Tag Archives: Transition

Downward Dog or Warrior Pose?

warrior-pose downward-dogAfter two years of procrastination, I signed up for a four-week Fundamentals of Yoga class at Integral Yoga. I put it off because thin women in stretchy yoga pants intimidate me, and because I would not be caught dead in stretchy yoga pants. Yoga pants remind me of the hideous leotards and tights that my mother made me to wear to gymnastics and modern dance classes.

If I develop a yoga practice, I want it to feel aligned with my gender. I’m hoping that yoga will be another transition tool. I want it to help me manage my anxiety, calm my brain, keep me in touch with my body, and improve my flexibility and balance. I’m two weeks into the course, and I’m ambivalent.

I go to the gym for strength training and cardio. I don’t enjoy working out, but I like how I feel after I work out, and I like how it has changed the shape of my back and shoulders. It took me years to feel comfortable using free weights and barbells, and to stop worrying about whether anyone was watching me. After I work out I feel a little stronger and more confident. I can turn my brain off during a workout because I’m concentrating on my form, but the moment I step outside my brain starts chattering again. Continue reading

The Seductiveness of Masculinity

Prometheus and the Eagle

Prometheus and the Eagle

When I identified as a butch lesbian I envied other butches who were more masculine appearing than I am. The butches who were taller, slimmer, squarer, and more muscular. The butches who were mistaken for teenage boys, who had no curves, and looked natural in black boots and motorcycle jackets. I knew I couldn’t pull it off, I knew that if i tried I would look like a pear-shaped dorky wanna-be. Better to look like a butch nerd.

Before the transmasculine support group at The Center starts, while we are siting around in a circle, I compare myself against everyone else. I’m trying to suss out who reads as female, as transitioning, or as male. I pay attention to clothing, facial shape, voice, and beard growth. I know I am ranking all of us, with female at the bottom and male at the top, with pre-T lower than already on T. I’m hoping that I’m in the middle.  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

The Land of Enchantment

Near-Los-Alamos

New Mexico landscape

Pico Iyer wrote “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves.” in two weeks Donna and I will be going on an eleven day trip to New Mexico. It is the first time we’ve traveled together in two years. First, Donna had open heart surgery. Then, after she completed cardio rehab, we planned a trip to northern Italy. The week after we paid for our airline tickets she broke her ankle. Donna is walking with a cane, but it is the cancelled trip to Italy that still hurts.

New Mexico should be a painless trip. Donna won’t have to do a lot of walking. We won’t have jet lag. We will be driving though a beautiful part of the country, with many Pueblos, adobe churches, ancient cliff dwellings, and petroglyphs to visit. We were there 25 years ago, but I barely remember it, even when I look at the pictures.

Jamie, 1992, New Mexico

Jamie, 1992, New Mexico

We both need to shake up our routine, and traveling is the best way for us to do it. Sometimes you can only make sense of your world by stepping out of it. After we visit Santa Fe and Taos, I have no idea where we are going, except that I’ve insisted that it include a soak in a hot springs.

We are trying to not read too much into the trip, but we are both thinking that if we enjoy it then we might be able go to Italy in October. Donna doesn’t know if her current condition is as good as it is going to get, or whether her energy and walking strength will continue to improve. I don’t want New Mexico to turn into an eleven day stress test to see how much she can do before she wilts. We need to figure out what pace is comfortable, and make our peace with it.

Donna is anxious about the effect of the altitude (7000 ft. above sea level). I am anxious about the attitude. The airport security, public bathrooms, making a spectacle of myself by wearing trunks and a rash guard in the hot springs, and getting a massage.

I haven’t flown since I had top surgery. The last coupe of times I went though airport security were stressful. The TSA stopped me, patted me down thoroughly, questioned me, and swabbed my palms for explosives. There was also an unpleasant incident with a male security guard in the women’s restroom in the Houston Airport (this time we have a stop over in Dallas). I am bracing myself for another strange encounter.

If anything, this time around I am a bit more ambiguous, and a lot less likely to apologize when something happens. When I laid out my clothes for the trip (using Rick Steves’ Packing Checklist) I realized that I will be a study in blue. Blue striped T-shirts, blue plaid button downs, a chambray workshirt, blue swim trunks, and denim jeans. A blue zip hoodie and a midnight blue Gore-Tex jacket. Everything I am packing is something that I am 100% comfortable in. It is the best travel wardrobe I’ve ever assembled and not coincidentally, the most masculine.

One thing I like about travel is that I can leave my personal history at home, and be anonymous, or at least taken at face value. I experience myself differently in a new place, through my own eyes, and through other people’s eyes. Hopefully, I can take a break from my incessant questioning of where my transition is going, and just enjoy being where I am. The land of enchantment.

Notes: The Pico Iyer piece “Why We Travel” can be read, in its entirety, here.

The “Land of Enchantment” is the official nickname of New Mexico. Unfortunately, the official nickname of New York State is the “Empire State” which is much less enchanting.

Magical Thinking

fast-transitionWhen I was a child, I believed that I could become a boy by wearing boy’s clothes and acting like a boy. My first attempt to transition was when I was five. I got a short hair cut and I took a new name (I didn’t tell anyone that I changed my name, but I thought of myself as Paul). I refused to wear dresses. I waited for other changes to start happening. I waited for people to notice that I was really a boy. 

It was magical thinking. I really believed that if I tried hard enough and wished for it fervently, then something would happen. Then my mother would finally allow me to wear pants to school. Then my teacher would allow me to lineup with the boys. 

I refused to accept the obvious because it hurt more than insisting on the imaginary. I kept believing that it was possible, even probable, that I would wake up one day and be boy. While I waited, I lived “as if”.

According to Piaget, the prime ages for magical thinking are between two and seven years old. I started on time, but I missed the cutoff by about 50 years. I am a magical thinker. Continue reading

Reason for Visit?

LOW-DOSE-TESTOSTERONE-RISKSOn the part of the form that said “Reason for visit?” I wrote “discuss high cholesterol and the potential health risks of starting testosterone”. The Cardiologist listened to my heart with a stethoscope, took an EKG, looked at my blood work, asked me some questions about my exercise and diet, and asked about the circumstances of my parents’ deaths. I walked out with a prescription for low dose Atorvastatin (20mg once a week to lower my cholesterol) and a follow-up appointment in May.

He also gave me the green light for going on testosterone. He said that if I thought I’d be overall happier and healthier on testosterone then I should start taking it and we’d watch and manage my cholesterol. I should be ecstatic; my cholesterol was the only medical obstacle to starting testosterone. Instead, it sent me into another confused tailspin.

I talked to my Nurse Practitioner at Callen-Lorde. She offered to write me a prescription for testosterone and I told her I wanted to wait. She said to call her when I was ready. My next appointment isn’t until September.

Putting off taking taking testosterone feels different than saying “I’ve decided not to go on it.” Even if the outcome is the same. When I think about never going on testosterone, I get very sad. Crying sad. Raging at the unfairness sad.

It lets loose all of my childhood denial. I’m not really a girl, I can’t really be a girl, there has got to be a fix for this, I’m really a boy, and someday I’m going to turn into one. Somewhere in there I still have hope, even though nothing short of a time travel machine can turn me back into a boy. Starting testosterone won’t do it; it will make me look and sound like a man.

My reasons for wanting to start are straight forward. If I don’t try it then I will never know if it is the right thing for me to do. If I don’t like it, I can stop and call it quits. I want it to lower my voice. I want it to make people stop Ma’aming me. I want it to nudge me along.

My reasons for refraining are also simple. I might not like how I masculinize. Donna might not like how I masculinize. I will have a lot of explaining to do as I change, and I’m not sure what to say about it. 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