Step Right Up Ladies and Gents

step-right-upSome days I feel like I’ve accidentally stepped up to a carnival game called Guess What I Am. The odds are stacked against me. The game ranks secondary sex characteristics over gender expression and gender presentation. It ignores my intent. It doesn’t recognize the middle ground.

When asked “What are your preferred gender pronouns (PGPs)?” I usually stammer out “they”. I hate pronouns. Most people use feminine pronouns when they talk about me. It doesn’t feel right, but I don’t stop them. Three years into writing this blog, I remain pronoun challenged.

I am not comfortable with either he or she, or Sir or Ma’am, although Ma’am is the worst. I’m OK with they, Jamie, or nothing. “Nothing” is easy with honorifics and titles. On forms, I leave the title box blank. If I have to fill in something, I use Dr. or Prof. I haven’t seen Mx. on a form yet, and I’m not sure I’d use it. “Nothing” is difficult with pronouns.

I choose to wear masculine clothing, have a masculine haircut, and carry myself in a masculine manner, but I don’t use masculine pronouns. I conflate masculine pronouns with taking testosterone. I read as masculine, but not necessarily male. I like how I look. I don’t do anything to make it easy to read me as female. When I go out I get Sir’d and Ma’am’d and a combination of the two. I cringe when people apologize after calling me Sir. Continue reading

In Remembrance

Mourning all people who have died, Paris to Beirut


Saturday afternoon I went to a vigil at the arch in Washington Square Park. I went in solidarity with all people; New Yorkers, Parisians, and Beirutis. It was a silent, somber, vigil. I overheard a smattering of people whispering in French. I stayed for an hour; observing, reflecting, and quietly mourning. Their losses and my losses.

I could not stop myself from people watching. It was cool, and sunny. A day for a jacket, gloves, and a scarf. No hat. I stood next to a French man who wore his scarf in a particularly French way; wrapped around his neck with the edges tucked under. Graceful, casual, natty. I made a note of it. I felt a flare of envy. I wanted to be a boy, to look like that man, and then it subsided. Five years ago it would have sent me into a tailspin.

Every loss is connected to every other loss. Whether I am mourning for someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time, or for someone who could not find a way to live authentically in their own body. Whether they were killed by a suicide bomber, by AIDS, or by their own hand. Continue reading

My Top Surgery Revision



At 9 AM I hopped into a taxi with my friend Tracey, and we zig zagged through midtown traffic to Dr. Weiss’ office. He and I talked about the pucker in the front of my chest and the size of my nipples. I apologized for being a fussbudget. He reassured me. Lots of people want their nipples redone.

I stayed vaguely awake during surgery. I kept my eyes closed, but I could feel where he was working. Whenever I winced he gave me another shot of local anesthesia. It was over in less that an hour. He dressed my wounds with three 3×3 inch gauze pads and some tape. He told me to refrain from showering for 24 hours, to change the dressing daily, and to take it easy for a couple of days. Come back in two weeks; call if there is any discharge or anything unusual. I had a little trouble buttoning my shirt and tying my sneakers. Although I am a veteran of several surgeries, I forgot to wear slip-ons. I also left the after care instructions in his office.

I was home by noon. The pain meds wore off at 4 PM. I took a Tramadol that was left over from my last surgery, then a few hours later I took another. Continue reading

An Avalanche of Shame

Train-blocked-by-snowTomorrow I’m going in for a revision to my chest. I’m having a small pucker in my left pec “let out”, and I’m having my nipples slightly down-sized in diameter and height. I’m still a little ambivalent about it.

I like my chest. I ignore the flaws, but I’m still a little self-conscious of my nipples. I’m aware of them when I’m working out in the gym, when my T-shirt is sweat soaked, when I’m watching my form in the mirror. I could live with them as is. If I had to fly to another city for the revision, I might not do it.

The surgery is straightforward. It is in Dr. Weiss’ office, not in the hospital. He is using twilight sedation instead of anaesthesia. I should be in and out in an hour and a half. I should be back to my usual activities by the weekend.

The surgery is the easy part. Asking a friend to take me there, wait for me, and take me home is the grueling part. I procrastinated asking, and then belittled myself for being unable to ask. It is a hard cycle to break.

I’m not ashamed of being butch and trans. I’m ashamed of being butch and trans and needing help. Somewhere, in the back of my brain, I don’t think it is OK to ask people for help if it has anything to do with being trans. Continue reading

Two Things I Learned From My Colonoscopy

First, I need to find a less awkward way to tell medical staff that I had top surgery. Second, I need to learn how to ask for help when I need it. Third, no one wants to hear about my colonoscopy.

my-butch-colonoscopyWhen you see a new doctor, you fill out a form and list all of your surgeries. I’ve had surgery to repair a torn meniscus (knee), to remove fibroid tumors, to remove my uterus (partial hysterectomy), and to remove my breasts (top surgery). The nurse at East Side Endoscopy didn’t know what I meant by top surgery, so I told her I had a bi-lateral mastectomy. She asked if it was for cancer, and I said no, and left it at that, but I felt her question dangling, unanswered.

I only had gotten three hours of sleep, and I hadn’t had any coffee, and I nearly said cosmetic, but I caught myself. My transition, no matter how ambiguous it is, no matter how much it has to do with how I look, is not cosmetic. I’m still angry that my health insurance refused to pay for top surgery. They claimed it was not medically necessary. I couldn’t find the words to explain to the nurse that top surgery is gender confirmation surgery or to tell her which gender it confirmed.

I’d like to find a phrase that is clear. That isn’t pathologized. That doesn’t sound like a euphemism. That tells the truth. Continue reading

The Empty Pouch in My Boxer Briefs


A genuine Jockey underwear advertisement, circa 1955.

There is an empty pouch in my boxer briefs. I notice it, but it doesn’t bother me. I don’t pack.

I never thought I was missing a penis. I was envious of my brother because he was a boy; not because he had a penis. I kept hoping that I’d wake up and be a boy. I prepared myself for this by practicing boy things, including standing up to pee. I gave that up after a few days, and went back to memorizing baseball statistics and solving math puzzles.

There is a hole in my vocabulary. I rarely talk about my genitals or anyone else’s. I don’t like to use either scientific terms or slang. The words sound foreign to me. Growing up, I pretended there was nothing there, the way male and female dolls are smooth and intact under their clothes.

Maybe because I was attracted to women, I didn’t pay any attention to penises. They seemed superfluous, and vaguely unclean, except on marble statues in the museum. Maybe because they seemed so important to everyone else I decided they were unimportant to me. Denial and dissociation as a defense against dysphoria.

I refused to wear fancy underpants. The kind with lace or hearts. I really wanted to wear my brother’s Fruit of the Looms. I knew not to ask (once in a while I stole a pair), and settled for six packs of plain white panties. When I grew up, I bought the simplest cotton hipsters I could find. White, black, gray, or navy. Jockey for Her. I pulled on my Levi’s to cover them up. Then it occurred to me that I could wear whatever underwear I wanted, regardless of what went in them, or what they were designed to cover. Continue reading

Shopping for Dresses While Butch and Trans

Donna liked the purple dress in the middle.

Donna liked the purple dress in the middle.

I went out and bought four dresses. Not for me. For Donna. She decided that, while her leg is in a cast, it would be easier to get dressed and undressed if she wore a dress. It would keep her from getting her knickers in a twist.

I suggested that she could go on-line and order a couple of inexpensive cotton dresses. Instead, Donna sent me to Gudrun Sjoden.

Gudrun Sjoden is not a store I would normally shop in. It is full of bright-colored, loose, flowing, and artsy Scandinavian women’s clothing. The clothes come in bold stripes and flowered patterns. They are meant to be worn in layers. It is a look that one either likes or loathes. Other than some striped socks, there is nothing in the store that I would consider wearing. While I wouldn’t wear the clothes, I am attracted to the kind of woman who does. It is Donna’s favorite store.

I arrived in blue jeans, a black turtleneck, a black Patagonia fleece pullover, and hiking boots. I brought along a flowered red tunic, from last winter’s collection. Donna wanted something just like it, but longer. All the other shoppers, and the sales staff, were wearing Gudrun Sjoden outfits. I felt uneasy; I knew I didn’t belong there.

I approached a salesperson, and asked for help. I told her that my partner broke her ankle, is wearing a cast, and wants to get a couple of dresses. The dresses should be loose, stretchy, and long, but not too long. Preferably in red, maroon, or purple; preferably striped or flowered. I showed her the tunic. She nodded and we looked at every dress in the shop. She picked out an armload of dresses that might work.

Then I remembered the last time someone handed me an armload of dresses. I was thirteen. I had already stopped wearing girl’s clothing. My father died, suddenly, unexpectedly. I was too heavy to fit in my old dresses or my mother’s. I didn’t have anything to wear to his funeral. Continue reading