The Sanity Clause

This is the recommendation letter for top surgery that I didn’t write. Disclosure – my therapist reads my blog because I am not a big talker.

Jamie is an adult and is mature enough to decide to get top surgery. If Jamie wanted breast augmentation I wouldn’t be writing a permission letter, you’d just ask what cup size and take the money. 

As confused as Jamie has been about being trans, and as long as it took to get to this point, I don’t think anyone can talk Jamie out of this. It is her their body and I am honestly tired of listening to her them complain about wearing a binder and being a boy. Enough already. Please schedule this ASAP. Maybe then she they will deal with the remaining issues so that she they can finally finish therapy.

Grouch Marx and Chico Marx discuss the "Sanity Clause" in A Night at the Opera.

Grouch Marx and Chico Marx discuss the “Sanity Clause” in A Night at the Opera.

I’ve written my own recommendation letters before. A letter from a professor for a job, one from a friend for a co-op apartment purchase package, and my annual performance review at work. I always knew what to say.

Lo, those many years ago when I started therapy, I told my therapist that I had three issues I needed to work on: compulsive eating, my Dad’s death, and “gender stuff.” I spent many years avoiding talking. It’s been an expensive game of chess. One move and then a lot of silence. Then another move. When she questioned me I clammed up. Session after session. She waited me out.

I’m slow to trust and make personal connections. I expect people to judge me.

I look like an old-fashioned butch lesbian. Masculine attire, short hair, sensible shoes. A long-term relationship, a cute dog, and a dented green Subaru Outback. I thought I was keeping “it” under control. No one questioned whether I was butch enough; no one asked me if I was transgender. When there was an opening to talk about it I teetered on the precipice, but regained my balance. Continue reading

On Not Starting Yoga Class

Butch-WeightliftingBefore I retired, I put up three goals on the white board in my cubicle; to get my 401K/457 accounts maxed out,  to get my weight down to 140 lb., and to reliably bench press 75 lb. I hit the first two goals, but I got stuck at bench pressing more than 65 lb. I considered hiring a personal trainer to see if I could do it, but it seemed like cheating. As I tried to get past 65 lb., I realized that not all goals make sense.

I also made a list of things I wanted to do with my free time. So far, I’ve only learned how to work out with kettlebells. I haven’t started the second blog I want to write, I haven’t attended introductory yoga, and I haven’t cleaned up my room (I straightened out and rearranged the piles).

I’m an obsessive person. I try to divert myself from binge overeating and compulsive shopping by taking on new projects (paradoxically every project requires purchasing some books or equipment). If you looked at the stack of books by the couch, you could figure out my current project is revamping my gym workout. There is also a book on hoarding, and another on Afghanistan.

It took me ten years to get bored with free weights. I like how butch it feels to use dumbbells and barbells. It separates me from the women at the gym; they mostly use the circuit machines and rarely use the benches. They go to yoga and dance classes; the studio is always full of pencil thin women in their thirties.

Working out helps me manage my gender dysphoria and feel strong in my body. I don’t compare my muscles, or how much weight I’m lifting, to anyone else. Some women are scared to work out because they don’t want to look muscle-bound; I wish it was that easy. I accept that if I don’t use testosterone my body will never look ripped. I will never be able to lift significantly more than I do now. I can master the form. I can get compact and sturdier. I can feel more powerful. Continue reading

Every Shirt Tells a Story

My favorite T-shirt, even though it does not fit.

My favorite T-shirt, even though it does not fit.

My oldest piece of clothing is a heather blue wool sweater vest. It is over fifty years old and belonged to my Dad. I can’t wear it. My freshman year in college I washed it and threw it in the dryer. I didn’t know any better.

I can’t throw the vest away. I can’t fix it. It shares space in my closet with other articles of clothing that are symbolic. There is a beautiful striped men’s T-shirt from J. Crew that is about 20 years old. It never fit. I ordered it pre-internet, from a catalog, over the phone. I’ve hardly worn it. For many years it was too small, too tight across the bust and hips, and too long. Even when I tucked it in, it didn’t fit right or look right.  I held onto it because I wanted to wear it.

I lost weight and now the T-shirt is too big and too long. It will always be the wrong cut. Twenty years ago guys wore their T-shirts baggy and tucked in. It was designed for someone who is six feet tall. Yet I can’t imagine throwing it away. It represents a hope I used to have. That a piece of clothing had the power to change my life, to transform me from a self-conscious butch lesbian into a handsome teen age boy. Continue reading

My Last Mammogram

Photo by Wendy Thomas (see notes)

Photo by Wendy Thomas (see notes)

I had my last mammogram on Monday. I put it off for four years and only made an appointment because my surgeon required it before he would clear me for top surgery (bilateral mastectomy).

I’ve had other mammograms. This one was no different except that it was the last one. I was anxious in the radiology clinic waiting room. The TV blasted the Good Morning America show and it was impossible to read the book I brought with me (Susan Orlean’s Rin Tin Tin). All the women in the room were quiet. They dressed up for their appointments, as if they were going to an interview. I felt overly self-conscious; a parody of a butch lesbian in jeans and a plaid shirt. I wondered what they would think if they knew why I was there. Continue reading


I’m not writing about Atlantic Codfish or non-GMO corn. I’m trying to balance my butch identity with my transgender identity; to walk the trans-masculine tightrope. It is about being honest in my relationship, talking in therapy, being open at work, and showering at the gym. It is about the long haul.

Philippe Petit crossing between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, 1974

Philippe Petit crossing between the unfinished towers of the World Trade Center, 1974

It isn’t about labels. It is about asking for, and accepting, support for who I am. I am not good at the getting help thing. Sometimes I feel like I am lost, without GPS, and afraid to ask for directions. I don’t know if I am just around the corner from my destination, or if it is still miles away.

What does it take to live as a non-binary (genderqueer, agender, or neutrois) person? I’ve been visibly queer since childhood, but it wasn’t always intentional. I couldn’t stomach the alternatives. What does it take to do it deliberately and consciously? Continue reading

When the Best Label is Dog Lover

Sweet Corner Bakery on Hudson Street

Sweet Corner Bakery on Hudson Street, sidewalk service.

Thanks to Brannen’s post on Undefine Me!, I now proudly claim the label of Dog Lover (more on sustainability and labels in another post).

The day that I adopted Gracie, I told her to be patient. I told her that when I retire we will hang out on the couch and read, go out for long walks, head up to the dog run, and take naps together.

It hasn’t exactly turned out that way. I’m a little too anxious to just relax and hang out at home. I’m restless. When I’m not on the computer, or in the kitchen cooking, I like to keep moving. It is not easy to take her with me when I run errands. Gracie’s behavior in public spaces is not impeccable. There are only so many places you can take a dog in New York (food trucks, banks, and bookshops are the best). When I want to fulfill my promise to her I fill my thermos mug with coffee and we walk.

I grew up in Manhattan and I’ve always walked wherever I was going. It is not unusual for me to walk eight miles in a day. It is good exercise and it clears my head. I’m a brisk, heads down walker. It is my thinking time, unless I have Gracie with me. When I’m with Gracie I am on dog time. She wants to stop, sniff, and socialize. Continue reading

Which Side Are You On?

David Bowie in a man's dress, 1971

David Bowie in a man’s dress, 1971

David Bowie said it best “You must understand that it’s not a woman’s. It is a man’s dress.” If a dress is made for a man, or bought by a man, it becomes his. He owns it. The dress has no gender; the person wearing it does.

There was a cold snap and I broke out my favorite flannel shirt. It is a classic L.L. Bean, a Black Watch Plaid, in a women’s large. It used to look really good on me, before I lost weight. Now it is super baggy. I can still wear it, but I’m hesitant. It buttons to the left (the girl’s side).

I’m struggling with this. My weight is down from 175 lbs. to 140 lbs., but my height is still five foot four. My eyes have not adjusted. I can only see how much weight I’ve lost when I try to wear my old clothes. I’ve downsized my jeans several times and replaced a few worn out T-shirts. My button-down shirts are between two and five years old. They are between big and too big.

I stopped buying dress shirts because I knew I was going to stop working. Then I went on a self-imposed flannel hiatus because I have slew of old flannel shirts. It didn’t last. Then I decided to completely stop shopping for shirts because I want to wait until after I have top surgery. If I need to shop, I will stick to sneakers and hiking shoes.

It is almost impossible for me to buy a women’s shirt off the rack. I’m petite (I hate that word) and I won’t touch anything that has darts, princess seams, funny collars, or odd plackets. I’ll wear clothing made for women that looks like it is made for men. There isn’t much out there. It is also almost impossible for me to buy a men’s shirt off the rack. I like the styles, but the sleeves end below my fingertips, the body is too long, and if the chest fits it doesn’t close over the hips (and if the hips fit it is too big everywhere else). Continue reading