Author Archives: Jamie Ray

About Jamie Ray

Read on! If you are interested in the life of a boy and her dog. I will try to post once a week on Wednesdays. Feel free to comment, like, follow, lead, or heel.

We Interrupt This Program

Jamie, demonstrating outside Trump's hotel

Jamie, demonstrating outside Trump’s hotel.

After writing once a week for four years. I’ve finally decided is time to switch things up and stop posting on schedule and only post when I feel like it. I like blogging. I like the community and the intimacy. I like reading about other people’s lives, especially people who are trying to figure out how to live authentically without blowing the rest of their lives to smithereens. But blogging takes a lot of time, and at this moment in history I want to focus on political activism and building community. I don’t want to resent how much time I’m spending writing.

Four years ago, when I started this blog, I had just legally changed my name and accepted that I was trans. I was struggling to hold onto my relationship with Donna. I had read enough books to practically get a master’s degree in queer and transgender studies, but I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do about my gender identity and gender expression. I set it up as a false dichotomy; stay butch or transition to trans man. It took me a while to see that although I always wanted to be a boy, I didn’t necessarily want to be a man. That there was a lot of space, and a lot of room for experimentation, in between butch and trans man. I am still exploring that space.

I haven’t run out of ideas for blog posts. Today, I was thinking about letting go of the self-imposed pressure to decide about testosterone (not making a decision is still making a decision) and my fear that not going on testosterone means that I’m not really trans. Another post I want to write is about setting high expectations for myself and dealing with my disappointment when I can’t live up to them. I also want to write about what it is like to do political work with LGBTQ folk I know from ACT UP 25 years ago (and anti-war work 15 years ago) and their difficulty accepting that I am in a different place now than I was then (including getting my name right!).

Donna protesting outside Trump's hotel.

Donna protesting outside Trump’s hotel.

Donna and I are also working together this time, along with our friend Alexis. It is great to be protesting with friends. The political group we are working with is Rise & Resist. It is so new that the website isn’t up, and you don’t get anything when you Google it. The Facebook page for Rise & Resist is here. It isn’t an LGBTQ group, but there are a lot of LGBTQ activists in it (the B and the T part of the acronym have been pretty quiet). There are a handful of people who look like they are trans (I know, I shouldn’t judge based on how people look) and at least two other people who introduced themselves with they pronouns. I’m hoping to chat them up so we can support each other.

It is hard to know what to do to fight Trump/Pence and the Republican agenda. It is easy to get frustrated and sink into despair. It is easy for us to turn on each other. I’ve been in groups that have self-imploded, and I’m hoping that Rise & Resist can work through those problems. Stay tuned.

Are You Going To The Women’s March?

i-cant-believeFor me, that is an easier question to answer than, “Are you a woman?” or “What are you going as?”

Yes. Donna and I will be going to the NYC Women’s March on January 21, a satellite of the “big one” in Washington, D.C. Right now, neither Donna nor I can handle the logistics of a 5 A.M. bus trip down to Washington, the cold, figuring out where to pee, finding a place to warm up, get something to eat, and finding someone to walk and feed Gracie while we are away. We can, however, roll out of bed and get to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza by 11AM. If it is too cold, if Donna gets too tired, if we need to find a bathroom, or if we have to drop out of the march, we will manage to find our way safely home by public transportation. In time for dinner.

I looked at the web site for the Women’s March on Washington (and the satellite marches in 200 other cities) to double-check that it was clearly open to all regardless of gender and gender identity. It is, but there is no list of demands, or issues, except for a mission statement which condemns the hateful rhetoric of the election, and reminds us that “women’s rights are human rights” and that “we will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society”.

Nothing about the right-wing attack on reproductive rights, abortion, and health care. Nothing about voting rights, poverty, and mass incarceration. Nothing about rape culture, misogyny, homophobia, or transphobia. Nothing to scare anyone away. Nothing for anyone to disagree with.

I have a complicated relationship to some traditional “women’s issues”. I never wanted to have a family (marriage or children). I was never attracted to men, or dated a man, or slept with a man, tried to get birth control, or tried to get pregnant. I was never afraid of getting pregnant or needing an abortion. While I was, and still am, afraid of getting mugged or bashed by men – I was not consciously afraid of being raped. I haven’t been groped on the subway or cat-called since I was in high school. This puts me in a very small minority; almost all of my friends actively use or used contraception, have kids, and/or had abortions (legal and illegal). Continue reading

Microdysphorias

microdysphoriasIf I were the resolution making type, I’d be making a bucket list for 2017. A list of what I thought I ought to do, or worse, what other people expect me to do. If I followed that list, I’d probably end 2017 lean, deep voiced, and on testosterone. Instead, I’ll probably continue my journey looking like a well-worn Steiff Teddy Bear.

What I would actually like to do in 2017 is to continue what I started to do towards the end of 2016, which is to focus on microdysphorias. Things in everyday life that cause me small amounts of pain or cognitive dissonance around gender. Some of them are microagressions, things other people do to me, e.g. when someone calls me Ma’am with attitude. Most of them, however, are caused by things I do without thinking, or because I didn’t plan ahead, or forgot to tell someone, or neglected to submit paperwork. For example, the other day I had to use a public women’s restroom in an unfamiliar place because I didn’t know a safe unisex alternative.

The things that kick up the most dust are: entering women only spaces (bathrooms, dressing rooms, locker rooms), receiving mail sent to my birth name instead of my legal name, being called by my birth name (some people never got the message or “forgot” even though it has been over 4 years), being Ma’am’d or referred to as a lady, wearing men’s clothing that doesn’t fit properly, wearing a women’s shirt that buttons the wrong way and worrying that I will run into someone who will notice, and filling out forms that require me to check off female. Continue reading

What Would Grace Paley Do?

Women from the Greenwich Village Peace Center, 1968. Grace is in the middle.

Women from the Greenwich Village Peace Center, 1968. Grace is in the middle.

I’ve only had a few positive role models in my life. Most of my role models were negative role models. I didn’t want to be like my mother. I didn’t want to be like my grandmother. It wasn’t only a lack of positive female role models. Even though I wanted to be a boy, I didn’t want to be like my brother or my father. There were so many people I didn’t want to be like.

I saw, and experienced, their character flaws. Short tempered. Manipulative. Critical. Stingy. Greedy. Arbitrary. Narcissistic. Powerless. Resentful. I swore that when I grew up I would do better. I would not repeat their mistakes.

My early exposure to teachers, other kid’s parents, school psychologists, and librarians did not improve my attitude towards adults. I thought adults were boring, tedious, and rigid. They all insisted that I act like a girl.

It wasn’t until I came out, and started doing political work, that I met older adults whom I could relate to. They were non-conformists. I saw their flaws, but I also saw their strengths. I might not want to be just like them, but I definitely wanted to pick and choose from some of their character traits.

I admired the serious calm anger of the pacifists at demonstrations. How they would walk right up to a line of riot police and then sit down, without flinching, without showing fear. At demonstrations they took to the streets and blocked traffic as if it was the most natural thing in the world. I admired their clarity and how their actions were consistent with their beliefs. I studied the history of non-violence. I read Gandhi, Dr. King, and Barbara Demming. Some of it rubbed off on me. Continue reading

The State Of My Dysphoria and Hanukkah Miracles

transgender-in-bathroomThis month, I celebrated my two-year anniversary of top surgery, and my one year anniversary of my nipple revision. My chest is not perfect, but it is perfect enough for me. It is a little uneven. I have a small dog ear under my armpit on the left side (that I somehow didn’t notice because I was worrying about the size and height of my nipples). The scars are visible across my chest. I look like I had surgery.

If I took testosterone it might not look as wonky when I’m shirtless. I’d have more muscles, a little less curvature, and maybe some chest hair to normalize it. Since I’m not planning on sunbathing or going topless in public, it will do. It looks great (I look great) with a T-shirt on. Even a thin light-colored T-shirt. I’m happy with it. Every day. It is a miracle.

I’m relaxed about my chest, except when I’m in a locker room, or when I’m getting an EKG from someone who doesn’t know my medical history. When I’m dressed, I completely forget about it until I find someone staring at me trying to figure it out. Face, chest, face, chest, face, question mark. It feels natural to me. It doesn’t always look natural to them.

Donna was concerned that my post top surgery euphoria would be short-lived. That my dysphoria would resurface and I’d focus on my face or on my bottom, that I would be restless and dissatisfied until I completed a binary transition. Even though I did not experience bottom dysphoria, and I never considered phalloplasty, I shared her fear. Continue reading

On Not Using The Locker Room

vintage-women-changing-on-beachI went back to the gym after taking two months off. As soon as I entered the New York Sports Club, I remembered why I hadn’t been back. I didn’t want to use the women’s locker room. There have been several critical moments in my transition where parts of my routine that I could previously tolerate suddenly became unthinkable. Where my ability to dissociate snapped. Where the cognitive dissonance broke the sound barrier.

Every time I entered the women’s locker room I steeled myself for a question, a comment, or a dirty look. Unpleasant incidents are not unusual when you are butch, gender non-conforming, queer, or transgender. I thought I should be strong enough to handle the occasional negative reaction. That it was their problem, not mine.

I expected that as my dysphoria decreased, as I became more comfortable in my body, I would feel more entitled to use the locker room. Instead, the opposite happened. I felt increasingly out-of-place there. I was forcing myself to do something that felt wrong. To me. I was actively  misgendering myself. Continue reading

Same Time Next Year

butch-body-shop

When you need an inspection miracle…

Last week I brought my 2006 Subaru Outback in for its annual safety and emissions inspection. Twice. Cars registered in New York City must be inspected within the city limits at a privately owned auto repair shop that is also a licensed Official Inspection Station. Each year it is a struggle to get a new inspection sticker without the repair shop trying to upsell or overcharge me for work that may not be necessary. I always think it would be easier if I were a man. If I were a rich man.

I let the Subaru dealer perform all the routine maintenance on the car. The master plan was to bring the car in to the dealer for its 90,000 mile servicing before the 2016 inspection sticker expired. The dealer can’t give me a sticker because they are outside the city limits, but at least they would catch anything that might cause me to fail. I didn’t follow the master plan. Continue reading