Archive for June, 2009

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And the circle widens…

June 17, 2009

So, late last night I changed my display name and made a coming out post on Facebook, which is about as public a place as I have online. My network there includes some people I rarely or never see and am only connected to through that medium. After posting and receiving some comments, I updated my profile there to link to this blog, and added a gadget to this blog to link back there. So now my life is all open and stuff. Um.

Below is the text I used in the note. It got… a tad long.


My Facebook Note
Wednesday, 17th June 2009, 3:00am

Hi.

I am in the process of social, medical, and legal gender transition.

My new name is Gabriel. Nice ta meetcha!

And that, my friends, is the super short explanation of why my facebook profile name has changed. Some of you may not have noticed. Some may not care. Some already know this through a purple vine of some sort (or personally, even!). In any case, I seem to have been neglectful in actually writing this note to let you, my pals, know what’s going on with my life. NOT my intention at all, I assure you. I have kind of gotten caught up in the New York Scene, you know how it goes, city that never sleeps, blah blah blah. So I suppose in part it’s that I’m coming back to my life in Chicago on Saturday, and to my life at Faire on Sunday, that I’ve emerged from the fantasy world of being an extended houseguest on Manhattan’s UWS and written down some thoughts.

The longer version, which may contain things of a personal and/or adult nature:

On the evening of January 25th, 2009 while I was watching an episode of “Witchblade” (which has nothing to do with this story, but, you know… flavor text) I looked up and said to myself, “Self,” I said. “You’re going to spend the rest of your life as a man, aren’t you?” “Yes,” Self responded. “We are.” And thus the decision was found to have been made. You see, Self and I have had many conversations of similar subject over the years. In the past these little chats have resulted in my trying boxer briefs and loving them, buying and wearing lots of clothes on the Men’s side of the store, learning about and deciding to identify with the wonderful term “genderqueer”, realizing that being with a guy felt kinda gay and being with a gal felt kinda hetero, writing blog posts about gender identity and theory, noticing that strangers often called me ‘sir’, and noticing that I liked it when this happened.

I texted five friends with the query “What would you do/think/feel if I decided to live as a boy?” and received responses ranging from “You mean you’re not living as a boy now?” to “I think that would work, and would probably be harder for you on the inside than for us on the outside.”

I tossed around name ideas for some weeks — see above, re: gender identity, I’ve thought about this before. Even so, there was a period there when I wasn’t sure I’d be able to give up the name I’d spent so many years building an identity around. This was something I had to work through. (Which is, in part, why I totally understand why some of the people close to me will have difficulty making the change. I had to grieve the loss of name, and it was my own damn choice!) In the end I chose Gabriel, for several reasons:

1. It’s thematically related to my previous moniker Faith. Biblical, conceptual, evocative. Angelic.
2. It sounds nice. The solid and liquid phonemes mesh together deliciously and roll together pleasantly.
3. It’s the name of a couple of fictional characters and real people whom I admire so it has positive associations for me.
4. Its common nickname Gabe has the same long-A central vowel and thus is a small shift from Faith.

Through the next month or so I gradually told some of my friends and my parents and sister about my decision. I tweeted about it. I came out on Livejournal. I started going to a Chicagoland FTM group and met some awesome new friends. I think it was sometime in early March that my BFF and I had our first phone conversation about this whole transitioning thing. His response: “Come live with us, so we can be your support.”

So I did. Early in April, I gave notice at my two jobs, packed a large suitcase and a cat carrier (I do NOT take long trips without taking my Lorelei bebe, no thank you), and hopped on a plane to New York.

There are many stories I could (and will at the slightest nudging when you see me in person) tell you about my nearly three months in New York. We had a lovely ritual Farewell Femme party at the end of April wherein:

1. I wore an evening gown
2. My friends took turn braiding and then…
3. …cutting off my long hair
4. I changed into a suit in the middle of the circle (of the NY branch of my nearest and dearest)

I got a job at BFF’s office, which is a little company of four people in a big office building at Grand Central. I have been Gabe from the start, I have spent my days signing emails as “Gabe” and being referred to as “he” and using the men’s room. I have now become so used to this that it startles me when I’m “ma’am”d and hardly notice getting “sirred”.

In case you want details of the medical transition: On Friday the 5th of June, 2009 I began hormone therapy. This means, for now and evermore, a weekly intramuscular injection of .5ml (at 200mg/ml) of Testosterone Cypionate, which I am learning to give myself. I will shortly begin to go through puberty again: complete with voice breaking, beard-growing, and acne. Oh, and in case you were wondering: No, I do not currently plan to have any surgery. Who knows what the future will hold? As for the “legal” part of the transition, I hope to be dealing with name change and suchlike over the summer.

So. Hi! I’m Gabriel Faith Howard. Gabe-for-short seems to fit me, but I do love the sound of “Gabriel” too, so whichever you like is cool with me. It is now, I posit, appropriate to refer to me with pronouns of the he/him/his variety. I am after all, realigning my place in this world to match what I am becoming in truth: A man. A transman. An FTM. A white dude with short hair. That guy over there.

Please know that I have much patience with these two requests and only ask (not demand) that you begin to think of me in these terms if you can, and that you feel free to ask/express/communicate with me about any concerns or questions you have.

-gabriel faith

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Further thoughts on that submission post for Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation

June 11, 2009

Here.

I’m thinking seriously about submitting something to this anthology. This is in part because it’s a platform for voices to be heard by wide audiences: the original Gender Outlaw is one of those books that sometimes appears as the (or one of the) Token Trans book(s) in mainstream bookstores. There are two problematic aspects of the submission post and its comments that I’ve seen, which I see as two opportunities. Yes, I am an incurable optimist. Whut.

1. There’s this comment thread that really makes me want to get non-North-American trans voices into this anthology. I fear Mr. Bergman is being a bit “Gosh! Really? Should we? Okay!” about it. So if anyone felt like spreading this around to gender variant writers you know that aren’t in the US and Canada, that’d be neat.

2. There’s also a discussion further up about whether or not it’s okay for Mr. Bergman to use the word “trannie” in this submission post, and whether he should retract it and apologize to those who abhor it. Feelings are hurt, people get upset, the OP is sort of understanding but in the end brash and unapologetic… it’s another day on the internet.

Rather than boycott the anthology, which is one approach, I am filled with a desire to do what I can to actually give the collection some trans perspectives that may be different (or new) to those of the organizers: because I choose to take bearsir at his word that this is what he wants, and hope that it is true. It’s the cold marketing soul in me, you see — I may not think that the editors are the most awesome things ever with absolutely no flaws, but they’re doing a good and important thing and they have the connections to make this important thing available to lots of people.

Also at the end of the day, Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman are people I can admire.

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on labels, identity, and offense

June 8, 2009

Note: This is sort of a post-about-a-post, but it’s also just a post about me and thinky gender identity things that happens to use another post as the springboard. After the first paragraph I use the phrase “OP” instead of the original poster’s name: in part to emphasize that I’m trying to be more universal than specific, and in part because I’m lazy with typing. If you’re new here, I’m a transguy who’s mostly socially transitioned, has just started on hormones, and plans to get a legal name change as soon as he saves enough money.

I’ve gotten a lot of cool links from elke-tanzer’s post requesting women bloggers, vloggers, and twitterers. I also seem to be at odds with some people who found the post and were angered by her initial wording of the gender-specific request. There’s a full explanation and heavily edited wording there along with all the original comments, if you care to look at it.

The thing is, when I saw the (now edited) sentence:

Most of my Dreamwidth Circle of people are women, and while I do value the men and transpeople, and the folks who don’t identify with any gender at all who are part of my Circle, I really do value the fact that most of the voices I read here on DW are women.

I felt like “transpeople” meant me, and this was a good thing. (I don’t know if she was actually thinking about me at all, but really that’s immaterial.) I’m still at that stage — or maybe I’ll always be there — where I see a word that begins with trans* and I’m pinged into full attention the way most people are with the word “sex”.

Or cock, or cunt, or boobs, or arsehole, or take your pick.

That is, I feel myself getting viscerally prepared to be either horrified or thrilled: horrified that I-as-trans* am being ignored, or dehumanized, or dismissed, or laughed at, or given violence; thrilled that I-as-trans* am being recognized, or welcomed, or noticed, or validated, or remembered. It so happens that I read that sentence and got a thrill: I felt welcomed, remembered, noticed.

So why is that? Let’s deconstruct.

1. I’m new to calling myself transgendered, my transition is still fresh and active, and it’s really nice to see a category into which I know I fit.
2. Maybe it’s my brand of Geek self-identity, but being looked at askance actually feels like a good thing sometimes.
3. I am on the male side of Trans Ave, so it wasn’t exclusionary to be put in a clause with “men” — actually excluding the ‘me’ kind of people from a call for Women’s voices is validating to my identity, because I don’t belong there.
4. I still kind of identify as genderqueer or third gendered — although it’s not my primary identity now that I’m actively becoming a man in the eyes of the world, it’s an identity that speaks to me philosophically and emotionally, so placing the Me gender separate from the Woman and Man genders is something I can get behind.
5. I know the OP as a trans ally who’s passionate about justice and equality and learning new ways of implementing same. It’s REALLY HELPFUL to know who it is that’s speaking. In fact, because of my understanding of her intention, I read the sentence pretty much how she corrected it later: …(cis and trans)women… (cis and trans)men and (those that identify first as)transpeople. Because if you put yourself in the “woman” part of that sentence, here is one person who’s not going to deny you entry. Or so is my impression.

One of the fundamental points of dispute here is related to #4: that a phrase like “women, men, and transpeople” can be nonconsensual third-gendering language. Some transpeople fight to their last breath (at times literally) to be recognized as their newer gender For Real and are hindered by (well- or ill-meaning) people along the way who want to ungender them and place them in some woobly in-between space without their consent. Then there are also those people who fight to their last breath to BE that third- or other- or non-gender, and they may ID as many different things on the gender map, but often somewhere in the trans* family of words. And then there are the genderfuckers who think it’s fun to use the word trannie, (and I may or may not be one of them, but that’s a post for another time.) The point being, it’s not right to ungender someone without their consent, but neither is it right to force-gender someone without their consent. How do we avoid doing one or the other when “transgender” is such a wide umbrella with such seemingly opposing identities under it? I don’t want to kick the genderqueers out into the rain, and I don’t want the cis-queers thinking they know how our genders work, and I don’t want to stop the conversation about how we want the world to think about gender. And how to we balance un-gendering and forced-gendering with the initial point of female-oppressing?

No really, that wasn’t sarcasm. I’d love to get some answers to that.

So what’s the upshot of all this? If I take away the five points I made above, I begin to come to an understanding of why the original wording of the post was (unintentionally) hurtful to some people. I can (sort of, intellectually) appreciate why it became necessary to change the words that recalled negative experiences for my brothers and sisters. I respect the OP for her dedication to apologize, change, and learn. It also makes me sad, because this argument has taken away a set of words that was meaningful to me because they spoke to my way of being trans*; a set of words that it’s possible my presence in her reading circle had encouraged in the past. Yes, I’m aware that I have other privileges that probably affect how I see things like this and how little offense I take at them. Not the least of which is that I’m pretty emotionally detached (just ask my exes), but also that I’m white, born in the US, from a liberal family with supportive friends, educated, employed, and as I said above: on the ftm side of Trans Ave. But if there’s anything I CAN get passionate about, its getting inside both sides of a trans argument, so I wanted to say something.

Now to contemplate submitting something to that Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation anthology. I actually do hope there’s at least one good “Why I Hate The Word Trannie” and one “Why I Love The Word Trannie” piece. Because that’d be awesome.

(x-posted to various journaling services)

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Boyjuice!

June 4, 2009

Today I signed an informed consent form for Hormone Therapy.

Today I walked out of the health center with my first prescription for injectable testosterone.

Today I left the pharmacy with two tiny vials of liquid boyjuice.

Today I came home to my four non-blood family members and celebrated with a hilarious reading session of Baron Munchausen: The Roleplaying Game, along with Sam Adams Cherry Wheat and some delicious dessert wine.

Tomorrow I get my first doctor-administered injection.

HI.