Thursday, September 30, 2010

Role models

not me.  flickr JMRosenfeld
I've noticed a change in the women I watch (no, not that way, I mean as role models or sometimes wish fulfillment :-).  From my teens to my early thirties, I think I mostly observed women in their mid-20s.  They had youth, energy, excitement, exuded femininity from their very pores, and all without even really trying.  Plus, so many fashions in magazines I read (e.g. Vogue, Elle) are really aimed at the mid-to-late 20s.  As transsexuals, I think we all want to be accepted, but as a transsexual who was still in hiding, any such acceptance was purely fantasy, and as long as it's fantasy, I might as well picture myself as one of those beautiful lithe young women.  When I dressed, I bought almost unwearably short skirts, wore large cup bras, stupidly high heels.  I was a caricature of a "sexy woman".  But then, at 36, I finally saw a gender counselor and for the first time realistically considered the possibility of living as a woman. Suddenly, I was no longer checking out the fashions of younger women.  I started to look hard at women closer to my age, and then refined that further to women my age with a similar shape (slightly on the tall side - I'm a little over 5'9" - with broad shoulders and small bust).  I also began to realize that lots of women have one or two "manly" features, but because of their overall presentation, no one remotely thinks they might be male.  That realization gave me hope.  Maybe if I can carry myself in a feminine manner and do so with confidence, then peoples' eyes may just pass right over me as well, just another middle-aged woman doing the shopping or whatever.  Having been on hormones for a while now, I'm realizing I'm a small-breasted woman unless I get top surgery, which I'm not too keen on, so instead of 38Cs, I'm getting 38As, and when I feel the need to go shop for my girl self, it's not lingerie and crazy short let's-go-clubbing dresses, it's the kind of casual or business clothes a reasonably fashionable woman my age might actually wear.  Things I see on the moms of my daughter's friends, my colleagues, etc.  Now I probably still dress a tiny bit younger and maybe slightly more dressy than the average woman my age, but that also reflects my personality, so I feel comfortable with it.  I don't see a pretend-woman in the mirror now.  When I'm in my femme mode, however I am dressed, I see a woman in the mirror, and that's definitely a good thing.

Not Mister...

One of the nice things about being a professor was that I was almost always addressed as "Dr." or "Professor", nice and gender-neutral.  Now that I have left academia and because I don't like to flaunt my degree in settings in which it isn't relevant, I get called "Mr." more often.  I had no idea how much that grated on me until it started happening more and more.  Obviously there are other (better) reasons to transition, but by gosh, getting people to stop calling me Mister is way up on the list for me!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Who else plays games to "be" female?

Sort of following up on my "Avatars" post a week or so ago, I was thinking about how many games I specifically buy because it allows me to play as a female, and how many I decide not to buy specifically because they don't. Obviously, most role-playing games (ones I've recently played are Mass Effect and Dragon Age) do let you choose the gender of your character.  Outside of that genre though, I still favor games in which I can lose myself as a girl.  Maybe that's one of the reasons I didn't like Halo as much as some other shooters.  Similarly, while I didn't really get into the Grand Theft Auto series, I got Saint's Row 2, which is a similar sandbox shooter, but with a main character that could not only be female but potentially sort of trans!

Anyway, what got me thinking about this is that there are rumors of the old Wing Commander games being re-released.  These space-flight combat simulator games were easily my favorite games when I started graduate school back in the early 90s.  Between this and X-Wing vs Tie Fighter, this was definitely the heyday of space combat.  As a sci-fi geek, I do wish they would make a comeback.  Anyway, the protagonist/player-character of Wing Commander was hard-coded as male.  However, there was a female comrade-in-arms that you would fly missions with, callsign "Angel", and very soon I just sort of mentally transferred the focus of the story to her.  Sounds weird, I know, but I lose myself in games (or movies) pretty easily - I guess I have high empathy - so sort of like a spirit moving from person to person, when I thought about the game outside of actually playing it (i.e. imagining missions, etc... yes just like a little kid :-) the missions would be ones flown by Angel.

Hmm, this is a really horrendous rambling post, isn't it?  I apologize.  And now I'm feeling like playing hooky from my work for a little bit to go do some gaming!  Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I also use female-vocalist songs in Guitar Hero to work on my feminine voice.

p.s. in case you've seen the not-exactly-classic Wing Commander movie based on the game, Mr. Buffy (Freddie Prinze Jr) plays the main character, and Saffron Burrows (recently on Law and Order: Criminal Intent, and The Bank Job) as Angel.


cc flickr - tanya petrova
Over the years, I've contemplated a variety of mechanisms that would allow me to live as a woman.  Obviously, telling my friends and family and transitioning is the accepted and most likely path.  However, I have been prone to the occasional fit of despair, and in those dark times, I consider either faking my death and running off or just getting myself killed so as to end my pain without bringing the shame of a transsexual into my family.  The fact that either of these seem like viable options when I'm that down scares me.  Fortunately, being an overly rational person, I always come up with myriad problems with either plan, of which the primary one is simply the hurt I would be inflicting on my wife and kids whether my death was real or faked.  Pardon the expression, but I don't know that I could live with myself.

I'm blogging this now because I'm starting to recognize the beginnings of my death spirals into depression.  I start to think about telling people and finally coming out into the open.  As I get excited about it, I also start worrying and then I get to hearing or reading news stories about all the intolerance in the world, not just toward social minorities but even to people associated with them.  This makes me question the fairness of burdening them with such a stigma, and I also start thinking that this is an incredibly selfish thing I am doing.  That brings me to my current state, which is fear that two of the relationships I treasure most (with my kids) will be irreversibly altered. And if I follow the same form I have for the last two decades, I'll finally decide I can't do it, and spend a couple or more weeks really depressed that living as a woman will never become reality for me.

But is that really the case?  As I approach my 43rd birthday in a bit over a week, I'm wondering if my kids have known subconsciously all along, or at least had some inkling.  Sometimes they seem to, other times they seem clearly not to (or have forgotten).  Could I make this birthday a rebirth-day as well?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Am I sick?

As the "transgender" community continues to broaden and we recognize the rich spectrum of identity it envelopes, I can't help but have mixed feelings about the inclusion of "gender identity disorder" in the DSM-IV, and the proposed definition of "gender incongruence" in the DSM-V

In a general philosophical sense, I think people should be free to express themselves (including their gender) in whatever form makes them happy, and along those lines I can certainly recognize the validity of someone who simply feels that they have both masculine and feminine identities meshed together, and prefer to express that idea in their clothing as a male-looking person who wears very feminine clothes sometimes.  That person may not have any desire whatsoever to modify the body, or perhaps desires partial modification to retain sex characteristics of both genders.  In a social sense, do we treat this person as crazy or having a psychiatric disorder?  Or do we see that in most other ways, this person behaves just like anyone else, and if not for some "interesting" fashion choices, should be considered mentally sound?

What about the "classic" transsexual?  That is, someone who is firmly convinced that her male body is a deformity and an improper housing for her female mind and self-image (or vice versa for the classic male TS).  Should society treat this as though it were any other birth defect?  Given the propensity for depression and suicide in untreated transsexuals, isn't treating a TS with surgical correction akin to a life-saving procedure or at least one that significantly improves the quality of life of the patient?  On the other hand, if we consider it a body-image issue, then should it be treated like breast augmentation or other cosmetic surgeries and categorized as elective?

In the fight to have people with non-standard gender presentation treated as "normal", does that it mean it should no longer be recognized as a medical condition?  The ramifications in the US may not be that great - not that many health insurance plans actually cover gender reassignment surgery anyway, so most of that expense if borne by the transsexual patients themselves.  However, in Canada, the UK, and other countries with universal health care currently recognizing gender identity disorders as legitimate and surgically correctable medical conditions, most transsexuals who undergo surgery pay minimally for that treatment.  "Normal"-izing transsexuality could take that away if it is completely removed from some future edition of the DSM (like homosexuality was decades ago).

I don't have a well-defined opinion on this yet, but I think that this is an argument that the transgender community should be discussing.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

We all bleed red.

Last week, the Senate tried to repeal the US Armed Forces' "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy on homosexuality in the military. Due to what I think of as stupidly messing around with procedural games to play politics, it failed, with a couple of conservative Democrats voting no, and no Republicans voting yes.  Had this been a simple vote on DADT instead of all the attached amendments, the prevailing wisdom was that it should have been a shoo-in.  This is an extremely disappointing result, and leads me to believe that if the Democrats should retain control, they need someone other than Harry Reid to take over leadership.

Here's a cartoon from April 2009 by Chan Lowe.  Hard to argue with it.

Update: On 24 Sept 2010, US District Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that DADT is unconstitutional and ordered the Air Force to reinstate flight nurse Major Margaret Witt, who actually had not violated DADT (she had not been asked and didn't tell), until a malicious sheriff's deputy entered her home illegally, found evidence of her homosexuality, and reported it to her base commander, who then initiated her discharge from the USAF under the DADT policy.  Interestingly, this comes just two weeks after another US District Judge, Virginia Phillipps, also ruled DADT to be unconstitutional.  So if these rulings stand, does this mean DADT doesn't have to be repealed by the Congress?  I'm not sure of how that works.

Do clothes make the girl?

Christian Dior Dress (cc flickr user unforth)
Whether exaggerated or not, it is pretty well documented that transgendered m2f's usually dress sexier and more overtly feminine than the average woman of their age.  I assume that this has to do with the fact that until hormone treatment and/or surgery, we must rely on external indicators to validate our internal selves.  When a TG gal looks down at her body, the body hair, the genitals, the lack of hips or defined waist, the flat chest, all this combines to fight the self-image in her mind.  Now, as someone who is interested in fashion, I'm well aware that relatively flat chests and lack of pronounced hips does not make a chromosomal woman non-feminine.  But her self-image is backed up by the rest of her biology.  Even if she believes her body to be deficient, she usually doesn't see it as male!

So, what's a tg girl to do?  Overcompensate, especially at first.  Makeup tends to be caked on and often garish, and dress is often over-youthful and rather sexualized.  This does not necessarily imply a sexual component to the costume, just the influence of mass media.  This was certainly the case for me a few decades ago.  But now I'm in my early 40s.  I've been on hormones but only have little sub-A-cup breasts and no real hip/waist definition. And yet, even when I look at myself completely naked, I see the woman in me.  I'm not really happy that I see male genitalia dangling down there or that my belly is sort of poochy, but it doesn't jar me as badly as it used to.  I am much much more comfortable wearing women's clothing than men's, and I do still like dressing up a bit even when just doing chores around the house, but I also sometimes opt to wear just jeans and t-shirts with flats even when I am all alone in my house and could wear something else.  In some ways, I think of it as an evolution to thinking more like a woman than as a trans-woman.

It's sort of funny.  Over the years, I've developed a reputation (as a man) as someone who doesn't like to get dressed up.  I only put on jacket and tie if I absolutely have to.  The thing is, it wasn't about getting fancied up.  It was the overt maleness of the jacket and tie and the big clunky male dress shoes.  As a woman (at least in my mind if not in practice yet), I'd be perfectly happy to have occasion to wear nicer dresses and heels, though as I said, I'm also happy in jeans and flats these days.  I wonder if this growing comfort and knowledge of who I really am makes it more or less likely that I will be able to transition successfully.  Will there be less of a change from my current life than I expect?  Is that good or bad?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Forgetting the Past.

The latest big "trans" movie that I've seen is Prodigal Sons, a documentary/partial autobiography by filmmaker Kimberly Reed.  It follows the stories of Kimberly (born Paul), and her older adopted brother Marc, as they try to make sense of their relationship and their senses of self.  The story begins with Kim's return to her hometown of Helena, MT for her high school class reunion.  This is the second time she'll have visited her hometown as a woman, and the first time that most of her class will meet her as a woman (the first time was for her father's funeral several years prior, and a few of her closest friends met "Kim" then).  Surprisingly (to me, who as someone not from Montana has a certain expectation of parochialism from the Western Plains states) they seem to accept her quite well.

Obviously one story line is her transsexuality, but equally interesting is a completely non-trans storyline about Marc's search for his birth family.  I don't want to give anything away, so just go rent it, or watch it via Netflix streaming.

There was one point in the movie though, that really made me think about the differences between us transsexuals.  NO DUH, you're thinking.  Well, yeah that seems obvious, but many times people (including ourselves) sort of lump all transsexuals into a homogeneous group of presumed experiences and feelings.  Anyway, in this scene, Marc is showing friends of his birth family a bunch of pictures from his childhood.  They naturally include some with his brothers, including Paul/Kim, who is looking on with a pained look on her face.  It appears that there is a little bit of giggling and smirking from some of the people, but  on the other hand, they were very friendly and welcoming to Kim from what we could see on film.  So, in private later, Kim confronts Marc and tells him that showing pictures of her was very hurtful to her and that she really wanted to forget that early part of her life, that she is Kim now, and really didn't want to be reminded that she was ever Paul.

This is so different from how I think that I was shocked.  I can empathize and understand what she meant.  It is painful to live in constant fear of discovery and self-doubt, sometimes even self-loathing.  I wouldn't mind erasing some of that from my memory either.  But perhaps because I have lived so much more than her prior to transitioning (if I ever do) and have experienced parenthood, love, etc, in my male presentation, I cannot begin to contemplate cutting myself off from all of that.  I get that high school, despite the external success, was internally a struggle for her, but it has been a struggle for me all my life too.  I'm sure part of it is that I'm mostly a laid-back personality, and with a few exceptions, I tend to go with the flow, aware of my decisions, and accepting the consequences of those decisions.  I don't know - I'm certainly not judging her and I think she is a very talented filmmaker and courageous woman for telling the story.  I guess my point is just that "all of us" trans-folks don't have a single "all of us" story.  That's the cool thing about blogs though - I've been fortunate to have read the experiences of many, and hopefully contribute my own thoughts to the collective history (herstory? :-) as well.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tolerance is not good enough.

Back in July, Tim Ravndal, the president of the Montana Big Sky Tea Party Association, had the following exchange on his facebook page.  This was brought up first (to my knowledge) on Andy Towle's blog, Towleroad.  I find this truly sickening.

The relevant comments are about halfway down, starting with this from a Dennis Scranton,  "I think fruits (referring to homosexuals) are decorative.  Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated.  Call Wyoming for display instructions."  To which Randval replies, "@Dennis, Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?"

In case you are unaware of the Wyoming event being alluded to, Matthew Shephard was a 21-year-old gay man murdered in Laramie, WY, in October 1998, dying in a hospital a few days after being found by a cyclist passing by the fence to which he had been tied and tortured, beaten and pistol-whipped by two homophobic young men.

I've been a racial minority all my life, and have encountered race-based bigotry only a few times.  None were particularly threatening, but they were somewhat disconcerting.  I don't really think about my race all that much - I just am what I am.  I encounter sexuality-based prejudice far more often, though it isn't directed at me since I appear to be a relatively normal heterosexual male.  This is often in the form of humor, but when it is "humor" between two heterosexuals making fun of LGBT type "queers", it really can't be considered humor any more, can it?

Here's the thing.  We minorities, whether racial, social, sexual, or gender, have for too long been asking for tolerance from the majority.  Let's think about that:  Don't you want to be more than just "tolerated"?  I think we've been pussy-footing around what we really want for fear of losing some of our allies, but enough is enough!  Let's say I pass poorly as a transsexual woman - I sure don't want to walk around town with people shooting daggers at me with their eyes knowing that the only thing that makes them "tolerate" my presence is the law.  That is not good enough.  We need to educate people beginning from a very young age and IN THE SCHOOLS that every single person is a human being and should be treated with all of the dignity and respect that you would give any other human being.  It doesn't matter who or even what they love, what they look like, what their profession is, or what their beliefs are.  If they aren't harming someone else, then there is no reason not to show them full respect and acceptance of their humanity.  You don't just tolerate their presence.  You accept them as a fellow human being.

The idea of tolerance means that there is continued argument about the value of some people based not on their contributions to society or generosity to others, but on what they do in their private lives, not hurting anyone.  We need to tackle this issue head-on and right now.  If some tenets of some religions or cultures say that homosexuality is evil, or that women are not as good as men, then we cannot stand by and say, "Oh, well that's just their belief system.  As long as they don't shoot you for being gay we can't do anything."  When you label someone as "evil" that is not a benign label.  People who believe that will consciously or subconsciously consider the "evil" person to be less than human.  To say that women are inferior to men does the same.  That makes it ok to hurt them, whether physically or otherwise.

When a belief is clearly wrong, you don't just let people just keep believing.  So we have to say these people, many of your culture's ideas and ideals are wonderful, but think through this.  Clearly some of the tenets of your religion or cultural heritage are born from historical bigotry and attempts to control the society around them.  Throw those ideas OUT!  Be vocal about it!  Tell your fellow Christians or Muslims or whatever that they would be no less Christian or Muslim if they believed only in the "be good to people" side of their religion and not the exclusionary, spiteful side.  I'm not a religious scholar and I'm not a philosopher.  I am aware of many nuances and arguments around the idea of morality, but at its most basic state, morality is about doing as little harm to others as possible.  Excluding people from the whole is definitely harmful.  Having consensual sexual relations with male or female partners is not. Being a woman and walking on the street unescorted is not.  Driving while woman is not.  Wearing dresses with your XY chromosomes is not.

It is time to stop listening to the ultra-conservatives screaming "Think of the children!" and instead we should actually think about the children.  How young is too young to "indoctrinate" them into believing that everyone should be a potential friend no matter how they look or behave (as long as they aren't hurting someone)?  If we contradict their parents' teachings because their parents are bigoted morons, isn't that our duty?  Parents don't have a right to prevent their children from learning alternative points of view just as the government has no right to tell the parents what to say to their children.  Hopefully, the more open and inclusive view will win the mind of the child, and for now, that's what we need to work for.  Our personal futures are short and it is doubtful we will see meaningful change in how we minorities are perceived, but over a generation or two, IF we can make a change in what kids are being taught, maybe our queer descendants will be able to walk down any street without a second thought as to whether anyone is likely to attack her just for being herself.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Vaginal myths from the Bloggess

If you don't read the Bloggess, then you're really missing some great stuff. Anyway, in addition to her regular blog, she also does a column/blog for Eden Fantasys (This link is probably NSFW depending on where you W, and No, I don't know why they spell it wrong).

She just did a post on the "Top 10 Myths About Vaginas", and guess what was #5?

5. You have to have a vagina to be a girl.

There are lots of people who don’t have vaginas but still identify as a girl. Some close-minded people insist that only “a vagina makes a girl,” but using that same logic, someone with two vaginas makes two girls. And now we’re fighting intolerance with math.

I really love this woman, and I don't even know her!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


cc licensed / flickr CDrewing 2007
OK, I realize this is old news to some people, but I was narcissistically looking at myself in the mirror last night checking out a new top I just bought and my first thought was, "it's a pretty top, too bad I still look kinda like a guy wearing a lacy blouse."  Then as I turned away, I caught sight of myself and there was an epiphany.  Well, not really.  I mean, I did actually know this already - but I just tend to forget, especially if I'm not wearing a bra.  Anyway, as soon as I pulled my shoulders back just a little, all of a sudden my body looked like it belonged in a lacy top!  I looked almost like a girl even without makeup or doing my hair in a particularly feminine style!  Yay me!  Yay for good posture.  Boo me for just now realizing how hunched over I am typing this right now. Haha, this is going to be a tough habit to work on.  With my little hormone-induced boobs, I purposely hunch very slightly (or at least don't straighten up fully) when in drab mode to keep them from being too prominent if I'm not wearing a compression t-shirt underneath.  Still, seeing myself as feminine without the need for a pushup bra or a swipe of lip color, or even sucking in my gut :-) is definitely a spirit-lifter.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why rock the boat?

You would think that the answer to "why" someone wants or needs to come out of the closet has been answered a million times by now, especially in the gay community.  It's simple - people want to be treated as human beings, and that means acknowledging their feelings, their likes and dislikes, their fashion sense or lack thereof, their intelligence, their sense of humor, and so on.  Still, I am constantly asking myself, why I am thinking about rocking the boat?  Unlike some transsexuals, I can say that I'm reasonably happy and quite proud of what I've done in my life as a male.  To most people, I seem "normal" if slightly eccentric with the hair (but then maybe they attribute that to ethnicity, I don't know).  When I can find a little time alone without fear of one of the kids dropping by the house, I may dress in a more comfortable (ie feminine) manner while I work, and that  little bit helps keep me from going bonkers. So it would seem that I can keep living a dual life and the people around me would not have to deal with the craziness.  But...


But I avoid going out to public places and events because it is so painful to see the huge variety of women around me and not be one of them.

But I shudder whenever my gender is directly addressed - calling me my male name is ok, but a random clerk or passerby calling me "sir" makes me want to retreat to my bed and hide for the rest of the day.

But what I see in the mirror keeps changing between blinks, and it's making me crazy.

But seeing an old picture of myself in a suit as the soloist in an orchestra concert makes me daydream for several minutes about how beautiful I might have looked and felt in an evening gown instead.

But as I mentioned in my last post, even being mistakenly identified as female for a few seconds can make me feel instantly warm and fuzzy and happy... until the "mistake" is corrected and I drop back down the abyss.

But I'm tired of wondering why my wife keeps asking if I want anything for myself when we are in the men's department shopping for my son.  Even though intellectually she knows transsexuality is a permanent part of me (and hell, she'd be SO pissed off if I actually could switch it off and hadn't all this time :-) it is obvious she doesn't want to fully recognize it while I'm still mainly being a guy.

But when my daughter and I talk about a dress or blouse or whatever in a particular catalog, I can't tell her that my experience with that company is that their clothes run slightly small, or ask her whether this or that item would look nice on me.

But mostly, it's the same as I wrote at the top of this post.  I want people, especially people I care about, to really know me - all of me.  Ironically, the fear of rejection by some of these same people is also one the big reasons I haven't come out of the closet yet.

OK, this was mildly depressing.  Let's end this post on an up note.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mistaken Identity

me, ten years ago
I think primarily because I have long hair (because if I'm in drab mode, I really don't think I look remotely feminine), I occasionally get called "ma'am" or if I'm with my wife, a server might ask what "you ladies" want for dinner.  I always get a bit of a thrill when that happens.  My wife, not so much.  We haven't gone out as two women yet, but it seems to bother her when I get mistaken.  She says it's not because she doesn't want to be seen as having dinner with another woman, it's that my being mistaken for one reflects the parochial and biased viewpoints of the people who can't comprehend a guy having long hair.  Now, I do live in a relatively conservative semi-Southern state, so that's not so far-fetched.  But I still think there is more to it than that.  I think she is still not ready (if ever) to be seen as a lesbian.  Personally, since we don't usually hold hands or kiss or snuggle up in public (because going to the grocery store or Target just isn't exactly romantic, duh) I would guess that the vast majority of people would just assume we were two female friends.  Well, I'm going to try and talk her into spending a day or so with my "viv" self in about 6 weeks when we are planning a short out-of-town trip.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Avatars (not the movie)

cc-licensed from flickr user Iscan
I played World of Warcraft fairly heavily for a couple of years, and while I had a few different characters of various races and genders, I eventually settled in on a female character.  At this time, I prefer not to reveal myself in that venue, so let's just call her "Amy".  I know, it's not a creative WoW-type name, but it'll do for this purpose.  One of the interesting things about playing Amy was that I became invested not just in my in-game character, but as my in-game player persona.  People would assume that I was female, perhaps because my chat style seemed feminine?  I don't know - I generally avoided directly stating my gender, in part because since this "life" in WoW was all mental and not physical anyway, I truly felt that I was a female playing the game, no matter the sex of my avatar.  But back to the perception of me as female - I found both male and female players who had no prior suggestion of my genetic sex, but who over a period of time when chats became less exclusively game-oriented and would touch on each others' real lives, I could see their perception of my change from a default of male or not really thinking about it, to talking to me as a female.  How is it different?  I'm not sure I can explain it.  More general chit-chat from the other female players, an ease in the conversation.  From guy players, a bit more playfulness, maybe some lightly joking flirting despite knowing that I am married IRL (in real life).  Even though I'm attracted only to gals, I have to say it was sort of sweet to be flirted with. I guess the desire to be liked, even in pretend, is universal.

So, how does one "type" femininely?  What was I doing that labeled me as female?  As I was pondering this, I set up an experiment and played one of my male characters for a while.  The same pattern emerged.  At first, people assumed that I was male or didn't explicitly make assumptions at all, but soon, as my male character's friends started chatting with me about random stuff and not just the game, they clearly began to make assumptions that I was female.  As a still-in-the-closet transsexual, I can't even begin to describe how wonderful that feels.  I mean, all I have ever wanted was to be accepted and assumed to be just a plain old ordinary girl.  When I stopped playing WoW, the strongest feeling of loss wasn't the fun of adventuring, it was no longer having a world to visit in which people saw me for who I am mentally, unbiased by how my body looks.  I still don't know what made my chatting seem feminine, but I like to think of it as confirmation that in every way but my stupid body, I am woman.  See me type, "roar!"   :-)

Saturday, September 11, 2010


cc-licensed by flickr user Jagrap
My entire childhood and teenage years, I was a classical musician.  I was immersed in it, I lived and felt it, and I loved it.  Still do.  However, as a pre-teen and teenager, I felt the pull of my friends' musical tastes and explored a rather wide range of musical genres.  I liked a lot of them, but one of the genres that really spoke to me were the girl rockers like Joan Jett, Patti Smith, and Chrissy Hynde to name just a few.  I think part of what struck me was the loud and brash passion and raw emotion coming from these women.  For me, who was hiding my inner female, and was extremely reserved and quiet as a gu, these hard rockin' women were something to aspire to (and pretend to be, when driving alone in my car with the radio up).  I still have a preference for female voices in most genres, actually.  I'm not sure if this subconsciously has to do with my gender identity issues, or if it's just an aural preference like any other person's musical preferences.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Musical Interlude: Boys and Girls by Blur. remixed.

My TG Flavor

cc-licensed Kr.B.
I was born in the late '60s.  I think I realized an affinity for the feminine by early elementary school, but at the time, there really wasn't much I could do to learn about myself. Certainly as the first and only son of asian immigrants, this wasn't something I could talk to my parents about! But finally when I hit middle school and my music lessons took me onto the local university campus, I began to explore the library and found myself in the titillating-to-a-preteen section on human sexuality. Or maybe it was part of the abnormal psychology section, I don't really remember now. That led me to some of the old classic research on transsexuality and transvestism, terms which are no longer in vogue. I quickly realized my transsexuality but again, given my family situation and being generally unsure of myself in many ways, I felt helpless.

With high school, things changed a little because I had a little more alone time when I was trusted to hang out at the house alone while my mother drove my little sister to after-school activities. So I tried out some of my mom's old clothes - the ones in the attic that I knew she wouldn't be wearing anytime soon, if ever. It was comforting. But at the same time, I felt that it was very wrong, and I "knew" based on my reading that it was "abnormal". In other words, an urge I should fight and not let anyone know about.

In college, I met my future and current (and hopefully always) wife. She was not from the conservative midwest like me, came from a large rather liberal metropolitan area, and she had and accepted a family member who lived an alternative sexual lifestyle. I guess I was comfortable enough with her to slowly slip my secret. She, bizarrely, loved/loves me enough to accept that about me, though we agreed that expressing my femininity was something I'd just do in private. At the time, I thought that was enough, and besides, the thought of social ostracism from anyone else finding out frightened the heck out of me. As it turned out, I didn't even do much in private since we were soon busy with both college and babies, then grad school and toddlers.  Eventually though, an odd confluence of events reignited the urge to be feminine. For unknown reasons, I developed gynecomastia - enlargement of breast tissue in a male. Unfortunately it was unilateral, and even today after being on hormones, one side is a little bigger than the other. I would joke that this was God's way of pissing on me - "You don't like the way I made you? You want to be more feminine? OK, here, have a breast. No, just the one. You don't like it? F**k you! " At about this time, my kids were getting older and more independent, and I again had a little tiny bit more time, so I began to dress again, mostly just wearing feminine underwear beneath my regular clothing. I doubt it looked attractive, but it made me feel better knowing that at least in some small part, I was acknowledging my "real self".

These days, the term "transgendered" is used in place of the older terms because it encompasses greater variety. No longer do professionals in the field consider gender as a binary, but rather as a continuum. In some ways, I think this is great and I applaud the idea that people can be very feminine men, or very masculine women. I think politically, this is a harder sell to the general public than the old "woman's brain trapped in a man's body" type of sexuality, but eventually, the more inclusive idea is the ultimate goal for acceptance. That said, I don't think of myself as a man with very feminine instincts or thoughts. I think of myself as a woman who has, for the last 42 years, played the role of a man to varying degrees of success out of genetic and social necessity. If (and that's a big "if") I were to transition, I wouldn't really want to be known as transgendered or transsexual, I'd want to simply be considered a woman. I know some people would say that's turning my back on my "sisters". I don't see it that way - I still support their right to feel however they feel about their gender - I just happen to still think in the old gender binary, and I don't want to be a former male or feminine male or transgendered m2f, or what-have-you. I just want to be a woman.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Wasting energy

Photo from flickr via Wikimedia Commons.
There are times I feel like I'm standing at the refrigerator with the door open, not really sure what I want to eat or drink, and for that matter not really sure what's even in there.  When my kids did that, we'd yell at them to make the decision and close the door, and stop wasting energy.  So here I am, nearly 43 years of my life gone by, the last ten of which I have consciously been standing with the refrigerator door open, so to speak, making little forays into resolving my transsexuality, but not really doing anything definitive.  I started on hormones, which sadly aren't doing that much for my body - I'm a 38A with no recognizable hips or rear end, but somehow makes me feel more at ease with myself.  I think that's a placebo effect.  I more or less exclusively wear women's jeans, shoes, undies, and if they are reasonably mannish, women's tops as well.  However, I still present in public as a "normal" male despite an exponentially increasing discomfort in doing so.

So why not just come out of the closet, or more accurately, why not wear all the clothes in my closet, not just that select subset?  The short answer is that I am afraid.  Of many things, really.  Despite my wife's stated support of whatever I decide to do, she is adamantly non-lesbian, and clearly has a great deal of trepidation not just of potential changes in our relationship, but in how business associates and friends may judge her/us.  Also, I have kids in college and law school.  Although I think my kids would be accepting, there's the possibility that they'd feel that I'd betrayed their mother and be angry at me for that.  There's an even greater chance that my being an "out" transsexual would have negative consequences for some of their friendships, and they might resent me for that.  Since almost my entire sense of self is bound up in my relationship with my wife and kids, this represents a huge stumbling block.  It also serves to remind me that ultimately if I were to transition to living as a woman (and in the meantime be recognized as Transgendered person with a capital T), the only person that really benefits is me - it is a supremely selfish act.

So for the last ten years, I have been wasting energy with the fridge door open - wasting my energy and my everlovingly patient wife's energy.  If nothing else, I'm pretty sure I have to close the door soon, one way or the other.  I guess that's part of what this blog is about: trying to work out my true needs versus my desires, and balancing them with the happiness of my loved ones.

Is America *phobic?

Time magazine's cover story August 30 asked the question in big bold letters: Is America Islamophobic?  If one were to listen to right-wing radio, television, newspapers, and blogs, the answer is unequivocally, YES!  But wait, these same people also seem to believe that Americans also need to fear same-sex marriage, masturbation, atheism, higher education, science and other forms of rational thought, the will of the majority (who clearly were out of their minds in electing Democrats to Congress and the White House), helping the poor (unless they are in a country far away and we can tell them to believe in the savior Jesus Christ before giving them food or medicine), immigrants that don't look 'merican, especially if they speak a language other than English (because who knows what they're plotting?), fighting global warming (note that they are not afraid of global warming itself because it doesn't exist to them - they are afraid of changes in their lifestyle needed to fight global warming), history (unless re-written by the Texas Board of Education), socialism (which is oddly defined as a form of Nazi-ism), and the list goes on and on.

Of course, the key here is fear.  Ask any sociologist, and they'll tell you that fear is a far greater motivator of the masses than love or understanding.  It takes so much less work to fear something different from yourself than to try to understand it.  Unfortunately, this means that combating fear is a long and arduous process - something that is not rewarded by the way our political system is currently operating.  It's hard to tell if the general populace is going to give in to the politics of fear this November or not.  Sadly, the Obama administration has been played by the politics of fear through its first two years, shirking its responsibility to make the changes promised during its campaign in a bizarre and unrealized hope of winning bipartisan support for its proposals rather than fully utilizing its numerical advantage.  If you want to know why Democratic voting numbers are down, look no further than the dismay and confusion on the faces of those of us who wonder why we squandered two years of controlling both the legislative and executive branches of government by looking for idiotic compromises with Republicans who were ultimately afraid to compromise anyway.