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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Gender Identity and “The Surgery”

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Don’t you love statements that start with, “There are two kinds of [insert person type]”? It manages to reduce even the most complex personality characteristics into a neat little Cartesian dualism. No, no, I’m not talking about some jackass named Cartes who fought a dual, but the narrowing of options down to A or B, zero or one, black or white. I’ve heard rumblings of that kind of talk regarding the transsexual population. “There are two kinds of trans. The kind who get GRS and the kind who don’t”. Let’s talk about that for a minute.

I’m going to forewarn you, I am going to speak to my own personal understanding of my condition (or reality, or whatever we chose to call it), so this may come off biased. A little bias is unavoidable, but my point is definitely not to create an A vs. B argument here. Before we get to that, some more disclaimers, cause you know, what the hell, right? I use ‘trans’ for convenience and with the full understanding that the full umbrella includes transsexuals, cross-dressers, drag queens, genderqueer, etc. Sorry if I lumped you in ‘etc’, but the list is pretty freaking long. For the sake of this conversation, I’m using ‘trans’ to talk about transsexuals – we who feel very strongly that our operating system (brain, soul or whatever) does not match our hardware, and are compelled to make the change as a life continuing measure.

I’m going to anticipate the first objection up front. “But Michelle, there are so, so many who would kill to get GRS (SRS) but can’t! They can’t afford it, or they are not medically able to due to other reasons, or deathly afraid of surgery! How can you be so insensitive?” Ugh, tough crowd today. No, I’m excepting them from the discussion as that is a whole different topic all together. I’m specifically talking about why some trans who are able in every respect to get GRS do, and some are happy to leave things as they are. By the way, my sister Becky kind of addressed some of this already, and probably much better in her post.

In one of my meetings with my gender specialist, he asked if I was “a purist” or not in terms of wishing to go all the way with my transition, which he explained in his opinion is GRS. At the time, and this was a while ago, I didn’t realize anyone felt otherwise. Why on earth wouldn’t I want to? The question didn’t really make sense to me in that moment. My current, ahem, configuration sure doesn’t match my gender identity by a long shot, so why the hell would I want to keep things the same? While I didn’t suffer from the same hatred and revulsion about my anatomy as some do, I also have no attachment that will prevent me from making the exchange at the earliest opportunity. So what’s with the trans people who say, “nah, I’m good”?

Now, there are those among you I have heard speculate that those who have no compelling reason to seek GRS must not be “real trans” after all. It’s very tempting to think like that, because those of us who can’t imagine not doing it tend to find such thought processes somewhat shocking. “Really, you are going to keep it? Really? Why? What is wrong with you anyway? Poser.” This made sense to me at first. I thought about it though, and came to the conclusion that I was looking at it through “trannier than thou” spectacles. That isn’t right. If I’m trans and she’s trans though, shouldn’t we be marching to the same goal line?

I think the real answer fits in nicely with the truth about our gender identities. Our identity is what it is, whatever body we are in, or even if by some wacky mishap we end up as disembodied brains in jars. I hope the latter never happens, but if it does, rest assured that floating grey blob is decidedly female. From there it comes down to what we need to do to get comfortable in the body we have. Instead of it being a yes or no type question, it’s more a matter of scale as to what measures are required to live a comfortable life. If we were able to go forward doing nothing and making no changes, yet comfortable in our identity, then by all means we should do so. For those of us so horribly uncomfortable that every measure must be taken to move forward, it’s really nothing more than being on the suckier end of the scale.

The final answer is that there are not two kinds of trans, or even two-hundred. By fate, luck, or circumstance, we each land in our own little pocket of the roulette wheel and act accordingly. To those who can but don’t choose GRS, I don’t understand you. Not because I think you are wrong, but simply because I don’t have that. I think, however, that you fell on the lucky side of things, all things considered.

Online Deception: Catfish Dani

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Ever pretend to be someone else online? Yes, I can see you all looking down sheepishly scratching the back of your heads. If you are trans, there is a really high probability you have done this, even if inadvertently. MTV is currently airing a new show called ‘Catfish’ that tracks down people who are doing this for allegedly romantic reasons. The practice, as you may have guessed, is called ‘catfishing’. We have a clever little term for just about everything now, don’t we?

Catfishing, if I understand it correctly, is engaged in by somewhat lonely individuals who have come to find through bitter experience that their pretty face as is isn’t quite getting so many nibbles on Plenty Of Fish, or wherever. The temptation to maybe borrow the pictures and data from perhaps someone who could be one half of Brangelina to get a little positive attention may get a bit too enticing. It often starts out as a curiosity thing, maybe a joke, or just harmless way to pass the time. Unfortunately, it occasionally so happens that a big sloppy love connection is made, quite possibly on the grounds that the catfisher looks really hot. Once the ‘I love you’s’ start and the catfisher digs in deeper and deeper, coming clean probably seems way too risky a prospect. Since it is unlikely they are able to alter their appearance to look like the sculpted ab Chippendale’s dancer or the face clipped out of a L’Oreal ad from Cosmo whose face they borrowed, stalemate is achieved.

For the record, this seems like a bad thing to get into and likely to cause a lot of heartache all around for both parties. Even if for some reason it does work out, you are looking at a lifetime of “remember that time you deceived me online” shots peppered into almost every argument. It also can’t be much fun being shot down after pouring your heart and soul into you true blue personality in endless exchanges once they see your real face. It’s just as bad for the deceived because trust is broken and they will not only face the pain of being actively lied to, but be compelled to question to death every poor honest person who attempts to get close to them thereafter.

As trans people, we know a little something about this all. Many of us catfished at one time or another. Some of us have created profiles to better match our true gender, while others make compelling profiles in their birth gender  and base major life decisions on the response. I’ll come clean as an example of the latter, having sent out my Air Force pic, which was 5 years old at the time, and the very best I looked ever. It’s OK, I followed up shortly with a real crap-ass pic that nearly killed the budding relationship all together. In reality, had I been able to face the truth about myself, I would have sent out a shitty trans pic like the one on the side of this blog and let that be that. OK, I’m going to circle back around to the point now.

I was watching ‘Catfish’ with my ex and I found the episode to be surprisingly relevant. A woman contacted the producers to help her figure out the truth behind a really handsome looking dude she had be online dating for months. As per usual, the person under suspicion claimed zero access to Skype, which would have immediately cleared things up, unless I guess if he was using his buddies profile and could get the guy to stand in. This is very suspicious because I think even snail mail is now equipped with a handy Skype interface. Well, they got to the bottom and of course the dude didn’t turn out to be the gorgeous rake from Switzerland, but a young trans man just starting his transition named Dani.

I usually jump up and down denouncing the catfisher as an evil prick, but in this case I found myself rooting for him heavily. He seemed like a really sweet kid who got caught up in the ‘right before transition’ madness anyone trans is deeply familiar with. I know, I know, he should be held to the same standards and all, but still. It’s a little hard to me to get all judgy after walking a mile in someone’s shoes. I was thrilled with the ending where the woman decided to look past both his deception and birth gender and continue the relationship. I hope they make it.

The moral of the story of course is don’t catfish. It’s kind of a shitty thing to do to someone else and you are almost guaranteed the very rejection you were so worried about to begin with. It’s a whole lot easier to be shot down before someone gets to know you than after, and you are bound to paint yourself as damn near unlovable as a result. If you are doing this because you are still a closeted trans and think you can remain satisfied living a second life online, it might be a good idea to stop for a moment and evaluate your own need for doing this. It’s only going to get worse.

Weird Trans* Symptomology (Or Is It Just Me?)

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As if we aren’t considered weird enough already (no, it’s true, an old friend even commented here to tell me what I was doing is “inherently insane and weird”), I’ve noticed in comparing notes with other trans folks that some of us share some additional peculiarities. Let’s talk about that for a minute because I can’t help being curious about this. Something coincidental with trans* worth looking more into, or just my usual ramblings? I am thinking of creating a bona fide poll if I can figure out how to do so, but this post will serve as a fleshed out version for the mean time and at least a good reference point should I figure out the poll thingie. The examples, unfortunately, all come directly from my personal experiences.

Please indicate if you experience any of the following symptoms and whether you consider yourself to be trans* or not (it’s not in me to exclude anyone from participating):

1. Every Day is Yesterday Syndrome: Do you have an atypical memory that allows you go back 10, 20, 30 years and more and recall the minute details of some event or conversation? Do you often embarrass the hell out of old friends by recounting blow by blow some incident they desperately hoped everyone forgot? Are you considered to be a huge pain in the derrière when you constantly correct the personal memories of others making them doubt their own sanity? Whether you use this power to annoy the living shit out of everyone around you, or keep it confined to head shakes and quiet eye rolling sighs, you may have this.

2. Count von Countulitis: Do you have difficulty doing math in your head? Particularly easy math, requiring you to either use your fingers or break out your iPhone calculator to figure out the tip on a $10 tab, or divide the check 3 ways? Did you end up in a math heavy field like engineering or accounting by spending countless hours on rote memorization and now thank the living stars every day for the invention of Excel so you can keep the illusion alive? If you have an abacus at your desk, and it’s not just a toy, you may have this.

3. Southlefterly Confusion: If the passenger in your car says, “turn right at the next light”, are you equally as likely to do so as careen across 4 lanes of traffic to get into the left hand turn lane? Do you often hold both hands up so you can visually see which one you write with when someone asks you a left/ right question? Do you find compasses maddening? If someone at work says, “come down to the north side of the building”, do you pull up the Google satellite view and hope the NSEW position indicator is there so you can figure out which side that is? If you feel totally turned around at sunset or frequently infuriate your GPS by forcing it to recalculate, you may have this.

4. I’m ADD, Yeah You Know Me: Has your mind wandered more than 4 times since starting to read this post? Do you often read 3 or 4 books in parallel because it’s really no different to you given your mental wanderings just reading one? Has anyone ever stated, “I know to get anything important in within 30 seconds before your eyes start to glaze over? When someone asks, “what did he just say?” when watching TV, do you never know because you were zoned out? If your brain works in 30 second intervals before moving on to something completely unrelated, you may have this. I have found an upside to this condition; I’m never, ever bored.

5. Comparatative Normalcy: Amongst your group of non-trans* friends, do you still appear to be the “normal” one of the group? Has your favorite cousin repeatedly called you a ‘weirdness magnet’ based on the friends you have managed to attract? Do you ever watch ‘Big Bang Theory’ and think, “yeah, I should be so lucky to be Dr Amy Farrah Fowler.” When you are out as a group, are you not the reason for a change that people keep staring at your table? If people like this have found you, and you befriended them because of your unique ability to look past appearance, behavior, and overall lack of conformity to societal norms in ways that significantly differ from your own personal idiosyncrasies, it may be a good indication you suffer this malady.

6. Lois Laneitis: Were you also astounded the first time you saw Clark Kent take off his glasses? Have you ever worked side by side with someone for years and get confused as to their identity when bumping into them at the mall? Did you ever think two people at work were the same person, and called one of them by the wrong name persistently until you finally happened to see them together? Did you ever find a movie super confusing because you thought two actors or actresses were the same character? The medical term for this is called Prosopagnosia and you may have it if you didn’t realize that was an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie until he said, “I’ll be back.”

7. LoTR Type Fixation: Do you really fricking love ‘Lord of the Rings’? Yeah, this one is a pretty simple yes or no. Every trans person I have thought to ask loves LoTR. I know a lot of people do, but this just might be statistically significant.

I’m sure there are probably more, but let’s face it, we all stopped paying attention like 3 symptoms ago, so I see no reason to drag this out further. Now, let’s see if I can figure out this poll thingie…

How You Wear It

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If you identify as female, either right off the line, or somewhere in the aftermarket, I think you are going to understand what I’m talking about. Why on earth is our clothing designed to malfunction only in ways most favorable to voyeurs and never the opposite? You have probably guessed right that this fun bit of indignation begins with a story.

The other night I was with my ex, son and a friend and her son at the Original Pancake House. Far superior, by the way, to the International House and their misleading name with not a single smoked fish or blood pudding anywhere on the menu. I think I had noticed walking in that my skirt seemed to be more binding than normal, but I paid it no mind. A little tightness is to be expected when gorging on kielbasa and basted eggs. It wasn’t until I got home that my ex pointed out, “Uh, you know the waist band of your skirt is way down below your ass.” My son picked up a few new words that day. I really have to watch myself with that. In any case, I found that by simply pulling it up, it was once again comfortable. My only saving grace is that I was wearing tights underneath, so thank the stars for a cold day.

I was trying to remember how often it felt wrong, you know, at the office. More expletives; pronunciation reinforced to a 5 year old sponge. It wasn’t the first time I found myself becoming unreasonably angry with the guys who work for me. Not long ago they stood conversing with me at length, and then let me go to two meetings in a row with jalapeno mustard in my hair. In their defense, I think they either truly didn’t notice, or assumed it was some sort of yellow and green accoutrement they didn’t understand. In any case, it’s clear no one is going to warn me away of making a complete ass of myself.

My ex explained that this kind of thing happens to all women at one time or another. Dress tucked into the back of pantyhose. Poorly constructed button triggered to snap just below the appropriate line of cleavage. Kick pleats and slits conveniently located on a seam stitched by one of the three blind mice after a night with Wild Turkey. Never ever do you hear someone complaining, “Dammit! This stupid snap came loose and completely covered my décolletage!” You never hear that. But why? Oh please, you know why. It’s the same reason men’s buttons are sewn on with high tensile steel thread, as are the butt seam of slacks. Even Rush Limbaugh has to make a pretty deep bend to split those poor suckers. Nobody wants to see that, so every precaution is there to make sure they don’t. No so true in our case.

All of western culture female apparel is clearly designed as the complete opposite of say, Middle Eastern garb. In the Mid-east, and not that I’m condoning this at all, women’s clothing is designed to absolutely minimize the chance that any bodily attribute not desired to be shown will suddenly make an appearance. In the West, total opposite. Skirts, essentially a tube around your midsection, can slip down, go up, be looked up in such a variety of ways that special uncomfortable leg and foot placement when sitting etiquette has developed. Even the long ones can be stepped on at the hem and pulled right down. Oh, believe me, I know. Most dresses are made of such light material as to head for the shoulders at the slightest breeze. Yes, even pants. The right fit (in other words, not super dumpy looking) are skin tight around the ass, with the worst ones undesirably showcasing camel-toe. Shirts and blouses, except for the winter ones, are almost universally cut to reflect the popular ‘hoochie’ look. There is one word for those who try to buck this trend – butch.

Understand, I’m venting here. Most women already know how to work within the system and achieve looks that are cute, feminine, and fairly low risk. I’m just learning how much care is required in making that a reality. Sure, I could go super butch, but honestly, I need all the help I can get to have any hope in being identified as the correct gender. If, however, I can manage that without mooning anyone or having a boob pop out, well, all the better.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

19,000 people fit into the new Barclays Center to see Jay-Z perform. This blog was viewed about 66,000 times in 2012. If it were a concert at the Barclays Center, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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