Monday, June 30, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 10: Fears

Today's question is:
What are some of your fears in regards to being trans?

Honestly, now that I'm physically further-transitioned and have a better concept of the risks for white, medically transitioning, binary trans men (rather than "trans people in general") my fears have changed significantly.  Early on I was very afraid, mostly of family rejection (which I already said in a different day never happened) or that nobody would ever want to date or have sex with me (also  not true), but in some cases I was afraid of things like assault (especially during 2006, which was a really bad year for that across-the-board) or harassment.

Now my main fear is outing, which sucks because I never intended to be stealth, and then suddenly I am.  Suddenly I have a work history in which my general co-workers and supervisors don't know, and it makes me afraid to speak sometimes.  And not only does it suck, it's bizarre for me because in every other aspect of my life--among relatives, among friends, in all of my social groups--I'm used to just flat-out saying things that relate to me being trans without it being a big deal.  I do hope that if I find a long-term, settle-down type job it's somewhere I feel safe being out and open.  My last few jobs I just haven't felt that because I either worked in very shaky contracts or at Catholic hospitals.

Typically, though, I don't feel particularly threatened.  The worst was when the council of a city I was working in voted on trans-protecting legislature for their housing ordinance and every fucking cis asshole in the city decided to hoot and holler about predating trans people in bathrooms or some other bullshit.  The only actual problem I ran into was councilpeople sending me dipshitty insensitive email responses, but it did make the environment scary enough for me that I was having panic attacks for a while.  I can't imagine how that must have felt for trans people who are really in danger.

Speaking of which, I tend to have more concern for my trans friends than for myself.  I pass reasonably well, I'm accepted by my family, I have a place to live and a job, and I don't engage in many high-risk behaviors, so I'm not really the poster child for somebody likely to, for instance, be beaten or murdered (and that's true even if by some chance this does happen to me).  Rather, I fear for my friends who are homeless, or sex workers, or who have no family support, and so forth.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 9: Positive Things

Today's question is:
What is something positive about being trans?

Alright, just to get something off of my chest: I hate the cultural climate in which we're obligated to find positivity in everything.  I've hated it even more ever since having been in a SAFE Training session where one of the people we were training only wanted to hear the good things about being queer on campus because "we're positive people."  I'm typically pretty ambivalent about my transsexualism, but there isn't much about it I'd call overtly positive.

The one thing I do love about it is that it gives me a unique perspective on things like misogyny and sexism.  Right now it's fashionable in trans communities to act like our assigned sex has had absolutely no impact on whether or not we've experienced misogyny or benefited from patriarchy, which has led to the severely offensive belief that somehow no trans man has ever experienced misogyny and sexism.  I spent 18 years as a woman, I assure you I've experienced misogyny.

If I hadn't transitioned, I doubt I would have noticed just how differently people treat men from women.  The way people treated me is a night and day difference between not only pre-coming-out and post-coming-out, but even within months of testosterone injections.  I was going to school for IT when I started hormones.  Within the span of four months I'd gone from people constantly cutting me off in class, not listening to my input on anything, and excluding me from conversations to suddenly being given ample space and credibility.

And for the record, the fact that I now have more society-assigned credibility is not the positive thing.  It's entirely disgusting.  The positive part is that when I'd only experienced it as a woman it really did not occur to me that men didn't have to jump through the same hoops or that men didn't have that happen to them.  I was a borderline female-MRA before I decided to transition, and realizing how much better off I was as a man pretty much eradicated every shred of that bullshit.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 8: Misgendering

Today's question is:
How do you deal with being read misgendered in the beginning of transitioning by people?

I'm typically not misgendered in the general population anymore because I've been on hormones for a while.  I am still chronically misgendered by some relatives, especially my father (which is crushing because I live with him and therefore have to hear it all the time).  I don't deal with it well.  I very rarely say anything.  The reason I don't is because the misgendering is less obnoxious than hearing him whine about how "hard" it is.  The whining about how allegedly difficult it is to change like three fucking words in your daily conversation after having known for ten years has so far been worse than the actual misgendering, as much as the latter sucks.  It's a comfort trade-off and most of the time I just avoid interacting with him in public so at least the bulk of the misgendering isn't in public where I'm largely stealth.

I can tell that the rest of my family doesn't truly see me as male.  I avoid thinking about it but I don't usually have to hear about it.

Now, early on I was misgendered much more often, and that was pretty crushing because I was trying so hard to pass, and to make matters worse when there were things that I didn't want to change (like my earrings), people would nitpick about them as if they were the sole reason.

Again, I didn't really deal with it outside of the queer community, and that was a result of an extreme fear of confrontation and transphobia.  Calling out cis people in the general population for their ignorance is extremely difficult for me because cis peoples' insufferable whining, devil's-advocate-playing, concern trolling, and ignorance stresses me out so much it literally gives me backaches.  This is also one of the reasons I'm so block-happy on social media and don't allow comments.  Cis people are remarkably difficult to talk to for me.

That said, in class I just let myself be misgendered, at work I just let myself be misgendered, I just let my family misgender me, and as far as transition goes that's probably my biggest regret.  Having not asserted that correct names and pronouns are important I basically gave them license not only to continue to misgender me--even in public, even though I now have a beard and a deep voice--but anybody else they feel like misgendering.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 7: Role Models

Today's question is "Who do you look up to?" and because of that I think I'll talk about some of my transgender role models... kind of.  Also "why having role models is a terrible idea."

I'll actually do that last thing first.  See, I've learned that having really hardcore role models--people you really try to emulate and who you really, seriously look up to--will usually end in disappointment when I learn that not only are they imperfect, they're doing and saying things that make my heart sink.  Celebrities especially love disappointing me by saying some asinine shit about abortion or throwing the c-word around on Twitter or making some awful transphobic joke.  So I make no claims that any of these people are perfect, and lots of them are radically different, but they just a few of who pops to mind when I think "transgender and gender variant role models."

Louis Sullivan
Louis Sullivan was a gay trans man who transitioned in the 1970s and 80s and was instrumental in creating the current distinction between "gender identity" and "sexual orientation."  Before Sullivan, homosexuality almost entirely barred one from gaining transition related therapies.

Maddie Blaustein
Maddie Blaustein was a trans woman voice actress, Second Life personality, and comics writer most famous for voicing Meowth on the English dub of the Pok√©mon anime.  She was often very open about her transition when asked by fans about, for instance, why she was originally credited as a different name.

Berlin Reed
When I was newly ex-vegan I was reading Berlin Reed before I had any idea he was a trans man.  Reed wrote The Ethical Butcher, a book on responsible and sustainable omnivorism.  He also occasionally shows up in porn.


Raven Kaldera
Raven Kaldera is a well-known Pagan author who either wrote or co-wrote a lot of books that I use a lot, notably Urban Primitive, Pagan Polyamory, and  Northern Tradition for the Solitary Practitioner.  I haven't read it yet, but he also wrote a book called Hermaphrodeities that specifically deals with transgender and third gender myth and spirituality.

TJ Jourian
I learned about TJ Jourian the way most people probably did, which was through the documentary series Transgeneration.  I saw him speak at the MBLGTACC conference one year and he did very well.

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
I have to give at least a nod to Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore, who in many ways shaped my politics (especially early on).  Sycamore is a radical queer author and editor who is responsible for That's Revolting! Queer Strategies for Resisting Assimilation, Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, and Why Are Faggots So Afraid Of Faggots?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 6: The First Person

Today's question is:
Who was the first person you came out to?

Here's the thing: I don't remember.  Is that weird?  My memory basically makes it out to be that one day I was in my dorm sketching manly self-portraits, the next I'm on the phone with my parents, but I know I'd already cut my hair and committed to transitioning for at least three weeks before my parents knew.

Here's what I do know:
  1. My boyfriend at the time was one of the first people I came out to, but probably not the first.
  2. I'd come out to a bunch of Internet friends, but I don't remember how I came out.
  3. I came out to my roommate right after I wrote my coming out letter to my parents.
  4. I came out to my parents before any other relatives.
The first non-relative time I remember really coming out was a man who was in my Anthropology methods class.  We were supposed to write ethnographies, and one of my classmates was going on about how he wanted to do his on the campus LGBT community but that he didn't know any members of the T who would talk.  So I came out to him through an email, and shortly after to the professor of the class just because she seemed like she'd understand.

I would have, had I not already gone through it, probably expected to remember these "firsts" much more vividly than I do, but those memories have decayed a lot.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 5: Are you active in the LGBT community?

Today's Transgender Blog Challenge question is:
Are you active in the trans community or the LGBT community?

I am, although not quite as much as I was when I was still in university.  This is the basic timeline of my LGBT and trans involvement:

From 2003 - 2005 and most of 2006 I was only active online.  I was way too shy to actually do anything in person, and I was pretty closeted at school.  I kept wanting to go to campus events but I couldn't muster up the courage.  In 2006 I decided to go to an event because one of my gay classmates was going to go and I figured my awkwardness would be buffered by him (I'd come out to him in an email, but I'll tell that story tomorrow).  That led to me going to a meeting of Students for a Fair Wisconsin to fight against Wisconsin's anti-same-sex-marriage amendment that passed that year, and then the Rainbow Alliance.

From 2006 to my graduation in 2009 I was extremely active on campus.  I was a representative for Students for a Fair Wisconsin and was on the executive board of the Rainbow Alliance for two years, and I also helped lead an informal group of people whose mission was to counter-protest bigots who harassed students in front of the library periodically.

I'm the one with the rainbow sign, of course.
I also did a lot of education work and blogging.  For a while I was big in the bisexual community with my rad queer blog that has since gone out of business due to... uh... embarrassment on multiple levels.  There were teachers who didn't feel confident in their lessons on transgender issues, so I'd lecture their classes instead (this has since been taken over by some friends of mine who are still in the area).  When I graduated I won the Queer Student Leadership Award for it.

My involvement tapered off until I went to a technical college, which was totally awkward because it was such a different environment (to give an example of the awkwardness, our advisor went on a big rant about how awful the word "queer" is).  I did a lot of education work there, too, although due to time constraints I wasn't quite as active as I was at university.  The people in that group are luckily very receptive to being told their experience in the LGBT and queer communities may be different from others.  I helped them put together a SAFE program and got them to start going to campus conferences; it's a new group and I'm really proud of it.

Right now most of my outside involvement with other LGBT and queer people is actually through the Pagan community.  I go to some Pride events (usually I have a shitty time but I keep going; this year's was pretty good though I have to admit).  I want to get more involved with a statewide bisexual and pansexual organization called 521, but I've been having difficulty swinging that due to income.  The bulk of my activity is with friends... being queer and having been in the community so long, most of my friends are queer or trans.  Which is, of course, a hell of a lot of activity.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 4: Coming Out to Family

Day 4's question is:
How did your family take it when you came out?

I somewhat unfortunately didn't lose any family.  I say "unfortunately" because there are some relatively bigoted relatives on my father's side who I could really do without.

I came out to my parents using a letter which they re-read to my brothers.  They were verbally supportive, calling me on the phone and telling me it was fine and they supported me, but their actions and comments were extremely hurtful for... Gods, it had to have been at least two years.  My mom would make a lot of insensitive jokes and they'd both do things that were like... "testing" me, I guess, like gnawing into me about why I wouldn't accept a pair of feminine embroidered shorts my grandma tried giving me, just these little annoying things that really added up.  At the time I was broke and my mom had been cutting my hair, and she started refusing.  I can't confirm, but I get the impression she didn't like cutting my hair in men's styles.  I started cutting my own hair, which got Dad angry at me for some reason.

Dad's reaction was more annoying even though he for all intents and purposes took it better.  For a really long time he'd make these disgusting, sexist comments about how maybe I'd meet a man who'd make me feel like a girl again.  I'd say that wasn't going to happen and he'd say things like "Oh, I'm not saying it will happen, I'm just saying it might," as if there was something magical about penis that would make me feel feminine.

Finally I couldn't take it anymore and I wrote a letter explaining the history of how I've been dealing with this for a long time, pointing out the really insensitive things they'd been doing and why.  This made Mom blow a fuse and we would up arguing in the house one night.  We haven't had any major problems since then and after many years it mostly blew over, although they're still painful memories.

The rest of the family found out in their own time, mostly through my parents, Facebook, or the grapevine.  Like I said, I haven't lost even one relative, and even otherwise bigoted ones have been somewhat receptive (and a few at least act a little less bigoted).   On my father's side nobody really talks about it with a few exceptions.  On my mother's side people talk about it a lot, and in a pretty positive manner (they're likely to bring up trans pop culture moments that come up, my aunt and grandma on that side get annoyingly excited over anything Chaz Bono and make me come over to watch his movies/shows/etc., and so forth).

Monday, June 23, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 3: Being Outed

Today's Transgender Blog Challenge question is:
Have you ever been outed?

I have outed myself on many occasions, but I'll limit this to times people have outed me to others without my consent or people have found out without me really wanting them to.

My father seems to love outing me and then afterwards telling me while saying "I hope that's OK."  It's irritating because he does it at such inappropriate times and just assumes I'm OK with it.  When my uncle died he went and outed me to everyone at the funeral.  Nobody really cared (my family has been mostly supportive, at least as far as I know, aside from some snide comments and never to me), but I'd have liked him to say something first.

The most scary was when he outed me to a friend of his after we got back from fishing for catfish one day.  This guy had a huge knife, we were in the middle of fucking nowhere, and Dad decided to tell him at that moment because he could tell the guy realized my voice was slightly different.  He brushed it off because "he's been my friend forever and I knew he wouldn't do anything," but it was still horrifying.  I actually avoid going places with my dad a little more because of this.

One of the most awkward times, though, was when I was in a job interview.  The job had a huge background check that basically was personally done by the sheriff, and the interviewer had already offered me the job but wanted to see if there was anything to worry about with it.  He went to my state's public court records search where... tada... there was my name change.  He looked at me and said "You... used to be female?"  I said "yes."  There was a long pause and they handed me out the forms to fill out.

I went home and as soon as I saw this thing I knew I couldn't fill it out.  It asked things like if I'd ever been a member of a communist group--I have--and required documentation I really can't provide.  I emailed them to say I couldn't fill this form out, and he called me thinking that I was just embarrassed about being outed.  I was trying to explain to him that it really wasn't that, not directly anyway, but I don't think he actually believed me.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 2: Choosing My Name

Second day of the transgender blog challenge, and today's question is:
How did you choose your name, and what names were you thinking about using and why?

I'll start this one from the end:  I chose my full name in all of five seconds while I was panicking about the prospect of graduating from college and having to walk as my former name.

The very first name I actually tried was "Galvin" because I was trying to find a hip cool interesting name.  It lasted probably until my Yahoo! account using that name was locked because they thought I was a spammer (and I kind of was).  That's... an odd aside.  Every other name I've used has been based on my former name, which was "Jacqueline Ann."

It was important to me to pick a derivative of this name because I was named after a deceased aunt who died in an institution for intellectually disabled people after the state and medical establishment pressured my grandmother for years to just dump her there and forget she ever had that particular daughter.

So that made my middle name "Andrew," and it's consistently been "Andrew."  But for some reason I didn't want my legal name to just be "Jack," despite practically everybody who met me pre-legal-name-change calling me that.  I didn't like "John."  For many years I was "Jacques."  Then for a while I was "Jacob," which is a literal translation of "Jacques."  Then I thought "That's weird, 'Jack' isn't a nickname of 'Jacob'" (I have since learned that Jack Kevorkian's real first name was Jacob).

That went on for maybe six years.  Then graduation happened, I panicked, and I printed out the forms.  Suddenly I thought to myself "My parents used to call me 'Jackson' as a nickname, so if I use that maybe they'll actually start calling me my real name."  Slapped it down.  Didn't register that I'd accidentally named myself after the president responsible for the Trail of Tears until somebody pointed it out to me at a casino.  Anyway, my court date was set, I told my college it'd already been legally changed (it wouldn't actually be until a month after graduation), and that was that.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Transgender Blog Challenge Day 1: The Word "Transgender"

I'm going to do the transgender challenge somebody posted about somewhere because... well, I need the blog inspiration, I don't need another reason.

Today's question is:
When did you realize the term transgender referred to you?

I started playing around with transgender identity when I was in mid high school, but I didn't really have a coherent understanding of what the word really meant.  At the time I mostly identified as a butch straight woman, but as I wasn't a lesbian and I didn't have very many friends I didn't really have any community direction on this.

Anyway, prior to that I had memories of having seen documentaries on trans men and trans boys and identifying very strongly with them but having no idea that it would ever really be accessible to me.  There was also the perception that trans men were significantly rarer than trans women which helped stifle that.

I do remember the exact moment I started identifying as transgender, though.  I'd locked myself out of my dorm room and was drawing self-portraits waiting for my roommate to get back, and I suddenly realized those self portraits just seemed wrong, and I started drawing facial hair on them and changing their body shapes.  And I remembered those documentaries and that history.  As soon as I got back in my dorm I took a pair of scissors and cut my hair and started navigating the community online.  And that was that.