Category Archives: Butch Or Trans?

The Middle Aged They

My name is Jamie and my pronouns are they/them. This sentence does not come out of my mouth easily. I get flustered when I’m asked which pronouns I use. I don’t like being referred to as she/her. I never have and I never will. In the past two years I’ve made some half-assed attempts to request they/them pronouns, but then I backed off. I never interrupted the conversation to tell someone they made a mistake. This week I have to get over it. Superman had a mental block against Kryptonite. I’ve got a mental block against changing my pronouns.

dont-assume-my-pronounsThey/them still sounds forced and artificial to me, but it goes with Jamie. Both are neutral, both simultaneously raise and answer questions. Both are chosen by me, not given to me at birth. Maybe I forgot how hard it was to change my name, but shifting pronouns seems harder.

I regularly attend a transmasculine support group at The Center. Each meeting starts with a go round of names and PGPs (preferred gender pronouns). The assumption is that everyone knows what they want to go by. Most use he/him, some use they/them, and no one admits they use she/her. Augie says “My name is Augie and my pronouns are Augie.” I’m stuck in a rut saying that I’m Jamie and I am pronoun challenged. Continue reading

Terra Firma

Urbino, on a sunny day.

Urbino, on a sunny day.

I told Donna that no one wants to hear that she was disappointed by our trip to Italy. No one cares that it was rainy and cold for 12 days in a row, or that her intermediate level Italian wasn’t as fluent as she hoped (she eavesdropped, but she was unable to follow conversations). No one has empathy for someone who spent three weeks traveling in Italy and then complains about it.

I had a good time, especially in Venice. We stayed there for a week. It is a walking city, and late in the afternoon, while Donna napped, I went out for an hour stroll along the quiet back and side canals. It is possible to get away from the hoards of tourists; they mostly stick to a few major thoroughfares and the area near Piazza San Marco. Near Piazza San Marco, even in October, the crowds were overwhelming.

veniceshipleaderThe Venetians are trying to put some limits on tourism, especially giant cruise ships. I can relate to their anger. I live near Chelsea Market, which is mobbed by tourists. It is too frustrating for me to shop there on the weekend. Some days I just want to knock the selfie sticks out of my way and tell them that they are in a market, not Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. 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

Topless in the Locker Room – Part II

topless-at-the-gym-2

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

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

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