Through The Looking Glass

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but it did. That is, I stopped considering myself “transitioning.” What does that mean, exactly? Am I where I want to be as far as transness is concerned? Am I content with my body? Do I feel “whole”? Well, no. Not really. I still have a long way to go. There are still many things about my body I’m unhappy with (some that are changeable, some that I will have to deal with forever). And I feel like I still have a lot of hill to climb, yet. But It feels like I’m on the other side. I still don’t really pass a whole lot. Maybe never will. People still call me “he” on a daily basis. My license still has an “m” on it. 
But I’m not in that awkward “transitioning” stage anymore. That middle ground of not being comfortable with the gender you were assigned, but also not feeling like you’ve “earned” the right to call yourself what you are. I still only very rarely correct people who call me “he.” I still don’t know any fancy hair tricks. But I also don’t hesitate to tell people my name, afraid of their reaction, anymore. I don’t hesitate to describe myself as she in conversations, and I can finally get my hair to stay still and look presentable for more than 10 minutes. I don’t have to convince myself that I’m a “real girl” anymore. I’m not terrified of wearing dresses and skirts in public anymore, or saying and doing things that aren’t masculine enough for the man I never was. I am still afraid of doing things that are branded too masculine for a woman, to a point, though. And that’s still something I need to learn to get over. 
But the point is, there are some days where I don’t hate looking in the mirror anymore. And even some days where I hit it just right, and I just sit there and stare at myself because I can. Because I never thought I could ever be who I am. But I am. Are there still bad days? Sure. Lots. But I don’t think those ever really go away. You just learn to deal better. Another big thing I realized was that I’m not 100% focused on transition, and nothing else. When it’s something you’ve thought about for so long, its hard not to. But being trans is starting to become just part of the routine. I take my meds without thinking about it most of the time. I don’t watch/listen to/read every single trans thing I can possibly find (though i do still read a lot, because it still is very important to me). I make sure there’s no bulge when i put on tight jeans, like it’s just something people do. I have normal hobbies that don’t involve researching surgeries. It’s all becoming as normal as being trans can possibly be. And that’s a really good thing. 
In this last year, this blog has allowed me to tell you my worries, fears, hopes, and secrets. I’ve opened my heart and showed you around. And you made this possible by reading each and every week. So thank you. I never thought it would last this long, or get as big as it did. 
And that’s why I have to kill the thing I love. I want to remember it as something successful, and important, and not something that just fizzled out. As something that I wanted to do, and not just another obligation. I said what I wanted to say, and you all listened. I tried to teach, you took time out of your day every week to try to learn. And now it’s time to keep using what you learned to help me and people like me live normal, safe lives. To teach others, and stand up.
To fight.
Like.
A.
Grrrl. 

-Natalie 

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Doing Time

With Orange Is The New Black on Netflix taking on women’s prison issues, and *spoiler+ the episode toward the end of this season where Sofia, the trans character played by trans actress Laverne Cox, gets put in segregation “for her own safety” after being beat up for being trans, I felt like it was a valid issue to bring up. 
Most people have a healthy fear of prison. But for trans women, the idea of prison is an anxiety-inducing nightmare. The idea that you could end up in jail because of a mistake or a bad day is probably the worst part. That a car accident could lead to a manslaughter charge. Or defending yourself when attacked (a distinct possiblity for trans women) could lead to assault charges. Or being charged with sex work or prostitution because you have no other career choices, or other “survival crimes.” Or most recently, because someone called the police because “two men in dresses” were checking into a hotel. In this case, the cops looked for charges to arrest one woman unrelated to the prostitution accusation they were originally called for, and put her into segregation because they don’t know what to do with her. 21% of trans women have been incarcerated at some point. That number is much higher for trans women of color. 
And if you’re a trans woman and you end up in jail somehow, chances are you’ll end up in a men’s if you haven’t had bottom surgery, despite what you’re body may or may not look like, or what your gender marker is. 
So what happens to a woman in a male prison? A woman who may even have breasts? Nothing good. 59% are sexually abused. Hormones will most likely be cut off. As will hair, upon intake. And for many trans girls, including myself, hair is very important.  Abuse by guards and inmates is common, as is solitary confinement, if you’re lucky. Reports of being called “it” and other slurs by guards and other inmates are common from accounts of jailed trans women. 
So basically, if you’re a trans woman, and you end up with a sentence, it’s the equivalent of hell. And not a whole lot seems to be being done about it. Even now, the precedent is to either put trans girls in a gay men’s housing, or segregation. Or as I said, with the general population men. 
Help fight like a grrrl to end this trans prison pipeline, and to get women who do end up in prison safe, humane treatment. 
-Natalie 

Sex, Lies, and Gender 

When we grow up, were implanted with this idea that gender, sex, and gender roles are all one thing. You have a penis, therefore your body is male, therefore you’re a boy/man, therefore you play with pirate ships and trucks, and you are taught not to cry.  A lot of people never question this, until the day they die. 
I hear this phrase all the time at work – “put that down, that’s for girls.” But I never hear the opposite. Just think about that and let it sink in. It’s okay for a girl to want to be a boy, but not the other way around. Male is the dominant gender in this society. In my mind, that alone  dispels this myth that being a trans girl is really a choice. Why would anyone choose to be seen as less? Ive been asked more than once why I “want to be a girl,” but I don’t want to be a girl. I want to be me. And I am a girl.  
But that’s not my point today. To understand why people are trans, first you need to understand what gender and sex consist of. A lot of people have a lot of ideas, and use different terms to mean different things. So I’ll try to explain as I go. For this piece, sex refers to body – male, female, and intersex. What you were born with, and what hormones puberty bestowed upon you. Some trans people like to say that their body is female/male because they are, and it’s their body, but that disregards an important part of being trans, and not just because of the dysphoria aspect. I’m ignoring chromosomes right now because of all the variations that don’t really factor in right now, as far as we know. 
So that said, biologically, my body/medicine says I’m male. With the female hormones,  my body is now somewhere in between. (see the post on HRT). My brain, however, is not male, and that’s where biology makes me female. Gender is biological, too. Gender and gender expression are different. Gender and gender roles are different, too. Simply put, gender roles are how society expects a man or a woman to behave. Gender expression is how an individual chooses to behave/dress/etc. One can be a woman but still express as a male, or as androgynous. 
But as I said, gender is in the brain. There have been a few smaller studies that found that men’s and women’s brains are indeed different. And that although they’re not identical, a trans man’s brain more closely resembles that of a cis male and a trans woman, female. And though this is still a theory, and few other theories exist to explain it, it’s the one that makes sense to me, and that I chose to prescribe to until more research is done. It explains how I knew that I was a girl, even though I never experienced being a girl. It explains why I was never comfortable my body until it started to look more feminine.  
So there it is. Sex = body. Gender = brain, simply put. When they don’t match, you get transgender people. 
But I’ve said it before. In the end, it doesn’t matter what causes it, and a hundred other people will explain sex and gender a hundred different ways. I am transgender. I am a girl. And I know me…wait for it….better than you know me. So science or no science, I’m going to fight like a grrrl to be who I know I am.
-Natalie 

Work in Progress

The job market is hard enough to maneuver without being trans. Add that factor, and it’s nearly impossible. Trans people are twice as likely to be unemployed compared to the rest of the population. 44% of trans people are underemployed.1 in 5 has been homeless at some point in their life. 
So here I am, in the middle of transition. I don’t look overly feminine. I don’t sound very feminine. But my name is unmistakably feminine, as are most of my clothes. My license still has an m on it. And my main source of income may or may  not be open for many more months pending contact negotiations. What do I do? Do I disclose being trans in my resume? At the interview? Or do I try to get through the interview without them figuring it out by some miracle and wait for HR to discover it? What do I wear? Do I go all out fem and hope nobody laughs me out of the office, or somewhat androgynous and hope I can still reasonably appear female still? 
I am fortunate to live in a state that has laws to protect against trans discrimination in employment, but really, how do you prove that? Those laws are fairly toothless. Especially in a right to work state that doesn’t have to even give a reason to fire, anyway. Especially when nobody even has to hire me in the first place.  
So where does that leave me? Where it leaves a lot of trans people, unfortunately.  Working low paying jobs to get by, trying to scrape together enough money to do what they need to do to transition, or stay transitioned. Made especially hard by most insurances not covering gender related expenses, forcing people to pay for doctors, gender therapy, surgeries, and hormones out of pocket. And for those who can’t afford the doctors visits and bloodtests, that often means buying hormones from less than legal sources and self medicating, because buying illegal medication and taking it unsupervised is still a better option than living and working as their assigned gender a lot of the time. 
Marriage equality is important, but why was that the LGBT flagship? Why not job opportunities and housing and more inclusive medical care? Why does what we look like cause so much trouble and get so much hatred? Some shelters will turn trans people away, even. Why is housing becoming a privilege? Why are jobs a luxury? 
It’s hard to find enough energy to change the world when a lot of us are just trying to keep warm and fed and employed in a world where a lot of people would rather us not be able to. But we’re only 1% of the population. We need the support of allies to help us vote for change. Fight like a grrrrl by pushing for progress. 
-Natalie

Off Base Online

The pitfalls of dating while trans are many.  And for a lot of us, online dating is the best, safest option. But even then, it’s no walk in the park. I’ve been called a tranny, hit on by gay guys, asked if I would like to be pleasured orally, told they liked femme men, been told nobody wants me (because I don’t have sex with people I don’t know well), and a bunch of other stuff. And in the few months I’ve been on, I’ve learned a lot of things. 
1. Never, ever meet someone you have doubts about – I’ve met one person irl so far. Another trans girl. And only after we talked daily for over 2 weeks. We had a couple dates and decided we weren’t a good match, but I was comfortable meeting her. I make sure I talk to everyone extensively, bring up trans issues, and contradict points to see reactions. And if I don’t like what I hear… Block.  At the very least, I have a pretty good sense of what people are looking for after a few questions. 
2. Let them talk – pay attention to what topics they talk about, and what questions they ask . If someone keeps bringing it back to sex, or how “beautiful” I am, it’s a short conversation. I’ll only talk to people who actually talk about their life, and hobbies, and let me get to know better who they actually are. If you can’t explain why you messaged me without telling me because of how I look, or because I’m trans (and there are many), then I’m not interested. 
3. A lot of these men are clueless – you can be directly mean, and they still don’t get it. They’ll keep trying until… Block. 
4. Women message far less – probably because of said guys. But the women who do message or reply are usually looking for a threesome, because hey, your trans, you’re not a girl, so I’ll still like you, and you’re not really a guy, so my boyfriend can explore his love of penis without calling himself gay. 
5.  Use your instinct – even if you can’t pinpoint why you don’t feel totally comfortable with someone, your brain knows why. Don’t force it. 

Basically, because I work pretty much always and am not very interested in social hobbies, online is the only way to go for me right now. But I’m beginning to realize that I don’t need someone else to fulfill me. I can be patient, and if something happens,  something happens.  
And more importantly, I’m learning to not let comments and attitudes like the ones I opened with bother me too much. It says more about them than it does about me. 
Fight like a grrrl to let men know they can’t treat women like property, and to let everyone know that trans women are women, and not a fantasy, or feminine men. And as my friend once told me, “don’t let the turkeys get you down.”
-Natalie 

What Nobody Tells You Before Transitioning

So it’s been a over a year since I came out and started hormones, and there are a lot of things I wish I knew before I started this journey. Some of them are good things. Some of them, not so much. Knowing them would not have changed my decision, but knowing what to expect would have been nice. 

Growing breasts hurts! – Like, all the time. Going on ten months straight. And eventually, you get used to it. 

Hormones are magic – But they’re a slow, slow magic. They change things in ways you never would have guessed. Nothing seems to happen for months at a time, and then boom. There’s a curve. Bang. Where did those thighs come from? Woah. I’ve been doing the same things for months, but today someone called me miss. Everything seems to happen in phases. Nothing…nothing…something. Nothing…nothing…nothing…something. And at almost a year in, it’s still exciting. 

Doing this won’t solve all your problems – If you were depressed before, you’ll probably still be depressed after. If you had budgeting issues before, well, they aren’t going anywhere. Etc, etc. You’ll be more comfortable with who you are, yes. But you’re still you in a lot of ways. 

People will be supportive who you Never Guessed Would Be. And People Who You Thought Would Be Will Disappear – I never guessed some of the people in my life right now would support me so much. People who I really didn’t have that much of a connection with before, even. And I never guessed that after years, people I considered good friends would slowly fade out of my life, all the while saying they’re fine with me. 

Cis girls will go out of their way to validate you – Whether they’re you’re friend or not, cis girls who know you’re trans will go out of their way to call you “girl,” “gorgeous,” “beautiful,” and to use your name more often than necessary. It’s well meaning, but it is a double edged sword. On one hand, It does feel good. On the other, we know what you’re doing. It’s okay, but we know. 

Everyone Is Not Watching You – You’ll go out thinking everyone is watching you. And some people are. Some people will whisper, and laugh, but most people just don’t care. They have their own lives to worry about. They’re not very interested in what you’re shopping for. 

It’s not Cheap – Hormones, hair removal, and all kinds of other things you’ll never think about until it comes up. Makeup is expensive, and in my case, necessary. You’ll have to buy a whole new wardrobe. New jewelry, new summer stuff, new winter stuff, new stuff for job interviews and special events. Everything is thin, so you’ll have to wear undershirts and layers all the time, too. And one day you’ll look in the closet and realize just how many pairs of shoes you’ve acquired. I have dressy flats, i have boots, i have casual flats, I have work shoes, I have heels…8 pairs of shoes in a year. Before, I had 4 pairs for years – all-purpose boots, chucks, dress shoes, and work shoes.

Confidence is key – even if you don’t feel confident, act it. If you look like you’re comfortable in the ladies room, Chances are nobody else will care. Just be you, and the rest will follow. 

Don’t take advice from people you wouldn’t have taken advice from before – if peoole are telling you how to do your hair, or what to wear, or how to act, and you never trusted those people before, why are you trusting them now? I took far too much advice from people on the internet telling me how to pass better, but these people didn’t know me. Do what works for you. 

Don’t let transition be your entire life – it took me a long time to figure that one out. It is a huge part, for sure. But not the whole thing. Take a break from the gender studies books and read a thriller once in awhile. Think about the other things in life you need to focus on, too. Because sometimes they sneak up on you if you don’t, and that’s not always a good thing. 

You’ll be a representative, like it or not – being trans and out means you’ll probably be the first trans person a lot of people have knowingly met. Which means if you want respect, you’re going to have to educate. Chances are, you’ll have to be the one that forces policies/procedures to be made at work, too. Just think of it like this: it sucks, but you’re making it easier for the next girl. 

You’ll be asked uncomfortable questions – by people you know, and people you barely know. And you’ll be talked about in uncomfortable ways. 

There is no guidebook – there is no procedure or step-by-step manual. You have to figure out what you want to do and when you’re ready to do it. It’s not linear, it’s stressful, and it’s different for everyone.

But I wouldn’t go back. Because despite the stresses and struggles and cost, both financial and emotional, being who you are truly is priceless. And every once in awhile you get to be around the right people who make you feel comfortable, and you can forget that you’re trans, and just be a girl. Or you look in the mirror and realize you see something you don’t mind looking at anymore. Those are the times that make everything else worth it.
So keep bring yourself and fighting like a grrrl.
-Natalie 

I Am… Not Jazz

I Am Jazz. I was hesitant to watch this show when it first came out. I’m glad that shows about trans people actually exist now, but I still think that the sensationalist aspect is still a large part of it when it doesn’t have to be. And the first episode of this show was really no exception, in my opinion. 
Jazz fits the traditional “true trans” narrative. She knew she was a girl when she was a toddler, had the good fortune to transition before male puberty, and passes flawlessly. And though there isn’t anything wrong with that, every show on now deals with people who knew forever, and people like me who had to figure it out a lot later tend to get discredited because of it. 
The show also dealt a lot with genitals abd the physical aspects of transition. And though these are important things, I feel like they’re more on the personal side of transition, and there are bigger social issues that need the focus. What medication we’re on is nobody’s business, really. There’s a large section of the show that focuses on Jazz finding a bathing suit she feels comfortable in. A real issue, yeah, but one the focused far too much on “yes, Jazz still has boy junk.” There were the issues of breast development, too. I wrote that off as regular teen stuff, but it was a bit excessive, IMO.
But this show did things right, too. There was no misinformation, and a lot of real issues brought up. Dating was mentioned (and will no doubt become a theme), feeling different from other girls sometimes, dealing with being called names, and family acceptance were all touched on. 
Overall, this show was not nearly as bad as I expected for being on TLC. I’ll probably try to catch the next episode, and if you come across it, it couldn’t hurt to do the same. 
Help me (and Jazz) fight like a grrrl to make being transgender so mainstream it isn’t even worthy of a TV show. 
-Natalie 

Privilege 

If you’ve heard someone say “Why isn’t there a straight pride parade?,” or claim that there should be a white alternative to the United Negro College Fund, you’ve met someone with privilege. It comes in many forms, and most people have some form of it. And it’s usually something people can’t choose. Having privilege isn’t a bad thing by itself, but denying it exists or abusing it is. In every dichotomy, there is a group with privilege. Racially, white people have it. Financially, upper class people have it. Bodily, able-bodied and mentally stable people have it. Sexually, straight people have it. And gender-wise, men have it. And if you don’t have it, you’re the class that gets looked down on, talked over, ignored, excluded from laws and have laws levied against you, and have to worry about discrimination in employment and in life. 
People who say privilege doesn’t exist are either ignorant of it, or are trying to keep it. It’s no coincidence that rich, white, straight men have predominantly run this country for so long. As I said before, straight people don’t need a parade because they have the freedom to be themselves “by default.” They don’t have to do anything at all, and aren’t judged for being straight. It’s “normal.” White people have never been treated the way black people, Mexican people, Native American people have been treated, and they never will be. Cis people have never had to live as trans. Able-bodied people have no idea what handicapped people have to deal with on a daily basis. And men don’t realize how much they oppress women, either. And the ones who do realize it…well…we all know what they are. And so a lot of people take for granted what they have, and continue the treatment they don’t think about. They make racist, transphobic, homophobic jokes, and then when someone gets offended, “they’re just jokes, lighten up.” Men catcall women, speak over women, and “joke” that they should, “get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich.” But watch out if a woman ever tells a man, “oh, sweetie, why don’t you just go back into that garage over there and fix that little lawnmower of yours for me,” in that very same tone. It’s the reason feminism is branded as women trying to take over, when really, we just want to be treated like everyone else. 
But the fact is, nothing will change about privilege as long as the underpriviledged classes are treated like they are lesser in this society. As long as the privileged keep putting them down, making jokes, telling workers at McDonald’s that they don’t deserve $15 an hour (because they do. Because everyone deserves to have a job that they can live on, whether they’re educated or not.) And the first step to change is always awareness. Be aware of the privilege you have, and use it to convince others to do the same. Be careful how you treat people, and what you teach your kids to think about people you know nothing about. Throw out that old trope, “Do you want to end up working fast food? Then you better get good grades.” Because I got good grades, and went to college, and got good grades there, and I’m not far up from fast food. Does that mean I’m a lesser person? Does being a woman with a penis make me a lesser person? One that can’t be taken seriously because of it? Then why are we treated like that?
As a trans woman, I have three counts against me. Woman, gay, and trans. Three “lesser” classes. I’m also not well-off. But I’m white, and I’m able-bodied, and I know that those two things are forms of privilege. And I have to be aware of that. And I can’t let what I have blind me to those who don’t have it just because I’m not a straight white male like I used to try to be. 
Fight like a grrrl to reveal and break the privilege in your daily lives. Use your privilege to help people who don’t have their own. Don’t spread oppression when you can spread acceptance and help instead. 
-Natalie

Update: Speaking of privilege, I finally got my answer regarding the restrooms in the building my company subcontracts for last week before I went on a well-needed vacation. …No. I was told at this time, that I will not be allowed to use the women’s restroom in their building. Now tell me you don’t have privilege because you’re cis. Having to ask to use the right bathroom is bad enough. Being told no…well…just think about that one for a minute.

Not Politically, Just Correct

The recent debates spurred by the confederate flag and freedom of speech, and the discussions I was subjected to after, got me thinking. 
When did not saying insensitive things become “political correctness?” When did freedom of speech start meaning freedom to say rude stuff and not be held accountable? 
People still have freedom of speech, and all those saying it’s being stepped on are the ones who are saying the ignorant things. You can still say whatever you want, but I can boycott your radio show or call you an idiot, too. Freedom of speech does not mean immunity. 
And political correctness is just a buzzword for people who use slurs and don’t care if they hurt other people. You’re really not willing to stop saying an offensive word to make someone feel better? What kind of selfish person are you? It’s not rebellious, and it’s not cool. It’s just disrespectful. 
That’s privilege in a nutshell, really. (But we’ll be devoting a whole post to that soon, anyway). The people whining about political correctness being stupid are the people who’ve never been called a tranny, a fag, a n-. They’re the people who use those terms to hurt. They are trying to keep these words mainstream to keep the oppressed oppressed. 
Not using these words isn’t “politically correct,” it’s common decency. I’ve said it many times before. Language. Shapes. Culture. It’s not politically correct, it’s just correct. 
Fight like a grrrl to make the world a more tolerant place through language. 
-Natalie 

Tranny 

Once again I want to talk about my fascination with words and how they change perceptions and society. This time, it’s only one word, though.
Tranny. That’s one of those words that causes a lot of controversy. One of those words that only the people it describes can use safely, and even then, not necessarily without being called out on it. But why is it such a bad word? It’s just short for transsexual, right? Wrong! 
Tranny is one of those words that comes with a history of hate. A word that accompanies disgust and hate crimes. It’s a word used by the porn industry because nobody searches “transgender porn.” So why is it a word some peope are trying to reclaim? Well, it’s a way to mark how far we’ve come, and to claim the past. To remember the fights of those who came before. To take back a powerful word and use it for good rather than hate. But people still use the word for hate, so some people still don’t like it, no matter who is saying it, or the context. 
But others, like myself, do use the word. I mainly use it to described myself, because I don’t want to put that label on someone else, and I never use it in a formal context or to people I’m not comfortable with. Like any word, there’s a time and a place. But just because I use it in a casual way doesn’t mean it isn’t a dangerous word. Sometimes when I’m having a bad day, and tired of feeling like a misfit, I’ll refer to myself a tranny. I’ll use their negative use of the word against myself. And that’s not okay, either. But that’s why we need it back. Because it shouldn’t be a bad thing to be a tranny. We need to make that negative meaning positive. 
We do. Not you.
But my best friend is trans and… no. 
But I’m gay, so… No.
But I do drag shows on the weekend and…NO.
But I don’t mean it a bad way, I’m helping you take it ba- N. O. 
If you are not a trans woman, you are not allowed to use this word without consequences. Trans women are the primary target of the word, and it’s ours to take back or hate as we please. If you’re in my workplace and I hear you say that, HR is getting a call. If you’re my friend and you say tranny, we’re going to have a talk. If it happens again, we’re not talking anymore. If you’re in my car and you say it, I hope you’re wearing comfortable shoes. If you’re Ru Paul and you think it’s okay to use that word on your show, you’re trash. You can’t reclaim a hateful word that doesn’t belong to you. 
So I’m going to keep fighting like a tranny girl, and taking my word back.
-Natalie  

update:  today marks 1 year on hormones, and almost a year full time.  Yay!