Handle With Care

This is a long one, and an important one for me. Please don’t continue if you’re triggered by talk of self harm. 

I want to talk about an issue that a lot of trans people have dealt with, or do deal with, but that people don’t really like to talk about. It’s not directly related, but I feel it needs to be talked about, and for me personally, It is related to being trans. Self harm – hurting yourself on purpose in a physical way, whether it be cutting, burning, bruising, broken bones, or pulling out hair. It makes people who don’t understand it nervous. It makes people uncomfortable. And a lot of the time the two reactions it provokes are the two worst ones – anger and fear. 
In high school, everyone knew I cut myself. All the bracelets in the world wouldn’t cover the dozens of scratches up and down both arms. And after awhile, I stopped caring. I stopped worrying about covering them and wearing long sleeves all the time. But hardly anyone except friends said anything. I was in science class one day, right in the front row, and started scratching at my wrist with a metal ruler. My teacher noticed, took the ruler from me, and never said a word then or after. At my first job I would cut in the back storage room sometimes. nobody ever saw, but they knew. And the reaction was to tell me not to do it at work. That’s all. Just don’t do it here. 
A lot of people choose to ignore self harm because they see it as a ploy to get attention. And sometimes it is, but not the way people make it seem. Sometimes I did want people to notice. To see how bad I was feeling, and try to help. I never did it for attention, though. that was just a side effect that I hoped wound happen sometimes. Why people do it varies from person to person, but it’s hardly ever purely for attention. But the people who do try to help get frustrated, and burnt out, and eventually stop trying so hard. And you get that. But it still makes it worse. It was a good friend that helped convince me to check into an inpatient center – a psych ward – after a really bad night. And it was horrible. Ten years later, it’s still one of the worst experiences of my life. And that friend and I grew apart. We still talk once in awhile, but I don’t think we really know each other anymore. And I think it was the hospital that ruined us. But I stopped cutting. 
For awhile, anyway. It scared me so much to go back that I stopped. For a couple of months. But I never stopped wanting to. I would count the days, but it never made me want to cut less. And soon enough I was back to it, only this time very careful to hide it. but not for long. eventually you forget it’s supposed to be a secret it feels so natural. And I would stop. And go back to it. And stop. Really, I never quit, I just took breaks from my 10 year love affair with a razor blade. I think the longest was about 2 years. 
That’s another thing people don’t understand. You don’t just grow out of it. You fix the problem, or you’re stuck. 
My mother asked me if I used to cut because I was trans when I came out, and I quickly said no. and just as quickly changed it to maybe a little. And I did. The loneliness and feelings of not fitting in and confusion definitely added to it, no doubt. The second song on the playlist I used to put on was “Bleed Like Me” by Garbage. It has a verse I always liked, but couldn’t pin down why – “Chrissy’s all dressed up and acting coy/painted like a brand new Christmas toy/ trying to figure out if he’s a girl or if he’s a boy…”
For me, I obviously started cutting long before I identified as trans, for a lot of different reasons. Short term, it made me feel better than whatever I was feeling. Long term, it made me feel worse. So I’d do it again. Daily, sometimes more. But when I started to identify as trans, those issues added to it. Frustration is a big trigger for me, and being trans is very frustrating. The difference now is that I feel like I can’t talk to anyone about it like before. I haven’t been as bad as I’ve been lately in a long, long time, but everybody thinks I stopped a long time ago. I’m afraid if I talk to people who know my history, I’ll end up back in a psych ward. Or unable to continue transitioning. Or whatever else. So I hide it, and maybe 2 people know I still do. Probably only 1. People that werent there for that part of my life. Transition makes you more comfortable in your own skin, but it doesn’t make all your problems go away. And some people don’t understand that. “Why aren’t you smiling? You’re doing what you want.” But it’s not that easy. 
So if you know someone who struggles with self harm, trans or not, dont ignore it. But don’t freak out, either. Periodically check on them. If they’re okay with it, ask when the last time they hurt themselves was. If they’re not, don’t. Let them talk about it. Ask what you can do to help them. But don’t freak out. Dont tell anyone else without their permission unless they are an immediate suicide risk. Making their life harder is just going to make it worse. Love them, and don’t ignore it. I for one sometimes just want someone I trust to grab my wrists and hold them, and to tell me I don’t need to do that, and that I’ll be okay without it. To tell me, just for one day, to not cut for them. because it’s easier to not do it for someone else than it is for yourself. that comes later. And then the next day, to do the same thing. until I don’t want to for me, finally. but that’s a lot to ask of anyone. 
I debated about writing this. It’s not really a trans issue so much as a mental health issue. I debated as to whether it belonged on my blog. Or whether I should out myself as not just an ex cutter when people in my personal life read this, and have the potential to make my life difficult again. But in the end, it’s an issue for me, and it does relate to me being trans. And that’s what this blog is for. And it would feel dishonest if I lead people to believe I was over it and healing, and this blog is all about honestly and healing. And if I can help one person deal with their issues, or help another person, with this post, then it’ll be worth it. 
Keep fighting like a grrrl, even if that means just getting out of bed in the morning and getting though another day . 
– Natalie 

Talkin’ Bout My Generation

People who recognize you for your true gender despite opposing cues are beautiful. And usually younger. I think the generation coming into theirs really gets it. The other day at work I was feeling tired, and didn’t put any makeup on or anything. I was getting “sir” all night. Except for once. This woman comes in and calls me him to her 15/16 year old daughter. The daughter responded to her mother’s question with a her instead. It was obvious that I was amab (assigned male at birth), but the consciousness of trans people existing, and my presentation, was enough for this girl to realize what to do to show respect to me. And it was the one redeeming moment of that night.
And I can’t wait to see this generation take power. Because as much as our parents’ generation wants to tell us we’re wrong, and too politically correct, and getting soft, theyre the ones making laws against the LGBT community while we try to make the world a little more comfortable for people who are different or a minority. And we’re pissed. We’re pissed because middle-aged straight white guys told us education was all we needed in this country. Because they ruined the economy with war and loans and rediculous tuitions. Because they’re trying to make laws that discriminate against gay people and laws that force trans people to use the wrong bathroom. And now we’re growing up and have mediocre jobs to pay off our giant loans and the idea of owning a house is just a pipe dream. And we’re tired of it. 
They judge us for being glued to our phones, but that’s how we socialize and share ideas with the world. And it’s not a bad thing. I have friends online that I’ve never met in person who I know better than some people I’ve known all my life. I’ve heard their voices and seen their faces. And I made connections that helped me figure out who I am. We’re part of a generation who will never feel like they’re the only one like them as long as they have internet access. 
This generation has the potential to be great because we have ideas and information at our fingertips. We can challenge ideas told to us with easily accessable facts. We can be heard for free worldwide with blogs like this one and find others who think like we do, or who make us question the way we think. 
And as bad and as hard as it is to be trans in this culture, 60 years ago it was illegal. We have a long way to go, but we’re making progress. Trans people are a little less afraid of coming out, and we’re seeing more and more do so as it becomes more and more acceptable to be trans. 
We’re taking over. We’re coming into our own. We’re fighting like millennial grrrls. 

Walk the Talk

Let’s talk about language again. As an English major, writer, and trans person, I probably notice language and the words and phrases people use more than most. I’ve talked about pronouns extensively, so we won’t be beating that dead horse again. What I want to talk about today is cissexist language – the language and words that people use without even realizing it that helps to marginalize trans people, and normalizes being cis. The problem with normalizing something is that if being cis is normal, then being trans is abnormal. I may be different, and I may be a minority, but I am not abnormal. I’ve said it before, but it certainly needs repeating – language shapes thoughts, treatments, and culture. 
A lot of this language centers on genitals, and the idea that masculinity is something to be desired, and symbolizes courage, strength, and power. The pervasive idea that men and woman are from Mars and Venus, respectively, that they are “opposites,” means that if maculinity is strong, femininity is weak. If men are couragous, woman are cowardly. If males have power, then females don’t. And our language reflects that. Whenever someone says someone else “has balls,” in reference to being courageous, it’s an act of violence against trans men and cis women who are courageous and don’t “have balls.” Whenever someone doesn’t want to do something, and their friends call them a “pussy” for it, what they really mean is that people percieved to be feminine are weaker. 
So straight, cis, guys, the next time you do something that’s considered feminine leaning, and your friends tell you they’re going to take your “man card,” or ask if your significant other has “your balls in their back pocket,” kindly tell them to shut up and stop using language that enforces gender roles. And if they don’t understand why they shouldn’t be saying things like that, maybe you need new friends. This word choice is harmful to trans people because we’re reinforcing the idea that men should have one set of genitals, and women should have another, and the twain never shall cross the imaginary gender line. But some boys have vaginas, and some girls have penises. Even more, this language is harmful to women, because the idea that somehow they are less than men is ingrained into the society so deep that it’s in the language, and when people say things like that, they don’t even realize what they’re saying a lot of the time. 
This language breeds unconscious transphobia and misogyny. An opinionated man is strong. An opinionated female is a bitch. A woman who “acts like a man” is a dyke, and a man who acts feminine is, again, a sissy. And that’s one of many reasons why men need feminism, too. Gender is a spectrum, and the sooner we accept that men can be feminine and woman can be masculine and still be men and women, the sooner we can erase transphobia and sexism and start achieving true equality. 
And this is something everyone can work on. I’m aware of it, and I know I do it, too. I catch myself calling things “retarded” when I know the word I want is “ridiculous,” but it slips out out of habit. I still used “gay” as a synonym for something stupid even after I knew I was trans, and gay. I know that kind of language puts one group above another, and that’s not okay. I’ve been fighting to erase that language from my speech, and you should, too. It takes time, and it takes a conscious effort, but call it out when you hear it. Fight like a grrrl to erase language that normalizes any group over another. We’re all people, after all, and we all have our own personal fights. 

Take the Blue Pill 

Let’s talk female hormones. Fem’n’ems. Breast mints. Tit tacs. Titty Skittles. All jokes aside, I mention them quite often, but i never really go in depth on what they do and don’t do. Hormones (or as most trans people call it, HRT, hormone replacement therapy) are not magic. But they kinda are, too. Some trans people choose not to take hormones, but for the majority that do, it’s usually a pretty big step in transition. I’m obviously taking about what my experiences are, and as always, results and experiences vary. 
I came out semi-publicly 2 days after I started HRT, which in my case consists of a testosterone blocker and oral estrogen. In those 9 months or so since, a lot of changes i expected, and some I didn’t, came to fruition. The first thing I noticed was within a week my moods started to change. I felt generally less angry pretty much all the time. As the month went on, I noticed my emotions were heightened. It was easier to cry, and i felt more of everything. Physically, my skin was getting softer already. 
By two months my body hair started growing slower and breasts started developing. By three, my body fat started shifting to more feminine places. My thighs started to get chubby, and i started losing muscle mass. 
And those changes just intensify over time.  My skin is super soft, and i only have to shave my face once a day now, instead of twice. My thighs are as chubby as ever and I have a subtle curve in my waist that wasn’t there before, and my face is getting more meaty in the cheeks. I lost about a third of my muscle, too. I’m starting to pass more visually. The full effects won’t really be done for 2 or 3 years, though. 
So what won’t HRT do? It won’t change my bone structure – square shoulders, narrow hips, and facial bone structure are there for good. Your voice is also yours to keep or train as you will. Hand size, foot size, etc are also not going to change, generally, though I did go down a shoe size, which I guess isn’t too typical. I think I might have shrunk an inch or so, too. 
So after being on HRT for awhile, some people opt for surgery. Facial feminization surgery, Adams Apple shaves, vocal cord surgery in some cases, breast augmentation, and bottom surgery (or THE surgery), among others. Laser hair removal or electrolysis is pretty much a given usually. 
But how do you even get hormones? There are three ways, really. With the informed consent model, after health checks are completed, you sign a paper saying you understand the risks, and the Dr. gets you a script if they think you’re a good candidate/”true trans”. This is a less common method, but the best medical route with the least gatekeeping (but still some gatekeeping). Still expensive without insurance that will cover it, though. The other option is through therapy, and following your therapists guidelines for them to prescribe or okay a doctor to do the same.  The biggest way for gatekeepers to control who is “woman enough” for hormones. The other common method of HRT is the do it yourself method that a lot of girls have no choice but to use if they want hormones, due to availability, lack of proper insurance, and money, and being denied for not fitting the cliche trans narrative. Hormones are procured on the street or online, and the user self-administers based on research and common doses. Dangerous, but so is being trans in general, especially without passing.
Often times people who are questioning will start HRT only to realize it isn’t right for them, and it only made things worse. Most trans people, however, feel better and more comfortable with themselves. Gender is like a car. If everything is working, and you’re running on the right kind of fuel, most people don’t think a lot about it. But when you’re running on the wrong fuel, and nothing seems to run right, you are forced to notice every time you drive. At the same time, though, it’s a little depressing that I’ll have to take a little blue pill for the rest of my life if I want to keep the effects, both mental and physical. 
That said, like anything else, hormones don’t make a woman. Body doesn’t dictate gender identity. But having a body that reflects how we feel is one major point to transition for most of us. Sometimes HRT just helps us fight like the grrrls we know we are.