Downward Dog or Warrior Pose?

warrior-pose downward-dogAfter two years of procrastination, I signed up for a four-week Fundamentals of Yoga class at Integral Yoga. I put it off because thin women in stretchy yoga pants intimidate me, and because I would not be caught dead in stretchy yoga pants. Yoga pants remind me of the hideous leotards and tights that my mother made me to wear to gymnastics and modern dance classes.

If I develop a yoga practice, I want it to feel aligned with my gender. I’m hoping that yoga will be another transition tool. I want it to help me manage my anxiety, calm my brain, keep me in touch with my body, and improve my flexibility and balance. I’m two weeks into the course, and I’m ambivalent.

I go to the gym for strength training and cardio. I don’t enjoy working out, but I like how I feel after I work out, and I like how it has changed the shape of my back and shoulders. It took me years to feel comfortable using free weights and barbells, and to stop worrying about whether anyone was watching me. After I work out I feel a little stronger and more confident. I can turn my brain off during a workout because I’m concentrating on my form, but the moment I step outside my brain starts chattering again. Continue reading

The Dissonance of Referring To Myself As Ms.

pink-pronounsLast week my boss asked if I was willing to extend my part-time consulting contract for one more year. He very nicely told me how grateful he was that I had come back to work in the subway schedules department, and how I had provided invaluable assistance to the staff by trouble shooting their software problems  (the important, but unofficial, part of my old job). After I agreed to one more year, he told me that he was very busy and asked me to write the memorandum to request that the state Board of Ethics grant me another waiver so that I could continue working.

In theory, writing the memo was no big deal. One paragraph stating why they hired me back in the first place, the second paragraph with a flowery description of what I’ve done for the department, the third paragraph outlining what they expect me to do in the next year (oversee the installation of a new proprietary software program), and the fourth paragraph closing with why it is important that the contract be extended. Standard bureaucratic drivel.

When I was in charge of the department, I wrote a hundred similar memo’s to HR to hire and promote managers. The memos were slightly formal and stilted.

I got hung up on the first sentence. The one that started with “The purpose of this memorandum is to request that Ms. Jamie Ray’s Contingent Temporary Employee contract be extended for an additional year.” Four paragraphs of writing about myself in the third person with Ms. and she used collectively eleven times. It was a strong and convincing memo, but it sounded off-key to me. I’m not that person any longer. I don’t think of myself as she or her or Ms. Continue reading

The Seductiveness of Masculinity

Prometheus and the Eagle

Prometheus and the Eagle

When I identified as a butch lesbian I envied other butches who were more masculine appearing than I am. The butches who were taller, slimmer, squarer, and more muscular. The butches who were mistaken for teenage boys, who had no curves, and looked natural in black boots and motorcycle jackets. I knew I couldn’t pull it off, I knew that if i tried I would look like a pear-shaped dorky wanna-be. Better to look like a butch nerd.

Before the transmasculine support group at The Center starts, while we are siting around in a circle, I compare myself against everyone else. I’m trying to suss out who reads as female, as transitioning, or as male. I pay attention to clothing, facial shape, voice, and beard growth. I know I am ranking all of us, with female at the bottom and male at the top, with pre-T lower than already on T. I’m hoping that I’m in the middle.  Continue reading

Sporting a Beard while Wearing a Dress

Alok Vaid-Menon of DarkMatter

Alok Vaid-Menon of DarkMatter

At each of the four NYC pride week events I went to (Trans Day of Action, The Drag March, The Dyke March, and The Big March) I saw a smattering of what, for the lack of a better term, I will call “people with beards wearing make-up and dresses.” Some were gay men, presumably cisgender. Others were either gender non-conforming, non-binary, genderqueer, or trans. I couldn’t tell by looking.

Some wore garish or exaggerated costume, some were in classic drag, and some were dressed in an outfit that would not have attracted attention if it was worn by someone else. I mean someone who “was trying to look like a woman is expected to look”. This last category, of mixed gender expression, is the most visibly jarring. Picture a masculine haircut, a trim beard, a little black dress, and pumps – or what Alok is wearing, above.

This is not an attempt at the air-brushed androgynous look. This openly contradicts the “rules” of passing. By showing a heavy five o’clock shadow or a beard they are not hiding or obscuring that they spent a significant part of their teen/adult life with high testosterone levels. Continue reading

Marches, Guns, and Safety

Not-My-Pride

Gay Pride 2015

The last time I marched at Gay Pride in New York, I swore I was never going to march in the parade again. Some friends in Queer Nation drafted me to help carry a banner. We were right behind the Walmart rainbow float “Give me a W, give me an A, give me an L – what’s that spell?” Doesn’t spell Gay Pride to me.

Christopher Street Liberation Day March - 1977

Christopher Street Liberation Day March – 1977

I loved Gay Pride when it was still the Christopher Street Liberation Day March. It was my favorite day of the year. It was energizing being around so many people who were out. I could feel the solidarity, even though I knew that the leather men, the Trotskyites, and the lesbian-feminists wouldn’t talk to, or work with, each other during the rest of the year. There were no official contingents, no floats, no corporate sponsors. Just a mass of men and women and a few in-betweens chanting “What do we want? GAY RIGHTS!  When do we want it NOW!” Or “Ho Ho Homosexual, Anything else is ineffectual.” I’ll take liberation over pride any day.

I remember what is was like when gay men and lesbians had no rights at all. When most people thought that it was safer to be in the closet than to be out. Our rights are fragile. What is happening in Russia and Turkey could happen here; Donald Trump doesn’t have to win the election for intolerance and intimidation to take hold. Continue reading

From Philadelphia to Orlando

Vigil for Orlando at Stonewall, 6/12/16.

Vigil for Orlando at Stonewall, 6/12/16.

Sunday morning I woke up to the news of the massacre in Orlando. A gunman with an assault rifle in a gay dance club. Forty-nine dead.

I was still on a high from my two days at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference (PTHC). I spent Sunday night at a vigil on Christopher St., and then went out for dinner with friends I knew from my ACT UP days. The vigil was supposed to be comforting, but it made me angry.

I understand self-hate. I understand hating your parents. I understand hating your abusers. I understand hating your government. I don’t understand killing 49 strangers.

I’ve spent a lot of time being angry. Angry at my mother. Angry at the government. Angry at a society that doesn’t see me or value my life. Angry at the media. Angry at the politicians who did nothing to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people dying from AIDS. The same politicians who do nothing to stop anti-LGBT legislation or to restrict access to assault rifles. They used AIDS as a political weapon against the gay community, just as they are using the Orlando massacre as a political weapon agains Muslims and immigrants. I hold them as responsible for the 49 deaths as the man who pulled the trigger.  Continue reading

For Ryan

 

Ryan_memorial_1Ryan Powell died last week. I know Ryan from the transmasculine support group at the LGBT Community Center. Ryan was sweet. He listened intently, and without judgement. In a group you can tell whether someone is really listening or just waiting to speak. He didn’t interrupt, he didn’t cut anyone off, he didn’t roll his eyes, or keep turning the conversation back to himself. He wasn’t trying to be cool. He said he was in recovery and struggling. He died of a heroin overdose. He was 34.

I know random things about Ryan, but not his whole story. It is hard to get anyone’s whole story. He told me that he transitioned in his teens, then realized that he was not binary, and went off testosterone. I know he didn’t like having facial hair. I know he liked to play with make-up and nail polish. I know he was an artist. There is so much I don’t know about him. Continue reading