Mr. Jones

“Because you know something is happening here, but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?” – Bob Dylan, from The Ballad of a Thin Man

Stonewall Inn

The Stonewall Inn, Christopher St.

My parents managed to miss the 1960’s. We lived in the city, but we might as well have lived in Podunk. My parents were as conventional as Ward and June Cleaver in Leave It To Beaver, except that they were Jewish and lived in a small apartment.

My parents didn’t listen to Bob Dylan or The Rolling Stones. They listened to Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme sing the classic American songbook. They liked the 1950’s, when everyone knew their place and stayed there. They tried to keep up with the Joneses, but they couldn’t afford to.

Once a year my parents took me and my brother to the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit. We gawked at the hippies, listened to the folk singers, looked at the paintings, kept an eye out for the homosexuals, and had Italian Ices.

I wasn’t told much about homosexuals (as my parents referred to them) except that they lived in “The Village”, and did things that were illegal and unnatural. Any man who didn’t get married was suspect, including my mother’s cousin, who didn’t get married until he was in his late thirties. He remained suspect.

There were men on TV who wore dresses as a joke. My parents loved Milton Berle and Flip Wilson. Cross-dressing was hilarious, as long as it was clear that it was a man in a dress. A daughter who insisted on dressing like her brother was not funny. I vaguely knew about Christine Jorgensen; the most famous transsexual in the U.S.  I read about Renee Richards when she came out in 1976. It didn’t occur to me that someone could transition the other way. Continue reading

Gender Identity, Gender Expression, and Biological Sex

The Gender Unicorn, graphic by Landyn Pan

The Gender Unicorn, graphic by Landyn Pan

Virginia Prince popularized the phrase “Sex is what is in-between your legs, and gender is what is in-between your ears.” She separated sex and gender into two social constructs: one biological and one psychological. This concept is also used in The Gender Unicorn infographic, which adds gender expression, and romantic/sexual attractions into the mix. The unicorn allows for infinite possibilities, including a continuum titled Other.  How do you measure otherness?

My gender identity has been clear to me since I had the vocabulary for boy and girl, and the concept of self (I am). I am a boy. I also got the social construct of gender expression pretty quickly because I kept trying to do it my way instead of their way. I never understood biological sex, and it still perplexes me.

The pre-puberty loop used to run something like this: I am a boy, I don’t feel like a girl, I don’t want to do girl stuff, I want to wear boy’s clothes and look like a boy. It goes from straight from gender identity to gender expression, and avoids the issue of biological sex. I don’t remember thinking that I wanted a boy’s penis. I don’t know if that is because I knew I didn’t have it and couldn’t get one, or because it seemed besides the point. Who needs that stuff to be a boy?

ostrichSex (biological or assigned at birth) is a confusing mess of gonadal hormones, the endocrine system, chromosomes, gametes, internal reproductive organs, and genitalia. It courses through my veins. Legal sex is stamped on all my documents. I did not understand why people kept telling me “because you’re a girl” when it was clear to me that I wasn’t really a girl. I knew that I was the only child who felt they were on the wrong line every morning in the school yard. Continue reading

Eating like a Man

Joey Chestnut set a world record in 2013 by eating 69 hot dogs (and buns) in 10 minutes at Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest.

I went out to a middle-eastern restaurant for lunch with a friend who recently started on testosterone. He chowed down. A shawarma wrap, spinach pie, french fries, and a Coke. He told me that he can’t stop eating. He can’t satisfy his hunger. I ordered the salad combination platter with two pieces of falafel and a seltzer. Not exactly manly. I knew if I got hungry later I could always eat an apple. I carry one in my pack.

Four years ago, when everything was still suppressed, I ate anything and everything without thinking about the calories or the Weight Watchers points. WIthout wondering if I was hungry; without stopping when I was full. I ignored or denied the connections between what I ate and how much I weighed, as if they were independent events. I ate whatever looked good or was put in front of me. I was always game for a meal or a snack. I never turned food down. I finished everything on my plate. Continue reading

Greetings from the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference

philly-trans-healthI just came back from the 2015 Philadelphia Trans-Heatlh Conference. I’d gone there once before, in 2012, when I didn’t know what to do except that I needed to do something. I had a funny feeling that I didn’t want to transition directly to Male with a capital M.

In 2012 I was a lurker. I hadn’t changed my name. I hadn’t started to blog, I didn’t know any trans men, and I didn’t know anyone at the conference. I day-tripped from New York so I could go to a workshop on non-binary transition (given by Micah of Neutrois Nonsense). I didn’t talk to anyone, I just gawked. I didn’t feel like I belonged. I felt like a wanna be. Except that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be.

I was envious of the middle-aged guys who transitioned ten years ago.  I was envious of the guys who high-fived their long-lost friends and seemed to know everyone at the conference. I went home from the 2012 conference thinking that I wasn’t going to transition, I was just going to do a few things to make myself feel more comfortable. I decided  to start by legally changing my name. Continue reading

The Rest of the Testosterone Circus in My Head

The Bearded Lady is 3rd from the left.

The Bearded Lady is 4th from the left.

Last week I posted part of my internal dialogue on low dose testosterone. This week I continue the argument. I also learned two new terms: “androgenic alopecia” which is the medical term for male-pattern baldness, and “hypertrichoisis” which is short for abnormal hair growth on the body.

You say you are in the middle, but you are actually just at the far end of female. To get to the real middle you need to take testosterone.

I know where I am. I don’t need to take testosterone to feel like I’m in the middle. I get read either way until I speak. Strangers resist seeing the middle. It confuses them. They want to pigeonhole me back into something they understand: butch lesbian. A Jamie on a low dose of testosterone could look just as confusing as a Jamie on no dose, except for maybe a lower voice.

There is no “real middle” in-between the two social constructs of female and male; there is only a place that I call the middle. I’m not sure why I don’t call it genderqueer. I’m not sure why I don’t call it non-binary.

The part of the middle I am comfortable in is the masculine middle, not the feminine middle. I am not fluid. I don’t have days where I feel female or want to be read as female. I’m in the middle, but it is the boy/man middle. I’m not sure how much deeper into the middle I can go. I’m not sure that testosterone will take me into the middle instead of directly to male.

You only want to take testosterone to fit in. You want to be able to say that you are on testosterone so that people will take you seriously.

I’m embarrassed that there is some truth in this statement. I’ve never felt like I fit in anywhere and mostly I’m OK with that. I didn’t fit in as a girl. I didn’t fit in as a butch lesbian. I’m used to being an outsider. I’m used to being a couple of standard deviations away from the average. Continue reading

No Dose Testosterone

super-trans-hormonesTestosterone. I talk myself into and out of taking it about once a week. I’m intrigued, but skeptical. Back when I thought the choice was to stay butch or transition to male, I decided not to start it. Then I realized that was a false choice. That regardless of how I identified, I could do whatever I needed to do to feel whole and authentic. Nothing was off the table.

Testosterone. I flinch when I write the word. I forget that I create my own testosterone. Everyone creates natural estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, but in radically different proportions. I have no idea what my hormone levels are, but I know testosterone is in the mix. Do I want more?

I taunt myself with the question “If you are really transgender, then why are you so hesitant about increasing your testosterone level?” This is a rephrasing of “If you were really transgender you’d be taking hormones.”

I can debunk that. Testosterone, as we know it, has only been available since the late 1930’s. Transgender people existed before synthetic hormones existed. There are people who can’t get access to hormones (money, gatekeepers, availability), and people who have medical contraindications. And people who choose not to take hormones. They are all still trans.

Taking hormones doesn’t make you transgender. Surgery doesn’t make you transgender. Your choice of pronouns doesn’t make you transgender. I don’t identify with the sex I was assigned at birth. That is what makes me trans. That is what I would tell my seventeen year old self. If they would listen. Continue reading

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