Friday, December 19, 2008

Upcoming Exhibition

Dear Friends, Please join me:
Eli J. VandenBerg: Prints and Drawings
Opening Reception: January 9, 2009, 6-8pm
The William Way GLBT Community Center
1315 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA
Work will be on view January 5 – February 27, 2009
On view will be prints and drawings from the last five years including work from the Passing Series, Body in Progress and brand new images of Philadelphia from the Place and Home series. Please email me for more information or send me your address if you'd like to receive a postcard for the show.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gay for Obama

I ordered an Obama sticker online. After much deliberation I went with "GLBT for Obama." I actually thought twice about ordering it. I felt almost disgusted with myself. I used to be such a proud and outspoken queer person. I had rainbow stickers on my car and although I gave up the rainbow jewelry and freedom rings when I hit my twenties, there was still no mistaking that i was a dyke. Then i transitioned. When you transition it almost feels like you're being shoved back in the closet, sometimes against your own will. If you look like a dyke you will not look like a man. If you present as queer you will not pass as straight. I struggled to reconcile these feelings, but still transitioned very much in the open. Then i returned to Philadelphia and although many knew me from before, so many people knew me only as Eli that I could slip so easily into just being a man.

Drawing attention to my transness brings up obvious base concerns. What will my neighbors thing? What will they think of me, what will they think of Anna? On one side they're very Catholic, on the otherside they're raging conservative christians (with McCain signs and stickers all over their house, which started this bumper sticker shopping in the first place). I hate that these concerns creep into my mind, but i have spent so long feeling uncomfortable in my own body. I do not want to feel uncomfortable in my own neighborhood or home. I hate being reminded of all the awkward fear and hyperawareness that i felt when i first came out over ten years ago. I want to be open and out, but even beyond these concerns there's something inherently different between being an out dyke and an out FTM.

When i was open about being a dyke i was allowing, sometimes forcing people to see who i really was. When i come out as trans there is a fear that people will see what i am not. I fear that they will look closer at me trying to find the woman in my past, that that they will look at me and say "I never would have guessed you're woman," forcing me to remind them that i am not. There is so much emphasis put on passing and when you come out as trans you in some ways cease to succeed in what could be considered the most important part of transitioning--presenting as your chosen gender.

I still bought the sticker. I still put it on my bike. Nothing has happened, no one has said anything and i doubt that anyone will. Sometimes it's just as important to remind yourself as it is to remind others of who you are and where you came from.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The power of truth

I have to rent a car. What should be a completely mundane task is wrought with anxiety for me. I haven't changed my ID yet. I know I should have taken care of this a long time ago, but I didn't. It's a lot of time, a lot of money and a whole lot of hassle. In my every day life I am honestly not that affected. I do still look like my ID picture for the most part. It's the name Elizabeth and the glaring "F" that cause the problems.

I try to get myself psyched up for the confrontation, but avoid it at all costs. I carefully shave in the morning and put on baggy clothing. I even honestly consider trying to make it look like I have breasts. These parts of me that I spent a lifetime trying to pretend weren't there I am now trying to hint at. Imply breasts to prevent an even more awkward situation.

One time a few years ago, I presented my ID. The woman at the counter examined me and the license carefully. I was then asked to sit down. A few moments later I hear them call "ELIZABETH?" I turn and walk deliberately back to the counter. A second woman turns to the first and says, "See, that's Elizabeth. She answered."

A second time I made it into the car fine, but had to show ID again to get out of the parking lot. The attendant had apparently just gotten yelled at for not checking ID's well enough. She wasn't taking any chances with me. She looked at the ID, looked at me and said "This isn't you." I stammered that it was. "No. It's not. This is a woman's ID."

I choked on the words. "I know. I am Elizabeth." I wondered why on earth anyone would believe that if I wanted to steal an ID I wouldn't just take a man's. Finally, after considerable back and forth, after trying to ignore that my identification didn't match who I was anymore, I decided to take a chance on the truth. "I was Elizabeth. I was a woman. Now I am a man. I haven't changed my Driver's License yet." She looked at me. Looked closer at my picture. Saw hints of the man now was in the face on that picture.

"I am so sorry." She began gushing. "I am really really sorry. I just got yelled at by my boss and I just..." she went on an on, apologizing for something which I could not blame her for. I would have questioned me too.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I've been blessed with parents who not only accepted my transition, but wanted to take this journey with me. I think sometimes we forget that for our parents it isn't just a matter of accepting but they are coming out as well. In my case it was telling everyone in the small town I grew up in that they now had a son when before they had two daughters. Its a complex road full of twists and turns that seem to sneak up on you when you least expect them.

My parents recently told their story in their church. My sister said that some people even stayed through he second service to hear it again. I asked them to send it to me and as long as they approve I will post that as well.

Note: Parts of this story may have been recycled into "Living my Legacy" which was also posted here so if pieces sound familiar, forgive me.

In May my mom came to New York. I would be visiting the doctor for the first time to investigate hormone replacement therapy and I wanted her to be there. It wasn’t anything as metaphoric as my mom being present at my birth as a girl and re-birth as a boy. Rather, she had been there when I broke my leg, she had been there when I got my first and second set of stitches, she was there for my first visit to the GYN appointment and it seemed only natural that she be here for this. She arrived at my house and we immediately opened a bottle of wine. What began as idle conversation had, by the third glass of wine, turned to tears. I didn’t know how to explain to my mom, who had tried to raise me to be a proud woman, that I had made the decision to become her son. She was supportive and respectful, but also sad. She cried for the childhood she felt I had lost and she cried for the woman I would never become. “Your dad and I are just mourning. It feels like a loss.” These words stayed with me long after they were uttered. I suppose I understood what they were feeling, but I didn’t want to acknowledge it. Doing so would have meant that a part of me was dying and for the first time I had begun to feel truly alive.

The next day my girlfriend Anna arrived from Philadelphia and we all went to the doctor together. I stayed quiet during the visit and let my mom and Anna ask the questions. A form was passed around that listed possible side effects, everything from acne to death. They asked a few questions about the drug’s safety but not what was really on both of their minds. That was a question that the doctor could not answer. I knew they were thinking was, “Does he really have to do this?“
I tried to treat the rest of the day like a vacation for my mom, but this just wasn’t possible. The two women that care about me the most had spent the morning asking questions about whether or not testosterone would kill me. Suddenly becoming a tourist was out of the question. We ended the day with dinner in SoHo, not talking about what was on all of our minds. Anna was scared, my mom was concerned and I was exhausted. I knew they were thinking about the risks and whether it was worth it. Hormones had been my plan for months, but for them it had only been a reality for a few hours. I wouldn’t have been able to defend my choice if asked, I would have only begun crying. Thankfully, both these women knew me well enough not to ask. They allowed me the comfort of talking about books, school, art, and the food on our plates.

On Sunday my mom left, but told me she wanted my dad to come visit. She said that after twenty-five years I finally seemed comfortable in my own skin. She wanted my dad to see this. So, in August my dad flew from Michigan and I met him at my front door. He did a slight double take before hugging me explaining later that he expected to see me with a full beard after being on testosterone for only two months. I didn’t tell him I had run home expecting whiskers after only two hours. Clearly neither of us knew what to expect. The next day we boarded the subway and road to the West Village where we rode the elevator up eleven floors to see my therapist. I needed to say some things to him that I wasn‘t sure I could without the help of a mediator and the motivation of paying $100 an hour. All the effort I had made that summer to keep them updated on my progress seemed oddly unimportant to them. The weekly phone calls as my voice changed, the photos, the stories about my new support group, it all seemed so common to them. A daughter becoming a son is not an everyday occurrence. It’s hard to learn a new name when you worked so hard to choose the first one. It’s hard to know what to do with the memories of a daughter when he’s creating new memories as a son. Things felt like they were changing every moment of every day, and there they were all the way in Michigan. Why weren’t they struggling like I was? Why didn’t they feel as unbalanced and turned around and spit out as I did? “Well what would you like me to do?“ he asked. “I don’t want to question your decisions or make you think I don’t love you and respect what you are doing.” A loss of respect wasn’t what I was afraid of--it was loneliness. I needed them. I needed to feel confused and scared and excited with people who knew me and not just what I was becoming. Mom, him, my sister, and Anna were the only people close enough to me to really experience this transition the same way I was. I needed them to see me as I changed even if I was five states and 750 miles away.

Before he left I asked a favor of my dad which turned out to be the more difficult than any other part of my transition. I asked for a picture of his chest. I wanted my nipples to look like they would if I had been born his son. “Honey, I love you, but that’s a little too weird.” He could not forget the female chest in front of him. “I don’t think I can look at you with your shirt off and think ‘that’s where my nipples are,’” He paused and sighed. “I’ll think about it.” It wasn’t the changes in my body that concerned him as much as the relationship they suddenly had to his. I was beginning to inhabit a body like his. Eventually he would see me with my shirt off for the first time since puberty and seeing his body reflected in mine was maybe too much. Still, he would think about it. That was all I was asking for.
In November we all traveled to Washington to share the holiday with my mom’s family. Surrounded by extended family my dad turned to me, patted my hand and said, “Honey, it’s still a little weird for me, but if you want a picture of my nipples you can have that.” What began as a routine holiday dinner became a most intimate moment between father and son. Not only had he offered me his chest, he had done it in front of the entire family.

In December I asked my mom if she could take the picture of my dad’s chest and bring it with her to my surgery. She arrived in January two days before my consultation with the surgeon and told me he just couldn’t do it. “He tried, he really did, but it was just too weird for him.” That was ok. I would have to leave my nipples up to fate. Surgery would create a piece of me. I needed to accept the stitches and the scars however my body saw fit. This recreation was not something I could control. My parents had no control over the daughter they gave birth to, and in two days we would travel to Baltimore to create the son I always was.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Memories, cornered in my mind...

I spent the evening last night remembering my transition. I told all the great stories that had become lodged in my psyche, moments of awkward humor or brilliant awakening. In some ways I had meticulously recorded my transition, but, like all records, it was a record of things I wanted to remember. As the evening wore on, however, I began to recall moments that has just slipped away. I began to wonder about those moments that I simply didn’t want to recall. Moments that were so defeating and heartbreaking at the time that I didn’t think I would ever want to go back to them. We all remember those times when we begin to pass, but what about all the times we don’t.

Here I am years later being asked questions by two people that, together, provide my perfect combination of feigned confidence and total anxiety. I see myself in both of them so clearly that anxieties and fears I totally forgotten come rushing back. Some stories I’m learning are somewhat universal, moments that many if not all transmen share. Others are stories I keep hearing, stories that seem to be universal to everyone but me. Seemingly more common are the feelings--feelings of guilt, shame, awkwardness, annoyance, anger, fear, pride and bravado.

So, in the interest of full disclosure, here are some memories that at the time I probably preferred to forget…

I had decided to transition, I had decided to make art about it and that seemed to be the end of it. Nothing was happening. I didn’t know what to make work on, I didn’t look any different, but I went from a confident dyke to a terrified and nervous nothing. Maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough. Maybe if I only put a little effort into it something would begin to happen. If you knew me then you knew I had D breasts. I didn’t bind. It wasn’t because it was uncomfortable or hot or suffocating, though it certainly was all those things, it was that it didn’t work. I would have gladly turned my breasts into deflated pancakes if I though it would make me look like a man. It turns out that I passed more often when I didn’t bind. The minute I put on a binder my stomach turned into knots and any eye contact I made with the world took on a dear in headlights terror. This fear took away any masculinity I may have gained by a flat chest. Still, I kept going back to it. I wasn’t trying hard enough. I woke up that morning and decided to bind. Anna and I were going into Manhattan and I was going to be a man. I got out of the shower and with Anna’s help, began wrapping more and more fabric around my chest. A sports bra, ace bandages, another sports bra, an undershirt and then a sweater. It was the tightest I’d ever gotten things and I thought I looked good. I couldn’t breath, sit normally, walk normally or really talk, but surely I must look like a man. The entire subway ride into the city I was feeling alright. My eyes darted from face to face looking for any acknowledgement of my masculinity. The next stop was lunch—my first interaction with another human. The first words out of his mouth—“can I help you, ma’am?” I wanted to cry. I didn’t say anything trying to decide in that split second if I should correct him, trying to force myself to say “actually, it’s sir.” Instead all I could choke out through my constricted chest was “one slice of plain.”

I hoped the old wives tale was actually true—that when you shaved a hair a darker one grew back in its place. Before I took a drop of testosterone I was going to try to coax a beard out of my fair skin with shaving cream and a disposable razor. I went to the dollar store by my house in Brooklyn. I picked out some shaving cream from the shelf, but the razors were behind the counter. I gathered all my courage and asked for a bag of razors. The Dominican man behind the counter looked closely at me and then said “for your face?” Yes, I told him, thinking I had finally passed. “You don’t look Puerto Rican,” he tells me as he turns and grabbed a pink bag from the wall. I wrinkled my brow, not following. As he tossed the razors on the counter he explained that these were the best for ladies faces. Easy on the skin. All his customers prefer them. He didn’t think I was a man but a Puerto Rican lady trying to get rid of my feminine mustache. “I’m not Puerto Rican,” I said, affecting the lowest voice I could muster. I left before he could recommend a woman’s shaving cream.

And finally (for today)…
You know how annoying 13 year old boys can be? I Was That Annoying. The great thing for these kids is that they have no idea just how obnoxious they are, but when you have the mind of an adult and the hormone levels of a child you unfortunately know better. Even worse, there is nothing you can do to stop it. I was passing most of the time so I no longer had this look of terror frozen on my face. I was no longer spending all my energy trying to be a man, but belong. It was non-stop over compensation. This need to be a man, need for the approval of my peers, approval of girls, approval of adult men and although I saw myself as a train wreck in slow motion, there was nothing I could do to stop my hormonal wrangling not for king of the hill, but for a spot somewhere along the side of it. I would push a bit too hard, talk a bit too loud, and my jokes were a bit too inappropriate. I totally wanted to pee on things. I got drunk and spray-painted something (I have no idea what) on the side of a bodega. If I thought I could get away with body checking everyone on the subway I would have. I wanted to be a man, but as annoying as I was, I had to be a boy first.

Monday, August 25, 2008

india recognizes third gender!

I wouldn't have expected India to be such a trend setter. little did i know...

this is taken from The Inda Times

So far Pooja, a 25-year-old transsexual from Salem in Tamil Nadu, had nothing to prove her existence in government records because she had refused to be identified as either a male or a female, the only two options available in the gender column of the application forms.

Finally, the state has recognized her as an individual and given her a ration card where the sex column is marked T instead of M or F.

The step by Tamil Nadu's civil supplies department marks the first time that authorities anywhere in India have recognised the group. In Tamil Nadu alone, where transsexuals like Pooja started getting ration cards on Thursday, it would allow the estimated 40,000 members of the community to identify themselves as a third gender.

This endorses the community's alternative gender status and allows them to avail of government welfare schemes without being forced to present themselves as males or females.

"It's a move to support these marginalized people. They exist and we cannot ignore them. We have to accept them as third gender," said social welfare minister Poongothai Aladi Aruna, a gynaecologist herself.

"We started with ration cards because it was the simplest thing to do. Other documents such as passports and voter identity cards will involve policy decisions of the Centre."

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Summer is all about the reality show and realizing your dreams. I see these talent shows and hear people tell their gut wrenching stories about how they've given up everything to follow their dream of being a musician, dancer or fire eater. How they've sacrificed and toiled because this is the only thing they want. Then I think about my own life--what do I want more than anything? For a while I was really feeling down because I couldn't come up with anything. I started to feel passionless. Then I realized that it wasn't that I didn't have a dream, but rather that my dreams had been realized. Ever since I can remember I've wanted to have a partner that I love and care about, own a home of my own and, most importantly, to become a man. Over the past few years I've attained all these things. It's not that I have no dreams, it's that I simply have to dream up some new ones.

Below is a story chronicling the ups, downs and ultimate wonder that my dreams of transitioning could become a reality.

When I move to New York I will become a man. This is what I kept telling myself. Passing had been on my mind for over a year, but the thought of transitioning in Philadelphia where I had spent the last five years was simply too daunting. I though Harry Benjamin‘s Care Guidelines were hard and fast rules. The thought of living as my “chosen gender” for at least a year before I could even be considered for top surgery and hormones terrified me. I tried to learn ways of passing by joining a drag king troupe, but the only thing I liked about being on stage in drag was that I looked like a man while doing it. Inserting this masculine look into the rest of my life without the dim lights of the bar achieved only a few odd stares and a friend asking me why my boobs looked “kinda smushed.” How would I tell my friends and co-workers I was now a boy when I couldn’t even convince a stranger? Unassisted manhood would have to wait until I left.

For the first time since undergrad I would be entering an entirely new world where I didn‘t know anyone. I wanted the transition to be immediate. I wanted to bind my breasts and answer to a boy’s name. I hoped everyone could just assume that I had always been the man I now claimed to be. Unfortunately it was not that easy. I went to bed ready to bind my breasts the next morning. I woke up unable to do just that. I told myself it was because of the temperature. “It’s August. You can’t begin regular breast binding in August.“ Really, it was that I thought I could never pull it off. No one would believe I was a man. I‘d just be the sweaty dyke with “kinda smushed“ boobs that couldn‘t breath. I’d also enrolled under the name Elizabeth, not knowing I could do anything else. With every building I went to and every form I filled out, I had to say this name. By the third time of repeating a name I couldn’t identify with, all the bravado I had taken with me to New York had drained from my body. I was standing on the steps of South Hall when one of my new classmates asked me my name. “B-“ slipped from my mouth before I could stop myself. I choked on “-etsy” and went home feeling defeated.

This defeat was really self-prescribed. At every necessity to passing I had placed a road block in my path. I hadn’t chosen a name, much less used it on enrollment records, I wouldn’t bind for fear of looking stupid, and most importantly I had a hard time believing I really was a man. If I couldn’t believe in my manhood I could not expect it from anyone else. I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t physically ready to safely walk through life as a man who may not always look so “manly.“ I wasn’t mentally ready to defend my chosen gender which was questioned at every pass. I wasn’t emotionally ready to deal with those who didn’t believe in my manhood, and most importantly I wasn’t spiritually ready to stop feeling apologetic for who I was. I still though it was my problem that I didn’t look like a man, that it was my fault I was challenging others to stretch their minds around gender past what they understood it to be.

I began to realize the every day, unexpected practical challenges of becoming a man—moments where I was forced to make split second decisions as if I’ve lived them my whole life. Saying my name when I wasn‘t even sure what it should be, that moment’s hesitation before I chose what public restroom to use, filling out paperwork and feeling like I was required to check male or female when neither of these was really accurate; all of these mundane things became high stakes decisions. Every time I checked “Female” on a form I felt that much further away from becoming a man. Every time I wrote my name I lost a little bit of myself.

I finally gathered the courage to change my name. As much as I wanted it to, changing the name and pronouns people used to refer to me was not something I could subtly accomplish. I didn’t want to choose a name, my parents were supposed to do that for me. I didn’t want to tell people to use male pronouns, that was supposed to happen naturally. I didn’t want to be aware of my transition. I just wanted to have always been a man. I felt bad for asking something of people that I was certain they had never encountered before in their lives. Even the most sensitive of people needed to hear from my own mouth, “I am becoming a boy and changing my name to Eli. Please refer to me with male pronouns.” Most people needed to hear this more than once. A name isn’t just a name. It is the sound that is immediately connected with your person and knowing this made it hard to ask someone to change and even harder to correct them. Thankfully I was surrounded by people that wouldn’t listen to my apologies, they simply kept trying. Some asked what name I wanted them to call me, some needed to be told. Some waited for me to tell them to use male pronouns, some just started on their own. Everyone respected my decision.
Still, I was struggling. After six months of thinking about transitioning, the pressure to actually do something finally became too much. I showed up in the nurse’s office in January crying and shaking, begging for refills on my anti-depressants. She asked if I’d ever considered therapy. I nodded, glad she had asked, and was ushered into a serene, light blue room across the hall. While the noise machine hummed outside the door my new therapist Jennifer kindly asked me my name. I told her I didn’t know.

“People have started calling me Eli,” I said quietly.

“Is that what you’d like me to call you,” she asked?

“I guess,” she waited expectantly. “Yes,” I concluded, “Call me Eli.” She nodded and wrote my name on my chart. I had done it. I had finally made a decision and was beginning to take control of my life.

Together we worked on how to live with the most honesty possible. I knew I always wanted top surgery, but I was concerned about hormones. The health risks were a part of this concern but I was more worried about becoming just another straight, white male. I was scared of loosing the community that had made me the person I was. I didn’t want to loose the feeling of pride in walking down the street as a open queer person. My politics as a feminist and my personal identity seemed to be in conflict until Jennifer finally asked me, “What do you expect to see when you look in the mirror?“

“A flat chest and facial hair,“ I said without hesitation. That was when I knew that I needed to start hormones.

I had my first shot in June of 2004. After leaving the doctor I went to get sushi at a small takeout stand in a hallway between a laundry-mat at an apartment building on west 17th street. As I ate my avocado roll I waited for my first surge of manhood. The photos of the smiling Japanese owners on their trip to the Vatican stared back at me while the radio in the back room whined grainy hymns accompanied by a thumping bass beat from the dryers no more than twenty feet away. While I chewed, I waited for my whiskers to grow and my womanly body to fade away. When I opened my front door two hours later I went straight to the bathroom and inspected my face. Nothing. Not a glimmer of a hair, much less a five o’clock shadow. Nothing had changed. There would be plenty of time to become the man I wanted to be.

When I had begun seeing Jennifer I told her that within the next year I wanted to have top surgery, and just short of a year later, January 11, 2005, I went to Baltimore for chest reconstructive surgery. Something that the year before was just a dream I never believed could be a reality had actually come true. I woke up in the recovery room and looked down at my body. For the first time I saw the body I had always seen in my mind.

The most remarkable thing about all the doctors and therapists I have seen is that I was never asked to explain myself. I never had to prove my manhood. I was in the midst of a dichotomy between a medical profession that had seen this all before and a community of people that were struggling to understand me. In retrospect I wouldn’t have even known how to explain myself. I wouldn’t have been able to prove anything to anyone. Everything felt uncertain. I finally realized I couldn’t know for sure until I took the leap to start transitioning. I thought critically of each and every decision I made along the way. My most difficult critic proved to be myself. Once I had accepted the decisions I was making and the person I was becoming, my community, both medical and social, supported me in living my reality.

At some point in my childhood I had seen something on TV about sex changes. I was young and naive and thought maybe things would just be ok. I could go to the doctor, get the penis I seemed to be missing and restart my life as a boy. When I told my parents I wanted to be a boy at nine years old I realized from the looks on their faces that it wasn’t that easy. Now, seventeen years later it still isn’t that easy, but it is possible. It hadn’t been since puberty that I could spend a summer without my shirt on. I’ll have to wait a while longer to pee standing up. Still, what was a dream at nine is becoming a reality at twenty-six. That thought still amazes me.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Series of Questions Photo Project

I was recently made aware of a photo project currently looking for volunteers. It looks like it could be a really wonderful project and I appreciate the artists intent to examine trans and gender issues without exploiting the subjects. I personally am interested in participating and I encourage any other trans folks out there to do the same.

“A Series of Questions” is a photo project exploring the power dynamics inherent in the questions asked of transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender-variant, and/or gender non-conforming people. Participants are photographed holding a sign upon which is written a question they have been asked. The questions are then turned on the viewer, shifting the dynamics under which they were originally asked, forming a larger series of questions which many of the people photographed face as a part of their daily lives.

Many documentary photographic works dealing with trans* issues and gender exploit the genders of these subjects, pointing to an “otherness” or inappropriately exoticizing; this body of work seeks to instead point to the transphobia, genderphobia, and gender-baiting that can become part of everyday interactions and lives, forming a more full picture of the various lived experiences."

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Politics and the Popularity Contest

From "The Onion"
Grandmother Proud To Have Lived Long Enough To See First Viable Female Candidate Torn Apart
June 16, 2008 Issue 44•25
PEORIA, IL—Seventy-six-year-old grandmother Anita Graney told reporters Monday that she was "overwhelmed with pride" for having lived to see the first viable female presidential candidate in the nation's history so successfully run into the ground by vicious media attacks and hubristic, arrogant miscalculations. "Hillary [Clinton] showed America that a woman can be politically destroyed just as completely and heartbreakingly as any man," said Graney, a lifelong feminist. "What an amazing example for today's young women who aspire to fail spectacularly at the highest levels." Graney expressed hope that one of her granddaughters might someday be the first woman to get utterly eviscerated in a nationwide general election.
The Primaries are finally over. They have been over in Pennsylvania for some months. Certainly, most are thrilled that it’s over, but I can’t help but feel disappointed at the outcome. This has nothing to do with the potential abilities of Senator Obama. In fact, during the Pennsylvania Primary I’ll be the first to admit that I found his advertisements a bit intoxicating. I found his speeches inspiring when often times I found Clinton’s speeches would somehow make me cringe. Cringe because she sounds annoying, cringe because she sounds petty, cringe because I know she didn’t really mean it that way. She’s like a really old, dear friend that you try to introduce to your new “cool” group of friends and you keep feeling the need to apologize for her.

Still, in spite of all this cringing I still believe that she is the better candidate. I’ve long believed that the best presidents are also probably the worst campaigners. By this same token, some of the best campaigners make really awful presidents. George W. is a prime example of this.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am completely confident that Obama will perform better than W., but I’m also confident that most anyone could perform better than W. I’ve discussed this campaign a lot with my mom, a strong, smart second wave feminist, and found that we both share this somewhat surprising intense feeling of sadness. What I fail to understand is how she got pegged as “the Washington machine” and he became this voice of inspiration. I remember listening to the
Slate Political Gabfest and hearing them talk about the Super Delegates. This was just before the PA primaries and everyone was talking about how maybe, just maybe, if Hillary won by a big enough margin then maybe, just maybe the Super Delegates would decide she was the better candidate and give her the push she needed to get the nomination. As this conversation wore on Emily Bazelon (who always sounded to me like she really liked Hillary, but was embarrassed to say so) said that she just thought it would be a very bad political move for these Super Delegates to essentially take the nomination away from “the first viable African American candidate” and give it to Clinton.

Maybe I was sleeping for a few years, but when have we ever had a viable female candidate? When did the first woman president become less important than the first black male president? Clinton may have been involved in politics for a very long time, but I happen to think that can be a good thing. She spent her entire campaign on the defensive and the press counted her a looser before she even had a chance to play. All her supporters seemed to melt away as she no longer looked like the “cool” candidate, with only
Tom Brokaw coming to her defense. Even just the fact that she is referred to by her first name and Obama by his last seems to imply some subtle underlying sexism.

Hillary Clinton came to Pennsylvania.
She sent her daughter to Woody’s (a local gay bar) while Obama called the most famous lesbian he knew (Melissa Etheridge) and had her call in. Clinton may not always connect with the people, but at least she tried to do it in person. Obama settles for flashy TV adds and had Shepard Fairy make inspiring posters, allowing the "cool kids" to make his case with him. I know I sound angry, and I am.

I don’t mean to digress. I get it. She lost. Obama won. I know I’ll vote for him come November considering the alternative, but I just can’t wrap my heart around being an Obama supporter just yet. As a final thought I just want you to ask yourself why being against Barak Obama or even simply for Hillary Clinton made you a secret racist or working class stoop while everyone could freely rail on Hillary Clinton’s every move and no one was accused of being a raging sexist.

From The Chicago Tribune’s June 25 article
Devil in a pantsuit or the demonization of Hillary Clinton

When the doctor checks to see if the patient is still breathing, it's disgust, not compassion, that leaks out between his syllables: "You couldn't kill her with an ax," he sneers.That patient—the wide-hipped, unwieldy woman at the heart of
Dorothy Parker's 1929 short story "Big Blonde"—is a familiar image in books, films, songs, comic books, TV series, video games and, now, politics: The woman as monster. The over-large, over-ambitious, overbearing creature who irritates everybody, the death-defying witch who just won't go away—and who therefore must be destroyed.She's a vampire, a zombie, an alien, a werewolf, a psychopath, a serial killer. She's Alex, the Glenn Close character in "Fatal Attraction" (1987), who ... keeps ... on ... coming. She's the looming, clutching, stifling mother or wife or girlfriend in a Philip Roth novel. (Which novel? Take your pick.) She's the eerie, outlandish creature in the Sylvia Plath poem "Lady Lazarus" (1965), who proclaims, "Out of the ash / I rise with my red hair / And I eat men like air." She's the vengeful giantess in the 1958 film "Attack of the 50 Foot Woman."

It’s the acceptability of this rage that makes me the saddest. The complacence when
Chris Matthews refers to Clinton as a she devil makes me furious. Perhaps the underlying rage has the same source for us both. You see, Clinton, to me, does not seem like a she-devil. She seems like a smart, compassionate, caring, assertive woman. She reminds me of my Mom.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Good News, at least for those of us with insurance

I always felt that you can't have it both ways. Gays went from mentally insane to cured in the 70's, The Pentagon decided they agreed in 2006, but trans people are still on the books. Gender Dysphoria is still a recognized medical condition and Gender Identity Disorder is still on the books. Thankfully the treatments have changed. People are no longer shuttled of to loony bins and made to feel even crazier like in The Last Time I Wore A Dress. Now, assuming we have a decent doctor we're prescribed hormones instead of Charm School. However, it's all out of your own pocket. Top surgery cost about $6000, the bottom is even more expensive and insurance won't help a bit.

But maybe all that is changing. The American Medical Association, at it's annual conference in Chicago, called on insurers to start coughing up some dough. Resolutions 114, 115 and 122 were passed by the AMA's House of Delegates noting that Gender Identity Disorder is an internationally recognized medical condition. Delegates highlighted the need to combat the emotional pain and physical incongruity and downright awkwardness associated with gender dysphoria with proper access to mental health services, hormone treatments, and surgical procedures. I personally have parental support that boarders on crazy. They paid for my surgery and even flew in from Michigan to enjoy the ride. I had great friends who helped me raise $500 for my stay in extended care, but not all of us are that lucky. After seeing women self-inject silicone under their skin to gain some curves, or seeing the deflated chest and crushed lungs of a man who's been binding for years I'm happy to say that maybe some physical and mental pain can be avoided.

Like I said, you can't have it both ways. If I'm sick help me pay for my treatment. If my care is cosmetic, take GID off the books.

Resolution 114: Removing Barriers to Care for Transgender Patients
Resolution 115: Removing Insurance Barriers to Care for Transgender Patients
Resolution 122: Removing Financial Barriers to Care for Transgender Patients

Thursday, June 12, 2008


My birthday had ended a few hours ago, but in my drunken stupor that was nothing more than a technicality. I had settled comfortably into the beer stained sofa at The Boiler Room on the Lower East Side, sipping my drink and watching the interactions between the remaining men around the bar. As the night came to a close, it was clear everyone knew this was their final chance to find company for the night. A pudgy, balding thirty-something leaned in towards a lanky black man and lingered just a second too long. I sat back and smiled.

At the end of the bar one man sat alone, ready to make his move. He looked over, moved his glassy, drunken eyes up and down and squinted, either in an attempt to look sexy or focus. I wasn’t sure which. I am certainly no stranger to gay bars, but the directness of gay men’s dating rituals compared to the shy lesbian flirting I was used to never ceases to amaze me. After about five minutes, the man slid down from his bar stool. With a gaze that never left the direction of his prey, he walked slowly and deliberately past me into the bathroom. I turned to look behind me. No one followed him in. After a few minutes he emerged from the bathroom seeming angry and defeated. He stormed over to his stool, grabbed his coat and walked towards the door, first stopping directly in front of me. I looked up to see his rejected eyes glaring directly into mine.

At that moment I realized I was the one he was after. It was me he wanted to “do” in the bathroom. As the door swung closed behind him, a wave of excitement passed over me--not sexual excitement, but a misguided sort of pride. For the first time in my life I felt like a cheap piece of meat and I enjoyed it. I was the one being looked at. I was the man someone wanted for the night. Not only did this drunken stranger see me as a man, he saw me as a man he wanted to fuck. This was unlike my private sexual experiences where every fear and insecurity I’ve ever had can come to the surface. In this very public place I was a male sexual object. What had just occurred wasn’t a sexual day dream with 25 years of body disconnection behind it. This was a real life moment, lustful and sexual. The memory was permanent. Never would he know that my body was any different than his. Being desired like this did more for my confidence as a man than years of therapy ever could.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

The haves and have-nots...

I’ve begun going to a gym. There little chance of me wasting away to nothing, but the physical activity does offset my love of cheese. This experience has become a rather intense lesson in the fragility and limitations of passing. I’ve joined with two friends. Both male, both gay. Having a set of queer backups added a certain amount of safety, but they aren’t always with me and even if they are, they don’t change the fact that I have no dick. It’s a tenuous and vulnerable space to begin with. Men with all their parts are cruising, or not cruising; looking and not looking and trying to not be looked at while they show off. It makes me very conscious of what I do and do not have. I do have scars. I don’t have a dick.

Do people notice when I am changing and wearing boxers? What about briefs? Are people looking, and if so, how closely? Underwear has always been a distinct marker of manhood for me, but never to this degree. I quickly realized that using the elliptical in boxers inevitably makes one short or the other ride so far up my ass that I can taste the fabric. I switch to briefs.

I’ve got a soft pack. I’ll wear that. And I did. It was all fine until I was finished changing and actually using the elliptical machine. The feeling of soft rubber chafing against my crotch and slowly ripping out every single pubic was not the burn I was hoping to feel. There would need to be a barrier.

I went home that night and modified all my briefs, sewing pockets or pouches into each of them. The next day I tried again. All was fine until the inevitable bouncing began. Suddenly it started moving against my leg. This is probably the exact same thing an actual dick would do, but with an actual dick is attached to your actual body. You do not need to worry about it slipping out of your underwear, through the leg of your shorts and to the gym floor. Packing was not going to work. I needed something more secure.

Sometimes I pack and sometimes I don’t. It doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference. I am always aware of my body. Wear the wrong shorts—the ones that are a little too tight and ride up a little too high—and I’m sure my hips will give me away, or I’ll be stricken with camel toe so blatant that it will serve as a giant vaginal highlighter. Wear big and baggy shorts and they sink into nothing when I sit against the weight machine.

I’m sure that everyone feels this self-awareness at the gym. Gyms are a haven of embarrassments. Still, somehow farting on the treadmill seems slightly less concerning than exposing your vagina in the locker room.

I’ve begun swimming. Feeling the water flow over my bare back and chest is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. This liberation is tempered by the vulnerability I feel when I take off my bathing suit. I am naked in a bathroom stall. Men all around me and my body exposed. Will they see me through the crack in the door? With the door suddenly open? What will this mean? What would happen? Though I do sometimes wonder how people would respond if I joined the group shower in all my transsexual glory, self preservation keeps me from finding the answer. Some things are better left unknown.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Anna and I sat silently in the brightly lit exam room. Neither of us knew what to talk about so I uncomfortably looked around the room. Where there were normally posters encouraging you to quit smoking or practice safer sex, instead were advertisements for Botox. Posters which exclaimed “I can look years younger” replaced those I normally saw declaring “Silence=Death.” Health and safety were replaced by opulent vanity. Pictures of Dr. Bev with her show dogs littered the counter by the stainless steel sink. These were not the surroundings I expected for such a life changing surgery to take place. I wanted to talk to Anna; tell her everything I was feeling but one of the office nurses was in the room with us. This woman’s life seemed so far from my own that I couldn‘t bring myself to open my mouth. Finally Anna broke the silence. “ Do you perform this surgery often?” she asked.

“Oh yeah,” the nurse replied. “One week it was the only surgery we did, the whole week straight.”

“Wow,” Anna exclaimed, “That is a lot. Do people come from all over?”

“Sure. We get people from all over the country and Canada. Once we even had someone from England.”

“That’s quite a trip. He must have really wanted it done right away,” I chimed in.

“So the doctor is pretty good then?” Anna said, hoping for anything to calm her fear that the tomorrow I would die on the operating table.

“Oh she’s the best,” the nurse gushed. “It’s really a great surgery, you know. It’s a feel good surgery. You guys are just so appreciative and happy when it’s done, like a huge weight has been lifted off your chest.” Anna and I looked over at each other, struggling not to laugh. “We just love you guys.”

The surgical nurse entered just in time to save this particular guy from losing his composure. Betty was all business and not one for idle chit chat. My mom was brought into the room and immediately the explanation began. Nurse Betty pulled from her pocket a clear rubber grenade shaped object with a tube attached to it, saying these would be sucking fluid from my body following surgery. My mom and Anna simultaneously cringed at the thought of anything being sucked from my body. Betty showed them how to dump the fluid, clear any tissue and clots that might block the tubes, and replace the suction. For the first time during this experience, someone else would be taking care of me. Knowing that I didn’t have to listen as if my life depended on it freed me to watch everyone else’s reactions rather than controlling my own.

“Once you dump the fluid and tissue in the toilet, record the amount on this piece of paper. Once you’re down to 25cc on each side for a full 24 hours the tubes can be removed.” My girlfriend and mom maintained their disgusted look while she explained how either they or my doctor at home would pull the tubes from my body and clean up the holes left behind. Rather than begin to worry about who would do this procedure when I was home, I forced myself to completely stop listening.

At the conclusion of the demonstration we left the bright lights of the exam room and were ushered across the hall to look at some before and after pictures. Nurse Betty opened the door and escorted us into a dimly lit room that seemed more fitting of a brothel than a doctor’s office. There were waist high, faux granite pillars, and a painting of a nude female graced the wall above a red velvet Victorian love seat. We were left alone to page through a notebook of “feel good surgeries,” forcing me to face my expectations. I knew I would be left with scars, but I was more worried about the placement of my nipples. I had seen some of the doctor’s earlier work where they seemed to almost be in the armpit. Displayed in our laps were high nipples, low nipples, nipples that looked like pieces of chewed gum, and even some that were missing altogether. I noticed the results got progressively better with each surgery she performed. Aside from an occasional nipple complication the finished products looked pretty good. More importantly, however, this was a book full of men who had had gone before me. Anna could see that they had not died, my mom could see that they weren’t mutilated, and I could just look without having to face a million questions that I could not answer. What I saw was not perfection, but a natural variation. Mine would not be the chest of a “man” but that of a trans man. I stood up feeling a little more content about what tomorrow might bring.

Our minds racing with information, we left the room and asked the receptionist where we should visit on our first trip to Baltimore. On her recommendation, we climbed in the car and headed for the waterfront, a final outing for my female chest. At the aquarium we imagined postcards of my breasts posing with the dolphins. For the first time I was able to laugh about the presence of my chest, knowing that tomorrow it would be gone. We all returned to the hotel room that night sensing the gravity of the next day, but knowing there was nothing more to say. The appointment was set, the balance on the surgery paid, and tomorrow night I was going to fall asleep in a body forever changed.

As I laid down, an instinctual fear began welling up inside me. I wanted to be comforted, told everything was going to be all right, but I couldn’t admit that to anyone. They were just as scared as I was. I had made this decision. Admitting my fear would only make the situation worse.

We arrived back at the office bright and early the next morning. I was ushered into the exam room with Anna and told to take off all my clothes except my boxer shorts. Once I had stripped I sat in silence while Anna held my hand. Our palms were sweating and our fingers freezing cold. My nipples hardened, unaware they’d soon be sitting in a bowl of ice two feet from the rest of my body. Dr. Bev and Nurse Betty entered with a flurry of tape measure and purple marker. Their cold fingers moved rapidly to measure and mark my chest.

“This is really the worst part,” Dr. Bev assured me. I expected the upcoming pain of having a part of my body removed to surpass the pain of that particular moment, but I wasn‘t going to argue. I pulled a surgical gown over my chest and my mom was invited in. She and Anna were given a refresher coarse on my drains and bandages. Once they felt certain they could perform their nurse-like duties they both kissed me and wished me good luck. I slid off the exam table and shuffled down to the operating room in nothing but a loose fitting gown and my boxer shorts.
White Christmas crooned from the stereo as I entered the operating room and lay down on the table. Apparently the snowman underwear I had haphazardly chosen that morning inspired one more day of Holiday music. The anesthesiologist explained what was going to be happening while Nurse Betty hooked up blood pressure monitors to my legs and right arm. She mechanically rubbed my hand with the affection of someone who sees this everyday. The anesthesia gradually overtook me, and I fell asleep listening to hollow talk of her new Buick.

Four hours later I jolted awake in a small dark room, freezing cold and about to throw up. Instead I forced myself to speak. “Tell Anna I didn’t die.” A woman I couldn’t recognize smiled and said ok, while another nurse covered me with a blanket and turned on a vent that blew hot air up my shorts. As my body temperature slowly returned to normal I remembered to look down at my body and began to smile. Anna appeared at the door asking gently how I was while she rubbed my head and fed me ice chips. After no more than five minutes Nurse Betty entered with my clothes. She wrapped my shirt around me, leaving the buttons to Anna, while she held out my pants for me to climb into. I wanted to point out that I’d just woken up and perhaps should stay a while, but one look at her face told me to get dressed.

“You might want to think about flip flops next time,” scolded Nurse Betty. My shoes, which this morning had slipped on quite easily, were now impossible.

Knowing there’d never be a next time I stood and resolutely shoved my feet in. Proud of this small accomplishment, I began to shuffle towards the door.

“Stand up straight,” I heard behind me. “You can do that. You don’t have breasts anymore.” Although Nurse Betty had never witnessed me trying to hide a chest that didn‘t belong, her words echoed the fact that there was nothing left to hide. I grabbed Anna’s arm for support, cautiously put my shoulders back, and made my way to the waiting car.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


It was December of 2004 that I began consistently using the men’s room. There wasn’t a deliberate decision that caused me to change my bathroom of choice. Instead of waiting until I felt certain of passing I just instinctually gravitated towards the men’s room one day, and I went with it. I don’t quite know what I expected to find behind that door. Men’s bathrooms were not completely unknown to me. As a defiant butch dyke I would enter when the line for the ladies room was too long, but during those visits I always felt like I was subversively crossing over into foreign territory. Now I was expected to suddenly feel comfortable enough to relieve myself.

My hand gently nudged the door open so I could peer around it to see if there was anyone behind it. Finding no one, I lowered my head, gathered my resolve, awkwardly folded my arms to hide my chest and pushed the door fully open. I crossed the threshold and, without looking right or left, rushed to the nearest stall. Once the door was locked behind me I realized I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Should I life the seat? The sound seemed important then how would I go to the bathroom? Peeing down my leg was no way to end my first visit here. I stared at the toilet for a long time, weighing my options when I finally decided it would be better to sit, but take a shit as well in order to save face. The toilet flushed and I waited. When I was sure there was no one else in the bathroom I slowly opened the door. Immediately fearing someone would enter, I bolted out of the stall, hurriedly ran my hands under the faucet and slid into the booth across from my parents.

Without having said a word about this groundbreaking ordeal my mom told me the waitress had come. “I told her our daughter will be joining us before it dawned on me that you were probably in the men’s room.“
The stress didn‘t end with this initial success, but it gradually became less intense. Eventually I could use a busy bathroom and at least act like I belonged even if I didn’t feel like it. I could managed to walk past someone using a urinal and not step away in fear of invading their personal space. This singular bodily function challenged me to reinforce my gender every time I had to go. People would realize the rumors were true when they passed me coming out of the men’s room. As I became more comfortable, they became more comfortable or at least stopped looking so confused. Gradually I was able just walk in, take care of business, and leave. Most days it even felt natural, routine. Still, some days it felt like the biggest, scariest decision ever. These were the days that I was sure someone would stare, ask me to leave, treat me like I didn’t belong like I couldn‘t possibly be a man.

On those days I just couldn’t handle the added stress of my bladder forcing me to face everything that was going on in my life. One day I didn’t want to make this major decision, I just wanted to pee. Mentally I knew no one would say anything. I had been using the same men’s bathroom for weeks without so much as an odd look, much less an incident, but I longed for the safety of being back in familiar territory, to once again feel like a butch dyke in the lady’s room. The minute I opened the door I knew it was a mistake. The old woman at the sink looked at me in shock. A little girl pointed and whispered to her mother. I could have turned around, apologized, said I got the wrong bathroom, but it wasn‘t wrong. It just wasn‘t right. I forged ahead to the stall in front of me and performed the same act I had when I first used the men’s room. I waited for the coast to clear, ran my hands under cold water and walked out the door as quickly as possible. It was then that I realized how foreign the lady’s room had become, that I had crossed that point of no return. Women chatted while they went to the bathroom. They waited around for their friends and fixed their hair. They performed rituals and routines that I had never been a part of. I suddenly had a longing for the silent peeing and flushing of the men’s room. That was, after all, what I was used to.

Saturday, May 31, 2008


The story below was written as a part of my graduate thesis. The thesis was completed in May of 2005. These actual events occured in February of 2005.

This wasn’t the first time I would be trying on suits. Rather, it would be the first time I felt like I was legitimately trying on suits. With a weddings and job interviews coming up and now that my breasts were gone it was time to own a suit that fit. Instead of running off to the thrift store and making do with the cast offs of others, I was going to be buying a suit that had never been worn by anyone else before. The fabric wouldn’t give me a rash, the pockets wouldn’t pucker at the hips, and the jacket wouldn’t pull over breasts that were no longer there. As Anna and I walked up Chestnut street I looked forward to finally being a man buying a suit and not a boy playing dress-up. I opened the door to Men’s Warehouse and with a deliberate gait walked directly towards the nearest rack of clothing. Navy blue and gray wool enveloped me to near claustrophobia. It was then that I realized I had no idea where to start, or even what size to look for. My sense of purpose waned considerably. I flagged down the first salesman I noticed and looking down at my shoes said, “I need a suit.” I then raised my head to see a very tall, lean redhead with a barely detectable smirk. I fought back the urge to point out every part of my body that was less than perfectly masculine. I wanted to tell him about my wide hips and big ass. I wanted to mention that I had short arms and really short legs. I wanted to let him know that I was really “curvy” for a man and when I saw him pull out a tape measure and kneel before me to measure my inseam I cursed myself for not packing that day and wanted to tell him why I didn’t have a penis. Instead I merely said, “I don’t know what size I am other than short.”

“Alrighty,” he said, looking me up and down. He measured me and said, “Well, you’re definitely short, and probably a 46.” He led me over to the seven suits that constituted the 46” Short section of the store. “You’ll probably want more of an executive cut.” I looked over at Anna, and we uncomfortably chuckled at the euphemism. “It’s a nice way of saying portly,” he went on to explain. The clarification was neither necessary or desired. He pulled a few suits off the rack and held the first jacket out for me to try on. I slipped into it and looked in the mirror. Unlike the thrilling experience I thought this first look would be, it amounted to nothing more than a hurried glance. I was terrified to look any longer. I don’t know if I felt like I wouldn’t look at myself “correctly,“ or if I simply wouldn’t like the reflection I saw in the mirror. I knew I should have taken a good look, but with both Anna and my tall, non-executive fitter expectantly staring, all I could think of was escape. I didn’t even know what to look for. Anna felt the fabric, and the fitter tugged and smoothed and tugged some more before ultimately informing me that this fit was no good. He then pulled out another jacket with the flourish of a man working on commission and had me slip it on. After repeating this same routine four more times he stated that this was the best fit I was going to find. It had “A generous cut in the front and a vent in the back for extra comfort,” which in laymen’s terms meant, “generous room for your hips, stomach, and ass.” Anna did her customary touch of the fabric while I looked around the thousands of suits and digested the fact that this was my best chance, this boring gray suit. I looked at Anna, ready to pull out my credit card and have the whole ordeal over with, but saw the hesitance in her face. I asked him if he could hold the suit so we could look around a little bit more.

He agreed but now with his less than positive pitch, a last ditch effort to make the sale. “Well, you’re always going to have trouble.” I nodded, knowing I probably was a difficult size. “You’re never going to find something right off the rack,” he continued. “Maybe you could try a children’s store and see if they have a ‘husky boy’s department.” I kept nodding, hoping he’d realize that what I was really saying was your help is gradually becoming the biggest slap to my self-esteem that I’ve experienced since elementary school. He didn’t stop. “I mean you could try a big and tall shop, but you’re not tall, just big.” My face began turning a deep shade of red when it finally hit me. I was no longer experiencing the soft pat on the shoulder that a woman gets while shopping. He saw a man before him and he was giving me the honest truth. Instead of trying to ignore every salesperson in the room thinking they’d direct me to the women’s department, I was asking advice and getting it. I was short, I was big, and I was going to have trouble finding a suit that fit. Although you’d never hear a salesperson telling a woman, “I’m sorry but you’re just too short and fat for all the clothing in this store,” to tell a man essentially the same thing was perfectly acceptable. Before transitioning, while not identifying as a woman I was still aware of what expected of me as one. The size and shape of my body was supposed to directly relate to my self worth. Today, while preparing to buy a $300 article of clothing that I was trying to believe I was enough of a man to wear, I was told that being fat was just a fact. It didn’t mean I was any less respected or any less of a man. It took changing my gender to hear the truth about my body that I had longed to hear my entire life. My body, whether it be fat or thin or something in between, was a vessel that housed who I was. It wasn’t what I was. I looked up at him as he handed me his card and thanked him for his time and honesty, man to man.