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Monthly Archives: March 2013

My Week As The Bearded Lady

bearded lady

After much searching, I finally discovered something that is arguably more painful than facial hair removal, or any hair removal for that matter. I can’t remember feeling this level of distress since that craptacular 3 days of work between the time when everyone found out about me and I began coming to work dressed as myself. Yeah, that was pretty bad and all, but this is far, far worse. Curious? Prepare for a stunning lack of shock and awe, but stick around at least to find out why. I had an electrolysis appointment on a Monday where James attempted to work my neck. Not fun, but even less so was his recommendation that I come back on Friday. Unshaved. After letting the hair grow since Saturday. Not nice James, not nice.

If you haven’t had facial electrolysis yet, you are in for a real treat. It’s recommended that you put the razor aside for a couple days before coming in for an appointment. My deal has been to make appointments on Monday, and spending the weekend holed up in my house away from prying eyes. The growing, by the way, is to allow your intrepid zap-n-plucker a good view of the playing field with ample visible targets. As it turns out, the weekend was just not enough to make the hard to reach neck area easy enough to clear.

On the side I’ll admit that much of this probably has to do with my neck in particular. All the dark hairs were cleared by laser, and the forest of remaining grey ones are just a teensy bit harder to see. On top of that, my beard growth comes in all criss-cross and woogly. Seriously, had I been born a male in mind, my beard growth would have been downright Taliban worthy. “Yes, yes, good crazy beard. We make you general!” Don’t worry, I can antagonize them with impunity. My blog is flagged by their IT guys and members can be terminated with cause just for stopping by, so no need to sweep my driveway with for IEDs just yet.

The agony of this is that I have work in the interim. I try my best to look nice and ideally inconspicuous. Kind of hard to do when it looks like I’ve got a turtleneck made of polar bear fur on under my sweater. I’ve already mentioned that I’m still trying to overcome the perception here that I’m really just a guy in a dress, and that it’s already taking a little longer than I had hoped. Having a solid week of neck hair growth just sitting there between my chin and my breasts is in no way helping this cause whatsoever. The urge to keep stopping people in the hallway and buttonholing them with a needless explanation that I just look this way because it’s a loathsome step in the process is nearly overwhelming. Most people don’t want to know any of the details to begin with, and doing this sort of thing will kill my chances if they ever decide to implement popularity contests.

I decided to go with the tried and true means of hiding an unsightly neck. The good old scarf. Yes, a turtleneck, would probably work better, but none of mine fit well at the moment, and there is simply nothing so annoying as feeling several days of rough growth rubbing at the clingy fabric every time I turn my head a quarter of a degree. The scarf unfortunately is only a partial fix because wearing it as I would really need to, right up to my chin, would make me look like a total tool. My only hope is that it proves to be a colorful distraction away from the affected area instead of drawing more attention to it. Ugh. There is simply no winning this.

The big moral of the story is that starting female life is by no means the end of transition discomfort, unless of course you got all this done well ahead of time. It feels like it should be that grand moment of pure relief when the male identity is shed for good and you start living your life one hundred percent as the appropriate gender. Instead, it is only the beginning of a whole host of new challenges you never really gave much thought to, such as humiliating days spend as the bearded lady. All of a sudden electrolysis induced gorilla jaw and big red laser burns on your upper lip don’t seem like such a huge hairy deal any more. With my luck my SRS is going to leave me with swelling that makes it look like I’ve got a tortoise shell sized codpiece on under my pants. It’s all right, this too shall pass. Just have to make it to Friday.

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Expiration Date: When Swallowing Is No Longer An Option

timesup-600x441

The fuse is lit, the snooze is broken, the point of no return is half a mile back, and the expiration date draws nigh. I think more than a few trans people are aware already of what I’m talking about. That point of time, now on the visible horizon and approaching rapidly, where we will lose the ability to function in accordance with our natal genders. It’s a pretty freaky time to be sure, and one that is different for every one of us. Some reach it through slow deterioration, or needful embrace, or even a sudden flash of overwhelming insight and clarity. How does this happen and why is it so different for everyone? I think we need to talk about this. And yes, I did title it like that just to lure you in.

It’s clear that the need for transition is different for everyone in regards to when and how it comes about. Some understand at a very early age and the knowledge wears them down glacially until every option is exhausted. Others understand at an early age and have the courage and conviction to go against everything they were raised to believe about themselves and insist on their identity before their first school bus ride. Others have no idea why they feel different and why they are plagued with physical manifestations of their own inherent wrongness. There are hundreds of variations, but for most of us they all converge on that one point where continuing life means transition no matter what the cost.

My own story is a mixture of the above. I knew young, but worked very hard to make sure to keep that knowledge well below the surface where I couldn’t even see it but for a few terrifying instances when it broke the surface. My goal, if it was coherent enough to be stated in words, was to make it though this life without ever truly acknowledging it or anyone ever knowing. I was really kidding myself with that one, but I went strong for a really long time on it. It wasn’t really until two years ago that my own expiration date appeared over the horizon, making 2011 a really shitty year.

Before that much of my life was filled with manufactured obsessions. Little habits I would take off to focus my mind on anything but my own feelings. As a child, I started collecting comic books and put the whole of my mind into the project; a massive collection that still plagues me terribly every time I have to move. I swapped out every so often to keep it fresh with a new one every year toward the end – book collecting, cooking, obsessive eBay, creating and interring time capsules (there is an art to this), getting every design of funky colorful socks (3 large drawers full), running, and finally blogging.

OK, an aside. I’m not talking about this blog, which I am just a little bit obsessive about, but my old one. When my last old friend moved from the Buffalo area, we set up a multi-author blog to capture all the old ‘glory days’ stories. For me this wound up being over 500 pages of autobiographical material, less the female side of course. At the time I felt like I was revisiting my life and codifying it firmly in my memory, an unconscious attempt to hold on to my created identity. What it really did was allow me to shed the skin of my life by turning poignant personal events in stories. It wasn’t a bad thing as it allowed me to let go of old feelings, grudges, heartaches, fears and whatnot. It is, by the way, still out there. I’m not going to link to it, but if you are for some reason interested, industrious, and very clever, you might find it, but it’s not so easy. I don’t think I used my full name at any time (the male one).

The point is that no matter what we do to stave it off, it appears that we reach a point in our lives where the inevitable simply happens. We run out of energy, mental tricks, avenues to pursue, and the fear of the consequences becomes a shadow of the former bogeyman it was. I think we all know nothing could have changed that time either. My ex often wonders she hadn’t dug so hard, it would have stayed buried. I don’t think so because it was already on its way up when she started. We have both pondered what would have happened if my dad hadn’t gotten sick and passed away. It was already rising though before he felt the first twinge in his gut. Is there anything that could have delayed things more? Anything is possible, but I truly don’t think so. I had already been twisting and turning in my body for a few years, completely unable to get comfortable. It may have taken me a little longer to figure out why, but not much.

Trans as “Personal Truth”? Thanks For the Screw Over, Glee

Ryder vs Unique

“No you’re not, you’re a guy” Oh, the words we so love to hear, especially when someone’s gaze at the same time is focused 30 degrees below our chin. Because I managed to go several months now without mentioning ‘Glee’, the writers responded to the doubtless flagging viewership and decided to shove something in there guaranteed to inspire me to write about. Well, probably not, but I’m glad they brought it up anyway as this horribly cold March is leaving me grasping at straws to come up with good topics every three days. For that I thank them.

In case your regular viewing has strayed from quality programming and you spend the time watching shows about people who make duck calls, use coupons, or toss out precociously loveable zingers from double wide trailers, I’ll catch you up. Last week on ‘Glee’ we got to witness a confrontation between Unique, the mega star in the making trans girl, and Ryder, one of the new characters who is catching on as fast as ‘Saved By The Bell, the New Class’. I doubt even Screech could bring out his best. In this episode, Ryder takes the position that Unique is “really a guy” in spite of being told point blank that she is a “proud black woman” and refuses to back down. For the record, the rest of the characters, except for Sue Sylvester, have no trouble understanding Unique for who she is. I was super glad they decided to tackle this. At first.

As usual, I’m going to tangent off to the left for a moment, if for no other reason than to avoid making this a sketchy re-write of the Wikipedia recap of the same. This point hits home for most, if not all, trans people because it speaks to one of our greatest challenges. No matter how we educate those around us, and no matter how we appear, attempting to overcome that lingering mindset that we are “really a…” is both heartbreaking and infuriating. Even those who claim to understand, who want to understand, and may have stood solidly by us the entire time often have trouble wrapping their heads around this.

Very recently, this happened to me yet again. I was explaining to a co-worker, who has been incredible in every respect to my transition, how I had decided to dorm for college because I like to be in total control of my own personal space. This was a little more pressing before I was out, and I’ve since calmed down about it. He replied off the cuff that, “of course you would, like any guy.” My hackles went up immediately. Uh, guy? He attempted to backpedal quickly. “Well, I mean you were a guy at the time.” No, not even then, in spite of appearances. He finally attempted to rectify by comparing me to his daughter who was the same way.

I know there was no deliberate attempt to hurt my feelings. I know he isn’t transphobic, or expressed even the slightest bit of resistance to my change in appearance. What it did though was give me insight into an internal mental space that hadn’t quite made the change over quite yet. Granted, he did know me for a little over ten years as ‘Mike’, but it’s now been 8 months since I have appeared as ‘Mike’ anywhere, much less here at work. I have to wonder how many others still think of me internally as ‘dude’? I clearly have a lot more work ahead of me on a front I fooled myself in thinking was won early on and now a distant memory.

Getting back to ‘Glee’. Well, as glad as I am that they broached the subject and brought it into the mainstream consciousness, I think they flubbed it in the end. After attempting to resolve the issue in the worst possible venue, a sing off, understanding is pushed to Ryder via groupthink. The message? Unique has a different personal truth than Ryder. OK, not what I was hoping to see here. True, in Gleeland a musical mash up usually is enough to win a campaign for hearts and minds, especially when perfectly timed, choreographed, and with shifting changes of venue and wardrobe that may or may not supposed to be really happening. Let’s put that aside and go with the whole ‘personal truth’ thing.

Personal truth is a great concept for disparate opinions that cannot be independently verified. It’s a good compromise along the lines of ‘my orange juice tastes better than yours’ when you have one person calling Jesus the one and only, and another party proclaiming that Buddha is where it’s at. In these cases ‘personal truth’ is a good fallback position to avoid another ‘Taste’s great! Less filling!’ campaign that resorts in untold death, destruction, and still no clear answer like the Great Bud Light War of latter 20th century.

The inherent danger of taking this position is that it all becomes very subjective. Sure you feel you are female, but I feel you are not, and therefore my opinion is equally valid. In most cases of this type, however, both truths are not at all equally valid. If I contend an antibiotic will improve a bacterial infection, and you hold that going to a faith healer is equally valid, I’m reasonably sure the numbers are going to weigh heavily in my favor, no matter what your personal truth is. If the question of trans is handled in the manner of a personal truth, the results are going to be compared to the faith healer by anyone who wants to express doubt for whatever reason.

I would have been much happier if Glee addressed this by pointing to the validation provided by the medical, psychological, and psychiatric communities and the specific reasoning as to why this is nearly universally recognized by scientific bodies as reality. Instead, millions of viewers were left with a very milk toast namby-pamby kind of reasoning that anyone looking to doubt our existence is all too happy to jump on. So glad they brought it up, but really wishing they would have put some more thought into it.

10 Super Keen Milestones of Gender Transition

Milestones

Now, I’m not one to go ragging on my sisters all the time (shush you, “all” the time is a little extreme you know), so I thought today would be a good time to start looking at some of the really great positives that we get to experience in transition. Almost every one of us who went down this road got to the starting line, looked at what lay ahead, and simultaneously lost today’s breakfast and yesterdays dinner at the same time. Wouldn’t it be nice then if we made it easier on our sisters who still go by ‘mister’ by highlighting some of the really great things they can expect? Normally I tend to churn out a laborious 3 paragraph intro to these, but today I’m just going to get to it.

1. Prognosis – Not Psycho: One of the first great milestones in this long and lonely road is having your therapist look you dead in the eye and say, “well… I don’t think you are psychotic…”. Mine said it exactly this way and made a great show of providing me a letter that spelled it out word for word. Yeah, it also said this person is known as “Michelle” blah blah blah, she probably looks weird to you yadda yadda, is transgender, and definitely not a psychopath or con-artist. Being officially designated as ‘transgender’ in the sort of letter of introduction people carried in 18th century novels is swell, but it’s the absolution of being a raging maniac that makes it special. I’m still planning to frame mine since I’ve long since stopped carrying it.

2. Lonely Leaves You Alone: This one can be a little tricky to be honest. It might be the very first person you come out to, or it might be dead last. Chances are though, you already have a pretty good idea about who is going to be super supportive and who is going to wig out and somehow make it about them. Try and go with the former for your first stab at it, or the second is going to be all the harder. Early coming out, one on one with someone and having them get all excited and happy for you is the best feeling. It’s even more validating than the letter and instills a blossom of hope that maybe you won’t have to move to Norway in the near term.

3. They Love To Watch You Strut: If you are reading this, chances are you are familiar with peering out the front window at twilight to scan the neighborhood for any signs of activity so you can run to your car and attempt to navigate down the street with your head in the passenger seat. This gets old real fast. It comes as a pure delight then to finally stroll to your car leisurely at noon and motor down to the nearest cross street without taking out garbage cans or that cat that keeps shitting in your vegetable garden. The real difference is that you really kind of don’t care anymore providing there is at least a degree of separation between your neighbors and everyone else you know who still doesn’t know. In Buffalo this is nearly impossible, but understanding that it’s no biggie anyway is just a slice of heaven.

4. Permission to Juice: There is a good chance that your therapist sees a great divide between determining you are not psychotic and determining you are ready to start making some changes. Sometimes it’s a really big divide, but understanding who you are finally will make you cross this hell or high water. Mine was under some kind of impression that hormones can be catastrophic and I picked up on this vibe early on and left it alone. Eventually though it’s enough already and time to pony up. Where the first letter feels like, “well, at least I’m not crazy”, this one is pure validation that, “I am who I know I am, and everyone agrees”. Welcome to mood swings, weight gain, tender nipples, crying at movies, and needing 11 trips to get all the groceries in. Bye forever, oh cursed morning wood.

5. Yes, I Would Love the Hanger, Thanks: Let’s be honest here. You have been shopping before, but not without a big old sack of high octane anxiety to go along with it. Oh, it was fun and all picking out new clothes, but trust me, you are never going to miss doing it with a red face. Not to mention fake lists from your “girlfriend”, asking for bullshit gift receipts, never getting quite the right size, outfits the blind wouldn’t wear, and dumping everything in a mad panic behind a Frito’s display because you could swear that woman who just looked your way used to go to your mom’s church or something. Welcome to relaxed outings where your only anxiety is sticker shock at the register, everything fits, and you never bring single shoe brought home you have to wonder how the fuck you are going to walk in anyway.

6.  Screw You, Clark Kent!: I’m sure you know the worry of having a sneaking suspicion that your co-workers often wonder why they never see you and femme you in the same place at the same time. Trust me, they don’t, but you can’t help wondering. Best cure in the world for that is to leave the glasses and suit in the phone booth you changed out of them in and never looking back. Just imagine the joy of noticing that is your boss in line in front of you at Mighty Taco, and they only reason you hope he doesn’t notice you is because you promised to have that thing or whatever done last Tuesday and just now remembered. A double life is a half life sister, and they day you decide to just be you and no one else is just like warm apple pie.

7. Goodwill Humping: Remember that cute little trend back in the 80’s when women wore neckties and suspenders like a 40’s era newsman? Yeah, me too, and I’m going to be so pissed if that comes back for some reason. One of the greatest joys that goes hand in hand with #6 here is voiding your abode of every stitch of clothing that may have been purchased at Men’s Wearhouse. No more ties, wingtips, pit stained undershirts, dress pants with real no-shit pockets, and anything that buttons on the wrong side. For the first time ever, there is no worry about anyone going through your stuff and wondering what you are supposed to be anyway. The garbage bags are full up, and it’s time to take a sweet ride to the donation center.

8. Buying Tequila: You look freaking amazing tonight and never once got the freaky nuts hairy eyeball. Well, that is until your bottle of Chilean Sea Bass infused vodka hits the scanner and the inevitable request for ID comes. Oh, the humanity. Your weak joke about having a bad hair day that day fails to amuse the cashier, who politely asks you if you would like paper or plastic for that, Mr Schnitzel. Yeah, going through the bureaucratic nightmare of swapping out your birth name and gender is a huge hassle, but the day your new license comes is nothing short of amazing. Almost as amazing as the feeling of smug satisfaction you feel every time you present it to suspicious lady at the checkout and watch her smarmy little grin just fade away.

9. There Can Be Only None: Terrifying, exhilarating, dreadful, onerous, and then never ending. How the hell did you get to know so many fricking people over your lifetime anyway? Family, friends, co-workers, casual acquaintances, old school chums, military buddies, and of course the 900 people you never met before who ended up as your Facebook friends. Given enough time, however, even someone emptying Lake Erie with a thimble will get to that last drop. Going to bed and knowing there isn’t a single person out there who you ever said boo to who doesn’t know brings with it a deep and dreamless sleep. Well, until you suddenly realize that those cousins on your dad’s side you never ever see don’t know yet, and they are probably going to show up to the next funeral. Hold on a sec, I’ve got to paw through my old Rolodex and draft yet another damn letter…

10. Speaking of Letters: It’s been at least a year since you maintained even a semblance of a male identity, and by now you are hoping that those around you finally forgot what you ever looked like with a five o’clock shadow and George Costanza haircut. You wish anyway, if not for the ten zillion photographs still floating around that seem to be everywhere. It’s been a long time coming since you were declared sane-ish and given permission to put some chemical ice on the dried up old boys. Finally, finally, you managed to clear every arduous wicket and qualify for the big golden ticket. So to speak anyway; it would be a cold day in hell before I traded my GRS letter for some tour of an obscenely dangerous candy factory. Whether you can afford it, or are medically qualified, there is nothing like knowing that you have done everything necessary to secure permission to proceed to the final frontier. Just a couple more months, and I’ll tell you what it’s like. Trust me, it’s going to be the best one yet.

A Transgender Child Understanding Themselves Is Not Like You Wishing You Were An Astronaut

Astronaut-Girl

Don’t you just love it when people pull this little analogy out when the topic of transgender children comes up? “Hell, I wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up, so this is the same thing. He has boy chromosomes, so he’s a boy. That is a FACT!” Yeah, I’ll get to the chromosome thing in a later post because that requires a little more thought to declare it bunk and I’m tired this morning. Let’s look at the astronaut argument for now while I sip on some delicious Scottish Orange Pekoe tea (thank you again, Becky!).

I shouldn’t have to really explain this to the trans crowd, but if you came around to support and someone ever hits you with this little gem of a logical fallacy, it’s fairly simple. First off, wanting to be an astronaut is a future dream, and probably a pipe one at that. If you are spending a lot of time bitching about things in the comments section of an online news article, I have a few doubts regarding your ability to concentrate on the math and engineering requirements. Regardless, it’s a future thing because most children understand they are probably not on the short list to go up on the next Soyuz launch, even if that kid on ‘Big Bang Theory’ did it.

More importantly, few children steadfastly understand themselves to be astronauts from birth and that only some yet understood quirk of fate is keeping them earthbound. A trans girl, however, does understand herself to be female and that it isn’t a condition she plans to enroll in a degree program to attain. It’s not a wish, or part of an overall life plan, but inherent self awareness, the expression of which allows her to interface with the world in a positive well adjusted manner that is much more comfortable for her and harms no one. More about that last part in just a bit.

The argument our feisty outraged commenter threw out there is what is known as the Straw Man Fallacy. It’s where a position is misrepresented to make it appear weaker and then defeated with the claim that the real position is defeated as well. This one is pretty easy to spot and counter because it is not the same thing at all, but dangerous because a public uneducated about trans issues can be easily swayed by something like this. Seems to make sense until you look at it all up close and personal.

My own understanding of why people insist on doing this is because they grew up under the concept of gender binary. Someone is A or B; no need to think about it further. In challenging something learned so young, many people feel very threatened that if something so basic as to be understood prior to the age of 2 might not be true, their whole world concept suddenly becomes suspect. Many hate this because it puts the possibility out there that they may have to go an rethink a whole load of items they already have coded as hard truth. For people who had a hard time getting this to begin with, it’s an even bigger problem, like having to redo your taxes after you put the pile away 6 months ago.

I think attacking trans children by likening a fundamental condition of their existence to a typical make believe game is both ignorant and mean in spirit. The best we can do in these situations is point out the fallacious nature of these argument out whenever they happen and work to educate the people around us who are willing to listen. By explaining why such notions hold no more water than a sieve, we can arm our supporters with the knowledge they need to address these situations as they encounter them. Every opportunity like this presents a chance to grow a broader understanding of our condition.

Strike a Pose… Then Live to Regret It

regret

One of the striking similarities I’ve seen in both the trans community and in pubescent girls is the love of posing for photographs. If you have a female relative who falls into the latter category, and happen to be friends on Facebook, I have no doubt you are inundated with endless posed pics of them trying to look cute, sexy, fun or even just silly. Not surprisingly, at least to me, I often see many trans Facebook friends doing the exact same thing.

Before everyone thinks I’m getting all preachy and whatnot, I will freely admit that this used to be me as well. I say ‘used to’ because I have noticed that this mostly applies to trans who either identify as Crossdressors, or are in a pre-transition state and identify as TS. It seems that those of us who take those next steps to kick off transition, HRT and full  time living, the desire to do this drops considerably. Many of us who used to do this sort of thing feel a teeny bit about it all and given the opportunity, often scrub our FB, MySpace, Google +, and even PE profiles of these now shame inducing snapshots of  much more confusing time.

The big question is why do we do it. Why do we, now somewhere between 25 and 65, suddenly feel the need to mimic the behavior of 14 year old girls? I can really only answer for myself, and will go ahead and extrapolate this reasoning to the rest and allow those who beg to differ to let us know in the commentary. I think the number one reason, and the one that makes the most sense, is that it is simply a means to validate our identities. Before sidling up to something as big as full time transition, many have few opportunities to look how they think they ought to look. These times are captured moments that can be looked back upon when feeling hopelessly masculine looking and drab. As an aside, this phenomenon seems to apply way, way more to trans women than trans men, which really does make sense.

The secondary reason, and the one that inspires sharing on social media instead of keeping such things in an eyes only location, is the need to be validated by others. With the lack of opportunity or gumption to live and be interacted with as one’s self, sharing pictures presents a proxy avenue to be seen and understood as one would prefer to be. For me this was a way to have others see me as I wanted to be seen, or at least so I thought at the time. More about that in a moment. I’m guessing there is also a tertiary motive (perhaps the primary one in some) that facilitates the feeling of being desirable in pixel form, if not necessarily in person. I assume this is a strong motive for some given the types of pictures I have seen that don’t seem to hint at much else.

Nothing is wrong with this in and of itself, but it really can pose some problems, the least of which is head smacking shame. Let’s start with that first. In spite of being around women our entire lives, very few of us, without having been properly cultured as such, have no idea how to dress. I was very guilty of this myself. Things such as matching, style, and age appropriateness generally come after many, many mistakes. There is a good chance you are still making them by the truckload at the time you are most inclined to have the moment captured for all eternity. On any given day I may have looked like I shop exclusively from the Delia’s catalog with accessories by Clair’s Boutique. The next one might see me as a refugee from the Blair Catalog, except too old lady-ish. At the time I saw no problem with this, but it is now clear in real life that it is super hard for anyone to take you seriously if you show up looking like Punky Brewster one day, and Betty White the next. So many faux pas in such a short time.

The larger problem is the burning shame you may feel once you know better, and everyone with a computer is able to pull up pics of you looking like you work the corner at Genesee and Mosel catering to shady businessmen with subscriptions to ‘Barely Legal’. Not exactly the kind of thing you want your boss and co-workers looking at, much less family members and children. If you still have Twilight posters on your wall, you can barely get away with this. If you are over 30, forget about it. If you think the Rosanne Rosannadanna wig and some hoochie red lipstick are going to fool anyone into thinking it’s not you, think again. The first time someone comes across it and thinks, “say, that really kind of looks like Carl”, you are about to go viral.

The moral of this story is that we all have the desire to be validated in our true identity. The more the better in fact. Try to keep in mind though that whatever is captured on film for public consumption has the inherent possibility of surfacing at catastrophic times. Even if you are secretly hoping to have your secret exposed and end the charade once and for all, there are better ways of going about that such as blogs; trust me on that. No judgment on the behavior (after all, how could I?); just be careful and think a few months or years down the road and make sure you aren’t on a path of hot today, gone tomorrow.

Can We Just Go Back To ‘Sex Change Operation’ Already?

sex-change

There is just something special about being part of a very small minority and living in constant worry of pissing off other members of your niche minority simply by choosing the wrong words. It’s one thing when an ignorant portion of the greater world population uses slang and terminology designed to be hateful, but when we start bickering amongst ourselves about these things, I feel we missed the boat all together. I think we should talk about this because I’ve been seeing way too much of it on the blogosphere and other bastions of free or repressive expression.

I’m going to talk about a fairly benign example, mainly because it’s on my mind at the moment. When I first came out to myself as trans over 2 years ago now, I still thought of it as “a sex change operation” in which the surgeon does whatever it is they do to turn penile tissue into vaginal tissue and do away with the boys. Then I leaned that this was antiquated and the real players called it Sexual Reassignment Surgery or SRS. Fine, it’s SRS then. Sounds a lot more standard medical-ly anyway. Within a few months, all of a sudden it’s “Oh, heavens no Michelle! Tis not our sex we change, but in fact our gender!” Fine, fine then, whatever; it’s GRS now I guess. Then just last week I have someone telling me about their GCS. I had to look it up, and lo and behold, now the word ‘reassignment’ is suddenly inflammatory because we are really correcting something. For the love of pistachios, how does anyone keep up?

For all the name changes, the basic surgery remains the same; reconfiguring penile tissue into vaginal tissue because they are essentially made of the same stuff anyway. As long as that is the result of the procedure, that is what I want, whatever it happens to be called that given week. Here is my point though. As a trans blogger, very active in the trans community, and planning to get this procedure this calendar year, if I can’t keep up with what it is being called on any given month, how is anyone else going to? It’s like changing the combination on a locked door the vast majority have no interest in opening to begin with. So why do we do it?

The first reason I can think of is that people are prickly about this. There are just some who if they can find a way to take offense, they jump right on it and demand satisfaction. While this may be somewhat true, I think the majority of it is people getting sick and tired of being misunderstood. Whether it be your mail carrier or dentist, the probability is high that the person you encounter next isn’t at all aware of the difference between sex, gender, orientation or much of the growing body of terminology surrounding these things. Mainly because it doesn’t apply to them, so they don’t really care. The result is many trans people constantly explaining themselves and wishing they carried around a little printout of the Genderbread Person to wipe the empty, slack jawed, and incredulous looks off people’s faces.

The current situation though, due to the constantly corrected set of terms and the amount of animosity that comes with misusing them, makes anyone ornery, including me. To date, I have yet to pull a new and improved term out of my ass and have to explain things any less than I did before. Sure, yes, it is “more correct” at a etymological level, but then I end up having to actually explain more because I’m not using the term people already know, which in spite of our best efforts to date, remains ‘sex change operation’. Unfortunate as it may be, when I use that, at least I only have to explain what I’m having done and not a convoluted history of the terminology. Side note, while I explain that many/ most trans people would really, really prefer not to be asked about this, I continue to leave myself open to questions. While it is no one’s business, I don’t mind, it gets knowledge out there, and may spare someone who cares a great deal.

Long story short, I think we need to have a national vote of some kind to settle this thing, roll out the number one answer after Richard Dawson hoots, “Survey says…!” and stick with it. Shit, I just totally dated myself again. Until we do that, I also propose a moratorium on pissiness when other trans people use one of the other terms still floating out there. We have enough on our minds without being overly politically correct amongst ourselves.

Now, looking at the evolution of the terminology, I think we ought to skip right to the end and maybe assume the next sentiment is that we don’t need “correction” after all because we are wonderful, and that it should be Gender Affirmation Surgery, because we are affirming the gender we already are through this procedure. Inevitably, someone will decide that highlighting the whole ‘gender’ thing to begin inherently leads to transphobia, so let it be Personal Affirmation Surgery. Now the focus is too much on the fact that we need medical intervention, which is personally intrusive terminology on too grand-ish a scale, so drop it just to Personal Affirmation Procedure. Voila! A sanitized term for mass consumption. Plus I really can’t see where people will confuse PAP with anything else.

Next week on Michellelianna: ‘Taking hormones’ evolves to Puberty Baseline Reversal, colloquially known as ‘PBR me, ASAP’.

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