Tag Archives: queer

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

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

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

Born Blatant

malefemaleMy mother used to ask me “Why do you have to be so blatant? Why do you have to let everyone know that you are gay? Why can’t you keep your sexual life private like everyone else does?”

Her next line of defense was to ask “Why can’t you at least dress nicely when you visit or when we go out in public together?”

The subtext was that I should try to look normal so that no one (i.e. my grandmother or the neighbors) would know and so that my mother could pretend that everything was fine.

My mother knew that everything had gone wrong. It was only possible to deny reality. To hide the truth. To keep other people from seeing what she saw. To control what was visible. My mother believed that gay people should stay in the closet.

She tried to get me to look like the daughter she wanted. I couldn’t do it. I was born blatant. I will die blatant. Continue reading