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The Fallon Fox Fallacy

MMA: Strikeforce-Tate vs KedzieI know this constitutes serious self abuse already (not the Biblical kind where some bearded old patriarch wacked off into a fire), but I just had to scroll down to the comments section when I saw another CNN article about Fallon Fox. In case you aren’t aware, Ms Fox is a highly trained female fighter in the MMA who recently came out as a post-operative MTF transsexual. The legally mandated amount of hoopla around this revelation was achieved in typical media soap-opera fashion.
To ensure the story didn’t peter out with people saying, “Well, looks like another one of them managed to make good.”, someone decided to webcast a particularly cantankerous  UFC fighter, Matt Mitrione, giving the usual misinformed bigoted diatribe. Good catch, I did make it sound like this was all orchestrated. You can’t tell me this loudmouth boob was quiet as a church mouse on the subject before he found himself in front of a camera and exploded out of nowhere. In any case, it was a good opportunity for the UFC management to make it clear they are not copacetic with this kind of personal attack and suspended him. So, cool points to the UFC, which is not something I thought I would ever find myself saying.

Let’s get to the reactionary comments, shall we? In general, lots of misinformation, ranting, and declaring of Mitrione a true American hero of free speech right up there with old Tom Payne. I was actually gratified to see that for the most part, members of the trans community declined to get down in the mud and wrestle with the pigs on this. People who are taking the time to let their opinion be known on an online forum, yet cannot take the 3 minutes to do a quick search and see if their little factoids have any merit whatsoever are generally not worth listening to. On top of that, many of them made sure to highlight their pedigree by craftily inserting single words in all caps. “You are so stooped its because MR Fox is a MALE MAN!!!” Well, everyone knows that seeing a word in all caps will assuredly sway people on the fence into their camp, and better yet, draw some of the opposition who are tired of well reasoned, lower case arguments.

The primary point of view, and one also held by Mr Mitrione, is that trans women have a significant male advantage when it comes to physical competition. I so wish that anyone who made such an argument had the opportunity spend 6 months going through hormone replacement therapy. Every bit of natural male strength and endurance enjoyed previously, without even having to do anything, just evaporates like a little wisp of smoke. Speaking subjectively, I’d also add that it can be considered a significant disadvantage to experience a big drop in base level ability rather than start there from the beginning.

All medical studies on fully transitioned trans women indicate a comparative level of strength and endurance with a female of the same age and fitness demographic. A lack of androgen levels the playing field quite well. As a runner, I experienced this first hand. In 2010 and 2011 I ramped up from 2 mile season initial runs to 5 miles within 4 weeks, and ended the season doing 8 and 9 mile runs. In 2012 and this year, whole different story. Last year I ran more miles than any other year, yet at the end I only managed one 5.5 mile run without stopping. Big, big difference.

A few of the more persistent commenters took it a step further and attempted to argue that her original male skeletal frame was still intact. This is true; it is. When looking at strict averages, male skeletal frames are taller, broader shouldered and contain longer reaches than female skeletal frames. While the averages are distinctly different, the degree of overlap between the two groups is not. The vast majority of the population, male and female, falls well into the overlap portion. It’s very difficult not to. While Ms Fox has a frame larger than that of an average woman, it remains within that of the total female population, as do many of the other female MMA or UFC fighters (honestly, I’m not clear on what the difference is), some of whom may have larger frames than Fallon.

I think it’s fairly clear that if Fallon’s base strength and endurance are comparable to that of demographically similar females, and her ability to train, ramp up and increase her abilities falls along the same curve as well, she is quite fairly categorized correctly. In regards to frame size, she is well within the expected variance to the mean in the female population. Even so, it doesn’t appear that the MMA or UFC categorizes and segregates players based on this. Nor most sports, or we would expect to have football and basketball leagues split up into interplaying divisions based on height and bulk.

Sufficed to say, I’m calling bullshit on this line of reasoning. It’s a trumped up and unsound method to justify trans discrimination where there is no credible reason for there being any. While I’ve never exactly been a fighting fan, I’ll be rooting for Fallon all the way.

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.

The Ticking of the Clock

I’m going to be straight up honest here. This is kind of a tough one to write. It’s been sitting in my docket of things to talk about for some time, but that day finally came around. I generally tend to take a humorous look at life, and I like doing that. When I can laugh and make someone else, it brings me pure joy. Someone I used to know once accused me of making a joke of everything, but that is only partially true. Most things, but not really everything. Sometimes, since starting HRT anyway, I get that feeling only women truly know.

Trans women born under a really challenging set of circumstances, but we are women and our brains are wired the same way, even though we have to play a lot of catch up. That wiring has some switches in it I’m not sure we are all prepared to discover, but sometimes do. Men like to make sarcastic jokes about the biological clock ticking in a woman, as if it is just some little thing, an irrational thing, an inconsequential thing, that can be ignored with some self restraint and fortitude. Ugh. Again, they simply can’t know.

Make no mistake, I and every other trans woman knows, we will never have the right internal parts to even dream of such a thing as biological motherhood. A great many cis women have this as well, but more often discover it later in life as a crushing blow to dreams they may have had. Still though, they, and at least I, still get flashes of that feeling. A momentary powerful emotional conceptualization of the idea of life growing inside us and of us. A microsecond of euphoria is all it is. Distilled joy and wonderment of the very idea. And then it’s gone. We can’t help but constantly remember what we simply cannot do or be, but there is a void where there has never been before. Something in our head is saying what we are, what we can do, but the body has no means to cooperate. It’s that moment of hazy heady potential still there after just waking up from a dream of flying.

No, I’ll never be a biological mom. It might not be fair, but what is? I’m not even sure I believe in such a thing as fairness being real other than a convenient cause to issue complaint and air grievances. It’s also unquestionably much worse for a cis woman to discover, having had no reason not to build up expectations that the mind and body might crave. I have been a biological father, and delight in that, but it’s not quite the same. Any future of repeating the experience is a low probability at best, as I suspect my body stopped cranking out swimmers some time back.

I brought this up because it doesn’t seem to be something we talk about much. It has no more real meaning to our lives than picking out shapes in the clouds. It doesn’t mean we don’t feel it though, and maybe it’s just too hard to put out there, but I did it anyway. I’m not even sure how I really feel about it, but it is there and I’m willing to admit it, even if it makes no difference. I’ll play the hand I was dealt and for every little bit that it’s worth.

Hormonapalooza Two-za

“Is it me, or is it hot in here? Oh, it is me… great.”  Back in a more masculine life I used to scoff at the fact that my spouse would wrap herself up in Russian sleigh ride style on a warm August evening, shivering and begging for hot chocolate. I would assist by turning the thermostat up two degrees, achieving the effect of giving her an immediate heat stroke. Yes, her comfortable temperature range is a one degree window, and rarely the same degree from day to day. Oh, how little I knew.

Although I have in the past purported medical knowledge on a ‘Trapper John, M.D.’ level, in reality it’s more like when George Costanza pretends to be an architect. Because of that I have no idea why taking a couple tiny, tiny blue pills every day has managed to send my internal thermostat into a catastrophic tailspin. I probably would have known this if I bothered to read the printed out info sheets my therapist gave me, but I’m more of a ‘fly by the seat of my pants’ kind of gal, and don’t remember which purse I left them in anyway. Yes, I’m also losing things much more frequently as well.

I’m not complaining mind you, just observing. I never understood the power of testosterone to create complete immunity to temperature variations. I live in Buffalo and prior to this winter I would routinely venture out without a jacket, or lounge around the house barefoot in shorts and a tee as frigid winds whip through my poorly insulated dwelling. This winter I schlumped around the house in an enormous bathrobe with the heat cranked up to 73. On several occasions I lost coloration and feeling in several fingers just driving home from work. Conversely, at any moment I know I may suddenly feel like a strong candidate for spontaneous human combustion.

I have to wonder if my metabolism morphing into a Katy Perry song is causing or coincidental with the fact that I sometimes get, well, a little cranky. I used to be an emotional vegetable, allowing insults, slights, and a sink full of dirty dishes roll off my back. I know I talked about this before, but only as a cyclical thing. Aside from having things get under my skin just a wee bit easier, they take a lot longer to work their way out as well. I should probably provide an example.

I got ‘defriended’ on Facebook by someone for, as far as I can tell, absolutely no discernable reason. Second time by the way. Now, when I was maintaining my male account, chances are I was defriended dozens of times and never noticed, even when I checked the thing three times a day. This time I noticed immediately. “Hey, where the hell did ‘so-an-so’s’ newsfeed go? What, we are no longer friends? WTF?”  Now the old me would have either not noticed, or if so, not cared or found it mildly amusing and immediately forgotten about it. Now I find myself obsessing over something that is relatively meaningless. I mean, it’s Facebook, one of the most irrelevant of interactions I have with people. I only ever see this person about once every two months and spend about ten minutes each time conversing with them. Why do I care?

Honestly, I don’t know and it baffles me. I have definitely become more social (not a big leap – I was a reclusive introvert to begin with), and more socially aware. Human interaction and relationships have gone from “not at all important” to “well, a lot more important”. My theory is that this mental circuitry was always there, but just not getting the right juice to run. Now that I am chemically balanced, my present but disconnected capacities have suddenly become enabled. It’s surprising, yes, but also pretty darn cool, even if it does mean getting occasionally pissy about things I would have once found irrelevant. Starting to feel myself finally is also giving me a huge boost of confidence. I like this!

Hormonapalooza (Part I)

I began hormone replacement about twenty or so weeks ago, and I have to say, there are a few things no one really warns you about. Yes, yes, I heard all the cautionary tales up front from my peers and therapist about all the gloomy catastrophic consequences and such. That I’m not seeing so much. If people at work notice I’m filling out my sweater a little more, no one is saying anything. In ‘Under the Radar’ I talked about a former co-worker who was sporting some generous B’s under their shirt and very long hair and no one thought much of it, and if they do, so what? What I’m talking about is a dark new relationship with food and my body that goes virtually ignored in guy world.

I was talking with my friend Dave on the phone and began complaining about my weight. You might not know it to look at me, but a few years back I was rocking the scales on a Homer Simpson level. I developed my own weight loss program and dropped nearly 90 lbs in a little less than a year. A somewhat modest diet and a little weekly exercise and the fat melted off my like Frosty in a boxcar. Here I am on a few months of hormones, and winter is back baby, and apparently just a little pissed. All I need do is draw breath in the same building as a 5 Guys burger and I’ve gained four pounds. Because I haven’t been on the hormones for quite long enough, it still doesn’t go to my hips and ass where it belongs, but the old gut. Nice and effective for achieving that ‘man in a dress’ image we all try so hard to strive for.

When Dave said, “ah don’t worry, you’ll take it off in no time”, I went a little hissy on him. OK, maybe not just a little bit, but he had no idea. “Look buddy, you have no idea what you are talking about OK? My whole life I’ve heard men bitching about women and their obsession with weight. Do you have any freaking idea how hard it is? Things that used to just taste pretty good are now incredibly delicious. I can be in the worst mood ever and a pint of ice cream or a few pieces of chocolate ever and I turn into little Mary Sunshine. What do you know? To you it’s just ice cream, but to me all of a sudden it’s like filled with uppers. Of course all I have to do is breath near it and I gain a hundred pounds. I used follow my plan and lost 5 pounds ever two weeks and now I’m lucky if I drop half of one eating the exact same thing. Plus I’m in a horrible shit mood the entire time! Do you have any idea what it’s like eating raw green peppers all week and losing nothing for it? Sure, you joke about women but you have no fucking idea how much work goes into it. Ass clown!”

For the record I think he was just trying to be supportive, but his male view foolishness was pushing my buttons. Men. Men with their svelte muscle building testosterone and ability to eat cheese fries all week without being consigned to some fat boy store. I will admit that used to be me before the hormone changes that ensured a small fries at McDonald’s meant a trip back to Lane Bryant for pants that could be closed. Anyway, I let it go. He’s a guy and didn’t know.

Since we are on the subject, my whole hissy fit to begin with is sooo uncharacteristic. It seems I stumbled on another effect I was not at all expecting. Suddenly it seems that during certain times the tiniest little things drive me bonkers and I just want to tell everyone off. WTF? How can I have PMS? I can’t ovulate and I can’t get a period, both mainly because I lack ovaries and a uterus that sheds it’s lining on a monthly basis (more on my feelings about this in another post). It doesn’t seem at all right that I should be getting PMS, but yet here it is happening. One would think it came with the correct internal plumbing, but apparently all it needs is the juice to drive it.

The real message here is that there many more effects of hormones than you often read about. For the record I’m OK with this. Surprising yes, but it doesn’t feel at all wrong either. It’s as if there were dry stream beds running through my brain that I understood where there on a very esoteric level, but now that they are filled and flowing, things seem much more right than they used to be. Sure, there turned out to be a lot of life under the rocks I was unaware of, but even though it surprises me, I know it is supposed to be there and always was. I have no doubt further changes are coming and I welcome them. It’s not easy going through puberty again, but I also wouldn’t trade it for anything. Far better now than never.

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