The Werewolf of Venice

grand-canalBy the time you read this post, Donna and I will be on a direct flight from New York to Venice. It is a trip we planned to take last year, to celebrate her recovery from open heart surgery, but cancelled when she broke her ankle. Right now, the trip is more of a challenge than a celebration. Donna has less energy than she would like, and is anxious about walking long distances. We are both a little apprehensive about the little packets of testosterone left behind in my sock drawer, but we are going to try to not think about them while we are away.

Almost as soon as we became lovers, Donna tried to get me to go on vacation with her. At first I resisted. I didn’t understand her desire to travel, and it was expensive. She persisted. I was so infatuated with Donna, and felt so lucky to be with her, that I gave in.

Venice was the first place we went to together. I don’t remember why we chose Venice, but I was smitten.  I’m excited that we are finally, after over 30 years, going back to Venice, together.

I prepped for the first trip by reading guidebooks and regional cookbooks. I went to a store in Little Italy and brought home the cheeses and cured meats of the Veneto. I drank only northern Italian wines for months before we left. I read Italian novels and learned to count in Italian to 100,000 (before the Euro there were 1400 lira to the dollar). I didn’t want to look like, or act like, the stereotypical crass American tourist. I didn’t want to embarrass Donna. I didn’t want her to wake up and realize that getting into a relationship with me was a big mistake. Continue reading

Chest Hair and Happy Trails

happy-trail-transgenderThe barrista recommended the Sumatra Mandheling Dark Roast. He filled up my thermos cup and I told him that “I like coffee that puts hair on my chest.” It’s true. I like coffee that has a little oil and a little sediment. At home I drink Mountain Java Supreme French Roast brewed in a French Press.

The idiom came out of nowhere. I’ve never uttered that line before. I haven’t even allowed myself to wish for chest hair since I was a child. At the time, I wanted a chest like my father’s (slightly pudgy, and hairy, but definitely manly).

There are other things I could have said. That I like coffee that could strip paint off a car. That I like coffee as thick as mud. Coffee that builds character. Coffee strong like bull. I half wish that drinking coffee would put hair on my chest. Or that eating spinach, would make my biceps bulge.

When I was seven I wished for a hairy chest. While the other girls were dreaming about being blonde and wearing a bikini, I was hoping for a happy trail to go down to the top of my (imaginary) navy blue swim trunks. I still thought it was theoretically possible, but I knew not to talk about it. Girls only talked about removing body hair. Continue reading

Informed Consent

green-lightI walked out of my appointment at Callen-Lorde, on Thursday morning, with a box of 30 packets of 25mg of 1% testosterone gel (Perrigo brand, expires 5/2018) and a signed Informed Consent form.

The week before the appointment I kept flip-flopping. When I walked in, I didn’t know if I was going to bring it up again. I didn’t know if my new Nurse Practitioner even remembered that was why I came in a year ago, when I had my intake with her predecessor, but, right after she asked me how I was feeling, she asked me if I wanted a prescription. I squeaked out “Yes.” She said my blood work looked good, my cholesterol was down, and if I chose to use hormones she’d monitor my progress and work with me.

She took out the Informed Consent form, and quickly ran down the risks: increased cholesterol, increased number of red blood cells, acne, and increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, and liver inflammation. Then she read me the irreversible body changes: deepening of voice, facial and body hair, fat redistribution, and male pattern baldness.

I signed, she signed, and another Callen-Lorde staff member signed as the witness. It took less than two minutes. She asked me if I wanted to set up a follow-up, and I told her that I wanted to wait a while before I started, if I started, and that I’d set something up when I had a plan.

Before I left, I asked her if she had other clients who took low-dose testosterone and how they fared on it. She said that everyone was different, but that it was not uncommon to start on a 1/2 packet (12.5mg) and wait and see what happens and how it feels. The gel is slower and less of a shock to the system than injection. It is matter of personal preference, but she hadn’t worked with anyone who regretted starting. Continue reading

Mind/Body Congruence and a Gray T-Shirt

This is the shirt on the Gustin model, not me!

This is the shirt on the Gustin model, not me.

While on vacation, at the beach, in Gloucester, I experienced a moment of mind/body congruence. It was fleeting, but notable.

I was getting dressed to take a walk. I put on a new gray T-shirt, old olive hiking shorts, and gray sneakers. The new T-shirt looked good on me. I looked in the mirror and thought “If I saw a guy coming down the street wearing this outfit, I’d think that he was nicely, if monochromatically, put together. I’d make a mental note of it.” I liked how I looked in the mirror. There was no dysphoric distortion.

That sentence should be in bold caps. I LIKED HOW I LOOKED IN THE MIRROR. One day, I hope this will be a normal, daily, event. It doesn’t happen often enough, but the possibility exists.

I’ve chosen my own clothing since I was old enough to get working papers and an after school job. My mantra was “everything goes with blue jeans”. Since then I’ve owned and worn a steady supply of T-shirts, flannel shirts, button-downs, sweat shirts, and jeans. I’ve bought lots of clothing that I liked in the catalog or in the store. I liked them in my dresser drawer or hanging in my closet. When I wore them, though, they didn’t look right on me. The clothes were simultaneously too loose, too tight, and too long. I was too short and too round, and too female. The solution was to never look in a mirror. Continue reading

What I’ve Learned From Women Who Detransitioned

boxing-butchHow does someone decide between living as a butch lesbian or a trans man? What if you make the wrong choice? What if neither identity feels authentic?

These questions stick with me through my journey. At first, and still to some extent, I was envious of trans men who were absolutely certain they wanted to transition. Who knew they were men. Who wanted everything to happen as fast as possible. Reincarnation. To make a clean break with their past.

I watched videos and read blogs. Some were too pat. Too insistent that everything was fabulous. They weren’t struggling, except to get coverage for top surgery. They proudly documented their changes on testosterone week by week. Then I watched a video about going off testosterone. They stopped because it didn’t feel right. Because they didn’t like how they felt on it.

Each detransition story I’ve heard is unique, but the unifying message is that they didn’t feel authentic being a man. It felt false, they didn’t recognize the face in the mirror, or they felt they’d lost their soul. Some accepted they were transgender, but were closer to genderqueer or non-binary than male. Some went back to butch. Some (re)embraced being female and gender non-conforming. Continue reading

Topless in the Locker Room – Part II


When I’m in a gym frame of mind, I pencil in my workout time and I don’t let anything else get in my way. I pre-pack my gym bag with shorts, socks, a T-shirt, sneakers, and a charged iPod. When I’m in a gym frame of mind I feel strong and solid. I don’t hesitate or find excuses to avoid going.

I didn’t go back to the gym after I came back from New Mexico. It took me six weeks to get around to it, and when I went back, it didn’t feel right. Not the first time, not the second time. The third time I realized that I didn’t want to go into the locker room to change or shower. I forced myself to do it. I wasn’t avoiding working out, I was avoiding changing in public. I was avoiding being naked in a women’s space.

For 15 years I have steeled myself to walk in and out of the women’s locker room. I tried to convince myself that not only do I have a right to be there, but that I should keep going until it stops bothering me. That I should exercise my right to use it. Continue reading

Between the Neck and the Knees

strike-zoneFor most of my life I paid as little attention as possible to everything between my neck and my knees. I was shocked each time I got my period. I didn’t track it and I didn’t prepare for it. It arrived, I dealt with it, and then it was over. I was in so much denial that I left no room for dysphoria.

Between the ages of 21 and 42 I never went to a doctor for a check-up. Or to a gynecologist. I had a superficial physical each time I was promoted at work. Other than that I only went to the dentist and the ophthalmologist.

I didn’t want a doctor to tell me to lose weight. I didn’t want to spread my legs for a gynecologist. I scheduled a routine physical (in 2000) only when I realized that I was the same age that my Dad was when he dropped dead from an aneurysm.

The week before my doctor’s appointment I bought a new cotton futon for my bed. The old one was 12 years old and lumpy. I sleep on my stomach, but I was having trouble sleeping through the night. The nurse practitioner examined me, and told me I needed to lose 40 pounds. She asked me how long it had been since I saw a gynecologist. I told her the truth. She insisted on doing a pap smear and a pelvic exam. After the exam she asked me if I’d noticed a lump in my abdomen. She guided my hand over my belly from the left side to the right side. I felt it. She said it was probably a benign fibroid and that I should get a sonogram and then consult with a surgeon about getting a hysterectomy.

When I went to sleep I felt the lump again. It was big. It wasn’t the mattress. Continue reading