Archive for the ‘Roles/Expectations’ Category

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 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 was inspired to write by a question you posted recently from a parent asking about their genderqueer teenager. I felt like that teenager could have been me if I was born a couple of decades later.

“I started to have issues with my assigned birth gender at about age 13, but the message I got from so many people was that I was just going through a normal adolescent phase and I would grow up to feel comfortable being a woman. I spent some years thinking I must be a trans man, but that didn’t really fit either. By the time I was 19, I was pretty sure I wanted to change my body to create something androgynous and knew that meant taking hormones.

“But this was the 1990s and everything I read and heard about transition was that it was only open to binary-identified people who could complete a ‘real life test.’ My brief experiences with therapy where I tried to bring up gender issues did not go well – my therapists took the ‘normal adolescent phase’ tack I was hearing everywhere else. So I did my best to push my issues aside and accept living in the body I was born with, because I didn’t think I had another choice.

“Fast forward to the past couple of years. I started hearing about non-binary and genderqueer folks who were pursuing partial transitions to achieve androgynous bodies. They were finding therapists and gender specialists who were supportive of this, even managing to get their transitions covered by insurance. I’m re-evaluating my decision not to seek transition in light of this.

“I’m really wishing I could go back and tell my 19-year-old self this was an option, but of course the past is the past. I have to deal with the present, and the present I live in is one in which I know I could have hormones if I decide I want them, but in which I have the weight of nearly two decades of convincing myself I didn’t need that weighing down on me (I’m 37 now). So I guess the question is, if I’ve lived without T for the better part of two decades, do I really need it?

“On the other hand, if I’ve lived without it all this time, but the feeling of wanting it never went away, maybe that means I really do. Complicating this decision is the fact that I am married. My spouse identifies as agender, but to him that means he just expresses himself however he wants and if other people project gender onto him that’s their problem and not his. (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 MarkA reader writes: “I’m a 22-year-old FTM transgendered man and I’ve noticed over the last year that I don’t feel like much of a man anymore – not so much in the way that I regret transitioning or doubt my gender identity as a man, but instead it’s more like how I hear many older men describe their midlife crisis. What do you do when you lose touch with your inner masculinity? And how do you get it back?”

One of the things that I have found with both trans men and trans women who have medically and/or socially transitioned – but certainly not with all of us – is that, when we first transition, we tend to express what might be considered to be hyper-masculine or hyper-feminine behaviors for our culture.

Then, after we get used to living in the gender of our identity, these outer behaviors and expressions sometimes (but not always) become more relaxed and we tend to move back toward a “middle” or “center” point. I think it might be the same for inner feelings of traditional masculinity or femininity.

In Western culture, we have very specific definitions of what it means to be a man or a woman and what it means to be masculine or feminine. We also have strong cultural myths built around what those things feel like or are supposed to feel like.

If you ask a non-trans man what makes him a man or what makes him “masculine,” in many cases, he will say, “My penis.” That is a physical trait, not a feeling. Other men, particularly older men, might say, “I take care of my family,” or “I solve problems,” or “I run things,” or “I’m in charge.” Those are actions, not feelings.

So the “feelings” of masculinity are often described in terms of physical characteristics identified by the culture or of actions prescribed by the culture. I would venture to guess that the “feelings” of masculinity are just as elusive in some non-trans men as they can be in some trans men. (more…)

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Question MarkThe following two questions are actually quite different, but there was enough of a connection that I was able to pair them under the same headline. So to keep the Ask Matt questions from getting too backed up, that’s exactly what I did.

A reader writes: “I’m a mid-twenties FTM (four months on T) and a devout meathead. Now I KNOW you’re not a doctor, but I was hoping I could have some input regarding body fat during transitioning. At what point, if ever, are transmen able to use the male standards for body fat percentage? And is there a general point in time when body fat redistribution steadies? I’d appreciate any technical info or just personal accounts. Thanks!”

This is an interesting question, because I have wondered this myself on occasion and have never thought to ask my doctor. Although I no longer work out to any extent, when I look at Body Mass Index and Basal Metabolic Rate calculators online to try to figure out where I should be weight-wise or what a realistic calorie intake is, I always question whether I should enter “male” or “female.”

Testosterone has given me a little extra muscle mass, which is waning in my golden years, and I went through a period of time when I worked out frequently and added some more, or at least enhanced what I had. But even without a lot of muscle, it seems that T does have some influence over metabolism, and it definitely influences body-fat distribution, so it would seem to me that “male” would be an appropriate selection based on that.

However, I still have a “typical” female bone structure, and my forty-two years with minimal testosterone and a lot of estrogen had a strong influence on my body type and structure, and some of that no doubt remains. Based on that, do I choose “female” when trying to decide how many calories I should have or what my “healthy” weight should be?

I don’t know, and I hope someone out there with medical or health and fitness training can tell us. I would be inclined to say that, given your age, the fact that you are a muscle guy, and the fact that T, combined with working out, is going to greatly influence your muscle mass over time, you should probably be able to use “male” standards after six months to a year on T. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I’ve recently started to question my gender. I’m trying out using one letter (like an initial) as my name and as my pronoun, instead of ‘him’ and ‘he.’ I first thought I was just gay, but I’m starting to think that I’m gender queer.

“How does someone live a gender fluid life? And at the moment, as I’m a man who is attracted to men, how would a gender transition affect my sexuality?”

While true gender fluidity is not my area of expertise, I know quite a few people who identify as genderqueer and/or as gender fluid. However, having friends who identify as such is not the same as being there myself, so I hope that we will hear from genderqueer and gender fluid readers.

I think that living as gender fluid can be done successfully. The people I know who are gender fluid are, for the most part, very happy and comfortable in their lives and in their identity. Any battles they face are with a culture that insists that they be one thing or the other and is not comfortable with ambiguity or uncertainty (and I have to be very clear here that it is the culture that is problematic, because the people I know who are gender fluid don’t feel ambiguous or uncertain – they know who they are).

Again, I’m not an expert on living a gender fluid life. I can offer some suggestions, and then ask readers to bring in their expertise. Here are my thoughts:

> Be who you are. Choose the clothing, hairstyle, and other gender expressions that are comfortable for you. Don’t be afraid to shop in the “men’s department” and the “women’s department” in stores. Use the mannerisms and vocal inflections that come naturally to you.

If you’re not sure what is natural for you because the people around you have certain expectations about who you are based on what they already know of you, go somewhere new and different – even for a weekend – and see how you act and who you are in unfamiliar circumstances around people who don’t know you. It might sound like a cliché, but let your “true self” emerge. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “Okay, I hope this doesn’t qualify as the first stupid question. I am a woman. Not to be immodest, but I am beautiful, have a great body, and am well-educated.

“I have been married twice and I have tried to be a lesbian twice. Every relationship with a man has ended because, according to them, I ‘want to be the man.’

To be clear, I love being a woman and don’t want to change sexes. However, it is true, my natural inclination is to be the man. I am very attracted to beautiful women, so it seemed natural to try to be a lesbian. However, those experiences were ultimately unsuccessful because, frankly, I am just not that into female genitalia. Also, I found that many of the lesbian ladies that I met, while lovely women, were just not as feminine as I am attracted to.

“After years of being frustrated and lonely, I have been trying to understand myself in the context of possibilities instead of limitations. I have recently been exposed to men that feel more comfortable as women. I don’t mean they want to change sexes. They enjoy being beautiful and feminine. I realized that I am overwhelmingly attracted to these individuals.

“I am naturally chivalrous, I automatically open doors, carry luggage, order drinks and dinner, pull out chairs, take charge, and send flowers and gifts. I just happen to do it in high-heeled boots, tight jeans, great make-up and lots of wavy blonde hair.

“The most enjoyable thing about my experimentation with being a lesbian was ‘sweeping a woman off her feet.’ Is there any precedent for someone like me to find someone? I guess it would be kind of like being a lesbian at times except the more ‘girly’ one of us would be a guy? Thank you for being here for me to ask the question.”

I think that for every attraction someone has, there are people out there who will meet the particular criteria of that attraction. So, yes, I think there are people out there who will fit the bill with regard to what you are looking for. If the attraction is then mutual, you’re in luck, and you’ve got a good start to a relationship.

But if you are looking for a very specific type of person, then you’ve got to define that for yourself, and it seems as if you have been a little confused in the past with regard to labels, body types, and gender roles. This appears to have made things more complicated for both you and your partners. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “My mother struggles with my situation as a transman. I told her a few months ago, and she was pretty much okay with it, and she didn’t say that whole ‘this is just a phase’ speech.

But she has a hard time accepting it now. She is telling me not to tell anyone I am an FTM before I have gotten the diagnosis, because she means that only the doctors can know for sure. But no matter what my doctors say, I am transgender.

“I am having a hard time, having to present myself by a female name and people calling me ‘she’ and ‘her.’ My doctor sent a recommendation (or something) to a psychiatrist two months ago, and I haven’t gotten an answer. I’m still waiting for this, and I won’t get my diagnosis for several more months. First I have to go to the psychiatrist for a couple of months, and then I have to go to the section for transexualism in Oslo. I have to go there for a few months also to get the diagnosis. I can’t wait that long!

“When (or if they even have time for me) I get an appointment with the psychiatrist, I am going to ask her/him what to do about it. But do you have any advice? I also have no idea how to tell my family, as in my grandma, grandpa, uncle, etc. I am so afraid they won’t accept it, or they will say something that insults me, or tell me that I am wrong or something. Please help me. I am getting desperate.”

This is a good lesson in first reactions, because a person’s initial response when you come out to them does not always reflect the attitude that they maintain over time. People who seem quite fine with things in the beginning can change once the news has had time to sink in, while people who seem shocked or upset at first might turn out to be your strongest allies.

I’m not familiar with the health care system in Norway, but it sounds as if you have several months, if not longer, before you can get an “official” diagnosis, which will probably lead to the ability to medically transition, if that’s what you decide to do.

So while you probably can’t legally change your name and gender marker until this happens (I’m also not familiar with the laws in Norway), you can start presenting as a man or in a masculine gender and unofficially use a male name and pronouns, at least socially. However, that doesn’t mean that your mother, or any other members of your family, will go along with this. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am a young transgender man and I am still in the closet. I am fed up with acting like a girl, but here’s the problem. My female alter ego is a good listener, gentle, and empathetic. The real me finds all those social qualities very difficult.

“How can I be authentic and masculine without turning into an insensitive jerk? Did you ever struggle with such issues of masculinity? Even though masculine qualities are supposedly an advantage according to society, I was raised to think gentleness, meekness, and empathy are paramount.”

Socialization is incredibly powerful, and even when we are very conscious of our own socialization, and even when we actively work to resist it, or to undo it, it can sometimes get a grip and not let go.

“Good listener, gentle, empathetic” – these are all characteristics that have been defined in Western culture (and probably a lot of other places, as well) as “feminine” and that have been expected of, and encouraged in, girls and women. There is nothing wrong with these characteristics. In fact, they are excellent ones to have.

The problem comes in when we gender them and then proceed to denigrate them based on the gender that we have assigned them to. That’s what we do in the United States (and other places), and it results in these “feminine” characteristics being seen as “not as good as,” people who possess them feeling “less than,” and men who possess them feeling “unmanly.”

On the other hand, we have assigned certain other qualities as “masculine,” and we have elevated them to the point where they become the socially desirable set of characteristics for anyone – to a point. If a woman possesses some or all of these “masculine” characteristics, she is seen as not a “proper” woman. But if she doesn’t possess any of them, she is seen as “not as good as.”

The result of this socialization has been that, instead of acting true to their own nature, men and women have gravitated – or been pushed – toward one set of characteristics or another, and have not been allowed to find out which ones really suit them or which ones are actually innate. (more…)

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