Thursday, November 20, 2008

Trans Day of Remembrance. 08.

Some say that the subconscious has a memory of dates, others say that due to a collective subconscious we feel our loved ones and our community through ourselves.
Sometimes we are overcome with feeling that doesn't seem to come from anywhere we can understand. High levels of anxiety, tears from nowhere, fear and discomfort.
All from nowhere, until you look at a calender.
That was how my day started today. I didn't realize until after the anxiety had subsided, that it is the 20th of November. Trans Day of Remembrance.

Today is the day that my community is gathering to assemble publicly to remember those of us who have been brutalized, attacked, murdered and lost in the past year. It is never a short list, and the names and stories are always a mix of disturbing, painful, heart wrenching and disgusting.

Last year I was a speaker at the TDOR event in Victoria, as I was asked to be again this year, I was with my community as we joined together to cry, scream, hold each other and feel the strength found in our collective body. This year I am in school, in a school without a TDOR event, or an organized collective body to find strength in. Making my way into school, to a crowded noisy classroom where no one has any knowledge of the gravity of the day. Perfect way to add anxiety to anxiety. I know that my community is gathering today amongst the madness of the world, the millions who have no idea what today is to me, or the thousands of others that will be gathering today. My community is gathering to remember, to honour, and to acknowledge the strength found in our collective body. Although I can not be physically in the presence of my people, I am with them. My head and my heart are with the fallen today, and with those left standing amongst the dead. I feel as if I am standing alone today, but I reach out to all of you who have stood on your own everyday. Those of us who exist invisibly, or dream to someday blend in. Those of us who live alone, the only gender diverse individual around, and to those of us who live in loving supportive communities, vibrant with diverse and powerful individuals. Today we stand together, in remembrance of those who have fallen and those who face adversity everyday. Today we stand together in resistance of continued ignorance, violence and brutalization of our community.
None of us are standing alone.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Catching up on physical time.

Early on in my transition and before I heard people say that they never felt in their bodies before they made the adjustments to make them into "their" bodies. I never related to this. Until now.

Now hear me out, I have never felt out of my body, I have always felt sort of about where I was. But a time has come to my life where I feel that I am catching up on the physical.

I used to write a lot, think, draw, research, converse. My existance and identity were built around thoughts and feelings, living from my head. These days I am finding it hard to sit down and write or think too deeply, because I want to be moving, inspecting facial hair growth, touching myself, learning all about my body and how it works. I feel like a two year old boy who can't keep his hands out of his pants because he has just realized that he has a little penis in there and wants to know what it can do. A four year old boy that won't sit still to eat his sandwich cause he'd rather race up to the top of the slide and scream all the way down just to hear what his voice can sound like. And in many ways I am that. I am a young boy, getting to know myself physically. And all the changes that have been happening in my body give a constant ability to discover something new. All of this physical time is compounded, the years as a young teen that I never masturbated, the years as a young adult where I was a lazy fucker and couldn't bare to get up for much, well not saying that my laziness has ceased, but the ways I find to fill my me time have shifted. So excuse me if I am not a deep thinking emotionally intelectual individual. I have a whole lot of physical time to catch up on, I'm probably watching the way my muscles flex in the mirror, or debating which parts of my face to shave, or touching myself, or riding as fast as I can, taking physical risks of speed, height, agility that I never would've and probably shouldn't. I'll be ok. Its just a bit of catch up.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Public Forum Coming to Victoria

Public Forum on Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS)

Island Sexual Health Society is pleased to host

A Public Forum on Sexual Reassignment Surgery (SRS)

with Dr. Cameron Bowman & Alison Whelan

Friday June 13/08 at 7:00 pm

Lecture Room A240

Human Social Development Building

University of Victoria

Free Admission


Monday, June 2, 2008

David Letterman is an ignorant transphobic asshole.

This is what I sent to CBS in response to this video:
I am writing to express my disgust with the transphobic comments of David Letterman's list :top10 messages on the pregnant man's answering machine.
It demonstrates ignorance to a revolting degree when such a powerful figure in media makes statements that incite hate on Mr. Beattie and transsexual and transgendered people. There are many of us out there who are discriminated against, physically endangered and tokenized in our everyday lives. Your television network, shows, writers etc have a chance to change things here and now by making transphobia an absolute unacceptable practice. I would expect that your show hold a matter of accountability when it comes to descrimination whether that be based on gender, sex, race, ethnicity, physical ability etc. Please consider the hate that you are broadcasting and the wide scale impact that it has on people - not only Mr. Beattie who has been specifically targetted, but all transsexual and transgendered people who have been made into a "freak show" by your programming. Which we are not, we are hard working people with the extra added challenge of a physical body that doesn't work to present our gender as easily as yours. Consider your priviledge and consider your impact. This is disgusting and I will not be watching your network and encouraging others to do the same until a public apology is made.

Long time coming

It's been a while, I know, a month, a busy month with little to no updates on here. I f ind when that expansive of a time period passes it can be hard to amass it into something tangible, but I will try to touch on the big important things.

First, Hoo-ha follow up:
On the 11th of May we had our long awaited Hoo-Ha at Swans hotel. It was a gathering that I had spent months wondering if or how it might happen. Who would come, what they might have to share, and how it may change the course of events in the trans and related queer community in Victoria. I was pleasantly surprised with an attendance of 20 people, all ranging in backgrounds from long time activists and allies, to new fresh blood stoked to make big changes in the way we support one another. We had people representing advocacy groups such as UVIC Pride, PFLAG, AVI, and private activists, many with years invested in the betterment of transpeople's status and rights. We were able to put together a timeline of various projects we had worked on over the past 20 years, and compile an up to date resource list of what's happening now. From a group for transguys, to a trans archive in its early development at UVIC, we all have a lot going on, but it was clear to many of us that the lack of sense of unified community was a problem. The fact that there are still people who don't know of the resources that exist or how to access them is a problem, and the fact that many of us live this life alone, often with no sense of how many of us there are in this life together is a problem, both of them with visible solutions. Obviously these being big things can be very overwhelming. The ideas of how to organize a disconnected and often invisible community can be more than a small group in an afternoon could ever begin to handle, but we're taking the first baby steps of a community coming together. I'm sure that this afternoon will not be the last gathering of this group, and our friends, allies and others waiting in the wings, we're going places.

I however, have gone other places altogether. I have made the big move to Vancouver. I have started a new position in the field of AIDS prevention outreach work with youth, and am moving into a house this week with a number of straight men. I have never lived with straight men, with the exception of my own father and I really have no idea what to expect. I am also undergoing this move in a method I never would've considered doing. I am stealth, out as queer, but completely quiet thus far about my gender and my past. I have only met one of the boys so far, and intend to meet the rest of them and feel it out before I decide to maintain the stealth mission of passing in my own home, or out myself as a non-op transman to men who I assume have never questioned their gender, sexuality or considered gender and sexuality politics. I will for sure be following this progression online, as it is an exploration in my transitioned gender which I have yet to experience. I also am really looking forward to integrating myself in a broader queer community here in Vancouver, being that it is a larger place, and there are more queers of all genders, we'll see where it takes me.

Friday, May 2, 2008

the meaning of a better man

A couple of weeks ago I participated in an event organized by my good friend, a talented facilitator, as a part of his Women's Studies thesis. The event was entitled Nacho Average Macho, and it was a community discussion on men and masculinity. The evening was hosted in a local community initiated cafe in the community focussed alternative neighborhood of Fernwood. The participants ranged from grandmothers to men in their 20s, and the 3 panel speakers also ranged widely in perspective and experience.
The first panelist was a white academic man, who has studied fatherhood and the relationships and lessons we learn as men in this society.
The second panelist was a counselling professor from UVIC, miqmak background, giving him the experience of growing up in a more Matriarchal culture, access to first nations traditions of maleness and also the perspective as a someone in the counselling field.
The third panelist was me, a young transman, with only a couple of years experience living and passing as a man, and a life of observance on "the ways of men" from the outside.
All event participants were encouraged to think about question for Men that will improve the way things are. One of the big topics was about emotional understanding of one's self.

Who am I? What am I feeling?

Men in this western North American culture are not encouraged, taught or guided in answering these questions, unless we ask them of ourselves, and our sons and the next generation of men and their way of understanding masculinity.
In a brief comment during the small group discussion part of the evening I imparted my experience with emotions and testosterone; when I attempted to go off of taking my biweekly injection of testosterone for 2 months, I felt over loaded with emotions. Everything was very intense. Granted that is a complex situation to analyze, but it seems that at least partly testosterone limits the spectrum of easily accessible emotions, for me at least.
During this past week I have been moving and getting through a change in my life that I didn't expect to be affected very much by, but when push comes to shove, my emotions have turned around and slapped me up side the face.
My anger swelled to a point in my life where it reached explosion point and that was my over flow of emotion. I haven't cried in months, and even then, it is sometimes for odd circumstances, or I'll have a situation where I feel like tears would be most appropriate, but I feel that that certain expression of emotion is not as accessible as it may have been a few years ago. I can quite often answer the question, "how are you?" as "great" or "fine" but a lot of the rest of the time it's "not bad" or "going" or simply the internal "I really don't know what to say here."
It seems that even if I wasn't necessarily raised with the "ways of men" I have no problems not accessing my emotions. I think this is a challenge for me, all men and all people, because is obviously isn't restricted to men raised as men. Ask these questions of yourself:

Who are you?
What are you feeling?
When was the last time you checked in with yourself?
What does that check in look like for you? (for me it often involves writing, asking questions of myself and others, drawing, spending time alone, long bike rides, saunas etc.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Queer Victoria Online

There is a new website that I just found out about this afternoon, yet to be fully launched, but available and growing as a networking tool, resource and potential online home for our archive project.

Please check out

If you like what you see and want more, consider volunteering. The site needs people to volunteer as editors, approving postings and the like, and also is needing a group to help write up a policy/statement on terms of use and acceptable material etc. If you are interested please contact the site admin: editor(at)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Organizing Meetings and Safe Spaces

As I have written before, safe queer space in Victoria is something I feel passionate about. "Queer" spaces that are not safe for myself, my friends or anyone from my community are missing something big. It's a something about human rights, about human decency and about humanity. Brutal attacks on anyones safety especially anything in an apparently queer space is absolutely unacceptable.

This conversation has resurfaced after last Sunday, when the local drag king/performance troupe took to the stage at the one local gay bar and attempted to make a musical joke out of every racist stereotype out there. I hope they got the point that racism is not a joke when more than half the audience left, even after a public apology, prompted by audience complaints. I believe that the crowd didn't leave because they wanted to make a statement however. I believe the audience members left because they had been brutalized, shocked, and made to feel that they were not safe in that space, and at that they were at the potential mercy of performers who'd attempted to make hate funny. I may add that these performers were visibly white. Performing a number attempting to downplay racism. It may have been a response to complaints about racist material they had in their previous show , or not. But it reminded me of something I experienced in Albany last year.

I was in the Free School community while the organizing structure of this neighborhood with its own alternative school, community banking alternative, housing organization, parks, natural building projects, gardens, community art space etc, was being called out on its racism. Things were not being said, and nothing as greatly offensive was happening in the open. It was a conversation being had in a community about the bigger picture. Why an organized community wasn't organized to ensure equality, and committed to working towards toppling the dominant power paradigms of the oppressive world around us. It was complex at times, and heavy, but it was a community, not unlike the queer community in Victoria, which had come to the time in which it must realize that it becomes a safe, inclusive group dedicated to unity and combating the isms that pit us against one another and leave us on different rungs of the power ladder or we divide. And to be honest, we all lose out when we divide.

The time has come that all major organizing bodies within the queer world of Victoria (and across the board) need to adopt policies of anti-oppression. Ensuring that the spaces which they hold promote inclusivity, safety and awareness. Currently there are too many situations in which a marginalized section of the already marginalized queer community, whether it be queer people of colour, trans people, people with disabilities, queers of different body sizes etc are made to feel unwelcome, unsafe or not included in events, activities, spaces etc.

The time to move is now, and as some times happens in spring time, local activists and advocates, policy makers and enraged public are coming out of the wood work to undertake a large and very important project.

It has three basic parts:
1) Archiving the history of trans and queer activism and advocacy in Victoria.
2)Networking queers and allies with each other and the resources we have available to us.
3)Finding people who can work on drafting a safe space/anti-oppression policy for our organizations and the spaces we use; lobbying for that policy to be adopted and adhered to.

The meeting where all this will go down will be at Swans Hotel, in the Collard Room, on Sunday May 11th from 2-6. This space has a wheelchair accessible entrance on Store St, and a single stall accessible non-gendered washroom. Child care is available with prior arrangement by calling 381-0994. Beer is brewed and available on site and food can be ordered. Please bring any documents you may like to share with the group, stories, contacts, and remember that this space will work to be as safe and accessible as possible, and no hate will be tolerated.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Cisgendered- A Definition from the Urban Dictionary

1. cisgendered
22 up, 5 down

adj form of cisgender

The opposite of transgendered, someone who is cisgendered has a gender identity that agrees with their societally recognized sex.

Many transgender people prefer "cisgender" to "biological", "genetic", or "real" male or female because of the implications of those words. Using the term "biological female" or "genetic female" to describe cisgendered individuals excludes transgendered men, who also fit that description. To call a cisgendered woman a "real woman" is exclusive of transwomen, who are considered within their communities to be "real" women, also.

Some of my friends are trans, but I'm cisgendered.

by genevieved wisconsin May 25, 2006 email it
2. cisgendered
20 up, 8 down

Not transgender, that is, having a gender identity or gender role that society considers appropriate for the sex one was assigned at birth. The prefix cis- is pronounced like "sis".

John is cisgendered, he just holds to his role as a stereotypical male.

Safe Queer Spaces

Victoria is a town with a few too few queer spaces. In fact, it is a town with one gay bar, that gets away with too much because it is the only one. Without competition management doesn't need to hold agreements with performers as sacred, because they don't really have an option to go somewhere else. The lack of variety also has a double edged knife effect on the crowd, especially on weekends. It is THE leather bar, THE dyke bar, THE twink bar, THE bear den, THE queer space with a liquor license and a dance floor. Sometimes the mixing of everyone all together feels like a big happy rainbow splattered gay family, and other times it makes me want to throw up on people for being so disrespectful and ignorant.
Friday night was the UVIC Women's Studies pub crawl, so the crowd in the bar by the end of the night was pretty feminist heavy, usually a good thing to have a bar full of people who have some sort of understanding of privilege of safety, but one can't judge the whole bar by a core sample. Somehow, for whatever reason I am not entirely sure, but every week there seem to be a few straight couples that find their way into the bar. I appreciate and acknowledge that sexual orientation is not always as it seems, and sometimes the most het looking couples are really as queer as fuck, but then you get the ignorant ones. The man and woman couple who have never had to question or notice their straight cisgendered privilege. The straight couple that somehow end up in the mens bathroom at the gay bar at closing time.

I stand over the toilet, emptying my whisky filled bladder, I hear a woman enter, with her boyfriend.
"Cock lovers, I need to piss, oh fuckin cock lovers I need the can... "
I can only guess she is in here as to not be more than 5 ft from her boytoy therefore preventing her becoming potential lesbian bait.
My stream becomes a dribble and I pull my pants up and walk out of the stall, the urinals to my left.
"Yeah, I can piss in the urinal just look at my huge cock, don't you just love it?"
I avoid eye contact with the girl. Make my way over to the sink to wash my hands. She turns and follows me, approaches me, "You have to excuse me, I'm not judgemental, I don't want to judge you, but I saw you out there dancing, I think you are beautiful, I just want to know something."
"Oh ya?"
"Are you a man or a woman? Cause I saw your big hoop earrings and your breasts and I assumed, but then you come out of the stall in the men's room where you were obviously just standing and pissing into the toilet and your voice, and your moustache and well. I am not judgemental, I just want to know."
"Oh ya, so you want to know which pronoun you should be using when you want to gossip about me later? A much more respectful way to ask that would be privately, asking if I had a perferred pronoun, but thats not something I would usually give up in a first conversation with someone, especially if that was the entire context of conversation."
"I am not trying to be disrespectful, I just want to know."
"Well maybe my gender isn't public knowledge. Also- So you know, it would probs be better to just avoid the use of pronouns or gendering if you are wanting to shit talk someone that you couldn't peg their gender. It's not appropriate to ask, it's none of your business, so when you are wanting to gossip about me later you could just refer to me as the person at the bar with a completely confusing and indeterminate gender. That'd be just fine for me."
"But honey, I think you are beautiful, I just well... want to know if you are a man or woman."
"Ok honey, maybe you didn't get that I am not going to tell you, and as a very important lesson- NEVER EVER question someones gender in a mens bathroom."
"But, i'm out of place too, I am a woman in the mens room."
"True, and you will walk out of here and still be a woman who was in the mens room."
"I walk out and I am that freak, the one that is going to get their ass kicked, or just not given the same opportunity to get fucked cause some bitch in the bathroom felt that it was her job to attract attention to my confusing gender in the mens room. Maybe you don't understand the safety concern here, people die over this shit."
Boyfriend comes out of the stall, "If it's MtF just call it a trans."
"It is not an appropriate neutral pronoun, and you are wrong about me."

I turn and exit. Leaving the hets in the mens room left to puzzle over my gender I grab my coats. On the way out I follow them up the stairs and hear her say,
"God, why do some people get soooo defensive?"

On that note I'd like to get some business cards printed with my web address for such situations, so I can just say,
"This space has certain guidelines of respect, you crossed the line, and if you don't understand what I am saying, or what it means to be respectful i'd ask you to please stop asking me what my gender is, and instead read up about why I might not want to tell you."
Anyone have printing hookups?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Trans Day of Resistance Speeches: HK Doty

We don't fit into the assigned. We feel cramped in the restriction and out of place in the norms. It takes some of us years, or a lifetime to find the why or how. Repositioning where we fit on the one or another of binary gender.
We inject, ingest, digest, dissect and reconstruct our bodies and identities to find some place we can fit better.
I find myself naked, leaning on the bathroom counter. Shower steam thick, smell of alcohol swabs increasing the nausea caused from the inch and a half needle loaded with testosterone in my hand. Destination: Glute.
And my arm freezes. A slight prick of blood starts to drip out of my cheek and a flush fills my face. I become dizzy, fall to my knees and hold the syringe in hand.

"Maybe you have such trouble doing your own shots because you shouldn't be taking them."

A stronger, sharper pain strikes deeper at the thought.


I mean after all gender is just a construct right?
Could I move past the "need" to transition.
Theoretically, But theory is always written by someone else. We all have unique personal experience of gender. For some of us it's something consistent, others can't track a common gender from day to day. And we all have our own way of understanding and feeling that out.
Unfortunately there is a common misconception that transitioning is a common journey, with a beginning, middle and end. The very terminology we use to describe trans genders implies this. Male to Female, Female to Male. Transition complete.
When applying for social assistance a couple of years ago I listed my transitional gender as a barrier to my employability because I found that my confusing gender didn't lure peopel into hiring me, but instead not knowing how to read me, dismissal was an easier option. The woman asked for clarification, "So you were born female, becoming male?"
Simplest Answer: Yes.
"So when will you be done?"
Simplest Answer: We won't.
This isn't something that is at any point done. We aren't going anywhere. We aren't going to dissappear into binary genders, as much as some of us want to, and do, we all start somewhere and there will always be someone finding their way, and many of us who find that our way is NOT to one or another binary gender. Although this is not a lesson easily unlearned. We gender from birth, before even. In utero the question, "Is it a boy of a girl?", is the first asked after fertilization. We learn as children that a misgendering is embarrassing and as young adults that it is a fearful disgusting insult. The medical system that holds the keys to prescribed assistance requires a certain understanding of one's gender and associated dysphoria to even become accessible.
Luckily there exists an alternative. A small but growing number of us who don't fit into the boxes on M or F questionnaires. We resist using our transitions to reinforce binaries and our allies who are teaming up for events like today's. Just this past year we have seen the forming of a trans alliance here at UVIC. We have see the first Trans Day of Remembrance in Victoria this past November memorializing the trans people who've been victimized in violent crimes since the previous November. We have seen a collective resistance to transphobic policies at a catholic hospital in Vancouver which refused to perform a scheduled non- SRS surgery on our friend when they discovered he was trans. We have seen growing numbers at drag and gender bending shows throughout Victoria. We have seen the formation of a collective to plan a surgery fund raiser to help pay for his eight thousand dollar chest reconstruction. We have seen close to 200 people come out and support that fund raiser and friends and allies banding together to provide post-surgical care for members of our community.
And now here we are, collecting together to stand up against fear driven violence, transphobic decisions at the hands of government, like for example the recent decision to cancel all in province SRS surgeries despite trained and talented doctors in Vancouver waiting to help us, and the everyday challenges thrown at us by living in a world obsessed with binary gender.
By being here with us today you are making a difference, I invite you to join us this afternoon to learn more- learn ways to be a better ally and make this campus, this city and our world a safer and more diverse place for us to all live.

Trans Day of Resistance Speeches: List of Names

Sally Camatoy: Dubai, November 19 2007. Found Dead on the pavement near Sharjah Mall, after going to a nearby computer shop around noon.

Kellie Telesford, London, November 21 2008. Found at her home on Leander Rd, Thorton Heath, on 22nd November 2007, strangled to death.

Elly Susanna, Jakarta, November 7th 2007. Killed during a police raid, her body was found partially undresses and signs show she was raped, likely by the police.

Gabriela Alejandra Albornoz, Santiago Chile, died on December 28th 2007 after being stabbed in the throat. She and a pair of colleagues were reportedly working a street corner when they were approached and attacked by a group.

Patrick Murphy, Albuquerque, NM, January 8th 2008, Shot three times in the head by a long time lover, after apparently calling him "an ass."

Stacy Brown, Baltimore, January 8 2008. Found dead inside a house in the 300 block of W. North Avenue near Gwynns Falls Park. Shot in the head, in the house shared with Brown's mother and sister. People were home when police arrivede, but have yet to explain the circumstances of Brown's death.

Fedra, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, January 22 2008. Found lying face up in a pool of blood in an alley.

Three unnamed trans people (plus 7 gay men) reported missing in Iraq, on January 24 2008. Taken by a Shiite cleansing campaign. Missing, presumed dead.

Ashley Sweeny, Detroit, February 4th 2008. Shot in the head. Her body was later found dumped in the east side.

Saesha Stewart, New York, February 9th 2008. Stabbed by an ex-con who discovered that she was transgendered.

Lawrence King, Oxnard CA, February 12 2008. Shot in the head by a classmate in their middle school computer lab.

Simmie Williams, Fort Lauderdale, FL, February 22 2008. Gunned down by two young men for wearing a dress.

Adolphus Simmons, Charleston, SC, February 22 2008. Found bleeding from gunshot wounds on the front steps, died while waiting for the paramedics.

Lars Watson, Jan 06 2008. The human heart does not pause for pronouns. It just keeps beating until it stops. Lars was genderqueer and the daily grinding down got to them.

Cameron McWilliams February 15th 2008, committed suicide after telling their mother they wanted to wear make up and being told they weren't allowed. The mother had previously teased Cameron for wearing thier sisters underwear. Cameron was 10.

Trans Day of Resistance Speeches : Chris Tuttle

Here are the transcripts of some the speeches from Tuesday' s event at uvic. The first speech was by Dana Waldman (still awaiting copy for that). Brodie Metcalfe spoke about legal stuff in a very well researched speech on the gay panic defence (also don't have copy for that). Then Chris Tuttle read her speech;

When I started to question my gender, I realized there really wasn’t a way to stay in the closet and still be happy. Every change that I wanted to make to my life that deviated from the heteronormitive male standard came not with empowerment and confidence, but with embarrassment and ridicule. I had to defend my gender the moment I started questioning it, just to save my sanity. I didn’t identify as gay, at least not how I saw the word then, but the word suddenly floated around with my name. So I came out as trans, earlier than I probably should have, because if I was going to have to defend myself, it might as well be for what I really am, not what people think I might be.
At this point I still wasn’t on hormones, hadn’t had time to grow out my hair, and had almost no clothes to wear. In short, I didn’t pass. Not passing meant I had to defend myself against practically everyone I saw or met for the first time. I’ve never been in as many staring wars with bewildered or hostile strangers as when I didn’t pass.
Worse than stares and sneers were the conflicts, being bullied out of lines, having tea thrown at me, being yelled at or “prayed for”.
The worst of all were the silences. So many people I knew stopped talking to me, barely acknowledged my presence. Every time this happened I couldn’t help feeling like they didn’t want to be seen associating with a tranny. It still hurts. These people aren’t strangers, they’re people that know me and had, up until I came out, decided I was worth talking to. The silence of the people who watched while someone ridiculed or intimidated me was like cold suffocation.
Slowly though, I got into the medical system and got a diagnosis and a prescription. My wardrobe rounded out along with my hips. Now, a little over a year after coming out, I’m finally starting to feel comfortable in and with my body. If I’m not perfectly happy with how I look, well who is?
Being comfortable with myself means that when someone first sees me, that little visual processor in people’s brain often yelps “girl” instead of “boy”, or “trans” first, before I even say hi. Of course, this is part of what I’ve been waiting for all my life. My gender is not just about how I see myself, but also about how others see me.
I’ll never pass all the time, and there is always that risk of an unprovoked attack, but to some extent starting to pass is pulling me out of the realm of constant physical danger from strangers. Sadly, I’ve been seeing new ways in which people can be hurtful.
I don’t feel like I should have to tell someone that I’m trans when we first meet if they don’t realize it. I consider myself pretty open about my gender, but sometimes I feel like talking about my privates is too much intimate personal information to bring up casually. I want to be treated like a woman. I am a woman, and in a culture that is still so rooted in gender binary, the best way to make sure people get their pronouns right is to make a first impression as at least potentially female.
It’s not that I don’t want people to know all aspects of who I am; it’s not that I’m trying to hide anything. I just don’t want to talk about it right away with everybody I meet. Otherwise I start to feel like the only way I’m defined in the world is through my gender, or my deviance from it. And as important, as critical as my gender identity is to my life, there is more to me than just that.
Even more recently in my transition, I’ve started to realize that I don’t need or want to pass as “male” or “female”. My gender identity lies somewhere in between. After fighting so hard for the freedom to express my gender identity, I don’t want to have to fit into another gender presentation that doesn’t fit just to be safe. I don’t want to be defined by my birthgender even after I depart from it by being labled a MTF or a transwoman. I’m trans*, queer, and genderqueer, and I prefer female pronouns, that’s specific enough.

How I’d like to be treated:
I don’t mind being stared at, but when or if I meet your gaze, I’d like to see, not a look of disgust or horror or bemusement, but a smile.
I’d like people who find themselves attracted to me to realize that it’s O.K. It doesn’t take away from your manliness, or your queerness. It doesn’t make a straight person queer, or a queer person straight to date me, or to sleep with me.
I’d like for people to know that I’m not going to sleep with you before making sure you know what’s going on.
If I come out to you, I’d like you to think for a minute or two before you say anything. A lot of unintentional pain can stem from saying something you don’t actually mean.
I’d like people to know that if I do talk to you about my past and my gender, it usually means I think I can trust you. Please don’t betray that trust. It’s up to you to figure out what that means.
I want people (by people I mean friends, acquaintances, class and workmates, not complete and total strangers) to feel comfortable talking to me about my gender if they want to, but to be respectful of some of the more private details. I’d also like people to remember that not everyone within earshot is educated about gender. Quieter voices are nice sometimes.
.If you knew me before I transitioned, then I know you don’t have an obligation to me to not spread rumors, or to outright tell people things that might not be common knowledge. But I’d like you to remember that many little hurts can be devastating. And the amplified effect of still living where I grew up means there is a large potential for the little hurts that come from people talking behind my back. Besides, just because you know my past, doesn’t mean you understand how I identify now.
I’d like for my gender presentation to not matter so personally to strangers around me who only have to interact with me in the small, superficial ways throughout the day.
Thank you - by Chris Tuttle.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Amazing Week of Action

The events of the past week have been amazing. It's been crazy awesome to have what feels like a solid core of trans people and queers and allies gathering together to cause a fuss, teach each other, share stories, make art etc etc... Its been a bit utopic.

Out of the past week the following ideas have emerged:

-The necessity to archive our actions, including doing the research into the past, potentially organizing a gathering of people that have been involved to share what happened before we started to keep track.

-To establish a website/wiki/blog that members of our community have access to, providing organizing resources, event promotion, online forums and discussions, resources such as a list of trans friendly doctors, links to existing and allied groups. This will be called TRANSACTION- demand change.... or something along those lines. A.T. has agreed to design a logo, patches etc. We need some web saavy folks who might know how to put together something like that.

-That trans people are beautiful, strong, sexy, empower(ed/ing) and irresistible members of community (well we already knew that, but this week was a good reminder.)

Over the weekend I have a lot of writing to catch up on here, including transcripts of the speeches from Tuesdays event and photos of the quilt (still in progress by the way, and in search of inside temporary spaces to put it up for people to read and admire- it's BIG... you'll see...)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Featured in the MONDAY MAG.

Fighting Back

By Bill Stuart

A day of action to combat transphobia and homophobia

The recent brutal killing of 15-year-old gay teen Lawrence King in Oxnard, California, at the hands of his classmate was a chilling reminder that hate-fuelled acts of violence are sadly not a thing of the past. This week at UVic, a day of action planned to shed light on the ongoing problems of homophobia and transphobia. Transman activist Hayden-Kori Doty took some time to answer Monday’s questions about the rally and the cause.

Monday: Tell Monday readers about what is planned for this upcoming rally.

Hayden-Kori Doty:  The demonstration and action planned for the 25th of March at UVic is really a four-part event consisting of a rally, workshops, film-screening and community-building art project, all to resist the fear-based violence that threatens queer and trans people today. The event is being held in response to the unusually high numbers of reported homophobic and transphobic attacks and resulting deaths since the Trans Day of Remembrance we hosted on the 20th of November. The number of murders in the last four months alone is equal to the total number of trans people killed in an average year. The rally is a reaction to this violence.

Monday: Who should attend this week’s rally at UVic and why?

HKD:  It is open to everybody. Anyone who has heard of these killings, such as the murder of 15 year old Lawrence King, and would like to take a stand against the hate and injustice that causes these acts to continue is welcome. Also, anyone who would like to learn more about queer and trans people, our stories, our challenges, and learn how to ally themselves with the concerns of queer members of our community. UVic students are highly encouraged, but we would also really like to encourage members of the off campus Victoria community to come over to UVic and get involved.

Monday: How can people combat transphobia and homophobia?

HKD: By learning more, and taking a personal responsibility to educate themselves. Ignorance is one of the biggest causes of transphobia and homophobia. The workshops on Tuesday will be a very good opportunity to access knowledge and resources, but there are also endless resources available online and in book collections like the one at the UVic pride office. The number-one way someone can combat this fear based violence is by treating every person with their due respect and speaking up when people are not being treated with respect.

Monday: What local resources are available for people who have experienced transphobia and homophobia?

HKD:  UVic Pride provides a safe space for queer and ally students, faculty, and community members to hang out. The Anti-Violence Project on campus provides a safe space for anyone suffering from abuse and advocates for equality in relationships.  Student Services and Counselling services provide support for students. There is a sexual assault centre downtown to provide support for victims of sexual assault. The Island Sexual Health Society provides sexual health clinics, education and online resources.

We are also hoping to build a network out of this event.

Monday: Can we call ourselves a civilized society when hate-fuelled murders like those of 15-year-old Lawrence King are still occurring?

HKD:  Seeing things like this continuing to happen reminds us that we still have a lot of work to do. There is still a need for education, resistance, the creation of safe spaces and an elimination of the tolerance that the legal system and media have for this sort of violence.  We—transpeople and sexual minorities—are still widely misunderstood and the fact that we are still dying for that proves there is something seriously wrong.

The rally against transphobia and homophobia takes place starting at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 25 at UVic. Check or contact 472-4393 for details.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Problematic Media Representations

I need to comment on media, and the ways that the ill informed public precede to understand transsexuality, transgenderism and the trans experience.
I must say that first off, I have benefited from the time and space in which I am who I am. I live on the west coast and have begun transitioning in the 21st century. Even dealing with medical professionals for whom I am their first trans patient, I am not required to write the book for them. They have heard of transsexualism before. Common patient care plans are accessible, a standard of care does exist, not saying that either of these are conclusive or complete. When confronting transsexualism in family situations, especially considering a generation gap, having my grandmother be an Oprah fan has paid off on the basic introduction.
But, sometimes I feel that the media leave so many gaps in their version of our story, yet delivering it with such confidence that viewers can feel like they've really learned something true and profound. I come across the whole variety of perspectives during the late night youtube scan but I thought I'd share one tonight, with my commentary and rebuttals.

Section One, two and three of a program on FTM transitions, from what looks like a mainstream (LivingTV2: a British) TV Station.
Dirk seems smart, recognizing that his family and potential stressful relationships with them, would be more pain than it would be worth, the narrator plays this emotional well being as tragic. The way the narrator describes the government bureaucracy process as dehumanizing is right on the money, although the following example is so problem free it might be hard for someone who has never been through anything similar to imagine how awkward, confusing, stressful, and dis-empowering that experience can be. The narrator has no need to reveal Dirk's former name, the people in the office don't reference it so it would be of no confusion the the viewer, and is used as a purely sensationalizing tactic to make viewers associate Dirk with his "female self". This is the same sort of tactic employed with the strings of old family photos, images of transmen with long curls and dresses to show the woman in them, however forced, dysphoric and awkward as he might be.
"Exactly why transexuals should struggle for social acceptance is not clear, " this statement itself is incredibly unclear, is she pondering why we aren't accepted, or why we would bother to fight for acceptance and civil rights. It doesn't seem to match up with the clips from Jamison Green's interview and I can't seem to think why they chose that as the intro to an interview with so many possible feeders. Jamison, being experienced with media like this and being an old hand in the trannie game doesn't have any problem talking about his life as a young woman, but this is obviously something that is played up for the same reason I explained before.
The media also loves sensationalizing transsexuals through science.

So granted there is little chance that a medicalization of trans people is avoidable in this setting, at least they could get terminology right. This is horribly confusing, you would think they are talking about FTMs when they use the term transsexual male. Only when they describe taking estrogen one would realize that they are actually slipping in something about transwomen. The internal debate of the narrator, wondering if biological proof that transsexualism is real would be enough to legitimize sexual reassignment surgery is something which I sometimes forget exists. I socialize with so many people daily who have tattoos, piercings, and other body modifications, and they seem to understand changing ones body and feeling good about making those choices far more than mainstream straight edgers can seem to wrap their heads around.

The doctor from Toronto seems to feel that psychological assistance could be a viable alternative to transitioning, which, depending on the method could work for some, but I'd like to take his idea and kick it to the next level, what if instead of analyzing the life out of trannies, why don't we analyze where societies problems with transpeople lie and re-educate ourselves about how to teach gender to our children to take the stress of a binary gender system off of our potentially trans or gender variant children. Giving them lessons of empowerment, diversity and self confidence in the face of adversity.

The show has a pretty clear take on wanting us to know the "women" behind all of these transmen. Introducing post-surgery Rian as Rachael was completely unnecessary, and more confusing to the storyline, as the narrator then has to jump back and forth over pronouns like a flea on a dog. If "she" is living full time as a man, why would the narrator/writer/producer feel required to give "her" such an introduction? Is it because we are about to meet his identical cisgendered twin sister? Is is because he isn't on T? Showing his sister apologizing and legitimizing her excuse for not using his name allows people to feel that that sort of behavior is for some reason acceptable. Guess what twin sister, you probably aren't the one who is the the most "troubled" by this, it's probably more something your brother could really use your support on. This is too common, family and friends wanting trans people to make concessions for them, because it is soooo hard to remember what name or pronoun to use. Well, think for a moment how hard it could be to be the one called the wrong name or pronoun, again and again and again, sometimes in settings where that sort of incongruity is exactly what Dirk's girlfriend mentioned about safety concerns of transpeople. The same incongruous safety concern occurs when a male appearing individual gets called Mary or Alice in the wrong place at the wrong time by some family member or friend who is "having trouble"with their transition.
As for raising kids with trans gendered parents, aunts, uncles etc, we all have different levels of personal comfort on the subject and to what level it is public knowledge. But like I said before; if we change the way we teach gender, and if our infants understand that girls aren't always girls and boys aren't always boys, and introduce the family member the way they would like to be referred to with the level of disclosure that they feel comfortable with those lessons are a whole lot easier to get into.
Testosterone can change your physical appearances greatly, and some might say that they are nearly unrecognizable, but the way that the narrator describes this makes it seem like some sort of jekyll and hyde alter ego monster transformation.

She continues with sensationalized terms "like inner turmoil of reversing sexes". She describes Dirk's transition as something that has cost him dearly with results uncertain, and that Rian's loneliness comes and goes. Taking these human feelings, that are genderless, of wanting to be loved, and feel like you belong, and attaching them intrinsically to ones transition is a false presentation. The media loves portraying transsexuals as extraordinary beings on extraordinary quests, facing extraordinary circumstances to be perfectly ordinary. I'm sure there are lots of us extraordinary beings that are instead looking for space to be extraordinary, but I don't see us finding it on the commercial airwaves anytime very soon.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The story of organized history

I have a friend in town who has been involved in queer and specifically trans groups and activism in town for years: longer than I have known that being trans was possible let alone identifying as a transperson. Sometimes when we get together she'll tell me stories about when a weekend trans conference happened in Victoria maybe 5 years ago, and things that have happened with various attempts to start groups and get things going in the past. I haven't researched the past, and learning about it especially on such a specialized level of the small town of Victoria's trans history. I am not a historian. But, I would like to know where we've come from, what's been tried, what has succeeded, or failed, and why, and where did the people involved disappear to, do they still want to be involved, or have they got over transactivism? So many questions, but mostly, ARE YOU STILL OUT THERE??? I want to get all the people who have been involved or interested, or burned out in the past to come out in 2 weeks to the event on the 25th or 28th. This could be it, we can bring all the parties together and develop something here.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

March 25th Event at UVIC

This year has seen an unheard of number of queerphobic (transphobic, homophobic etc: a fear of people of different gender presentations and sexualities) acts of violence have occurred globally. Every year at the end of November campus groups, trans activists and LGBTTIQ groups world wide gather to remember the dead of the past year. Each year typically 15 to 20 names are read at Trans Day of Remembrance vigils from San Francisco to New York, and Victoria to Rio. Many of the victims are the result of unsolved crimes, bodies found floating in bodies of water, or shot on the street corners. Many of the crimes are obvious in their intention - hatred and fear of people living in a way that doesn't fall within the "norm". Many of the dead are former sex workers, a profession which is one of the few options available to some trans people, who have been judged, dismissed and fetishized.

This year since the 20th of November (less than 4 months) the world has seen the same amount of deaths as is usually seen in an entire year. One of the most recent was the death of 15 year old Lawrence King in Oxnard California on February 12th. He was shot in the head by a classmate, Brandon McInerney, 14 in the computer lab of their school. It is believed that he was killed for being openly gay and presenting in a feminine manner.

This has caused action to be stirring in lgbttiq circles and activist networks around the world including the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Gay-Straight Alliance Network (GSA Network), and locally UVIC Pride.

Uvic Pride will be holding a demonstration, workshops and quilting bee during the week of the 25th of March. The demonstration will begin at 1:30 outside the Library at the Fountain area of the main quad. There will a die-in, during which the names of the dead since november 20th will be read and visually represented. Hankies of various colours will be decorated and hung around the fountain, all holding the stories of queerphobic violence. Transactivists and speakers Dana Waldman, Chris Tuttle and myself will be speaking. There will be 2 workshops directly following the demonstration to give a better grasp on terms and appropriate ways in which to stand up in resistance to queerphobia. Later in the afternoon a film will be screened. All of the hankies from the demonstration will be transported to a different location (TBA) for a quilting bee on Friday afternoon. The quilting bee hopes to give all participants a chance to share, build a unified resistance and create a large scale visual of community coming together to heal and resist the ignorant acts that threaten our safety and well being.

Organizers would like to see this event plant the seeds for a trans network in Victoria. There have been many attempts over the years, but typically there tends to be a divide between FTM and MTF communities, and as with many activist groups, organizers burning out and groups fading out. Please attend these events or contact me if you are interested in being a part of this new step to an allied trans front on Vancouver Island.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cancelled Surgeries in BC

I couldn't really re-tell it better, so here is the letters I referred to in my last post.

Also stay tuned for info about day to resist gender and sexuality based violence and deaths held at UVIC on the 25th and 28th of March. I will be a guest speaker.

To all of Dr. Bowman’s Patients and Referring Physicians:

As the Head of the Division of Plastic Surgery at Providence health Centre, I would like to let you know about an unfortunate situation. Due to budgetary constraints, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is no longer able to provide the same level of funding and resources to enable Dr. Bowman to operate in the public hospital system. For the time being, this translates into a reduction in Dr, Bowman’s ability to run his practice at the current level. Ongoing negotiations are currently underway, but at this point Dr. Bowman is unable to utilize our hospital resources for treatment of his patients until the situation is resolved.

Please note this is in no way a reflection on the quality of work that Dr. Bowman has been doing. The Division of Plastic Surgery fully supports him during these contractual negotiations and is actively trying to secure resources to enable him to continue to provide medically necessary services to his patients.

At this point, you will need to contact Dr. Bowman’s office to make further arrangements. A also encourage you to contact Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and the Ministry of Health to discuss your concerns regarding this.

Dr. Neil J. Wells, MD, FRCPC

Dear Patients,

I am writing to inform you of a recent distressing situation which may already adversely impact my patients. Many of you have already received notification of cancellation of your consultation with me or even your surgery, despite the fact that you may have been waiting for well over a year. Others who have already had their surgery completed may not even be aware of this situation.

At this point, due to the lack of continued funding and resources, I am unable to perform any MSP (insured) procedures. This includes any procedure done in the main O.R., but also includes consultations and follow-ups in the office.

Many of you have been waiting for more than two years for the Ministry and the Health Authority to fund a new Provincial SRS Program since I returned to B.C. following my fellowship in 2005. I was the surgeon who was asked to undertake this special training in order to return to Vancouver and lead the program. Despite the huge need and a clear demonstration of the cost savings in doing these surgeries here in B.C., we still do not have the go ahead for this much needed program. Currently, the Ministry is continuing the status quo of sending you out of province at a considerable hardship and expense for you, not to mention the extra expense for the Province.
To say that I feel terrible about how this situation will affect so many of you is an understatement. However, I believe the ministry of Health and The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority are unaware of how significantly their lack of action is affecting so many of you.

The Division of Plastic Surgery and I are currently involved in efforts to secure more resources so that I can continue my work. We have had little to no response. However, my strong feeling is that The Health Authority and The Ministry will take personal letters from patients much more seriously. We encourage you to write a personal letter, in business format, and send it to three key people in the Ministry and The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (listed below). Tell them your personal stories; tell them your experience with the healthcare system so far; tell them your expectations. They are obliged to take your letter seriously and to respond.

Once again, I truly regret that this has happened. I will continue to be a strong advocate for you, and I will keep you apprised of any positive developments as a result of all our efforts. In addition, keep an eye out for a major article to be published in the Vancouver Province sometime in March, regarding the lack of funding for the Provincial SRS Program. Please Contact us by email if you have any questions or need any further information.

Yours Truly,
Dr. Cameron Bowman.

Vancouver Coastal Health and Ministry Contact Information

Ms. Ida Goodreau, President & CEO Vancouver Coastal Health Authority
Corporate Office
11th Floor, 601 West Broadway
Vancouver BC V5Z 4C2


Honorable George Abbott, Minister of Health
PO Box 9050, Station Provincial Government
Victoria BC V8W 9E2

Email –

Mr. Stephen Brown, Assistant Deputy Minister, Medical Services Division
3-1 3rd Floor
1515 Blanchard Street
Victoria BC V8W 3C8
Email -

Thursday, March 6, 2008

SRS in BC Cancelled

I got word today, through a letter my buddy recieved in the mail, that the BC government has suspended their funding of in province SRS (sex re-assignment surgery). All patients with pending surgery dates including those who have been waiting for years- SOL. All patients who have recently had SRS done by in-province doctors and are set for follow up - SOL. Anyone who was hoping to not have to travel half way across the country (out of pocket) away from our support networks and potential post surgical care giving networks - SOL. When I get a hold of the names of people to write and harass until these policies are changed I will post them on here. Get your letter head ready folks, we've got some political change to drive. Until things are changed this puts many transfolks out of reach of a physical need. This is unjust and a poor "money saving" decision. There are very talented doctors in BC who are ready and willing to perform SRS and have in the past and done good work. This is a funding policy that is focused out of the budgets of governments and disregarding the needs of the people the health care system is supposed to be caring for. Anyways, getting ranty with this, I'll be back with detail soon.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


I have a great deal of respect for transpeople who live their lives without the assistance of synthesized hormones. I have tried, again, and again I have found that my stability, comfort and sanity are dependent on a pharmaceutical product. I hate to say it, I hate to know its true. But I also know that I turn into a bleeding, blubbering, emotional basket case when I go a couple of months without it.
The effects were slow. But speed of bodily change is relative, in some ways they were very rapid too. Within the first week I felt more emotional. I felt feelings that I haven't had since starting T. Some of them were refreshing at first. But along with the deep emotional feelings comes a deep feeling of disconnect, and a reemergence with my obsession on gender. I had found a point at which I felt happy with myself, my gender, my gender presentation and how I was perceived (most of the time), and I let that go to attempt to live with out the drugs. I found myself knee deep in period blood and tears knowing that the reversing effects were sending me back down a road I didn't wish to travel.
Experiments sometimes produce effects that the scientists and subjects are less than pleased with. This was one of them. Luckily I have friends around me who are awesome support and can shoot me in the ass when I can't bear to do it myself or live without it.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Boys vs. Girls

Lately at school when given the opportunity to divide themselves into fair teams for playing games, the kids have gone with the gendered split. The divisor that appears on the surface to not leave anyone out, and if they skill levels and abilities are matched within the teams it makes it easy. We don't have any kids in the program that are itching to play for the girls/boys teams in contrast to their class mate's placements of them. At least vocally. This is a segregation technique that I personally am not a huge fan of, just because I at times growing up did want to play for the other team, not because they were better, or they were winning, but I think I knew.
I once went home from grade 5 because I joined in a soccer game in which I was told I was not welcome. This was a boy's only game I was yelled at, "get off the field". I took the ball and started on my breakaway. If they didn't want me to play there was no way I was going to waste anytime. I ran towards the net, dribbling the ball as good or better than those boys could. They finally cornered me and one boy, who I still remember his name, but will remain anonymous here, grabbed me square across the shoulders. One of his 10 year old hands on each of my ten year old shoulders. Then, before I knew what had happened his knee went straight into my crotch, at full soccer playing force, while he held me down with his hands. I buckled onto the field and he spat, "I told you this was a boys only game, and whats so bad- it's not like that hurts, you don't even have balls."
I spent the day in my moms office, rolling around in the courtesy wheelchairs, ice in my sweatpants. It didn't stop me from playing gendered sports, I followed it up with 3 years boys football, where I was the one all the other team's linemen talked about.
"You hit the girl, I don't want to hit the girl"
"Girl, what girl? I didn't know there was a girl on the team."
"Take number 50- she's a girl."
"I don't believe you, but I'll take him."
I took a break from playing male sports when the rest of the guys hit puberty and all of a sudden were bigger than me. I was so upset, threw a fit cause I couldn't move up because of my size. But I was more upset that those changes weren't happening in my body.
The kids that I work withs bodies haven't changed, they are all younger than I was when I got sacked over soccer, and they like to segregate by gender. I let it go when the teams look even, but I always feel like an infiltrator, traitor, or substitution when I am playing on the boys team, against the girls. Especially with that age, I knew who was on my team, not by choice, but it was the girls. I am still sometimes surprised that I get put on the boys team, cause I feel an allegiance to both. I should be the impartial ref, or the leader who spends 20 minutes trying to split the kids onto fair teams they won't cry about that aren't split by gender. I don't know if I am the only one out on that field who feels like they're on the wrong end. I do know that thinking about that is something that doesn't even cross the minds of many/most childcare providers, teachers, or activity leaders.
Let's divide into even teams- whats your starting criteria?

Monday, January 28, 2008

reversible difference

When I first started taking testosterone I was constantly on the lookout; watching the bodies of the men around me, wondering what might happen, how my body may look after these hormones did their job. Now, less than a year down that path I find myself looking around at the androgynes around me. I wonder how my hips might change and if the shape of face might become too much to handle. I soften those fears with knowing that at least my face will be hairy, and yes, maybe my jaw will recede a little and my shoulders soften up again, but my vocal cords will never return to their previous state. I doubt that I will ever pass as a woman again, despite putting a hold on my hormone treatments. Which the exact reason I feel comfortable doing so. I had my last shot a month ago. I technically should've had another 2 weeks ago, and another tonight. I have a vial of T on my bathroom counter and I have a box of needles in my room. I could grab a swab, syringe, an 18 g. and a 22 g. and put this whole questioning to rest . There is a "prescribed path" which many doctors, transfolks and community resources and old school ideas portray:
  1. Undergo analysis
  2. Undergo hormone therapy indefinitely
  3. Undergo chest surger(ies/y)
  4. Undergo bottom surger(ies/y)
  5. Live invisibly as a straight man and NEVER SPEAK OF ANY OF THIS! unless you absolutely must and the you are allowed to use variations the following terminology to describe yourself:
  • born in the wrong body
  • used to think I was gay
  • I knew this was exactly since I was 2- Never a doubt
  • I am 100% man
  • etc.
I have always had difficulty doing things the way people would like me to, and have never been a huge fan of the medical establishment. So here I am, a queer transperson who doesn't fit the binary genders of male or female. I feel comfortable living my life as male, but want that to be more on my terms.
It seems similar to when I had braces as a young teen. I fought my parents for years, I hated kids with braces, and more than anything I hated the smile that kids who used to have braces were left with. It was "perfect" and exactly the same as every other kid in my grade 7 class. I kicked and screamed in a way only 13 year old girls know how to do right, that , "I DON'T WANT A DR. LAMONT SMILE." I warded it off for 2 years, and then my eye teeth grew in approximately an inch above my gum line and the pain impeded my ability to eat. I had teeth growing into my lips. I finally gave in, had the molds done. I made my way out of class for 2 years as they week by week pulled my eye teeth down into line with the rest. When finally the whole procedure had given a satisfactory result, the ortho removed the wires and handed me my plastic retainer. He warned me that if I didn't wear it my front teeth would overlap again, and my teeth could go back to the way they were 2 years of pain ago. I knew that there was no way my teeth were going to cut an inch back up into my gums, so I never wore that retainer. The reversible effects didn't bother me, because the primary concern was that with permanent effects. The reversible effects of testosterone are
  • body fat and muscle may take on a more typically estrogen inspired configuration on the body- less muscle mass, fat moving from the the belly back into the tits and ass.
  • may re-start menstruation.
  • body and facial hair may become more fine, but will not disappear.
  • moods will probably shift.
  • energy levels may change.
  • voice will not change back- once the vocal chords have stretched, it sticks.
I haven't had an oophectomy (ovarian removal) so monitoring hormone levels that could put me at a risk of osteoporosis is not a huge concern. (If you have be sure to keep in touch with your docs and on top of your levels.)

An androgynous gender is something that I have lived with my entire life, up until recently. And I realize, that although technically living within the binary of gender of male is possible and feels pretty great most of the time, these days gender queers are taking back choices in their lives all over the place. Gender neutral bathrooms are on the rise, an awareness of folks who are neither M or F is getting recognized. In some countries they have created an O (other category for gender designation on legal identification.) I am inspired by the gender queers and androgynes around me who are forging the roads through gender in a way that works for them. I am also renewing my thoughts on passing, transitioning, living in the space in between and making male what I need it to be for me.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lessons from the Locker Room

Male only spaces where a transman is unquestionably welcome are unquestionably uncommon. Many transpeople avoid places like public pools, team sports, gyms, bath houses and other gendered spaces, especially ones that involve getting naked in front of other people. Our bodies are marked, some with scars and others with parts that stand out in their difference. I know I am one of very few who feels that I can access the gendered space within the public swimming pool and gym, and I have a very specific way of going about that. I take risks many people trans or cysgendered (being of a sex and gender that match, and always have- someone who isn't trans or intersexed. I use this term instead of "normative" because there doesn't need to be anything "non-normative" about being trans) folks living in marked bodies never would. I recognize that for many people the thought of entering such a potentially judgmental, vulnerable space is the trigger to large amounts of anxiety. I also venture into these spaces with the awareness that I could find myself there at the wrong time, with the wrong person, and be in a very dangerous position. I play through the scenario almost every time I take the right turn into the mens space.

It's a quiet night at the pool, one man rinses the chlorine off of his hairy body and another ties his shoes and tucks his towel into his bag to leave. I tuck my shoes into a locker, and take my board shorts and neoprene binding tank top into the bathroom stall to change. I find it interesting that in any womens changing area I have ever been in there are accommodations for self conscious individuals who'd rather change out of the judging eyes; but here in the mens changing room I slip into the disabled bathroom stall setting my clothes on the toilet paper dispenser as they come off. The man from the shower strolls over to the sink stand and starts his evening ritual, brushing his teeth, cleaning his ears, whatever else men do at the sink of the pool changing room- he's standing there naked, if it was morning he'd shave. He sings to him self and happens to look over just as my lulu lemon super tight sports bra binder top falls from the toilet paper dispenser to the floor, visible below the stall door. He stops singing and stares in my direction, waiting for the door to open. I sense the tension and tuck my tits neatly into the neoprene top and tuck all my clothes together to stash in the locker. As I try and slip past me he throws out some comment, maybe it's "shame your bra fell on the floor faggot", or maybe something more in my face, "you're in the wrong place lady." Or just something silent, a comment played out with a fist or a foot slipped in my way. Maybe it isn't one guy, maybe its a group of them, younger than me and outsizing me and outnumbering me, with a point they need to prove.

This hasn't happened and hopefully; being that this is the west coast and that I have yet to see the changing room anything but bustling at anytime of day my luck may hold. I don't say too much, rarely strike up conversations, because despite the passability of my voice, I am new to this. I don't know the social code of the mens room. I try to not look at anyone's cock, or make eye contact. But I do listen. I learned a lot about body image, growing up, what my body may some day look like from the shower room time I had as a young girl. I never had that experience of learning how to be a man, until now. I am becoming familiar with a number of reoccurring characters, and their lives and interests.
The men who bathe in the mornings always seem to be talking about the poor markets, the troubles in the world, politics and economics. These men have watched CNN and had their coffee before I have finished my last dream and are on their way out of the pool by the time I am hauling my sorry ass across the street and into the cold water for the rude awakening to brake the hangover. There's one older Irishman who always enters the changing room like its a party at the seniors center with all his best naked buddies, "Hello, hello, how are you all today? I'm great, it's the rest of the world that seems to be having problems!" I once heard him recount the story of returning from war, and becoming a man. He had been serving in the force and when he returned home, still at the tender age of 18 he got off the train and started the walk home. He was stopped on his way and asked where he was headed.
"I'm going home to see me mum."
"No sir, if you are man enough to serve your country you are man enough to come out to drink to it."
He reckoned that first sip marked the beginning of his life as an alcoholic, and he didn't make it home to see his mum that day.
I hear about the stock market and I hear languages I don't understand, I hear men asking each other about their wives, their kids and early retirement. I hear war stories and see fathers helping a son tie his shoes. This men only, let's get naked and chat space is my incubator for the male experience. I study it like the eggs we hatched in my kitchen when I was 14. Watching, listening, and keeping my eyes down and being very nonchalant yet cautious about everything.
I study. I learn.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Perceptions of Masculinity

Growing up in western North America in the 1990's has left many imprints of time and place on my character. I remember the conversations of my conservative family members, generations rooted in resource based industry, loggers, ranchers, farmers, and trades peoples, around the dinner table as a child. I remember the attitudes of anti-francophone, western Canadians during the Quebec referendum. I remember the internal conflicts created between my own budding activist and conservationist politics, with the familiarity with irresponsible forest management. My young vegetarian tendencies clashing with the meat and potatoes of a working family. I have grown and despite how much of a head-spin it may have caused me at 17 to be told that within ten years I wouldn't be as "left" as I was then, I can see my extremism settling into attitudes built up from a whole different set of influences, a queer feminist politic that considers the environment, but also critically analyzes class and privilege and doesn't necessarily make all of the most "socially-responsible" decisions, but does help me do whats right for me. Self care. I was also raised with an idea of self care that has evolved, and is no longer so centered around fear. Other childhood dinner table memories I have include the kidnapping of Michael Dunahee, and the constant awareness that a young girl like myself shouldn't be out alone, especially at night, if I didn't want to get raped. Rape was a constant threat, I think I was afraid of being raped long before I understood what rape was or had any idea about sex, sexuality, consent, abuse, etc. As my appearance to the world has changed, and rather rapidly, my role within the Rape victim/potential rapist street theater has reversed. I started noticing the different attitudes of women around me long before I started medically transitioning, but the reactions that now remind me of how much I have changed are those of the men. I was walking down the street the other night, amped from derby practice and going over to a friends house when the man I was following on the street, an older guy, maybe 35-40, suit and briefcase, turned and asked over his shoulder, "you aren't going to mug me are you?"
I was shocked, I suppose I was larger and younger than him, dressed in a lower income bracket's uniform of a plaid loggers jacket and jeans, but I was so surprised. I just sort of laughed and said, "well no, are you gonna mug me?".
I can't seem to shake some of the lessons that I absorbed as a child, and even the ones I never fully adopted, but heard, took into consideration, criticized and lived with in the back of my mind. My grandfathers racism, my uncles belligerence to environmentalists, and the word of every woman around me; that women are too often victims, and that we'd best live with fear. A fear that keeps my grandmother in her apartment, even in fear there, that some young punks will break in and steal her belongings and beat her up. A fear of young, rough looking men, especially in groups, or if they are wandering, smoking, lurking, looking, running, wearing working clothes, people of colour, listening to music, carrying anything, looking stoked, looking suspicious, looking alternative, among scores of other profiles that we learn as children. The villain has a moustache. The villain has broad shoulders. The villain is wearing black. The villain is out to get you, beat you up, rape you, violate you and make the night a time to sit in front of the television or carry mace. I am the villain. I have learned to fear him, I have feared him for years. And now all of sudden, despite my kind caring compassionate character and soft inside, and biologically female body, I have become HIM. The one that carries your fear through the night. And I recognize that we all have a lot to un-learn.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hogtied- adventures in surgery.

Looking back on the past couple weeks a big punctuating event was the Hogtied Outlaw Variety show that happened on Tuesday night. It was organized by a group to pull money together for a friends chest surgery, which was happening faster than the funding organizations their hoops and paper trails are built for. He is one of many people for which the system of applying for surgery, and funding and waiting on lists for whoever is available wasn't going to work for. So thinking back to the best way that we know how to bring in some cash legally we gathered a group of people to spread the tasks of throwing a big party out amongst us, and rake in the cash for the cause. Everything went amazingly well because we had an awesome group of people, all with different strengths, some with experience planning events, and others with very valuable logistical abilities or bomb network connections. Being a part of a radical community of queer artists, activists, cyclists and freaks feels so right and I can't imagine what my life would look like without this type of people in it. I feel incredibly priveleged to know and share with other people who are transitioning, or just fucking gender, and even those that actively "live so unapologetically outside the confines of domesticated femininity" (taken from off the map- microcosm pub. portland ore.) Nothing makes me more happy than to be given the job as the cowboy who is hogtying young drag kings and their cowboyed up butchy fuck buddies, boys you'd only think were boys because you saw them at the urinal, leather pant wearing keytar playing artists, along side straight laced straight folks who are getting their first taste of queer culture and perhaps the taste test of kink that will change their lives forever all for polaroid photos that are being sold so a buddy can have a surgery that will change his life.
Another young feller at the show was able to collect a list of email addresses to help him bolster support for his surgery, which was scheduled to happen yesterday, but was called off because the catholic hospital trawled his chart to find out he was trans (the surgery was not a SRS surgery, but a breast reduction that had been in the works for 2 years), and played their catholic card saying that no SRS surgeries and apparently any surgeries on trans patients would not be allowed. His surgeon is trying to find an avenue to get him back on the table and under the knife and he is trying to to raise awareness of the discrimination of this facility, without slapping himself in the face and loosing the surgery all together by saying the wrong thing to the wrong people.
Yet one more friend, who wasn't at the show and doesn't live in town any more was recently advised by his knee surgeon that he didn't feel that he was making smart choices in his life and that surgery was a very serious and dangerous endeavour, completely unprovoked considering that this patient said NOTHING to this doctor about any plans or intentions to have any surgeries what so ever. This doctor made an assumption that since his patient was medically transitioning, taking testosterone, that he must be "going all the way". A misconception that I would hope more people in the medical profession could get over already.
Some of the kids I work with, without knowing my history or official gender or sex status, seem to have an affinity towards me and connect on a sort of "I know you understand ways that I am different cause we're sort of different in the same sorts of ways". I am the boy who will proudly wear pink and not permit any sort of gender stereotyping or homophobic behaiviour whatsoever. The 7 and 8 year olds that are figuring themselves out, recognizing how important they feel having an adult who breaks the mold in their life is, have a special bond with me. They appreciate having an ally with whom they can share things like the fact that their favourite characters in guess who are Chris and Kyle because you can't really tell if they are girls or boys, and get the point when I explain why I never ask the question, "is your person a boy? or is your person a girl?" They get it when I say that sometimes it isn't clear. That you don't know someone is a boy or girl from how they look, if the have a mustache or earrings. They get it when I draw pictures of my favourite things from vacation, including me and 2 friends in a canoe; and that when they ask if the people in the picture are boys or girls I can just say they are my friends, and not everyone is a girl or a boy. Its not always as simple as the binary. Now I just wish that these kids could explain it to the doctors.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Looking back on the first months of medical transition

I remember crying to my aunt on this day as I showed her photos of transguys online, and explaining that I needed to find a way to start transitioning asap. I needed to find a doctor desperately, and was at the point where I think a lot of us realize it's do or die, when the "choice" to transition stops seeming realistic, because it's become impossible to "choose" to continue living a lie.

A couple months later and I had started taking T, found a community of transmen who I lived with and around. For the first couple months we did our shots together, getting together for "shot night", a sort of boys night celebration, with intramuscualr injections thrown in for good measure.
Summer continued and with each month passed my voice got a bit deeper, and all the hair on my body began the slow creep to meet up and become a continuous manrug. I was starting to really confuse folks in queer circles, which didn't seem too weird, since I had been turning heads for years as a queer, butch, strong, tall woman working in jobs such as bike messenger and greasy spoon diner cook where folks like me were not as common as we may be in womens studies department or radical organizing circles. I think one of the things that threw off a lot of queers was my openness and upfront attitude to do with everything. I have always been comfortable voicing what I felt was important, and my transition and trans politics were not going to be an exception.
By fall I was working for the first time in jobs with people who had no idea about this huge part of what makes up who I am. It created a strange feeling for me as I had been answering questions and explaining myself constantly for the past 3 years. I find ways to balance sharing my values of gender diversity and transpolitics in a very general sense without always feeling like I am explaining myself. I have discussions on gender in which sometimes my own gender is not brought up at all. For the most part I can't keep secrets and the only personal relationships that I maintain without that disclosure are those with the children that I work with, not because I don't think that they would understand, like I said, I had 3 years of explanation period, where I didn't live with the luxury of non-disclosure. I have met and discussed gender (generally and personally) with many very understanding kids, but I know that sometimes they have questions that they bring to other trusted adults (parents), and I honestly don't want to have to explain myself, or have my employer stand up for their right to employ me if some parents' homophobic/transphobic prejudices get in the way of a peaceful day to day.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Reading the experience

I find myself often checking out books and scanning websites of transgender politics and experience. I find the stories of the other men living with the same "condition" of myself and sit down to reading them. I can rarely read too far in without my mind wandering, and my feet following, over to the bookshelf, where I reach to pull an album of childhood photos, pre-transition photos, teen girl photos, anything where I might be able to remember if I knew, and how I felt, and how I feel now about feeling that way in that time. What clothes and haircuts I can recall feeling good about, the activities I thrived in, the early experiences of being "misgendered" and how that made me feel. Now when I say "Mis-gendered" I do see the dual potential meanings, and looking back through these photo albums I see both. The times I remember being "misread" as male and the feelings it spurred, and the social conditioning which "misgendered" me into dresses and long blonde french braids. The adult male I am today searches those photos for me, I remember being on the other side of the camera, but it is sometimes hard to correlate Me and Her.