning along with us.

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Gender euphoria

The flipside to the gender dysphoria I often talk about is that sometimes when I’m feeling really good about my body and identity I experience the glow of gender euphoria.  Today is one of those days I feel sexy AF! I’m loving the outfit I’m wearing and how it emphasizes my gorgeous legs. My shirt makes it look like I have great breasts and it shows just enough chest to make me feel good. And I’m wearing the shoes that never fail to get compliments. Some days it feels great to be me.

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Am I really Nonbinary?

gender-questioningIn between all the politics, I’ve been spending a lot of mental energy lately thinking about the most difficult question in my life so far. Am I nonbinary because that is who I truly feel like I am or is it a compromise because I don’t feel like I can access womanhood in the way I want?

At times I definitely feel a very strong sense of a gender that is clearly not masculine or feminine but exists as a tangible middle ground. Very genderfull instead of agender. And as I’ve said, there are things I like about being in the middle such as having a beard.

But there are definitely parts of me that at times can feel very strongly that all I want to be is a woman with everything that goes along with that. Since I was a teen I’ve consistently wished I could just snap my fingers and make that happen. But the reality is that I need to make a choice. Do I want that badly enough to accept all the costs, challenges, and risks of medical transition?

What I do know is that I have a lot of fear about the path towards that and still not feeling like it is enough once I’ve gone as far as money/science allows. What I want more than anything is the ability to bear a child. But even assuming they were willing to do uterine transplants on trans women, that still would require a C section and a whole lot of money. I want to have breasts and the kind of chest that I can be proud of in the mirror. And I want a vagina and a clit and the ability to have multiple orgasms. But every time I think about what it would take to get there, I question how badly I want those.

First of all there is the money part. How can I justify spending that much money on myself when there are so many urgent problems that need solving? But I know that is a double standard because when it comes to other people I’m all for helping them get that surgery. Secondly there is weathering the awkward part of transition where I haven’t gotten there yet but it’s too late to turn back. And then of course there is the social risk because I’m pretty sure I could never pass even if I wanted to. And now more than ever that is becoming a dangerous thing.

A few months ago my plan was to start a hormonal transition in the next couple years after having a baby with my anchor partner. That would permanently give me feminine breasts as well as at least temporarily allow me to see how I like my brain on estrogen along with the softer skin and more feminine distribution of body fat (less belly, more hips). But now I feel very unsure about doing that until a certain demigogue is out of office. I still have the ability to hide as pass as male if I need to which would be much harder once I start down that path.

Part of why this is weighing on my mind more is because of politics certainly. The world is a very unsafe place at the moment for a trans person and it feels like a lot of doors are starting to close making me feel more claustrophobic and without the options as accessible to my explorations. And part of that is probably my upcoming wedding. When I imagine myself in a wedding dress I have a hard time imagining that in my current body. That moment more than any is where I wish I was less hairy, had a smaller frame, had hips, and most of all, some cleavage to speak of.

This weekend I’m going with some trusted friends to try on some wedding dresses. I’m trying to brace myself for the dysphoria that is almost certain to arise. I’ll try to report back how it goes and maybe even share some photos.

For now I know I don’t need to have answers to these questions. But I sure am getting tired of shedding tears over them so often.

The power of categories

Gender terms cloudTransgender

Genderqueer

Nonbinary (or Enby / NB)

Gender non-conforming

Transfeminine

MtX

These are all terms I use to describe my gender. There are dozens more already being used and more being created every day to describe and categorize the diversity that we experience in real life. I’ve heard many people criticize identity labels and say things like “why do I need more boxes to fit in” or “I don’t like to label myself”. And while I’m not trying to invalidate their experience, I want to share a bit about why I love labels and categories, especially for gender and sexuality.

I think there is a lot of power in words. Words give us access to intellectual concepts and and language can be incredibly freeing when it is allowed to evolve and grow along with a society. For myself, I didn’t grow up with the concept of gender being anything other than what you were told at birth and it existed as an assumed binary. I didn’t know that trans people even existed until well into my teen years and I didn’t learn about terminology outside the basic LGBT acronym until I joined a highly controversial GSA-style group at my conservative Evangelical university.

Even once I had concepts for transgender and genderqueer, I didn’t really understand that there was diversity within those categories. I knew I didn’t want to be a woman (or at least didn’t think that was something I could access in any way that was meaningful to me but that’s another whole post) but I didn’t think I could be genderqueer either because I thought that meant I had to be androgynous in the sense that I couldn’t have any visible genderedness about my body. So for many years I identified as gender non-conforming for lack of a better way of describing my blurriness.

But as I began to add terminology to my gender toolbox I also began to see places where I might fit. It took until another trans person I was dating suggested that maybe I was genderqueer before I felt like it was something I could dare to explore. And even then it took almost a year before I felt comfortable claiming my place within the genderqueer and trans identities.

Sadly, a large part of that was due to my tendency to self-police my own gender and allow the “not trans enough” feelings to guide me. But I also didn’t understand that not everyone of a particular identity label has to look or feel the same. The key to unlocking my gender was grasping that these are merely categories, useful for finding other people like you but also for pushing the boundaries together of what it means to not be a cisgendered person.

Once I accepted that I didn’t need to desire surgical or hormonal transition above all else and that I didn’t need to lose all of my features that people ascribe to a specific gender (like my beard) I was able to accept that being trans just means not identifying with the (binary) gender you are assigned at birth. I was trans because I was not cis. I am genderqueer because I exist in a blurry space outside of the well-explored binary boxes. I am nonbinary because I don’t want to be a man but I know I’m not a woman. I may have been assigned male at birth but I can transition to be “X”. I can be feminine and have a beard.

So don’t let identity police get you down and tell you what you can or can’t be, especially not based on appearance. And don’t listen to those little shoulder devils whispering doubts in your ear about “being enough.” Claim the categories and terms that work for you now and don’t get hung up on how you might feel about your gender next year. It is OK to evolve and grow. It can be a step in your journey or it can be your final destination but either way it isn’t “just a phase.”