Posts Tagged ‘privacy’

Question MarkA reader writes: I’ve never felt like I fit in until I started to dress as a male at University a few year ago. Before I left University, I threw away my small collection of male clothes because I was scared of what my parents would say/think.

“When I was 16, I was forced by my sister, in particular, to wear a dress. I did tell my sister at the time (who is three years older than me) that I didn’t feel right in a dress, but she said, ‘You’re a woman, so act like one.’ Now I’m settled in a job I really enjoy, I feel it’s time to start to transition, but I’m scared of my parents’ reaction.

“A few years ago, they found out I self-harm, and my Mum didn’t know what to say, but one morning my Dad suddenly wrestled me to the ground and shouted and spat at me, saying, ‘Do you want someone to talk all simple to you? Do you want a straight jacket? Just stop it.’

“I never sought professional help, because I felt like I needed my parents’ support. I stopped self-harming a couple of years later. I want to start to wear male clothes again, to begin the transition, but I’m scared that my parents won’t support me, especially after their reaction to the self-harm.

“I try to dress as androgynous as I can, and I’m being read as a male a fair bit already. Dad keeps on lifting my top up to see how many layers I’ve got on. I feel humiliated, but if I tell him to stop, he still does it.

“My other worry is work. If I suddenly wear male clothing, people may ask questions. Would it be better to make an announcement before I dress as male, so everyone knows what’s happening?”

I don’t know how old you are or whether or not you still live with your parents, but it sounds as if you might be out on your own. You have graduated and you have a good job. If you’re not out on your own, you might consider saving the money to do that fairly soon, if that’s possible.

You do not need your parents’ support to start therapy if you are able to pay for it yourself or have some kind of health coverage that will pay for it. I suggest you start therapy, regardless of what you decide to do. Even though you say you stopped self-harming two years ago, there is a possibility that this could start again as you become more stressed, and some professional support might be able to prevent a setback.

A therapist can also help you make decisions about how to come out at work and what to do about your parents, as well as helping you deal with any negative repercussions that might come from coming out or transitioning in any way, if that’s what you decide to do. (more…)


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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am a woman who recently started dating a man who was assigned female at birth and transitioned several years ago, a fact that he shared when we began talking about having sex.

“As part of my usual pre-sex discussion, I asked him about getting tested for HIV and other STIs, and he said that he has had very negative experiences with health care providers and was not willing to get tested.

“He said that since he has not engaged in risky behavior since he was tested several years ago, he could not possibly have HIV, and that he can’t transmit any fluid-based STIs to me anyway since he can’t ejaculate. (There are of course skin-to-skin STIs, but those are more difficult to test for).

“I know the likelihood of getting a fluid-based STI from him performing oral sex on me is very low, but I would still like him to get tested. From his vantage point, because of the very low risk factor, I am making an unreasonable request. From my vantage point, getting tested is something that responsible adults do to take care of themselves and their partners.

“However, I know that it is difficult for me to fully understand his resistance to medical settings, and the last thing I want to do is traumatize him or pressure him to do something that has a negative impact and have him end up resenting me. He appears to identify very strongly as male and not as trans, and I don’t think he would be open to going to an LGBT clinic, as he has felt marginalized by the queer community in the past.”

I completely understand his discomfort with medical providers. Many trans people feel this way, and many do not get regular health care, even if they can afford it, because of their concern about how they might be treated or their trauma because of how they have been treated in the past.

And not all STIs can be diagnosed with a simple blood test. Some require examination, a urine test, or cells taken from the genital area, which can be very unpleasant for anyone, but particularly for trans people. So I do not fault him for this at all. (more…)

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Question MarkI’m getting a little backed up again, and this week is my “holiday” week, so I put some short questions together with some short answers. For my many question-writers, thank you for your patience. I’m getting there!

I am also working on trying to make the blog a little easier to navigate (I hope) by adding some specific categories so that readers can more easily find old information and posts that might apply to their circumstances. I am trying to redo my Categories, and it’s taking some time, so again, thanks for your patience.

Here are this week’s questions:

A reader writes: “I’m an FTM transgender person. I’ve already picked out a first and a middle name, and I chose to stick with my last name. The problem is I like the first and middle names that I picked, but I also like the first name given to me at birth. I just can’t seem to find a way to add my birth name in there. I need a bit of help or advice.”

I answered a very similar question recently, so I am going to link to that post, Choosing a Middle Name, because I think it could be helpful. I would also recommend reading the comments. A reader suggested something that I didn’t even think of when I was answering the question, which is that the writer could have two middle names.

If you have a first and middle name picked out that you really like, but your birth name is special to you, use it as another middle name. You can even decide to go by one name in a professional setting and another in a personal setting. So don’t feel limited. Changing your name is an opportunity to have exactly the name that you want, so go for it!

A reader writes: “Do you know anything about the connection (or lack thereof) between testosterone and cancer? And any thoughts on how this might affect one’s decision to go on T?

“My second issue is, I am thinking about going on T to transition from female to male, but I have a really bad needle phobia. If I don’t miraculously overcome it, I won’t transition. The thought of giving myself shots for the rest of my life is too overwhelming. Do you have any advice or know anyone who has been in a similar situation?” (more…)

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Question MarkBelow, we have two letters regarding allies (the second one is a stretch, but I figured it could loosely go with an “Ally” theme). And here they are:

A reader writes: “I am a cis teenager who tries her hardest to be a good ally. Recently, I was talking with someone I’d just met (‘Bob’) who attends my school. We walked past another student, who is trans (we’re in an intersectional feminist club together and he’s talked about it). Bob referred to the trans kid using female pronouns.

“I know that the trans kid only transitioned last year, and Bob had met him before his transition, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he didn’t know that the trans kid had transitioned. Instead of confronting Bob, I continued to talk about the trans kid using male pronouns. Bob got the memo and then used male pronouns.

“Was that the right thing to do? I wasn’t sure if I should have confronted him more directly (‘Actually that kid uses male pronouns’), but I didn’t want to out him, even though he’s out at school as far as I can tell. I also didn’t want to just let it slide and use the wrong pronouns. In case this situation comes up again, do you have any advice on the course of action that I should take?”

This is a tough one and an easy one. It’s a tough one because, as an ally who knows this person from a particular club only, you might not necessarily know if he is out everywhere. If you refer to him by male pronouns outside of the club, and he is not using male pronouns outside of the club, then you will out him. But if you refer to him by female pronouns just because someone else does, then you will disrespect his identity, whether he’s out or not, but particularly if he is out everywhere.

The easy part is that you can ask him. You’re in the club together, and even if you don’t know him well or have never talked to him directly, there’s nothing wrong with approaching him and saying, “Here’s the deal. What do you want me to do from now on?” (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “I am a personal trainer and group exercise instructor in Palm Springs, CA. I may be a bit naive, but I have a feeling that the transgender community may be underserved and unnoticed when it comes to physical fitness and mainstream gyms. As my clientele is varied, my intention is to embrace and share all things fitness and ‘gym life’ and evolve into a better trainer and person in doing so.

“Can you suggest effective methods to reach out to the transgender community, while also being sensitive and respecting privacy and security issues. I have a lot to learn and am eager and ready to do so! Thank you for any help you may offer.”

When I first began my transition, my therapist told me to spend time in “men’s spaces,” including men’s locker rooms. At the time, I was very uncomfortable with this notion, and I didn’t do it. Maybe I was insecure about my body compared to the other guys’ bodies that I would see there, maybe I was nervous about communal shower space, or maybe it was just an excuse for not working out, but somehow I felt like I wouldn’t “belong” there.

As I got older, going to the gym seems less and less appealing, even though I would probably feel fine in the locker room, but I know that there are tons of trans people who go to gyms and work out (which is why they look great and I can’t fill out a T-shirt). And I think that many trans people who are looking for a gym or a trainer would probably welcome the opportunity to work out with a trainer who welcomes them.

In my opinion, and I’m sure readers will have others, you should market to trans people by advertising “a gym for all” or “services for all.” You can have a flyer or ad that says “Diversity is my specialty” or “Everyone welcome – no exceptions” or “Safe space for all.” Sometimes an added rainbow background or rainbow motif of some kind will signal to trans people that they are welcome, and sometimes it won’t make a difference, because not all trans people identify with the rainbow flag or with the LGBT community. (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “A couple of months ago, I had a trans-identified partner. They were MAAB, still go by their (male) given name, present as (a rather feminine) male about 70 percent of the time, identify as trans on the feminine spectrum, and use they/them or she/her pronouns.

“I was living in a different city than all of my friends while seeing this person, and disclosed their trans status to my friends. I thought this was a good idea so I could use their preferred pronouns when talking about them, and also just because my friends and I talk in detail about our relationships.

“I’ve since realized that it definitely wasn’t okay for me to out them like this. The partner and I have decided to start seeing each other again, and I was telling a friend today that they were going to come visit me. However, I didn’t know how to talk about them – I was using they/them when referring to them, and my friend went to ask something about them and said, ‘He? Or she? Is it a guy or girl?’ and I just really didn’t know how to respond.

“I didn’t want to mispronoun them by answering ‘he,’ but I also didn’t want to out them by saying ‘she.’ I just said, ”They’ is fine,’ which was fortunately good enough for this friend, but I know that if I had been talking to a closer friend, they would have pushed for details and I just wouldn’t know what to do. How should I handle such situations? Also, how do I deal with the fact that the partner will now likely meet people that I’ve outed them to?”

This is a bit of a dilemma, but not a major crisis, I don’t think. You just have to come clean with your partner. You have to let them know that you outed them, and let them know the reasons why you did so. Then you have to ask them what they would like to do, and/or what they would like you to do, given the circumstances.

Of course, it’s possible that your partner will be angry and feel betrayed. As you are now aware, they possibly have a right to feel that way. But it’s also true that, because we live in such a binary gender system, if you are talking to your friends about your partner and using the pronoun “they,” your friends are going to naturally ask if you are talking about a man or a woman (unless, of course, they know you to be categorically straight or gay/lesbian, in which case they will almost always make an assumption about the sex of your partner).

So to take care of the situation now and to prevent it from happening in the future, you have to do three things: (more…)

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Question MarkA reader writes: “A discussion at work ensued when a trans person requested a private room. It is a locked psychiatric unit with only one private room, which is primarily reserved for someone so psychotic or violent that they could not possibly have a roommate for safety reasons. So in order for the trans person to have a private room, another person would be denied in-patient psych services.

“But there are many reasons people need private rooms, so having one person in a room with two beds is fairly common – leaving a bed empty to create a private room isn’t a crisis.

“One person on staff states the FtM person should have a roommate with the same physical genitalia (female). Another staff thought the FtM person should room with the gender he affiliates with (male). A third person said the FtM patient had been a patient before and had not asked for a private room, so maybe he was just creating drama for the sake of creating drama.

“I thought we should accommodate the request if at all possible, not just for the FtM person, but also because a potential roommate, male or female, might be uncomfortable enough to make the situation not therapeutic for either person. I also suggested looking for a hospital policy on the matter.

“My question boils down to this: As a trans person, what would your expectations be regarding a roommate if you were hospitalized on an inpatient unit (medical or psych), keeping in mind that the hospitalization might not be voluntary, and you would not be able to leave if you wanted to.”

I have often thought about this with regard to going to jail, being in a hospital, or being in a nursing home. This type of scenario – trans people in institutional settings – is not uncommon, and as more people transition and are public about being trans, it will become more commonplace, so institutions need to make policies and be prepared to deal with these situations.

There are really only two options here, because under no circumstances should a trans man be placed with a female roommate or in a female ward or wing of any institution. The same is true of placing a trans woman with a male roommate. While we have historically matched people up by genitalia with regard to housing them in institutional settings (and for a gazillion other reasons, as well), this criterion is not appropriate in many instances. (more…)

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