Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Transy Christmas arguments with the family

Last year around this time I wrote a mopey post titled Christmas in the closet. Since I'm no longer in the closet to my parents, this year's post is somewhat less mopey, though not exactly mope-free, as we shall see.

I spent the 24th and 25th at my parents' house, as did Carson and Jamey, my brother and sister-in-law. My parents live in a small basement suite, and with the five of us humans there, plus their two dogs and one cat, no one gets much personal space.

Every year mom and dad insist on making a huge deal out of the holiday. We have to have an elaborate family meal on Christmas eve, then a large traditional breakfast Christmas morning, and finally a traditional turkey dinner Christmas evening. The result is that, with the exception of the gift exchanging, we spend nearly all our time in the kitchen, frantically preparing food or washing dishes. By mid-afternoon on the 25th we're usually all a bit snippy and short-tempered.

It was during this mid-afternoon time of snippiness that I went to put some music on with my mom's laptop. "Play something by what's-its-name," she suggested.
"Mom," I said, "I think I know who you're talking about. And that's not cool."
"Well, using 'they' is too confusing," she countered. I was right about who she meant.

My mom's really into indie rock. Recently I'd introduced her to music of Rae Spoon, which she loves. Rae is an Alberta native (though now living in Quebec) who, in addition to making some really groovy tunes, happens to have a non-binary gender identity. They prefer the pronoun "they."

"Who are you talking about?" Carson asked.
"This person is a transgender person who doesn't belong to either gender," mom explained. "It wants to be called 'they', but I think that's too confusing,"
"But mom, you can't call a trans person 'it'," I said, "that's cruel!"
"Yeah," Jamey added, "that sounds really de-humanizing."
"Well, what am I supposed to say then?" asked mom. "I'm not saying 'they'."

I sighed.

"Look mom, I totally agree that it's confusing, but I'm willing to call them 'they' in spite of that, if that's what they want. That's just being respectful."

For the record I'm not a huge fan of singular 'they' and I'm personally hoping that 'ze' or one of its variations (zie, xe, etc.) catches on instead. Even so, I believe that respecting other peoples' pronouns is more important than my private linguistic pedantry. Amazingly, I managed to correctly use Rae's preferred pronouns throughout the entire argument without a single slip-up— I think I deserve some kind of tranny award for that. :)

"Fine!" mom decalared. "From now on the pronoun I want to be called by is 'dumbass'. Unless you're calling me by name, that's what you have to refer to me as."
"Oh god," I said, facepalming. "Mom, come on..."
"Well, see? Just because you tell people what to say doesn't mean they actually have to say it."

I guess what she was trying to do was to use humour to illustrate a point, or something? That's not what it felt like though: it felt like she was just mocking me for being trans. And mocking the enitre community I belong to. Stunned, I sat down on the couch and fought back a few tears.

When she noticed she'd hurt me she came over and apologized. I said "okay," but I still felt pretty awful for the rest of the evening. I suppose I sulked for a while, though I don't think I meant to— I'm just really bad at pretending to not be sad.

After dinner I left with my brother and sister-in-law and we went to hang out at their apartment. All three of us had found Christmas to be generally stressful and unpleasant this year, and it was really helpful to be able to talk about it with them afterwards.

While I was there my dad called me to make sure I hadn't driven home and hanged myself, (of course he didn't say so, but I could tell that's why he was calling)— my parents are certainly aware of the stats about trans people, even if they could stand to learn a little more about pronoun etiquette. I assured him I was fine, and he sounded very relieved when I told him I was with Carson and Jamey.

I spent a good chunk of Boxing Day relaxing and sipping coffee, and felt a lot better about everything after that.

On a lighter note, Carson and Jamey got me nail polish for Christmas! After I unwrapped it, my brother was careful to point out that the two of them had chosen the colours together— in other words, that it wasn't just his wife shopping for the "girly" stuff. He's so cool.

Yay! They obviously know me pretty well. ^_^
I love my family, and I like Christmas. But I'm sincerely hoping that next year my parents can be convinced to celebrate it on a smaller scale, for all our sakes.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014


I usually do it without even thinking about it, but it's always kind of funny to me when I catch myself. My roommates are all boys, and when I'm just hanging out with them around the house I tend not to be overly concerned about my appearance. But when a girl comes over... quite often I'll slip off to my room, quickly dab on some foundation, maybe a bit of mascara, tie my dreads back (they look a lot more feminine that way), take my glasses off (they're a very masculine style, and I can see well enough without them), and spritz on some floral perfume. I come out again, still presenting as a boy, but feeling just a little bit prettier.

It's silly of course, but what can I say? I'm attracted to women, and like most people who are attracted to women, I want to look good around them. It's just a little disorienting when you happen to be a queer woman presenting as a feminine man around straight women.

Then again, my orientation has long been a source of confusion to me, just in different ways at different times. The thing is, while I've always been primarily attracted to women, I've never quite been exclusively attracted to women. As far as I can tell, I can be physically attracted to people of various different genders, but am romantically attracted only to women. Figuring that out would have been difficult enough on its own, but growing up trans made it more complicated still. For that matter, so did growing up religious.

I'd never heard of transgenderism or transsexuality when I was a kid. At most, by the time I was in my mid-teens I had a vague idea that there was such a thing as a "sex change", but I didn't have a clue what one might entail, and just assumed it was some kind of bizarre fetish thing. Certainly, at that age, it would never have occurred to me that someone changing their sex probably had feelings very similar to, if not the same as, the ones I was dealing with.

So, not having a concept of trans-ness, I made the best use of the meagre and distorted concepts I did have: I knew I was boy because everyone said so and I had boy parts; I knew, in some vague sense, that some aspect of me was deeply and fundamentally feminine; and I knew, because I'd learned it from my culture, that feminine boys were gay. Not surprisingly then, when I finally became honest enough with myself (around 19 or 20) to admit that there was something "different" about me, I thought it might be that I was gay. This despite the fact that I was primarily into girls.

There was another concept in vogue at the time that helped me make sense of that inconsistency: the so-called ex-gay movement. Nowadays of course the ex-gay movement is widely discredited even in most Christian circles. But this was back in 2008 or so, and we evangelicals all thought it was legit. There were stories everywhere of people whose homosexuality had been "cured" by their faith in Jesus. Some of them had even gotten het-married and had kids. They all smiled as if they were happy. And it was in this context that, desperately trying to make sense of my gender and orientation, I thought I might be one of them.

My feminine personality is that of a gay man, I told myself, but I'm mostly attracted to women because Jesus is healing me. Yeah, that makes sense, right?

Now I find it downright embarrassing to admit that I ever thought something so stupid. I will only say, in my defence, that if you've never been deeply religious you probably have no idea how badly it can screw up your ability to think.

And so it came to pass that, in the summer of 2010, while camping out with two fellow believers in the beautiful Alberta wilderness, I came out as "possibly gay" for the first time. Except you don't say "possibly gay" when you're an evangelical Christian coming out to other evangelicals; you say "struggling with homosexuality," because you have to pretend being gay is bad even if you can't for the life of you think of a reason why.

"I struggle with homosexuality," I said.
"It's okay," they assured me, "it's no different than any other sin. We all struggle with sin."

The second time I came out was much the same. But the third and final time something important happened.

It was late 2011, nearly a full year before I gave up on faith, and about a year and a half before I figured out I was trans. I had joined a small group bible study that met weekly, and at one particular meeting the discussion turned to the question of why homosexuality was wrong. We knew it must be because the bible said so, but we were scratching our heads trying to figure out why. It didn't seem like it hurt anyone, and God wouldn't just make up arbitrary rules, would s\he?

It seemed like a good time to come out to the group. "That's actually, uh, that's something I struggle with, personally." I said quietly. They all thanked me for trusting them enough to share that with them. The discussion would simply have continued from there, except for the curiosity of one group member.
"Wait. How does that work?" he asked.
I looked up.
"I mean, sorry if it's a personal question," he continued, "but like, do you actually find men attractive? Like, are you attracted to men the same way that I'm attracted to women?"

Not a very tactful question perhaps, but I'm glad he asked it. Because, for the first time in my life, I was forced to try and put into words how I felt. No longer could I cling to the ill-fitting constructs I'd been using to understand myself. "Um, well, for me personally it's not so much about being interested in men, it's more like..." my mind raced, trying to find a way to express something I'd never had a name for, "'s more like... I guess I've always felt a bit like a girl trapped inside a boy's body."

Even as I said it, I knew it wasn't a totally accurate description of how I felt. But it was much, much nearer the truth than everything I'd been saying up until then.

To illustrate what I meant by it, I told them about a time I'd seen an adorable pair of red strappy high heels in a store and felt almost heartbroken that boys couldn't wear shoes like that. (Obviously, high heels are absolutely not what being trans is about, but I was still over a year away from even learning the word "trans"— at the time it was probably the best explanation I could give.)

"I don't think that's gay," responded the guy who'd asked the question. "I mean, not if you're not attracted to men. I don't know what it is, but it isn't gay. Gay guys like guys."
"Maybe," I said. "I don't know."
"Well, they do."

The room fell silent for a moment, then one of the women spoke up. "I feel really sorry for someone like you," she said. Her eyes shone with compassion. "Like, if a girl wants to wear boy clothes, people just think she's a tomboy and nobody has a problem with it. But if a boy wants to wear girl clothes, in our society people judge him for it. And that's just so, so unfair."

I appreciated her concern, but inside I was thinking: No, you don't understand. This isn't something that's wrong with society...

This is something that's wrong with ME.

Evidently no one present that evening knew what being trans was. If they had they'd probably have said, "but of course you're transgender!" and I'd have gone home and googled the word and learned I wasn't alone and gotten a year-and-a-half head start on figuring out my identity. But that's not what happened. And in a way maybe it's for the best. Getting out of religion first and then learning I'm trans has meant I've been able to work out my identity without needing to worry the whole time about what God thinks. That seems to me a much better way to go about it.

So, I didn't learn I was trans that night. But I did learn that loving cute shoes doesn't make you gay, and that was an important thing to learn, too.

In 2013, when I did finally learn the word "trans", I was amazed to discover that the "boy trapped in a girl's body" formula has been so over-used that it's become cliché. To this day I'm still not 100% sure if I made it up that night or if I'd heard it somewhere before, but I don't suppose it matters either way.

Of course, just learning I was trans did not mean I instantly and automatically understood everything about my orientation. For a while there I worried that maybe who I really was was a lesbian, and that my limited interest in men was just some kind of penis fetish arising from a subconscious heterosexism that viewed female sexuality strictly in terms of being penetrated by a man. That is to say, that I liked the idea of being with a man because in some twisted way I thought that's what would make me a woman. Soon enough I realized that's probably not where that interest comes from, that I probably don't have such insidious ideas lurking in my subconscious, and that even if I did (or had at some point), that wouldn't make an interest in men bad in itself— heterosexism is the problem, not heterosexuality.

The most important thing I've learned, though, is that a sexual orientation is something to be enjoyed, not worried over. I'll probably never understand how butch women can make my heart skip a beat, or why I think Eddie Izzard looks gorgeous in a dress but not so much with a beard. I'll probably never understand why I find narrow hips and broad shoulders sexy in other trans women even though I dislike those features in myself. But it doesn't matter.

Perfectly understanding myself is not a prerequisite for being myself. And I can continue to make myself look pretty around girls, disorienting though it may be.

Monday, 15 December 2014

A baby step

So, in my previous post I wrote about my attempt to visit an electrolysis clinic and set up an appointment. In the end I decided to do something easier than either calling or talking to them in person: I just sent an email. It was a baby step, but it was a step in the right direction.

And the electrologist emailed me back with a whole ton of information about prices and techniques. So I guess now I'm going to call them some time this week and set up a consultation.

I am slowly moving forward. :)

Friday, 5 December 2014

Dancing, and other things

Hmmm, it seems I took a little unplanned break from blogging there for about a month. In some ways I was taking a break from life too, I guess. But now I'm getting back into things.

Yesterday, for the first time in a very long time, I took an actual real step toward transition. Even though it kind of ended up accomplishing nothing. But still, it felt better to at least try to do something.

I figured out a while ago that I want to get electrolysis for my facial hair. I also decided on which clinic I wanted to go to. But I spent a long time putting off making an appointment. Yesterday I finally metaphorically grew a pair (of ovaries???) and made up my mind to do it.

Calling to make an appointment was pretty much out of the question, however, thanks to my phone anxiety. So I got in the car intending to drive over there and talk to them in person. I doubled checked Google maps before I left: yup, it's in a mall in a part of town I'd never been to before.

But when I got there I couldn't find the place. I walked the whole length of the mall, and all around the outside, too. And it just wasn't there. Confused and a little disappointed, I drove home. Looking again at their website when I got back, I discovered they're on the same property as the mall, but in a different building. Oh.

So I guess I'll be heading back there tomorrow.

In other news, I've been learning some valuable lessons about not trying to put my entire life on hold until I get this gender thing sorted out. The thing is, at times I've felt like it's pointless to spend time with people or make friends while I'm still mostly living as a guy. But that's really not a great way to go about doing things— I just ended up being gender dysphoric and lonely.

So, in the past couple weeks I've actually been, like, going out and having fun with other humans. The past two weekends me and some friends went out the bar and danced. That was a brand new experience for me. I've always loved dancing, like at weddings and, uh... in my room by myself like a dork, but for some reason I always just assumed I wouldn't enjoy the bar scene. Turns out I shouldn't make assumptions.

And yes, I would have enjoyed the dancing more had I been presenting female, and even more so if I actually had a female-looking body. But the thing is, it was fun anyways. And when you're really getting into a song you start to forget yourself, and all that gendery stuff matters a little less.

Currently I'm out to some, but not all, of my friend group. I am now even more motivated to tell the rest of them so that we can go out dancing with me in girl mode. :D