Sitting on the Fence

It is hard to lasso Androgel.

Getty_Images  It is hard to lasso Androgel.

Donna caught me by surprise. She said “Stop saying that you’re not taking testosterone because I’m against it. I don’t want to be in that position anymore. Make up your own mind. Do whatever you want.”

It would be nice if Donna had said this lovingly, with the caveat that she will support me whole heartedly. That I will always be her Jamie no matter what path I take. Whether I am butch or trans. That I should do whatever I think is best for me. But that wasn’t exactly what she meant.

In January Donna had open heart surgery to replace a heart valve. The outcome, according to all her doctors, is excellent. The valve took, she didn’t get an infection, her heart is pumping properly, her heart rhythm is good, she doesn’t have atrial fibrillation. Continue reading

The Nipple Edition


Top surgery. The big reveal. Frankenstein’s monster, 1931.

The thermometer hit 80ºF (27ºC) in New York this week. It is T-shirt season. This is the first week I’ve been out in public wearing just one thin clingy layer. Me, my nipples, and my dog.

I like the contour of my chest in a T-shirt. I like the definition; clavicle, sternum, pecs, and nipples. It looks like a male chest attached to a short and not-quite-so male torso.

Last summer I wore a heavy T-shirt over my binder. I didn’t want the binder’s outline to show. I have not figured out how I want my T-shirts to fit. I’m not sure what is too tight around the chest, what is too loose, what is just right. Where the sleeve should hit my bicep. How the bottom should hug my waist. After years of being overweight, I lean towards loose. I’ve bought and/or returned a dozen different T-shirts. The one thing they have in common is you can see my nipple bumps. I’ve kept a boy’s XL from Lands End, a men’s S from Uniqlo, and a men’s M from Bonobos.

My nipples are prominent. My shirts feel oddly transparent. Prior to top surgery my nipples were invisible; smoothed over by sports bras and binders. Women’s nipples are supposed to stay hidden. The last time it was fashionable for women to poke through a sweater was in the 1950’s, when bullet bras were popular. Even now, magazines routinely airbrush out all evidence of nipples. Even on male models. Continue reading

My Letter to the Casting Director

A-Boy-And-Her-DogDear Rachel,

Thanks for contacting me about being a peer mentor for the Trans* Docu-Series based on the 21 Day Myth. I’ve attached my contact information and a current photo for your casting manager. I’m also posting the casting call on my blog.

I took the liberty of web-searching your company to get more information on the project. I was surprised to see that some of the other episodes in the 21 Day Myth series consist of Move Into a Tiny House, Is Your Sex Life Too Vanilla, and Do You Want to Look Like Barbie.

I also read up on the 21 Day Myth, a theory erroneously based on “Psycho-cybernetics” published by Dr. Maxwell Maltz in 1960. Dr. Maltz states that it takes 21 days to get used to a change, e.g. moving into a new apartment or adjusting to plastic surgery results. This somehow morphed out of control into 21 days to adopt a new habit or make a major change in your life. It took me about three weeks to get used to myself in my new eyeglasses.

Transitioning is not something anyone should do lightly or under time pressure. Each person needs to determine their own timeline for transition, without a gatekeeper making them prove that they deserve access to services, hormones, or surgery. My trans journey is a set at a slow pace. From the moment that I told my therapist “I’m not a girl” it took me six months to take my next step and choose my name. I waited another six months before I asked my partner, my friends, and my co-workers to use my real (and legal) name. I don’t think I’ve made any trans decisions in a 21 day window, and wouldn’t encourage anyone else to do anything before they were ready.

I think it is important to have accurate and diverse examples of trans-masculine people in the media. I hope your project will treat the participating individuals with respect and not sensationalize their stories.

Looking forward to hearing back from you,


Rachel’s original email to me, including the casting call, is in the Notes section. Continue reading

Dysphoria, Body Image, and Self-Consciousness at the Beach

The Beatles in Miami, 1964. Photo by Charles Trainor.

The Beatles in Miami, 1964. Photo by Charles Trainor.

It has been almost two years since I went swimming. It is a shame. I love the beach and I love swimming in the ocean.

I stopped going to the beach because wearing a women’s swimsuit hit the perfect trifecta of dysphoria, negative body image, and self-consciousness. My Speedo made me look like I had breasts (or more accurately, I could not ignore my breasts when I wore it). My Speedo displayed my hairy armpits and a tract of dark hair running from my crotch to my big toe. I wore a T-shirt and shorts over my swimsuit except when I was in the water.

I was envious of the guys. Gangly teenagers in baggy knee-length board shorts. Collegiate life guards with ripped abs and a full body tan. Pale dads with beer bellies rolling over the edge of their trunks. There was not a woman on the beach whom I wanted to look like. Not even the other butch lesbians.

I don’t want to look like a woman. I look a little less like one now than I did three years ago, but I’m not sure what I actually look like. I’m not sure what I want to look like; how much further I want to go, what I’m willing to do to get there. Continue reading

My 2015 Butch, Genderqueer, Non-binary, and/or Trans Swimsuit Challenge

The GB Swim Teams -1924 Olympics. Men and women's suits are identical and made from wool.

The GB Swim Teams -1924 Olympics. Men and women’s suits are practically identical.

This summer will be different. I threw out my butch standard issue Speedo racerbacks. I’ve hit the point of no return. I didn’t swim at all last year. This year I’m swimming genderqueer. This year I am putting together, as Donna refers to it, a cockamamie swim outfit. Without the cock.

I’m only entertaining swimsuits that appeal to my masculine side. Everyone has an idealized version of what they want to look like on the beach. I have mine. Even if the style is 100 years old. Even if the original was made out of wool jersey, and the style was discarded when swimsuits started to be manufactured from modern materials.  Continue reading

Owning My Shame

shame-dogFor most of my life I split myself in two. A tomboy and a boy, and then a butch lesbian and a boy. Public and private. When I realized I was transgender, I imagined that the two parts would merge together seamlessly. A happy reunion. Instead, they are like disgruntled siblings strapped into the back seat on a road trip; neither wants to sit next to the other.

I carry a deep and irrational shame about my childhood. Shame that I was a shy, awkward, and unhappy girl. Shame that I could not transform myself into a happy and confident boy. Shame that I kept us from looking like a normal happy family. My mother was hell-bent on me being a girl, even though the screaming and arguing made both of us miserable. I hated getting dressed in the morning. I hated being picked on because I was weird. I hated myself for being a girl, for being unable to find a better solution than just being a boy in my head.

I started cultivating the split when I was six. I slipped into boy fantasy at night to put myself to sleep. I did it during the day when no one was watching. It felt right. In those fantasies, I was abused (beaten), and then rescued and taken care of. More than anything I wanted to feel safe and comforted. Something I rarely experienced as a girl. Continue reading

Taking Blue for Granted

The Green Mosque. Bursa, Turkey

The Green Mosque – Bursa, Turkey

There are hues of blue that speak to me. Cobalt blue glass. Iznik tiles. Lapis lazuli and ultramarine. I have a small collection of blue trinkets from around the world.

Before I started nursery school I knew I preferred blue. It is as if part of my brain stopped developing at four years old, stuck in the binary at blue. I wanted navy blue sneakers, blue and white striped shirts, blue overalls, and a blue tricycle. I told everyone my favorite color was blue. I refused to wear pink.

Blue doesn’t have a gender. We assign gender to concepts and objects almost as much as we assign gender to people. I assign a gender to everything; some things get thrown on the girl’s pile. Discarded. It is a hard habit to stop. I wear a lot of blue. I still have a hard time with pink.

I imagine myself coming out of the womb clad in denim diapers, but I didn’t get my first pair of blue jeans until I was twelve. They were a compromise; bell bottoms from the Junior’s department. My next pair was Levi’s 505’s. The exact same style of jeans that my brother wore.

I wear blue jeans almost every day. I also have black jeans, corduroy jeans, and khaki jeans. All from the men’s aisle. I assign jeans a gender, male, and I want to be gendered male by association. Continue reading