March 31, 2010

This blog has moved again, to my own domain. Please find it here:



Make new friends and keep the old…

February 22, 2010
Brownie by Steve Spitzer

Photo by Steve Spitzer*

I’ve come to a point in my transition where some of my new acquaintances are transitioning to be friends (see what I did there?), and I’m experiencing the interesting dilemma of How And When To Come Out. I honestly don’t know if there is a good way to just sort of drop it into the conversation. It becomes even more complicated when I’m not entirely sure they don’t already know: from talking to mutual friends, from picking up on something in my appearance or demeanor, from hints I’ve forgotten dropping. I find myself chatting with these New Friends and keeping my ears open for any sort of opening that will allow me to say “I used to be a girl” or “Hey, I’m transgender” or “I don’t even HAVE testicles!” The result of which, of course, is that sometimes I’m not actually paying much attention to the content of the conversation.

On Saturday I was hanging out with one of these New Friends because of our audition for the Fight Cast at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. I was feeling during much of the day that the Time Had Come, that I have gotten to know this guy well enough that I would feel weird if he didn’t know this very important bit of my History and that I already did feel weird not knowing whether he’d guessed or been told. There was this moment in the conversation when we (and his friend) were swapping anecdotes about strip clubs, and he asked me if I’d ever been to one. Ha ha, I thought. This sounds like an opening! “Yes,” I replied. “Back when I was a girl.” I elaborated that I and some of my other (girl)friends had on this occasion been kicked out of said strip club for kissing each other (management frowned upon this practice because it was drawing attention from the dancers, or something.)

Of course, even with that I didn’t know if the message got across very clearly; he could have taken the whole thing as a joke, or thought that I meant I’d been in drag at the time, or some other convoluted interpretation I haven’t thought of. Or maybe he already knew and this whole thing was silly. It’s… kind of new for me to be thinking this much about how other people perceive me, and these uncharted waters are both exciting and a little terrifying.

Fortunately, I am now connected to this New Friend on Facebook. My Facebook profile, of course, has a somewhat detailed explanation of my gender identity, my Coming Out (er… in the other direction) Note, and a link to this blog, so there’s every chance (if he’s taken the time to peruse my account at all) that New Friend is reading this right now. (*waves*) These social networking avenues give me a little bit of a cushion, so that I don’t feel I have to go into a long explanation over and over again; the basic facts are there in written form and I can point to them. *points*

So, to my trans readers — how have you dealt with this stage? How do you work it into the conversation? Do you? What point in the relationship with a new friend do you feel the need/desire to share your history?**

ETA: That wasn’t meant to be exclusive, actually — I’d also love to hear reactions/thoughts to this phenomenon from allies and others who may have experienced this kind of Coming Out from the other side, or who just have thoughts about it. 🙂

To briefly go back to that Stranger Danger thing I talked about a few weeks ago, I had a specific instance of Being The Scary Stranger just a few minutes ago, coming back from the coffee shop. Now, I walk quickly, even in ice and snow. So I was walking down the alley towards my house, and I started closing the distance between myself and a woman in front of me. She did a quick over-the-shoulder glance when she heard my boots crunching; then she did a double-take and stared at me for a second. Then she paused, moved to the side of the alley, and let me pass. It was kind of unsettling. It probably was for her as well. Weird.

In less personal news, I’ve been meaning to post about the Proposed Revisions to the Gender Identity Disorder diagnostic criteria for the DSM V that went public a few weeks ago. I don’t have a lot to say about this, having never really gone through the Psychiatric Industry to assist in my gender transition, but a couple of the changes look promising to me:

4. a strong desire to be of the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)
5. a strong desire to be treated as the other gender (or some alternative gender different from one’s assigned gender)

It may still seem strange to some, but including some alternative gender is really cool to me, and it reflects the real experience of a lot of people for whom “Gender (pick one):M/F” creates a surge of anxiety and panic. Including the way I thought of myself before last year, and at times still think of myself. The overlapping worlds of psychology and sociology and their respective relationships to gender identity are muddy, and complicated, and still not quite in sync. But that’s why we talk about these things; that’s why I use my words when I can.

* Photo is relevant because it’s me as Brownie at Bristol Faire and thus… a representation of part of my past that my new friends will find out about when I choose to share anecdotes, or when they poke through my Facebook profile? Also it’s just a cool picture.

** I realize that my experience with this is not shared by all trans people, and I apologize if I’m being insensitive here: I’m a guy, so I’m not subject to the same level of fear-of-violence that a trans woman often is, and I’m lucky enough to have pretty solid passing privilege.


voice like an aged provolone

January 31, 2010
Lucas Silveira

Lucas Silveira
(image from afterellen.com)

Canadian singer Lucas Silveira is the first (openly) trans man to win the reader-poll “Throw Your Underwear Award – Male” from music magazine Chart Attack.

I found it interesting to see Lucas talking about his decision not to go on T – for fear of what it would do to his voice. I’m going a bit squinty at the research that seemed to tell him he’d have a useless, squeaky voice for 2.5 years, but I suppose different experiences are different, and solid data on what a sudden increase in testosterone does to the adult body is still pretty minimal, so it’s entirely possible there’s some amount of truth in there.

Begin navel-gazing tangent: I’ve been on T for about eight months now. Within the first few weeks I noticed a shift in my vocal cords and a slight deepening of my range. A month or so in I discovered I no longer had the kind of upper register I was used to, and my voice would crack at unexpected moments when speaking. I still haven’t gotten my solid singing voice back (though that’s partly because I haven’t really been working on it). I did discover around Thanksgiving that I could comfortably sing the bass part in the church hymnal with only a few of the very bottom notes out of my range. The teenage-boy-voice-cracking really only lasted for a few months, though it still happens now and then when I’m really excited about something and not paying attention. My voice is still a bit of a mystery to me, a bit out of my control — but then, that’s something I’m kind of used to.

I’ve never particularly liked my speaking voice, and during my several years of genderqueerness I sometimes hated my speaking voice for betraying my femaleness. I can be the super chatty one in a group, but not until I’m either a little drunk or really intimate with everyone in said group. And we’re talking about something I care desperately about. For numerous reasons (not all of which are even gender-identity related, but borne out of a general shyness and paranoia about saying the wrong thing at the wrong time or using the wrong name or generally being wrong) my voice has never been something I fully trust. I’d rather resigned myself to that fact.

But then T happened. Suddenly I had this voice that wasn’t betraying my femaleness but rather confirming my maleness. Verifying, validating, insert-your-favorite-empowerment-word-ing. This was thrilling. I wanted to use my voice all the time, to speak, to be heard, to shout to the world that I AM HERE AND I WANT TO DO STUFF.

Yet for all those other numerous reasons and a lifetime of practice, I still don’t know how to really trust my voice. I am learning. It’s part of the reason I’m taking an acting class right now, actually. I’m working on this monologue* about making cheese and how awful most American-brand cheese is and how sublime and wonderful a good aged cheese can be and OMG THE AFTERTASTE OMNOMNOM. (Here, have a listen. Yes, this is me.)

The instructor tells me she doesn’t believe I care about Cheese because it’s not in my Voice. And she’s not wrong. I listen to myself sometimes and I sound… flat, bored, boring, and rather not like me.

But hey — it’s still new. It’s still learning to walk, if you’ll permit an anthropomorphic metaphor about my own vocal cords. While I’m over here tapping my foot, impatient for it to dance. Or um… fly? Ride a motorcycle? Something else that is superior to walking?

End navel-gazing tangent.

So, anyway, it tickles me to see a gorgeous trans man being recognized and being visible — even if the announcement, irritatingly enough, is in a blog for lesbian and bisexual women, at least they treat him with respect and proper pronouns and hey, they can talk about whoever the hell they want. It’s cool that he talks about how he isn’t on T but that doesn’t make him any less a man — even if his reasons include some possible misinformation about OMG T WILL RUIN YOUR VOICE FOREVER, but then it is totally not his job to Inform The Public About All Facets Of Transness. The rest of us, in fact, have voices too.

Even if they’re sometimes as wobbly as newborn colts. (Or was the anthropomorphic one better?)


Whee, Sunday.

P.S. If anyone comments just to tell me I have a nice voice and should stop fretting, I will scowl at you in a most immature fashion.

*Credits for the monologue: Len, from Book of Days by Lanford Wilson

ETA: Well, would you look at that. Moments after hitting “publish” I find an article all about Testosterone And The Trans Male Singing Voice. *SUBSCRIBES*


Bill Bailey is a feminist

January 28, 2010

Bill Bailey - This is what a feminist looks like.

Via Fawcett Society: This is new favorite thing above all other kinds of thing. At this particular moment.

Caption at the source site, in case you don’t feel like clicking:

Three women walk into a pub and say, “Hooray, we’ve colonised a male-dominated joke format”

Relatedly, I’ve just found an awesome (relatively new) blog about men and masculinity (and feminism) by a guy in Melbourne. I plan to stalk him — I mean FOLLOW IT. *cough*

Critical Masculinities: Exploration and analysis of masculine identities in society and culture


Moving day!

January 28, 2010

Welcome to my new internet home. Thanks to the import capabilities (yay WordPress!) I’ve moved everything over from the old Blogger place, including the comments. Enjoy, and please feel free to continue the conversation in my last post.

Note: I’m still messing around with themes, so you may notice the appearance of this site bounce all over the place in the next few days. Just roll with it. \o/


One Year Later

January 28, 2010

This week (Monday, to be precise) marks my one-year anniversary of deciding to transition. It’ll be a little while before the anniversary of Transition being anything other than a thought in my mind, but January 25th 2009 was one of those days I’ll remember forever because of that very important thing that happened in my head.

Since then I have reached out to local transgender support groups, made several trans* friends, reconnected with an old one, had a ritual coming-out party, started T, run out of my T prescription, failed to get around to legally changing my name, started two classes where I am simply known as male and not as a transitioning person, started blogging here, left off blogging here, gotten a job, begun training in stage combat and acting, sought prospects for my future as a performer, and felt a consistent desire to have a future as — well, anything. I have learned to design emails and websites with HTML and CSS, to use words like “SEO” and “affiliate marketing” and “link building”, and how to hand-roll a cigarette. I have remembered that acne is a pain in the ass and that short hair is fun. 2009 was quite a year.

Now we’re near the end of the first month of 2010, and I’m sitting in my neighborhood coffee shop whose employees know me as Gabriel and who know my regular order (grilled chicken wrap, black coffee) and who tolerate my working on my laptop for hours at a time. 🙂

Since starting to move in the world as a man it’s not uncommon for a woman walking ahead of me on the sidewalk to glance nervously over her shoulder, then move more quickly or shift to the side or cross the street. Which sparks thoughts of a more complicated post on how I’m now, oddly, more comfortable participating in conversations about gender dynamics and the fear of male-stranger-assault that is supposedly ingrained in every woman. (I have in the past felt awkward in such discussions because I cannot recall ever living with that walking-down-the-street fear and I felt there was something wrong with either me or with the premise, but now that I can comfortably remove myself from the category “woman” to which that rule applies, I can interrogate the rule without it being so personal? Something?)

There is also a post in there about my awakening awareness of rape culture and the male role in overturning it that’s been tumbling about in my mind ever since cereta’s post “On rape and men (Oh yes, I’m going there)” that practically everyone on livejournal commented on.

This is not that post, but those are things I want to formulate thoughts on and talk about. Now here’s a question –

What do YOU want me to talk about?

All six of you that read this blog, that is. Prompts and questions and commentary are more than welcome.

Happy genderbending. Happy 2010.


Can’t stop the signal

October 8, 2009

Just finished watching Still Black: A Portrait of Black Transmen, which I ordered a few days ago and which just arrived today! If you haven’t already seen the link passed around, check out the trailer:

Overall I was impressed, there’s some good filmmaking and some great interviews in there. I suppose really it is just a bunch of people talking about themselves; but when “themselves” is an intersection of transness, maleness, blackness, and various other -nesses, there’s a lot to be said. This bit in particular struck me:

It’s been important to recognize for me that my spiritual transition needed to precede my physical transition. That the physical transition without the spiritual is not fulfilling and is kind of perhaps leaning towards problems down the road in terms of self-acceptance and acceptance in the world.

And I would say, again, give the people that you are causing to transition with you at least as much time as it took you to find self-acceptance. Don’t be impatient with your parents and your siblings and all those folks, because they don’t get it. It’s not theirs to get. We’re in a position when we transition, we force people to transition with us. Our loved ones have no choice. They can either do it gracefully or not. But we’re moving on, and they have to kind of get dragged along with us, and so sometimes that feels exactly like what’s happening to them, they’re getting dragged along like a hostage. And we have to try to make room for them to wrestle with their own stuff, and the ways in which I’ve found the most loving to do that is to just be present, and to be whole, and to be pleased with who I am. And to not be argumentative, or defensive, but to say, you know, I completely understand how you don’t understand this. I wasn’t fortunate enough to be born in the body that fit me, but if I had, maybe I wouldn’t understand it either. Give them room to not understand.

-Louis Mitchell

from “Still Black”

I completely understand how you don’t understand this.