Please check out this scholarship in honor of Bryn.
The Bryn Kelly Scholarship for Trans Women/Trans Femme Writers
Creative writings, poetry, prose
Please check out this scholarship in honor of Bryn.
I don’t usually do image posts on here. I reserve those for Tumblr & Facebook, but I really like this one.
This speaks to me as a dancer and as a human because I live like I dance: I try to use the skills I’ve been taught and I do my best to choreograph a plan, but on the whole I teach myself what steps I can manage and make it up as I go.
Keep dancing, friends.
As you may have noticed, this blog hasn’t been as active as it could be. The reason has been grad school, and holy hell has it been tough!
As of just now I have officially finished my grad school program for a Masters in Social Work. This was incredibly hard, harder than I thought it would be… I have never been a good student and school has always been torturous for me. When I started the program, I wrote down all the shit I would have to do, all the classes I would have to take, and at the bottom I wrote “You can make it this far. Do it for them, and for you.”
Community, you are “them.” I did this for you and I promise that I will use it to serve you better, help you more, and do all that I can to get us the human rights we deserve. Thank you for being my inspiration, my drive, and my passion. Without you, there is no such thing as success for me. I think of my people every day and I am grateful to be able to play a small part in our collective journey. You are what keeps me moving forward. You are what drives my feet to lift and land. You are what I am walking towards, and who I am walking with.
To all who love me, support me, and carry me. Thank you is not enough. I could not have survived without your love and care. I also want to say an extra thank you to my classmates and supportive professors. Coming into this, I was afraid of you. I did not trust you to accept me or understand me, and you have. You re-taught me to trust in ways a jaded activist and social orphan tends to forget. You proved that I do not always have to be so afraid. Thank you for demonstrating the side of humanity that is easiest to imagine but hardest to embody.
And as grateful as I am, I know one thing I never, ever want to do again: Complete a full-time graduate program with a 20 hour a week internship while signal handedly running an organization, doing national organizing work, touring, and performing/co-running a drag troupe. If any of you ever catch me fancying to over do this again, throw glitter in my FACE and knock me the fuck out.
I read a quote that really moved me. It said “self portraits (selfies) are often such an act of self preservation and resistance.” I take a lot of self portraits, and sometimes I catch myself feeling silly about it. I wonder if it makes me vain, or makes me appear narcissistic, and people often tease me about it. Most of the time, I don’t give it a second thought. I really like taking pictures of myself, and I have a good reason for it.
A special note from me: Most the photos in this post have either never been seen by anyone except me, or haven’t been seen by anyone in years. I ask you, the reader, for kind eyes and minds as you view them.
When I was about 14 or 15, my lifelong best friend Jess and I took our photography hobby to a new place. We were late into a sleepover when, either out of boredom or innovation, we dragged out the big black trash bags of dress up clothes from when we were kids. We found the old slips and used prom dresses of our pretend-time past. Jess had the idea to do a photoshoot; she has always been a fountain of empowerment and I was in awe of her ability to own her body. We tried on the old dresses, clothes, slips, and costumes and posed before sheets covering the old furniture and cluttered boxes of my old playroom. No one ever saw the photographs; they were just for us.
We did these shoots for years, and occasionally I would spread the practice among some other close friends. It became a passion, an addiction; especially early on, it was the only time I felt pretty. It was the only time I really felt I was what I was supposed to be: a girl. A pretty girl who could look like the other girls; who had a body like the other girls; who was one of the girls. Looking at the photos now, it is funny to see the tame, sometimes blurry shots I thought were so risque, and others where I think “Holy shit, I had no concept for how sexual that pose was!” It was an amazing experience for body empowerment. Jess and I did these bonding shoots all through high school, roaming all over the city documenting our faces, our bodies, and our lives on film. Attics, bedrooms, parks, cloudy train tracks, mall dressing rooms, big box store aisles; we would try on everything just to see how we looked in it. When I was 17, I wrote a poem about my intimate relationship with my camera. From what I can remember, I wrote how I wanted to “sit inside the camera lens” so that I could touch the “frozen perfection” that only film could create. I remember chalking the poem on the cement commons of my high school grounds, spiraling around in a giant drawing of a camera lens. I used to have time to create things like that… I was learning to love myself, and my body, by finding ways to portray it through art.
When I went to college I started doing self-portrait shoots on my own. It’d be late at night in my dorm room and I’d have the urge to create something out of myself. It was around that time I formally fell in love with the “pin-up” and found a huge amount of body love and acceptance through doing pin-up inspired shoots.
I started to like myself more. I started to like how I looked. I began to put pictures of myself up around my apartment, and enjoyed talking pictures with people instead of just of them. Sometimes people would say, “You have a lot of pictures of yourself…” I would feel shy and awkward about it, but I secretly responded “It’s to remind me to like myself.” I wanted to like myself, and I did what I had to do. And though I wasn’t going to fully admit the importance of what I was doing, I was also not going to apologize for it. When I came out, I realized that I once again had no idea what I looked like. I wasn’t sure if I had ever really known. I could recognize my face, my body, my eyes… but I did not know what I looked like. My coming out and transition was extremely painful. My mind’s dissonance of what I was and what I wanted to be, of how I looked and how I imagined myself to look, is a torture I have carried for most of my life. It was not JUST about being trans, or of being a boy or a girl, of having a body part, or not having one. It was, and is, the issue of knowing who and what I am for the sake of knowing myself. Coming out as trans was a new avenue of self understanding that brought many things I had never understood to the surface… and it was excruciating.
I have never been the type of trans* person who wanted something specific for my body. I have gone through times where I thought I might want something in particular; a flat chest, and angular body, a taller frame, a more muscular physique, but over all I could never decide exactly what I was going for. Masculine, feminine, man, woman; this language can be useful at times but I have found that all of it is secondary to the understanding of my own humanness. When I was 18, and newly discovering femininity and “womanhood,” I learned to like the body I had. Over several years I began to own the breasts, hips, legs, waist, and overall form I had. I then went from owning my body, to loving it. When I came out, I was told that I had to change it, and even destroy it. I’ve always been more about creation than destruction. It is why I am an artist. I approach life and art the same way, and I’ve always wanted to be better at both. I went to art school once, for photography and sculpture, but dropped out within a year. I wanted the freedom to make my art whatever I felt it needed to be without someone else telling me it was good or not. My favorite sculpture medium is clay because of its ability to take shape as anything. Throughout my childhood and adolescence, I would spend hours creating forms, primarily of the female body. They seemed so real I felt I was the clay. A couple years ago I wrote a song called “Clay.” It was primarily about my muscular disability and the feelings of powerlessness that comes with it, but as it developed I feel it became a combination piece of how I felt about transforming my body in general. When I started to take testosterone, I approached my body like clay. I realized that my body is malleable, fluid, and moving. My body is mine. I do not have to fit my body because I can make it fit me. I am the sculptor of my own shape. I do not have to destroy it to change it, I do not have to change it to own it, but I have the option and I can own the changes I make.
This Sunday marked my 7 year anniversary of coming out as trans (or my transiversary, as I like to say). Several friends asked me “Does it feel like it has been that long?” to which I answered “It feels like it was just yesterday, at the same time, it feels like it’s always been this way.” This isn’t about me having it all figured out or that my journey with gender is “over.” Quite the opposite, actually. I spent most of this past year feeling like I was coming out all over again (but that’s a whole other blog post). The difference, I suppose, is how I have been addressing the process. The concept of processing gender, though no less painful, has become somewhat normalized to me. It’s like when you’re a teenager first experiencing heartbreak you have no idea what to do or how to help yourself, but when you’re an adult you’ve been there so you already know what to do. You can say to yourself: “Yeah, I recognize this shit. It hurts but it’ll be over soon enough.”
My transition was a pivotal time for me, but after seven years its significance (in some ways) seems to fade and blur into the rest of my life. What is left is just being me; thinking about it, working on it, and noticing that some of it happens to be labeled as genderqueer/trans. And as “trans issues” fade into the paint, I am left looking at the walls, my walls, that I built a long, long time ago… I might have even been born with them. Walls are not always bad; Walls are needed to protect and manage our inner selves, but they can trap us. Walls, and the need to hide behind them, is so easily enmeshed into the trans experience. For a while, the main reason I was hiding was greatly connected to all the shit that comes with being trans. What I think I lost sight of was that being trans wasn’t my only reason for hiding. I have spent so much of my life hating myself. I have spent so much of my life hiding. In hiding I have found ways to love myself more and protect my self better. Because of hiding I have spent so much time fighting… All of these feelings have been carved into my walls, and as I read the writing on them I have discovered that I am flat out afraid of showing myself to anyone, sometimes even myself. When I do a self portrait, I am facing myself. I am reminding myself that I am ok. By showing these portraits in this post, I am making the decision to face the world.
A couple years ago Kate (Bornstein) and I were goofing off taking selfies, one after another. She laughed and said “We trans people fucking love pictures of ourselves. We can’t get enough!” I smiled and clicked the shutter on the camera, thinking of how right she was. Like anyone, trans* folks work really hard to be ourselves, and we work really hard to look like ourselves. Many of us hide from our own image, sometimes we don’t even know it. I have never been a stranger to the mirror. Throughout my life, I have spent a lot of time looking at myself, especially as a child, because I was trying to learn what I looked like. I would stare deep into the mirror hoping that the image of my eye would swallow me into an Alice in Wonderland hole, dropping me into my mind so that I could see who I was face to face. I would often comb my hair to the side, like my dad does his hair (and ironically similar to how I do my hair right now). I remember one time, combing my hair over and looking deep in the mirror; for a split second I felt like I saw something real. It scared me so much I jumped off the sink, mussed up my hair, and started pacing the bathroom floor in a panic. I must have been about 12; I remember writing about it in a prose series I wrote to myself called “Dear Jim.” The poem started with “I saw you today.” I am continually trying to re-capture the image I saw back then. Over the years, I have gotten better and better at it. The result has been more and more pictures of me. The statement “self portraits (selfies) are often such an act of self preservation and resistance” says more to me than I can really describe. It speaks to the mes of the past, standing alone with a camera, trying to capture my insides in the shape of my outside. I still love to do photoshoots. Every now and then, I’ll spend a few hours finding some form of temporary, personal perfection in my body. In the split second it takes the shutter to engage, I can see myself, and I am real. It is an act of resistance against a world that would rather see me erased. It is an act of self preservation to remind me that I am alive and that I am human. No one ever sees these photographs. They are just for me… and now some are for you.
If you find yourself feeling alone; if you are suffering, please know that you are not the only one. I am like you and I promise to try to show that more. There is no shame in hiding, it is something we all need to do sometimes… sometimes for a long while. Take your time. I hope that me taking this tiny step out of my hiding place will encourage you to feel safer in yours, and maybe help you take a step out too someday. I am grateful to all who have been there for me, helping me come out, or stay in: My amazing parents, my beloved sister (and new brother), Jess, Alex, Al, my family and chosen family, my friends, my mentors, my people, and my kitties too. Thank you.
I looked out over the Wisconsin lake. I’d been on the road touring almost two weeks, my batteries were running low, but in the best way. She asked me about when I came out. I thought about it casually, “Well, its been four years…” I stopped, “wait… six… no, I mean five…” I thought about what day it was and wondered where I’d been. February had come and gone, along with a date I thought I’d never forget. February 17th, my “transiversary” as I like to call it. The day I officially mark my coming out, even though by that time I’d been “working” on things for months, years. I use February 17th as the marker because of my state of mind then and what I was working out.
Back then I dedicatedly kept a journal. Every year I look back, and every year I see different things. Its like watching a movie over and over, you always catch some new thing you hadn’t noticed before. Every year I look back and whatever relates to my life at that time is what stands out. Last year was all about love and gratitude; reflecting on my history through realizations and gradual empowerment. This year, I am influenced especially by the fact that I forgot my Transiversary; I knew it was coming up but so much was going on with tour planning, documentary filming, performances, show production, drag practices, conferences… It just slipped passed me. I wondered at how it happened. Maybe I’ve finally reached a place in life where the absolute fact that I’m TRANS isn’t as prominent as it used to be, like I’m used to it now… Maybe I just haven’t kept an eye on myself as well as I should. This year has been amazing for me. I’ve been working non-stop; I’ve been on the road, enveloped in being an activist and a performer in ways I’ve never been able to do before. And I’ve been surrounded by the outside world more frequently and more intensely that I’ve ever experienced. To me, the “real world” means bouncing up, down, and around gender. What bathroom I’m in, what pronoun I’m called, flashing IDs, sirs to mams, mams to sirs – all rapid fire from airport, to gas station, to train car, to university, to theater, and back. I play ‘woman’ when I think its safest, I play ‘man’ when I think I can get away with it, and in between I’m just me; your average, flaming genderqueer femme transguy, genderfucked from head to toe.
This year when I look back on when I was coming out as trans, I see the identity-focused back and forth that forged the foundation for where I am now. When I started to come out I didn’t know anything about gender or queerness. I didn’t know anyone gay, I didn’t even know if I was gay. I didn’t know what I was…
January 27th, 2006: I wrote about coming out to my sister as “Bi-sexual.” I have no idea why I spelled it like that (or capitalized it). Maybe it was from quasi-reading outdated text books and off the path internet forums. Shows how foreign it all was to me… guess being in that GSA in high school didn’t really prepare me for anything.
“I walk around and have to remember how other people see me is not how I see myself. That I cannot act how i feel because to them, I am a woman. If i say “I’m a gay man.” I don’t think they will be happy. I worry gay guys will look down on me because i don’t belong with them. I can’t claim to be a lesbian because I am not a lesbian. …I feel like a guy inside.”
January 30th, 2006
“I’m just sick of being different from people, but I don’t want to change…”
Febuary 11th, 2006
“Am I my clothes? …it’s almost like my skin is dress up… Fuck it all, i’m finally gonna be something that I feel like i should be.”
Taken February 14th, 2006: The first picture I took of myself in men’s clothes after starting to come out. I didn’t own a tie, so I used a belt from a sweater jacket.
[image description: young JAC in a white collared shirt and knit hat that covers his hair with a knit belt tied like a tie around his neck. His eyes are brown, his face is rounded and young-looking]
Febuary 16th, 2006
“everything i have is purple or pretty or some shit like that. i do like my stuffed animals… alot. Fuck, this whole color scheme is all society, who says a guy can’t have a purple robe. why do i feel i have to be everything? can’t i be some bothness, like girly_boi… guess it’s how i’ve always been. I’ve always been ‘both’ and i can’t be anything else so i need to accept the constant change.”
By February 17th, 2006, the day I now use to mark my Transiversary, I had started to use the word queer in my regular vocabulary. By March I had started to use the men’s bathroom, had passed as male three times, and had fully gained a new “queer” lexicon. I have to laugh and think its kinda cute how I sorted out the labels.
March 1st, 2006:
“i’ve got a new description for myself. I’ve been reading up on it for a while. Like, what am I?
Straight. – “Yeah, that’s probably me. It must be, right?” Bisexual. – “You know, I think that’s really me.” Pansexual. – “Yeah, that sounds much more like me.” Genderqueer. – “Wow, that actually fits.” Polygendered. – “That fits even better.” FTM. – “That sounds like me.” Transgendered. – “Sounds a fuck of a lot like me. Me to a T.” (HAHA trans pun, total accident.)
So I’m a female [sex], pansexual, genderqueer, polygendered, transman. Fuck, how about I just say ‘Queer?'”
I remember that day. Its funny because first, all those labels meant the same thing to me then as they do now. I think at the time I used genderqueer more to describe my non-binary gender identity, rather than now where I use it primarily to describe my non-binary gender expression/existence. And though I identified as non-binary and polygender, its curious that I used the word “transman,” a label I never apply to myself now because for whatever reason, it doesn’t fit me; I say transguy exclusively. Really, I don’t remember ever calling myself a “transman,” so maybe it was just for the sake of print and definition. I cycled through a lot of labels for myself back then, a lot of names, a lot of identities – all within a couple months. Back then I used all those words to try and gain some validation, some explanation for what I was and why. In that same post was a quote from a trans activist. I remember clinging to it for months:
“What helped me a lot was to stop asking ‘What am I?’ and to start asking instead ‘What changes do I need to make to be a happier person?'” -C.Jacob Hale
March 7th, 2006:
“I still feel like there really is something wrong with me… Normal is over rated… probably.”
February 19th, 2007: (one year later)
“This year I have been so at peace with my gender ‘situation’ and my life… It is the dream-life I always wanted, which a few deviations… Because of the relationships I’ve had [I wouldn’t change it] even if it meant avoiding the frustration and difficulty of this life.”
“This life.” I keep going back to February 17th as some anchor for “this life” but really, I think that (though I had reasons) I picked that date to give myself a reference point for where I came from. Now, I think I’ve been cutting myself up. Lots of big moments have happened in my life in reference to my gender identity; New Years Eve 2005 when I was dolled up femme but “acted and felt like a boy” all night; six months before that I was dressing “as a guy” at home, and dressing “like a girl” in public; six months before that in the confidence of a close friend I “was a guy for a day”; six years before that I was signing notes with my “boy name” and secretly wished to be my best friend’s boyfriend; six years before that I begged my parents to cut my hair short like a boy. Which matters more? The day I said, “I am different that I thought.” or when I said “I know what this is.” or when I said “I accept who I am.” All of it had to happen, all of it mattered, and all of it got me to where I am now. Witness, I am officially limiting the Transiversary status as a marker date for ornamental purposes only. It will no longer represent a sectional “moment” of my life. Instead, like a birthday, it will be a representative of time passed, and times to come. I used to obsess over knowing myself, what I was, why I was that way, how I was going to handle it, and where I was going to end up. I’m starting to think that not knowing yourself is one of the few things that drives us towards tomorrow. Every time I think I’ve got myself figured out, something new arises. Its not a bad thing. The day I stop learning about who I am and working on who I want to be, I’ll be dead. I used to think time was a factory, producing life bit by bit. Now, I’ve come to know that time is more like the earth, holding us beneath our feet, surrounding us with all that comes from it, and passing over us like the sky hanging over head. We move under it, within it, and over top of it, no sense of control, and no way to be controlled. I think that in this year of being out in the world, I’ve been hiding more than ever before. I’ve been hiding more because unlike the past, I know who and what I am. I know what I want to be, how I want to be seen and treated, and I know I have the right to have it. Still I’ve been hiding; out of fear, out of convenience, out of remorse for being different. I’m not going to try to cut up my life any more and I’m not going to cut up myself either. Whatever that means for bathrooms, I don’t know. The women’s room is still gonna be cleaner, and it’s still gonna be safer. But maybe I need to start pushing the buttons I haven’t wanted to push since I was a high-strung, newly out transguy refusing to take anything less than a “he/him” pronoun and a men’s bathroom… who am I kidding, even at my most militant I was never very aggressive when it came to standing up for myself. I’ve always been better at defending others, so its what I’ve always done and I’ve counted on catching that overflow into my own life. It’s pretty clear what I need to do about that… I need to take ownership over myself and truly recognize that I’m not just a cog in the machine of this movement; I’m a human being within this community.
Five years ago I wrote that this life was a dream, a gift. I still think that, and for the same reasons. It’s the people in life that make it worth living, and while I don’t think I am “living for some else” I don’t think I am living my life just for me. The better I can live my life, the better I can work to make other people’s lives better too.
Last month, my mom dug out an old school paper I wrote about what I wanted to do when I grew up:
February 20th, 1996: (11 years old)
“I will be an artist and a musician… I will obtain my PhD… I will try to go into space where I will discover a solar system and each planet will be named after one of my friends. When I return to Earth I will be the first woman president, if there hasn’t already been one. I will encourage kids to build their self esteem… I will try try to make the world a better place.”
I’m not counting on ever getting a PhD, (no matter how happy it would make my mom). I don’t think I’ll have much luck on discovering a new solar system or obtaining the presidency – first woman or otherwise, but I’ve got the first two down, and I’ll be working hard on the last two for the rest of my life.
One of the photo blogs I follow, FuckYeahFemmes, has been having a lot of discussion about inclusion recently. Some issues were raised about the blog being un-inclusive of transfolks; all sentiments I can identify with whole heartedly. However, I never felt that about this blog because though trans/non-female identity posts were not common, I asked the author a long time ago if I could post and she was very welcoming. But to anyone who has not asked, they probably wouldn’t think it was very representative of all femmes. The author reached out to me about being more inclusive of guy/trans/gq femmes and she immediately began to act on making a more inclusive blog. Unfortunately some of the blog readers have not been equally awesome and have been posting commentary about how it is “ridiculous and offensive that femme is being appropriated by masculine identified people…” and how “femme IS restricted to female identified, feminine presenting, lesbian/bisexual/transgender/queer women.” This is so hurtful. I continue to struggle with why we are oppressive of our own communities, and frankly why we queers can’t get our act together. Below is my response posted on the blog:
“I’d like to respond to the several “femme appropriation” posts that have been appearing. I have a female sex assigned body. I am a male transguy. I am genderqueer. I am read as a man but more often as a woman. I live as guy. I am a femme.
I am a feminine person and though masculinity is an aspect to my identity it is not prominent. I used to beat myself up over it, my whole life spent stuck between what I wasn’t and what I couldn’t be. It was lonely, frustrating, and painful. When I found FEMME I stopped feeling so “wrong” and I started feeling something I had never felt; included. Femme supports me so I am no longer ashamed of being feminine despite other expectations. It empowers me to not feel obligated to be something I’m not while also validating me in being who I am. When you tell me I am not allowed to be femme, you are telling me I am not allowed to be myself.
Boarder policing is one of the most detrimental things we do in our communities. How is stating that people “are not allowed” to identify with how they feel any different from the oppressions placed on us from outside queer communities? Yes, there are words other than femme, but femme is more than a word, it is an identity and it is a community. And if there is a community of people who identify similarly to me, live similar lives, have similar politics, why would I not be in that community? Is it because I am not identical to you? To that I say is anyone really identical to you? History is important. And in history we have been combating oppressive systems that try to define femininity based on what someone else wants. I find that we are now doing that again, but in a different forum. We must always remember where we came from, but we also must look ahead to where we are going. An identity label is not a physical space; it is a state of mind, and it is a community in communities. Me, a guy, standing under FEMME is not stealing someone’s spot under the umbrella. There is always more room and there is strength in numbers. When you tell me I am not allowed to be femme, you are telling me that you are going ahead but I must stay behind alone.
When we talk about appropriation, we are discussing communities of power and privilege adopting words, behavior, etc of communities who have less/none. By being male one may think I have more privilege and therefore I am appropriating but I am not seen as male in society, by government, by the average person on the street, in a gay bar, or even on the internet. I do not receive a plethora of privileges from the patriarchy. It oppresses me too; not the same ways as for a woman but in ways just as legitimate. Closed spaces and safe spaces are vitally important. Women have the right to be in women-only spaces and use language that speaks to their experience. But for femme, there is not one femme experience and your femme experience is not the only one. As queer people we have a lot of doors closed on us. I can not understand why we continue to close doors on each other. We must do all we can to combat privilege and exclusion in order to create a just and conscious community. Maybe femme means woman to you, but it does not mean woman to me. How can we judge who is right? The presence of maleness or masculinity does not negate femininity. The gender binary is not a friend to anyone, including femmes. I work hard for the femme community, just as hard as someone who is not male. When you tell me I am not allowed to be femme, you are telling me I am not good enough to have a safe community.
Yes, I admit that I do get frustrated when any group address at FemmeCon or on a femme blog is “Ladies!” My response is to remind folks that I am here in hopes of change. FuckYeahFemmes is not a transphobic blog. Originally, I didn’t know if I was allowed to post on it so I asked the author and her response was very welcoming. We can’t know everything all at once, what matters is learning responsibly and correcting our mistakes. FuckYeahFemmes did correct itself and I know that for a fact because I was personally contacted by Shawna (author) about how to make the blog more inclusive. I wish everyone in our community had FuckYeahFemmes’ drive and love for community inclusion. When we see others challenging our friends, it is hard not get upset but the answer is not to pick up our toys and go home. The answer is to listen, to talk, and to open our arms to one another saying “This is hard for me too, but we can make it together.” When you tell me I am not allowed to be femme, you are not standing up for the femme community; you are standing in the way of it.
In solidarity and love, Midwest GenderQueer”
Fortunately, not all the blog followers are un-inclusive. There have been posts by readers advocating for the diverse spectrum of Femme, including the author herself. I guess we can only keep working, keep fighting until we all are included. Until then, we’re going to continue to hurt each other and fuck each other over.
I rifled through old papers in yet another fit of obsessive cleaning. Mixed in a folder of stickers, old poems, and magazine clippings I found a couple letters from my Grandma. Her dementia barely spilled out onto the page, maybe if I had nothing to compare it to I wouldn’t notice it at all. The last letter I remember writing to my grandma was when I was about twenty; I can see the stationary of my childhood against the bright green carpet of my apartment. “Dear Grandma,” I lied and said I was doing well in school, told her about my work on a social justice conference, and that I didn’t have a boyfriend, but I didn’t mind. That was my last letter. Within a year I came out as trans, I but I didn’t come out to her… I didn’t know if she would understand, I didn’t know if she would accept me, I didn’t know if she would remember it the next day…
My grandma and I had a special bond. When I was growing up, Grandma and I were closer than my mom and I were. My mom and I were always at odds, always fighting, but Grandma and I were peas in a pod, I was her special girl. She lived with us for several years. I would climb the stairs to the third floor everyday to tell her about my day, and I would always bring my friends and boyfriend by to see her, just to say “hi”. She paid more attention to my life than my mom ever seemed to do. I would sit on her bed and listen stories about her childhood in Australia; cane toads invading the yard, climbing the fence at her all-girls school to wave handkerchiefs at the boys, singing on tables in bars for the soldiers during the war… At night when I couldn’t sleep she would sit on my bed and sing fragments of her favorite 1940s songs, skipping the words she couldn’t remember. She would sit in her room all day, sipping boxed wine. Her voice would echo down the rickety brown, back stairs as she sang along to old Dean Martin tapes. Songs from another time, memories from an absent life. I remember when I was very young I liked to sit in her lap and play with her gold “G” pendant necklace. “Grandma, what’s your name?” She spoke playfully, “Georgia.” Her eyes were big and brown just like mine. I could see myself in her, maybe more easily than in my mother. All three of us have the same eyes, the same look, the same shape; like the same body passed down, each destined for a different life.
Today, February 17, 2010, marks the 4 year Transiversary for o’l Midwest GenderQueer. It has been a long road, and will be longer still. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all who have been there, wanted to be there, and come and gone. Just as I am here, you have been here with me. I love you and I am eternally grateful. I would not have made it without you.
And now, a story that looks longer than it actually is…
On January 27th, 2006 I walked out of class, went straight into the computer lab and started a livejournal. I described what had happened in class:
“[My teacher] got off topic and started talking about gender queer. I’d looked it all up before but I had never heard people in real life talk about it….I was close to tears…”
That psychology teacher, a Dyke who was later fired for her “radical” methodology, changed my life. For the first time my life was described by someone else. For the first time, I felt that maybe I was not the only one. But I felt like the only one. I wasn’t alone but no one really understood what I was going through. My friends we supportive but confused, even a little worried.
“I’ve lived my hole life thinking no one was like me. I just don’t fit anywhere… Fuck it all, i’m finally gonna be something that I feel like i should be. Finally.”
February 17th was not officially the first date I started to ‘come out’ or recognize my genderqueerness, it was the first day that I had full and total recognition of who I was without denial, excuse, or exception. I recognized that I was not crazy, I was not multiple people, that I was not normal, and that I didn’t have to be. I recognized the desire to be a “girly boy” and not have to live within a certain binary concept, regardless of what body or identity I had. These recognitions were in no way matured or actualized, they were the seeds of thought that eventually grew into my own sense of being. February 17th, 2006 marks the day I took the first step on solid footing in a long, continuing journey to self autonomy and personal actualization. And even with that day being a great day, it was a dark day. I was exhausted, I was angry, I was afraid.
“Can’t i be who I am, shouldn’t I be who I am? I hate myself for some reason. I hate myself.”
The first appearance of the word “transgender” came in March, along with a slew of other new vocab words I had adopted. I had made a decision to take my life into my own hands for better or worse. I wrote:
“I am taking the steps I need to make it… I am myself and I will try to be as true to that as I can.” Continue reading “Transiversary: Excerpts from the Past 4 Years”
A voice answered. I dropped my voice to its lower octave and spoke. I overheard the man speaking to his supervisor. “She says….”
She. It used to crush me. As a newly out transguy nothing could wreck my day like the wrong pronoun. I had to accept that I wasn’t going to pass. Once I did “she” moved from a crushing reality to a minor inconvenience. After I started T “he” began to make more of an appearance, but that’s all it ever made. An appearance. Eventually I stopped caring. My friends tell me that I “don’t look anything like a girl.” I may not look exactly like a girl, but I look (and sound) enough like one to be read as one. It isn’t about self-deprecation. It’s about reality. To some I am read as male, but to most I’m not. The reason has to be I look and sound within the general concept of what a female would or could be.
Originally my theory for this was based on familiarity with visible queerness. People who where more accustomed to non-normative or otherwise queer gender presentation in women would more likely think I was a woman too, and even stress using “she” to show they recognize me. Consequently, people who had little to no exposure to queerness would always read me as male simply because they didn’t know any better. Makes sense, right? But it isn’t accurate. A queer/queer savvy person has just as much chance to use “she” as a rural Ohio store clerk. Regardless of population or location, I am significantly unreadable and under-recognized.
Sometimes I get pissed about it, especially if I’m in a space where I think people should know better. One random “she” here and there isn’t much to get upset about, but I have a hard time standing the brunt of three to six to twelve “shes” flying in my face like bugs on a windshield. It’s as if I can actually feel myself getting cut down, every pronoun pulling me farther and farther away from any hope of correction or recognition. My friends are often quick to correct people, but I rarely do anymore. I wonder if they think I’m a coward for not standing up for myself. I wonder if they feel sorry for me. I don’t feel sorry for myself; it usually doesn’t bother me… that much. The explanation is often more painful than the mistake because it often leads to more questions or, at the very least, an unfavorable look.
Sometimes I don’t know what’s wrong with people. I think I look like a guy. I think they must be crazy, or maybe I’m the one who’s crazy; crazy for even wanting to pass, for caring what other people think. Maybe I’m crazy to think that I should be able to have the pronoun I want no matter what I look like. Maybe I’m crazy to continue to look like I do in this world. Once when I was upset about not passing a friend (also trans) said “if you want to pass there are things you can do…” but I don’t want to do them. I already did them and I grew out of it, it isn’t me anymore. I don’t want to pretend I’m someone or something I’m not, and that includes going by “she.”
Its not that I’m ashamed of being female bodied, or otherwise hate it. I just don’t like it infringing on my identity. What sucks is that it’s not up to me whether it does or doesn’t. Its other people’s perceptions that continually push my birth sex in my face. I’m not opposed to being placed inside the feminine spectrum either. I self-identify as a femme, but that doesn’t mean I’m a girl. I’m a guy, and as femme as I am, it doesn’t change my gender identity. Sometimes I think of upping my T dose but I never do. I don’t want to give up the androgyny and I think my body is having a hard enough time with the strain from T as it is. I guess this is just how it’s gonna be, and since I got over the preliminary experiences of not passing, there’s no cause for me not to get over this… It’s just that I thought I was near the end, you know? I was never under the illusion that T would make life easy; I didn’t take it for that. I just thought it would make life easier… at least, easier than this.
After I was passing a little, I started to genderfuck more to suit my personality. I had been building up the confidence to do it. T was my final push across the binary line. Once I died my hair and started to “femme up” the way I wanted there was no going back to butch. Butch was gone and I guess that any chance of “he” setting roots went with it. Like I said, I’d rather be this way than not, it’s who I am. I’ll just hang out with the other genderqueers until the binary breaks down enough for us to have a space. In the mean time, I do enjoy fucking with people who have no idea what gender I am. I think of it as a little form of payback. If I’m not gonna get my pronoun yet, I might as well get to freak people out while I wait.
Remember that time I went to the gyno, and I looked like a man?
My gynecologist’s office is out in the suburban area of Morrow and Montgomery, which is about a 20 minute drive from the center of Cincinnati, where I live.
I was a little nervous. It was my first visit since I started T. I wondered how male I looked, or if I just looked androgynous. I glanced at my reflection in the glass door. I felt I could pass for a girl… a really androgynous girl….
I walked into the waiting room. The place was empty except for one woman. She looked up at me, and then quickly back at her magazine. I was used to the other patients being a little thrown off by my appearance. They were almost all suburbanites, and from what I can tell, suburbanites seem to be used to their own people, their own world, and they act as if nothing exists outside of it. I might as well have been an alien with a space suit on.
I went up to the window and looked in at the two receptionists boxed inside. The younger of the two tired not to stare at me. I didn’t take it personally. After all, I did have a fuchsia faux-hawk, and my nails were painted two different colors. That and, I looked like some androgynous middle-sex.
The receptionist asked me my name. I paused. I knew my medical chart was under my birth name, but JAC was written in quotes next to it. I wasn’t sure what I was listed under. I decided.
“JAC Stringer.” I said, hoping if nothing else, the last name would be a clue.
“Ok. Here for Dr. Phelep, right?”
I relaxed a little. “Yep.”
I busied myself in the basket of lollipops and waited to update my information. I could feel eyes on me. Suddenly rush hour hit the waiting room and a rush of normative, suburbanite-looking women swarmed the room. I filled out forms as I listened to the foreign conversation of two women, a man, and their teen daughter who where sitting behind me. I got up to submit my paperwork, feeling the eyes of the teen girl following me in every step. I met her eyes for an instant, and quickly looked away. I pretended to feel normal. I pretended I belonged there. I did belong there. I didn’t attempt to pretend to read magazines. Instead I sat awkwardly, secretly watching the other people. I couldn’t shake that I was making them a little uncomfortable. I didn’t know whether to feel guilty or proud.
My name got called, my birth name. The girl watched me get up and walk out. I kept my eyes forward. Once I was out of the waiting room, I could feel a little more normal. I was sure the nurses were somewhat aware of who and what I was, and even if they weren’t, to them I was just another patient. It didn’t really matter how weird I looked.
I sat up on the table as the nurse took my blood pressure and asked the usual questions about medications, exercise, and my female body.
“Are you using and contraceptives?”
I kept my answers short. “No.”
“And when was your last period?”
I stopped. “Um…” I looked up, pretending to think. My thoughts started to cloud in panic. I couldn’t think. I wondered if I should say “I’m on testosterone so I don’t get it any more.” I didn’t want to say it.
“Here’s a calendar, if it’ll help.” The nurse handed me a small calendar of 2008.
I stared at it, almost laughing at myself. “Well, this isn’t gonna help me at all.” I thought. “Um,” I finally spoke, “It’s been months…”
“Oh, ok, I’ll just write months then.” said the nurse casually. “Dr. Phelep will be right in.”
I sat alone in the room and waited. It felt like it had been more than a year since I had been there last. Everything was familiar, but like a dream was familiar. There was a knock on the door and Dr. Phelep appeared from behind it. She smiled a big smile at the sight of me.
“Wow, that’s a new color.”
“Yeah,” I said, still a little shaken from the period talk.
“Let’s head into my office and catch up.” she said, leading the way across the hall.
I don’t know if it’s possible for a gynecologist to be associated with comfort, but if it was possible, Dr. Phelep would be the one to do accomplish it. She had been with me since the beginning.
Two years earlier:
I sat in her office, listening to her explain the newest birth control. I stumbled over my words, telling her I didn’t need it anymore… because I was dating a woman. After being her straight, female patient for almost five years, I could tell it wasn’t exactly what she expected to hear, but she didn’t bat an eye.
“Oh, alright, then you certainly don’t need it, do you?” she smiled.
I brought down the other shoe. “Also… I just came out as transgender… and I’m living as a guy.”
Again, clearly not something she expected, but I didn’t have to explain it to her. She knew exactly what I was talking about. She wrote JAC on my medical chart, and immediately started practicing male pronouns. She even answered all my questions about safe sex with women. She treated me like I was normal, which was priceless.
A year later, I decided to start taking T. I was having a hard time finding a doctor who knew what I was talking about. I was hesitant to go to one of the two doctors all the other transguys saw because I didn’t want a Gender Identity Disorder diagnosis. I knew someone who had avoided GID by getting a prescription through their gyno. I had high hopes. I brought her all the information I could find, and popped the question. She looked at me intently.
“I’ll be honest. I don’t know anything about this. That makes me hesitant to be your primary care giver for this… I’ll read everything over and let you know.”
She called me a day later, saying she felt it would be better if I had a doctor who knew more about it, incase something went wrong. She said she was more than happy to run my blood work, and do anything else, but she couldn’t give me the script. I wanted to try to convince her, but I didn’t. I understood her reasoning, and could respect it. I wouldn’t want her to go against her better judgment or her knowledge base, especially if she was treating me.
I tried my general practitioner, Dr. Wooster. He said the same thing. “I’ll gladly do the blood work, but I won’t give you a prescription.”
It’s not that I wasn’t grateful for the offers and support; it’s just that it wasn’t enough. Blood work wasn’t what was hard to get, it wasn’t what I needed. I needed the piece of paper. I needed the prescription. And I needed a doctor who would give it to me.
I went back to trying the doctors who were experienced with transguys. I picked the one who seemed mostly likely to be supportive, Dr. Gess, and called her up. I used all my big words, theorizing about oppressive, outdated thinking and medical gate-keeping, jumping through every hoop to win the prize. Dr. Gess was impressed, and agreed that she could give me what I was looking for.
“I’d like you to do at least one psychological screening.” she said.
I hesitated. “Ok.” I understood she needed to know I wasn’t maladjusted or schizophrenic. I was willing to compromise.
I wanted to do things safely and honestly. I didn’t want to hide my life, my sexuality, or my medical history in order to get T. I wanted it all out in the open. After six months of working, and searching, and negotiating, I got the script. I got it filled. I knew nothing about injections, other than seeing a friend do a shot of T once. I figured it would be better to have a nurse teach me. I called in an appointment, and showed up at the doctor’s office. Today was the day six months in the making, a year and a half in the making… I had stayed up all night. I was nervous. I was pumped. I was charged. I was ready. The nurse checked the testosterone and needles.
“Where do you want to inject it?” she asked.
“Um,” I tripped over my words, trying to avoid vulgar phrasing, “I my upper ass cheek?”
The nurse smiled, and started to fill out forms. There was a bit of confusion with my chart so the nurse called Dr. Gess to double check the dosage. I sat in the empty waiting room with my friend, Al, and kept my hands tightly clasped around my Stroheckers box. We waited… and waited… and waited. Finally, a nurse came out. She didn’t call us back. Instead, she came out to us.
She sat down next to me. “Dr. Gess said she doesn’t feel comfortable with you taking your shot today.”
“She said she wants you to talk to a counselor before you do it.”
“I already did.” I said shortly.
“She wants you to see the counselor again. You can come back and do it after that.”
I stared out into the room. All my adrenaline crashed down in an emotional implosion. I couldn’t hold it in. I bent my head, and cried. I remember the nurse rubbing my back a little, saying something I wasn’t hearing. I remember she got my pronoun wrong and I corrected her. I remember Al clenching her fists.
I don’t know why I got so upset. Maybe it was the exhaustion kicking in, maybe the stress letting loose, or maybe I was just feeding some dramatic sense of oppression. I thought I had finally made it to the finish line… and as soon as I saw the tape, it was taken away. Everything felt extreme. I couldn’t think ahead. I couldn’t rationalize or reason to myself. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, and now there were more demands.
I collected myself. “I want to talk to Dr. Gess.” I said intensely, “Personally.”
“I’ll try to get her on the phone for you.” said the nurse, getting up. “Do you want a pop or something sweet?”
“No… thank you.” I growled. “Just get her on the phone… please.”
After about twenty minutes the nurse called me back into the small conference room/break room. The phone rang. I picked it up.
“What’s going on here, Dr. Gess?” I said. I seethed, silently listening as Gess started to sympathetically bloviated about how I should at least plan on going into therapy regularly. “I signed a consent form, and got a psychological screening that said I was well adjusted enough to take T. Why do I need therapy in order to take testosterone?”
“It isn’t just because of testosterone,” she said, “There are other concerns when it comes to your mental health.”
My heart sunk as I saw my plan for doing things “honestly” blew up in my face. I stayed calm. “I understand that you want me to be well-rounded in my health.” I said, “But what does me being bipolar have to do with me being trans?”
“Nothing but…” she paused, “Don’t you agree that therapy is a good idea when you’re experiencing a big change? And this is a big life change.”
“So is pregnancy,” I argued, “but you don’t need therapy to have kids, do you? The parents can be bipolar or alcoholics or drug addicts or homicidal maniacs, but they still get the right to choose without having someone controlling their choices. What makes a couple having a baby more trustworthy than me? I’m actually more trustworthy because my decision isn’t affecting anyone else. I’m not bringing anyone else into it.”
“These are the regular standards the treatment goes by.”
I took a deep breath. “The standards are wrong.”
“There has to be reasons so many people use them.” she said.
“The reason is society would rather think I’m mentally unstable than to challenge it’s concept of gender!” I said strongly. I calmed a little. “I understand why you’re doing this. You’re trying to be responsible. You’re inside a system and you feel the need to watch your back. But the standards of care aren’t law. They’re suggestions derived from one straight, cisgender man’s opinion which he falsely presented as psychological research over 25 years ago. There is no real evidence to support the idea that trans-people are incapable of being well adjusted enough to make their own decisions about our bodies.”
“But therapy is a positive thing.”
“I know it is!” I stressed, “I’m studying to be a psychologist for crying out loud. I think everyone should be in therapy, but no one should be required to be in it. Studies have shown again and again, mandated therapy is not constructive.” I wanted to laugh at myself for using the expression “studies have shown” in an argument, but it wasn’t the time for it. I was doing all I could to remain professional and mature on the outside, but on the inside I was a kicking and screaming. “If I’m maladjusted about something, I’ll go into therapy.” I said, “My gender identity is the one thing in my life that I’m actually adjusted about.”
“But you already said you were going to go to into therapy the first time we discussed this.”
“I told you I was willing to go to therapy after taking T if I ran into problems.” I said, “I never agreed to go as a requirement.”
I could tell she wasn’t trying to be difficult. She kept angling for me to say “I will go to therapy,” even if I didn’t mean it. As long as she heard the words, she could say yes. “Why don’t you just go for other reasons then, and don’t make it about taking testosterone?” she asked.
“If it isn’t about testosterone, then we don’t need to be talking about it. I said. I will go if I need it, but it will be by my own decision made for me. I won’t do it just for you and your approval because even without a GID diagnosis, it wouldn’t be any different than following the standards of care. I refuse to support that system.”
“If you don’t work within the standards of care, you can’t take hormones.”
“The informed consent policy is used in big cities.” I said, “It’s used in Canada, it’s used in Europe… Why can’t we use it here?”
“Because I’m not comfortable with it.” Gess said.
“I don’t understand why.” I said, starting to loose steam…and faith… and hope. “I know you are trying to create a safe space for me.” I said, “But you’re doing the exact opposite.” I felt my ego pumping up again, “You don’t seem to understand, Dr. Gess. I don’t need you. I can do this by myself. Don’t you think I know other transguys on T? Don’t you think we have a knowledge base beyond your doctors’ offices? I was trying to do things the right way. I wanted to do it as safely as possible, and you are preventing that. I already have the prescription. I can go shoot up in the parking lot right now, instead of wasting 80 bucks on watching a nurse do it. I don’t need to be here…” All at once my heart felt heavy again. I started to feel guilty for ranting and raving like I did. I didn’t want to hurt her feelings… My eyes felt hot and wet. I inhaled. “Like I said, I understand why you’re doing things this way, but I think that it is the wrong way. And I think it was unfair for you to wait until now to tell me this, and not even in person. I don’t hate you and I’m not blaming you personally. I’m just very, very disappointed.”
“Yes. I understand you must be very upset right now.”
I swallowed my tears. “Upset doesn’t even begin to describe it.”
“I’m on my way to the airport right now for a conference.” she said, “How about we talk about this when I get back? I’ll try to get a hold of a counselor for you.”
I spoke with a dead voice. “You do what you have to do, Dr. Gess. I’m going to do what I have to do. I will tell you though; by the next time we talk, I probably will have taken my shot.”
I pushed the door open, slamming it on the wall, and stormed out of the back office. I waved to Al. “Let’s go.”
Al stood up. “What?”
I wrapped my anger and pain in my pride. “It’s not happening. Let’s go.”
“Are you serious? Why?”
“Because I’m bipolar and won’t go into therapy.”
Al furrowed her eyebrows, “I thought bipolar was a manic/depressive thing, not a boy/girl thing.”
I curled up in the car, and we drove back to Al’s place. After an hour or so I thought “What the hell. Today is the fucking day. Let’s do this.”
I had seen my friend take his shot, and had it explained to me. I basically knew what to do. I just needed a little more information. So, I looked it up online. Where else? Then, in Al’s bathroom, with my friend Ale video taping, I sterilized everything and measured out the T. But stabbing yourself in the ass with a needle doesn’t come easy, at least not to me. So, I had Al do it.
“Ok,” Al picked up the syringe, “The website says to throw it like a dart.”
“But you don’t really throw it.” I said as I clung to the bathroom door, “…Right?”
“That’s throwing the needle.” she said, “You flick your wrist… or something.” I looked over my shoulder and watched Al flicking her wrist back and forth.
“This situation seems a little ridiculous.” I said, laughing to ease my nerves.
“You think it’s ridiculous.” Ale laughed from behind the camera, “I’m the one videotaping your butt right now. Crack is whack, JAC. Crack is whack.”
I held the door and closed my eyes. It didn’t hurt at all. I looked back at the needle. It was just about as weird to have a needle in my skin as it was to have Al’s face about three inches from my ass. The syringe was plunged, pulled out, Al and Ale clapped.
“Yay Jacy!” Ale cheered. “You did it!”
And that was my first shot. I’m glad it happened the way it did, in the warm and ridiculousness of a friendly, familiar space, not a stuffy exam room. We walked down to the bar were our friend Amanda was bartending. In honor of the occasion, we made up my very own shot called the JACY-T shot, also to be known as the JAC’s Upper Ass Cheek.
Two weeks later I got a call from Dr. Gess.
“How are you, JAC?”
“I’m doing great, Dr. Gess.” I said, secretly gloating about my victory. “How are you?”
“I’m fine, thanks. I was calling to see if you wanted to make and appointment to talk about your testosterone therapy.”
“Yeah, we can do that. I took my second shot yesterday.”
There as a pause. “Ok. Well, then I should come in and have your blood work checked in a couple months. We’ll see where your levels are.”
I smiled in relief. Dr. Gess was the kind of doctor who would monitor their patient no matter what. I assumed she understood I was going to do what I want, so she might as well make sure I was ok.
Everything was going well. I was pleasantly morphing on my baby dose of T and I didn’t have to sell out to get it. Gess was going to level out on my end of things, and it was all going to be alright. Then I read my prescription label more closely.
“NO REFILLS REMAINING.”
After three months I went in for blood work. I told her how well I was doing and she agreed that I looked like I was “progressing nicely.” I pointed out my lack of refills.
“I’m not going to refill it if you aren’t in therapy.” she said.
We spend the next hour repeating our phone conversation, except this time I had a slightly lower voice. I told her I couldn’t budge.
“You don’t seem to understand.” I said, “All my activist work circles around how the GID system is wrong. I can’t do all that work speaking out against it and then use it for my own personal gain.”
“You could just not tell anyone.” she said.
“You’re suggesting I lie to my family and friends about being in therapy? How is that healthy?”
She let out a sigh. “I think we’re just at an impasse here. If you aren’t willing to do things this way, I’ll have to recommend you see a different physician.”
“You realize there are no other physicians, right?”
“There’s one other doctor…”
“A doctor who is even more rigid.” I interrupted. “That’s why I picked you over him. He won’t take a patient without a therapist letter. No one in Cincinnati is going to do this for me without a GID diagnosis.”
“Then perhaps you should rethink what you want. If you want to continue on testosterone you will have to choose.”
“No, I’ll just go to a different city.” I said, “Chicago’s not that far from here.”
“What if I can get you a second opinion saying I didn’t need therapy?”
“I might be able to work with that.”
“Ok.” I took a deep breathe. I had one more try.
Gess felt so bad about how things went she said I didn’t have to pay for the visit, which was very convenient because I was already semi-planning on walking out. It was a semi-plan because sure as hell didn’t’ want to pay $80 for an hour of disappointment and emotional tear down, but I wasn’t sure I had the balls to go through with it. I didn’t want to be an asshole. I really believe that Gess was trying her best.
I made an appointment with one of the few known therapists who worked with transfolks, Dr. Bower. She only had experience with women, except for one guy she saw, who was a friend of mine. I went to see her, ready with my speech about what I wanted.
“Well, it’s clear you are very intelligent.” she said, “But for all I know you could just be a very convincing multiple personality, or a very controlled schizophrenic. I won’t be able to just write a recommendation without seeing you more.”
“But you’ll write it once you’ve seen me more?”
“No.” she said, “I support the standards of care. It’s foolish to go outside of them.”
“Foolish?” I said, trying not to show how offended I was. “How is it foolish to want to be autonomous?”
“The standard of care is a good system.”
“It’s an oppressive system.”
“It’s not oppressive.” she argued calmly.
“You aren’t trans.” I stressed, “How can you tell me I’m not oppressed? You don’t think it’s oppressive because it doesn’t hurt you. It pays your bills.”
“I don’t think this is really about politics.” she said, “You’re just doing this to rebel for the sake of rebellion.”
“That’s a comfortable way to invalidate me.” I scoffed. “This isn’t just some act of teenage trouble making for my own entertainment. This is a massive movement. I’m not the only one. There’s a lot more where I came from.”
“I would not consider you to be an average transsexual.” she said, “Another reason why I feel you need further exploration in therapy.”
I was so irritated, I couldn’t even speak. “And I suppose you know what the majority of trans people are like. You have met so many of us. You know exactly where the bell curve is. Or are you basing your opinions off of what you might have read by of other non-queer, non-trans people.”
I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. I was partly in shock at how horrid she was. I only paid her a third of her price. I told her I didn’t see a reason in paying for an hour of degradation, but I was paying her for time, not opinions.
Bower talked to Gess, which I wasn’t expecting because I didn’t sign anything. It was the last nail in Cincinnati’s coffin. I never saw Dr. Gess again.
I took my time paying Bower, which lead to communication over email. She seemed to be worried about me and, even though I hadn’t yet paid her for the last session, she offered to continue seeing at a lowered price to fit my budget. I don’t know if it was because she wanted to help, or because I was an interesting “non-average” case. I politely thanked her for her kind offer, but declined.
“…Seeing that I have no problems in my adjustment, interpersonal relationships, or personal function, I don’t see a need for therapy. Especially if therapy is as detrimental to my obtaining testosterone as our last session was. Each professional I have seen continues to make it more and more difficult to safely obtain testosterone. I now have little choice but to go outside the city for resources Cincinnati practitioners are too close-minded to provide. I believe that you are unable to truly understand the trans position, regardless of how many trans patients you have seen.”
I also sent her some web site links and book recommendations in hopes of having the last word on proving the presence of the genderqueer revolution. She politely thanked me for the information, and I never spoke to her again.
I made a second attempt with my Wooster and Phelep. Their answers were the same. When I told Dr. Phelep about the trouble I had been having, she called Dr. Gess herself to try and find a solution. She didn’t find one, but she was able to explain Gess’ position better than Gess could.
“I think you’re just gonna have to go out of Cincinnati for this.” Dr. Phelep said sadly. “The city is just too conservative. It’s awful.”
I had all but run out of options, and all but run out of testosterone. I was so tired and emotionally raw… I started to doubt myself. Was I doing the right thing? I couldn’t hear myself over all the doctors speaking against me. Should I just do it their way? Or should I do it at all? Am I conforming somehow by desiring testosterone? No, I was sure I was right. It was what I need to do. It was what was right for me, and I had a strong support system of friends and other genderqueer kids backing me up. I was sure I could get more T, and I did. I went to Yellow Springs, a random hippie down nestled in Ohio, and got a vial. I was set for another 6 months.
Back to the present:
Dr. Phelep and I sat down on either side of her desk. She couldn’t stop smiling.
“Forgive me for staring at you,” she said, “You just look fantastic. I’m amazed.”
Somehow, her compliments didn’t make me feel awkward. I was able to smile and thank her more genuinely than I ever have with anyone else. Maybe it was because she was a doctor, I felt completely asexual and objective to her. I didn’t feel like her comments were othering me or fetishizing me.
“It’s like you’re a completely different person.” she said, “I mean, I saw you a year ago and you didn’t look like a regular woman, but you still looked very feminine. Your face has become so masculine.”
“Yeah, I was thinking about that on my way here.” I laughed a little. I wasn’t sure if I would weird people out or not.”
“I was thinking about it myself.” she said, “Right before you got here I thought to myself “Wow, I’ve never done a pap-smear on a guy before. I wonder how this is going to go.””
Some how I managed to find a balance in Cincinnati doctors where the good ones do enough to keep the shitty ones from destroying everything. When Dr. Gess pulled out, my general practitioner, Dr. Wooster started to do my blood work for me. He recorded the labs under various related things the insurance would cover it. That’s a big favor, considering labs cost hundreds of dollars that I don’t have. I’m so used to not being accepted by the establishment, and not being recognized by people, that when I am, I go into a slight shock which is then followed by a warm, indescribable gratitude. It’s as if my brain can’t even conceive how amazing that person is for giving me recognition. As closed minded as this city is, there are always little pockets of “open” popping out and surprising me. The word queer started to resonate though the city, and like a big gay marco polo, people came out of the wood work. Every now and then I catch a new one. Even the people who hinder me, and label me, are often times trying to understand and trying to do right by me. They just don’t know how. The system warped them into ignorance… I just get tired of always being the one to bend them back.