Why Did It Take Me So Long to Transition?

Recently, in therapy, I made a remark about my 19-year-old self. My therapist asked why I referenced that age, specifically, and after a moment I remembered that 19 was when I first realized that I was transgender. I was watching The L Word (transmasculine folks, you already know where I’m going with this) and they introduced the characters Max and Ivan – a trans man and drag king, respectively. I remember sitting upright, staring at the screen.

I relate to these characters, I thought. Why?

A few internet searches later and my mind was spinning with new words: androgynous, genderqueer, transgender, trans man.

That was 2008. Nonbinary wasn’t a commonly used term then. They/them wasn’t a pronoun option. The only transgender people I had EVER seen were the trans women being exploited and marginalized on the Jerry Springer Show. I knew nothing of transgender history or existence.

I remember going into the boys section of clothing stores for the first time. Buying clothes, trying them on, getting tight sports bras and ACE bandages. Being mistaken for a boy and loving it. I’ve told these stories in other ways, other places.

But I’m telling them now, nine years later. Back then, I told almost no one, except online friends and maybe one or two folks I knew offline. I cut my hair and started dressing more boyishly without telling anyone why. I took countless selfies of myself in boy mode, but never shared most of them. I thought about coming out then, but I didn’t. It would take me seven more years to decide/know for sure/realize that trans was part of me, that I needed to live my life as something other than a cis woman, to come out and begin transitioning.

Why did it take me so long? Why didn’t I know earlier? I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, and here’s what I’ve learned.

1) Social expectations of people assigned female at birth – that we will be pretty, submissive, and center our lives around cis men, and that we are worthless if we don’t adhere to those standards. I absorbed these messages early on and struggled with them my entire life.

2) The lack of transgender awareness and visibility in my immediate community – Like I said, I didn’t know anything about trans people, and had no clue that it could apply to me. I say this as someone who was a child in the 1990s and 2000s in Seattle, in a liberal, secular home. When I first started questioning whether I might be trans, I barely had any queer friends, and had no idea where to begin coming out to the cisgender folks who made up my friend group and family, none of whom knew anything about transgender people either. This isn’t their fault. I’m not angry with them. But the thought of being the Only One, of coming out as a member of a demographic still far less accepted than LGBT folks were at that time, was terrifying. I simply couldn’t picture it. In a way, you could say that I didn’t know how to be trans. So I tried to put it out of my mind.

3) Binary norms – The only trans men and women I saw when I was first questioning were people who fit into typical gender norms, who had known with certainty from childhood that they were the “opposite” gender. I didn’t know how to live in the between, how to be okay with being unsure, how to understand my gender without that firm sense of knowing since childhood. I didn’t understand, and there was no one to tell me, that the diversity of masculinity and femininity exhibited by cisgender people could also exist in transgender people.

This combination kept me trying to be a girl for many years after that July day in 2008. Every few years or so, I’d go through another “phase” with my gender identity: I’d cut my hair again, or I’d start reading transgender literature again, or I’d tentatively try to talk to another person about my gender feelings. But I also desperately wanted to be loved, wanted to belong, wanted to be accepted, and the only way I knew how to do that was by being a desirable cis woman seeking relationships with men. Oh, I was out as queer, I became a feminist, I became politically conscious, I was outspoken and assertive and independent and bucked norms in many ways – but underneath it all, I was still crushed by that intense desire for acceptance and love – something I struggled to give myself. There was always that lingering sense of discomfort, that something was off.

But eventually, I found a queer community. I made trans friends. The world changed slowly and I learned new words: nonbinary, transmasculine. I came out at the end of 2015. I started this blog. I’ve detailed some parts of my journey here, some on Instagram, some in my spoken word poetry and through other artistic pursuits. I found an online and offline community of trans men and nonbinary transmasculine folks who embody the vast spectrum of masculinity and femininity available to us, who constantly inspire and model for me all the ways that I can be. On November 12, 2016, I started a low dose of testosterone, and doubled that dose, oh, a month or so ago? My body is changing in ways I love. I’m growing sideburns and I’m fucking excited about it. My voice is dropping, it’s cracking all over the place, it’s getting harder to hold a note but I’m no longer so scared about losing my singing voice because this is just so great, y’all, because I know my voice will settle in a few years and it’ll be fine. Every day my view of myself opens up a little bit more. I’ve begun to allow myself to claim masculinity and maleness, and unpack all the complicated feelings I have about that.

I used to look back and struggle to integrate who I was with who I am. Now I look back and I begin to understand my NOW self as my THEN self. Yes, I was a girl. I lived as a girl. I know intimately what it means to be a girl. That has been and will always be a valued part of my experience and I describe it this way because that is how it manifests for me. But I was also a boy. My memories are integrating my self-as-boy and replacing, overwriting, coexisting with my self-as-girl. When I remember middle school and high school, I remember myself as a boy and honestly? My life and my feelings make way more sense. I was a bisexual guy. I am a queer man – or I will be, once I get through second puberty.

I’m still nonbinary. I’m still genderqueer. But I’m coming at those things from a masculine place. I’m a nonbinary boy. A dude who really doesn’t care about your gender norms (or at least, is working on not caring) and will wear glitter and a crop top if he wants, thanks very much. I’m still using they/them pronouns, but I foresee that changing, or rather, expanding, at some point.

But it’s still not as easy as this gung-ho post makes it sound. I think and worry a lot about my identity, how it’s being perceived by others, how it’s affecting me and the people around me. There’s self-consciousness and second-guessing and dysphoria (oh my!). It’s hard, even now, to say out loud or in print, that I am a guy. I am a boy. I am a dude. I am a trans dude. (Why is it that “trans dude” is specifically the easiest?? Maybe my brain doesn’t have quite so many negative/pre-conceived ideas about “dudes” versus “guys,” “boys,” and that even more loaded term, “men.” If anyone has insight on this, let me know.) I keep waiting for someone to laugh, or get mad at me and hate me and tell me I’ve betrayed them, or roll their eyes, or tell me I’m not a guy, that I can’t be a guy because…[insert bullshit reason here]. But my journey is unfolding as it should, and you know what? I’m allowed to be a guy.

So yes – it’s not easy, but it’s a hell of a lot easier than it used to be. I can finally allow myself to be myself more than I ever have. I can finally love and accept myself in a way I never could before. It can be painful and confusing and scary, but I would rather be who I am now than who I was then. Authenticity is worth it. Comfort in one’s own skin is worth it. Finding out who I am is worth it.

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7 Moments I’ve Had With Testosterone

In the two weeks before I started testosterone, anxiety closed around my heart, crushing it in a vicegrip of nebulous fear. These fears didn’t have names, exactly, or even coherent shapes, but they were strong enough to immobilize me emotionally. Finally I gave up trying to wrestle them into submission and waited up until the moment of truth: I was sitting in the doctor’s office at my follow-up appointment, and when he asked me whether I wanted to use gel or shots, I made the leap. I said yes. I chose the gel.

Now, after one month and three weeks on testosterone, it just keeps getting better. All the anxiety and agonizing that led up to this decision has made the journey I’m on now just that much sweeter. I experience moments of pure gender euphoria almost every day. This is not to say that being on testosterone has been a magical cure-all: I still have moments of uncertainty and fear. But when I step back and breathe into the moment, when I embrace myself in my complexity instead of trying to fit myself into other peoples’ ideas of what my narrative should be, I know that I am on the right path. It is okay to be uncertain. It is okay not to have all the answers and not be totally sure who you are or what is right for you. It is okay to try things out: you might discover, like I did, that it is in fact right for you. Or, you might discover the opposite. What then? Well, you can change your mind. You can always, always, always, change your mind. It is YOUR body. YOUR life. YOUR identity. You are allowed to change and shift and grow and learn as much as you need and want to.

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Spotted on Pride Weekend. Photo by me.

There have been many moments in the past almost-two months that have stuck in my mind. Here are a few.

1. That moment when: you catch yourself in an unfamiliar mirror, maybe in a dressing room or some single-user bathroom in a store and for a moment you see YOURSELF looking back at you.

2. That moment when: you realize seeing YOURSELF means seeing a boy.

3. That moment when: you realize that identifying as a trans man doesn’t seem nearly as scary as it used to, and while you’re always going to be some kinda gender non-conforming creature with a femme heart, you can also be a dude, because THOSE THINGS AREN’T MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE.

4. That moment when: you get your labs back after the first six weeks and your testosterone levels are in the low end of normal for an adult man in your age range and you feel incredibly happy and excited by that and then you feel happy and excited about the fact that you feel happy and excited.

5. That moment when: you flex your arm after working out and see your muscles pop.

6. That moment when: a cis person wants you to explain all the gory details of physical transition to them and you just don’t want to and don’t care anymore about being their Good Trans Educator, so you don’t take the bait and just let the moment hang in its awkwardness.

7. That moment when: you notice that your gritty morning voice sounds deeper than it used to, and every so often throughout the day as you’re talking you feel your voice sink and expand into your chest, vibrating its way into your heart.

In Between Being and Becoming

via Daily Prompt: Liminal

 

This word first came to my attention earlier this year. A visiting poet who was featuring at the local slam where I compete described themselves as “gender-liminal,” and my brain did a cartwheel. I looked up the word and found this definition, from Merriam-Webster:

         1 :  of or relating to a sensory threshold

2 :  barely perceptible

3 :  of, relating to, or being an intermediate state, phase, or condition :  in-between, transitional 

 

This has been my favorite word ever since. When I think about being nonbinary and transgender, when I think about transition, I think of myself constantly in the narrow space between being and becoming; all the ways in which I am forever in movement, forever on the edge of something; all the moments in which I am perceived or not perceived as who I am by other people and even myself. Sometimes I am both seen and not seen at the same time: seen as queer but not as trans, seen as trans but not as human, seen as human but not as queer or trans.

Sometimes it is joyful, beautiful, fascinating to be in this space. Other times it is excruciatingly frustrating or painful. In October, I decided to start hormone therapy, by which I mean a low dose of testosterone, meant to shift the shape and characteristics of my body toward a state typically referred to as “masculine.” (I do and do not think of my body, and myself, this way). After hours upon hours of research, after thinking about it every day, all day – I’m not exaggerating – since March, I took myself out of that liminal state, out of the constant agonizing. This Friday, 11/25/16, marked two weeks on a biweekly dose of about 40 milligrams of testosterone. I say “about” because I’m using Androgel, a substance similar in quality to hand sanitizer, which I apply like lotion every morning; it absorbs through the skin, which makes the exact dosage a little more variable than the long-used and popular injectable testosterone. So my dosage here is an estimated equivalent to what I would be taking if I was using injectable T.

Again, from Merriam-Webster:

The noun “limen” refers to the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced, and “liminal” is the adjective used to describe things associated with that point, or threshold, as it is also called.

I wait for physiological effects of testosterone to take hold on my body and enter a new liminal state: my voice is dropping (I know, because I can now sing “The Killing Moon” by Echo & the Bunnymen solely in my lower octaves); the swooping curve between my chest and hips is filling in; my hipbones are right at the surface now instead of hidden under a layer of flesh. And in this state, I find peace and joy again; the constant agonizing is gone. Despite a crushing bout of anxiety for almost two weeks straight after my initial appointment, I now have no regrets, only excitement. I find myself somewhat released from the daily narrative of gender scrolling through my head, the unending self-questioning – “gender noise,” as one presenter described at this year’s Gender Odyssey Professional conference. Testosterone isn’t a means to an end for me, not a boat to cross from one side of the river to another: I want to stay on the river, stay on the journey, see where I end up. So far, where I am is better than where I started.

As Prince once sang: “I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I am something that you’ll never understand.” Sometimes I don’t think I’ll ever understand myself either. Some days, that’s terrifying; some days, it’s fine. I’m here for all of it.

Thoughts of a Transgender Educator, Part Two: I Hate Math.

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Me, pre-math fear.

I have always hated math. I have never been good at it. Or at least, that’s the story I’ve been telling myself since elementary school.

In third grade, or so goes another story I’ve been told, my teacher discovered that I didn’t know how to do many of the basic math skills she was teaching us. I had apparently been faking my way through math ever since kindergarten. I was the kid who would hide a book under my desk (the precursor to the smartphone on the lap) and read during math lessons.

This trend continued into high school. I don’t remember ever having a math teacher who was particularly good or inspiring; certainly they never reached out to me and I was never the type to ask for help. By junior year, I was doing the bare minimum. That year, I had a math teacher who was not a good teacher – classroom control was nonexistent – and also spoke English as a second language. The language barrier and the classroom environment enabled me to check out completely. I spent the year passing notes and hanging out with my friends in the class. I bombed every test, but aced all the homework by copying all the answers from the back of the book. I passed with a D — enough to get my math requirement and graduate high school.

The same thing happened in community college. I enrolled in Basic Math, passed it, then passed Statistics with a D, while hardly ever attending class.

I’ve spent most of the rest of my life avoiding math at all costs. There have been jobs I didn’t apply for because I would have had to do math. When I decided that I wanted to work with kids, specifically in education, specifically in a school, I knew that I would eventually have to face my fear of math.

Cue my new job. I was recently hired as a public school tutor in a program that supports traditionally underrepresented students in building the study habits and life skills that will help them graduate high school, attend college, and succeed in the world beyond. We use a small-group, inquiry-based tutoring model, where the students take turns presenting their problem to the group and the group asks questions to help them find the answer. The program is designed for kids in the middle – the kids who don’t ask for help, who don’t get help, the C-average kids who go unseen and unheard. The first thing I learned about my kids?

“They need a lot of help in math.”

“Math is hard for this group.”

“Geometry was really challenging last year.”

At first, that old panic rose up in my chest. I’m terrible at math! I can’t do math! And close behind: I’m stupid. I’m not good enough. They’ll figure it out and everyone will think I’m a failure.

This time, I asked for help. I signed up for a tutor training and, instead of avoiding the math workshops, I bit the bullet and signed up for one on middle school math. My teachers and fellow tutors told me about Khan Academy, a nonprofit that provides hundreds, if not thousands, of free online math lessons. I made an account yesterday and opened several lessons in turn. I wanted to know whether it was really as bad as I thought. What if I didn’t remember anything?

I clicked through the first few review questions in pre-algebra. Wait a minute. This looks familiar. Then algebra I and II, followed by geometry. Slowly, using the hints provided by the website, I worked through math problems I hadn’t attempted in more than ten years. Every time I got one right, I wanted to jump up and down. It felt so good to do math! I wasn’t stupid! It was hard, yes, and it took me a long time, but that didn’t mean I was stupid.

And it wasn’t as scary as I thought. I didn’t freeze up like I have in the past. I didn’t get overwhelmed with frustration. Part of that is probably the Khan Academy model – it’s a lot like playing a video game. You get points and unlock little avatars for every lesson you complete. And you can get hints or watch videos on a specific problem as you do it.

But I think it was also timing. I’ve faced some big fears this year: I’ve wrestled with my feelings about transition and begun unpacking the baggage I still carry from previous relationships. I fell in love with my partner and came up against the challenges brought by the intimacy and vulnerability love requires of us. In this lovely mess of emotions, why would the universe give me a break? I just got a new job — what better time to uproot a fear that has held me back from that field for years? (I’m only being half-sarcastic.)

This year has forced me to embrace fear and shame, to ask for help, to verbalize things I’ve kept inside for anywhere from three years to my entire life. Some things were buried so deep, I didn’t even realize they were there until I accidentally hit them while digging up something else. This year was a transition year in ways beyond just gender. But I think gender transition was the key that allowed me to unlock everything else. In deciding to be exactly who I am, I had to be honest with myself. I had to let things come to the surface. I had to explore and unlearn and relearn. I had to get to the roots of many things that were, like my fear of math, planted years ago. I’m still doing all those things. I’ve opened some doors, while others will need more time and tending before I find out what’s behind them.

Why not do some quadratic equations while I’m at it?

One Year Out: Of Course I Was Trans

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I think this is one of the first selfies I ever took when my family got a digital camera and selfies started to be a thing. I think I’m maybe 15 here? I remember liking this photo then (and now) because I didn’t look like a girl. I was always fascinated with how I could use cameras and filters to change the way I looked.

I’m starting this blog entry not knowing exactly what I want to talk about. I’m approaching one year of being out as nonbinary/transgender, it’s been almost two months since I updated this blog, and I’ve been feeling reticent to post for awhile. I’ve noticed this feeling is concurrent with starting therapy and opening up more about my gender feelings to people in my offline life. As I talk about gender with my therapist, and talk about it more with my close friends and family, I feel less of a desire or need to share about it as publicly as I have in the past.

Previously, my approach to feelings in general has been to either internalize it and think about it on my own and maybe share it with one or two very close folks like my mom or a best friend; or to put it all out on the Internet for everyone to see. Part of this is my age; being a millennial, I grew up in the first wave of digital media, when social networks like Myspace and Livejournal were becoming a thing and people were really starting to share their lives in the way that we do now. So public sharing is pretty normalized for me. And I’m a performer and writer by nature and trade.

But when it comes to gender especially, I have found it very difficult to verbalize my feelings at all with anyone. I can WRITE about it for days, and I’ve done that: blogging, Facebook posts, published articles, spoken word poems – some people might see that as me being open about my transition, and sure, it totally is.

But writing, performing, and posting on social media are different from actually saying something to someone directly. I have used those three methods to communicate when I couldn’t bring myself to do it face to face, with varying results. However, I’ve realized that not all things are meant to be shared publicly right away; that there are actually some aspects of my journey that I don’t want to share publicly; and that some aspects of my journey deserve a different type of sharing. For instance: the decision to take or not take hormones. When I initially posted that I was thinking about T at the six months mark, I did so knowing that I hadn’t expressed those desires to anyone close to me, but felt unable to do so due to my own fears and mental blocks. In subsequent conversations with my mom and sister, I came to realize that I didn’t want to make such a big decision, or share about such a big decision, without looping my family and close friends in first. Every trans person gets to make their own decisions about who to inform and what to share about their transition, and for me, it feels right to let those closest to me know what’s going on with me. Although it’s difficult and scary to open up to people, it’s been an essential part of undoing shame and repression and that feeling of verbal lock-up.

As I approach the year mark of My Transition (it’s a milestone in itself that I feel comfortable calling it that), I’ve been thinking about the course of my life and what led me here. I often think of myself as two people: “Girl” Me and Real Me. And it’s been difficult to integrate my sense of my present self with my past, pre-transition self. Sometimes they have felt wholly disparate. But this summer, there was a moment when it flipped, and suddenly I knew: I’ve always been trans. I envisioned my past self, as a kid, as a teen, in my early twenties, and I thought: of COURSE I was trans. I had no language for it, but I always felt different in some way that I couldn’t name. I had all kinds of feelings, big and small, that I’ll maybe go into in another post, that I now recognize as my nonbinary femmey boy self trying to be heard. I can now see myself – Real Me – in all those pictures of Girl Me.

Recently, I was talking to a close friend about some gender stuff, and they said something very affirming: “I always sensed a great tension in you, that you were searching for something.”

And I was. I have been looking for words to describe myself from a young age. I have been looking for MYSELF since a young age. When I realized trans was a thing I could be, I found it. And now that I’m out, that great tension is gone. I don’t feel different, awkward, outside of everyone. I don’t feel like I’m watching myself or my life anymore. I don’t feel like I’m missing something important.

I have it. It’s me.

Thoughts of a Transgender Youth Worker, Part 1: Navigating Masculinity

I’m four weeks into my new job. It’s a summer gig at a local day camp for kids age 11 to 14. I’m learning a lot and loving it, even when it’s difficult and draining. More than anything, it’s been a crash course in gender studies: how far we’ve come, how far we have yet to go. Every day I see the ways gender is subtly reinforced and created in the ways these kids interact with each other. I thought so much had changed, but so much is still the same.

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“Men Do Not Own The Streets.” Photo by Raye.

On my first day, I bonded with one of the boys. I taught him a new Frisbee throw and we spent about 20 to 30 minutes tossing the disc back and forth. Every time I told him how great he was doing, I could see his face light up in that secret way where you try not to show how much it means to you.

This boy is also one of our difficult kids. He is aggressive, curses and namecalls, harasses the girls, makes inappropriate comments that are usually sexual or misogynist in nature.

He has mentioned being diagnosed with ADHD, that doctors have told his parents he has poor impulse control, alludes to being yelled at a lot at home.

He seeks out my attention and approval.

These days, I’ve been presenting a lot more masculine. This presentation aligns with how I’ve been experiencing my gender lately, and the mounting dysphoria and gender realizations that are making themselves known, unrepressing themselves from my subconscious mind. I have noticed, anecdotally, in this group and with kids I’ve worked with in the past, that my nonbinary masculinity seems to render me more accessible to kids of all genders than my more feminine or cis-normative coworkers. Girls seem to see me as cool and alternative, a different way for them to be in the world. Boys listen to me, joke around with me as if I am one of them, and respond more quickly and readily to my authority, but they also express their feelings to me in a way they might not if I was a cis man.

It’s strange to realize that while my presentation and gender identity has positive ramifications for my interactions with the young people I’m working with, it also means I am utilizing male privilege. In our culture, masculinity and maleness is the default, the norm, imbued with naturalized authority. People of all genders are encouraged to aspire to masculinity in different ways, whether it’s through lifting up certain careers, personal appearances, or personality traits. As a person assigned and socialized female, I’ve spent a lifetime suffering with and fighting the toxic ways men and masculinity have impacted my life. And now…I’m benefiting from masculinity.

I don’t ever want to be read as a cis man. I don’t ever want to be inducted into that secret “man club,” be expected to behave and speak as cis men do when they think there are no other genders around. If this is how my gender is changing, I will use it for good. I will be the kind of masculine nonbinary person who does not reject or fear femininity, who moves through the world with compassion, who listens and encourages, who is firm but not authoritarian, who supports all kids in embracing all of who they are and can be.

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Consent art. Photo by Raye.

I will walk the line between supporting this Frisbee-loving boy in seeing and being other kinds of men, and preventing him from harming the girls in my care. It is not an overstatement when I say that given the behaviors I’ve witnessed from him, he is on track to become an abuser. I know what this track looks like because I’ve been tied to it and run down by trains in the shape of men who felt entitled to possess my body, my time, and my mind. As I increasingly shift to that masculine shape, I vow that I will never become that train.

So You’re Questioning Your Gender: The Starter Kit

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Has it really been almost two months since I last updated this blog? If you want the details on what I’ve been doing, read on. If you’re thinking, “who the eff is this person, I thought I was about to get answers on what the heck my gender even is,” skip on down to the good stuff below the line of asterisks!

Anyway. It has been a whirlwind two months. In my offline life, I’m a poet and performer, and that’s been ramping up as we get into the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Pride season! I started a drag king boy band with some friends, and we’ve been rehearsing, making breakaway pants, and performing! I also created a multimedia performance piece about my gender journey for an art exhibition. And, I had an essay about my gender experience published!

I also started going to therapy, in order to figure out how much I want to physically transition, if at all, and unpack gender feelings in a way I can’t or don’t want to in a space as public as a blog. So far, we haven’t delved into that much, and instead it has mostly been a place for me to begin unraveling the mindfuck that was a previous unhealthy relationship, and explore how my family dynamics have affected me. So, I’ve been FEELING ALL THE FEELINGS.

Lots of other amazing things have been happening too, but I’ll wrap it up and just say that I’ve had a really wonderful two months, I’m in a good place with my gender and my life, and now it’s your turn!

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Since I came out, I’ve had quite a few people come to me for advice, either for themselves or a for a friend. That’s one of the things I love about being out: I get to support other people! As a result, I decided to put together all the resources I use into one big post…a starter kit for gender questioners, if you will!

So, you’re questioning your gender. Maybe you’re elated because you’ve finally found a term that resonates with you. Maybe you’re terrified because you don’t know what to do next. Probably, you’re feeling all of that AND MORE! Yes, gender is a barrel of fun. I’m only being half-sarcastic: sometimes it IS really fun. Exploring and playing in the gender sandbox can be a really joyful and affirming experience. But, it can also be scary and confusing, because our society polices gender HARD and makes life difficult and dangerous for those of us who are not cisgender.

First thing you need to know: you are not alone.

Second thing you need to know: your feelings are real and valid and you deserve to be happy and comfortable in your body and in who you are. (Okay, that’s like, two or three things depending on how you count, but whatever.)

Third thing: there are TONS OF RESOURCES AND COMMUNITIES out there for you, if not physically in your state or city, then in the vast world of the Internet!

This post is about the third thing, because I’ve found that access to the third thing helps confirm the first and second things! When I was first questioning my gender, way back in 2008 (I know, Tumblr kids, I’m ancient), there were online communities and resources, but much fewer than there are now, and most of them were geared toward a binary trans experience. Which is fine, there’s nothing wrong with being a binary transgender person, but it left me floundering, since I knew I wasn’t a trans man. When I finally decided to come out in September 2015, I read everything I could find, and there was SO MUCH MORE OF IT. So I’ve compiled the links, writers, and communities I’ve found most useful, in hopes that you will find them useful as well. Please note: since I am nonbinary and assigned female at birth, many of these links focus on AFAB nonbinary resources, but there is some overlap with the AMAB and binary trans experiences. Hopefully, there will be a little something for everyone.

ONLINE RESOURCES

  1. I Think I Might Be Trans: 8 Important Notes On Questioning and 50+ Resources to Get You Started by Adrian Ballou

  2. Everyday Feminism’s Trans and Gender-Nonconforming section.
  3. Neutrois Nonsense, a blog run by the kind and dedicated Micah. He details his entire social and physical transition, as well as exploring more abstract questions of what it means to be trans and nonbinary. He also has begun a project called Featured Voices on the site, wherein he showcases different bloggers all writing on a monthly theme. Some of these themes have been: AMAB nonbinary experiences, coming out at work, and binding.
  4. Sam Dylan Finch. One of my favorite nonbinary trans writers, always a kind, affirming, and fierce advocate. He also writes a lot about mental health and its intersections with trans identity. Follow him on all the social media!
  5. Jacob Tobia. A fave AMAB nonbinary writer, they are a beautiful and positive force online. I highly recommend following them on Instagram, Facebook, and other social media outlets for your daily dose of fabulous fashion and indomitable awesomeness.
  6. Alok Vaid-Menon. One-half of the amazing trans South Asian poetry performance duo DarkMatter and another fave AMAB writer. Their writing gives me fuel for challenging dominant narratives of the trans/queer experience within myself and in society. Also recommend following the DarkMatter social media feeds.
  7. Nonbinary Support. This Facebook group is open to all nonbinary folks and people often post there to share experiences and ask for or offer support.
  8. This gender identity masterpost from Tumblr. Literally every single category of trans-related questions. All the information you could ever want. Tumblr itself is a vast web of info for those so inclined to venture into its depths. There are lots of nonbinary and trans folks who are building community here, although the demographics tend to skew younger, to the high-school to early twenties range.
  9. Trans bloggers! I’ve met and followed many fantastic trans bloggers through WordPress. Some of them are on Instagram as well. Feel free to roam through my comments section and explore their blogs.

OTHER RESOURCES

People still read books, right? Well, I do, anyway. Some of my faves:

  1. My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein
  2. The Nearest Exit May Be Behind You by S. Bear Bergman
  3. Gender Failure by Ivan Coyote and Rae Spoon
  4. Gender Outlaws, a book of essays on various aspects of the trans experience, compiled by Kate Bornstein and S. Bear Bergman
  5. Whipping Girl by Julia Serano
  6. Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg

COUNSELING, IN-PERSON SUPPORT GROUPS, AND COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS

So, I don’t have the ability to source trans and queer resources for every state. I wish I had the capacity for that right now! But I don’t. However, you do! Until you feel comfortable and ready to seek assistance and community in person, I hope the resources I’ve listed here can be of help to you. Search for LGBT resources in your state – you might be surprised by what you find! Depending on where you are, you might have to travel a long way, or do some digging. Maybe you aren’t a college student – a campus group or gender studies professor might still be able to point you in the right direction. Maybe you live in a remote area – there might still be bloggers in your region (such as rural Canada!) who might be able to chat online or meet up!

Whatever your situation, I hope you are able to discover and follow the path that is right for you, and be your full and authentic self. You deserve that freedom.

Onward for gender liberation!

RESPONSE: A Giant Hell Yes to Brook Shelley’s Essay Calling Out the Exclusion of Cis Men from Queer Spaces

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…And I affirm and respect the gender of whoever I’m loving!

I am not generally a writer of response pieces, but there’s always an exception – and I read that exception today. Brook Shelley’s recent essay for The Toast tackles the “everyone but cis men” policies and sentiments that are so popular in queer spaces, and damn, does she hit on every level of why this is so deeply problematic. I already posted about this on Twitter, but I’m going to expand on my original tweets here, because I just have So Many Feelings about this article!

I first noticed this tendency within the queer community to hate on cis dudes when I broke up with my last long-term cis-male partner. After that terrible relationship, and years of other stifling relationships with cis men, I was utterly done with the lot of them, and threw myself into the queer and trans community. I was so excited to finally explore all the parts of myself that had suffocated for so long – at last, I’d be hanging out with and dating people who really understood me.

But pretty soon, I started to feel like just as much of an imposter in the queer community as I did in my straight relationships. And a significant part of this was the cis-dude hating that I witnessed – and participated in. It was weirdly healing in a way, and at first it helped me access the deep anger I felt (and still feel) about my past toxic relationships, and about the compulsory patriarchal and cisheteronormative socialization I experienced.

But it also felt equally toxic to participate in something that was so obviously biphobic and transphobic, that required me to excommunicate parts of myself, only this time I stifled myself for the queer community instead of for cis dudes. The result is that I struggle with my attraction to cis men, the same way I struggled when I was a closeted teenager! Holy fuck, y’all, can we just give the queer purity a rest?? This shit is deeply damaging to all of us! For me, queer and trans liberation is about all of us getting to be our authentic selves, loving and fucking and making family in the way that is right for us, free from violence and oppression. Anything else, anything less, is false liberation.

On another note, as fellow writer Wryly Tender said on Facebook in response to this article:

All of this said, I need trans-only spaces. But it’s not because I want to feel safe (I don’t think I am safer my around trans peers). I need trans-only spaces because it’s powerful to be in the same space as those with whom I share past and present experiences. By being in a space that is filled with only trans experiences it undoes the erasure inherent in broader culture. It gives me fuel and a reminder that the world is not a cis-only culture (though it often pretends to be and often tries to force me into thinking it is).

Hell yes to this, too. I understand the need for spaces specific to certain experiences. And I want those spaces for myself. What gets problematic is when we try to police who is considered a woman for woman-only spaces, or who is considered trans for trans-only spaces, etc. The only passport anyone needs to be in any queer or trans space, in my opinion, is their own knowledge of their identity and desire/need to be in that space. No one has the right to question that.

Even as I heave a great big sigh of relief upon reading this article, relief that someone finally said this, there’s still the part of me that thinks, “Well, maybe just no STRAIGHT cis dudes!” But then I remember the amazing straight cis men I am honored to call my friends and the ways in which many of the straight cis men in my life have been better allies to me than some queer and trans folks I’ve met or read or interacted with in some way. In fact, it’s been through some of my friendships with cis men – men I affectionately think of as my “bros” – that I’ve felt most affirmed in my gender and sexual orientation.

I‘m not going to go into every single way in which the cis-man-hating is fucked up: Shelley does it to perfection, and you should read her article now for all the goodness. This response is mostly my amen, my thank you, my holy fuck yes to finally reading an article that speaks publicly to the problem of exclusionary politics in queer spaces.

Fuck that bullshit. I am proudly queer and trans, with many good cis dude friends; I have dated and will continue to date cis men; and right now I begin challenging myself to accept all the facets of my desire and stop hating on certain folks on the basis of their gender and sexuality.

9 Ways I Practice Self-Care as a Nonbinary Trans Person

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In my happy place: outside on a sunny day in my beloved Pacific Northwest. [Photograph by Raye]
A few weeks ago, I hit the lowest point yet in my gender journey: intense feelings of body dysphoria that triggered a lot of thoughts and realizations, which I am still processing. I normally don’t experience body dysphoria, or at least, not very severely, which was part of why it was so intense for me. Although, now that I look back, I recognize events and feelings I have experienced in the past to actually be moments that involved body dysphoria, I just didn’t think of it that way at the time.

In the wake of this event, I have resolved to start taking better care of myself, particularly around my body and level of fitness. I have also been taking note of things that helped me during this time, and that have helped me during other stressful, difficult, or emotionally challenging parts of my life. I’m compiling them here, both for my reference, and in hopes that they can provide a jumping-off point for other people struggling with gender-related self-care.

1. Listen to gender-affirming music.

Two words: David. Bowie. A few weeks ago when I hit my lowest point of dysphoria yet, David Bowie helped me feel better. He was the first openly gender non-conforming and bisexual person I knew of when I discovered his music at age 14, and he has had a big impact on me as a person, artist, and performer. If CDs were like records, I would have worn a hole in the Best of Bowie double disc back in high school. Just the opening notes of “Ashes to Ashes” makes my body relax.

I also recently made a playlist of rockabilly tunes for my drag king alter ego! I’m starting a drag king boy band with some friends (yes, it’s as awesome as it sounds) and the persona I’m building is a gender-affirming and gender-inspiring identity based on the classic rock and rockabilly sounds I heard growing up. Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, The Hollies, Bobby Darin, and Bruce Springsteen, among others, are on this playlist and listening to it puts me into drag king headspace.

2. Physical exercise, preferably outside.

When I’m at my lowest, it’s hard to even get out of bed, much less feel like I want to do anything. The quickest way I’ve found to get myself out of that space is by going outside and going for a walk – a long walk. Where I live, it takes me about an hour to walk down to a lake and back. There are varying hill sizes and ways to get to this lake, so I can choose how strenuous I want it to be. Hiking is another big one. Being out in nature, using my body, helps me feel grounded again when dysphoria makes me feel like I am totally disconnected and wrong in my physical existence. I also plan to start lifting weights. This was something I did at the end of senior year of high school and I loved it. Looking back, I know that was because it was gender-affirming.

3. Eating well.

For me, this means less sugar, caffeine, and grains, and more fruits, veggies, and proteins. I have the tendency to use sugary, carb-y foods as comfort, but this means I crash a lot, or feel amped up or sluggish. Hunger strongly affects my mood – you wouldn’t like me when I’m hangry! – so I’m trying to eat better and eat sustainably so that doesn’t happen.

4. Getting a lot of sleep, starting as close to midnight as possible, and getting out of bed before 10.

I don’t know about other folks, but as soon as I hit 25, I noticed a difference in how lack of sleep and late nights affected me. I couldn’t stay out as late or lose as much sleep without a serious drop in mood and general functionality. I’m the type of person who likes any time of the day, but I love being up early. It makes me feel present and in touch to watch the light change and the world wake up. If I had my way, I would be asleep by 11:30 and up by 7 every day. But my work and play schedule doesn’t allow for that. So now I try to get to sleep, most nights, as close to midnight as I can, and get out of bed before ten. Otherwise I feel less motivated, tired, and cranky – and nothing good comes from that.

5. Hanging out with my gender-affirming community

When I feel low, there are specific folks I seek out who I feel comfortable confiding in and who make me feel better just being in their presence. Some of them are straight and/or cis, some of them are queer and/or trans, but they all accept and see me for who I am, are on the ball with pronouns and name (or are trying hard), and are down to hear my gender feelings.

6. Taking a hot bath or shower

I love being warm (#firesign). Especially after exercising, this rejuvenates me.

7. Wearing the most gender-affirming outfit I own.

For me, this is either my sweats, which are cut like joggers, or my black pants from the H&M “boys” section, and my favorite sweater or white vee-neck and hoodie, with a beanie or the flower-patterned snapback given to me by a friend. This is my comfort zone: boyish and casual. It makes my body look the way I see it in my head.

8. Reading a distracting and absorbing book.

This helps get me out of my head and gives me a break from constant gender thoughts. For me, this is the Harry Potter books, other young adult novels, or my favorite science fiction authors: Jack McDevitt and China Mieville.

9. Reading trans media.

When I feel utterly weird about my body or some other aspect of my gender, I trawl the posts of my favorite trans bloggers looking for something related to that. Reading about experiences that relate to mine helps me feel less alone and helps me figure out what might work for me when dealing with a particular thing. I’m working on a blogroll – look for that soon!

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This is just my list of what works for me. Check out Germaine’s list – they just posted about self-care too! Feel free to build your own, and leave a comment telling me how you take care of yourself.

On another note, one of the questions that came up for me during this time, at a more serious level than it ever has, was the question of testosterone. Do I want to take it? Yes, part of me does. And no, part of me does not. I am not ready to make that decision, either way. I need more information first – both from my own internal process, and from the external world of friends, therapists, and doctors. So for now, I’m tabling it. After my last post, in which I made extensive use of a hiking metaphor, one of my lovely blog readers said to me in an email:

“Sometimes I feel like parts of me want to race ahead and others are more reserved. But the golden rule of hiking is that the slowest person sets the pace. So I stop and take a break, allow for pauses, when this whole gender journey starts to feel exhausting.”

May you find the pace and follow the journey that is right for you.