Tag Archives: body image

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

Being Visibly Queer

darn-butchI was visibly queer before I was conscious of being queer. Back then, I was one of those kids you could spot a mile away and say “She’s going to be a lesbian when she grows up.” Now, you’d probably say “That kid is going to transition as soon as they can.” I’ve never been able to hide it. I never tried to look “normal”.

I didn’t know that I was trying to manage my dysphoria, I just knew that I wanted to look like a boy. I knew that every compromise hurt.

All through elementary school I wore dresses to school because it was “the law”. I wore the least feminine dress possible, but a dress is a dress, even if it is olive drab. Putting a dress on felt like a punishment for waking up. I swore that when I grew up I wouldn’t get married, have kids, or ever wear a dress.

I said I was a tomboy, and that I didn’t mind being a girl. I claimed that I wanted to wear boy’s clothing and sneakers because they were comfortable and practical. I didn’t tell anyone that I wanted to be a boy, or that I was a boy. No one wanted to hear the truth, even though it was obvious.

I repeated versions of that lie right through my adolescence and into adulthood. The olive drab dress gave way to jeans and a flannel shirt. When I came out, I liked that I was visibly, recognizably, butch. What was once a problem was now a solution. I went from being an outcast to being part of a community. Continue reading

Dysphoria, Body Image, and Self-Consciousness at the Beach

The Beatles in Miami, 1964. Photo by Charles Trainor.

The Beatles in Miami, 1964. Photo by Charles Trainor.

It has been almost two years since I went swimming. It is a shame. I love the beach and I love swimming in the ocean.

I stopped going to the beach because wearing a women’s swimsuit hit the perfect trifecta of dysphoria, negative body image, and self-consciousness. My Speedo made me look like I had breasts (or more accurately, I could not ignore my breasts when I wore it). My Speedo displayed my hairy armpits and a tract of dark hair running from my crotch to my big toe. I wore a T-shirt and shorts over my swimsuit except when I was in the water.

I was envious of the guys. Gangly teenagers in baggy knee-length board shorts. Collegiate life guards with ripped abs and a full body tan. Pale dads with beer bellies rolling over the edge of their trunks. There was not a woman on the beach whom I wanted to look like. Not even the other butch lesbians.

I don’t want to look like a woman. I look a little less like one now than I did three years ago, but I’m not sure what I actually look like. I’m not sure what I want to look like; how much further I want to go, what I’m willing to do to get there. Continue reading

Transitioning While Butch

I’m three months post top surgery and I’m happy to report that I’m as comfortable in my body as I can ever remember myself being.

If I could do 100 of these I'd be buff.

If I could do 100 of these I’d be buff.

This morning I did push ups in the privacy of my living room; I was only wearing boxer briefs. The push ups were hard, but it felt great to have nothing bound, bra’d, or flapping around. I will do them at the gym when I can crank them out faster and in better form. Vanity.

I’m writing this post because I don’t know if the feeling is permanent, or fleeting. I’m writing this post to remind myself that right now I feel good; if I slip back into dysphoria I will still have proof that this happened. Continue reading

Why I Like Happy Endings

I'm not a goody two shoes. Boy in Little Lord Fauntleroy suit.

I’m not a goody two shoes.
Boy in Little Lord Fauntleroy suit.

I’m not a Pollyanna or a Little Lord Fauntleroy. I don’t expect the best from everyone, but I do like happy endings. Not happy as in a boy falls in love with and gets the girl, but happy as in the cop gets indicted by a Grand Jury after shooting an unarmed black man kind of way. Happy when justice prevails. The story doesn’t always go my way, but I am optimistic that things will change. Not on their own. Nothing changes without action.

For the first eight weeks after my top surgery, Donna refused to look at my naked chest. She was queasy about my surgery, and was afraid she would react negatively to the scars and the contours. The first four weeks were not a problem. I slept in the other bedroom because I snore like a rusty chainsaw when I sleep on my back. I wore a T-shirt and boxers around the house. I asked her if she wanted to look. I asked her what she was waiting for.

While Donna was in the hospital, and unable to get out of bed without assistance, I teased her by starting to lift my shirt. At one point she dared me to do it, but there were two nurses in the room and I didn’t think I could flash her without them noticing. Continue reading

Have You Always Had That Mustache?

Marcel Duchamp pins the mustache on the Mona Lisa (1919).

Marcel Duchamp pins the mustache on the Mona Lisa (1919).

Now that I’ve had top surgery, I’d like to stop thinking about what to do next and settle back into my butch/transgender self. Without feeling pressured to be on some trajectory with an endpoint. WIthout being swept away by someone else’s idea of the transgender narrative.

The pressure to keep going is subtle. The unspoken assumption is that next year I’ll be taking T and using the men’s room. That transition has a starting line and a finish line and once the starting gun goes off all the participants are full speed ahead on the shortest path. There is no place in that race for a meandering half-baked genderqueer person.

An acquaintance ran into me on the street and we chatted. Later, she asked Donna how long I’ve taken testosterone for (I don’t) and if I’ve always had a mustache. Yes. I’ve always had what I refer to as my “Fu” but no one said anything about it until I changed my name. My Fu is most prominent on my upper right lip. I neither want my Fu to spread and grow nor do I want it to disappear. I’m fond of it. I never shaved, plucked, or bleached it (chin hairs are another story).  Continue reading