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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Body Dysmorphia is a Real Drag

In spite of being shot in the face with lasers multiple times and later being jabbed with a tiny cattle prod at the base of every hair follicle until my face swelled up to resemble that of a shaved gorilla, I still look in the mirror every morning and have to wonder if that is a woman or Magnum P.I. staring back at me. Maybe Ned Flanders; I was never cool enough to pull off a ‘Magnum’. At best I see your Italian Grandma, and that’s on a really good day. The reason for this, even though a scant few follicles are left alive (many less than Gramma Cippino, or even Snooki), is because I am body dysmorphic. As a trans person, it comes with the territory.

While I consider myself a woman, I’m OK with calling myself a trans woman, at least for now, wholly and completely for the reasons behind this dysmorphia. Any trans woman will tell you this starts at an early age. Even being raised to believe we are boys and such, part of us knew different and didn’t exactly experience a swelling of confidence upon hitting puberty and suddenly sporting a hairy set of testicles. Sorry to get gross on you, but no matter who you are, having to dry off a set of hairy balls after the shower does not make you feel feminine in the slightest. Sorry, that’s not an image anyone really needs in their head. Almost as distressing is the advent of body hair, facial hair, Adam’s apple, canal barge size feet, wide shoulders, and the unchangeable bane of us all, big meaty hands that look like they can just grab Gallagher by the head and pop it like one of his melons. Hormones are responsible for all of this, well, except the balls.

In the teenage years it’s pretty bad. When people called me “handsome”, I thought they were just being mean, or at best trying to make me feel better. When I looked in the mirror I saw a pimply, dweebier version of McLovin looking back at me. I didn’t date much because in my mind, who wants the discomfort of McLovin in their face trying to figure out what they are doing Saturday night? My one teenage relationship was with an especially aggressive friend of my younger sister, and I can say without reservation, she was one frustrated girl. I simply couldn’t get over my teenage boy appearance long enough to even attempt acting like a teenage boy. Pretty sure she thought I was gay.

As we get older, we learn to cope with this a little better, at least for a time. Kind of, I never quite mastered the appearance of a lack of body anxiety. As if all the rest of it wasn’t bad enough, I started going bald very quickly right after I turned 25. Like Air Force basic training wasn’t bad enough with the confined quarters, communal bathroom, and worst of all, showering with 50 guys at one time all pressed together because we had exactly 6 minutes and the spigots were 8 inches apart. Ugh! When the guys had their peach fuzz growing in and proudly comparing in the mirror, I stood alone, examining my barren scalp muttering, “What the fuck is up with this?” Of all things, I think this is the one that kept me in denial for so long.

After a while though, and it takes some of us longer than others, the dysmorphia gets bad enough that we have to do something, because age really isn’t helping. Yes, the final clarity of realization of our gender identities brings us to the point of transition, the body dysmorphia is what drives the need for all the really shitty procedures we go through in order to feel more like ourselves. In a perfect world, maybe I could feel just as feminine sporting a 5 o’clock shadow, Larry Fein haircut, flat chest, and proudly displayed package, but it’s not, and I can’t. I may never be pretty, but if there is something I can do to inch just a tiny bit closer, well, I’m signing right up.

One of the comforting things about having trans woman body dysmorphia is that most women have a touch of this anyway. It’s the reason something fitnessy sounding like ‘Women’s Health’ will have 11 different ads for Botox. There is just something not right about that. Page 23 has a nice little article on how to avoid food poisoning, and the very next page advocates having that very same life threatening bacteria injected right into your face. It’s also the reason that 112 pages of the rest of the 150 page magazine is filled with ads for products for things that promise to unnaturally make you look naturally you.  I eat all of this up, and so do you probably or they wouldn’t be wasting their money trying to sell you on schmearing your lips in fish scales to make them more kissable.

I have resigned myself to the understanding that I’m never going to told I could be a model or even have a washboard belly. It doesn’t mean I’m not still trying mind you, because doing something always feels better than doing nothing. After all, 3 billion women can’t be wrong, even if some of us do look like Magnum P.I. in drag, at least in our own minds.

An Other From Another Mother

My twin sister from another mister recently posted about the use and misuse of labels when it comes to dealing with people, and really, she did a fabulous job as always. It did get me thinking though because her inspiration was one of those ubiquitous Facebook placards people like to share on their status. I really think I’m in the wrong line of public blathering by the way. With those things all you need is a semi-clever blurb with either a colorful eye-catching background or old-timey line drawing and the thing goes viral. Nevertheless, Becky’s post along with one of those blurbs that keeps showing up in my newsfeed got me thinking. Look, the day has barely begun and I’m already tired, so I’m not even going to apologize for my blatant copy-catting, nor the use of 4 hyphenated words in one paragraph.

The one that was really showing up a lot for a while was a message that attempted to differentiate the labels of transgender and gay. Clearly someone got torqued enough about the public confusion on the matter and created a loud graphic to convey that “No. No, they are not the same thing.” Enough other people saw this and also decided they were torqued as well, but maybe not enough to create their own graphic, so instead restrained themselves to just hitting the ‘share’ button. That’ll show ‘em! Don’t get me wrong, because I do agree. Something about it bothered me though, and I decided to write it out. Honestly, at this point I’ll be just as surprised as you are as to how this post ends.

If you are a regular reader, you already know the difference between gay and transgender, so bear with me. I’m certain that just by typing “flying monkey” here, some search engine will draw someone who was looking for Wizard of Oz memorabilia; a chance I just increased by typing this. So for you who are way off track and stayed, I’ll clarify. Many people think LGBTQ is a classification or label unto itself instead of an ever expanding acronym representing a bunch of disparate groups jammed together under the banner of “not regular guys and gals”. I think it grew to LGBTQIA since I started typing, kind of proving my point. Basically the assumption is that if Carl the Cobbler can stretch his understanding past a binary, the best he’s probably going to do is make it to guys, gals, and other.

Everyone under the LGBTQIA banner is tired of this of course. Homosexuals have been dealing with this for a while. Since for a long time people couldn’t imagine a relationship that didn’t involve a gender binary, one of the same gender partners obviously had to take the role of the opposite gender. “So which one of youse is the girl anyway?” The fallacy of course is that even a gay guy attracted to a man, would need that man to be more like a girl for some reason. As I like to use ‘Glee’ as an example, we saw this when Sue wanted Kurt to wear a dress to compete against Unique in the Nationals and was surprised he didn’t want to since he’s gay. With lesbians, same thing, and yes, even in the butch crowd.

Transgender people have been dealing with this equally as long. If you don’t fit the stereotype of your birth gender, then you must be some kind of gay. This of course is what the nifty Facebook placard is trying to combat. “I’m trans, not gay! Well, unless I’m both which is true some of the time, but not always.” The gay folks and the trans folks are on the same page here. Mostly. Jim says he likes men, but doesn’t feel like a woman. Jean says she’s really a woman, but not a gay man in spite of the lingering penis. It gets a little messier when Jill pops in saying she’s really a woman, but likes women, but the penis doesn’t make her straight, so her gender identity makes her gay. The gay cisgender crowd doesn’t really have an answer for this, so it gets kind of mucky.

Now Carl the Cobbler is really confused. “This guy I known as a dude says he’s really a woman, but he likes men, but isn’t gay?” Time for a refreshing Genny Cream Ale pounder or twelve. Carl’s confusion annoys the crap out of us because nothing tweaks one’s beak so much as being misunderstood. Just ask Pink. To clear everything up in a jiffy, exciting Facebook placards were put together, along with the frankly well thought out ‘Genderbread Person’. I love the Genderbread Person because it’s a nice easy visual to show to people who have questions. That’s really the rub now, isn’t it?

Most people don’t have a lot of questions because they simply don’t care. It’s not at all important to their lives, so they gloss over it just the same way you gloss over your friend’s constant updates her passion for Clydesdale Rescue. “Yeah, yeah, big beer drinking horse is endangered or something. I just want to know if the Whiskerville Cooters won last night!” Making people interested enough to want to know if they don’t know you personally is a hard thing to do. The real question then comes down to, is it really worth all the effort?

In my opinion, no. People can speculate about my sexual orientation all the live long day and it doesn’t matter a tiny bit to me. This is because it doesn’t affect my life at all, nor do I expect it to. We have a big enough hill to climb just to get the world to recognize we exist and should thereby have equal rights and protection under the law. Compared to that, speculation on who I might be attracted to seems like a wee little hill of beans. If anything, we benefit from the association. Being gay is rapidly becoming more socially acceptable and rights and protection appear to be following. Hitching ourselves to that bandwagon isn’t the craziest move out there. Explaining to a weary state senator that yeah, they passed SONDA and since we are kind of the same after all, so GENDA should naturally follow, seems more effective than making a big deal that no, this is totally, totally different.

In a world where Carl the Cobbler is your average voter, I’m all right with “regular guy, regular gal, and other”, so long as other is perfectly equal. If it’s really that important that people know exactly what kind of other you happen to be, start a blog and broadcast it all out there. Unless they really know you, doesn’t it matter that much anyway?

Reparative Therapy…. Seriously…

California Gov Jerry Brown just signed a bill banning the heinous practice of reparative therapy for children. In case you are scratching your head as to why I care, reparative therapy (also known as conversion therapy) is psychological treatment developed under the notion that gay people are psychologically fixable by engaging them in an intensive process of convincing them they are not in fact, gay. In layman’s terms, brainwashing. For those of us in the transgender set, it is pretty concerning that such a therapy exists to begin with, especially since those who subscribe to such a fallacy are highly likely to throw us into that grand pile of humans allegedly in need of repair.

Yeah, I’m going to skip the social science history lesson here since Wikipedia covered it pretty well. Before I do my usual jag left into topics with not much more than a whimsical relationship to this, I will say a few things simply because I like to rant. I simply can’t believe such a “therapeutic technique” managed to persist! None of the science supports it, great harm can and has come of it, and again, the methodology is nothing more than attempted brainwashing. As per my usual schtick, I hold the faith based only crowd responsible for this, as the only plausible explanation for this still existing is that if you believe the bible trumps scientific observation, and the bible says homosexuality is not part of the natural order of things, it must therefore be either a choice or psychological defect. I still fail to grasp the notion of a deity directly inspiring or personally writing a holy text, then filling all of creation with profoundly inherent contradictions just to fuck with us a little bit.

This did raise a personal question. Actually I’ve been asked it before, but never talked about it here. If a therapy or cure were developed to make us not transgendered, would we do it? This is a tough one, right? I’m not saying if it could have prevented it in the first place – I think that most of us will agree would have been nice. If I was simply born female, I may have put my energy into doing something productive instead of utilizing an increasing logrhythmic proportion of my potential to attempt not being trans, then burning up the rest in dealing with transition when that didn’t work. Or I might have ended up raped and left for dead somewhere, but we’ll never really know either way unless I decide to jump from a bridge and get a glimpse of alternate reality from some buttinsky angel.

What about right now though? What if I could bring back ‘Michael’ as the real deal and not a shell of responses and habits aimed at perpetuating and passing the identity? Sure I’ve made some changes that can’t really be undone, but I was never that keen to grow a beard anyway. My marriage would be saved, my son would have a daddy instead of a maddy, I wouldn’t worry so much about losing my job, I could go into dark and scary places without worrying about jack shit, no more wardrobe worries, no more hormonal cycles, no more taking 2 hours to get ready in the morning, no more weird looks (well, I got those anyway, but for different reasons), and so on. I could be just a normal married, middle age dad clawing his way up the corporate ladder. But I also wouldn’t be me.

I have no idea how much my trans-ness really makes up the sum of my being. I’m plenty of things that have nothing to do with my gender identity. Everyone can make a big old list of personal attributes, good and bad, that make up what they consider to be themselves. On paper they seem separate and distinct; building blocks that when put together somehow resemble a person. Reality is nothing like that of course. We are a lot more like cake. OK, a really complicated cake with so many hundreds of ingredients that Julia Child herself would start flinging F-bombs and shooting her signature Colt 45 in the air if she had to make, but still. Take any one thing out and it’s going to fuck up the rest of it because everything is so hopelessly intertwined as to be inextricable. Even if so, it would end up being a soufflé or beef bourgeon without just that one little pinch of zazz.

Without my trans, I’m not really me. Plus, we have no idea what it’s really keeping in check as well. Without that core portion of my identity, I might be a real asshole. Sure, ‘Michael’ wasn’t, but ‘Michael’ was just a drab looking me going through the motions of being male. Turned into a real boy, ‘Michael’ just might be a real piece of work. The kind of guy who speeds through puddles to splash the poor schnooks at the bus stop, or asks you to come help him move his really heavy stuff and then feigns a back problem. Yeah, I don’t know that, but I really can’t be super sure either. I do know myself now after 40 years of not, so the idea of jumping over to something new sounds like more of a gamble than I really like to take.

The true frightening idea about this is that you can’t really change something so inherently intrinsic to a person.  My brain is female, and for so long was locked down, shackled in the basement of my subconscious. Staved, beaten down, and existence denied. When you are your own jailer, you know just the right torture to inflict to break your own will. I’m free though now, and no longer capable of being complicit in my own imprisonment. Maybe reparative therapy could chain me back, kicking and screaming, and sink me back in the deep end, but not for long. I learned too much the first time. I’m sure it’s no different for anyone else, and why I applaud Mr. Brown.

Autumn Nesting

That first little nip is in the air only a scant 3 months since the Halloween displays started popping up in the stores. Apparently there is a strong market for those who are looking for tombstone lawn displays for the Fourth or fancy attending the company picnic in a sweaty Spiderman costume. My metabolism has crept to a halt and my attention turned to thoughts of blankets, making apple pies, and sipping hot cider from steaming mugs. Clearly it’s time for a bullshit fluff piece.

I’ve completed my first year of hormones and it’s hard not to see some of the more subtle differences. In years past, my early fall focus has always been on uninstalling my front yard vegetable garden, hosing down and putting away the lawn furniture, coming up with yet another time consuming and frustrating leaf disposal scheme (I have a sizable backyard and no one wants to haul that shit to the front where the town may or may not get to sweeping it up), and other aggressive activities that require sweat and muscle. I used to love doing that stuff, but this year I find myself hardly caring. I’m no rocket scientist, but the answer is pretty obvious, especially since I already brought it up at the start of this paragraph.

Everyone knows about the softer skin, the lessening of body hair, the increased emotional responses, loss of strength, and of course the breast growth. Everyone always remembers the breast growth part. It seems there are some subtle little changes as well that I still manage to find. My discovery of this week is nesting. It makes sense that it’s hormone related, but mainly because guys don’t seem to have this, or a love of craft fairs, because the two are definitely linked. I haven’t figured out how, but trust me, they are. Some things are just inexplicable, like how I used to just dump the bread back in the box, but now feel compelled to re-install the twist tie. I’m not sure exactly when that started.

For those of you who are hopelessly male, nesting is the innate urge to create a pretty and inviting home, especially for the winter, which is comfy, cozy and full of yummy smells. I think the female brain is wired for this naturally, and that the hormones provide the juice to drive it forward. I think this is an evolutionary advantage because women have always had to ready the home for children, while at the same time survive being cooped up for the foul months with a large irritable bear just counting down the seconds until backyard grilling season begins again. Or it could be as simple as “who doesn’t like baking pies, hot cocoa, and countryish wooden signs with heartwarming sayings hung upon the wall?” Yeah, I didn’t, until now anyway.

I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but up until last year I had a simple three word phrase I lived by. I don’t bake. Yeah, I’m all done with that now. It’s in the Hefty bag next to my ties, dirty sneakers, and condoms. Just shit no one is going to want to take second hand and that I have no more use for. My urge to bake kicked in last winter, but I only went as far as loading up the old bread machine. As my hormone levels slowly crept up to a natural level, I stated making pretzel rolls, sandwich rolls, pies, and other fun little treats. The only drawback is that I’m torn by the knowledge that I’m going to want to eat all these goodies and not super anxious to replace my wardrobe with larger sizes.

I’m also psyched that the Country Christmas Craft Fair is coming around again to the fair grounds. In a more testosterony time, my only motivation for going was that I knew there would be food. Now I want to go in spite of that and look at, and perhaps even buy, some locally crafted décor and maybe something pretty to dress up my bed a bit. It’s getting harder and harder to remember what it must have felt like to not want to do that, because honestly, it’s just so awesome. If only we can find a sitter, because my 5 year old is a boy, and has zero interest in quilts with double batting or lamps fashioned to look like log cabins. It makes no sense, but I guess that’s just boys.

So, as the days grow shorter, I’m looking forward to stressing less about leaf disposal or how the deck furniture might winter if I neglect hauling it back into the garage. Just give me a clean and cozy warm house, my fuzzy robe, a cup of tea, and a stuffy chair to nest in.

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