Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Question MarkA reader writes: “I am a 59-year-old African American lesbian giving serious consideration to transitioning to a male. Are you aware of any females beginning their transition who are my age?

“I do realize there will be generational, cultural, and racial considerations. My questions largely have to do with being post menopausal and beginning T. Are there challenges that younger trans men don’t have to deal with? Will T be more effective since I am post menopausal? Are there any health considerations or concerns?

“As I begin my transition, I will bind my chest. I’ll see how it goes prior to deciding to (or not) having a double mastectomy. Is there an ‘older’ community of trans men support group? Any other suggestions would greatly be appreciated.”

There are definitely cultural and racial considerations that I am not qualified to address. I’ll have some suggestions with regard to those in a minute, and readers will have others, I’m sure.

As far as female-designated people who being transition later in life – yes, there are many, and some are older than you. Your age should not stop you from doing what you need to do. The oldest female-to-male transitioner that I am aware of was in his mid to late 60s. The oldest male-to-female transitioner that I am aware of was in her 80s. It can be – and has been – done.

An older trans guy named Jay, who has posted a video on YouTube, started T at age 65. And here is one from Dr. Jay, who started transition at 56, and here is a video from a guy who is transitioning at age 60. If you check out these videos, you will also find others from older trans guys who are transitioning (related videos appear down the right-hand side of the page). Dr. Jay has several videos, and he does talk about health issues related to starting T at an older age.

I’m not a doctor, and you should definitely talk to one, but testosterone in low doses is prescribed to some post-menopausal women to increase libido and to help maintain bone density and muscle mass. You would be taking a much higher dose, because you desire physical changes, but this just suggests that testosterone is not contraindicated for female-designated persons after menopause. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I turned 33 and for all my life, I’ve always tended to dress and act in a manly way. I don’t like the traces of femininity on my body but I learned to live with it. The last nine years I identified as a lesbian and was quite content, although I always felt something isn’t right.

“Half a year ago I realized that there is something as ‘transgender’ and it felt like the solution to my discomfort. I went to therapists and got my paper to start testosterone. I told few friends. First they were like, ‘No problem, that’s cool,’ but now when it turns serious, they tell me that they don’t see me as a man and that I’m doing a big mistake, I would mutilate a perfect body now and still not be a real man.

“I had myself a breakdown thinking about a new male name – everything felt ‘ridiculous.’ I know I have to know what is right for me, but some of the points my friend told me are torturing me. I am biologically a woman now. I am perhaps the outsider in look and behavior, but completely accepted among my female friends. In fact, I have only female close friends.

“I feel at ease around men, but they look at me as a woman and so I still don’t belong to them, which discomforts me again. I was socialized for 33 years as a woman and was always trying to fit in as best – I can’t cut out this part and I don’t want to lose my female friends.

“How was this transition for you? As I understand you had the bigger change from ‘girly girl’ to man. Did you never doubt you were on the right track? Did you lose your friends? How did you cope emotionally?”

While I think there are many people who have no doubts whatsoever about transition, having doubts is not uncommon. It can be a very scary thing. Many of the changes that come with testosterone are permanent, and changing a body that might not fit you, but that you have lived with for a long time, is a big deal.

But I honestly think that the body can be the least complicated issue for many people (and correcting a body that is absolutely not right is not mutilation, by the way). The social aspects of any transition can sometimes the most difficult. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “Can a person be both a part of the community and an ally? What I mean is, is an ally always an outsider to T/LGB? Is a transgender person necessarily an activist or informer, the way an ally is? What about those who question their gender but are otherwise supportive and politically/socially active?

“The third question applies mostly to myself, but my questioning isn’t at the heart of this email. Whatever I am labeled, I want to move transgender issues forward, giving clarity to others. If I hadn’t set out to find out all the information I know now, I think I would have a very distorted view on gender. It is not difficult to imagine a trans-ignorant/transphobic world beyond myself, especially with all the things I hear in my family and at school.”

To answer your question, I think that we need to look at the differences between an ally, an advocate, and an activist. To do this, we’ll use good old Merriam-Webster:

Ally: a person or group that gives help to another person or group.

Advocate: a person who works for a cause or group.

Activism: a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action, especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue. (Oddly, there was no definition for activist, but based on this, an activist would be a person who does this)

So, when we look at these definitions, we can see that an ally is not a member of the group to which that person belongs. An ally is an “outsider” who gives help to that group. You could be an ally to the transgender community, or you could be a member of the transgender community, but you couldn’t be both.

Now, you could be a member of the LGBT community and be an ally of the trans community – if you were a non-trans lesbian, gay man, or bisexual person. You could be an ally of the LGB community if you were trans and straight-identified or queer-identified. But if  you are trans and gay-identified, for example, you would be a member of the gay community and the trans community – not an ally of either. (more…)

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Question MarkToday we have two letters that are only semi-related (I figured out a way to make them go together), and I would really like some reader input on the first one, so let’s get started:

A reader writes: “I am a 32-year-old trans woman. I’ve been living in San Francisco for almost a decade now. I was wondering if you know of any small towns, say under 7-8,000 people, that are trans friendly or at least very liberal/open-minded. I have tried looking online and have yet to come up with anything.”

I thought this was a good question to put out there to the readers, because every so often, I get a question about trans-friendly towns and where to live. I am really not aware of any very small trans-friendly towns, other than possibly Trinidad, Colorado (population 9,096), but now that Marci Bowers has moved her practice from there, I don’t know if it’s changed.

The good thing about any town in Colorado is that our state has public accommodations and employment non-discrimination laws that cover trans people. The bad thing is that, even with laws in place, you can’t guarantee that they’re followed.

But I know there are readers out there looking for trans-friendly locations, and not everyone is looking for a small town. So I’m hoping that I can throw this out there and get some good feedback on cities and towns of all sizes that are trans-friendly or good places for trans people to live.

Readers, what would you recommend with regard to trans-friendly small towns, medium-sized cities, and large cities, however you define that? It would be nice if we could get a little list going, with some towns and cities of various sizes. And although the reader was asking about locations in the United States, I get readers from all over the world, so I would be interested in hearing about trans-friendly towns and cities anywhere. (more…)

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Question MarkI have a couple of unrelated letters, but they are short, so I thought I would put them together and create one post. Here they are:

A reader writes: “I am a transman who is doing some research on Transphobia within minority groups (LGB and Black communities). Unfortunately I am not having too much luck finding material due to the lack of studies, etc. Could you recommend any sources?”

I am not aware of any studies, although there are probably some out there. Readers might have some ideas or might have seen some. I would recommend contacting the following organizations for starters:

Trans People of Color Coalition

Transgender Law and Policy Institute

National Center for Transgender Equality

National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

With regard to transphobia in black communities, there are some individuals who can probably give you great information, but remember that individuals are very busy and are often volunteering their time, so might not be able to respond. I would recommend:

Monica Roberts of TransGriot

Dr. Kortney Ryan Ziegler of blac (k) ademic

Kylar Broadus

Readers, do you know of any studies? What would you recommend?

A reader writes: “I recently came out on Facebook as a transman, and while I got a lot of support from friends, I also got 168 hateful, bigoted, and damning emails (mostly from people that I graduated from Bible college with).  One guy (a pastor of a church) even said “If you were my child and told me you were transgendered, I’d hope you would kill yourself.” (more…)

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GenderBenderDayA Milwaukee mom refused to send her seven-year-old son to the Tippecanoe School for the Arts and Humanities on the day that the school originally tagged as “Gender Bender Day” – when boys were supposed to wear “girl” clothes and girls were supposed to wear “boy” clothes – according to the Wisconsin School Reformer. Amid complaints, the school eventually changed the name to “Switch It Up Day,” which is actually kind of funny considering the sexual connotations of the word “switch.”

Regardless, Deidri Hernandez was pissed and said that she did not want her son exposed to this apparent promotion of “homosexuality” in schools. She then went on to confuse sexual orientation with gender identity by saying, “They might as well call it Transgender Day.” She also complained about how liberals and atheists have the ear of the school, but others do not.

Well, Ms. Hernandez, I’m one of those liberals and atheists who are apparently so powerful and influential, and the truth is that I don’t like the idea of “Gender Bender Day” or “Switch Hitter Day” or whatever you want to call it either – but for very different reasons:

> This activity assumes that there are only two genders and only two acceptable ways to express them – probably a dress and makeup for girls and pants and maybe beard stubble for boys. There are no gray areas here, and it is likely that no alternative options for gender expression will be discussed.

> Most girls wear pants to school now anyway, at least some of the time, so the real “delight” of this day will be boys in dresses that everyone gets to laugh about and make fun of. Far from promoting “homosexuality,” an event like this instead promotes gay and trans bashing – “Wow, John, you sure look pretty in that dress. Who knew you were so gay?” “Albert, that dress fits you perfectly. Is it your mom’s or is it yours?” “Joe, you look so good in those high heels that I would date you – but I’m not a f*g!” (more…)

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Question MarkToday we have two letters from trans guys, one seeking social advice and another seeking medical advice. As always, reader thoughts, experiences, and advice are welcome and encouraged. Here we go:

A reader writes: “I’m a 32-year-old transguy who began transition two years ago. Prior to that, I lived as a lesbian for 15 years. Transition was a painful decision for me. There was no joy in it – it was a step I had to take because there was no other option. I feel more comfortable in my own skin than I ever thought possible – but, oh, what a price I have paid.

“I lost all of my lesbian friends in transition. In one fleeting moment, I lost my entire community. Once it became apparent that these fences would not/could not be mended, I began to seek new community. From my years of lesbian activism I thought getting involved with Trans activism would be a good way to meet like-minded Trans folks. But I’m have found (at least in my area) Trans* equals transwomen – transmen need not apply.

“I am allowed to volunteer my time to the cause, but there is a pervasive feeling that, at best, transmen are a novelty, and at worst, our experience is being dictated to us. The arguments that my lesbian friends used against me (you now have male privilege, blah blah blah) are the very same arguments being hurled at me from the trans feminine community.

“I find this very frustrating and isolating. I was socialized female. I lived as a gender non-conforming woman for three decades. In my heart of hearts, I don’t identify as a man but rather a transman. And yet my experiences are constantly being thrown away, as if being Trans could be distilled down into some sort of sick oppression Olympics.

“How do I find a place in this world where I fit in when everyone seems so hostile?”

This is a tough one. When I first transitioned over fifteen years ago, the trans community that I entered was also primarily trans women. Although I got no hostility there (the community here in Denver was actively trying to promote inclusion of trans men), I still didn’t quite “fit,” and I was the only guy at many functions.

That changed as time went on. More trans guys became visible and started interacting in the community. But there always seemed to be a separation, and I think that’s because trans men and trans women have very different experiences on many levels. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am the mom of an MTF 17-year-old who transitioned at age 11. She has a rare life-threatening disease causing blindness, hearing loss (wears hearing aids), diabetes, and many other health problems.

“I have tried to get her involved in our local LGBT community, but she shows no interest because she states that she feels like an outcast in the LGBT community and an outcast in the blind community. She is very shy.

“I know it’s a long shot, but I would love to locate even one person that is in the same kind of situation as we are. Any ideas?”

Thank you so much for your support for and concern about your daughter. I think that there are many people in similar situations, which is why I am putting this out there for my readership, which is very diverse and knowledgeable.

I hope that readers can help with information about resources, and also relate personal experiences and advice with regard to acceptance and navigating various communities as a trans person and also a person with disabilities.

I have not found a lot of resources out there, but I’m sure there are some that I am not aware of. I did find the website Blind LGBT Pride International, and it appears that this organization is currently active. There is also a Yahoo group called TransDeaf (“peer support by and for Deaf transgendered and transsexual persons”) that appears to be currently active.

Readers, what can you suggest? Thank you in advance.

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I will be referring to my grandchild-by-choice mostly as male at this time, because he is currently presenting as a gay male.

“I am a cis female with many LGBT friends. He is younger than me by decades. I am almost 60. I began as his online mentor and English tutor. He lives in Bangladesh and I live in the United States.

“This is our fifth year of knowing each other. We are both poets, with a shared love of language. He is an atheist in a strongly fundamentalist Muslim society. I am a Buddhist by choice, living in a diverse, liberal community, in a college town. We chose to become family for each other.

“He lives in the birth relatives’ home in Bangladesh. He is out as a gay male to his parents and within his community. He is frequently taunted badly for being gay.

“My chosen grandchild has recently revealed to me that she feels like a woman at heart, although she only ever expects to present herself as male. So I am designing feminine jewelry for her, as I make jewelry. I do encourage her to express her feminine side to me. It is definitely not safe for my young one to express it where she lives. So back to male pronouns for now, although I feel conflicted about that.

“I personally know liberal Muslims in my own community. But he has only encountered fundamentalist Muslims who view him as wrong and try to force him to become straight. Some of them, including both his parents, have abused him, trying to make him straight. He has twice been forcibly locked up in a ward for months and required to undergo conversion therapy. Of course, it has not worked. The parents keep trying because ‘he’ is the firstborn in a male-dominated culture. (more…)

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Question MarkSince I have gotten several questions about writing and/or books, I have put them together in a discussion about writing while trans. Here we go:

A reader writes: “I’m genderqueer, but mostly identify as male. I really want to write something from a genderqueer or trans guy’s point of view, but I’m not sure if what I feel can translate over to what other genderqueer people/trans guys feel and it will seem fake and possibly offend them.

“I’m really agonising over whether to have this character, but a) he’s the main protagonist, and b) him being trans and surgically transitioning is pretty essential to the plot. Do I keep the character as he is or find some other reason for him to want body-altering surgery (not necessarily to do with his sex)?”

You really have two questions here, so I will address them both. First, when you are creating a character, that character does not have to feel everything (or anything) that people similar to that character would feel. This character is his own person, and he cannot be expected to represent what all genderqueer people or trans guys feel or to embody every genderqueer person or trans guy. These communities are so diverse that it simply can’t be done.

And representing an entire community is not your goal, anyway. Your goal is to create an authentic character. Your character does not have to feel, think, or act like other genderqueer people or trans guys feel, think, or act. Your character has to feel, think, and act however he does. He is unique.

When you are writing, you can’t worry about possibly offending someone. As a writer, you will (trust me on this one). You want to create a three-dimensional character who is not a caricature or a stereotype. As long as he is authentic and believable, you have done your job as a writer.

With regard to keeping this character in your book, if he is essential to your story (and if he is the main protagonist, then he is), then you must keep him. And if he must transition, then that is what he has to do. If he truly needs to transition, then other body modification will not suffice. Only he can tell you that. Get to know him so well that you will have no question about what he would do. (more…)

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