Things I’ve learned from being transgender that aren’t about being transgender

Being transgender prompted me to undergo a lengthy period of deep introspection. It forced me to question things which the general population perhaps doesn’t give a second thought to, ever. It also gave me a lens to reexamine other aspects of my life with a broader perspective. Thus, here I present the lessons I’ve learned by virtue of being trans, that aren’t really about being trans at all.

Gender is f’ing everywhere!

Fetuses are imparted a “gender” based on microscopic hints of genitals as seen through an expensive x-ray printout. Our involuntary gender journey thus begins, plaguing us with pink and blue stickers, gendered names and spaces and play places. This dichotomous fanaticism extends well into adulthood. From the facial moisturizer for men (boosting your burliness) to granola bars for women (which surely elevate estrogen levels), the battle of the sexes plays out even in the most inane scenarios. Everyone could benefit from a little lesson in gender.

Reading and Writing help me cope

When I first started this blog, I posted at least a few times a week. Furiously typing, my fingers tried to keep up with my thoughts as they rambled on and on in a subconscious stream of confusion. As my mind tried to sort through my feelings, and vice-versa, this black-and-white world I knew as gender was starting to unravel, each small step leading me to a thousand diverging crossroads. It took many late nights to figure everything out, a lot of which was achieved through writing, and even more through reading what other people had written before me.

queer-and-pleasant-danger

Some books are a Queer and Pleasant read.

I don’t write as much anymore, mostly because I don’t feel the need to expel and organize. I still read a lot because it’s a semi-productive way to procrastinate. I still share a lot of information – through new posts or emails or talks – because I do feel the need to keep this going, to catch others before they fall, to pave the road and make their ride a little less bumpy.

I still don’t know who I want to be when I grow up

I don’t know what my gender will look like, or what I want my gender to look like. I don’t know when I will tire of blogging, of talking about gender, of answering emails and giving talks and reblogging links. I don’t know if I want to become a public speaker, a relentless advocate, or a quiet defender. I don’t know what my day job is going to be in 20 years, what haircut I’ll get next time, or even what I’m doing this weekend.

But I know that it’s ok to not know yet. That it’s ok to know now, then change your mind later on. That it’s ok to never know.

I never thought I’d say the words penis, vagina, and sex so much

As an asexual and slightly prudish person, I used to blush at the mere thought of these words. I never would’ve imagined casually throwing them into a microphone in front of hundreds of people. Tricks of the trade?

Men have boobs. Or moobs.

Or whatever you want to call those lumps of fatty tissue with a nipple. I have spent far too much time looking – or rather, staring, as is my tendency – at men’s chests. Probably more than my fair share. Probably more than anyone’s fair share. Through all my gawking, I have come to the irrefutable conclusion that many men have at least some semblance of boobs. Here lies an untapped market for the bra industry. Nipples are a whole other story…

Everybody struggles with finding clothes

I used to enter a store and longingly look across the aisle. “I’d totally buy ALL THE CLOTHES, if that were my side of the aisle.” Now, I usually say “I’d totally buy ALL THE CLOTHES, if they would ever fit me.” Same problem, different color?

When I bemoan the fact that “nothing fits” usually every single one of my friends chimes in with the same complaint. Clothes come in cookie cutter shapes, but bodies do not.

Gingerbread folk do come in cookie cutter shapes.

Zippers and Buttons are reversed for men’s and women’s clothes

It’s true! More or less, with historical reasons in contention. But for the most part, it’s true: gender is in our buttons.

Doctors can be stupid too.

Though doctors are often bestowed special status as demi-gods, I’m not one to place undue respect or admiration on someone. From the burgeoning antagonization of my pediatrician as a toddler, to a series of misdiagnosis as a young adult, my growing disappointment led to a natural distrust that these “professionals” knew what they were doing. Yet I still held out hope that doctors would be a little more knowledgable than my googling skills regarding the human body and all of its magnificent variations.

Some doctors just look for cookie cutter solutions.

You just gotta find the ones that care about you, or care enough to learn.

After meticulous research spawning revolutionary sets of questions, some doctors left me empty-handed. Only a select few reached into the invisible depths of their Mary Poppins bag to provide a magical solution. I guess doctors are people too, and while some people are completely ignorant, others are fantastically awesome, and caring. The same goes for therapists, lawyers, teachers, policy-makers, pretty much anyone in any position to be of service.

Transgender medicine, law, policy, education, is all new territory, as much for us as for them. It’s going to take a little while for collective knowledge to catch up with the reality of our desires and needs. In the meantime, we have to remain patient as we teach each other, and in turn find those willing to learn.

Nobody knows the truth about your body

Lab results are just numbers, intended to provide a baseline metric for evaluating your body’s state. However, you are the ultimate authority on how you feel about it.

Moreover, there is plenty of unexplored territory in the scientific advancement of gender and trans medicine.

People will surprise you

Someone who has never wavered in their love for you soon becomes cold and withdrawn, unable to “accept” your choices. Someone who you considered closed-minded and conservative has no problem embracing this “whole new gender business.” And just when I thought I had it all figured out…

People can be really shitty

Right-wing hate. Ignorant hate. Cross-community hate. Intra-community hate. It just hurts. I shake my head, and reluctantly resign myself to the fact some haters are gonna hate, and some people are just going to find negative things to say no matter what.

People can be really amazing

There are plenty of other people out there helping out. People who organize conferences or give workshops at conferences or volunteer at conferences or go to conferences. People who run blogs and relentlessly answer questions. People who put themselves out there in the media, exposing their private-most lives at the risk of public shame. People who show up at their local support group, because just being there is being supportive. People who comfort you as you nonsensically babble at the brink of an epiphany. People who leave a comment to show the shy lurkers that there are more of us out there making a life for ourselves. People who read, listen, and support you to be who you are today, for no other reason than because they care. People like me, people like you.

Everything is a spectrum.

Gender. Sexuality. Transitioning. Hormone therapy. The color red. Shoe sizes. Actual feet sizes. My craving for chocolate. Knowledge. The universe? How much of a failure I feel like today. How much I love someone. Sometimes it’s better to not set a limit.

How to deal with the world

The world sucks a lot sometimes. Whether I’m bemoaning the fact that my hips are wide when they shouldn’t be, or that my hair is curling up instead of down; whether I’m frustrated with a stupidly unnecessary costly legal process for changing my gender, or stupidly unnecessary costly legal process for staying in the country; whether I’m fearful of being harassed for being gender ambiguous, or not looking my age, or being short and feeling vulnerable; whether I stress about my next testosterone shot, or my next project deadline; it’s all STRESSFUL.

Some problems have solutions. Some don’t. Some have solutions that are not ideal. Some have solutions that are not within our reach, yet or ever. Some problems have consequences that are worse than others. Some problems aren’t really problems at all.

The world will keep throwing rocks or pebbles or boulders in my way, some of which have been related to gender, most of which I’ve learned to deal and cope with, allowing me to continue to live my life.

 

75 responses to “Things I’ve learned from being transgender that aren’t about being transgender

  1. When I was female, my friends pushed me into trying to date exclusive or primarily other women. Now that I identify as a man, the guys are finally including me more often in group activities and we watch all this stuff targeted to gay men.

    And I’ve found that there ARE gay men who don’t care I am trans, pre-op, pre-T. (Working on finding a therapist or caseworker now to sign off on changing my drivers ID gender marker, when I move to the city next year I’ll look for a hormone specialist if my PCP won’t write me a script [he’s an andrologist] for T. Nothing out here in the boonies for me.)

    College is on board to help work with trans students, both on and off the binary. Glad I am helping make changes here. Didn’t think the school was that accommodating given the culture of where I live.

    And the one thing I learned most about? Guys don’t socialize in the bathroom. Why women do? Not sure.

    And it took me figuring out I was trans to realize I was a feminist, I don’t mind the label, and why women need the protections they need.

    • That “socialize in the bathroom” thing for women is not really my cup of tea, but I have witnessed it a lot over the years. Restroom design is often different for men and women. Some guys have been amazed to hear about couches and other fancy stuff that they’ve never seen in public restroom. Does the environment encourage socializing? Or does the socializing (or lack thereof) influence design?

      • I would have to say the later. I know that “going to the restroom” can be a safe space for women to discuss (or escape).

  2. Growing up is vastly overrated. You don’t have to stay in the same place (and risk being the next version of wasting away in Margaritaville) and you don’t have to compromise yourself and become the Trans in the Grey Flannel Suit.
    Accepting being transgender helped me learn to listen to myself (which I wish I had done more of in my extended adolescence).

  3. I like the well-roundedness of this! Love the part about finding professionals who care enough to learn – it’s easy to optimistically assume that everyone in professional service industries (doctors, teachers, therapists, etc.) are going to be open-minded, patient, understanding, and caring, (what attracted them to these fields in the first place?!!) it unfortunately is not true at all. It’s best to not take it personally, assume that it is just them, and move on to finding someone who is a better fit.

  4. Jeremy was telling me a couple of days ago that zie wishes the whole world was Minecraft because it would be so much better. My first thought was creepers attacking regularly and couldn’t figure out what zie was talking about. Then Jeremy informed me there’s no gender in Minecraft and people can change what they look like as much and often as they want.

    Oh, and you can punch down a tree with one blow.

    I nominated you for the Lovely Blog award. I’m probably not supposed to nominate anyone with more than 500 followers but it didn’t say so in the rules so… adds the apparently obligatory blog link…

    http://secretlyfabulous.wordpress.com/2014/09/06/pronouns-and-the-lovely-blog-award/

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  6. As a medical student in Nigeria I can say our knowledge on transgender here is next to non-existent. Was really cool getting a first hand view. Wonderful work! Thanks.

  7. You stated: “The world will keep throwing rocks or pebbles or boulders in my way”

    The thing is that no matter what life throws at you, you sound like the type of person who is going to go over, around or through it and that is a wonderful thing for those who follow your blog to see. The world needs more real life role models. People who do not pretend to know it all, people who admit that they have real world issues to deal with in life but are willing to learn what they can, fix the issues when possible, or work around the issues when fixing isn’t possible. In helping others to do the same you are not only making the world a better place, you are making future generations smarter about how little gender has to do with who we really are.

  8. Nice post. In the “People can be really shitty” you mention Right wing hate, but you should had mentioned Left wing hate too. One may be more common than the other, but they’re both just shit. Peace.

  9. Pingback: the gender of buttons | k i r j o i t e l l a·

  10. Having transitioned at 40 (14 years ago) I have encountered few issues other than that, over time you become invisible. I am facing far more stigma due to having a mental illness, even though I was stable for over a decade. I don’t blog about gender (at this point) but I commend you on a clear sensible resource. Such things did not exist when I started out. In fact it was a long miserable journey to figure out what I was. But no regrets, even raising two kids on my own along the way.

    All the best.

  11. Great post. I’m a little ashamed to say that, as an out gay guy, I know little to nothing about the trans life. Even more so I was ignorant to the existence of those varying gender neutrality. Your blog gives great insight.

  12. I am not gay or trans-gender, although I went through a period of “Penis Envy” as a child.. I got over it. LOL .But you seem like such a nice guy I hope you have a good life.

  13. I’m sure you already know this, but I thought it worth mentioning that there is an actual historical reason for the button reversal. It dates back to the 1700’s, when it was commonplace for women of means to have maids who helped them dress. The short story is that it was easier for the maids to button their mistresses’ clothes with the buttons running the way they were used to working on their own bodies, which required them to be reversed on the mistress.

  14. I have a nephew who is going through his transition (he has begun hormone therapy). This article was really helpful for me to understand some of the things he is facing. I’m still having pronoun confusion, but he is tolerant of my mistakes.

  15. I noticed that I didn’t know if you are a M to F or F to M TG until near the end when specifics were mentioned, I liked that it wasn’t clear because the feelings, emotions and realities are common to both transitions, I imagine. Great job.

  16. I’ve never known anyone with gender related difficulties but somehow always felt a a deep awareness of the struggles endured within that segment of humanity. The fact that people can’t just see people boggles my mind, but i guess that’s why i am a known misanthrope…you write so well, you’re obviously so bright, reading your post made me sad and hopeful, and wanting to give you a hug, not to say that you want or need one. Gender shmender, one day the world will catch up, thanks to people like you and everyone who loves you. Just some 70 years ago the world signed off on Hitler’s scheme, only after 20mill were dead did anyone really lift a finger, the bright side is that we are definitely making progress, albeit at glacial pace, hmm something might be off about my point if Hitler is my brightside lol, but you catch my meaning.

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  18. I’d love to play you a song, blue eyes…. New information for me, but nowI love my friend all the more because (s)he is awesome. Thanks for posting this, I have enjoyed it.

  19. Thank you for your honesty and openness. My struggles in life have been very different than yours but have experienced some of these same thoughts. I don’t have any close transgender friends and I am glad to get to hear your perspective here!

  20. Your post was very thoughtful and informative, but I have to ask: Where, exactly, does one find a picture of a gingerbread man doctor? Did you google it, because I would love to see those search terms.

  21. G’day,

    I just have to say that was an amazing article there. I live in Portland, OR, where it’s not a problem to be transgender, gay or queer, lesbian or bisexual, and plenty else. I like it here because people don’t discriminate or persecuted nearly as much as other places in the US or the world. There are still definite groups of people who are against a lot of what you just said, but they’re heavily outnumbered by the majority of Portland people. Thanks for such an interesting perspective. On a side note, you might be interested in my growing creative studios website where you can publish under your name! Check it out here at wallryder.com.

  22. Often times when I’m asked about my sexuality, I hate that there has to be a black or white. I totally agree with you; everything has a spectrum. Awesome post! Thanks for a good read.

  23. Reblogged this on carrienation5 and commented:
    You have a brilliant knack for explains how you actually feel, expressing so readers understand. This is a difficult task in writing in my opinion. I give you props for speaking out . You give others hope that it is okay to not know exactly what gender you are . The gingerbread man/woman was an excellent example . In regards to finding the right doctor, lawyer , therapist, etc. I know exactly how you feel. If you do not feel a connection with the professional you are working with move on to another. Thanks for sharing. I look forward to reading more of your blogs!

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  25. This is crazy. To me, at least. It is. I have identified as non gendered my entire life. Literally, it blew my mind when I finally “understood” that people don’t slide effortlessly between feminine and masculine and feminine/masculine and null-gendered; just male or female. And having been in the cities I have (with the exception of Boulder; I love that place), I feel really, REALLY alone in this. I plan on transitioning to align myself physically with how I feel I should look (male top, female bottomed), and I want to document it because I can’t find ANY journeys FTN or FTA. And finding this blog is somewhat liberating. Thank you!

    • Hey,Taijitu! I am seeing that this is a 2014 post..but I just discovered micahs blog and saw your comment. I could have written that comment. So I was wondering if you transitioned and how things are for you now, if you did.
      Peace. 🙂

  26. On the clothes thing, I seem to just be one of the lucky ones – I have no problem whatsoever finding tons of awesome clothes that fit. My height is taller than the average woman and shorter than the average man. My feet are larger than the average woman and smaller than the average man. My hip-to-waist ratio is smaller than the average woman and larger than the average man. I just seem to have ended up with the perfect compromise body such that I can wear ALL THE CLOTHES!! I mean not literally ALL of them – especially things that are made only for really skinny people I can’t wear. And I’ve also developed my ability to sew so when things require minor alterations I can make them fit. I guess this makes me a freak, but in a good way!

  27. This subject and many other society socioeconomic problems simply comes down to- until society can see all as one big tent, and not them vs. us, these debates will continue. It is more dangerous for individuals in poor countries without protection, and where many barbaric ideology still exists. On this side of the developed world, these issues are still a major problem, but with resources, they can disguise: See link to my article. Thank you for reading. http://mydocvu.com/2014/11/19/611/

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