Tuesday, December 7, 2004

pre surgery post

There's been a lot going on since the last time I wrote. I suppose I got so overwhelmed with the general act of living life that I didn't quite have time to relay the information. So here in a nutshell is everything that's happening.

My parents have offered to loan me the money for my top surgery and I will be paying them back gradually through various fundraising events. Thanks to all who have contributed so far. I have raised over $400 dollars, which is enough to cover my stay in extended care. I scheduled my surgery sometime in September with Dr. Fisher and have the date set for January 11, 2005. My mom and girlfriend will be traveling down to Baltimore and staying for about a week. After that I will return to Brooklyn and continue my recovery there.

In other news, I've been on hormones for about six months. My voice has dropped to a point where I have no trouble passing on the phone. I've hit a point where I never know how people are reading me when I'm in public. Perhaps they aren't so sure either because I rarely get called ma'am or sir. I have a few whiskers but nothing substantial. I do have a bit of a furry belly. However, the most notable feature change right now is my unbelievable acne problem. I've been told that it just looks like my skin is looking a bit more ruddy and masculine and thank you Meg for trying to make me feel better, but fact is I really look like a pimply faced teenage boy. What can you do, though? Going through puberty the right way this time makes up for some of the bad side effects.

Anna is still as beautiful and amazing as ever. Her jewelry donation raised $100 for my surgery but more important is her support and presence through all of this. It's by no means easy, but were doing our best to keep talking about everything.

Friday, October 1, 2004

Top surgery is on the calendar...

The boobs are coming off January 11th, and it's going to be a family affair. My mom, my girlfriend, possibly my father and who knows who else are all trooping down to Baltimore to take care of business. what does this business entail, you may ask?

so I'm going down to see Dr. Beverly fisher just outside of Baltimore. I've heard good things about from other people so I made an appointment. I had to pay a 10% deposit of a $6800 cost upfront to schedule the appointment and I'll be paying the rest sometime in December.

the type of surgery I'm getting is double incision. what happens is a cut is made below the breast along the line of the pectoral. all the excess tissue and skin is removed through this cut and then I'm stitched back up. my nipples will then be grafted back on in a more boy like placement. after the surgery is complete my mom, girlfriend and i will be hanging out in a hotel nearby so we can go back to the care facility regularly to get my bandages changed as well as seeing all lovely suburban Baltimore has to offer from the comfort of my hotel room. after that it's back to Brooklyn where I'll continue to recover for who knows how long.
i had to quit smoking for this surgery otherwise there may be certain complications like my nipples falling off. that was incentive enough, but not smoking also promotes faster healing, among other things.

as the countdown continues i get more and more excited. now that all the forms have been filled out, the therapist's letter has been written, the surgery clearance appointment has been made all there is left to do is wait.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Testosterone at 2 months

It's been two months injecting Testosterone. Although I don't think I look all that different I'm starting to feel some of the effects. I've now had four half doses over the course of two months and my next dose will be a full 1 ml. I'm having some trouble sleeping and feel like I've been thrown into the rhythm of a teenager. Even when I'm exhausted I'm up until 2 a.m. and want to stay in bed until well past noon. I'm also beginning to break out a bit. Thus far my face has stayed pretty clear but my chest is covered in pimples.

I've graduated from self-injection school and can now give myself shots at home. As a graduation gift I got my very own Sharps bio-hazard waste container. After my shot on Friday I felt a bit achy all over. It felt a lot like the growing pains I had as a kid. I know I'm not supposed to get any taller, but it's nice to dream. More likely it's my muscles changing and growing.

The last major change I've noticed is in my temperament. In the past as far as the fight or flight instinct went I was pretty much a frequent flier. If provoked enough I would stand up for myself, but it certainly wasn't my first choice. Now I find myself getting angry a lot more quickly and instead of sitting down and "talking about my feelings," I'd rather hit someone. I know that I won't resort to violence, but it's an interesting feeling nonetheless. In time I think this energy could be a positive thing, helping me to be more assertive and stand up for myself better, but right now it's just a lot to try and understand and deal with. All in good time, I suppose.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

One of the boys

I've begun working at a fine art screen printing shop doing screen prep. They print for the likes of Chuck Close and Leroy Neiman. It's an interesting environment, watching the business of art. It's also interesting in that I'm the only non-guy working in the back room. My boss rarely refers to me by my name but rather "buster," "buddy," and "brother er...sister." I feel as though I've proven myself to be a hard worker in a rather physical job. It's just hard for me to ask for help lifting screens or anything like that because I don't know if people see me as more of a girl when I do or not. It's not surprising that anyone would need help maneuvering a screen that's 5 feet by 7 feet, but still.

It's a very active environment and I enjoy the solitude of blowing out screens and going about my business. It's also been nice being surrounded by men. I feel like I'm learning to be more assertive and not back down if I feel like someone is making fun of me. Chances are they are just joking around and I'm learning that in order to feel like "one of the boys" I need to give it back and not back down.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice for all Creation

When you gaze at a couple and wonder
What makes him him and her her
Beware, for it's easy to blunder
And be false in what you aver.
Some creatures change sex before tea time
Some others find two sexes dull
And that virile male fish has no free time
He's got all his kiddies to lull.
When it comes to the topic of gender
Mother natures been having some fun.
Take nothing for granted, remember,
You wont find any rules, not a one.
by Evolutionary Biologist Dr. Olivia Judson aka Dr. Tatiana
"Dr. Tatiana's Sex Advice for all Creation."

Thursday, June 3, 2004

Who am I?

I am a twenty-five year old white, queer, transperson, artist in a female body with a desire for a flat chest and facial hair.

I want to look more like a man but not loose everything I've learned being a woman.

I want to be able to live my life as both a man and a woman, or neither a man or a woman.

I want to learn what it is like to be a man so I can understand what its like to be myself.

I want to be a feminist and a sensitive man like my father and not loose my understanding of womanhood that goes above and beyond what anyone born male could have.

I want to change the way gender is experienced and interpreted.

I want to be true to every important issue of my identity, my life and my world.

I want to live with integrity and authenticity.

Now how do I do that? The first aspect of masculinity every trans guy I know takes on is male privilege, or so I've been told. What does this mean? What is this thing of male privilege and as I begin taking testosterone how do I avoid it? How do I avoid spending the rest of my life thinking of myself in male terms when I know that this is in no way who I am or what is authentic to me. To be perfectly honest, although I know taking T is the right decision, I'm terrified. I'm terrified not of the drugs, and not of the changes, I'm terrified of being honest with the world for the first time about who I am. I've never done that before. I've never let the world be able to see me at first glance. What will it be like being both male and female in everyday life? What will it be like being living gender theory, something that's usually reserved for college level women's studies classes. Here I am trying to become something that the world has no place for. The unfortunate thing about transgenderism is that it both undermines and reinforces the ultimate supremacy of gender as an inherent way we categorize our lives. I grew up a feminist. I knew the words to "I am Woman, Hear Me Roar" before I knew what they meant. I listened to "Free to Be You and Me" and knew all the words to every song. There was one song about mommies and daddies. "Mommies are women, women with children; some mommies drive taxis or sing on TV, yes, mommies can be anything that they want to be." Then the male voice comes on and says, "but they cant be grandpas or daddies." Here I am proving them wrong. My parents' daughter is becoming their son, sort of, and if I had children I would suddenly change from their mommy to their daddy. Biological determinism reigns supreme, even now.

Our mothers fought for so much that we take as fact, but no one ever fought for my right to be a grandpa or daddy. Our sex determines so much. If one wants to take on cross sex behaviors that is fine. Cross-sex identities are a bit more stigmatized, but allowed, assuming that the person once they cross the great divide of the sexes assimilates back into male or female. To do anything else would be a failure in transitioning. So what of me? I'm not a woman. I knew that from an early age. It had nothing to do with my interests, my attire, my friends. It was as inherent as anyone else's identity is. I never felt like I was in the wrong body then. And even now, as I am preparing to begin testosterone treatments in less than a week, I don't feel like I'm becoming a man. How would this be possible when I've had 25 years of the world reinforcing my femininity?

So where does this leave gender politics? Trans is the new queer. Tranny-boys are all over. It leaves one to ask, is this a personal gender identity or is it the new queer identity. Genderfuck and gender subversion have been around in queer circles for ever, but suddenly the word trans is being attached at an ever more rapid rate. On a personal level I sometimes find this disconcerting. Maybe I'm being selfish. Maybe I'm doing to these tranny-boys what lesbians did to bisexual women 30 years ago. I don't know. I don't know what kind of introspective personal journey these people have had to go on to arrive at that label. I only know my journey, where simply saying tranny-boy isn't enough, calling myself a man isn't authentic and being a woman is completely out of my frame of reference.

I grew up believing wholeheartedly in my boyhood. I took off my shirt when my dad did, I abhorred dresses and pink, and wanted a boys haircut as soon as I was old enough to know that hair was a signifier for gender. When I finally did get this haircut at six it was just in time, but almost too late. Adults started calling me young man and sir. I was so proud and confident, but the people around me that knew I didn't have the biological seal of maleness grew increasingly uncomfortable. My parents worried about my feelings being hurt, I worried about hurting theirs. I learned to operate in a world where every feeling I had was second-guessed. I learned to never trust myself. I was a boy where everyone around me expected me to grow out of my tomboy phase, and I did, I guess. I grew my hair long and became a feminist.

As a senior in high school I wrote an article for the school newspaper that took a paper known for such hard-hitting stories as doors on the stalls in the boys bathroom and got it pulled from distribution and locked in the safe. Barrages of calls by angry parents were made to the school. Perhaps this is first when I learned that identity and truth are powerful. My identity and truth, however, are more complex than being a feminist. What does it do to the feminist identity if I say I am not a woman? Sure I've estrogen pumping through my body right now. I menstruate with the full moon. I'm carrying around D-cup breasts and childbearing hips, but all that is going to change.

Will I no longer be a woman? Will I become a man? I can't be a man if gender is a social construction as many theorists are so fond of saying. I've been socialized as a woman. But if gender is a social construction and womanhood is what everyone has been socializing me towards for the past 25 years why is it that I remained convinced throughout it all that I wasn't a woman. If that's the case, why can't I extend the definitions of woman or even extend the possibilities of gender as a whole. I carry around so many agendas with me that I find it difficult to trust the instincts that everyone has to know to a certain extent who and what they are.

So lets go ahead and let the personal be political. I am not a woman. I've never felt comfortable with that. Everyone naturally assumes that that would make me a man, and I can't blame them. I saw that as my only other option as well even though that wasn't the truth either. I'm going to start taking testosterone. I'm going to have my breasts removed. I'll grow facial hair. My voice will drop. My body fat will redistribute. I'll probably look a lot like a man. I don't think that makes me a man anymore than looking like I do now makes me a woman. So I keep asking myself what am I? Identities, for being as natural and instinctive as they are, are more complex than we give them credit for, especially when were trying to figure out words to attach to them.

I'll let you all in on a little stream of thought. Trying to figure out this next sentence and act like I know what the hell I'm doing and becoming makes tears begin to stand in my eyes, tears welling up make me feel like a girl, feeling like a girl when I want to cry makes me angry that I can't cry as who I am. It makes me angry that I can't cry in front of anyone except my girlfriend. If I let the tears flow, will the answer come with them? There's so much pain in trying to prove yourself everyday and even as I try to explain it to you I get angry that you don't understand. I get even angrier that I don't understand. Most of all I'm angry that anything needs explaining at all.

Little kids aren't allowed to just be and let that develop. Even a four year old, for whom gender consistency shouldn't have set in yet, has trouble understanding that I'm not really a girl like his mom and I don't really know how to explain it to him. Sometimes I look like a boy, I tell him, and sometimes I don't. People can be either boys or girls if they want to. Its their decision. He nods as he looks at a picture of me with sideburns. He understands now, so why don't I?

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

from the mouths of babes...

At four years old I didn't think gender consistency had set in yet. Not so for Liam (far right). Apparently he's an advanced child.
My friend Ursula and her two children came to visit me the other day. Unlike some parents who may worry about exposing their children to the tranny boy Ursie is quite excited that her children will be exposed to such things so early in life. You've got to love her for that.

As I'm putting my shoes on to go out Ursula informs Liam that I'm a boy now. Liam is having none of it. He knew me as Betz the girl and if I still look like Betz the girl why would he call me by a different name and think of me any differently. I can't blame him. I ask myself the same question sometimes. I called him over and he climbed up on my lap and we looked at some pictures of me. I showed him pictures of me with facial hair and without and asked him what I looked like in each, a boy or a girl? He said boy sometimes and girl sometimes. Then I told him that sometimes people look like girls and sometimes like boys and people can choose which one they want to look like and what they want to be. I'm sure his father would be freaking out if he heard me tell his son he could be a girl if he wanted. Liam said he understood and we left for the city.

Although Ursie and he had many more arguments that day about whether I was a boy or girl I feel like something must have changed in his mind. At least little Luxe doesn't care what I am. She's just along for the ride.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Getting the Go-Ahead

My Visit to the Callen-Lorde Counseler:
Last week I had my appointment with the counselor at Callen-Lorde. I was admittedly nervous. I wasn't sure what I was going to be expected to do or say there. Would I be explaining myself and be expected to prove that I knew what I was doing or simply prove that I wasn't crazy? After 25 years of trying to explain it to myself I doubt my ability to find a convincing explanation in one appointment.

Thankfully every concern was put to rest immediately after I sat down. I was told I was simply there so that he could make sure I was getting all the services and support I needed. I was given a mental health seal of approval and can start hormones on June 6. After that I was sent to the Gay and Lesbian Community Center to join one of their support groups.

At my initial interview I was asked what gender I identified as? I thought this was a strange question to ask someone at a place called the Gender Identity Project. I answered Male, no trans identifiers, for the first time and it occurred to me what I was really doing. I wasn't crossing gender boundaries to exist on the other side, I was crossing so I could make my home on the border. Until I know what it's like to live as a man I can never know what it's like to live as both or neither. Sometimes you have to travel beyond yourself to know who you really are.

Friday, May 7, 2004

Begining Hormones

My first trip to the doctor: 7 May, 2004

I made my first concrete medical step towards beginning my transition this past Thursday. I went to Callen-Lorde heath clinic in Manhattan with my mom and my girlfriend. It was an interesting experience I must say. The doctor was helpful and very matter of fact. I was just happy that my mom came along. They did a health history and took blood for some general health tests. Next week I meet with one of their gender counselors and then in a month I see the doctor again. If all goes according to plan I can begin T that day.

I didn't realize it would be so fast. I thought getting to a point of being able to start injecting would take longer and involve more red tape. Its kind of scary. I know I have a very supportive family and girlfriend, but they are just as confused and concerned as I am, probably more. I'm scared. I'm scared also that if I let my fears be known people will question my decision to do this. When I think about the practical issues I do begin to wonder. I think that's normal. I would like to have kids, but I'd have to freeze and store my eggs and I doubt I can afford that. I am scared of any personality shifts I may experience. I know that's my girlfriends greatest fear as well. I don't want to be a different person. I like who I am. She doesn't want me to be a different person and I understand that. The hardest part for me about this whole thing is that I don't live in a bubble. This is affecting so many people around me that I love and care about. It makes you wonder how far you can stretch people before they snap. My mom doesn't want to see me get hurt. I don't want to see her hurt. Everyone is kind of mourning. I understand that. I'm mourning too.

However, the other side of all these fears is excitement. When I don't think about the unknown, about the bad things that could maybe happen, when I don't think at all I'm excited. I'm excited to look the way I will. I'm excited to feel more at home in my body. I'm excited to feel like I know who I am. This whole process reminds me of when I first told my family I was queer. I stepped so gingerly. I wanted to make sure I wouldn't one day decide I like boys again and have to take it all back. The funny thing is looking at me now you'd never even think I would question it. The truth is you can never know how well something will fit until you try it on for size. You can only be so sure before you just do it. I've done everything I can to lead up to this moment. It's time to just do it.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

The edge of a new begining.

A Week Before Everything Gets Started:

Next week I go to the doctor. I'm excited about the changes hormones will make, but i'm not sure what to expect when I go to the doctor and ask to make those changes. Am I going to have to proove that I know what I'm doing? Am I going to have to say why I'm doing it?

I find it interesting that to a small child all I need to do is cut my hair and wear boy's clothes and to them I'm a boy. To an adult I have to change a lot more than that. When I used to teach pre-school all the kids called me a boy and I didn't feel the slightest bit of shame. Adults would call me sir and I would be nervous just waiting for them to find me out. With children there was nothing to find out. To them I was a boy. Is that my biggest worry about becoming a man--that people will "find me out?" I almost asked myself if that's why I want to go on T, but I know it's not. Ever since I made the decision to do this I've been so excited. I'm ready. I think I want to go on T so there is nothing to "find out." I am what I am. It's just hard and weird.

Why is it that I'm comfortable with people calling me Eli, but I don't correct them when they call me Ellie? Why is it that Eli is now my name, but I don't want to hear my girlfriend call me that. I don't want her to call me Betsy either. I've moved past that name. I just want her to keep calling me her teddy bear.