The 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 →
How does someone decide between living as a butch lesbian or a trans man? What if you make the wrong choice? What if neither identity feels authentic?
These questions stick with me through my journey. At first, and still to some extent, I was envious of trans men who were absolutely certain they wanted to transition. Who knew they were men. Who wanted everything to happen as fast as possible. Reincarnation. To make a clean break with their past.
I watched videos and read blogs. Some were too pat. Too insistent that everything was fabulous. They weren’t struggling, except to get coverage for top surgery. They proudly documented their changes on testosterone week by week. Then I watched a video about going off testosterone. They stopped because it didn’t feel right. Because they didn’t like how they felt on it.
Each detransition story I’ve heard is unique, but the unifying message is that they didn’t feel authentic being a man. It felt false, they didn’t recognize the face in the mirror, or they felt they’d lost their soul. Some accepted they were transgender, but were closer to genderqueer or non-binary than male. Some went back to butch. Some (re)embraced being female and gender non-conforming. Continue reading →
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 →
For most of my life I paid as little attention as possible to everything between my neck and my knees. I was shocked each time I got my period. I didn’t track it and I didn’t prepare for it. It arrived, I dealt with it, and then it was over. I was in so much denial that I left no room for dysphoria.
Between the ages of 21 and 42 I never went to a doctor for a check-up. Or to a gynecologist. I had a superficial physical each time I was promoted at work. Other than that I only went to the dentist and the ophthalmologist.
I didn’t want a doctor to tell me to lose weight. I didn’t want to spread my legs for a gynecologist. I scheduled a routine physical (in 2000) only when I realized that I was the same age that my Dad was when he dropped dead from an aneurysm.
The week before my doctor’s appointment I bought a new cotton futon for my bed. The old one was 12 years old and lumpy. I sleep on my stomach, but I was having trouble sleeping through the night. The nurse practitioner examined me, and told me I needed to lose 40 pounds. She asked me how long it had been since I saw a gynecologist. I told her the truth. She insisted on doing a pap smear and a pelvic exam. After the exam she asked me if I’d noticed a lump in my abdomen. She guided my hand over my belly from the left side to the right side. I felt it. She said it was probably a benign fibroid and that I should get a sonogram and then consult with a surgeon about getting a hysterectomy.
When I went to sleep I felt the lump again. It was big. It wasn’t the mattress. Continue reading →
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 →
Ryan 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 →
The game plan for my vacation in New Mexico was to go gender free as much as possible; to only use women’s facilities when absolutely necessary. I did nothing to soften or tone down my gender expression. I dressed comfortably and to please myself. I tried to carry myself as if I belonged everywhere I went. No shame. No apologies.
This plan worked better than any other plan I’ve followed. I found the family/accessible restrooms in the airports. I swam in the hotel pool in my trunks and rash guard. I also wore them in the two hot springs we visited. I had a serious massage at a spa where there was no mention by me, or the masseuse, of my top surgery/scars.
The only place that was a problem was the changing room in the spa. We stayed at the Ojo Caliente MIneral Springs Resort & Spa. We booked a room in the 1916 “historic” hotel wing. So historic, that guests must shower in the spa locker rooms before and after “taking the waters”. There was no shower in the room, or even down the hall. It is rustic, and less expensive than the newer rooms. A little like travelling on a budget in Europe. Continue reading →