Another letter to my colleagues

27 10 2008

After the other day’s rant, I took a more objective look at what was going on with the pronoun situation. I know my colleagues and I know that none of them have a malicious or ill-intentioned bone in their bodies. I know that they care about my well being. I know it because so many of them have offered me support during my transition so far. I know it because so many of them came to my transition party back in June. I know it because, as a colleage and friend pointed out the other night at the bar, when people joined me to celebrate the end of a week-long conference that I organised at work, if anyone in our department were to say anything negative about my transition, they would be the one to be ostracised, not me.

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5 months on testosterone

26 10 2008

So, today, October 26, I’ve been on testosterone for exactly 5 months. Unbelievable. It seems like only yesterday that I was on the internet looking for a psychologist, thinking that it would be at least another year before I started hormone treatment. That was in December 2007. So here is a list of observed changes, physical and other:

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What is the opposite of a rant?

22 10 2008

So yesterday I was ranting and, since I tend to be a pretty positive person, I wanted to do the opposite today. Something happened at work that more than made up for the 3 (another one happened today) “she’s” that I got this week. I saw a guy who works in the bookstore that I hadn’t seen in several months, partly because I am on part-time leave and not at the college that often and partly because he was (I think) ill for a while. When he saw me, his face brightened. He is always, always smiling – I’ve NEVER seen this guy frown, but his face brightened even more than usual. He exclaimed that I look great and he gave me a big bear hug right there in the bookstore. He looked so happy for me.

This really made my week. Many people have been commenting on the changes but kind of in a shy way, as if it were a taboo topic. He understood that this is a happy change and that there is no shame attached and treated it like any other wonderful and happy process. I felt all glowy inside after and I wish more people were able to treat my transition this way: as a happy process of growth, not a shameful thing to talk about in hushed tones.

Thanks S.!


20 10 2008

Need to rant. As regular readers know, I’m not gung-ho on going stealth. However, I’m also not gung ho about having my trans identity being the first thing people know about me. As with my bisexual orientation, it’s the kind of thing that I don’t want to hide but I don’t necessarily want to wear on my sleeve either (I do wear a t-boy cuff but only people who know what that means think anything of it). If it comes up, it comes up and I won’t hide but that is contextual. And where, when and how I come out is up to ME and no one else.

Now, I’ve been patient with friends and co-workers, trying to get them to get the pronouns right. When it’s just us, I can tolerate the slippages somewhat, although I’m getting stricter about correcting them. But today, I just about lost it. I was outed in front of total strangers not once, but twice! The first time, a colleague was trying to answer a student’s question. I did not know the student. The colleague point at me and said: “Maybe she would know.” I was mortified. I’m being read as male 95% of the time by strangers so I have no reason to believe this student was any different. I was presenting as male. I look and sound male. And I had to say: “You mean ‘he'” much to the bemusement of this student.

Next, another colleague called me by my girl name in front of a guest speaker. Again, I was mortified. I had invited this guest to the college and, when giving him a meeting point, I had told him to look for a guy in his 30s with a spider on his left hand. Since I got no weird looks upon meeting him, I had no reason to think that he read me as anything other than male. So to hear me referred to with my girl name must’ve been very confusing. And it certainly was very frustrating for me.

All they ever say is “sorry/it’s normal/give us time/it doesn’t mean anything/it’s just a slip” but what they’re not getting is that everytime they slip in front of strangers, they are OUTING me or at least confusing the person I’m interacting with so that, suddenly, a run-of-the-mill interaction becomes question-laden for the new person and embarrassing for me. What am I supposed to say? Oh, people think I’m a girl? Oh, people confuse me for my twin sister? Oh, I used to be female and I’ve transitioned to male but people around me can’t adjust? How am I supposed to have a normal interaction after someone “she”s the guy they see in front of them or calls him by a girl name?

Back when I first contemplated transition, I thought that I would have to leave and start somewhere new. Not because I want to go stealth but just because I want to be taken at face value. Then I thought, no, it’ll be OK, they’ll get used to it and be able to adjust. But it’s not happening with the people around me who are unable to see me the way strangers see me. It seems many of them are unable to let go of the woman they thought they knew. I know they don’t mean harm but it’s a reflection of what they’re seeing when they see me: not a guy but a woman tring to look and sound like a guy. And I can’t help feeling hurt, embarrassed and frustrated by it.

I almost took a semester off for next term but now it’s too late. The deadline to apply has passed and I’m going to be stuck there for a whole semester probably being outed in front of students constantly . I think I’ll have to just walk around ad not look at anyone, not have any conversations with anyone but new students so that I don’t get the “she” and the girl name. Then I’ll be gone for a year in the sub-arctic and maybe when I come back I’ll be “man enough” or they’ll have forgotten the woman and just see me as a new person. I hope so because I can’t handle the idea of 30 more years of “she” until I retire.

Bits and Bites

18 10 2008

I know, I know. I haven’t blogged in over a month. I started PhD studies in September and I’m still working part-time and mothering full-time so blogging has had to take a back seat. It’s not that I have nothing to say – there are tons of things whizzing around in my brain. I just don’t have the time or energy to write them down.

Some recent highlights:

  • Psychotherapy: I’m on break. I took the summer off since my psychologist was on vacation for part of it and, since I had the summer off from work, I wanted to keep my schedule open for spontaneous activities with my son. I went back in September and, since things were going so well for me, my psych said to come back only in a month. Then in October, he said that I didn’t really need to come back for a while and to call him when I felt I needed to go back and talk. I will probably go in a few months when I want to start talking about potential surgeries. But for now, I don’t feel that I need to go. Why pay $90 to talk about how great my life is for 50 minutes? Of course, I get half of it back from insurance, but still.
  • Top surgery: I’ve been very ambivalent about the future of my breasts and have made peace with the fact that I still get sexual pleasure from them. I know that eventually the daily hassle and discomfort of binding will outweight that and when that happens, I’ll take steps. For now, I’ve had a consultation with a surgeon and he says that it’s good that I’m not ready yet because I’d idealy lose about 30 lbs for the surgery to have good results. This is a good motivator for me: I need to get my ass in gear.
  • Men’s washrooms: I use them consistently now and haven’t had any problems. I don’t worry at all about where my feet are pointint when I sit to pee. Guys sit to do other things anyway. And what guy in his right mind would confront me and ask me why I sat down to pee, even if he noticed at all?!?!?!
  • Work: I’ll be teaching again in the winter (I replaced teaching with adminstrative work this semester) and I’m curious to see whether students will react in any way. It will be an intro course with mostly new students. I will go as male with no mention of my past name. The only thing that could “out” me is if there is a student that I’ve had in the past or the sibling of a student from last year (which happens a lot . . . I often get students who say they took a course with me because their older sibling had taken me and liked the course). If it comes up, I’ll deal with it openly. But I don’t feel like having to tell my life story to my students. But we’ll see. I am determined not to stress about it. And if I’m outed and it helps some students in the college who are questionning or trans, or have a trans friend or relative by providing a model of someone who’s not ashamed, then great.
  • Feeling ungendered: I go through most of my days feeling ungendered. I don’t think about my gestures and what they say about me. I don’t consciously move, speak and sit in calculated ways like I used to when I was trying to express femininity. That is a good sign for me. It means that I’m finally just doing what comes naturally to me.
  • Appreciating femininity: Now that I don’t have to measure myself up to standards of femininity, as defined by my society, I actually have a greater appreciation for things that are defined as feminine: softness, nurturange, sweet voices, etc. Not that I see these things are inherently feminine – I’m not an essentialist. But because I always felt they were imposed on me in the past, I reviled them and alienated myself from things that should be accesible to everyone, regardless of what they have between their legs. So now when I see people expressing “femininity” in that particular way, I’m as appreciative of that as I am of other expressions of femininity (power, etc), or various forms of expressing masculinity (which can also include all or any of those same traits!)
  • Sexuality: I’m so much more comfortable in my skin now that my sexuality is much more pleasant and exciting than it ever was. When people show attraction to me, I believe it. And I’m less afraid to show attraction to others. I’ve let go of my fear of closeness as well and am able to go deeper into a relationship without feeling like I’m being trapped or invaded. In general, I feel much more open to others. And being non-monogamous rocks!

So I could write a whole post on any of these but . .. . no time!!!!