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Archive for the ‘Gender’ Category

Question MarkA reader writes: “I’m in high school (Junior), but am very open about my gender identity (cross dress, bind, etc). At this point there isn’t a whole lot I can do about hormonal treatment or surgery. So instead I try to do what I can, at my age. I bind, as mentioned, and use a commercially available binder.

“It has been fine, but lately I’ve gotten a lot of pain, difficulty breathing, and nasty bruising on my rib-cage. I wear it too often as it is (about 12 to 14 hours a day, nearly every day), so I know the best thing to do would be to just stop wearing it so much.

“Unfortunately, this is a problem for me as my gender dysphoria has also gotten much more severe as of late (and includes thoughts of self-harm and things we don’t need to get into). It’s a difficult trade-off for me to consider – wear it less and hopefully not end up with a serious injury in the hospital and cause my dysphoria to be that much worse (which, when paired with my depression, anxiety, and raging teenage hormones can be a serious and kind of terrifying problem), or continue doing what I can to suppress (no pun intended) my dysphoria and likely end up in the hospital.

“My mother doesn’t take my depression or dysphoria seriously (it took her witnessing one of my most violent panic attacks to convince her to let me see the school therapist), so advice from her doesn’t help (especially when she doesn’t offer any).

“So that’s problem one. My other problem, which is much less serious, is standing to pee. I really would love to be able to stand to take a pee, but the price of commercially available STP devices that also function as packers is insane! Not to mention the harnesses! The cheapest set I found would still set me back by $50 that I do not have (a lot of money for a jobless teen who’s worried about affording college, a car, gas for that eventual car, animals, etc). Do you have any ideas in this regard?”

Last question first – have you tried a coffee can lid? I never got the hang of it, but a lot of guys use a plastic coffee can lid with the edge or lip part cut off so that it’s just a flat circle. Then they roll it into a kind of tube and pee through it. You can also buy a sheet of thin plastic at the hardware store and cut a coffee-lid-sized circle out of it. It’s explained here on TransGuys.com, along with other suggestions, tips, and links for the Stand to Pee situation. (more…)

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Question MarkI’m catching up, but still behind. Today we have two short letters that I have some thoughts about, but that I am unable to answer with much certainty, so I hope that readers can give these writers some additional information.

A reader writes: “I found your website while googling around on gender-neutral pronouns. My question, in brief, is this: Is it just me, or are gender-neutral pronouns mostly sought by people who were assumed to be cis women at birth?

“I love the idea of genderqueer and have happily appropriated the parts that work for me and read a fair amount of queer theory over the years. It occurred to me today that most of the third-way writing I have read is by people who no longer want to use girl-pronouns after being assigned she/her at birth, where as trans women tend to love getting access to (and perhaps ideally only using) the girl pronouns versus seeking some third way.

“I googled a bit hoping to find some evidence to the contrary, but didn’t find much. Perhaps I’m insufficiently thorough. Thanks in advance for your reply, and also for your patience with my question and any parts I may have phrased inelegantly or insensitively.”

I don’t know whether or not this is true, but it appears to me, as well, that the majority of people who prefer gender-neutral pronouns are those who were assumed to be female at birth. I do know some genderqueer-identified people who were designated male at birth who use “they,” and I know some who use “he” and “she” interchangeably. But again, the majority of people who I have found to use “they” or “ze” were designated female at birth.

I’m not aware of any statistics on this, or whether or not any surveys or studies have been done (if anyone knows, please fill us in), so my answer is coming from personal experience.

If my personal experience transfers to the larger culture (and I don’t know if it does or not), and I had to give my thoughts on why this might be, I would say that I think that the “gendered” life experience is different for those who are designated female at birth and those who are designated male at birth, and this causes potentially different responses to any feelings of gender incongruity. (more…)

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Question MarkWe have two letters below regarding testosterone – first, from someone who can’t take it, and next, from someone who doesn’t want to. I hope readers will chime in with their suggestions and personal experiences.

A reader writes: “Though I have had top surgery, no doctor will prescribe me T because of my health problems, and I cannot find it through other channels. Add that to crippling bottom dysphoria, being five feet tall, and being universally misgendered, I am not a happy guy.

“I have a fantastic long-term boyfriend, a queer cis guy who sees me as I really am, but my own angst is magnified by the way the rest of the world treats us. Either I am treated as his ‘little lady,’ with waiters handing him the check when I give my credit card, gay men saying I’m a fag hag, being called a butch dyke, or being offered ‘makeovers’ to ‘look like the pretty girl stuck under the boy costume’ (oh, the irony).

“My boyfriend and I try to explain endlessly about me being a trans guy, and we get met with reactions ranging from puzzlement (‘I know a trans guy who really looks like a guy, but you don’t, and I can only think of you as a butch girl’) to laughter (‘You’re joking’) to hostility (‘You’re a crazy bitch and he’s a closeted fag’). I wish I could let all this misgendering go, because obviously our explanations aren’t making it better, but I just can’t.

“So, my question is twofold. Firstly, when I came out in 1999, we needed therapist letters (which I had for my surgery) to get treatment. Now, there are informed consent clinics to give you hormones even without letters, but they do require blood tests. Do you think in the future they will waive this requirement, too, or at least let people like me get hormones if we sign an affidavit indemnifying them from liability? There is no guarantee that hormones will worsen my physical issues, but my gender angst has gotten worse over the last 15 years to the point where I don’t know how much longer I can stand it.

“Secondly, do you have any tips to make going out in the public eye easier for the constantly misgendered trans man and his boyfriend, who himself is tired and hurt by the way his love for me, and also his own identity and motivations, are misconstrued? Am I being delusional in the first place to expect anyone to respect my gender identity when, despite my teenage goatee, big muscles, low voice, flat chest, and boyish style/haircut, I am still very short and not on T?”

In response to your first question, I think it is unlikely that even informed consent clinics will change their policy on blood tests, because there is just too much liability involved. Even if you sign a paper releasing them from all responsibility, that might not hold up in court. We have become a lawsuit-happy country.

We sue tobacco companies (and win), even though we choose to smoke. We sue McDonald’s (and win), even though we choose to eat junk food. So even though it is obvious that we are making our own choices, we can still assign blame and win in court. Doctors and clinics are aware of this. Even when a person’s blood tests come out fine, that person still has to sign something saying that he/she/ze understands the risks of hormones. If medical risks are obvious, as determined by blood tests, regardless of what you’ve signed, medical malpractice might be an issue. (more…)

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Question MarkIn these two letters, we look at the confusion around, and intersections of, sexual orientation and gender identity. Here we go:

A reader writes: “I’m dating a trans man now and it’s been amazing. I’m still slightly confused as I have always considered myself as a straight female and have always seen him as male, but at the same time I’ve accepted that for the moment he is still female and am willing to do stuff with him (obviously, haha).

“I know labels are not the best way to go about things, but I’m not sure of how else I can understand what I am feeling? I hope this doesn’t come across as naive or stupid. I’m just a little bit confused.”

It’s not uncommon for those who are dating trans people to become confused about their own sexual orientation. For you, it seems pretty straight-forward – you’re a straight woman dating a trans guy, so you’re a straight woman … because he’s a guy.

I would argue that he is not “still female.” I think what you mean is that he has not had any type of genital surgery. Maybe you even mean that he is not taking hormones. But if he’s living as a man, then he’s not female. And if you see him as male, then he’s not female to you, either.

Just because he has a different body type from what you might be used to doesn’t negate any of that. If you’ve been with several men in your life, you know that their body types vary widely, even though they all might have come closer to the particular prototype or representation that we have of a “standard” male body than your current lover’s body does. No matter. He’s a man, you’re a woman, and the label for that type of relationship in Western culture is “straight.” (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I recently started college, and I quickly came to the realization that I am transgender. I have been transitioning every way but physically (mentally, socially, etc.), and the process has been enlightening for me. The problem has mainly been with my friends and classmates.

“All of my friends have been as supportive and understanding as they know how. Some friends that I have known for years simply accepted my trans identity as if I came out as gay, telling me they love me, but showing no signs of changing pronouns or their mental perception of my gender. And other friends struggled to remember pronouns and try to shift their thinking from the binary, but it left me feeling discouraged around them and strangers. Additionally, most of my classmates only have my voice and clothing to go on, which convinces them I am a lesbian.

“And I worry that girls who would like me as a guy don’t because they think I am a girl, and others won’t be able to forget that I’m not the girl they thought I was (which happened last semester). I feel as if I am constantly trying to convince people of my maleness. I can count on one hand the number of people I feel 100% comfortable that they view me as male no matter what.

“I have thought of ways to lightheartedly correct pronouns in a way that convinces people I am just a cis guy with a high voice and soft skin, but constantly being misgendered has crushed my outgoing spirit. I don’t want to be “out” in a way that everyone would know I am trans before knowing me, and I don’t want to discuss it with every person I meet. I identify proudly as trans, but I don’t want to be trans first, I want to be male.

“Some people accept the trans label and he/him pronouns, but I can tell they still relate to me as a lesbian. I don’t want my manhood reduced to others trying to remember the right pronouns or something open for discussion and questioning by those who don’t know me. How can I find my confidence and voice in a way that is empowering for me? What advice do you have for pre-/non-physically transitioning guys who want to be seen, and respected, as men?”

This is a tough problem that I think many, or most, trans people experience when/if they are changing name, pronouns, and gender presentation. Transition is an ongoing process, both for you and for those around you. I realize how annoying it is to hear someone tell you to be patient with others when you’re the one who is experiencing the pain of being misgendered, but that’s what I’m going to tell you – be patient.

I don’t know how long it has been since you came out to your friends, but since you say you recently started college and came to this realization, I’m going to assume that it might be a matter of only a few months, and maybe not even that. And honestly, a few months, while it seems like an eternity to you, is really a very short time for your friends to permanently alter their perception of you. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I’m a 16-year-old trans guy, and I came out to my mom two months ago, and my dad one month ago. They haven’t rejected me (I knew they wouldn’t), but they’re not on board with thinking of me as their son, and probably won’t be in the near future. My mom e-mailed a gender therapist recently, so I’m looking forward to my parents getting a ‘professional opinion,’ and so I can finally talk to someone who speaks my language.

“Some problems are: I don’t know how (or when) to come out to my siblings. My brother is 13, and looks up to my 18-year-old sister. My sister has treated me like less than a human being for my entire life, probably from deep jealousy that started when I was born, and I’m finally letting go of the belief that if I tried hard enough, she would show any emotion resembling love toward me. She’s leaving in the spring, and if I came out to her before that, she would probably out me to our school, and subsequently our town.

“My town has a population of 400, with less than thirty people in my high school and with two other students in my grade. I’ve lived here my whole life, and have despised it for just as long. I need to transition as soon as possible, and the only way I can think of to do that is to move to a big city, and since I’m a minor, I can’t just go and get an apartment and a job in Portland and start testosterone on my own.

“I feel guilty about wanting to ask my family if we can move, since I only have a year and a half of high school left. I also don’t want to put them through a lot of stress if I ended up coming out in this town, which is what I would need to do if I had to spend my senior year here.

“So, do you have any advice for getting my brother on my side, without him getting thrown into the middle of differing opinions within my family?

“How can I convince my parents that living this female lie is so debilitating that I can’t keep it up for even another year, and if I had to stay in this town, I would probably sink into a very deep, deep depression?

“And this isn’t as important, but I’ll ask it anyway: do you think me acting masculine on some days and effeminate on others would confuse them, or that they would have a harder time believing I’m male?”

First I would like to say that I have never known a family that picked up and moved because their teenage child asked them to. Maybe it’s my generation, but my parents would not have even paid attention to such a request. Your parents are probably settled, with jobs, a house, and a life where they are, so I can’t imagine them moving because you ask them to. Again, times might be different now or your family might be different. But I wouldn’t count on them moving. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I was hoping I could get your opinion on this issue. I recently read a diatribe by a cisgender gay man stating that those who identify as girlfags are being disrespectful to cisgender gays and lesbians, as well as gay transmen.

“I agree that the term does sound pejorative, and it would be better if a new term was coined. But I believe that it is a legitimate identity. What do you think?”

I had never heard of this term before, so I had to look it up. On Urban Dictionary, “girlfag” is defined as: “A woman who is very attracted to gay/bi/trans men. She may (or may not) also feel she is (fully or partly) a ‘gay man in a woman’s body.’ Girlfags identify primarily as queer, and are often attracted to more types of people than just gay/bi/trans men.”

I think every identity is legitimate. I also think that reclamation of negative or harmful language can be beneficial in certain circumstances. However, I have three criteria for reclaiming pejorative language, and I feel that all of these criteria need to be met before a word or words can be reclaimed:

1. The people reclaiming the language must be aware of the history of the language – the word or words to be reclaimed – and how that language was used against people in the past (and still today). What is the origin of the language? How did it come into general use and how did it come to be used against a group of people? What were and are the ramifications of that use? The people reclaiming the language need to be fully aware of this and make a conscious decision to reclaim the language based on their thorough knowledge of the past. (more…)

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