Time for a Potty Break

It happens to me time and time again…

I’m out in public, at the mall, at a social event, buying groceries…when it happens.

I have to pee. (Cue dramatic music)

I feel the panic rising in my chest as I determine the level of urgency of my body. And then I barter with myself…

b4b20fe235d8dc82955bfc3263a73724How bad is it, really? Can you hold it until you get home? Is there a single stall bathroom nearby? How busy are the bathrooms? Maybe you should just hold it until you get home. You really don’t have that much longer to go…

I’ve cut shopping trips short…I’ve held it in far longer than what’s healthy…I’ve fought anxiety…all over using the public restroom.

I’ve written about this before. But with all of the bills that are being introduced around the country, I feel like it needs to be brought up again. Because now things are different.

A bounty has been placed on the heads of transgender individuals around the country. A monetary value has been given to each member of the trans community.

$2,500. These bills aren’t new. Kansas is just the latest state to propose such a bill.122z2v

$2,500 for every trans person caught ‘using the wrong bathroom’. Students being tempted to turn in classmates to earn that $2,500. I can see it now.

“Sally, you have only 3 more transgenders to catch before you’ve earned enough money to pay for college. Danny, you’ve only caught 2 transgenders. You’re going to have to step it up if you want that new car you’ve been eyeing…”

It’s entirely hypocritical. Many of these same people are against any kind of gun law – saying that by putting laws into place only hurt those law abiding citizens; that criminals will still have their guns. Yet somehow, putting a law in place banning trans people from using the appropriate public restroom will prevent men from entering the women’s room and sexually assaulting them.

The reaction to these RFRA and bathroom bills have been intense, as expected. There’s been a movement of trans men and women who “pass”, taking their pictures inside the restrooms they’ll be forced to use based on ‘chromosome’ and ‘biological’ gender. And I get it…these bills are absurd, claiming that allowing trans individuals to use the bathroom they should be using (i.e. the one that they see fit to use) will somehow open the door to men sexually assaulting women in restrooms.

#wejustneedtopee is all over Twitter. And I was all for these movements…I got excited and wanted to respond in kind (even though I don’t see myself as all that masculine most days). At least at first.

trans-restroomI understood #wejustneedtopee. After all, how do you fight the absurd idea that “allowing” me to use the men’s room would somehow result in men raping women in public restrooms? You fight it with more absurdity. Show pictures of bearded, burly trans men in women’s restrooms and curvy, busty trans women in men’s rooms, right?

I was wrong. While these are indeed pictures of the absurdity these laws are implying, they’re leaving out some important groups of people. It’s not people like Buck Angel or Adain Dowling or Laverne Cox who need to worry. The trans men and trans women who “pass” – they won’t be questioned when it comes to using the restroom. Those who are non-binary or gender non-conforming or who don’t “pass” are the ones these bills target.

It’s clear the bathroom bills are poorly disguised attempts at targeted discrimination towards the trans community – specifically towards trans women. Non-binary and non-conforming individuals are caught in this too. The fear-mongering by Republicans has the potential to incite violence against the trans community, and if you don’t present as a masculine male or as a feminine female, then you’d better take a self-defense course.

And the politicians are using a very real, valid issue to gain support for these bills – rape.

These same political asshats are the ones who want to defund Planned Parenthood. They’re the same fools who claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” They’re the same douchebags who blame the victims of sexual assault and rape because they must have done something to provoke or confuse or entice the attacker.

Don’t be fooled. The states that have ‘bathroom of choice’ have reported a zero increase in sexual assaults and rapes in public restrooms. That’s right – all of this fear is completely unfounded. Surprise! In fact, during the first 6 months of 2015, more transgender individuals (overwhelmingly trans women of color) were murdered than in the entire year of 2014.States-transgender-law-2

I dare say cisgender women have very little to fear in public restrooms.

Yes, #wejustneedtopee – all of us. #IllGoWithYou is a start. I know we’ll see many more lawsuits than the one challenging North Carolina’s newly signed law. But in the meantime, don’t cater to the gender stereotypes by taking pictures of yourself in the restroom. It ignores the real issue at hand – the targeting of trans women and non-binary individuals. Instead, use the passing privilege you have to help cisgender folk understand that we all need to pee, and that’s exactly what we plan on doing when we walk into a public restroom.

To me, this is the only debate that needs to take place in regards to bathrooms…

TP-over-under

***A couple of footnotes…

First, I dislike using the term “passing” because it serves to reinforce gender stereotypes. I myself am a binary trans man, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is binary, nor should they be forced to conform to a binary. I use the term “passing” in this blog post because it best fits for the scenario – those supporting this discrimination against the trans community are using these ideas of an oversimplified idea of what it means to be male or female, and in the eyes of society at large, at least in regards to these bills, the binary is what this is all based on. (for those of you unclear to the term – ‘passing’ refers to a transgender individual’s appearance and ability to ‘blend in’ as a cisgender male or female)

Second, when I say the ‘transgender community’ I’m including non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals simply for brevity. My intent is not to erase the existence of non-binary and non-conforming individuals.

Taking Up Too Much Space?

My fiancée and I had a very interesting discussion the other night. Mira and I were talking about the space we occupy, and despite both the knowledge and belief that we are entitled to that space, sometimes, there is some guilt in occupying our own space. As if fully occupying our space, filled with its happiness and love and good fortune, we are taking away from those who are struggling.

I wrote a while back about attending the Trans 100 and listening to Tiq Milan talk about taking up space.

We are all entitled to space in this world, and we are fully allowed to occupy that space.

We have a right to exist, and we have a right to been seen, to have our voices heard, and to move through this world as everyone else does.

When others try to occupy our space, or even part of our space, it’s oppression and discrimination. They are trying to tell us that we are not important enough for our space, or that they are so important they need our space as well. When someone tries to silence our voice or speak for us, they’re occupying our space.

But what happens when we don’t feel entitled to our space in this world? What happens when our narrative feels akin to boasting?

My life is good now. It didn’t used to be. Those of you who know me know the struggles I’ve overcome. But that was then. The space I occupy now is different, stronger, and more confident. The life I live is happy, loving, and stable. But at times, almost (rather, quite) like a survivor’s guilt, I wonder if my story is too good to tell. Mira and I both struggle with this. Rather than talk about the good things happening to us, rather than rightfully occupy our space, we remain silent.

After all, I’m no braggart, and as an activist and an ally, I firmly believe it is my responsibility to lift those who are struggling, so their voices may be heard. If I speak out of turn, or if I talk over the voices of those I ally myself with, what kind of support is that?

So instead, we stifle our story, tamping it down so as not to distract from those who struggle. We lend sympathetic ears, and allow these stories to be told. After all, our happiness may push them further into their sorrow, right? If I talk about all the good things happening to me right now, that’s boasting, isn’t it? That’s telling those who are struggling that my story is more important, right? It’s taking away their space, right?

Oh my God…am I being oppressive?

Well, that escalated quickly…

I feel that people struggle with the concept of occupying space in this world. There are those who try to occupy too much, stepping on the toes of others and trying to push them out of their space. And then there are those who either don’t realize they’re allowed to take up space, or they don’t feel the space they have is deserved. There are also those who who remain in their space, but somehow feel their space is more important than others and insist they are the defining example of those like them.

My life has much privilege now – the privilege, essentially, of being a white, heterosexual male. I have white privilege, I have socioeconomic privilege, I have male privilege, I have heterosexual privilege…

Does my space shrink with the more privilege I have? I think the perception, the wrong perception, is that the space you’re entitled to increases with privilege. I don’t feel that is right. While there are no obvious, visible lines limiting the space we have, I think 1) it is our job to maintain limits in the space we occupy and 2) just as there is finite room on this earth, the amount of space available is finite, even if it isn’t a tangible thing.

Maintaining the limits of the space I occupy doesn’t mean I silence my voice. What it does mean is that it is my responsibility to be aware of those around me and the space they occupy. It means that sometimes my voice should remain quiet – this doesn’t mean that my voice is any less important. It simply means that it’s not my place to talk, and any opinions or thoughts I choose to share, should be considered with regard to those around me, and the stories they are telling. It means that in conversations concerning race and gender equity, I should do far more listening than talking.

Maintaining the limits of the space I occupy means that I have a duty to call others out, and then in, when they are overstepping the limits of their space and encroaching on the space of others. It means understanding the privilege I have, and not using that privilege to oppress, but to raise up those individuals who are struggling.

It also means that I don’t have to be guilty about fully occupying my space. My happiness doesn’t take away from others. It doesn’t occupy their space or prevent their voice from being heard.

When I talk of a finite space, it’s not finite in the sense that those coming into the world don’t get a space or those leaving this world take their space with them. I mean it is finite in the sense that our space is just that, our space. It is finite in the sense that there is space specifically for every individual on this earth, and that our space is all the same. No one is entitled to a bigger space than someone else, regardless of success or struggle, and your space doesn’t change in size depending on how much or how little privilege you have.

My story is part of the space I occupy. My beliefs, experiences, ideas – these are all rightfully mine and are contained within my space. But should they stay there? Should I silence my voice out of guilt because someone else is struggling? Should I silence my voice because my voice is happy?

My story, while both happy and sad, triumphant and tragic, deserves to be heard as much as any other story. Comparing the importance of individual experiences is a very dangerous path to go down. It pits the marginalized against one another, as if bleeding at the hands of someone else is somehow worse (or better?) than bleeding because of my own hand.

No. My voice should never be silenced. The space I occupy has been created for me, and quite frankly, it is my duty to occupy that space. If I don’t occupy it, then I’m failing those who are struggling, in a sense. If I don’t occupy my space, all of it, then someone else will, and I don’t have the ability to choose who that individual will be.

It is my duty to occupy that space in that my story of struggle and success could help someone else realize that as much of a cliché “It gets better” is, there is truth in the phrase. My narrative is relatable. It is as relatable as the other narratives that exist.

My voice may give others the strength to speak. So then, is it fair for me to silence myself and crawl into a remote corner of the space I’m supposed to occupy because someone else will be struggling more? No, it’s no more fair than if I were to try to silence the voice of others so I may be better heard.

It’s just as important for someone to be able to relate in the struggles of someone else as it is to reinforce that hope for the future.

To those who wish to occupy my space – it is mine, I am entitled to it, and I refuse to let you silence me.

To those who feel they do not deserve the space they occupy – stand firm, stand strong; your space was made for you, occupy it with the knowledge that it is important because you are in it.

To those who wish to blanket your story over mine – understand that all voices must be heard, and my story is just as important, even if it is for different reasons.

Go out in the world. Take up the space you are entitled to. Help others to occupy their own space. And don’t feel shame or guilt in doing so.

 

 

 

Taking on The Patriarchy as a Trans Man

So it’s been decided – at least in Houston.

The trans community is nothing more than men in dresses with uncontrolled sexual urges who are compelled to attack women in public restrooms. At least in Houston.

Fear mongering has always been a tactic of those who have nothing left to fight with. So it should have been expected. And I suspect that before our side could react, the fear had stretched so far and wide that it  became its own entity.

But this entity attacked trans women only. Ads saying that somehow, this would lead to an increase in sexual assaults in public restrooms. Ads saying things as ‘facts’ with no factual evidence or basis to go on. Ads attacking trans women by degrading, demeaning, and stirring up hate.

Do these people know how many trans women have been murdered this year in the US alone? At least 22. Murdered by heterosexual men who were ‘surprised’ and attempted to use a ‘gay panic defense’ because they were, are, nothing more than cowards. Do these people understand that if a man is going to sexually assault a woman, he doesn’t need to put on a dress to do so? That he can walk right into the restroom and rape her, and no law or ordinance will either stop him or protect him?

And why? Because of the patriarchy. Men have ruled for centuries – they use their male privilege to further their own interests at the expense of women and don’t give a passing thought to it. How else do you explain the incessant need for men to control a woman’s reproductive rights?

But where’s the fear and hate-mongering towards the trans men? All of these ads attacking the transgender community are geared towards creating hate against trans women. Because who in their right mind would openly give up their male privilege? Why would someone want to be a woman? They’re weak, feeble-minded, and good for sexual pleasure and ego-stroking, right? That’s it, right?

These people think laws keeping trans people out of their respective restrooms are going to keep rapists out of women’s rooms, but fight against gun control laws because criminals don’t abide by the law.

Those who think that men in dresses will descend upon women’s restrooms are the same people who think that a woman is incapable of making decisions over her own body. This is something I’ve mentioned before – these people who are trying to defund Planned Parenthood are trying to regulate women’s bodies, and by no stretch of the imagination, they’re attempting to regulate everyone else too.

These are the same people who think gender is purely biological and if you’re a man then you were born with a penis and if you’re a woman you were born with a vagina and there’s no in-between. They think they get to make that defining choice for us.

So I’ll bring it up again. If these men think they can tell trans people which restrooms they’re supposed to use, and tell women what to do with their bodies, then it’s not out of the realm of possibility that they’ll attempt to pass legislation making hysterectomies illegal because that would be killing any prospective children one might have.

Do you think this doesn’t affect you? Do you think that your newly acquired male privilege will keep you safe? Let’s do a ‘what if’ – What if the same Republicans who are trying (and in some cases, succeeding) to defund Planned Parenthood go after other procedures that render a woman unable to reproduce? After all, when it comes down to it, a lot of men believe a woman’s purpose is to make babies and sammiches. What if one of those procedures is like I said above, to outlaw hysterectomies like they’re trying to outlaw abortion? Where does that leave us? Because remember, according to them, men are born with penises and women with vaginas, and there’s no way in their eyes, to change that.

So why the hell aren’t trans men furious over this? Because it’s easier to stay silent? Because it’s easier to quietly accept your male privilege while keeping your mouth shut and your head down? In all the forums I’m in on Facebook, none of them talk about this. None of them talk about taking the patriarchy down from the inside. Hell, none of them talk about male privilege or the patriarchy at all. None of them mention the atrocities faced by women on a daily basis, despite the fact that I’m sure at least some of them have suffered at the hands of male privilege prior to transitioning.

I’m not without culpability. I’ve sat quietly, making comments from my comfy sofa at home, while Mira makes dinner and breakfast and makes sure I’m comfortable and taken care of. I’ve failed to acknowledge all she’s done for me, and I’m truly sorry for that. But saying I’m sorry is half of an apology. Showing I’m sorry is something I’m working on, because I’ve never had anyone hold me accountable before.

It’s time to make the patriarchy implode. And if my fellow trans men don’t have the heart to take down the same group of men that essentially gave them their male privilege by perpetuating it, well, I ask you to get the hell out of the way. It’s time we realize our role in this.

I know what I have to do at home, to do my part as a feminist. Because it doesn’t stop at my front door. I’m reaching out to organizations that help women, all women, to see how I can help. And I’m going to keep making internet comments and blog posts to spread the word and spread awareness of the insidiousness that is the patriarchy. I’m going to fight for the equity of all women, because it’s the only thing to do.

This isn’t new. I’ve talked about this before. I talked about how Planned Parenthood offers services necessary to all people, not just women. But not one trans guy commented or offered their support or asked what they could do to help. And that disappoints me. I know we have struggles. Trans men aren’t exempt from discrimination and harassment. But that’s all the more reason to join the fight and get active. To say you support and to actually support are two completely different things. You want the community to support you and recognize your struggles. You turn to others for help with GoFundMe accounts for surgery. Yet when there’s a call to action on the other end, how many of you stayed silent? How many of you joined the rallies for feminism? How many of you

To the trans men of my hometown – where were you during the Feminist Film Festival? I was there. I didn’t see you. Did you know they gave a shout out to the trans community? Did you know they had a couple of films that addressed trans issues? Specifically those of trans men? No. Because you weren’t there. You weren’t there to support your sisters – trans and cis – in their fight against the patriarchy. You weren’t there to see them recognize us, and support us in our struggles to exist.

Stop hiding. Stop taking the back alley to freedom. Our ancestors didn’t have that option. The least we can do is acknowledge their struggle by acknowledging their fight. Look beyond the reach of your own hand.

You can be an accomplice, an oppressor, an activist or an ally. There’s only two choices that are acceptable. And in some situations, there’s only one choice.

Make sure you make the right one.

The Feminist Dude

This past weekend was one of my new favorite yearly events – V to Shining V. For those of you who don’t know, here’s a quick history:

In 2012, Michigan State House Representative Lisa Brown was speaking on the House floor about a bill that was attempting to put strict regulations on abortion providers and ban all abortions after 20 weeks. During the speech, she stated “And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no’.”

She was subsequently banned from speaking on the floor. Because she said vagina. The men on the floor, whom apparently are offended by the proper term for a woman’s genitals, suggested she use something less offensive, like “lady parts”.

The absurdity in this entire story grabbed the attention of Lizz Winstead, creator of The Daily LPJlogoShow, and others, and they came together to form Lady Parts Justice, to spread awareness and fight against those trying to regulate reproductive freedoms. Their yearly event, V to Shining V takes place to rally support for organizations under attack, like Planned Parenthood, and to educate people on the issues and get them out to vote and make their voices heard.

Last year was my first year attending, and was when I truly understood why I needed to be a feminist. This year was no different. Not only did the event further my resolve in feminism, but it added some new reasons.

I’m a transman, as you all know, and proud of who I am, and who I’m becoming. And part of who I’m becoming is a stronger feminist. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie gave a Tedx talk titled We Should All Be Feminists. And it’s true. All of it. Why wouldn’t I want to be a feminist? As a transman, one might agree that certain aspects of feminism, like intersectionality and marginalization and equity are ideals and knowledge applicable to my status as a transgender individual. And one would be right. But it goes beyond that. Far beyond that.

The biggest fight in feminism right now is over reproductive freedom. The fight against abortion has become even more intense as legislation is introduced to ban some types of abortions and put restrictions on clinics. Perhaps the biggest fight is the fight to defund Planned Parenthood.

I’ve been to a Planned Parenthood clinic before. I could get into all of the things that the clinics do that don’t involve abortions. I could tell you about the STD testing and the birth control they administer. I could tell you about the sex education, pregnancy testing, and ultrasounds they provide. I could tell you about all of these necessary services they provide to those low and no income women and men (yes, the STD testing is available to men, too. After all, the place is called Planned Parenthood.) to ensure they receive necessary health care. But the fact is, abortion remains legal. And what PP does is, and has always been, within the scope of the law.

And, I am a stakeholder in all of this.

And I’m calling all of my fellow transmen to the table on this. Because we ALL are stakeholders in this.

Let’s face it. We were born with parts that don’t belong to us. But we have them, and I’m fortunate in that I don’t cringe when I think about the fact that I have a vagina. And with that, I’ve got all the other parts too. Yes, I know not every trans guy has one, but if you do, you need to take care of it, which may mean uncomfortable visits to the gynecologist. Trans health is a big issue, and it’s necessary.

But how does that apply to reproductive freedom? Well, I’m sure you’ve heard stories about women who needed emergency medical care and were denied that care because the Catholic church feels that bishops know much better than doctors. And if you haven’t heard these stories, you need to. See, the thing is, the care was denied in these cases because it would have involved procedures that are considered birth control – like hysterectomies. And if you’re a trans guy, you’re probably going to get one of these, if you haven’t already. And until you have a hysterectomy, access to proper care is necessary as well. Including exams and birth control to help regulate your cycle. And they offer these services on sliding scales so EVERYONE has access.

If we sit by and let the government and churches take away reproductive freedoms, there’s a very good chance we’ll be letting them take away some of our livelihood, too. Because it’s not outside the realm of possibilities that hysterectomies could be banned. Period. After all, if Indiana GOP Senate candidate Richard Mourdock can make the claim that women who are raped should be forced to carry the pregnancy to term because the baby was a ‘gift from God’, then it isn’t too far away from those same nut jobs telling us that we don’t get to choose what path we take because God doesn’t make mistakes.

Yeah, it’s a selfish reason. But sometimes in order to rally for a cause, you need a selfish reason to find that passion. It is of course, not my only reason, either.

I’m part of a marginalized community. I can be fired for being trans, despite the fact that has absolutely nothing to do with work performance. I can be kicked out of the bathroom, because I don’t “look” like I’m supposed to. I can face scrutiny whenever I need to show my ID because my gender marker doesn’t match my name or my appearance.

We need to band together and fight. I was at the Grand Rapids Feminist Film Festival on September 13th. And my fellow feminists there, they made space for the trans community. They showed movies about those inside and outside of the binary, and talked about how trans women are being murdered at alarming rates. They made space for us. They know marginalization and struggle and invisibility. And they help lift our voices. So why aren’t we doing the same for them?

Yeah, I know transmen are marginalized, and often our voices are silent. But are our voices silent because someone else is holding our mouth shut or because we’re doing it to ourselves? See, when we start transitioning, we gain privilege. We gain access to the lives of men. We are allowed in spaces we were always meant to be in, spaces where women’s voices aren’t heard. But what do we do when there’s a sexist joke? When someone makes a blonde joke or talks of a woman’s body like it’s property, or a trophy to be taken? Do we speak up and say it’s not right? Or do we just shift uncomfortably in our skin, and chuckle half-heartedly, because it’s easier than doing the right thing?

This is where our intersectionality is important. We have access to these areas, where our voices will be heard and our thoughts and ideas and opinions will be taken seriously. And we need to use our voices in those spaces to say not just that the joke or comment is inappropriate, but it’s wrong, and it’s unacceptable. We have the unique ability to be a part of these spaces, and to say the things we know need to be said to other men who will listen to us.

I’m calling on all of my fellow transmen to step up. You want to be a man? Then be a feminist. Vote for politicians who will protect a woman’s right to govern her own body. Don’t stand by when another man tries to use the word ‘pussy’ as a term for weakness. Because if you do, then you’re no better than those who stay quiet when you’re being discriminated against.

In fact, you should be offended. Politicians and clergy are working hard to tell women how incompetent they are in making decisions on their own bodies. They’re finding new ways to veil discrimination – through words like ‘protection’ and ‘religious freedom’. They’ve already tried those tactics on us, and it’s worked, in some areas. And they’ll keep trying these tactics unless we use another right that they’re working on taking away – the right to vote. If you don’t vote, if you keep your voice quiet, then you’re an accomplice, or worse, an oppressor.

So you really want to change the definition of manhood, and what it means for you to be a man? Then I dare you to not just say you support women’s rights, but to fight for them. I dare you to embrace the label of feminist, and to truly understand and accept your privilege as a man, and to use that privilege to further feminism.

I stand with Planned Parenthood. I am proud to be a feminist. And I’m not afraid to say vagina.

How about you?

Not All of Us

We’re erasing each other.

“Yeah, but not all men are rapists.”

“Not all white people are racist.”

“Not all Christians hate gays.”

It’s become so important for us to distance ourselves from those groups who these statements are about that we’re missing the point. Of course not all men are rapists. I’m a transguy, and I’m not a rapist, but I also don’t need to tell people that.

“Hi, I’m Teri. I like cats, I like to write…oh, and I’m not a rapist.” No, that’s stupid. If you have to state that you are the exception to the rule, and not the standard, something is terribly wrong.

There’s been a movement, where Christians show up at gay pride festivals across the country and apologize for the pain and suffering inflicted by the religion. They hug LGBT people and say “I’m Sorry” and wear t-shirts with the phrase emblazoned on the front. There’s other movements too, where white people have shown up to protest alongside blacks in their neighborhoods, protesting police brutality.

It’s not enough. Saying you’re a good Christian, and you’re sorry doesn’t do anything for me. Why? Because it doesn’t close the gap between the two communities. You’re sorry on behalf of those who wish to take away my rights, and in some instances, wish me dead. They’re not sorry. They most likely never will be sorry. So unfortunately, your apology, as well intentioned as it may be, is empty. At least to me. If five people at a pride event say they’re sorry, then I go home and there’s 20 people talking about how it’s the LGBT community’s fault that Nebraska had an earthquake, or a reporter is telling the story of a trans life taken much too soon…it just simply isn’t enough.

We talk of privilege. Privilege of skin, privilege of money, of education, of sexual orientation and gender identity. But what do we do with it? I’m sure there are black people who appreciate the white people standing beside them in solidarity, but that doesn’t stop black youth from dying.

A Christian telling me they’re sorry doesn’t change the fear I have using a public restroom or keep me from being fired because I’m trans.

So you’re sorry. That’s great. But don’t come to me to assuage your guilt for being Christian. Don’t tell a woman who has been raped that not all men are rapists, because clearly it doesn’t do her a damn bit of good. If you want to help, if you truly want to make a difference, get out there and change things. Engage in conversations with other Christians, tell them you know gay people, that you know transgender people, and surprise! We’re not bad or evil. Use your white privilege to change people’s attitudes. Call others out when they’re racist. Go to community meetings and stand up and tell people that police brutality is not only unacceptable, but that it needs to stop and things MUST change. When other men are being misogynist, call them out. Let them know that it’s not right.

Be that change. Don’t hug me and tell me that you’re sorry. I appreciate it, but it doesn’t help me move forward towards equality.

Yes, all lives matter, and yes, not all of us are [pick your poison]. But stop erasing the struggle because you need to clear your conscience. I know you’re a good person, but simply being a good person doesn’t create the change that’s needed to make this place safe for all of us. Stop telling me you’re a good Christian and go find out why the bad Christians feel the way they do about us.

Stop being the exception. Become the standard.

I need to get something off my chest…

Breasts. Boobs. Jugs. Melons.

Whatever you want to call them, I have them. I don’t want them. I’d much rather say ta-ta to my ta-tas than save them.

It’s not often I have dysphoria about my gender. But when it happens, holy cow, does it suck.

Mira and I went out to the theatre as we often do, to see a play put on by one of our local acting troupes. My week had been good, albeit busy, but good. I was interviewed, with Mira, and was on TV. I wore my binder and got to dress up at work (we had clients visit) and I’d been more than content with my appearance, including my profile. But, by Friday, I think my binder was as sick of my body as my body was of my binder.

We arrived at the theatre and when I sat down in my seat, it happened. My binder shifted.

This is a godsend for those of us trans men who are pre-surgery
This is a godsend for those of us trans men who are pre-surgery

Upward. Not rolled, not moved slightly, but shifted upwards. I felt uncomfortable, but shrugged it off. Mira asked if I needed to use the bathroom, but everyone had sat down in the seats next to us, and I didn’t want to be that guy who makes everyone move in their row so he can get in and out for no good reason.

The play started, and when the lights dimmed, I tugged and shifted, hoping to move it back into place, all the while trying to convince myself it was no big deal. I got into the play, and was greatly enjoying myself. Intermission came, and Mira went to talk to a friend. I took the opportunity to go use the restroom so I could fix my binder.

genderx390_10I stood up from my seat (after arguing with myself about going), and made it out of the main theatre into the lobby, down the ramp, and about twenty steps away from the restrooms. Then I froze. Which bathroom should I use? I thought I looked like a guy. I mean, I did, didn’t I? But there would only be like one stall, and what if someone was in there? I’d look kind of odd standing around waiting for the stall, right? But I’d get weird looks if I went into the women’s room, right? I looked more like a guy than a butch lesbian, right? I could feel the panic quickly rising, ironically, in my chest. In fact, I looked down at my chest, and was absolutely convinced the binder was doing nothing for me at this point.

I felt my face flushing with embarrassment and shame. I quickly walked back into the theatre and sat down, trying desperately to keep myself together. Mira sat down and quickly saw my discontent and asked what was wrong. I felt myself getting very angry. Not with her, but with myself. I tried brushing it off and saying I had an issue going to the bathroom, but I was okay.

I wasn’t. She asked me to talk to her about it in the car on the way home, which I agreed to.

I told her about the shame I felt, and the embarrassment, and how I wanted my breasts gone. I told her about struggling to figure out what bathroom I should use. We both agreed that the group of people who go to see this group perform wouldn’t care which restroom I used, and certainly wouldn’t accost me, but I still struggled. And I cried. I was ashamed of myself for not having the strength or confidence to walk into the men’s room with my head held high. I was embarrassed by my appearance, convinced my chest was showing. And then I was ashamed for being embarrassed…and it spiraled for a bit.

We went to the store to pick up some late night junk food to help me feel better. Mira asked me if I wanted to wait in the car. I told her no. Because it’s important to me to be able to move through my days as I am in the moment, and be okay with that. Things won’t be changing physically for me anytime soon, so I need to be able to cope, and going into the grocery store is part of that.

struggle1
It’s hard to keep moving forward sometimes, knowing parts of you are trapped within other parts.

I struggle at work, knowing which restroom to use. It may seem ridiculous to some of you reading this. You’ve always known which bathroom to use. It’s not that easy for me. I mean, I know I’m a trans man. I’m a guy, I should use the men’s room. But my confidence level isn’t always that high. Especially when it comes to my chest. I don’t have large boobs, but they’re big enough to be noticed. And that’s difficult to deal with, when you know your body is supposed to look different, but there’s nothing you can do about it, at least not right now.

I’ve struggled with my weight, and the only thing I can liken my struggle with restrooms with is buying clothes – when a medium has always fit you, and now, suddenly, it doesn’t, or when you find a shirt you really like, but it’s not in your size, nor are any of the clothes you like – your confidence and self-esteem takes a very heavy hit. It’s like that with bathrooms. But more visceral. It’s a reminder that I’m not the man I want to be yet. That while my head says one thing, my body is clearly saying something different.

I understand some of the issue is created in my own mind. My breasts weren’t that noticeable, nor would it really have mattered which bathroom I used, no one would have really cared. But this struggle is real, regardless of whether what I feel is created in my own mind or actually happens.

Mira and I went out today, to buy some dresses for some upcoming events. One of the places we went to, the staff was incredibly helpful, and very kind, but she made the assumption that I was a ‘lady’, and when I made mention that I would be attending some of these events as well, tried to hook me up with a dress, and then with a ‘really nice pantsuit’. She clearly didn’t understand me by appearance. It made me a bit uncomfortable, but I’ve gotten use to shrugging it off.

bb0f129749de709cae657fe57aaef2efThere are times when I look in the mirror, and it doesn’t bother me. There are other times I look in the mirror, and I picture myself with a flat chest, and it makes me happy. And yet there are other times when I look in the mirror and it hurts, knowing I have these physical barriers which aren’t changing fast enough for me. I wish the bathroom thing wasn’t a big deal. It really shouldn’t be. I mean, I just want to go to the bathroom. I don’t want to be hassled any more than I want to hassle anyone else.

And some day, that won’t even be an issue for me anymore. Mentally, I’m quickly becoming the man I want to be, the man I’m proud to be. Physically, that will follow too. In the meantime, I’m learning how to deal. I’ll continue to struggle, here and there. Some days it will be my chest, some days it will be my voice. Sometimes I’ll wonder if I’m ever going to be happy with my appearance. Some days will be filled with doubt, and some days will be empty of confidence. People have talked about having a bad gender day. I’ll have my share of those.

But the path to who I am isn’t supposed to be easy. If it were, would it be worth it? I’ll have my days of gender dysphoria – days when I don’t want to leave the house because I’m exasperated by my genes. I will though, because it’s all a part of becoming me. My struggles shape my successes.

And I plan on being successful in my life.

(Aiutami is Italian for Help Me, and the song, Aiutami is in the play we saw that night, The Light in the Piazza. It’s sometimes how I feel…)

 

Realizing My Role Models

I’ve written about wanting to be that rock that creates ripples in water. I’ve pointed out the fact that there aren’t a lot of visible trans men in role model positions, or at least are not readily accessible via media without already knowing who you’re looking for or sifting through Google results.

I’ve also written about my struggles with my lack of dysphoria, and how I didn’t think I was trans, because I wasn’t miserable, despite the nagging voice in my head trying to convince me otherwise.

Mira, my partner (who has her own, wonderful blog) asked me who my role models were. I stumbled, I fumbled for words. I responded with,

“I don’t really have any.”

and then I wondered why. Which led me down a path of reflection, and so in this blog post, I want to thank the men who have been in my life, and whether they realized it or not, have taught me some incredibly valuable lessons on both manhood and acceptance.

First, I want to thank my friend Erik, a wonderful guy with a wonderful wife and a wonderful son (who will also grow up into a wonderful guy because of his father). Erik is the living definition of an ally. He has taught me what it means to be an ally. His words in support of who I am makes me less fearful that I’ll be rejected by manhood as I transition.

He’s living in Denmark now, navigating a new plane of existence. But when he was here, he threw a couple of “Man Parties.” And no, they were not misogynistic guyfests. In fact, it was more about the craft beer than talking about women. I remember him sending me a message on Facebook, saying he didn’t want to be a jerk the first time around, but that he thought I was one of the coolest people around and he wanted me to come to the second party. Maybe he saw something there that I hadn’t seen yet, because at that time I was still identifying as a butch lesbian, but regardless, the message touched me and still brings tears to my eyes.

Erik is unconditional in his friendship, and in his support. I’d see so many times when he would comment on an LGBT story, stating his anger over the injustice done to a community that he was not a part of, but allied himself with. Erik, you were my first “bro”, and I thank you for showing me that I can be a man without attaching all that baggage to the word. And thank you for simply accepting me as I am, without making me define myself to you.

Next, is my friend Brian. I met Brian several years ago. He welcomed me into his house and quite honestly, into his family. I work with his wife, and she’s just as amazing as he is. Brian has shown me that you can love with emotion, and it’s okay. He and his wife are madly, endlessly in love, and because of them, I know what love is supposed to look like, and I’ve found that. Brian has always seen me as me, and has even threatened to smack me upside the head when I’ve made a ridiculously dumb decision. He’s been somewhat of a father figure to me, showing me that love and emotion are okay in manhood.

Brian has shown me that I can be a man without showing that machismo. That manhood can be full of understanding and love and family without compromising masculinity. Thank you, Brian, for showing me that manhood can be defined by subtle masculinity and strong love. Thank you for showing me that emotions don’t take away from, but add to, the definition of a man.

To my friend Greg. I know we only met a while ago and even then it was for a handful of hours, but in those hours you taught me a lot. You taught me that standing behind the woman you love doesn’t make you less of a man, but rather, lifts both of you to a place of understanding and respect. You showed me that being a male feminist is actually a thing, and that you don’t have to emasculate yourself to do so. You showed me that being an ally does not mean you speak for others, but with them, and never louder than them. You taught me that respect for women is something that comes naturally, and is not only the right way, but the only way to love.

To Jessie, a fellow trans man – thank you for showing me what strength in character is. And thank you for showing me that compromising who you are is never an option. I look forward to this journey with you, and I’m really proud to know you. Same goes for you, Nico. You were my first trans “bro”, and hold a special place of friendship with me. You’ve helped to show me that struggles can be overcome. You’ve also helped me to look for the good in everyone, regardless of any biases or preconceptions I weigh myself down with.

These are the men in my life. Some have been there for a fleeting moment, others for years. But you all have taught me that a man, by his own virtue, can define his own manhood. And because of you, I am molding my own definition of manhood – one that will hopefully, eventually, negate the baggage that comes with the concept.

So in answer to Mira’s question – it turns out I do have role models. None of them grace the big screen, or have won Nobel Peace prizes. But when I look at how I want to model my life as a trans man, these are the men I turn to.

And on the flip-side, something else I’ve learned, mostly through the help of Mira – is that not all of my role models must be male. It’s not a requirement that men should only have male role models. Having female role models is not only not going to reduce my ability to call myself a man, but it’s something that is necessary, as men are not the only creatures with qualities I want to model.

So, to Laura, you welcomed me in as family, and you’ve taught me that mansplaining is wrong. Always. You’ve taught me how to stand up for myself in subtle ways that leave a lasting impact. You’ve taught me that in the end, if I’m not happy, then I need to change something. You’ve let me know that it’s been okay to screw up and make stupid decisions, and you’ve told me “I told you so.” in ways that didn’t make me feel lesser, but respected. Thank you for never making me feel ridiculous or useless.

To Paige, for navigating your way in a male dominated industry, and becoming a force to be reckoned with. I have the utmost respect for you because you taught me that women can go toe-to-toe with men, and be absolutely awesome while doing so. You have shown me strength and grace. You have shown me acceptance. You have shown me that it’s perfectly okay not to lay down and take the bullshit that the world can throw at you simply because some aspect of society has tried to define your role as a woman as such.

To my new friend, Amy. You’ve shown me what internal strength is. I’ve only gotten to talk to you a handful of times, and always in a censored fashion (which needs to change, soon, btw), but in those conversations, your ability to completely accept what’s happening and deal with the punches as you navigate your day has taught me patience. Your innate ability to know what to say, despite your fear of offending, is immeasurable, and you’ve taught me to open my ears and eyes to others around me and listen to what they are saying without adding my own biases.

And finally, to Mira. My love, my life. You have taught me strength, perseverance, and grace. You have taught me that it’s okay to be happy without regret. You’ve taught me that I am capable of change, and you have taught me that unconditional love is not only real, but completely attainable. You have given me knowledge and shown me what respect truly means. Watching you navigate this world and hearing you speak and captivate an audience, a crowd, or a small group of people – it is not only an honor, but something I aspire to do. You have taught me that I can be who I am, and I can do so without apology.

These are my role models. Men and women from all walks of life, cisgender, heterosexual, transgender, with different backgrounds and experiences. And it feels really, really good to have this realization, that I do have role models, and that they all are helping me (whether they know it or not) to become the person I am. The person I’m supposed to be. My journey of self-discovery is one I may have to go alone at times, but with these people as my role models, I’ll never really “be” alone.

And because of all of this, I can be that rock in the water.