I 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.
It would have made more sense to start by reducing my social isolation, but the conference proved that I wasn’t ready for that. I kept reading. I started my blog. It took a year and a half for me to make it to the transmasculine support group at the LGBT Center. Through that group, I now know a bunch of guys in various stages of transition and they know me. A dozen of us were there for the 2015 conference. It made a huge difference in how comfortable I felt being there.
There were thousands of short guys and tall gals and people who I assumed were transitioning but I couldn’t tell for sure which direction they were going in. I talked to a couple of trans guys who were in their first year of transition and a handful of non-binary and/or genderqueer folk. This time I could see that there were a lot of people in flux, trying to figure out where they fit in. This time I let myself feel welcome.
I went with my usual questions but mostly I listened. The two workshops that resonated were on starting transition over the age of forty, and exploring aging issues in trans male communities. I learned that testosterone dosing should be lower than the standard protocol if you are in menopause, and that it helps with hot flashes/night sweats. I also heard a lot from guys who had been on testosterone for ten or fifteen years and needed to go on low dose or stop taking it because of health issues (sleep apnea, diabetes, and high cholesterol). They said you have to listen to your body and be open to changing your dosing regimen once you have achieved your desired goals. I joined a Facebook group for trans guys over 40 moderated by one of the panelists.
The workshops also discussed why you need social networks and peer support. The highlight of my trip was running into other bloggers and readers. I met Kameron (janitorqueer) and their partner, and I had lunch with Shawn (Dawn to Don). I missed meeting a few other people I’d hoped to find. Next time I’ll make a plan. The contact made me feel real.
What I took away from the conference is that I still need to work on my social isolation. I need to find a primary care physician regardless of whether I take hormones and I need to learn how to listen to my body. I need to stop apologizing for identifying as both butch and transgender. I need to stop apologizing for not having it all figured out.