Surgery, Hormones, and Our Heavily Gendered Society

This past week I was having a conversation with my friend Spaced about bottom surgery. She couldn’t understand why I wanted to have bottom surgery so we had a little discussion about it. I said things about not wanting to have this thing between my legs bothering me, and how I always felt uncomfortable penetrating people during sex (I’ve only really felt comfortable in a submissive position). Basically I just felt bothered and outed by my penis. I always worried about it being seen, noticed or felt by people. Having a penis made me feel uncomfortable and not like a woman.

Her response was first acknowledging how that must feel uncomfortable, but then saying that society has shaped my image of what it is to be a woman. Society has made me feel uncomfortable about my genitals. Society has made me want to surgically alter my body to have different parts that match the gender I am so I can prove that I am a woman. I continued trying to explain my reasoning but was caught by hers. All I could say was I was uncomfortable, I didn’t like tucking, it got in the way. She said society made me feel that way, it made me feel like I shouldn’t and don’t exist. The next day I told her I changed my mind.

She felt tickled that I had listened to her. I felt tickled that she had succeeded and that she seriously thought about this as a cis-woman. She asked me to explain why I changed my mind and this led me to think about my history of struggling with society regarding thoughts on hormones and bottom surgery. I’ll quickly sum that up. When I first announced myself as a transwoman I said I wasn’t going to do hormones, instead I had been taking supplements and using various devices to extenuate my breasts (It wasn’t until several months later that I decided to take hormones). I was also adamant about not getting bottom surgery and frankly terrified of even considering it. It wasn’t until Andreja Pejic came out and announced that she had received bottom surgery that I changed my view. Her and Laura Jane Grace were my heroes and having one of my heroes announce that changed my view.

Spaced and I’s conversation that followed began to ask the larger question that I had forgotten about, what if our society weren’t so heavily gendered? Would I want long hair? Would I be wearing a skirt right now? Would anyone want to use chemical hormones to transition? I agreed with Spaced on the first two decisions and said definitely no. The third one caught me and my gut response was yes, trans people are real and chemical hormones aren’t something bad they are taking. Then I realized I was wrong. If gender were free of sex then penises would be free of men and boobs free of women. It wouldn’t just erase gender it would erase sex (since the two are so reliant on one another or basically synonymous), finally trans and intersex people would once again have a society they could live in. This world is impossible for me to grasp. A world where feminine and masculine have no bearing on gender, sex or sexuality. Everyone could be who they actually are. I could not grasp this world, so it was hard to respond to the theoretical questions about it.

I kept thinking about it and realized my gut response felt ignorant and was coming from a place of fear. I have felt pressure to take and not to take hormones. And I felt a lot of guilt at first after deciding I’d start taking them. So I validated my decision saying I needed chemical hormones, that I would even need them if I weren’t in this fucked up society. This isn’t true. Our society and the way it interacts with gender is the problem. You have to fight with our society to find a place you are comfortable and you feel like you have your identity. Some people are comfortable without medical intervention some need full medical intervention. There is nothing wrong with this, this is coping. I am coping with living in this society by taking chemical hormones others cope by getting bottom surgery or top surgery. None of these people deserve any shame. What deserves shame is society for making this people have to do this just to be themselves. People should feel the right to be comfortable with who they are, but they shouldn’t be coerced into receiving medical intervention, surgical or chemical.

Calling chemical hormones and surgery for trans people coping is an accurate description of it’s effect. It’s what it’s intended to do. Doctors, therapists and allies cannot change the world we are in, but they can help people cope with it. They help them cope but helping people “pass” more (I’m using the loaded term “pass” because that is exactly what’s being attempted, people are helping trans people “pass” for what is “male” or “female” as though there is a checklist to be a “normal” male/female) We as a society aren’t doing what is necessary to address this problem we are putting all of the problem on the individual. This is wrong, but what else can someone do in a individualist society like ours? It is only the responsibility of the transperson because society has rejected it’s on responsibility and impact on this. What needs to happen is for the gender binary to be destroyed all together. The binary system we have doesn’t make any sense and helping trans people navigate from one end to the other is avoiding the problem which is the gender binary.

Take whatever hormones you need, have whatever surgeries you please, be happy in your own skin and don’t let anyone shame you for needing surgery to cope with this fucked up society we live in. But do make sure to love yourself. We can’t change society but we can change ourselves and that will affect the people around us. Slowly but surely the future may hold a society where gender is once again a spectrum and trans people can be who they are from the start, not after they’ve had surgery and years of chemical hormones. A society where you needn’t transition because you are always allowed to be who you really are.

In the mean time before society changes I’m going to try and take Albert Camus’s advice
Albert Camus

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Book Review: Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

I just finished Redefining Realness by Janet Mock, a book my roommate Cha bought for me to thank me for being so flexible and helping her out. I figured it would be nice to read about someone else’s transition but it was much more than that. I found myself deeply relating to what Janet went through at times and crying because I knew I felt the same way she did. She talked a lot about self acceptance and vividly takes you through her journey to find it from childhood to coming out after “passing.”

redefining-realness-9781476709130_hr

Reading about her transition was so often a glimpse at someone else who is going through the same thing as me. She talked about her lack of self worth and how she sought it from other, something I still feel today. When she came out to her friend in NYC her friend responded, “You act as if you murdered someone!” I couldn’t help but cry knowing I would’ve said it the same way she did.

She left me with so many quotables that I relate to and hold dear to remind me of who I am, where I’m going and how amazing I truly am.

“Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power – not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.
-bell hooks

“Mary! Life is uncomfortable. You have to get used to it or you’re going to live your life trying to make people comfortable. I don’t care what people say ab and she humbles herself by reminding us about the number of other trans folks who felt suicidal and were kicked on the streets by her parentsout me because they don’t have to live as me. You gotta own who you are and keep it moving.”
-Her best friend Wendi (who is also trans)

She also talks about a topic many wouldn’t say it but I would argue is very contentious, “passing.” She is envied by her looks and ability to “pass” but talks about the complications of this idea. In her own words she says, “If a trans woman who knows herself and operates in the world as a woman is seen, perceived, treated and viewed as a woman, isn’t she being herself? She isn’t passing she is merely being.” Instead realness needs to be redefined as the book’s title asserts. One of the best ways of doing this is the same way the gay rights movement achieved it, by coming out. This makes the world an easier place for all of us to live, LGBT or otherwise. To free people of the restrictive gender binary we all have to live under. We need to use or visibility to show our power, or to requote a quote from Janet’s book:

That visibility which makes us most vulnerable is that which also is the source of our greatest strength.
-Audrey Lorde

Finally Janet tells us about something I didn’t expect to read about, her struggle beyond her gender. Her struggle through molestation, sex work and homelessness. She opened my eyes up even more to the horrible reality that exists throughout this “developed” country. She struggled with homelessness and constant moving for most of her childhood. Being swapped from one parent to the other and moving in with one family member to another. Her mom and dad both clung to their ever-changing partners and often left their children ignored.

Janet learned to go it alone and became a strong-willed little kid that pushed forward to her true self despite never ending barriers. She was defiant and strong, managing to save enough money by herself to fly to Thailand and pay for GCR (Genital Confirmation Surgery). When she did her sex work she had the constant reminder of who she was in her sex work bag. On the bottom of the bag filled with condoms, lube, baby wipes, hand sanitizer and lip gloss was a piece of paper with a quote from Maya Angelou on it saying,” I didn’t come to stay.” And she certainly didn’t.

I personally felt privileged to read her story and amazed at her c and she humbles herself by reminding us about the number of other trans folks who felt suicidal and were kicked on the streets by her parentsourage to tell it fully. She did an excellent job throughout and even humbled herself by pock marking the book with statistics and facts to remind everyone that not one transition story is alike. This book is an excellent read and I would highly suggest it to anyone wanting to hear more about the trans experience as well as the experience of marginalized, minority populations struggling to live their true life.

Man or Woman?

This is the questions strangers ask themselves when they see me. Sometimes I see the struggle in their face as they stare me down. They just don’t know and they can’t be too sure. But they do know they have to pick one. Sometimes they switch once I talk, or once I get closer. Other times they are used to saying gender neutral terms and can hide their confusion by calling me “honey” or avoiding pronouns until they slip.

I stand in their presence and think little about how they gender me. I’m there for another reason, whether it be to talk to them about the home care work they do or to buy groceries. I am living in my own world and I know where I am. They understandably don’t, my voice is still deep and my beard is probably already showing. Maybe it’s my shoulders or my hands, but I can’t say I really care.

Don’t get me wrong I like being ma’am-ed it feels nice and validating. It tells me I’m getting closer to who I am. But I also know that I’ve been on hormones for 3 months and I haven’t had nearly enough voice training or electrolysis appointments.

I’m just trying to view the ma’am-ing and sir-ing differently. To view it as people struggling with being respectful. People are trying with all their might to correctly gender me, they just haven’t figured out that gender and sex are two different things. Not to mention the separation of gender identity and gender presentation. They aren’t being disrespectful, that is exactly what they are trying not to do, misgender me.

So I watch the ensuing chaos that I create. Especially as me and my trans friend/roommate who is going the opposite way, Jamie, and I go for a bike ride. A guy with thick glasses stops us by saying, “hey ladies!”
We turn around.
He then corrects himself by saying, “I mean lady and man.”
Jamie responds, “don’t worry about it,” in a voice that is getting deeper by the second.
He corrects himself again, “No wait I was right the first time.”
We try our best to hold off laughter until we are far enough away.

A lot of trans people seem to want others to acknowledge their identity (possibly even before they acknowledge it themselves – I know because I felt this way just recently). But what is more important is to be sure of yourself and sure of who you are. The same way that cis-people will say, “I’m not offended when someone misgenders me.” While that isn’t the same, it isn’t a blow to them because this isn’t offensive and it doesn’t challenge their identity because they know who they are.

I had to begin to empower myself, there is nothing wrong with being trans there is nothing wrong with being recognized as being trans, because being trans is beautiful.
Laverne Cox on being misgendered

I know who I am in a world that has no idea what to call me, a world that just found out I exist. That’s fine with me, as I said, I know who I am – that is way more important to me than what anyone calls me.

Employ-ability

After 7 months of unemployment (vacation) I have decided to return to the job world. Excited to be truly ready to be who I am and work a job that I find much more satisfying. I also am assure enough of who I am and am prepared to deal with misgendering and transphobic people. I started applying in the social services field specifically mental challenged adults. I’m still waiting to hear back from a few but hope to be employed soon.

Applying as a transperson confused me at first. I wasn’t sure how or who to apply as. At first I applied as my legal name, then I had second thoughts. I talked to a translady who suggested doing the same thing that I was thinking of: apply with your legal name and once you get hired tell them your taken name. Something about that left a bad taste in my mouth. I decided to be upfront and apply as me, the person I am all the time, a person transitioning to be the woman she is.

While it’s impossible for me to say how this has affected my employ-ability, I would say it hasn’t much. I’ve been upfront and brought up my transition to every employer applying with my legal and taken name in quotes. To my surprise I had responses that were so nice and truly respectful. One person even said it was nice to meet me a second time this time saying my taken name instead of my legal name. The best part for me has been feeling very comfortable and alright with myself.

I am amazed at how okay people are with me. Too much reading made me feel like I was a freak I’m happy to say actually going out in the world makes me feel like myself. I also can’t help but be reminded what my roommate always says, people are a reflection of yourself. I am frank with myself and other about who I am and am shameless of that fact. I’m a woman but my body is still catching up (as is my mind too!). Once can expect as much after 25 years of living as a man. I understand confusion by people, I understand slip ups and misgendering. I wouldn’t say I’m entirely a man or a woman right now. Simply put, I’m transitioning.

To my amazement and despite dress wearing, bra wearing and extra femme bangs, I have hardly had any bad encounters. I don’t use beard cover, have yet to put much effort into changing my voice pitch and am clearly not a “woman” under a not-so-close inspection. Yet I have only been harassed, unsuccessfully, once. Which was by a creepy old guy trying to hit on me. After being frank with him about transitioning and correcting him that my parents were in fact proud of me for being who I am, he became frustrated. He seemed to be questioning his sexuality because of me and unsuccessfully put this awkwardness on me as he walked away muttering, “you’ll always be a man.” To which I responded plainly, “I tried that, didn’t work out.”

The power of positive thinking is amazing. It makes you feel great and that feeling is quite contagious. I am waiting back on hearing back from a few jobs this coming week. If not I’ve got myself another round of applications to put in. Hopefully employment will start soon and health insurance after that. I’m ready job world, so employment world get ready for this little lady!

Informed Consent Hormones Pennsylvania: Second Puberty

Hey all! I’m writing this post for two reasons to list the resources I know about for Informed Consent Hormones in Pennsylvania and to tell y’all about my experiences thus far. If you don’t need those resources skip below, if you do enjoy.

So far I know of a few places that have informed consent hormones and a list more that may or may not be specifically informed consent in Pittsburgh in Garden of Peace’s website.
The ones that are informed consent in Pittsburgh are:
Metro Family Practice (which in my experience take most if not all insurances despite facts otherwise. I go here and have felt utmost respect as has my non-binary roommate Jamie who is going there too [they are super cool about the non-binary stuff])
Stacy Lane at West End Health Center(I heard from one person that a questioner they filled out had questions that felt like Dr. Lane may be gender policing a bit, asking whether my friend wore dresses or not.)
East End Community Health Center, which I have heard nothing bad about from the person that I know who goes there.

In Philadelphia I only know of the Mazzoni Center. They are an excellent resource which includes great resources online about name change etc here and I have heard great things about them.

In Harrisburg and Lancaster there are the Alder Health Services which provide informed consent hormones.

I feel that it is very important to better share information in the trans community, especially when this information is essential to new comers. I will be attempting to share information I am finding and cataloguing all the details of my name change for people who are excited about that lengthy exciting process in the coming months. This is also meant to motivate people to not give up hope because I almost drove to Philly before realizing there are 3 informed consent clinics in the city I lived in.

Now to the exciting stuff, changes I’ve felt on my two weeks on estrogen!!! Well first off I’d like to say how validating and exciting this has been for me. I felt torn about taking hormones for a while and was scared of possible side effects. I weighted positives v. negatives and found that there were hardly any negatives and a lot of positives and was compelled to take them and right my body.

The first thing I felt was headaches the first few days. I also got really somber and felt very lonely one day. I ended up going on a long walk and going to a friends house. This feeling passed quickly, though it ended up feeling validating, especially when my roommates just told me I was having my period for the first time (ha).

I have been taking NatureDay supplements for 10 months now and will continue to. They have caused a small amount of breast growth – significantly more after I started using the soap and moisturizer. The introduction of estrogen on top of that has caused noticeable breast growth, even by friends who can feel it in hugs and visibly see a small change in only two weeks!

But the most noticeable thing for me is an increased energy level. Before I struggled to feel a desire to do much of anything now I feel happier and more productive. I don’t know if this is estrogen specifically or simply my body/mind response to it. Either way it feels nice to be even further from the weight of depression.

I also recently talked to a translady who had been on hormones for just shy of a year and she showed me her results at a dance party we were at. Woah. Her breasts, and hips were much much larger. And her face feminized more than I expected not to mention her super soft skin. A week ago I got nervous not being able to pass but after seeing her changes I’m sure I’ll look a lot more effeminate and voice training will certainly help the disconnect I feel with my body. I’m really excited for the year for so many reasons. Haven’t felt that a while so I’m pumped for 2015!

From nihilism to a meaning

As many already know, in Philadelphia I truly embraced nihilism. Nothing made any sense. Nothing was right, everything was wrong. There was no purpose or meaning and no inherent value or worth to anything, both in my personal perspective and my perspective of western society. Nothing is sacred, nothing matters. Nihilism made sense because nothing made sense. But as soon as one thing makes complete sense everything else becomes glaringly wrong.

I look back at this time and it all begins to make sense, all of my past makes sense and is all foreshadowing what is happening today. Philadelphia was part of my boyhood campaign to try to be a boy. I gave up all that I was and killed off my soul, she cried everynight and I thought I was a boy. But after months of hearing her cry I began to accept her and began giving her freedom, now her freedom is most of the world. Soon second puberty will hit and she will be intergrated with my body.

Through this acceptance I have become significantly happier but I have had many bad times and stressful times. Most recently I started freaking out about where I am going in life. What I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do in life, what the purpose is. And suddenly I realized that I was finally free.

For the past many years I knew the answer to these questions, nothing made any sense so whatever anyone else told me made just as much sense so I did that. Now I am free, it is truly terrifying. I’m an adult and making adult decisions I’m making decisions like growing up to be the woman I have always been meant to be. I can finally choose the future by myself. I get to do whatever I want to and there is no one to look at for direction.

As I walk the line to becoming a woman at times I am paralyzed with fear, overwhelmed with decisions and how they will change my future. I am walking uncharted territory with my advice coming from youtube videos and forum posts. My anxiety disapates as Big S takes me shopping, now her nickname makes even more sense as she acts like my big sister picking out clothes and giving advice on how it fits. Then I remember who I am, what I’ve done and stop thinking I’m lost in an endless ocean. I’m just exploring a new land, but it’s only new to me.

I feel like so many of my blog posts start from a beginning you all have already heard about. But each and everyday I look back at my beginning and it makes a little more sense. I understand why I was so torn up inside when I was harassed for wearing a purple backpack on my first day of class, I wasn’t allowed to like purple because I wasn’t a girl. I wasn’t allowed to play the flute because I wasn’t a girl. I wasn’t allowed to hang out with my friends in the girl’s bathroom because I wasn’t a girl.

I am a girl and I’ve been one the whole time. Me, my soul is a girl and she always will be. She is trapped in the mind and body of a boy, but she’s coming to terms with it as my mind comes to terms with it. She’s kind of excited because she’s a pretty big tomboy and what better way to be a tom boy than to be a boy an then a girl. Adventure and play with the freedom that boys get and then hit second puberty, grow some boobies and get a butt. And now my story seems to be helping me figure out where to go next, go to school become a therapist and help others be themselves, help others through these same problems. Maybe now it makes almost too much sense.