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