Marsha Aizumi, mother of a transguy, discussing the value of supportive parenting and social and governmental inclusion of trans/queer communities. She made this video in response to her city’s mayor inviting a Focus on the Family representative to a city sponsored community event. Marsha is the amazing mother of a very good friend of mine and she continues to inspire me.
Marsha’s voice is the voice I want to hear from my local community, but rarely do. Can you imagine what the world would be like if all parents, if all people were like her? And what’s more, imagine if everyone took the initiative to stand up for what they believe in and fight for the people they love. Please do what you can to spread Marsha’s message and help her in her work.
I started taking T three years ago. I knew it was something I wanted, I was positive, I was prepared, I was terrified.
Me, less than one month before starting T:
[image description: JAC – auburn hair and brown eyes, looking directly into the camera. His shoulders are bare, shirtless and leaning on a white pillow]
This is the only self-portrait shoot I did from before T until two months in. I decided not to photograph myself in any structured way. At the time, I felt enough like a science experiment without documenting myself in mug shots. I did take my measurements – everything from my chest to my wrist. I also recorded my voice. Being a singer my voice was of particular interest to me. I recorded it at every shot for a year, then every 6 months, then every year. Its fascinating listening to my voice then. I remember recording it, but only after playing it back a few times did I notice how nervous I sound and that my voice is shaking.
I remember being excited and sad when I found I was no longer a mezzo soprano, and discovering a tenor falsetto which, funny enough, made me feel really butch. I listened to my voice from a year ago and was pleased to find my voice today is a little deeper. I keep shooting for that baritone, haha, but I don’t think I’m ever gonna get it.
I really like what T has done for me. When I started T I told myself I was going to take it until I didn’t want to take it anymore. No pressure, no deadlines, no “goals” (fuck you GID). I knew there was a possibility that my health would deteriorate and if that happened I would deal with it when I came to it. So far, though it has had some not-so-desirable health effects on my disability I find that the price is worth paying. As Kate says, its about doing whatever you have to do to make your life more worth living.
Me, 3 years on T:
[image description: JAC – pink hair and brown eyes, looking directly into the camera with a slight smile.]
I’m very pleased in that I look almost exactly the same. I started taking T in order to look more like I wanted to look, to sound more like I wanted to sound, and that’s exactly what happened. I took my measurements and every one was within one inch of those I took three years ago. Its funny because my body looks very, very different from before which just shows how little change can go a long way. Before I started T I was terrified. I was terrified of my health deteriorating, terrified it would make me go crazy(ier), terrified of being denied health care, yeah that was all in there… But what scared me the most was changing into someone I couldn’t recognize, living in a body I couldn’t imagine as a me I didn’t know. Really its no different than the fear I had as a little kid, dreading getting older because I didn’t want grow up and be someone I didn’t know in a life I couldn’t imagine. Now it all seems so insignificant, now that I know myself better, know my life better. Honestly, I don’t think being trans has much to do with it, I think I’m just getting old and being genderfucked along the way. Is shit perfect? Course not. Sometimes the androgyny pulls on me so hard that I don’t know if I can stand it anymore. I dream of a voice I’ll never get in a body I’ll probably never have dressed in a metro-fashion I’m incapable of affording let alone pulling off. The reality is that yes, I want to be read as male, yes I want to pass, I hate being stared at, I hate being afraid… I hate being different. But this is who and what I am. I lived so long as a lesser version of me either trying to be more femme or more butch than I am, more of a girl or more of a guy than I am, always trying to pass as something other me. And if I’m not going to go all out now, well, what would I be waiting for? For it to get easier, for the world to get better? I don’t have time for that. I don’t think anyone does. This is the only life I have and I figure its good enough for me and if nothing else, I have really fabulous hair.
I am a Hanson fan, old school. Yeah, I thought Taylor (the middle one) was a girl originally, but I though Zac (the little one) was hella cute. The summer “Mmmbop” came out I was 13, and it was quite the adventurous time. My sister and I ate, slept, and breathed Hanson. We taped every TV appearance and watched them on loop and we knew every lyric to every song they ever wrote, sang, or sat next to. We recorded our lives everyday as an ongoing video message for us to send to Hanson so they could get to know us. We saw them live in huge stadiums of screaming girls, twice, which furnished some of my favorite adventures of my childhood. In fact some of my favorite moments in my childhood were results of my sister and I bonding through Hanson fandom.
When I was 17 my best friend and I saw Hanson perform again, this time in the much smaller Taft theater in downtown Cincinnati. We rushed the stage and I totally shook Taylor’s hand. It was a crowing achievement in my life. When I was 19 I MET Hanson after they performed in the even smaller venue, Bogarts. Turns out Taylor is the only one with a good personality. He was kind and attentive to fans, friendly and warm. When I met Issac for the 1st time, a sexually empowered 17 year old virgin that I had been standing with said she wanted to make out with him. He said with a smile “Um, there is a word for girls like that and it starts with an S.” So that wasn’t cool at all, super misogynistic. Then I met Zac, my favorite, and I asked if I could kiss him on the cheek. He squinted his eyes and said, “No, sorry.” like I was asking for his virginity or something. Pissh, burn on me. And I was cute too, so WTF? I guess I should respect him as a human who doesn’t want random creeper girls kissing him, but no, I’m not gonna go that way. I’m gonna stick with it being about ME. And then the next time I met Hanson, when I was 20, Zac didn’t even come out to meet the fans so my show poster to this day is missing an autograph. (ITS ALL ABOUT ME!)
Clearly, they felt bad about theses incidents and wanted to make up for it (its five years late, but I’m willing to overlook it). Taylor turned to his brothers and said, “Hey Ike, Zac, I’m think we should make a music video with dance moves that are so gay and so awkward that NO ONE on this earth would ever doubt that they were made specifically for JAC McFaggin’.” This is what they came up with.
That’s right, this video is nothing but a gift for me (notice the cowbell? That was for me too). Their music career? The rest of the world? Irrelevant. This is all for me. But because I am nice, I will continue to allow Hanson to share the joyful ridiculousness of this video. Your Welcome.
DID YOU SEE how gay Zac’s jump was at the very end? His feet were at his ass. That’s how I jump, and I am pretty fucking gay. And clearly Issac did not get the same dance gene that Taylor and Zac have, even to where, apparently, he had to get cut out of the shot at the end. And I don’t wanna be ‘that guy’, but the Motown borrowings were just a little weird to me. I know they were raised on Motown and get a lot of inspiration from that (every good fan has Hanson’s history memorized), and that is why its there, but I donno… I will have to get more opinions on this. I feel there is something to be said for aspiring towards the music they love so much. And did you see Zac in that leather jacket? I WISH I had a chest like that, shit. That was sexy. I wasn’t down with Taylor’s shadowy facial-hair… but he has such a cute face its enough to make up for it. Plus Taylor is pretty fabulous in general, you can tell he’s totally rockin’ it the whole video. I really wish the Hansons were queer. Can you even imagine how out of control that would be?
[image: JAC with brown hair and brown eyes, looking into the camera with mouth open. Holding open a red shirt revealing a black Hanson t-shirt]
Me in 2006 – and yes I still have this shirt, and yes I still wear it, and yes I still think the Hansons are hot. And apparently they have an activist side to them focusing on HIV/AIDS in Africa. Shit, who knew? Good for you, Hanson. I wonder how they feel about queers. UPDATE: Zac interviewed by the Advocate, holy shit! Yay! Now I can like them minus guilt cause they aren’t homophobes! He does say “chooses” in reference to sexuality, but it might just be semantics.
And I want to give a shout out to my beloved sister who gave me a heads up about this video. You’re the best. I haven’t heard any new Hanson music since 2007 (reference myspace blog) so I guess I should get back into it and see what other treasures are awaiting me. Keep an eye out for this number coming to a drag show near you. Oh and Black Mondays, get ready, cause I’m gonna need some back up dancers.
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.
From my sister, to her school paper and student government at University of North Texas, in Denton, Texas:
“October 1, 2009 Dear Fellow Students, I was recently accepted at UNT as a doctoral candidate in the English department. During a visit to Denton last spring, I was reassured that Denton, and UNT, were “not like the rest of Texas,” or, rather, not like the stereotype of Texas that I might conjure up: repressive, backwards, and rigid.
I was not worried, as I come from a red area in an often red state myself: Cincinnati, OH. And during my time as a master’s student at the University of Cincinnati I saw, thanks in part to the tireless efforts of my brother, Jac, vast changes for the better in University policies regarding the LGTB students and their rights. My brother, who is trans, was in fact elected Homecoming King last year.” [I actually wasn’t, I just ran as an activist statement. Hardly anyone voted for me, but I like that at least in someone’s memory I won. :) ] “…the University is supposed to be a bastion of tolerance and change, dedicated to protecting all of its students from discrimination and, in doing so, serving as a model for larger society…
…It has been brought to my attention that the University of North Texas (UNT) Student Government Association (SGA) has rejected the Homecoming Equality Bylaw, which would allow people to register for consideration as Homecoming King or Queen, regardless of gender. Further, the reasons given for this denial involve sound quite suspicious: LGTB students are not a large enough population to merit “special consideration”. Donors and alumni are uncomfortable with the passage of this basic civil liberty. Fundraising might be compromised.
Pedagogically, this is a nightmare. It says: “change is not possible after all.” It says: “questioning gender? Exploring issues of heteronormativity? Only applicable within the closed sphere of the classroom.” This is not an issue that only effects LGTB students. It effects every person who has embraced critical thinking. It effects every student who hungers for self-expression and holds back, terrified, because their individuality has been deemed “unworthy” of “special consideration” by some shadow majority. If the college years are not a time for self-exploration and individuality, when will these students again have a chance to find out who they could be?
Questioning heteronormativity is a task for every person, every day. Reversing this ruling is a chance to make a change for the better, and to demonstrate that UNT will not stand for policies that compromise the rights of any of its students. This is not a special consideration. It is a basic human right.”
This just further illustrates that even “liberal” spaces don’t always follow through on their progressive promises. They make just enough “progressive” moves to make themselves feel special, still claiming privileges whenever its convenient. Institutions are no different, they do exactly the same thing, pretending to be supporting and inclusive, then cut corners (and communities) when funding, opinion, or reputation is at stake.
Another point shown here is that you don’t have to be queer or genderqueer to get it. Inclusion is not a hard concept to understand and it is up to all of us, not just the freaks and weirdos, to stand up for each other.
There are few things better than an Ohio rain. The air smells like wet ground, just like those nineteen-nineties nights on family camping trips. I remember walking the dark wet paths, toothbrush in one hand, flashlight in the other. No matter where I was… what state, what country, the forest always had the same look about it, the same smell. I can still see my sister’s shadow on the gravel road ahead of me and hear the scuffling of my flip-flops as I hurry after her. In all our childhood, I never remember her being afraid of the dark.
Ever since I came out as a guy my mom has been calling me a lesbian. To be fair, my mom has made a lot of head-way in supporting me, but there are a couple things that she keeps getting stuck on.
“Why you can’t just be a lesbian?” she says passionately, “There is nothing wrong with being a lesbian, you know.”
“I know.” I say back to her, “And if I could be one I would, but I’m not one so I can’t.”
She feels there is nothing wrong with me being a lesbian, but there is something wrong with me being trans because trans is just too far from normal. I have too much going against me in society. I have to remind myself that if I wasn’t her kid she would be ok with it. Just today I listened as she told me a story from her college days where she supported the “women who were changing to be men” because she knew them from when she went out with her gay guy friend. She never thought that those people were lesbians, but somehow I am a lesbian.
I’ve gotten numb to it. Three years of hearing the same thing will do that. And she’s gotten a little better. She usually avoids making statements unless provoked by me talking about my life. I continue to try to explain the why the queer women I date don’t identify as lesbians, but since I can’t use my own identity as part of the explanation the point dissolves unsuccessfully.
When I started to date a guy her first question was exactly what I expected it to be. “Is he a real boy?”
“Yes, he’s a real boy.” I said.
She hesitated. “Ok, is he biologically a boy?” She smiled, clearly thinking she was clever. I wasn’t sure if I should be excited about her recognizing a fuller spectrum of gender and sex, or be annoyed cause she was mocking me.
“No, he’s not biologically male.”
“So she’s a lesbian.” she said bluntly. “And what does his mother think about her pretending to be a boy?”
The funny thing is that his mother thinks he’s a lesbian too. When I learned this I couldn’t help but be glad I wasn’t the only one who had this problem, at the same time, I really hated that I wasn’t the only one who had this problem.