Losing My Religion

For my latest research project, I have been studying how to talk about trans issues with strangers on the Internet. I already wrote about talking to certain homosexuals who are anti-trans. Today, I will talk about a particularly fascinating topic: Communicating with people who are very religious.

This is a sensitive subject, and while I will do my best to be fair to all sides, please

know in spite of my intent, this post will probably offend some of you. I understand this and apologize in advance. Stop reading now if you would rather not risk taking offense, especially if you are a devout Christian.

Full disclosure, I am an atheist. I was raised Lutheran. I also went through an agnostic period. Born and raised in Utah, many of my friends are devout Mormons. I delved into Buddhism, but if anything, I was and am drawn more to its secular aspects. If you have to tag me with a belief, you can call me a Secular Buddhist. I call myself an atheist.

Religion and spirituality fascinate me. I am a spiritual person. Humans have a HUGE capacity for spirituality, so why not use it?

A spiritual atheist? Yup. How? Because I believe in invisible, intangible things. I believe in love, imagination/creativity… etc. I just put my stock in the intangible that can be made tangible in this life, not the next.

Atheists can be devout. I do not know if I am or not. I like to think I am flexible, but I do tend to base my beliefs on scientific evidence rather than theological evidence.

I have a profound respect for many people of faith, and their security in their beliefs. Where I draw the line is when their beliefs cause a real conflict with my life, particularly my life as a transgender woman.

Readers of this blog know full well, this is the first time I have talked about my beliefs or lack of them. I hope I do not preach. I do not care to convert anyone. Go live your spiritual life your way. I shall do it my way. Thanks.

That said, talking about trans issues with religious strangers online (and even friends) is often enough, like getting in a pissing contest with a skunk. Sadly, I still have not found a method that works perfectly.

It frequently feels like I am talking to grown-ass adults who are telling me their imaginary friend wants to send me into imaginary damnation for being exactly who I feel I was born to be: A transgender female.

I believe in trans. I am trans. It is stark. It is real. It is tangible. It is frightening. What kind of grown-ass adult would negate this experience? One who has an imaginary friend. That is who.

And I just fell into a trap. By negating their beliefs, by calling their God an imaginary friend, I, a grown-ass adult myself, have just invalidated their experience. Their belief is real. It does not matter if it is correct. They have studied, gone to church, listened to sermons, prayed… etc. Those things are all as real as my transition and, my need to transition is as spiritual as their belief in God.

Another trap? Persecution. Christian advocates are as out of the closet as I am as a trans advocate. Both sides face frequent persecution. If I call them bigoted, they can say the same thing about me and we would both be right.

Yet another trap? People generally have good intentions. Even classic trolls just intend to entertain themselves for a short time. When a devout Christian tells me, “You are just a man in a dress. You are a sinner. You will burn in Hell.”, what they are really saying is, “Look dumbass, I am trying to save your eternal life here. Fuck THIS life. Suck it up and stop being trans. Be a good Christian. The next life is going to be worth the pain you suffer in this one.”

Of course, I have tried explaining how, “Thou shalt not trans.” is not a commandment. No dice. Never.

I have tried, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” No luck. They have heard that one before. They have convinced themselves they are not casting judgement because their intent is to save me. That intent is noble.

On that note, I know my Bible very well but who cares? If someone knows I disagree with their beliefs, why would they care what I have to say about their source material, even if I just quote it chapter and verse without embellishment? It is a dead end.

So what works best? Taking the higher ground. Stick to the REAL topic, which is trans related. Respectfully avoid their attempts to draw you into a religious discussion. Stick to facts. Stick to science. Have credible links at your fingertips to back yourself up. Be nice… even if you blow a blood vessel in your eye by doing it.

And here is the best tip I have to offer: Be like Jesus. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. Turn the other cheek. Be a better person in the discussion than they are being. Don’t judge. Don’t cast stones.

If they have been mean and do not eventually see their own hypocrisy, others certainly will, and they may chime in to defend you. Control the tone of the discussion. Calm heads prevail. If someone joins in to defend you but they are cruel to your opponent, call them out and defend your opponent from the cruelty of those comments.

Your goal in online discussions as a trans advocate can be winning. It can be making another person look bad.

My goal is not to win. Not at least to win against one opponent, but rather to sway the largest percentage of people I possibly can. You have to think about what your audience will respond to most positively. Your opponent just gives you a platform to discuss your position in either a positive or a negative way. If you take the negative road, you will sway far fewer people who happen to be on the fence.

There is so much cruelty online, so the opposite of cruelty can frequently get more traction.

And always remember: Sometimes it is best to just walk away and live to fight another day.

Let me leave you with an example:

“I am sorry. I trust your intent is noble. I know you are trying your best to lead me to a glorious afterlife. I do not blame you. I understand. Thank you for your kindness.

Your beliefs just do not change my stark reality any more than my being trans will change your beliefs. If you have it in your heart to accept me in spite of this difference, please do. If you feel the need to pray for me, who am I to judge what you do with your time? In fact, it may work.

I am willing to accept my lot, and I promise I will do my best with this life, so if we both are to be judged by God, we still might see each other in the next one… in spite of my spending my life as a transgender woman.

I wish we could find common ground, but alas, it may never happen. Please accept this and know that neither I nor my transition will ever cause you any personal harm.”

Aloha,
Tori

Homosexuals vs. Trans 2: Electric Boogaloo

I have recently covered this topic but I intentionally avoided the real meat and potatoes and instead opted to make the point that homosexuals have been mistreated by others and that bullying homosexuals can inspire homosexuals to bully others. Especially groups of people whom they feel are weaker than they are.

Today, I will tackle this topic more directly.

For the last month or two, I have taken on a project. I am reading the comment sections on trans related news articles of various media outlets and I am participating in the discussions. I will write about this more in future posts. For now, let me just say it is not for the thin skinned. Internet comment boards are a place where people can feel safe to say the most bigoted and vile things imaginable, even on Facebook, where most people use their real name and even then, they frequently do not hide their bigotry.

Today, I am going to focus on the type of bigotry I have faced during conversations with people who comment when a primarily homosexual news site covers a trans issue. These conversations are usually between me and one or more gay or lesbian posters. After enough encounters, patterns begin to emerge.

I am making a disclaimer because it may be obligatory considering the subject matter. Here goes: The VAST majority of cisgender homosexual people I encounter online and in real life are BEYOND accepting. I support their causes and they support mine. We are all in this together.

This post is going to focus on the bigots. Yes, I have seen plenty of shameful bigotry within the trans community as well. There are rotten apples in every barrel. I hope our collective barrels are not spoiled, in spite of the rot.

Ok. End disclaimer.

The two LGBT news feeds I most frequently participate in via their comment sections are, “The Advocate” and, “Gay Star News” via their Facebook feeds. Both are outlets that tend to focus on gay issues the vast majority of the time, followed by lesbian news stories, then bi and trans articles combined getting about 5-10% of their coverage, and the occasional Q,I or A article thrown in to spice things up.

As I run through these examples, I want you to understand, these SAME types of comments popped up frequently, by multiple posters, over multiple comment threads. I am not listing things I saw just once, I am listing things I have seen dozens of times.

The first type of negative comment a trans story will tend to get is: “Why are you guys posting so many trans articles?”

To them, let me personally apologize for taking a teeny tiny sliver of your news outlet pie away from you. It must be hard to have to scroll past one in ten or twenty articles that do not directly relate to you.

These comments are far from the worst a trans person will encounter, but the point is made clear. “Trans news is not worthy of taking space beside their news.”

Then there are the ones who say something like: “Whatever floats your boat, just don’t hit on me.”

To them, let me personally apologize. You must get hit on a lot, so it must be a logical assumption that if the two of us ever came face to face, I would not be able to control my animalistic need to jump your bones. I will do my best to keep myself in check. I apologize in advance though, especially if I screw up.

Their point is made clear. These commentators do not find trans folk attractive and they want the world to know it. Again, far from the worst type of comment you will hear online.

Then there’s this: “There is no such thing as trans. They are just closeted homosexuals.”

To them, let me personally apologize. You caught me. My bad. I am sorry. I just thought it would be SO MUCH easier to land a gay man if I, you know, transitioned to female.

Their point is made clear. My existence and identity are not valid. Theirs is.

The next example: “My gender is male. I know this because I have a penis!”

To them let me apologize. I’m sorry. I too have a penis, for now at least, and all this time, in spite of my penis, I thought I was trans. I guess I was incorrect. And to think, it was right in front of me all this time!?! Gee! Thanks for the help!

Their point is made clear. My existence and identity are not valid. Also, these folks can’t be bothered with dictionaries and definitions. To them, gender and sex are exactly the same thing. They are not. Sure, they are used as synonyms on occasion but that is because most people have a gender identity that is in line with their physical sex. Also, they are used as synonyms because not too long ago, the word, “Sex” was considered to be much more vulgar than it is today. Gender was used as a euphemism to take its place. “Shoot” does not really mean, “Shit” but it can take its place as a euphemism. “Darn” does not mean, “Damn”. Aw, fudge it! Read a fucking dictionary! Clearly you have access to the Internet, you are posting to an online discussion. You can use your Google machine to make sure words mean what you plan to insist they mean.

This next one, I call the mansplaining cisplainer: “Nope. There is natural born male and female. Period. Case closed. And don’t bother appealing to the Mother Nature Court of Appeals because your case is dead on arrival.”

To him, let me apologize. I am sorry. I should have a better understanding of sex and gender, what with being trans and all. Oops.

His point is made clear. My existence and identity are not valid. He is here, to explain things to me, because I am a trans woman, and therefore, I am obviously not smart enough to grasp such things. Posts like this almost always begin with words like, “No.” or, “Nope” then go on to say things much like what I have already said myself minus the bigotry. So not only am I invalid in his eyes, my posts are not even worth reading by him before he replies to them, because he assumes he magically knows what I would say without reading it, and that is good enough for him.

This next one is often related to the one above, the same kind of person often falls into both categories: “Don’t call me, ‘Cisgender’ that is a slur!”

To them, let me personally apologize. I am sorry. It is hard talking about trans issues without a word to describe people who are not trans. I promise I do not intend it as a slur. “Cisgender” or, “Cis” means, “Non-trans”. If only you homosexuals had a word to describe people who are not homosexual. You know, those normal, non-homosexual people? It must be so difficult for you without a simple word to describe those people who are attracted to the opposite sex.

His point is made clear. My existence and identity are not valid. How dare I use a scientific word that means exactly what I think it means to correctly label a person who is not trans?

Then there is this type of comment: “If you were born thinking you could pretend to be a woman, then what is to keep me from saying I was born believing I am a mermaid/dragon/dog… etc.?”

To them, I offer this apology: I am sorry. That is an old joke. It was moderately funny the first time I heard it 8-10 years ago on, “South Park” when Kyle’s dad decided he would finally transition into a dolphin since he was born believing in his heart that he truly was one. The joke has since lost its luster. I see a variation of it in almost every single comment thread about a trans topic. Get some new material.

Their point is made clear. My existence and identity are not valid. It is a joke. You see, they too can pretend to be someone or some thing they are not. If you want, you can look at how I recently took down a person who claimed to be born Batman, see my last blog post.

The last two types of comments are complex. They are hard to summarize in one post, as they unfold through sometimes lengthy conversations.

The first type is the worst: The passive aggressive, bigot in denial. This person will stoop to almost any level. They will insult a trans person’s name, looks, gender identity, they may even mock a trans person’s feelings of dysphoria or suicidal thoughts. They are often subversive. One example of subversion was a guy who kept saying things like, “Sorry Charlie.” and, “No shit Sherlock!” to me, knowing full well he was calling me by male names, and still, I knew that he would be able to safely deny it if I ever called him out it because, hey, they are just things we say. These folks exhibit true troll like behavior, but they are fully in denial of it. it is like, they are convinced they are doing me a favor, by breaking the bad news to me

Their point is not as clear as others, but it is fascinating. They HATE trans people, but they know better than to just outright say it. They know they will look like a bigot, so they push your buttons in the desperate hope that you snap, say something rude to them, and give them permission to not only openly hate you, but to use you as an example in the future for why they continue to hate on other trans folk. You do not see this tactic much outside of LGBT feeds, but it happens all the freaking time in LGBT feeds. I guess people who have faced oppression themselves, know better than to be overtly bigoted, but my God! If you dare show ANY defensive emotion in response to their comments, they will let you have it. They want permission to show their hatred, but you have to take the bait first.

This last type is unique and also evolves and emerges over a long discussion. This type of person is abrasive and rude to you from the get go but underneath, you begin to see their compassion, respect and intelligence. They are like older siblings. They may play too rough at times, but they know the world is not for the weak, especially if you are LGBT. They have been there before and they want to help you climb to new heights.

Their point is harsh, but sound. The only problem is, sometimes they fail to realize that trans folk can have different types of triggers than cisgender homosexuals and therefore, they might cause a dysphoric bout in a trans person without realizing it or intending to do so.

That is it. These are the most common forms of bigotry I encounter on LGBT discussion boards. They happen all the time. I will be writing another post soon where I will give some tips and tricks to having a higher percentage of positive encounters when you are stupid enough to read the comments.

Until then, aloha,

Tori

The TERF War

It was a good day.

Yesterday, Facebook took down the anti-trans hate group, Gender Identity Watch’s page, and although it was immediately replaced with Gender Identity Watch Reloaded, the 9,000+ members of the old community have dwindled to about 250 by last count. This is great. Not only did Facebook swat a bug, they finally did something about an anti-trans group, treating it like a homophobic or racist group. This has not always been the case. The times, they are a changin’.

Back when I joined Facebook with a female account, I joined a couple of trans-advocacy groups. This allowed Facebook’s algorithms to start suggesting other groups I might like to join. Gender Identity Watch was one of the first suggested, and I joined.

I wrote about my experience interacting with the folks at Gender Identity Watch in a post on Facebook a few months ago. I will let the old post speak for itself:

“Well that was interesting. I was following a Facebook group called Gender Identity Watch, their logo, “The Radical Notion That Women Are People”. Seemed cool.

They started posting some stuff that got my trans alarms ringing. One post included a picture of a pregnant woman and it had the caption, “A woman’s biology is not transphobic.” I agree. I do not know how biology can be transphobic. Male or female. People, certain people, are transphobic, but leave biology out of this.

So, I started asking questions. Oops! My bad. I was informed by the members of the community that the picture is a joke, you see, trans people are not women because they can’t reproduce. Unlike all those post menopausal women and pre-pubescent girls, I guess. Unlike those who are born without reproductive systems, those born XXY or who have a hysterectomy. I asked about those trans people who are born with a female reproductive system. No answer.

I was having a great time asking questions and sometimes getting them answered, until I asked this: “Don’t you think it is bullying and a bit ironic, for a group that wants to spread the radical notion that women are people, to pick on a teeny tiny minority group that is weak and vulnerable?”

The group administrator’s reply was classic. “Men are not weak and vulnerable.”

Another person compared trans folk to performers who wear black face. I replied, explaining how it is impossible to converse with a straw man.

Then all my posts were deleted and my account was blocked.

Gender Identity Watch folks! And to think I am transitioning to become a woman! I guess some radical feminists are just too radical for this feminist!

It is good to know there are such nice and helpful people in the world as the folks in charge of the Facebook Gender Identity Watch Group, which is run by a person who hates men so much she doesn’t seem to realize many transgendered people start as female and move towards male.

Well, my Dad always tells me not to get in a pissing contest with a skunk.

Fact is, I do not really care in the grand scheme of things if I really count as a woman or a man or a third gender. I know I could get my ID legally changed to say female, as early as Monday and if someone needed to follow me into a bathroom to make sure my identification was correct, I could have them arrested for more than just a petty misdemeanor.

Without a major breakthrough in science I will never have two X chromosomes. I just thought a group called Gender Identity Watch would know the difference between gender and sex.”

 

And that was that… for then. The thing is, I don’t exactly know how to let things go. So, even though this group had silenced me, I continued to observe their posts. I was still allowed to like the group, just not participate within it.

In hindsight, that was a fine thing. It was around that time I noticed one of those trans-advocacy groups (TransAdvocate) on Facebook was posting about Gender Identity Watch being a hate group. That its founder, Cathy Brennan (she is on Facebook too) was considered by the trans community to be a T.E.R.F.

Now, a TERF is in many ways a mythological, usually female beast with many heads. A beast that strikes fear into the trans community. Rumors about the mysterious and elusive TERF and its magical powers have been spread hither and thither through the ages.

http://www.transadvocate.com/terf-what-it-means-and-where-it-came-from_n_13066.htm

So what is a TERF, really? TERF stands for Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist, and it seems, if you follow the unscientific link above, to have been coined within feminism, either by the TERFs themselves, or by other feminists who wanted nothing to do with them. Hey, not all feminists are bad. Some of my best friends are feminist. Just sayin’.

I suppose now is as good a time as any for my disclaimer. I am going to look at this issue, like I do when I tackle trans politics, from all sides. That means I intend to say some things that will not shine the trans community as a whole in a good light, and some things that may humanize those dastardly TERFs. People do not see themselves as part of a hate group, more often than not, even when society tells them they are. TERFs are no exception. They are people. Often damaged people. End disclaimer.

TERFs often identify as a group of radical feminists, radfems, dykes or militant lesbians. Maryland attourney, Cathy Brennan’s group, Gender Identity Watch, takes a vocal position fighting a sometimes good fight. They look to end male violence and abuse against women. At least on paper they do. But if you could see their old Facebook page which was taken down, or their new one, if it still remains, you will see that the vast majority of their posts have to do with trans people. They sometimes spice things up with articles about male on female violence. GIW also, likes to editorialize when they post links to things, making their anti-trans position clear. These editorials are often temporary, as GIW takes them down frequently, I suspect, in order to avoid being caught by the Facebook police.

Now, to be fair, violence against women happens far more frequently than society ever seems to admit. Men are typically the aggressors. Having lived most of my life on testosterone, I can say it is some powerful juice. It makes a person want to fight, have sex, and sometimes both. There is a reason beyond the large litters, as to why we often neuter our pets. That said, not all men are bad. Hey, some of my best friends are male. Just sayin’.

It sure seems like many of the fundamentalist members of GIW want NOTHING to do with men, or masculinity, and between their two major battles, trans exclusion and putting violent men in their place, I can begin to see a pattern. TERFs disown everything male, even trans women, because men have deeply harmed each and every one of them. Often enough, I suspect this harm has been violent and sexual. Sometimes for years on end, I imagine. I can’t entirely hate a group that seems to me to be rooted in so much pain. Irreparable pain.

Trans folk often enough have similar experiences, I am sad to say. I have already seen enough to know it is a whole new world I am living in. I am lucky compared to many.

So, back to TERF mythology. It is often said amongst trans communities that TERFs took trans health care rights away. This is a partial truth.

http://theterfs.com/terfs-trans-healthcare/

An anti-trans radical feminist named Janice Raymond was part of a group appointed by the Carter Administration to review and revise national health insurance guidelines and she was asked to write and deliver the ruling herself. The group decided trans medical treatments from hormones to surgery were experimental, and not worthy of coverage. Until this month, that has been the national guideline preventing the vast majority of trans people from getting treatment covered by their insurance. That does not mean Janice Raymond herself was responsible for all of this, but she was asked to deliver the message which implies she was at the very least, a vocal supporter of the change.

Only recently has the American government started to look into, and revise these policies, starting with Medicare. This is the start of bringing insurance coverage up to speed with the popular opinions of doctors. Treatment is the only known cure for gender dysphoria. It has a remarkable success rate. It works for me. Being trans has become a medical issue in my life.

So TERFs have been around for a while although the term has only recently become widely used in trans circles. Unlike, “Tranny”, it is a specific term describing exactly the type of radical feminists who are anti-trans, although when the whole, “Tranny” debate happened, TERFs attempted to say the term, “TERF” is a slur. It certainly can be used as a slur but it is not a widely used term, and it is most frequently used to differentiate TERFs from other feminists. For example, I consider myself a feminist but I am not a TERF.

Brennan over at GIW and the new page now, GIW Reloaded, likes to post inflammatory things, and often editorialize, in the attempt to get someone to respond in anger. When they do, she takes a screen cap of the comment and then deletes it along with her editorial. Later, she posts the picture of the comment with the name removed and uses it as evidence that all trans folk are crazy, and/or like to make threats. I mean, this stuff is classic Internet trolling. Trolling 101.

She also runs a blog, which I will not list here, where she posts pictures of men who commit violent crimes against women. AND she posts before and after pictures, along with the old names, of trans folk who have argued against her, all mixed right in with the violent criminals. She has threatened to out a friend of mine to his job (he is already out).

In fact, this is one of the reasons why it is good for me to be out. I got out ahead of the story, so it does not have power over me. I am trans and proud to be trans. If someone tells my job, friends or family I am trans, it will be old news. I mean, TERFs could do something really mean like calling me, “Tommy” or, “Male”. I shudder at the thought.

Now, the folks over at GIW argue in some circular logic. If a man disagrees with them, they are mansplaining to women as if women have no right to form their own opinions… or the man is considered a MRA (male rights activist) to also diminish the argument from a man, since arguing for male rights is kind of like arguing for white supremacy. Trans women are men in their eyes. Trans men are just misguided women.

Any post that is not in line with their philosophy is removed from the page and the poster is no longer allowed to post. Take a look at Gender Identity Watch Reloaded’s page and click on a discussion. Before you do, note how many comments it says the discussion contains. Now click and count how many actually remain. Note the remaining comments are all, for the most part, in agreement with each other as if nobody ever has anything else to add. If there is a comment against the GIW position, it is one of the most recent comments and it simply has not yet been deleted.

Many TERFs are self identified dykes (dyke, not lesbian… I too identify this way sometimes, but they don’t count people like me over at GIW, so I will never be a real lesbian, and unlike Pinnochio, I will always be a real boy), and they don’t fully embrace femininity. So why would a woman transition to male? They could just be dykes like the TERFs. In fact, that is what they still are in TERF eyes. Dykes.

Transition is a way to compensate for homosexuality, you see. I am transitioning, TERFs tell me, because I am secretly gay. In reality I am bi and proud, but depending on the day, I tend to like women more.

Any man who is not in lock step with TERF philosophy, is a violent and abusive being. This includes trans women because, hey… penis. They have/had a penis. Hence violent abuser. And yet, some of my best friends have penises. Just sayin’.

If someone comes out as trans in a discussion at GIW, Brennan and her fans will immediately start calling them by their former gender and when possible, former name. This is not considered by them to be rude, only the angry replies from the people they misgender are considered inappropriate.

In recent years, Brennan has outed at least two trans students to their high schools. That chaps my craw.

So, TERFs are feared by much of the trans community. GIW spends its time fighting against trans rights, as they claim to be there to prevent violence against women. Trans folk risk being outed by Brennan and her group for speaking up.

Why do TERFs rally so hard against trans issues? Because, unlike men, who make up half the population, trans folk are small in numbers. TERFs have a better chance at winning their anti-trans battle.

This too, is why trans folk rally against TERFs. They are a small group and therefore, trans activists feel they have a fighting chance.

Both groups are picking the small battle rather than the big one.

Since TERFs overlap into the lesbian community, much like many gays overlap into the drag community, it can cause infighting within the LGBT acronym. I can’t remember how many times this month, I have seen people say the T should be dropped and it should just be LGB.

The crux of the TERF argument is men have XY chromosomes and women XX. That may never change. Not that it matters, as I have never needed my chromosomes tested.

It is just a sad state of affairs. Once again, the bullied needs to be a bully to someone else. Someone they deem weaker than THEY are.

This is just an overview of the situation as I see it. I could go on much longer, but I somehow doubt this interests my readers as much as it interests me.

I promise my next post will be light, funny and linear. My high school reunion is coming up. I met some of my best friends in high school. Just sayin’, and boy, do I have a surprise for them!

Aloha,
Tori

Update: Five hours after posting this blog, Gender Identity Watch Reloaded was also, taken down.

Tranny

I am back after a much needed hiatus. Recharged and ready for Summer!

What have I been doing all this time? I am so glad I asked. I have been delving into a fight between The Jets and The Sharks, or The Bloods and The Crips… actually, it has been a debate over using certain words, between RuPaul, Carmen Carrera and their fans. What is the debate about? Again, glad I asked. If you saw the title of this post, I bet you could guess one of the words in just one try. For those of you who are bad at guessing, I will give you a hint, it is about the word, “Tranny” and also, the term, “She-male”. Still have no clue? Then let me beat a dead horse into the ground. I already told you, the debate is about the word, “Tranny” and the term, “She-male”.

Disclosure time, I am a fan of, “RuPaul’s Drag Race” and the local drag scene. Local drag performers have been very encouraging of my transition, and sometimes beneficial by donating to my too small wardrobe. Also, while I follow her on Facebook, I have never been that impressed by Carmen Carrera’s trans advocacy.

For those of you who do not know, Carmen Carrera was a contestant on, “Drag Race” a few seasons ago, before she came out as trans and began transition. She now enjoys minor celebrity and a decent modeling career. Carrera is currently one of the most visible trans advocates out there. Her beauty gets her extra press coverage, unfortunately beauty is easy on the eyes but not a skill that is required in order to explain the subtle nuances of the trans experience to the cis world. Carmen is rapidly improving in this area, but she is clearly not a seasoned veteran spokesperson.

Also, a disclaimer, I will call RuPaul by male pronouns and Carrera by female terms. This is how they each identify so it is proper, and not meant as a slight in any way shape or form to RuPaul the character. It is confusing enough, these pronouns… but RuPaul is one of the few Drag Queens whose stage name is the same as his given name. He is RuPaul Charles, she is glamazon character, RuPaul. It is kind of like Steven Colbert, the character is not the person, now, with added pronoun confusion!

Sheesh! There is so much to discuss concerning this simple and silly topic. I have to start back when this became a big issue amongst the LGBT community and catch y’all up from then to the present day.

A couple of months ago, on an episode of, “Drag Race”, there was a mini game amongst the contestants called, “Female or She-Male”. The contestants had to look at pictures of outfits and body parts, and correctly guess if it was of a cis female or a drag performer. Hilarity ensued.

Actually, controversy and hilarity ensued. The morning after the episode aired, the trans community was up in arms. How dare, “Drag Race” compare drag queens to cis women for laughs? How dare they use the term, “She-male”? Almost a week to the day later, Logo, the cable television station that airs, “Drag Race”, relented and decided to remove the segment from future airings and from the downloadable stream on their website. Logo stated they would not support anti-trans language. RuPaul reiterated his support of transsexual people, and seemingly agreed with his station’s verdict.

Oh, they also, got rid of the weekly, “You’ve Got She-mail” segment title, where RuPaul sends a video message to the contestants explaining something about their next challenge. In this case, if you didn’t figure it out, “She-mail” is a play on words, it sounds like, “E-mail” or even the godfather of reality competition show’s, “Survivor’s” own, “Tree-Mail”. Get it? She-mail.

Finally, the, “Tranny” debate took off. The term, “Tranny” was now being deemed inappropriate by the trans community whenever it was used on, “Drag Race”, a show that frequently allows contestants to be called or call each other, “Bitch” or, “Bitches” in both complimentary or derogatory ways. It also, heavily features the terms, “Fish” or, “Fishy”. For example, “Bitches, that bitch is a fishy fish!” For those of y’all who are a little bit slow, the terms, “Fish” and, “Fishy” are in reference to the odor of a cis female’s genital area (as if these queens actually know) and means a drag performer looks convincingly feminine, instead of well, like a typical, over the top, drag queen. It can be used as a compliment or an insult, but it is usually complimentary unless one is being too fishy, because too much fish can spoil the drag. But, “Bitch” and, “Fish” are not the controversial drag terms. “She-male” and, “Tranny” are. Got it? Good. Moving on.

Where was I? Ah yes, “Tranny”. “Tranny” was deemed, “The T-Word” by many of the most vocal trans advocates, including Carmen Carrera and folks, that is when a civil war broke out between the drag queens and the transsexuals.

(Snapping is heard. Then whistles. A Leonard Bernstein overture plays. Drag queens enter.)

When you do drag
You do drag all the way,
From your first time on stage
To your final sashay.

(Enter trans folk.)

When you are trans
You’re a curious thing.
Little boy’s now a girl,
Little girl, you’ll be king.

(End Musical Interlude)

This is where I came in. I follow a bunch of trans news and advocacy communities. It is more than just a hobby, it is a way of life now. Since transition puts me in the hands of the medical community for the foreseeable future, trans news developments can and do have an important impact on me. It is good to know this stuff. On the other hand, I get to listen to the petty issues amongst the trans community, and like most any community, if things are slow, it seems like sometimes, they will just make something up to stir up drama and controversy. With that in mind, and the fact that I am a, “Drag Race” fan, I heard this debate emerge within the trans community and spoke up. I love language, and I am fascinated by its living nature. Language evolves, sometimes quite quickly. Inner cities are often on the forefront of language evolution, now, so is the Internet, FTW… lol… SMH… and not SMH, “So Much Hate”, SMH, “Shakes my head”.

Trans language is also, quite fluid and quick to evolve. And it is complex. Trans folk, who keep their ear to the ground when it comes to the trans community, can lose touch with the fact that cis people are just not keeping up with the ever evolving lingo. You kinda’ need degrees in both Latin, and political correctness.

But, wow! To be on the ground level of language coinage?! Count me in!!!

So of course, I start speaking my mind in online discussions. For the most part, I do my best to calm down the lynch mob, “Tranny is not a slur. Context folks, context. Tranny is an abbreviation. Tran is just part of a prefix.” At the same time, I do not really like the term when directed towards me or any other trans woman. Same with, “She-male”.

It is amazing to me, how sensitive the average trans person can be to words. Try joining a trans online community and see how long you last before you are reprimanded for saying the wrong thing. There are some fragile, fragile trans people and we all are expected to tiptoe around them so their feelings never get hurt, ’cause, high suicide rate and whatnot. And yes, trans folk sometimes play the trans card, even amongst themselves.

The world is not the trans online community. It is full of reality and with reality comes brutal truths. Sometimes that honesty and brutality comes in the form of hate.

The more watered down and convoluted trans language becomes, the more specific it becomes. Along with specificity, comes confusion. Even trans people can not always keep up with the rapid changes in trans lingo.

Drag, on the other hand, is steeped in tradition. Drag performers are harsh. They are the Don Rickles of the LGBT community. Drag is rooted in Vaudeville, burlesque and the difficulties of growing up different in a large city. Drag is funny, rude, crude, histrionic, flamboyant and all kinds of awesome.

One unspoken rule of Drag, which quickly follows the first two unspoken rules concerning not talking about Fight Club, is Rule #3: Do NOT tell a drag queen what to do or what to say.

When the Transgender, PC Police came with sirens blaring, the Drag community fought back. “Tranny is OUR word, bitches!”

“Tranny” is indeed, in many ways, their word. It was an abbreviation that came from within the drag community, as best as I can tell, and to many drag queens from all over the English speaking world, trans folk should not even dare try to take their precious T-word away.

Drag Queens en masse, claim, “Tranny” as their own, as do car enthusiasts who use the term as an abbreviation for both the Pontiac Trans-Am, and for a car’s transmission. “What kind of tranny ya’ll got in yer Tranny?” Car talk. Smokey chased a famous T-topped Tranny. K.I.T.T. was a younger, sleeker Tranny than the Tranny The Bandit liked to ride. Still car talk, folks.

Trans folk are getting louder and louder when it comes to the term, “Tranny”. Many insist it is a slur. I was not so sure.

This is when Carmen Carrera’s advocacy came into the spotlight. She started talking about the term, “Tranny” being a slur, as did other trans celebrities Janet Mock and Laverne Cox. Suddenly, a middle of the pack, “Drag Race” veteran was speaking out against her Mama, RuPaul!!! Drag queens and their fans alike went apeshit!

Here is a smattering of comments I saw, pretty much as written, by members of the LGBT community, about Carrera. I did rephrase them a bit in order to preserve the anonymity of the posters.

“She is a stupid, TRANNY!”

“Tranny bitch will always be a tranny bitch!”

“He is just a penis in a dress.”

“He needs to get over himself, the fucking she-male tranny.”

“That tranny better know better than to bite the hand that feeds him!”

etc…

Then RuPaul himself, ever the peacemaker, broke his silence by tweeting things like, “Trust! LogoTV hasn’t “distanced” itself from me, not while I’m still payin’ the f%kin’ light bill over there.” after Logo had distanced itself from these next two comments made by RuPaul in a recent audio interview.

“No, it is not the transsexual community. These are fringe people who are looking for story lines to strengthen their identity as victims. That is what we’re dealing with. It’s not the trans community, because most people who are trans have been through hell and high water and they know — they’ve looked behind the curtain at Oz and went, ‘Oh, this is all a f**king joke. But, some people haven’t… You know, if your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a f**king hard-ass road.”

And…

“My 32-year career speaks for itself. I dance to the beat of a different drummer. I believe that everybody, you can be whatever the hell you wanna be. I ain’t stopping you. But don’t you dare tell me what I can do or say. It’s just words. Yeah, words do hurt… You know what? … You need to get stronger. You really do, because you know what, if you think, if you’re upset by something I said, you have bigger problems than you think.”

Now, the trans community goes even more apeshit than the drag community had!

“RuPaul is a transphobic bigot!”

“How would RuPaul like it if I called him a, “N” word and a, “F” word?”

“RuPaul is such a fucking faggot. I hope he is a victim of a hate crime.”

…and other gems…

Then, a funny thing happened. My opinion of the word, “Tranny” entirely changed. All it took was watching members within the LGBT community using it as a slur, directing it towards a trans woman, and seeing the piss poor response from many within the trans community in retaliation. In this case, “Tranny” was not being used as an abbreviation. It was being used as a demeaning and dehumanizing insult, pure and simple. Comments from the trans side were not any better, but hey, they were responding to a slur and that slur was being directed at them even from within the LGBT community.

Nobody has called me a tranny to my face, not in an insulting way, and I confess, I have used the word myself, often in self referential and/or self deprecating ways. But, back when I was in the closet, any time I was at work or with friends and a trans person came near, someone would elbow me and mutter something akin to, “Hey, get a load of THAT tranny.” or worse… often, much worse.

Also, let’s be honest here, some of you did not know the term, “Tranny” has its origins in the drag world, you learned it from the sex industry. Same with, “She-male”. Even when these terms are not used as slurs, they can shine people like me in the wrong kind of light. Very few transitioners enjoy being out, or being on stage like I do. Many are timid, soft spoken, introverts. Being related linguistically to performers and sex workers is not exactly how people who live the life of a trans person, rather than being a tranny for a living, like to be remembered.

Also, people DO in fact, mistake me for a drag queen often enough, even when I am looking and feeling frumpy. My wife would disagree with people calling me a queen.

A friend recently asked me what I look like in drag. He has not seen me since I started transition. I laughed, and told him I look like a man. He got the point, even though technically cross dressing as a man is being, “In drab”, not, “Drag”.

A man in a mobility scooter complimented my dress, then accused me of being a prostitute, on the night of this season’s, “Drag Race” finale. How sweet.

I had another good friend decide that now would be a great time to show me his dick. I mean, hey! I am trans, right? Must mean I am kinky. Spoiler alert, I am surprisingly Puritanical. I did let my friend down easy though, and yes, that pun was intended. 🙂

Terms like, “Tranny” and, “She-male” do complicate my life simply by confusing even my most tolerant of friends and guys on mobility scooters. They are indeed terms that can be and are frequently used as slurs, frequently enough that they should be discontinued in polite conversation.

It is unfortunate the drag and gay communities had to get involved, since it becomes a lot of infighting under the LGBT umbrella. Besides, I understand the point the drag queens and their supporters are trying to make. In many ways, I even agree. I just have problems with many of their methods of delivery. It is hard to argue the sanctity of a drag term, when even drag fans are defending its use BY using it as the very kind of slur they claim it is not.

So yeah, uh… try not to say, “Tranny”. Yes, I know it is just a word.  KTHX.

Bye,
Tori

Trans Medical Care

I know I have readers from around the world. This entry primarily focuses on medical care in America but I hope some of this info may be useful for anyone, anywhere, be they trans or not.

I am fortunate to have an amazing General Practitioner, who knows which way the wind blows when it comes to trans patients. Some are not as fortunate as I am. In fact, if I ever move, I may have to in some ways, start all over.

My doctor practices what is known as Informed Consent, which means I told him I was trans and that I have known I am trans for more than thirty years. I explained that I am ready to begin transition. He asked me a few questions, pulled out some paperwork and had me sign it, and then sent me to get my blood tested. A week later, he reviewed the test results, gave me a shot in the ass (full of estrogen) and a prescription for Spironolactone to stop my body’s ability to absorb testosterone. It was that simple.

A doctor who practices Informed Consent (IC) often knows what they are doing. Otherwise, they would likely want you to get a second opinion from a psychologist to confirm you are trans. How a psychologist can determine whether or not I am trans better than I can is beyond me. Still, it is common practice.

An even older method, which is surprisingly still widely in use, requires a trans patient to see a therapist for at least three months before the therapist decides if the patient is trans enough to start hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Thankfully, this faulty method is going the way of the dodo. To be fair, some people seek therapy to find out if they are trans or not, but again, how can somebody else make that decision for them? If you do not know you are trans, do not transition.

Why is the three months of therapy method faulty? There are many reasons. Let me see, um, therapists can be as inexperienced in trans issues as anyone. I have two therapists a psychologist who I see weekly and a psychiatrist who I see every two months, mostly to see if I need to keep taking my low dose of anti depressants (I may not need them much longer). Neither therapist has much, if any, experience dealing with trans patients. I find them both helpful in their own way, but I would be concerned if they were supposed to determine for my doctor that I truly am trans.

In the trans community, there are some who call their therapists, “Gatekeepers”. This is in reference to a therapist who wishes to string their trans patient(s) along for all they are worth, with the promise of some day, giving approval to their doctor to begin transition. This is especially common in rural areas and red states.

Perhaps a therapist is just biased, and refuses to give you permission ever. Then the patient must start all over with a new therapist.

Transition, to this day, is rarely covered by American insurers, and that goes doubly for trans therapy. So, every visit to a shrink, every blood test, every doctor’s visit, every prescription, every surgery is typically out of pocket. Transition, is treated as a vanity thing, like a face lift. Even though the suicide rate of trans people is like, 30x higher than cisgendered (non trans) folks.

Lucky for me, I not only have a doctor who practices IC, I was suicidal! YAY!!! That means my therapy is covered! I get, “Treated” for suicidal depression even though 90% of what we talk about is how happy I am, and other trans related experiences like coming out, presenting in public, and shoes!!! OMG! Shoes! I love shoes!

So, I am lucky. I was suicidal. Many trans folk are not so fortunate. They are required by their doctor to get a therapist to sign off for them and they have no serious mental conditions that would allow their insurance policy to cover them.

Then there are doctors. It may come as a shock to some, to learn that doctors often consult guidebooks to see what the current standards of care are for any given issue they are supposed to treat. You know when the doctor leaves the room for ten minutes and then returns? They are probably just looking up your symptoms and studying the preferred courses of treatment for the most likely ailments. Most doctors treat trans patients exactly the same way. They never had a trans patient before, so they consult their material, and do exactly what it says. Sometimes the material is outdated and tells the doctor to send their patient to three months of therapy. Sometimes a doctor remembers how they treated their last trans patient twenty years ago so they do not consult their reference material to look for updates, they just continue doing things the old way.

These issues are particularly troublesome for trans people who live in rural areas, and do not have many options for their medical and mental care. If their doctor and/or therapist is not up to snuff, who else should they turn to?

This is where I implore people who are considering transition to study up. Know your rights. Learn the most current methods of treatment. Learn the standards of care, past and present, so you know if your treatment is up to date.

It is quite likely, your medical professionals will know less about being transgender than you do. I do not think a trans person needs a doctorate in endocrinology, nor do I advocate self medication, I just think you should know what you are talking about, and hopefully know what your doctor is talking about as well.

My grandpa, who had a life full of serious medical issues always used to say, “Remember, doctors work for YOU.” This is a simple truth that I fear not enough people really understand. Insured or not, your visits are what pay your doctor. You have every right to question their approach, seek a second opinion and/or suggest different types of treatment. You are the customer, your doctor provides a service. If you do not like what your doctor provides, or you find they are stuck in the past, try and get them to change. If that fails, you may have to go elsewhere but, you may be surprised how flexible a medical professional may be, when they suspect they are at risk of losing your business.

Some doctors and therapists are biased against trans people. Many more just do not have experience treating them. Being a doctor’s guinea pig is not always the preferred place to be, but I know from experience, being trans can really engage a doctor or a therapist. They are not used to dealing with people like us, so they may actually become passionate about your treatment just because it is new and interesting. That is not a bad thing. Remember, doctors usually just follow their reference materials anyway, no matter what they are treating. Often enough, being treated according to the current standards of practice is the best anyone can hope for, no matter what their medical issues happen to be.

Being trans is not a mental illness. Many people do not need therapy for being trans, no matter what a doctor tells them. Granted, being trans can lead to mental issues, especially if it has been repressed, closeted and hidden. Also, switching hormones is not for the feint of heart. A good therapist is helpful for almost anyone, trans or not, but therapy is no longer a requirement.

Medicare may change its rules for trans treatment soon. This primarily has to do with, “The operation”, often know as a sex change or, gender reassignment surgery (GRS) which is the most commonly used term now. This would be huge. For over thirty years, GRS has been considered experimental. Now, for male to female (MTF) trans folk like me, it is just an expensive, two hour, $20,000 operation. This change in policy would be even more monumental for female to male (FTM) trans folk, since their bottom surgery costs them around five times as much as it does for a MTF.

“Medicare, no big deal.” you may think. Wrong. As Medicare goes, so goes American insurance in general. If Medicare changes their policy on trans treatment, other insurers will follow.

The main issue here, as I see it, is, GRS is not for every trans person. I hear people say things like, “I just don’t understand why someone would want to chop their dick off!” Well, not every trans person wants to do that. It is a very invasive surgery and it could come with complications, some quite serious. The risk of going numb down there is fairly common. Recovery time is lengthy. A MTF, would have to insert dilators (small dildos) for a half hour at a time, multiple times a day just to keep their new vagina from sealing up. Over time, the frequency of dilation would be reduced, as the size of the dilator would increase. Eventually, it sounds like it would become quite fun… ahem… but not at first and not for a good while.

For ages, GRS and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) have been considered cosmetic treatments. An insurer is not obligated to cure you if you are born ugly. At long last, GRS may become covered by insurance plans. HRT however, is not yet being considered. The funny thing about this? A trans person is required to be on HRT for at least a year before they are eligible for GRS. Also, after GRS, a trans person is legally considered to be their new sex. So, continued HRT would be covered. Legally, after GRS, a trans person like me would be no different from any other woman without a reproductive system, like say, any cis woman who has had a full hysterectomy.

So, I am rather shocked that the first proven treatment for trans folk, HRT, is still considered to be akin to a nose job, but I am thrilled to see potential advancement in covering gender reassignment.

In any case, transition is a commitment to a permanent need for medical care. It is not cheap. Not without universal insurance coverage. Quite frankly it is a risk for many reasons one may not consider from a cis (non trans) perspective. What if being trans was outlawed? What happens to people like me who are mid transition? Humans need either estrogen or testosterone in order to maintain healthy bones. This is why women get brittle bones post menopause.

It is vitally important for trans folk to understand medicine and the medical system, in order to use it to their advantage. Otherwise, we will be at its mercy.

Aloha,
Tori

 

Transgender Sex Roles

I was asked by the author to read, “He Dresses, She Slacks: Transgender Sex Roles” an article written by blogger WeaverGrace at http://www.WeaverGrace.com it is a thought provoking article and I suggest you all take a look because this post, while self-contained, is a direct response to many of the questions she asks in said article.

Now first, a disclaimer, WeaverGrace blogs the right way, with sources to back up her thought provoking questions. I, on the other hand, choose to blog from my phone. I have no clue why this is, I just do. I have a very good memory for statistics and research, but I rarely back my posts up with actual links to sources. Part of the reason is it is an annoyance to do the proper formatting and whatnot with my iPhone. Part of the reason is this is my blog, dammit and I will blog as I please, thanks. If you do want any links to supplemental information, ask and you shall receive. I blog from a personal perspective not from the perspective of a researcher or a journalist but I do not pull (most) of my facts out of my ass.

This post will be formatted as a question and answer session. WeaverGrace’s questions first, then my answers from my trans perspective.

End disclaimer.

INTERVIEW:

* If we didn’t have rigid sex roles, what might be a reason for being transgender?

This question seems to suggest that trans folk like me, choose to be trans. Now, keep in mind, while I don’t particularly like the terms, “Transgender” or, “Transsexual”,  I am in reality, transsexual, which is a specific type of transgendered person. I am actively transitioning from male to female both physically and legally… hence transSEXUAL.

Now, I understand, the question is intended like a utopian thought, much like John Lennon asking us to imagine there’s no Heaven, or Hell. Imagine there is no gender. It’s easy if you try…

Well, gender or not, there still is sex. I was born XY (male) yet my brain runs much better on XX loving hormones. Without the concept of gender, I suspect I would still be trans, because it is not my desire just to dress, and socialize as female in gender. It is a physical and mental need to operate on female fuel in spite of my dastardly Y chromosome.

The fact that we do have rigid sex roles, paves the way for transvestism, as well as drag kings and queens but transsexualism is a step beyond just conforming to a role. Transsexualism involves having a brain that operates like the brain of the opposite sex. Really. And here is one of those places where a good blogger would post a link to a study showing that trans folk have brains that are built more like the brain of the sex they are transitioning towards. My go to example: Females tend to have enhanced social capacity systems in their brains, and better, more efficient interaction pathways between right and left hemispheres, which can aid in things such as multitasking. Men, because their hemispheres do not interact as much, tend to have an easier time focusing on any given single task.

* A bunch of questions about the differences of male and female social roles.

I will just touch upon this subject because it is not specifically trans related.

In the animal kingdom in general, although I am thinking primarily mammalian here, males and females tend to have different social roles. Non human animals just do not have their own historic texts, and gender roles, at least it seems that way. Human history, and the historic concept of gender tends to place more value over males than females. This likely originates from physical strength. Males are stronger. The strongest traditionally get to write the history. Prehistoric humans it seems, tended to place equal value on the sexes and often, they placed extra value on trans folk, because trans folk could more clearly understand both sides of the spectrum and what lies between.

Female animals are usually better equipped mentally and physically, to care for the young. Female coloration is often more muted, in part, to camouflage while nesting with and training the young.

Males animals, frequently have more physical strength, and are far more colorful. The need to camouflage is less when one frequently only has to care for himself while hunting for food, and colors also are helpful to attract a mate. Yes, in the animal kingdom, females not males frequently decide who will be their mate.

In modern human society, several of these primal urges based on old, animalistic sex roles, do govern what men and women choose to do with their time.

* Who is more conspicuous: a transgender male or a transgender female?

The one who is noticed the most.

Digging deeper, I would venture to say female to male trans folk have a slightly easier time blending in. Smaller stature plays a part, as they are just less likely to STAND OUT. Also, Western society often enough, places more value on men than women, so it is not as illogical to a cis (non trans) person to consider why a woman may wish to become male or present as male.

* Why is female clothing more colorful?

It isn’t always. Burkas, anyone?

Fun fact: Almost every single type of Western female apparel was first made for men, with some key exceptions being the bra and the g string. Why more colorful? As I said, men are more colorful than women, and women therefore, have evolved to be more keen to coloration partly, in order to choose a mate. Perhaps this is why women enjoy shopping for colorful clothes and wearing makeup, because they naturally find color more attractive than males. The irony is, for the most part, men do not care nearly as much about a female’s color choices.

* Where misogyny exists, why would transgender women exist?

The term, “Transgender woman” can be confusing, although it is easy to glean what is meant by this question. That said, I was a transgender man for 37 years. That does not mean I transitioned to being male. It just means I am transgender, and society knew me as male.

The question is a good one. Why would anyone wish to be, “Demoted” from male to female?

I will answer that question with a question of my own: Why would ANY woman not wish to be male?

* Why might a (trans person) exhibit extreme characteristics of their gender?

This in part, goes back to the question about which trans people are the most noticeable. It is quite likely you have not noticed many trans people, simply because they blended in. It is common, therefore, to think all trans people stand out. They do not.

Those that do, often lack practice, still have their beard shadow, are not on hormones, retain their male posture and mannerisms and/or overcompensate for lost time by dressing obviously and sometimes obnoxiously younger than their actual age. Just because I was born with the brain of a woman, does not mean I know how to blend into society as a woman. In a lot of ways, I am like a young teenager. Have you seen how teens dress and wear makeup? It takes time and practice to learn and mature within these social constructs.

* Men cat call and brawl. Girls giggle and cry. Are these expectations taken to the extreme?

Sometimes they are.

Testosterone is proven to lead to aggression. Estrogen in turn is proven to improve emotional and empathic expression. This again, goes back to the mammalian sex roles of the male hunter/fighter and the female nurturer/teacher.

* Why is it hard for men to be attracted to trans women?

In my case, I should ask why is it hard for this trans woman to be attracted to men?

Trans women deny much of their masculinity, and that simply does not compute to many males. There are men who are quite attracted to trans women. The porn stats for trans websites may surprise you. They are quite popular and I doubt it is just women who visit them. It is not as socially accepted though for men to be attracted to trans women as it is for men to be attracted to other men, not in Western society. Go figure…

* What kinds of challenges do (trans) people face when going through puberty? How is this different for people who don’t fit the cultural stereotypes?

Ethnic minorities do not become more of an ethnic minority during puberty. I however, became a man during puberty. Damage was done. My beard grew, my voice dropped, the shape of my face changed… etc. Male puberty greatly complicated my chances for a successful transition. It also, really hammered home the fact that I was not born female. Plus, in my case, it attracted me sexually to women meaning I became extra compelled to fixate on them. Attracted but not wired to pursue. Imagine my most honest potential come on lines, “Hey there, I uh, really like you and I also kinda’ really want to be you. Wanna’ go out?” This may help to explain why I remained a virgin until 25.

* Are men as expressive with their voices as women?

Generally, no. They tend to use a more limited vocabulary as well. Women are hardwired to communicate with words, tone and gesture.

* Why would a heterosexual trans woman like her masculine body? Why would a heterosexual trans man like his feminine body? What’s the difference between having a certain sex’s body, and being a certain gender?

One reason I like(d) my male body? Strength. Another? Peeing whilst standing.

The difference between sex and gender? Sex is physical. Gender is conceptual. If I feel female, that is a gender thing. If I, from a distance, see a man, that is gender related because I just think I see a man, I do not check between the legs or anything. Sex is ultimately chromosomal.

__________________

Thank you, WeaverGrace for the inspiring post. It is a delightful challenge to get to answer some new questions. Please continue being curious. Do not be a stranger!

Thank you readers!

Aloha,
Tori

Tori’s First Guide to Trans Etiquette.

Several friends have mentioned that I am the only trans person they know, and that they kind of need me to serve as a teacher so they can learn how to behave around trans people. That got my wheels turning.

Now, keep in mind, there are as many ways to be trans as there are trans people. My suggestions and advice may not be universal. Many things I will say here, are just my own personal bugaboos. I have covered some of these things before but I figure it is good to make a list. Also, my opinions on these things are subject to change over time and with more experience.

Here we go though, a list of things you may wish to consider when dealing with a trans person. Many of these points are specific to me and other male to female trans folk. Female to male transitioners have many of their own issues to deal with.

1. Trans people are just people.

This is kinda’ obvious, I know, but it is also rather profound. We are just people. Boring, normal people. Being trans means others tend to treat me differently than if they just saw me as a man or a woman. “Special” treatment, be it good or bad, just gets old quickly. Do your best to let the novelty of me or any other trans person wear off as quickly as possible. You and I will be much more comfortable once the whole trans thing stops governing your words and actions. If I make you self conscious by simply being trans, then you make me self conscious.

2. Do not ask about our genitals.

I don’t ask about your junk. I know the whole concept of having surgery to make an outie an innie is fascinating to damn near everybody, but it is a really personal question, asking about what is happening inside my pants. Besides, it sexualizes me in a weird way. Being trans is weird enough. Now my junk is an open topic of discussion? Ew. You really think I want to talk about my junk? The surgery?

That surgery is no joke. It is a scary proposition. If anybody considers getting it, that should explain how serious being trans is. Being born male has caused me so much depression, I was suicidal. Do not think trans people consider paying $20,000 to have a doctor make origami out of their family jewels just for shits and giggles.

3. Being trans is not a sexual fetish.

It may seem obvious, or it may come as a shock to be told that being trans is not a sexual fetish. Being included in the LGBT acronym may lead some people to think being trans has to do with sexual orientation. It does not. It has to do with gender identity. Trans folk can be straight, homosexual or bi. The only twist is, the orientation swaps when one transitions. I was a straight male, that means I am a lesbian female. Kinda’ bizarre? Sure. Imagine how my wife must feel. Actually, I am bi, but I really prefer women. But, again, I do not transition for any sexy reasons. There are much simpler ways to get one’s rocks off.

4. Please, do not set your trans friends up, just because they are trans.

This one is kind of nuanced, because every trans person is different. Some, like me, are happy to be out. Others are either ashamed of being trans, or have worked very hard to blend in to society.

So, of course, this rule is not universal. Having a support network of other trans people can be VERY helpful.

But really, being set up with a friend’s trans friend, is more often than not, all kinds of awkward for everyone involved.

“Hey, our mutual friend wanted me to introduce myself, because I am trans and my friend tells me you are trans too.”

We do not have a secret handshake. Also, most trans people have serious trust issues. Is this stranger trying to hit on me? Does our mutual friend want us to, “Hit it off”? Do they not want to discuss their own transition because they have put that awkward part of their life behind them? Am I sounding rude to my friend’s trans friend?

Perhaps, consider this approach. “I have another trans friend, and they are happy to offer support to other transitioners, if you would like me to check with them and see if they want to talk to you, I will be happy to do that.”

That is far better than, “Hey, my friend is also trans. You have to contact them! They are really cool!” That is like being sent on a blind date. And I am not single. Now, I am obligated to contact a stranger, and all I know about them is the very private fact that they are trans. This makes it unlikely for either of us to have a good, ice breaking conversation.

5. Old words and terms are going out of style.

Do not call a trans person a tranny, or a he/she or a shemale if you can help it. If in doubt, ask how a person would like you to refer to them.

For example, I would like you to call me Victoria or Tori, and for you to use female pronouns like she and her. That is not as easy as it sounds, especially if you have known me as a guy named Tommy for any length of time. If you make an effort, I will be very forgiving if you slip up. I still slip up. True.

My wife is slow to adjust to this one, but really, so am I. There is something extra strange about my wife calling me a girl. My father just can’t even bring himself to make the effort, my mother is going full steam ahead, using my female name and female pronouns. All three of these approaches are awkward for us, but in the long run, it will behoove us all if you get used to the idea that I am a woman named Tori… no matter what you actually think about that.

Tone of voice matters, people can call me, “He” or “She” and clearly mean it in the most innocent, or the most incriminating of ways.

6. Trans, transvestite, and drag queen are different things.

I do not transition in order to wear women’s clothing. If that was all there was to it, I would have just worn women’s clothing all these years. Some people cross dress for entertainment purposes, some for fetishistic reasons. I feel like a woman, and I wish to express myself as a woman. My brain actually NEEDS female hormones to stay healthy and happy. There are practical reasons for wearing female clothing, one such reason is I am developing boobs. Another? Dressing as a male actually feels like cross dressing to me, believe it or not. It feels more so, now that I am actively transitioning. We all dress for comfort, even if we choose to wear torture devices. We wear clothes to hide our flaws, to keep warm, to fit in at a fancy restaurant. Sadly, I often feel like a linebacker in a dress, but it does not feel like a lie, not to me, and that comforts me.

7. Transition is a matter of life or death.

I have seen two studies of suicide rates amongst trans people. One said 37% of trans folk attempt suicide. Another said 41%. The really freaky thing about that stat? They can’t poll the ones who succeeded. These stats may actually be lower than reality.

Feeling all kinds of wrong from birth to transition is depressing. Being trans is now commonly called, “Gender dysphoria” and dysphoria is the opposite of euphoria.

Then, a trans person, if they survive long enough may finally transition. Trans folk are frequently impoverished. They are twice as likely to be unemployed, and the likelihood of being raped or attacked is staggeringly high.

Transition can make a person look weird to others. Feeling like a freak is not particularly good for the spirit.

Families, friends, spouses, children frequently abandon a transitioner. Some have good reasons, “I married a man. I am not attracted to women.” and others are just stuck in the past, or motivated by religion or other morality like politics. It is common, for people to fear what others will think of them living with or otherwise associating with a trans person.

Being trans is an unfair and uphill battle, and survival itself is remarkably difficult. People say suicide is selfish. Really? How selfish is it to end your life when society seems to shun you at every turn? We can convince ourselves we are doing everybody a favor by ending our own life.

8. Trans people need to use the bathroom.

True story. Which room should we choose? Oy! I tell you, using the bathroom is extra uncomfortable. I just want to relieve myself in peace, as quickly as possible, and I will likely use the women’s room. Sorry about that. The privacy of stalls, along with the reduced risk of violence kinda’ makes this a no brainer. Trust me though, I understand how icky the whole concept of me going into the women’s room can be for some. I promise I won’t look in your stall. Do me the same favor. Thank you.

This leads me to…

9. We are not horny men.

I am kinda’ embarrassed to have to discuss the nuances of this point because they are quite private, but they do need to be said, so I will swallow my pride. If you do not want TMI, by all means, you can skip this.

End of disclaimer.

Remember when I said, “Do not ask us about our junk”? Well, I am going to freely offer this information. I still have mine. Will I keep it? I do not know. Vaginas are expensive, but like I often say, I only need one.

The biggest erogenous zone of the body is the brain. That said, testosterone is key to sex drive in men and women. I am on a medication known as Spironolactone which prevents my body from using testosterone. Over time, my testosterone levels will drop to practically nothing. That hardly matters though, because this medication prevents my body from using testosterone in the first place so I may as well have none.

Over time, this will cause permanent sterility even if I stop taking the medication. Having children was a major life’s goal, and transition has put an end to that dream. The prospect of children was perhaps the key motivational force in my decision to stay male for as long as I did.

Then, depression and dysphoria got the best of me. I attempted to take my own life. Dead men can not procreate. I also realized I would rather be an odd looking woman than a dead man.

But I kinda’ digress…

It is odd, I am perhaps more sexual now than I was before transition, but my sex drive is practically gone. That may be hard to understand, because it hardly makes sense to me, and I wrote it. I am in control of my sexual urges now, they do not control me. Testosterone is a driving force, estrogen is far more subtle. Testosterone causes urges to be fed primarily by the eyes. My eyes still work, but estrogen can cause emotional connections to be as sexy as physical ones.

I am very attracted to women, and yet, I can be surrounded by women all day and not once feel awkward, or catch myself looking at boobs, legs or a great butt. I have gained control over my wandering eyes.

Back to my previous point about bathrooms. I have heard many people share concerns that a trans person like me, in a woman’s restroom, will take that access as an opportunity to do lewd or otherwise perverted things. These fears border on being irrational, but they are based in the simple misunderstanding that a trans woman like me is still a man, with male urges and male functionality (testosterone is also the key to erections, so… erm, nope, not so much any more, in case you were wondering). We can debate whether I am truly a woman or not, but I am SO far removed from being male at this point, that these fears just strike me as silly. My medication has all but killed my libido.

Hollywood has done trans people a disservice for a long time. Buffalo Bill from “Silence of the Lambs” anyone? Probably the most famous trans character ever, was a serial killer. People have learned that trans folk are perverted sex freaks from movies and television, or that trans folk are just trying to trap a man into performing a gay act unknowingly. That stigma truly resonates, and impacts people’s views of folks like me.

10. I do not have a man’s muscles.

Testosterone is literally a steroid. In fact, females transitioning to male, have to jump through more medical hoops to get their hormones than men transitioning into women, because steroids can have harmful side effects and can be abused.

My body is rapidly losing muscle, and muscle mass. It is common for trans folk to shrink an inch or two, and even to go down a shoe size just because the muscles in the feet and spine shrink. Cool, huh?

One reason, I suspect, that there is so much violence against trans folk is the attacker usually thinks they are attacking a man, and therefore, they feel it is a fair fight. This is simply untrue.

I will lose 30-50% of my strength, if I do not compensate with a physical regimen. I, mostly embrace this, because even though I have never been particularly muscular, my muscles are part of me that certainly reads to others as male. I love my softening arms, legs and obviously, boobs (boobs are really cool, but often hurty). Feeling soft, inside and out, is as amazing as I ever hoped.

I do miss my musculature, too, though. Carrying groceries, opening jars, yard work, are all much more difficult. We women must work smarter, not harder, sometimes.

Guys, please, stop giving me the bro hug! I feel like a rag doll, and you are going to smash my chest, which may frighten you as much as it hurts me, because I WILL yelp in pain!

Also, an extra firm handshake kinda’ squishes my hand now. Please, be gentle.

Again, we can debate whether I am female or not, but I am quite clearly, far removed from the man I once was. Transition is no joke. But…

11. Transition is funny.

It is, and I know it. My humor is a fantastic tool and it breaks the ice quickly when people are uncomfortable around me. Laugh, and the world laughs with you.

Have fun around me. Lighten up. Tell jokes. Forgive yourself if you accidentally say, “He”.

The seeming absurdity of my need to transition does not have to be an elephant in the room. I can tell the difference between good humor and malice.
___________

That is enough for now. I will likely make another post like this when I have compiled other things that come to mind.

I don’t want you all to worry too much about these eleven bullet points. Really the most important is the first. I am just a person. Imperfect. Boring. Human. As long as you can understand that, we will have nothing to worry about.

 

The Question

I am comforted by the question everybody close to me, either by blood or through life experience and friendship, has asked when I have come out to them. What do you think the most common question I would be asked in that situation?

The most common question I get asked, by far, is a variation of, “What does your wife think about this?”

It is comforting. It is interesting.

What does your wife think about this?

It is as if people are reserving judgement until I answer that question and yet, sometimes, it also seems like a veiled threat that they will judge me if I answer the question, “Incorrectly”.

This blog post has taken me a good while to compose in my head. Why? Well, for starters… as well as I know her, I can not with 100% accuracy say what my wife, “Feels”. She feels it. I do not.

Also, this is my blog, not hers. If you have been reading my posts here, you know there is very little I am unwilling to discuss, examine or talk about. And yet, I respect my wife and her privacy. I respect our special relationship.

If this post comes across as egotistical, there are at least two reasons. 1. I refuse to speak for my wife. 2. Like you all, I am human and therefore, egotistical.

I think #2 is rather self explanatory so allow me to explore #1.

My wife, like myself and my parents, has a list of people she wishes to, “Come out to.” herself, before they hear it second hand or whatnot. This process is ongoing and surprisingly complicated, as we often have to structure the order of people we tell in such a way that our collective circles of friends and family don’t hear it first from someone else. This takes a LONG time. So far, I average 12 or so people a week, my wife goes at her own pace. We wish to give people time to absorb the info, and to keep the influx of new people and questions manageable, so as to give everyone the time they need. Most people’s responses are best summed up with the words, “So?” and/or, “Wow!”. Some people, myself included, have needed a fair bit of time to mourn the loss of my male self. Very, VERY few have reacted in a transphobic way.

You will notice, my wife remains nameless in this post. She very much has a name. It is her name, not this blog’s. You will notice I do not name people in general if I post about them. That is for their potential safety, not just their anonymity. Being out can bring trouble, although I have been lucky thus far.

My relationship with my wife is the closest thing to, “Sacred” I have experienced. I want to keep it close to heart, not a public display of how great we both are.

Therefore, this blog post has been tough to write, and the question, although I now have a bit of practice, is still tough to answer.

If you wish to read about the intimate details we share, keep dreaming.

I will say this. What I do share with my wife, what I have shared, would boggle some minds. What I have not shared with her is rather boring and unimportant. Every prior relationship, love, mistake, desire, tantrum… and even the good things… every single important thing I have done, good or bad, every single person or event which has lingered in my mind, I have shared with my wife, for better or for worse.

So… What does my wife feel about all this?

Well, for starters, I came out to her several years ago. It was after we were engaged, but that engagement was pretty long. The answer though is, “Yes!” if you ever wondered if I told her before we tied the knot. I also told her I didn’t think I would ever transition, and other sweet nothing’s which ultimately turned out to be incorrect. I am better, I suppose, at reporting the past than predicting the future.

Confession time. I think I may have been set on transition by the time we finally got married. I am not entirely sure she knew this at the time as clearly as I did. I do know I was more of a Bridezilla than she was. I can finally laugh about that fact

So, my wife knew I was trans well before she became my wife. I also dumped every other surprise I could think of on her before the big day. It was less an attempt to make her run. More a way to learn how adventurous she truly is. She still wanted the wedding. I’d confirmed what I already knew. I was very lucky. Also, I have exquisite taste.

How does my wife feel about all this?

“All this” does not matter. If our relationship as a wedded couple ever ends it will be my fault, not hers. It will not be because I am trans. It will happen if I insist on continuing the terrible behavior patterns that led to my suicide attempt. Imagine the unfair weight THAT places on my wife! We BOTH are done with Tommy. He was a dangerous asshole. Sadly, he meant well. May he rest in peace.

Things are far from perfect between us just like any relationship. Things can be quite mundane. I have put a lot of stress on her due to my alcoholism and unemployment. She is all kinds of supportive of my transition as it makes room for behavior changes and progress on my part.

So when people ask me, “How does my wife feel about all this?” I am kind of at a loss as to what to say. I know what they are really saying is: “If you blindsided your wife with this transition, I will really struggle to support you.” My wife has been the barometer for others to gauge the weather.

To have a wife like mine is to be very lucky. She did not sign up for all I have burdened her with. I am improving but these improvements are quite burdensome as well. I am so filled with positive emotions, I can not control myself. I can literally be insanely happy at times.

Imagine being so incapable of feeling positive things for decades, that when you finally do feel the good feelings you do not know how to manage the emotion. I never learned how to harness my positive energy. And my wife has a front row seat. Sure, things are better than they were, but my wife frequently has the unfortunate task of taking care of a toddler rather than being with a spouse.

How does my wife feel about all this? I am surprised she is still kicking. She has seen me through my most volatile and dangerous time. If she ever needs to leave me, that will be her choice. I mean this in the most positive way possible. Because of her, I have finally found a place in life where I do not need a full time caretaker. I do want this to last. We are finally going to have a chance to have fun!

Aloha,
Tori

I Was Born Female

Lately, the trans community has taken on a new issue. In what seems to be an attempt to confuse as many cis (non trans) people as possible, MTFs (Male to Female Trans people) and FTMs (Female to Male Trans people) have been proclaiming they were born that way.

For example, if someone were to mention that I was born a boy, the latest craze would be for me to say, “No I wasn’t. I was always female.”

Now, there are some good reasons for this recent trend and I will get to them soon. First though, let me confess, I understand the common perspective. I understand why someone would insist I was born male. Technically, I was biologically born male, not intersexed not hermaphroditic, 100% male. My brain thought otherwise.

For as long as I can remember knowing the difference between male and female, I have mentally identified as female and wished my body matched the brain. I never really wished my brain matched my body, even though that too would have been a solution. Perhaps that is because a body is visible and the brain, if all goes according to plan, is not. The body is tangible, consciousness is more spiritual. Besides, if I could change how I looked, it would change how other people thought of and treated me.

In a nutshell, the above paragraph describes gender. I have written about gender in other blog posts but it is important to review these things from time to time for new readers. “Sex” and “Gender” are not synonymous. That said, they are usually analogous. Most people are born male or female and identify with their physical sex. Sex is physical, gender is conceptual. I am a physical male and I am of the female gender, at least in MY mind. Others may disagree. This is where things get deep. I can be gendered female in my own mind, and gendered male by all of society. Until very recently, this was entirely the case. The crazy part? We were ALL right! That is how gender works.

It is not enough for me to go through life as a mental female. I want society to see me as female, to treat me as female. I want to be female. Within the concept of gender, this has absolutely nothing to do with my genitals.

This goal is not easily attainable. It requires inner strength, the ability to forgive, empathize and move on, crazy hormone treatments and physical changes, countless mistakes, a sense of humor, curiosity enough to kill a cat, the desire to seek adventure… and lots of other stuff. But the goal IS within reach.

So, was I born a boy or a girl? Depends on who you ask and what you mean.

Trans folk often insist they were born into their gender rather than their sex, and over the next several years, this way of thinking may gain quite a bit of traction.

I am transitionING. I am moving from one point to another. Perhaps, some day I will have transitionED… at that point, why would I want to insist I was born a boy? That could open a can of worms in social and workplace situations that I would prefer to avoid, and if I insisted I was born a girl, I would be telling the truth, at least in terms of gender.

Welcome to my world.

Aloha,
Tori