Friday, December 28, 2007

Between my Thighs

I just finished a very phenomenal essay collection about conscious masculinities.* Self-Organizing Men: Conscious Masculinities in Time and Space, was a random purchase at my local (and incredibly hard to get to) feminist bookstore, Amazon. I am incredibly impressed by this collection as well as a little jealous that I didn't write it first. The first essay, by the editor Jay Sennett, is an incredibly amusing and honest account of his relationship to his body. One section of it focuses primarily on his genitals and specifically his penis. This relationship between transmen and their penises is called upon and discussed in numerous essays, memoirs, movies, novels, TV shows...and I enjoy reading and seeing these creative accounts of the body. But I truly don't relate to that desire. I've written about this before but as I continue to encounter a lack of media that represents my vision of my body I'm going to continue to come back to this.

Elementary to so many readers, but transmen come in a beautiful range of bodies. Our lack or presence of a penis can have nothing or everything to do with what we wish to see between our thighs. Some men wish for penises but cannot afford or access the surgery, some men wish for them but can not attain them because the surgery would affect their health. I've met many transmen who do not want surgery because of the complications, cost, and inability to create a "traditional" penis through surgery. I've met many transmen who love what they have but view it as something different and separate than what women have. I've yet to meet a transman who does not wish for surgery and does not refer to his genitals in a masculine way. I do not believe that my identity is as simple as "My genitals are masculine because I am male", although I understand that this thought process might work for many people. Perhaps I am uncreative, but my genitals simply are. I have no issue with referring to them using traditionally feminine terms: pussy, vagina, cunt, snatch, vulva...etc. but that doesn't make them feel feminine nor does it make it alright for anyone besides my close friends and partner to refer to them with those same words.

There's an almost abashed way that transmen who have had no bottom surgery joke about their genitals. I wonder...are trannybois without penises - transmen with vaginas - more passive in their claims for manhood because of this discombobulation between being a man and loving your vagina? Or is it that, in a manner similar to the invisibility of femmes, transmen who are not writing, lusting, longing, photographing their cocks are simply obscured by a cissexual audience? We're not real men in the way that femmes can never be real dykes?

I'll admit here that I sometimes want a cock. I wish I could feel my partners contractions during the handful of times that I have strapped on a dildo. I wish I had something between my legs when I see men looking there. I wish I could pee at a urinal. But those wants, like sideburns or a deep voice, are secondary cock characteristics. I don't want one because I believe I should have one or that I am incomplete without one. I don't need something hanging down in order to feel masculine, and so far my partner has not been disappointed by my lack of one. I'm not certain exactly what I want to say, just that I want to make audible the voices of transmen who are proud of their cunts. We don't go on about it the way some men and transmen talk about theirs, and maybe we should. A cunt is a wonderful space and transmen should be as proud and as vocal about theirs (and their cunt's right to good health care!) as cissexual and transwomen are about theirs.

*I find it amusing that my spell-check refuses to recognize "masculinities". Even our technology is homogeneous. It also didn't like "vaginas" is there a different plural? Or can there only be one vagina?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Violence against Women at the Movies

Last night I went to see Sweeney Todd with some of my lovely friends who are in town for the holidays. I had never seen the musical but I knew the basic plot thanks to wikipedia. I was disappointed by the movie. Certain aspects were amazing: the cinematography was beautiful, the costuming was gorgeous, Helena Bonham-Carter's and Johnny Depp's performances were stellar (same for the little boy who played Toby). But the movie was ruined for me when Mrs. Lovett tells the story of Sweeney Todd's wife Lucy. In the tradition of musicals, some evil Judge wants Todd's wife Lucy. So the Judge tries Todd under false pretenses and ships him away to Australia so that he is free to woo Lucy. Lucy (golden-haired and blue-eyed) is faithful to Todd (of course) and so the Judge invites her to a party, gets her drunk, and rapes her. Whereupon Lucy takes arsenic in an attempt to kill herself. When Todd arrives in London he finds out that his daughter, Johanna, is now the ward of the Judge and, furthermore, that the Judge is planning on marrying her. When Lucy refuses him, the Judge "gives" Lucy to his cohort the Beadle in a scene that invokes the rape of her mother.

This is an incredibly familiar trope. The rape is not actually necessary to advance the plot, yet it is included and, in the movie, shown. Sweeney Todd is a rather classic 19th Century story. The musical comes from decades of storytelling about this historical/fictional character (depends on whom you read if Todd existed or not) and clearly in that time period, as in this one, women are viewed as property. And for a desirable beauty her worth is completely related to her genitals, so the rape of Lucy (and later Johanna) is tied to a historical reality. The sexual assault of women by men is a way of reinforcing a patriarchy, a reminder of who is in charge and the physicality that defines womanhood as opposed to the intelligence that defines manhood. Rape involves other things as well, and I shouldn't boil it down to these simple points, but I am. That, should this story be true, Johanna and Lucy were raped as a way of bringing-them-down, declaring ownership, punishing them for independence, I have no doubt. But I object to the relaxed way in which their abuse reaches the screen. Why aren't they allowed to have a solo where they sing their defiance? Why aren't they allowed to speak to other women and discuss their own sexual freedom? These meetings may not have any basis in recorded history but then women are neglected from history anyway so their absence doesn't mean that women didn't organize or speak up in 19th Century London. Besides, we're being asked to believe in a man who bakes his victims into pies, surely women organizing is not that discreditable.

This anger I feel goes much wider than this film, Sweeney Todd just ignited the flame that's been smouldering away for a while. As I said earlier, many films have this as a trope. Multiple novels and songs do as well but there's something about the visualization of the rape that bothers me more. Many people were involved in this. Director, producer, actors, lighting assistants, etc...what conversations did they have about the rape? How did they discuss the costuming, the cinematography, the lights of that exact scene? Did they argue about her expression or her screams? And why is rape or sexual violence never included in the reason for a movie rating? Why just "scenes of sexuality"? Surely violent non-consensual sexuality should receive a worse rating, but I never see it mentioned. The sexual assault of Keira Knightley's character is hinted at throughout the entirety of the Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy yet I have yet to read a major review that found these jokes, insinuations, or threats degrading and unnecessary. The film is not realistic so we don't need to include the realistic violence against women within the film.

I realize that I'm on the edge of suggesting censorship. But I don't think that censoring is the answer to my anger. I think discussion is one of many answers. When film producers - male, transgender, and female - understand the incredible pervasive reality of sexual harassment against women (and against men and gender-bending peoples but here I'm focusing on women) then scenes like these will be more explored. Sexual harassment can be jokes and touching, it can be assault and aggression, it can be rape, it takes many many forms and it dominates the lives of many women. Seeing it suggested at and glibly brushed aside is insulting to survivors, and it allows the continuation of a rape culture. When this is more generally understood I believe we will have better films. Films where the women will have more of a voice even if it is in a private monologue or among a group of survivors. There will be a response to this violence. If we can veer away from the plot to make a joke about rape then we can veer away again to show a woman retaliating.

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Bit on Loss

There have been a lot of tears in my life recently. They started in August, around the time that I registered for therapy and received a series of nasty letters from my parents. My therapist suggested that this is the grieving period for the girl that I was raised and the boy that was suppressed. It's odd to take advise from someone who's diagnosing me with a condition I refuse to recognize. But her suggestion makes sense. I sometimes try and remember the girl, and I waver between feeling immense sorrow that I could not be her (that I failed), and a great deal of joy that she is no longer unhappy.

Being a woman, being a queer woman in this world often necessitates covering up any emotional weakness. I once tried explaining to my partner the difference between going out as a woman and going out as a man. As a woman, as a queer woman, protection and caution are vital parts of identity, especially in the queer world where misogyny and patriarchy still dictate so much of the entertainment scene. Women had to be twice as tough and swallow their pain.

Now, though. Now the pain and the tears are running rampant, and it's scary. The most mundane things can break me in two, leaving me without any strength to continue. The strangest thing about being in pieces on the floor is that eventually you have to get up and continue on your day. The question is simply for how long can you stay curled up bawling on the carpet? One hour...two? When you start trying to remember where the tissues are you begin to think the last hours were spent rather badly. Many transmen write about losing the ability to cry easily as they take hormones. I'm not on hormones so the analogy fails...but through my transition I have found my tears.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Masculinity in Winter

I'm back! I had a harrowing weekend of computer shut-downs and malfunctions, but now I'm back online. My panic about the health of my computer is similar to the panics I feel when i begin to get ill. I only have health coverage for another 20 days, I only have computer coverage until June...after those run out I'm not sure what's going to happen. Hopefully I'll be employed with good pay by then but who knows?

While I was offline winter came to Minnesota...and with that the opportunity to put on as many layers as possible and to try not to freeze while waiting for the consistently late buses. My current winter jacket is a leather motorcycle-style jacket which if you look closely reveals how I am petite compared to most men. However, and this is something I recall as a woman, when you're worried that some dude in a leather jacket is standing too close to you you're not looking for signs that he might not be biologically male.* I constantly look behind myself as I walk home at night, I'm aware when someone is too close or is quickening their step...I'm very conscious of my own safety. Now, however, I am not only cognizant of my own safety I'm also becoming aware of changes I have to make in order to not be seen as a potential mugger or rapist. Last night I opened the door to my apartment building too quickly and startled the girl who had come in before. I smiled and said "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to startle you" and showed her my keys to try and smooth things out.

Winter can be a good time for transmen, all of these layers hide what remains of our curves and bulk us to look more like the men we know we are. Often these reminders are simple like being "sirred" in a restaurant or on the bus, going into a men's room with no heads turning, standing in line and not feeling the inquiring eyes of the person behind me trying to figure out my sex. Others, what i was discussing above, are not so pleasant. At first, I'm a little bit happy because I associate the fear of bodies at night with a fear of men, and in the twisted passages of my brain that means I'm being gendered as male. But of course this also makes me very worried. i try to walk slower, to be aware of how close I am to other bodies, to never purposefully scare someone else walking home. It frightens me that so many despicable activities are associated with men. Beyond the seriousness of men's crimes against women, there is the space that men take up. The other night I was bullied into serving food after our kitchen was closed because of the way the man lurched over the counter space, raised his voice, and managed to take up space. It wasn't really that it was difficult to do, the problem was that the kitchen had closed and he thought that by physically intimidating me he could get whatever it was he wanted. And, well, he did.

I want people to see me as man, but i don't want to achieve this through violence and intimidation. There are non-scary aspects to masculinity, and a lot of these are shared with women, being a good man looks a lot like being a good woman, being a good person. If i refuse to use aggressive techniques, will I never be a man? I could live with never being a man more easily than being a supreme asshole who was without a doubt a man.

*OK, transmen, transwomen, cisexual women...everyone can be a potentially violent person and I don't mean to suggest that women-on-women crime doesn't happen or that trans people don't commit crimes too, but as a woman I remember thinking that I could probably fight of a similarly-sized woman, but not a man.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Giving

The night before my love flew back to New York City she and I had an embarrassing discussion about manners. More specifically, it began when I checked my Essential Manners for Men book to see its rules on tipping. I read aloud a section on holding doors open for women and then asked (proudly) "do you notice that I do that too?" I was referring specifically to a notation the author had made about helping the person in front of you open a door by discreetly taking over the act of opening from behind, near the hinges. The author was discussing men opening doors for women, and I was discussing opening doors for people, including my partner. But still, a man opening doors. I then tried to defend myself by comparing my opening doors to my giving up my seat on buses to the elderly or parents with children. My partner, quite rightly, exclaimed "oh, so I'm biologically deficient? I am unable to carry heavy burdens?" I became upset, and flustered. I thought that I would never say (as has been said to me often) "ladies first" when entering a building or a train, but then isn't my principal of guiding my partner through doorways an unspoken rendition of "ladies first"? I became sulky, and then cried as I tried to tell my partner that I didn't ever want to suggest that she was less-than or unequal to me, that because she is female she lacks something to make her fully human. In every way, I see her as my equal. In some areas and situations I see her as better-able than i am, but I would never consider myself more-human, or more important than she is.

So let me try again.
I think the reason I hold doors open, give up my seat, assist with lifting...is not because I think the older people, women, parents, and children I assist are unable to open doors or what have you, but because I try to make it the practice of placing other people before me. In men, this is considered chivalrous. In the woman's culture I was brought up within, giving to others was considered a part of being a woman. So when a woman comes home from work and cooks dinner, helps with homework, etc that's not being chivalrous or kind, that is being a woman. My opening a door is given more public and private controversy than the constant giving of women at the expense of their careers, personal health, and goals. Yet my opening of a door is the visual signifier of this patriarchal and sexist culture that creates a gender divide where women consistently give too much. So my participation in these macho exercises is, in my mind, supposed to undermine the foundations in a way by not being specifically pointed towards women, but rather at all people in general. I have never given up my bus seat for another man at my age, but I have given it u for young men with children or older men, or men with visible disabilities that might make standing for long time periods uncomfortable. Still, I get what my partner was saying and I realize that if I couldn't defend my actions at the time they were confronted then perhaps I needed to re-think my actions. If I claim that it's not sexism that motivates me then i better make pretty damn sure that it's not subconscious in my mind. Of course, there are also other ways to undermine male privilege and reversing the door-holding-open clause is by far the least radical of all of them.

I have been worried for a long time that becoming male would make me less sensitive to sexism and misogynistic behavior. I think what this revealed is that there were already elements of that present in my behavior. It still bothers me, and there are elements I don't feel I talked about enough yet, but as trying as that confrontation was, I am actually very glad it happened.

Monday, November 19, 2007

In and Out of My Body

I have been thinking recently about disability - as a medical term, a politically-correct term, as an identity. My capstone was on transgender identity and disability, a relationship that is legally, medically, and socially haunting. We transpeople are included in many state interpretations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and in states unlike Minnesota where there is no protection against gender identity discrimination the ADA is what keeps us from being fired or discriminated against. So we enter disability regarding it as a privileged status - we hope that it will grant us protection - yet we have been taught to read the word "disability" as akin to "disease" "inability" or even worse "monstrous". I say that "monstrous" is even worse because it is so close to what we are running away from, the idea that being transgender is being monstrous. So we want it, we fear it, and we create it too. We often create our own disability through our attempts to present who we are. I stand 7-9 hours at work with my chest bound, but when my chest is unbound I slouch in order to hide my chest. The effect of that is causing me to lay on the floor curled in an upward fetal position for hours. I know that this is nothing compared to what many people with legally recognized physical disabilities go through, but I sometimes get confused about what I am doing in order to become who I know I am.

I will be moving from the Twin Cities to NYC soon, thus moving from one gender-identity protected area to another. But my partner and I have to now realize the binds we are in. There are so many restrictions on where we can safely live. We are queer, female, transgender and genderqueer, interracial, black, white, and mixed. Already there are so many spaces in which we are seen to be dangerous and unwanted. Adding to this, if we move out of gender-identity protected areas then I begin to rely on the ADA to keep me safe. This means I have to state that because I believe myself to be a man I have a mental disability cured only by a physical transformation. It also means that I take a law created to insure that the civil rights, and basic human rights, of people with disabilities are respected and twist it to insure my own protection. I don't want to not claim a disability because I fear the label, but neither do i want to claim disability when I don't feel that my identity is a mental condition. These questions become a quagmire in which I go in and out of being lost. My privilege as someone on the fringes of disability...I can afford to think of these questions only when they become pressing to me.

Friday, November 16, 2007

desire, desiring, undesirable

I want to thank all the people who tell me they read this blog! I'm surprised and excited that people read these posts and I hope that the cathartic experience of writing down my thoughts helps y'all as well, or at least distracts you from your own issues/term papers.

Recently I found myself shopping for underwear at Target. Now that I have a reason to own cute underwear/a reason to wash my underwear on a more regular basis I am often drawn towards the underwear sections of any clothing store. As I was trying to find the least expensive pair of cute non-white boxer-briefs I realized that I was cruising the underwear models. Which makes me think about desire. Why would a black and white close-up of some strange man's crotch give me a hard-on in the middle of a big box store? There is nothing erotic about the overhead lights and linoleum floor of Target, and I have never been turned on only by a body before. I have to actually know someone in order to desire them. So now I am left wondering if it's the month without sex that has made me want to masturbate while out in public or if it's something else.

I'm going to go with something else for now (or else this would be a fairly silly post) and suggest that when I go out presenting as male and am read as male I also then feel safe owning desires I would never admit to if I thought I was being read as female. All of which points to a more complicated understanding of gender as an intersection and creation of both biology and society. This body desires men, but if the men who respond in kind view this body as female than I loose all interest, my anus is the same anus but the desire for penetration is only present when we are both viewing it as a male ass. I have a completely different biological and emotional response. I cannot think of myself as female and want men, but I can be male and desire both men and women. I am trying to write an essay for Mattilda's new collection "Why are faggots afraid of faggots?" where I discuss my desire for men. I write about how I fear the rejection of gay men (and here I mean the rejection of my identity and sexuality) and my at-the-moment conclusion of how to overcome this fear of my own people is found in drag. When I perform as a drag king all of my fear melts away and I can become not only a gay man, but an angry gay transman, something decidedly not Minnesotan. i think that the implicit authority given to a performer allows me to own my own identity.

So back to those underwear models. Their bodies are also the bodies I desire for myself. I want to have a body that screams "I AM A MAN" when I am naked, when i am at work, when I enter the men's bathroom. The idea that I think these skinny, buff, white male models have ideal bodies and that my body needs to match theirs is preposterous, but I am beginning to understand why so many of my cissexual gay male friends crush on straight men. I never fell for straight women as a woman, but seeing men through the eyes of a man I can understand this intense desire to claim a complete manhood - one that is white, middle-class, able-bodied and straight. Sometimes the idea of going through life as not-quite-a-man is horrifying. At these times I think of my partner and friends and find an enormous support in their unwavering support of me. Even my partner forgives my underwear-model-crushes at times like this.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Depending on Strangers

Yesterday I tried to post and found that all I could write was garbage. I think this is because I was trying to write about my therapy appointments. In general, my appointments are rather boring. My identity, however, depends so entirely upon these twice-monthly hours of telling a stranger my inner-most thoughts that I thought I would want to write about these alienating experiences. It turns out, however, that once these sessions are over I prefer to keep them over. Traditionally, meeting the "gate keepers" of ones identity has been a time where transmen and especially transwomen were forced to assume gender roles rigid in white Western standards. Men were forced talked about cars, women about shopping. I am incredibly lucky to have found a therapy center that is progressive enough to not require me to bind everyday or to not find my partnership with a genderqueer woman suspect. These experiences are related in both historical and current contexts in the books How Sex Changed, Sexual Metamorphosis, Conundrum, The Whipping Girl, and parts of Transgender Warriors as well as many books written by therapists. I have found that when trans-spectrum people write about our lives therapy is only included as yet another example of discrimination or it is not included at all. It seems to be that academics, therapists, and activists who are cisexual are obsessed with surgery, hormones, and therapy, the trappings of our identity. It places our identity outside of our own bodies and our own consciousness and into the privileged ideas of others. It makes sense, then, that when we are given the chance to write about ourselves we stay far away from the hospitals and waiting rooms where we are judged based upon our ability to conform to the gate keepers idea of "man" and "woman" and instead turn towards our created families, our partners, the identities that we hold true regardless of our diagnosis.

All of that said, I am very lucky to be living in Minnesota. The University of Minnesota's Center for Sexual Health has never once judged my identity. They have been supportive and kind. I was surprised that my therapist considered that last two years of my life as my "real world" experience. She also insisted that it was not being correctly gendered that mattered, but that I was presenting a gender I felt comfortable in, regardless of how it was understood. My therapy is not nearly as humiliating an experience as I anticipated, and I have not yet felt that I need to present a more traditionally masculine male identity in order for my identity to be taken seriously. Perhaps years from now i will want to write about these hours with a stranger, but for now I feel that out of all my trans experiences, these sessions have the least to do with who I am.

I do want to write about an intriguing off-shoot of therapy, however. The legal and medical labyrinth I am now entrenched in has given me a few happy things to celebrate. When i was very little my family would celebrate the Feast Days of my brothers and my saintly namesakes (mine was July 20th). Without a saint to my name I have had to create my own days to celebrate, and ironically the transphobic processes of the state have given me inspiration. Halloween, for instance, now has a special double-meaning as it is the day I was declared transsexual by the Center for Sexual Health and November 29th is the day I legally changed my name. I have decided to celebrate it as my new Name Day and there is a certain pride in reclaiming these potentially humiliating days, and I see links between these celebrations and the way that family is recreated in queer contexts...an idea I have always loved. Reclaiming, recreating, extending, and evolving words is one of the most radically transgressive ideas.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Creative Production

Originally I intended for a large amount of this blog to be about my personal transition. I had intentions of writing about my transition process through detailing trips to my therapist and my various coming-out stories. However, I find that the majority of that process was completed a very long time ago, and that anything else is a part of who I am as opposed to a "phase" or "journey". So I have to ask myself why I started this blog then if the things I have to say about the inner-most parts of me are already part of my every-day life.

There is a trend of creative production while transitioning. People create photo albums, blogs, novels, and books of poetry to catalogue the movement of their bodies, or traditionally, the bodies of others. Often, though, these movements seem to start at Point A and go to Point B...and then the movement ends. These narratives present a time-line which ends when one becomes content and fulfilled with the alignment of physical and mental body identity. I know there are many people who find that these narratives represent how they experience their bodies and their transition, and I think that these narratives touch a lot of people. However there are many transgender and genderqueer folk left out of these narratives as, of course, there are people left out of every narrative. I no longer intend for this blog to cover any singular aspect of transitioning or of my personal experience with being transgender. I don't want my writing to agree with the DSM-IV that my cosmetic surgery will cure me of my gender identity disorder. I will still experience dysphoria when dinner checks are handed to me and not my partner, when I am assumed to be the aggressor in our relationship, when gay men can't understand how I could be gay, male and in a relationship with a genderqueer woman. This gender dysphoria will be a part of me as long as sexism, transphobia, effemimania, and heteronormativity still exist. I want this dysphoria, to not experiment it would be to accept what I see and experience.

I had asked my partner, who is a photographer, to document my chest surgery for me but now I am uncertain about that choice. I don't want to present a story that ends when the body I inhabit looks like the body I believe I inhabit. Being transgender is something that will continue until the day I die, and I suppose this blog will document that experience until I become bored or unable to write. It took me a very long time to align my past with my present because the narratives that reflected my experiences were so hidden. Not until I read Disclosure by Daniel Ray Soltis in the anthology From the Inside Out (scroll, it's about halfway down the page) did I see my thoughts reflected in the life of another transman. Soltis writes about the conflict between being a man today and having gone to Bryn Mawr,which is an all-women's college, in his past. My experience of feeling female when I was young and feeling male now is reflected in Soltis's decision to keep his alma-mater on his resumes.

It is now possible for me to tell my therapist that I am not transsexual but rather a transman, that I do not want to become or be seen as 100% male. I know and love many transsexual people and I find their identity and their lives to be beautiful. I understand their misgivings about genderqueer and transgender activism, that our identites are now forefronted in queer activism as being "the most radical" and therefore the most deserving. This increasingly popular idea is repulsive, for we are all deserving of respect and love, and for me that includes my female past. I would not change my girlhood days for anything nor would I pretend they did not happen. I was blessed to feel at-home in my body as a young girl and I am glad that I was raised as a woman, imagine what a lower middle-class white Midwestern boy could grow into! I think about what I could have become if I had experienced male privilege my whole life, and I am thankful to have been given a woman's upbringing.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Alternative Places to Piss

Tonight I went to my favorite gay bar in The Cities...the Townhouse. The Townhouse is casual, very mixed, and plays consistently fierce music. Tonight I arrived about half an hour after everyone else because I have to bus everywhere...which only emphasizes my usual lateness. My friend P and I are at the bar ordering drinks. A group of men are near by and are obviously cruising us. I inform P of this and he says "yes, i know, one of them grabbed my nipple earlier". We discuss how that is a real turn-off and decide the only appropriate thing to do is ignore them. I, however, cannot ignore them as I see them staring at us and my years as living as a woman have taught me to keep a close eye on anyone staring too intensely. Pretty soon, however, I realize that they are staring not at myself or P but at my crotch which is quite obviously dick-less.

There are two things that let people know I was not born a man.
1) my voice
2) my lack of a cock

I want a deep voice, but I have no desire for a penis. I really enjoy my vagina and with my current partner I no longer feel any ambiguity or dysphoria about being male and having a vagina.* However, if I am to be read as male I need to pack. For me, this borders on going out without binding in that it doesn't represent the body I desire, but rather a body that confirms to societal standards. If I pack and my sweetie and I go out dancing she'll feel my packer all night, something that might occasionally be hot but is undesirable to both of us on a regular basis. Further, if I pack then I only conform to the idea that "real" men have penises, and "real" women have vaginas, an idea that I hold suspect.

Packing is not currently an option because my packer is for drag acts and is too large for club use. I worry that were I to use a smaller packer I'd soon find myself bringing it to clubs in order to be correctly gendered. The one amazing thing about being read as male would be gaining the privilege of using the men's room. The Townhouse places a bouncer at the door of the men's room to check IDs. Naturally, there is no bouncer at the woman's room. cisexual women, transmen, transwomen, and genderqueer folk all use the women's two bathrooms. The two bathroom's of the men's room are reserved for cissexual men and the few transmen who have had their IDs changed. In order to spare myself the humiliation of the women's room I go outside and piss in the alleyway. This is neither sexy nor hygienic. If packing lets me piss in peace then it may very well be worth the forced gender dysphoria.

*I once said "I'm a man without a dick" to her and she immediately corrected me, "no, you're a man with a vagina". I felt all kinds of shame that I would rank my lack of penis above the presence of my vagina, but it felt wonderful to have a partner so affirming of my physical body as well as my chosen sex and gender identity.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Men, Women, and Me

I am trying to remember that I am now able to use male pronouns.

I respond to people calling me "boy/boi" and "he", I turn around when someone calls out "sir". I view myself as a transman. However, in my head, as I tell myself stories or plan out a conversation I still use "she" and "her". I wonder if, after years of pretending to be female, I have removed myself so far from these pronouns that they cease to make a difference. But my friends using "she" still hurts so much that this can't be the case. I wonder if, like making counseling appointments, I postpone changing my pronouns because I fear the inevitable rejection in conversation or looks. I don't want to talk to people about my genitalia or therapy. I just want male pronouns.

The above is different than trying to remember that I am male. I remember that at all times, just as i remember that I am white, I am queer, I went to college. These are parts of my identity of which I never need to be reminded.* I do have to remind myself that the way i look when I am unbound and casual is different than the way I feel. I am shocked to see breasts or hips in the mirror. I still blush when women walk into my restroom. I am confused when I see myself treated differently than my male co-workers. When i see my female co-workers being patronized or mistreated I am not confused, I can recognize the sexism they are facing. I step in and tell the patrons they need to respect my co-workers and threaten to kick them out if they continue to act in a sexist and misogynistic manner. That said...I am still alarmed when men and women treat me as a female server. Don't they know I'm male? They should be making sex jokes with me, not staring at my chest.

What I'm afraid of with this series of revelations is that I will forget my feminism when i am read as male on a consistent basis. Currently I exist in an androgynous/gay male/butch lesbian stream of identification where I am constantly aware of how women are treated. Before, back in high school, I was upset because I didn't want to be treated as someone incompetent, someone biologically less intelligent and less capable. Now I am upset because I want to be treated "as a man" which implies that I think men and women should be treated differently. The idea that my anger comes from being seen as a woman and not from the mistreatment of women in a sexist society is very upsetting. In my moments of logic I understand that this anger is, in itself, sexist. In my moments of being feminized though I view my anger as justified because of transphobia. I should be angry about transphobia, but that shouldn't diminish or replace any anger about sexism.

I wish I had a pithy way to wrap this entry up. Some exercise regime I could follow that would allow me to rid myself of any sexist feelings or thoughts. Perhaps this explains the irritation and eventual withdrawal of my male friends on classes about feminism. There isn't anything men can do that will necessarily make them feminists, it's a constant process of checking oneself. I will probably never be treated as "just a man", I will never be "just a man" but when I am read as male or as a transman I have an obligation to retain a feminist consciousness. I am exhausted thinking of spending my life checking myself, but the intrinsic privilege in that statement, that I should want to be a man and then shy away at the responsibilities of feminist men, that is repulsive. How I will manage a feminist consciousness will probably take me the rest of my life.

*well, except for being white. I try to remember that all the time but no one forces me to remember that, and there are times when I forget. I am lucky enough to have good anti-racist white friends and politically involved friends of color who are willing to call me out on white shit. I'd say it's a 70/30 split of when I'm conscious of being white...and when I forget.

Edit: I have been reading Bi Any Other Name because it is important for me to read bisexual narratives and because my partner is bi-identified. One essay is written by a feminist bisexual man who helped to start NOMAS, the National Organization for Men Against Sexism...I remember them from readings at college and I think they could have some answers.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Bois with Intentional "i"s

Being with my partner marks the first time I have ever felt comfortable with my gender and sex while being intimate. I imagine that for someone cisexual what I'm about to write sounds crazy, but I've been reassured by transmen, transwomen, and genderqueer folk that this is actually quite normative for their experiences.* There is a way to have sex where I feel that my body is being touched and loved as if it was the body of a woman. Often, a queer butch woman's body. And that is beautiful, but it makes me uncomfortable as it's a role-playing game that I don't play well or ever want to play well. I'm not able to give specifics. The lips my partner kisses are the same lips that have been kissed before, there is no new "boi-ness" to them, yet when she touches them they feel as they have always wanted to feel. My eyes are the same eyes but when she looks into them I know she sees not only the boi inside me, but the boi on my outside, too. With my partner, I feel like a boi with an intentional "i", I don't feel like a man and again, I don't want to. I finally feel at-home in my body, even if there are still parts that surprise me when I see them or when I see people responding to them.

Being at-home in my body, and feeling so completely secure with my partner, I have begun a more aggressive push for transmale status. I have an uncomfortable level of fear at the moment, especially in regards to work. Uncomfortable because, as a performer, I'm used to levels of fear that are manageable - being afraid of fucking up a piece, not communicating a piece clearly, and even the fear that causes my legs to shake as I wait for the curtains to be drawn. This fear, however, is more tangible and is holding me back instead of the usual forward push I receive from my "artist fear". As I oh-so-casually correct people with some witty comment I can feel my legs shaking uncontrollably knowing that the smallest word of dissent or look of disgust would send me into tears. That acknowledged, I am delighted that this is happening. I had imagined living my life in Minnesota as a genderqueer woman, and I am excited that at least the last few months will be lived as a trannyboi.

*cisexual: someone whose subconscious gender identity matches their birth sex and their gendering

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Curled Near My Lover

My partner has started introducing me to friends and colleagues as "my partner, Mik". I have noticed that when I was introduced as "my boyfriend, Mik" or "my friend Mik" that my name was either heard the first time or I was asked to repeat it. Now that I am "her partner" we are read as the type of people who would need to use language such as "partner" (in their minds, lesbian) and my name becomes "Meg".* Before, when we were read as hetero my name was clearly genderneutral but leaning on the male side. Now that most ears expect a softer, vowel-ending female name what people actually hear ("Mik") gets transcribed into what they want to hear ("Meg"). This is simply one instance of the cissexual and heterosexual privilege of which my partner and I are both scared. As more people read me as male, will more people believe us to be straight? Will we have people (as happened to us in front of the New School yesterday) explaining transgender to us as if we were not personally invested in the word? There is much more to write on this subject and my fears that I will be read as straight, and that my partner will be read not only as straight but as cissexual.

The other day some crazy lady on the L Train yelled at us to "cut out the bullshit, there are children, bitch" when I kissed my partner on the cheek. We lingered (as we have lingered over other comments) on the subject of what perversion she was directing the comment towards. Is it that we are both physically and legally women? Was I being assigned my correct gender, and was her discontent instead that we are interracial? Was it public affection of any sort that bothered her? To which of the 1200 norms we were breaking did she object? I'll never know, and I wish I could say I don't care but I still hear her voice in my head as I kiss my love, much in the same way I see the words my mother wrote to me denouncing me as a freak and a immoral person every time I bind.

*Intriguingly, when I was "Maggie" I was often misheard as "Megan". This name appears to haunt me

Friday, September 28, 2007

After Work, Before Bed

I've been reading Julia Serano's The Whipping Girl and I am totally blown away. For a year now I have wanted to write about what i call "trans-feminism", and I think that Serano has more or less written the majority for me. What's missing, what I want to add, is a section for transmen. I want to talk about feminism and the process of transitioning towards privilege. Too many transmen, either friends or celebrities like Max Wolf Valerio,* seem to transition from "feminist lesbians" to misogynistic men. Testosterone can change many things but I find it hard to believe that it makes you misogynistic. Huge sections of transmale writing seems to justify cat-calls, sexual aggression, and the objectification of women as if these former feminists dykes are simply not to blame for their current sexism.

However I know that testosterone changes things, estrogen and progesterone change moods, outlooks, and desires. If testosterone does put our feminism to the test, then we need something to pull us back. We need a primer, a Feminism is for Everybody for the tranny crowd that reminds us men how to resist the urge to use our new-found privilege. I think this could also translate over to gay and bisexual men, too. A book/essay that would remind us that one oppression doesn't justify any other oppressive behavior. Speaking of which, what is naturally missing in The Whipping Girl, what is missing in so many trans writings, is any analysis of race. Serano talks intensely about class privilege, and the majority of us can understand the relationship between race and class but racial and ethnic differences in relationship to transgender identity and the process of transitioning are rarely discussed. I've labeled this post as being connected with "queer racism" and it frightens me that a word that is supposed to represent a non-hierarchical understanding of institutionalized and historically justified oppressions can fit so easily with "racism" one of the key ideas "queerness" was supposed to challenge. I'm not sure what I could write that would challenge the racism in queer circles, or what advice I could give trans and genderqueer men, but I want to try, even a bad first attempt would be better than nothing at all.

*Apparently Seal Press doesn't place their non-gender-conforming writers on its website. Max Wolf Valerio isn't there and neither is Mattilda. Seal Press has some questions to answer...