Warning: This is a post about depression and the various life and body consequences that spin out from depression. Some of it might be triggering.
I’ve spent the last year disappearing by degrees. First, I disappeared from tumblr. Maybe you noticed that one. I couldn’t completely explain what the feeling was that took me away from blogging; I know a lot of people leave tumblr because they get fed up with the environment, but that wasn’t it for me. I alternated between feeling as though I had nothing to say and feeling as though I had no way to say what I did have to say. Even this post has had hundreds of iterations in my head, and as I’m writing it I feel the same white noise of anxiety pushing me away from the keys. I’ve been in therapy for two years now and I think my therapist is fantastic and one of the things she’s helped me realize is that I don’t allow myself to feel difficult, complicated, or painful feelings. I don’t know what I’m blocking, but something in my unconscious does not want what I’m trying to say expressed. Numbness is preferable to catharsis, apparently. I’m trying to fix that.
As I was disappearing from an internet presence I really did cherish, I was also relinquishing a physical presence I had come to use as a safety blanket. I perfunctorily documented here my process of cutting off the colorful hair that was my trademark and of learning to move through the world not being stared at all the time. I also, almost accidentally, masculinized my style of dress out of pure laziness. I didn’t have the energy to dress myself in anything that didn’t feel like pajamas or to put on makeup or style myself in any way that projected the parts of me that had been so important to make sure the world saw. In some ways, this was me learning to relax, to trust myself to be interesting, engaging, and most importantly myself regardless of how I looked. In other ways, it further sapped me of my energy and my vibrancy.
I began to disappear from activist work and then from community spaces, from social settings, from friendships, and finally from romantic relationships. I have always found maintaining correspondence and to a lesser extent interpersonal connections to be a nerve-inducing task. As someone who has spent their life in an unacknowledged haze of depression, I have always popped in and out of people’s lives. Throughout middle and high school I would take months-long absences from my friends without explanation and return suddenly with the hope that we could pick up like no time had passed. Sometimes we could, sometimes we couldn’t. When I started dating, romances became my primary mode of interpersonal connection and the necessarily temporary nature of relationships at my age meant that I didn’t have to face up to my need to disappear. Eventually something would crumble. A friend recently suggested to me that I sabotage my relationships when things are too good. That seems true: this year it cost me one of the most amazing relationships I’ve ever been in. It was also the longest, and I guess it showed no signs of stopping on its own. I understand that not everyone can wait around for you to have the emotional latitude to respond to a text message or to get back to a place where you can focus on someone else’s needs long enough to support them through a rough day. When I can feel pain again, I’ll have a lot to reckon with, but for now all I can do is acknowledge that my depression makes me someone who does not treat people the way they deserve to be treated.
The anxiety that comes with knowing I have mistreated someone makes it harder for me to fix this issue. Instead, I think about running away and starting over where no one needs anything from me and never allowing anyone to expect anything from me ever again. In the most intense moments, I think about disappearing from life entirely. I don’t worry too much about these thoughts (and you shouldn’t either) because they are always an impulse and the moment I actually acknowledge them I know it’s not what I want. I morbidly joke that I know it won’t happen because if I’m too averse to the idea of people thinking I killed myself over gender shit to not leave a note explaining that being trans has nothing to do with it, but by the time I wrote a note I’d have come to my senses.
I’ve disappeared from my body, too. With the help of some really amazing friends and the one lover who was physically close enough to me to escape the impact of my escape act, I usually managed to eat a meal a day. Combined with testosterone, the effect on my shape has been dramatic. The people in contact with my daily life knew and diligently invited me to meals and cajoled me to eat and tried to suggest foods I might want and were generally stellar, but even when I was able to connect to my hunger, the thought of preparing, seeking out, or even thinking too hard about food made my throat feel like it was going to close up. Super markets often leave me feeling nauseous and on the verge of tears. You can tell I’m depressed as I walk up to the checkout with some burger meat I intend to eat raw, some spinach I intend to eat raw, some cookie dough I intend to eat raw, a carton of lemonade, 3 packs of rice cakes, and some luna bars.
At first I didn’t want to talk about the fact that I’ve hardly been eating. Because I’m taking T and it’s obvious, people want to talk to me about my body changes all the time. They shouldn’t, but they do. And when they want to ask about how much my hips have disappeared or how small my chest has gotten and is that the T? I don’t know what to tell them. It may be the T, but more likely it’s the fact that I’ve diminished in size so much that pants I could barely button now hang off me, and that’s not something I want anyone to think I did on purpose. That’s not something I want praise for and I don’t want to be asked if I’m satisfied with the results and if someone wants to see it as a positive thing I want them to know exactly how worryingly negative it actually is.
Moreover, I can’t be silent about my depression any more. I speak to so many queers, badasses, and activists who tell me that they wish we were all talking about this, about how many of us go through this and how we can support one another. And I think I’m figuring out how people can support me: let me disappear. I need it right now. More than anything, I have spent so much of my life trying to exist, trying to be stable and reliable, exhausting myself with the effort or never quite managing this seemingly necessary act. Right now I’m trying not to fight myself. I need to be fluid and free.
But there are different ways of letting a wanderer like me disappear. Be the place I can disappear to; Be the place I know I can come back to when I’m ready; Reach out to me but don’t take it personally if I don’t reach back; Invite me to a meal and choose the place so I don’t have to think about what I want to eat; If I don’t respond to your attempts to get in touch or hang out, wait a few days and give it another try; please don’t make me feel like I’m failing you or slighting you.
I have always had difficulty imagining the future. The closest I come is when I desperately hope there will be a time in my life when I will be able to feel relaxed in a way that isn’t just a mask for my massive anxiety. This summer has the potential to be that time for me, as long as I actually let myself disappear.
I kind of went through it when I was on Lupron (horomone blocker) but idk if regular T will cause it. have fun with your hot flashes!
Did you go on Lupron before your first puberty? If not, I’m very curious about that. I didn’t know they did hormone blockers for people whose bodies produce estrogen after their estrogen-dominated puberties had set in…
I spoke about my transition in a way I hoped I never would.
I was hanging out with some new acquaintances complaining about how the professor I want to do super hard core queer gender theory with didn’t get that I was trans, and someone started a sentence, “can I ask, when did you…”
And, like, I knew where this was going. Duh. “…come out as trans?”
And I was feeling lazy. And I didn’t want to go through my whole saga, so I said, “well, I started thinking about it about half way through 10th grade, and then I came out right before 11th grade, and then I started testosterone a month ago.”
As though those were the bullet points that were most important to know. I immediately realized my mistake, and backpeddled with a pretty soggy “and, I mean, obviously my transition meant a lot of other things, but that’s probably what you were asking, right?”
And the thing is, when a cis person who knows nothing about trans people asks you about your transition, or your coming out process, or how you knew you were trans, or anything like that, they have no idea what they’re asking you. They will listen to pretty much anything you want to say to them, because you are a foreign world and they want to find a path through their culture shock.
And somehow I decided that the years I spent not doing testosterone were less important to this person’s understanding of me than the month I’ve spent doing testosterone.
This is a rant, but I’ve been having difficulties around talking about my testosterone use.
When I talk about T, I get defensive about T. Even people who should have known better received the news with the assumption that I had finally copped out to a binary identity and the ease of being something recognizable (in case anyone read that as insulting to binary identities: if a binary identity come naturally to you, it is not a cop out. However, for someone like me, who consistently struggles to be seen in a way that technically does not exist in the world, taking on a binary identity would be akin to stopping your doggy paddle in the middle of the ocean: everyone gets why you would do such a thing, but you have given into exhaustion and let yourself drown.). And it’s funny, because I am indeed hoping that T will make things easier for me, but not at all in that way; never in that way. I’m hoping it’ll make genderfuck less of a presentation I have to work for every morning as I get ready to face the world, and more of something that will just be consistently true of the way I look, regardless of how much effort I’ve put into my clothing or makeup.
And the thing is, I want to be able to talk about taking T. It’s exciting, it’s a big step for me, it’s a new phase and a new curiosity. But I don’t exactly know why I need to share with every person that this is happening for me. Honestly, when I decided to do it, I thought, what if I just keep it a secret? What if I just allow what happens to happen, and people will notice or not notice and then it’ll be about me and my body and my desires, rather than me and the whole world’s perceptions of what it means to undergo medical transition. But I can already feel myself slipping into thinking of T as a notch on my trans proof belt. It’s something people think they understand, and I’m worried about letting it signify me without elaboration, and sinking me a little further into that ocean.
Why, after 6 years as a staunchly no-hormones trans person, I have decided to use T: a love letter to my body, and an open letter to the trans community
When I was 16, I began to question what it would mean to change genders. How could you tell, I wondered, what gender you felt in a given moment? What did gender entail? I wondered, too, whether an ideological disagreement with a gender binary was enough to put you outside it. I started to research how different people were approaching their gender questions, what the world of gender and sex possibility looked like.
I quickly found Hudson’s Guide and read everything. Because I started from a fundamental lack of understanding of even the basics of gender, I absorbed any opinion and advice I read. On Hudson’s Guide, this specifically meant some pretty binarist ideas about what it meant to walk through the world as a trans guy whose gender was acknowledged as valid. Still, Hudson is helpful for some things, and it was where I did all of my research on medical transition.
I was obsessive in my research during this period. I remember spending hours doing nothing but trolling the internet for the perfect answers to my ineffable questions. I couldn’t think about anything else. Still, somehow I don’t have a very strong recollection of my research into hormones and surgery. It must have been very quick. If people were posting their entire transition chronologies on youtube and tumblr at that time, I didn’t know about it. I must have looked at a couple of pictures, read that genetics dictated your likelihood of baldness and the density of your body hair, and decided that it wasn’t for me, never mind how appealing some of the other changes sounded. I was changing gender presentations every day at that time, and the idea of making intentional, permanent, gendered changes to my body felt senseless given the constantly shifting nature of my body needs.
That was it; I never looked back.
There were times over the years that I would wistfully watch someone else’s testosterone-induced transformation and wonder if I had made the right decision, but I would always quickly decide that I had. At the time—and in many ways still—it felt like a non-normative decision to make. I didn’t make the decision in order to be non-normative, but I have always taken special pride in the things that are true of me that set me apart. Many of the people around me had never met a trans person before, and the answers they were able to find from the internet and pop culture painted pictures I wasn’t in, so that meant that I was constantly asked to defend my choices and, by extension, to defend my gender. I lost friends as they got bored and impatient with the effort it took to justify my existence.
As I moved away from gender-switching towards seeking an understanding of my gender as constant, whole, and all-encompassing, the choices I had made despite all the pressure to do anything other than what felt right solidified into an identity, a badge I had to wear proudly so as not to lose it. I developed rhetoric and scrambled to spread it as I witnessed a lack of resources causing so many trans people to adopt the official narrative before their stories had even had a chance to unfold. Identity policing from in and outside of trans communities disheartened me, but also hardened me. I worried a lot about the exhaustion involved in pushing yourself beyond sanctioned existence and hoped for myself that I would find ways not to bow to the binary and end up medically transitioning to make life easy rather than honest. I adopted an anti-assimilationist ideology that I hoped would bolster my resolve if things got tough.
I never really found community, but I met individuals who understood what I was doing and why—people for whom the personal and the political also spiraled around one another. My ideal lifestyle involves my methods of survival and my political rhetoric refining and redefining one another until they become indistinguishable—until I am an angel dancing on the head of a pin—the perfect point of liberation. In reality, this has often ended up with me taking up my stance too extremely in my own life, forcing constancy and rationality onto my passions. Maybe my stead-fastness with my no-ho status was one of those times.
My first shot is tomorrow.
So what’s changed, and why am I allowing it?
Well, probably the biggest thing that’s happened is that I’m in therapy and I’m in a healthy relationship. I love myself more now than my 16-year-old self could have imagined possible.
See, when I was 16 and making decisions I was going to force myself to stand by for the rest of my life, I hated bodies. Now, don’t misread that. It isn’t that I hated my body (I mean, I did hate my body, but I didn’t especially hate my body) I hated all bodies. I thought all bodies were horrifying. In fact, I was in the habit of comparing my body to other bodies and preferring mine. This habit (and some choice reinforcement from my parents) caused a panic at the idea that anything might change about my body. It was beautiful as it was, but only because it fit a certain idea of what beauty looked like. My decision not to take T wasn’t just about not wanting to put effort into permanent changes that would only occasionally be right for me—it was about a complete terror that my body, with its high likelihood of hair going everywhere but the top of my head, would become disgusting.
Turns out I developed an anti-cissexist, body liberationist theory out of a deep-seeded fear of bodies born of cissexism and body colonization.
Lucky for me, the theory holds water. Even luckier for me, it’s actually been helping me to liberate myself as a person with a body. As my fear and loathing of bodies has been eroded by my belief that all bodies are valid, worthy, and beautiful and that they should be autonomous, I’ve come to really, really love my body. And unlike my old “love,” which was based on the shaky foundation of stasis, this new love is firmly rooted in a love and understanding for all bodies that my 16-year-old self would never have thought possible. What this means is that I’m no longer terrified that my body might do the thing that bodies do best: change. I am not even perturbed by the idea that I might not like all the ways that it changes. I feel able to approach any changes that don’t excite me with the understanding that I have the capacity to find love, healing, or both.
This is all to say that when the question of whether I had made the right decision came back up for me recently and wouldn’t go away, I thought that changing my mind might be a betrayal of my politics. How could I continue to tell people that being trans didn’t require a cissexist understanding of how bodies are sexed, doesn’t require self-hatred or medical transition? How can I continue to argue that it is the world that must change, not us? I don’t worry about that anymore. My politics have always asked the questions, how can we counter a normative gender narrative? How can I keep from getting caught up in gender norms coming from anywhere but inside me? How can I live my life as a trans person whose gender is mostly a source of great joy to them? Taking testosterone does not stop me from asking these questions; it actually helps me answer them. It also doesn’t mean I have copped out to pressures to assimilate myself into the binary. That isn’t why I’m taking T, and my hope is that it never will be.
My entire exploration has been chasing an answer to the question, “what if?” So now I’m asking it again: What if I stopped allowing my fear of change to stifle my curiosity? What if it took people 5 seconds to decide which binary gender applied to me, instead of the two it takes them now? What if I took this hard-won love for my body and let it propel me forward? What if things could be even better than they already are?
I want to be clear now that this decision is not a reversal of my previous one. Rather, it is a continuation of my previous one. There is no moment in which I wish that I had started T earlier, no moment of my gender exploration that I regret. Indeed, I could not have made this decision at any point in my life before now, because I could not have made this decision out of anything but a deep, deep love for myself, my body, and my gender. It is not a concession to any of the forces that have tried to tell me my life was impossible. It is the decision to acknowledge and prioritize my desires. And I feel pretty damn good about that.
Pretty sure I live like this and the only family member I’m out to in any way finds it frustrating and inaccessible. we’re growing though :)
I mean, I’ve been making myself accessible for years now, and it still feels frustrating to some people in my life, and frustrating to me too. The thing is that most of the people I actually feel safe around usually didn’t need me to be all that accessible in the first place. I’m lucky and privileged to have found so many people like that, and I’m currently not feeling very patient with anyone else.
Treat everyone as though they are a badass ally who already knows the basics and is ready to validate and engage with my lived experience. Act as though they aren’t unduly curious and don’t have any questions. Don’t give them any opportunity to exoticize me or treat me like a magical, mystical other. Make it clear that my expectations are high, but not unreasonable. Remove the “you are special” element of allyship.
When it turns out I’m wrong, make sure they feel like they let me down by not listening hard enough and not trying to figure out the answers on their own; don’t allow them to imply that I let them down by not making myself available enough to their curiosity and ignorance.
If any one has any extra money they can shoot to an awesome cause, now is the time: Doing It Again (the trans woman porn project, if you don’t know) only has hours left on their kickstarter. They’ve got lots of rewards for donation if that provides an incentive to you, but for me the best is that if they reach $15,000 (they are about $1000 away from that goal), they’ll have enough money to make a third film dedicated specifically to the sexualities of people with non-binary identities. I seriously, seriously want to see this happen, but I cannot put up the 1000 bucks all by myself. It’s got to be a team effort, so even if you can’t donate any more than you maybe already have, I hope you pass the link along to other people who might be interested in having such a thing exist.
idk, while Freud really perpetuated the oppression of women through his work, HB did a lot of actual good to promote the needs of trans folk. Continued… The HB joke is funnier if you’re telegraphing your trans status and playing off of anatomical expectations, but it feels mean to HB, whereas Freud really should be sucking dick. “Envy” indeed…
Brin, while I’m sure he appreciates your concern for him, have you read the standards of care written and carried out in our pal Harry’s name? I definitely recommend it if you can stomach it.
Here are some choice exerpts (TRIGGER WARNING for cissexism, gatekeeping, and other assorted bullshit)
Two Primary Populations with GID Exist—Biological Males and Biological Females. The sex of a patient always is a significant factor in the management of GID. Clinicians need to separately consider the biological, social, psychological, and economic dilemmas of each sex.For example, when first requesting professional assistance, the typical biological female seems to be further along in consolidating a male gender identity than does the typical biological male in his quest for a comfortable female gender identity. This often enables the sequences of therapy to proceed more rapidly for male-identified persons. All patients, however, must follow the SOC.
The Clinical Threshold. A clinical threshold is passed when concerns, uncertainties, and questions about gender identity persist in development, become so intense as to seem to be the most important aspect of a person’s life, or prevent the establishment of a relatively unconflicted gender identity. The person’s struggles are then variously informally referred to as a gender identity problem, gender dysphoria, a gender problem, a gender concern, gender distress, or transsexualism. Such struggles are known to be manifested from the preschool years to old age and have many alternate forms.
in order to provide puberty delaying hormones to a person less than age 18, the following criteria must be met
throughout childhood they have demonstrated an intense pattern of cross-gender identity and aversion to expected gender role behaviors
gender discomfort has significantly increased with the onset of puberty
social, intellectual, psychological, and interpersonal development are limited as a consequence of their GID
serious psychopathology, except as a consequence of the GID, is absent
the family consents and participates in the triadic therapy
I mean, I get that this was a cool first step and all, and that, thank goodness, more and more places are moving away from these requirements, but the joke that is so great about “Harry Benjamin can suck my dick” is that Harry would never, ever, allow someone like me to have a dick.
Jesse:Enoch, seriously, though, don't feel too obligated to detail the brands that each outfit includes unless you're passionate about the brand and want to suggest it to people for a particular reason. Blogging about your clothes does not need to translate into free advertising for clothing stores. Obviously, if someone is really interested in a particular piece, they might ask you where you got it. Or if you're really excited about a specialty item or a cool brand that offers something unique, you might feel inclined to share. To me, the best fashion/style blogs are those that focus on inspiring with their imagery, rather than those that focus on telling you how to achieve that specific outfit by buying those exact pieces. Most looks don't come with a specific price tag: they can be interpreted using pieces from different sources and price ranges.
Elaine:To each their own? Obviously it's your blog and you shouldn't feel obligated to do anything you don't want to do, so this is just my two cents. I only read fashion blogs where I know the blogger is buying clothes in my price range, because in my experience it is really difficult for me (time/$-wise) to be inspired by bloggers who only wear products I can't afford. And on the flip side to that, I am way more inspired by people who put together looks that total under $50, because I like that affirmation that I could put together looks as awesome as that for comparatively little money. For me, attainability is really important, so just like how I'm not going to follow fashion blogs run by tall skinny white girls (because that's not my body type), I'm really not at all inclined to look at pictures of people dressed in only D&G (because that look isn't attainable to me). Again, that's just me though.
As an aside however, I would personally find it questionable if someone doesn't support a company enough to want to give them free advertising, but still supports the company enough to give them money. Like, for better or worse, fashion blogging is inherently about consumption. Obviously it's really difficult/expensive to support ethically made products, and nobody is going to fault you for shopping somewhere with poor labor practices if that's what's practical. But those are still choices you should stand by if you're going to be putting it on the internet and trying to inspire people with them. (Which is not to say that it's more ethical for you to detail brands or whatever, because again, your blog your choice, but I think it is important to consider what's keeping you from putting your mouth where your money is.)
(Hope that wasn't too harsh/judgmental! Obviously I love you a lot and support you in your decisions, but you asked for feedback so these are my thoughts and preferences.)
me:I guess maybe I should call it gender style blogging rather than fashion blogging? The point for me is more showing the various ways that I dress my gender that make me feel good/work with what is available to me in terms of body, clothing, senibility, and not giving a fuck any more. It's definitely not about the individual pieces or how you can replicate the look by going out and buying the same stuff. You're right, Elaine, that I theoretically wouldn't want to give my money to a company that I wasn't ok with, but the threefold truth is that a) I frequently do; indeed, I can't think of a single brand that I wear that I am excited about. For me, shopping is done out of desperation, not pleasure. I do it about twice a year, when my wardrobe starts to feel sparse, and then I buy anything I can find that kind of fits, and I buy it in every color they sell that doesn't wash out my skin tone. Most of my awesome stuff comes from the closets of really all of my relatives, and for some reason that always seems to mean that it's impossible to find another one. B) even if I did have brands I liked, I'm not sure that would be the same as wanting to advertise for them? Though I see that the point you're making is that if you like a brand, you want them to get positive reinforcement and be able to survive and whatnot. C) I'm not certain there is any outfit I could put together from things I own that would have cost less than 50 bucks, so I'm already (among all the other reasons) not someone whose style you want to emulate, which makes a lot of sense, but isn't something I could fix by detailing the brands of my clothes.
[TW: Racial slurs] I really understand where you're coming from. I'm a black ciswoman, and the other day I was at a part with friends, and one of my "friends" called me nigger. I of course reacted angrily and NONE of my friends reacted, well, at all. At best, my partner said that this person shouldn't have called me that because I'm "sensitive to race." I don't believe not wanting to be called a slur goes under "sensitivity," rather I'd call it "wanting to be respected as a human being."
Word. Even when I give people the benefit of the doubt and acknowledge that people are afraid to speak up, or whatever, I have a lot of difficulty dealing with stuff like this. Someone at my office told me that I was “pathologizing” myself by getting angry when no one responded to my polite request that we stop throwing around gendered words that didn’t apply to all of us. It’s kind of like, someone has to be uncomfortable here, and who would you rather it be—the asshole who wasn’t being respectful or the person who deserves respect and isn’t getting it? I wouldn’t have to isolate myself if you made any effort to include me.
Another thing that happened is that this same person told me she was upset by my implication that just because some people were being insensitive it was everyone’s problem. I reminded her that people either not getting that there is a problem or not speaking up about it does mean that it’s everyone’s problem. I would never have let something like that happen to someone else. I’m really sorry that not even your partner backed you up on that. That’s really fucked up, and I hope that either your partner sees what they did wrong and is begging your fucking forgiveness and promising it won’t ever happening again or that you are well rid of them.
I was speaking recently with a new and beloved friend about the isolation we respectively feel with regards to our transness. We met at Philly Trans Health Conference, and she told me she had left with a deep sense of connection and a new vibrancy. She felt isolated at home, she said, where she had no trans friends and no one she felt understood her. In contrast, I left Philly having met and spoken with a few cool people (her, for instance), but for the most part feeling at the best unmoved by the idea of the conference, at most angry and alone, dismayed with trans community.
At home, I don’t usually feel that way. While I do have some trans friends (and that number seems to be growing all the time as more of the friends I thought were cis turn out not to be), I find that I’m more comfortable in trans-inclusive queer spaces than trans-focused spaces. A recent incident at work helped me clarify why that is: it’s more important for me to feel seen, recognized, understood, and held by the people around me than it is for me to feel that we have gender in common. Indeed, I find that the more I am supposed to have in common with people, the less likely we are to actually be able to do those more important things for one another because our supposed commonalities can make us assume that our needs around them are also the same.
This is all to say that I occasionally (and in this moment specifically) harbor a lot of resentment towards cis people. Or, at least, when cis people pull stunts, I blame it on their cisness. Now, that’s not really fair, my anger is really about anyone who perpetuates cissexism, and I really don’t believe in hating on cis people for their cisness or encouraging them to feel guilt about it.
As far as I’m concerned, there are some very concrete ways to make the trans people in your life feel less isolated, and none of them have anything to do with being trans. The one I want to focus on in this post is:
DO NOT BE SILENT ABOUT CISSEXIST SLIGHTS TO YOUR FRIENDS’ GENDER INTEGRITY.
For instance: my friend told me that her friends consistently put her in the embarrassing position of having to correct people when they misgender her. She says that because her friends are cis they don’t get what the big deal is. To me, this is an example of shitty friendship rather than a problem with cis people at large (though obviously cis privilege allows a lot of people to ignore misgendering in their own lives and therefore mistake it as unimportant in everyone’s lives). I am privileged right now in that I know enough cis people who would never behave this way, so I can choose not to include any of the ones who would in my life.
Why is this such a big deal, you ask from the cispeanut gallery?
Here’s why: If your friend (and, actually, if any person) has to defend their own gender because you don’t notice they were misgendered or just don’t think it’s important to, at the very least, acknowledge to them that you know what just went down, your friend is going to start wondering if you even see their gender as real for them. They’re going to speculate on the possibility that they’re the only person around who is paying attention to, actually seeing, or looking out for them. They’re going to start to feel pretty invisible and invalidated, lonely, and maybe a little like they don’t even exist. If you make your friend feel this way, are you really a friend?
Friends and people who want to be my friend: When someone misgenders me, it should be as unexpected and jarring to you as it is to me. When cis people are misgendered, their friends laugh it off, like, “wow, how did that even happen? You’re so obviously (your gender).” Frequently, when a trans person is misgendered, they are somehow to blame for not putting out the right signals.
Now, I (and any other trans person you know) am aware that cissexism is surviving and thriving in all the places we’ll ever try to go, so I’m not asking that the servers at the restaurants we go to get my pronouns right (though obviously that would be great). What I’m asking is that you have enough of a sense of my gender as truly belonging to me that when it happens, you notice that something went wrong in the interaction.
I just don’t think that’s asking too much, and if you do think it’s too much, I really think you should evaluate your sense of your capacity for basic human interaction. You don’t have to learn the deep intricacies of my gender. You don’t even have to educate yourself on cissexism, my trans experience, or the trans experience at large. You don’t have to politicize yourself or call yourself an ally. Just, if you’re acting like we’re friends, interact with me in a genuine enough way that my gender isn’t a theory you have to remind yourself about in every moment.
Once we exchange pronoun preferences, my pronouns should come as easily to you as you expect yours to come to me (and don’t tell me, cis folks, that you wouldn’t be a little confused if I told you it was going to take me a while to get your pronouns right, but I’d really try, honest). Letting other people know when they’ve gotten them wrong should be a reflex response to hearing something that’s weirdly and confusingly incorrect to you.
And if you hear people using gendered words around me or groups of people I’m part of, and you’re not sure if they’re wrong for me or bothering me or anything (the incident at work involved a group I was part of being consistently referred to as “ladies,” and then when I asked people not to, someone claiming they “had trans friends and knew a lot about the issue” told me that that word didn’t bother all trans people, so how was she supposed to know it was going to be a problem?), just ask! Say, “hey, I noticed that people have been referring to the group using [x-gendering word] and I know that you are not [x-gender]. Is this ok with you? Do you want me to say something?”
It’s kind of like if someone gets my name wrong, that’s going to feel like a silly and confusing mistake. Depending on how I’m feeling, I might laugh it off or I might get really insulted that they obviously don’t think my name is worth learning. Maybe if you’re not sure, you can come up to me and ask if that’s a nickname that you didn’t know I was using. But otherwise, if you, as my friend, do not so much as glance in my direction to indicate that you heard what happened and think it’s really obnoxious because you have paid a minimal enough amount of attention to me to know that my name is Enoch, I’m going to start to wonder if you even know my name at all. And why would I be friends with someone who, after all this time, never bothered to learn my name?
Let me rephrase that so that it’s not an analogy, just in case you’re confused: IF YOU CANNOT BE BOTHERED TO INTERNALIZE EVEN THE BAREST SENSE OF THE GENDERS OF THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU, YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BE AROUND THOSE PEOPLE.
“Just read your post about white privilege. I think this is interesting. There was this one guy who really liked me back then and I rejected him because he was white. I thought that no matter the reason, my going out with him will always be viewed as “asian girl obsessing white guys” kinda bias, and considering that he is very popular, I would receive more hate from all these white girls who think I steal white guys. This was back in high school. Since then, my point of view has changed.”—A friend of mine in response to this post.
White privilege is never second-guessing your significant other's reasons for dating you.
I want to unpack this a little bit, because I think things are a little more complicated than that.
At first glance, this statement is true because there is really gross exoticization and objectification of people of color on the part of white people that make it understandably very difficult for many folks in relationships where one person is white and the other is not to feel safe about the white partner’s motivations towards dating the POC partner. If your white partner is anti-racist, they have thought of this and hopefully put some effort into making sure you don’t feel like you have to worry. Doesn’t mean they’re succeeding or that you therefore shouldn’t worry or anything like that, but maybe it’s a start.
However, it has not totally rung true in my personal experiences as a person with white privilege, and with many other privileges on other axes that are directly impacted by my whiteness. Some of the POC I’ve been with romantically or intimately had very clear, strong preferences towards white people, which manifested to me in ways that felt objectifying. In extreme cases, someone I was once dating frequently made statements that indicated that she believed that white people were categorically better-looking than her. White people weren’t just her “type,” they were her ideal. I have also had a partner tell me that their parents would be excited they were dating someone white because it was “a step up,” and another whose guardian advised her not to date me because “white guys will have kids with you, but they’ll never marry you.”
Now, I agree with the sentiment of the initial statement, and I understand the point it is trying to convey. I am not trying to derail this statement by nitpicking the phrasing and pointing out that I know lots of white trans people who worry that their significant other has a less-than-savory reason for being with them. These are true experiences of second-guessing your significant other’s reason for dating you that white privilege does not protect you from, but I choose to interpret the intention of this statement to be more along the lines of “white privilege is never second-guessing, on the basis of race, your significant other’s reasons for dating you.” So my first example stands, and the second one moves off the axis of whitness to talk about how white people can be non-privileged in other ways.
What it all comes down to in the end, though, is racism. When a white person dates a person of color for objectifying reasons, that is because of racism in the form of racist discourse around people of color as the “exotic other.” When a person of color dates a white person for objectifying reasons, that is also because of racism, this time in the form of racist positioning of white people as beautiful, pure, morally superior, etc, which manifests as internalized racism. Even in the case of the guardian being afraid that I would get this woman pregnant and then not stand by her (obviously there was also some confusion about my ability to get anyone pregnant, but that’s besides the point), that’s about a worry that as a white person I would only view this woman of color as a sex object and never a worthy life partner.
So while my experiences of questioning the role of my whiteness in people’s decision to date me are real and valid, they do not mean the same thing as when a POC feels compelled to do the same with their race or ethnicity. While it is something that I, as a white person, have to worry about, I never have to examine whether it comes from a deeply- (or not so deeply-)buried hatred that the person I’m dating has for me.
I’m having trouble coming up with a snappy unpacking-the-invisible-knapsack-esque one-liner that I feel more accurately describes what the initial statement is trying to describe, but I think we can do better than this.
Now that I seem to be fashion blogging a bit. I need to put image descriptions on those, right? I guess I kind of figured that a post that was just an image was going to be inaccessible regardless, but I’m wrong and I should be doing them, right?
EDIT: the answer was duh. I already put captions on my existing ones, and will continue to use them.
Are there any other things I should be making sure to include in my fashion posts? Do y’all care where I get things or what size they are or what size I am or anything like that? I don’t really know those things… I guess is it more about, like, I have to figure out what purpose I’m trying to serve by putting my outfits on the internet or something?
No Means No and Yes Means Yes, But What About All the Other Words?
[TW: discussions of consent, lack of consent, rape, rape apology]
I was talking today with a friend who was in a new relationship situation and exploring her feelings around the speed with which their physical interactions came to include sex. She told me that she had never worked with such a short timeline, and that it made her a little uncomfortable, first, that it had happened without prior discussion and, second, that though one time when they were being intimate she told him she didn’t want to have sex then and he immediately respected that request, the next time they saw each other he reverted back to the assumption that they would be having sex.
I asked my friend if she was making sure she was only agreeing to things that she really wanted to be doing. She quickly replied that she pretty much was, and that he was really great about checking in with her. This is great! Emphasis in spaces promoting the use of enthusiastic consent consistently falls on the idea that we should be constantly checking in with our partners that their “yes” is still applicable. For her, this was a first.
Obviously, the shift to “yes,” is a really, really great step. I know that, for me at least, it revolutionized the way I understood my sexual autonomy, making it possible for me to deal with the way my consent had been flouted in the past and, as a result, making it possible for me to have sex I enjoy.
What I want to elaborate in this post, however, is that the idea that “yes” means “yes” is only the first step in achieving real, enthusiastic consent. The “yes” means “yes” ideology leaves out two really important factors that need attention:
only "yes" means "yes." By that, I do not mean that “mmmm” can’t mean “yes,” or, “oh god, that feels so good” can’t mean “yes.” What I mean is that “maybe” doesn’t mean “yes,” “I’m not sure” doesn’t mean “yes.” Neither do “well… ok,” “not right now,” or any other phrase that is somehow equivocal. For my own sexual safety, I have had to teach myself that any slight hesitation or uncertainty means “no” for me. My desire to please other people has frequently manifested in convincing myself that my “maybe” means, “yeah, ok,” and the aftermath has been devastating. Now, maybe you’re the kind of person who likes to play with your fears, and if you know that about yourself, great. However, if you and the person you’re being intimate with have not discussed that they like to play with their fears, learn to interpret their “maybe”s as “no”s. Back off or find something they’re actually enthusiastic about. Make a sex to do list and put this “maybe” thing on it so that your partner can take time on their own—without the pressure of your desire—to become more comfortable about it and maybe get to a place of being as excited about it as you are. In the past I have excused the actions of the people who did not value my consent by saying that, in the end, I always consented, so how could they have known anything was amiss? That doesn’t make it ok. They should have known better than to accept such obviously compromised consent. Which leads me to my second, and less widely-discussed point:
"Yes" can only mean "yes" if the person can also say no. I asked the wrong question when I asked my friend if she was making sure she was only agreeing to things she wanted to be doing. I should have asked if they both were. I think in most consent-focused spaces it is well-established that it is no one’s job to make sure they are only doing things they express that they want to be doing. No one is responsible for what is done to them without their consent. The part that is less talked about is the widespread bias that it is everyone’s job to make sure they are only agreeing to things they want to be doing. This, I think, is where sometimes so-called gray areas come up. People use this “consent-positive” idea to deny culpability in consent-related misconduct ranging from sex that leaves people upset and uncomfortable to rape. One very close to home example of this is the way that Ira Gray insisted that he always consistently checked in with his partners, “almost to the point of annoyance,” therefore he could not possibly have raped them, and their consent could not possibly even have been coerced. Another, larger example is the permission given to doms to claim things like “miscommunication,” “they didn’t safeword,” or “they should have negotiated more clearly,” when subs come forward about discomfort (and that’s putting it lightly) about the way things went down in a scene. Here’s the thing: checking on your “yes” is NOT ENOUGH. Asking for a “yes” is not the same thing as providing space for a “no.” If you—knowingly or unknowingly—create a situation in which a person does not want to say “no” to you, either because they don’t want to hurt or disappoint or reject you or because they are afraid of you or guilty about denying you validation or because you get pouty until they change their mind, or whatever else, you are not practicing enthusiastic consent. It’s true that your partner should take some responsibility for only consenting when they mean it, but it is also your responsibility to hold sexual space for the lack of their desire to take precedence over the presence of yours, so that they feel free not to consent, if that’s what they want.
Real enthusiastic consent is not just hoping for a “yes,” it is hoping that your partner will communicate their desires to you, whatever they are. It is a willingness to accept “no” as a valid (and therefore exciting) expression of your partner’s autonomy. Consent is sexy, sure, but if denial of consent makes you say anything other than “thank you for trusting me enough to tell me what you did and didn’t want,” I’m not particularly interested in what turns you on.
ah, that’s a good idea! There are lots of things behind it, choice being #1. But also still recovering from an abusive breakup and rape, and living in Utah where the pickings are slim. meaning I was sort of being funny in my “can’t get laid no matter how hard I try” in my first msg
Ah, gotcha. I mean, hopefully that means you’re taking care of yourself, at the very least. It sounds like you’re doing the right thing for yourself right now, especially in a small community. Still, you definitely want to carry a glove or two. You never know, maybe you’ll run into a really positive and healing sex emergency!
oh god that post about dyke march reminded me of this guy that hit on me at slutwalk. i was so stunned i didn't know how to react. especially because he was asking what was written on my chest WHICH WAS CLEARLY "CONSENT IS SEXY." i had never felt so violated before. ew ew ew
Ugh, see, this is the shit that happens. I’m really sorry that you had that experience, especially in a space that was trying to be empowering and safe. I had a dyke come up to me at dyke march and ask, “may i?” not specifying what. Then, without waiting for my answer, she ran her flag across my chest to watch the way it rippled.
We need people looking out for us to tell these people that if they continue to behave the way they are behaving, they will face an angry mob.
So, as I’ve probably mentioned, I carry safer sex supplies with me wherever I go. For days out of the house, that means a card case with 6 gloves, and for longer trips I’ve taken to carrying my gloves in a jam jar with a little sachet of lube at the top.
I just went to Wisconsin for a training, and I didn’t check my bags, which meant all my personal stuff was on view to the TSA agents who were checking me through the line.
After I went through the millimeter wave machine (always get panicky around those, but I don’t bind when I fly, so I’m not really subject to extra scrutiny with them), I got pulled to the side with my bag, and the TSA agent started going through it.
It wasn’t long before she pulled out my glove jar, and her eyes widened a bit. “Well,” she said. “We pulled you over because on the screen this looked like a liquid, but this is definitely not a liquid. I’m gonna have to run this back through the scanner, but you’re probably good to go.”
I grinned at her and she went off to send my bag through again. She quickly came back with my bag and my jar, and, as she handed it back to me, she said (so knowingly), “You have a wonderful day.”
Hello Enoch, it's Erica from YP4 - glad to find this wealth of info of your tumblr. Never grabbed a chance to ask you about the pronoun "per" which I've read used in place or both him/her and he/she. Are you familiar or friendly to the word?
I don’t know much about the pronoun “per.” How does it decline? I’m friendly with all non-binary pronouns.
Some trans blogger who got to be a pretty big deal in the tumblrsphere before people started wising up to who he really was. Which, apparently was pretty recent. He’s pretty well connected and involved in a bunch of real-life and internet community stuff.
[tw: sexual violence, rape culture, rape apology] Rape in our community
I’m reading a lot of posts about people coming forward and saying Ira Gray raped them. I’ve read so many that I feel sick, and I don’t have it in me to say very much about it.
I don’t know Ira; I’ve never read his blog or interacted with him in any way, but this is me publicly stepping even further away from him. I stand with the individuals who have spoken out about Ira’s abuses. I have read Ira’s responses, and I find them reprehensible. If you have any affiliation with Ira and you have the capacity, I urge you to read what he and others have been saying. Make the decision for yourself, though I’m sure you’ll find that he is a rapist and a sorry excuse for a rape apologist.
EDIT: I haven’t read any specifics about Asher Bauer at all, though his name has been coming up. He’s another person I’ve never interacted with in any way, and I can’t say anything about it until I figure out how to inform myself.
Thinking to myself "Touching your bits makes me really hot". And it's just >:[. "Bits" sounds like dry dog food.
For myself, I totally hear you on the dog food thing, but it’s important to be aware that bits is a word that a lot of people use for their genitals and they think it’s totally the hottest thing ever. And frankly, if I were really hot for someone who were really hot for calling their genitals their bits, I’m sure I’d be totally into it too.
This is a piece I wrote for my column but never got published:
I have no relationship with my genitals. We’re like you and that cute, mysterious person you’ve seen walking around campus but can’t figure out how to talk to. I’ve made eyes with them from afar; I’ve set up elaborate scenarios in my mind in which I smoothly approach them and they can’t help but fall in love with my wit and strong hands. I thought about taking up smoking just to have an “in” with them (pun intended?). We dance at blue room parties, but I can tell they’re just waiting for someone else more interesting to walk in. Sometimes we end up in bed together and it’s ok but not stellar. The worst part, though, is that I’ve forgotten their name and at this point it feels rude to ask.
I don’t mean names like Bruno or, infamous in my family, Murgatroid. In fact, from an early age my parents tried to impress upon me the importance of not naming my genitals in such a manner. I mean names for genitals: pussy, cock, cunt, dick, dicklit, etc. Words that make people feel some sense of connection to the parts of their bodies they are describing. Genitals are so easily seen as gendered, but finding a name that feels right for you can help you get them back from the essentialism of “girl parts” and “boy parts” by either divorcing them from your gender or sex entirely or tying them to a gender or sex that makes more sense to you.
Still, when applied to me, all the words that I know other people use to connect to these parts of their bodies make my disconnect feel greater. Even words that are not commonly associated with a particular sex like “junk” and “bits” don’t work for me because I can’t imagine saying them about my body, especially not out loud in a sexy situation. If I can’t hear a partner saying “touching your (insert name for genitals here) makes me really hot,” I don’t know what the purpose of a name would be anyway. I am comfortable with this thinking until I am reminded that my genitals are not just for sharing—I should have a private relationship with them.
I have seen my genitals; I read the Vagina Monologues when I was younger and learned that it was important to know what you looked like in order to reclaim yourself from a society that wanted you to hate your body. Since then, I’ve spent time looking at genitals shaped like mine and I’ve come to the understanding that mine are of an aesthetic that I—and other people—enjoy. Still, when I think about them I have no mental image of them. They’re just a blank spot between my legs that feels nice sometimes, and even that feels somehow disconnected from me. I think there’s a self-perpetuating cycle going for me of not having a name and not having a connection. How can I come up with a name if I don’t know them? But if I don’t know their name, how can I get to know them better? This is not just a matter of spending more time with my genitals; trust me, I try.
It’s not like that with my chest, luckily. Knowing that my chest is most comfortably called just that helps me think about and look at it in loving, connected ways. Additionally, while names and labels have different meanings to each individual who uses them, I find that usually those meanings are linked to common conceptions, so designating a specific name as opposed to all the other possibilities brackets the named part in people’s understanding. In this way, explaining what that part of my body is called helps me explain to lovers how to interact with it so that I feel sexy and seen and don’t have to shy away from acknowledging its presence as part of my body. Everyone knows there’s no bigger faux pas than when a lover calls out the wrong name in bed, but when they really get all your names right… well, that’s a whole new level of sexy.
I'm a lesbian. My lover is transitioning, already started taking T. I am finding myself less and less attracted to him, not because he is trans but because he is a man and I am neither sexually nor romantically attracted to men. I don't know how to reconcile this - I care about him for who he is, just as I did before he began transitioning. I don't know how to handle the situation with the love and compassion he absolutely deserves, and I know transitioning is strenuous for him. Please help
I almost don’t have any advice for you. There’s a lot going on in this situation, a lot of factors you need to consider. Any course of action you’re going to take is going to be very personal to you and your relationship.
The best I can do is give you some questions to think about:
How would you handle it if you stopped being attracted to a lover for reasons not related to gender? Is this different to you? If it is, why? How important is physical attraction to you in your relationships?
Is there any way you could find fluidity in your sexuality that might make space for your lover? How much else is changing about your relationship because of your lover’s transition? Is it too much to handle? Sometimes it is, and that’s ok. We’re told that flexibility and fluidity are necessary, but you can’t force it. If the gender of your lover is really important to you, you need to think about why, and then you need to acknowledge it.
At what point in your lover’s coming out/transition process did your attraction start to diminish? Was it right after he came out, or did it only start to happen when he started on T? Is this about his male identity, or is it about his physicality confronting you with the reality of his maleness?
How would you want a lover to handle it if they found at some point in your relationship that they were not attracted to you? That they were not attracted to women at all?
Do you think your lover has noticed your diminished attraction? Might your inability to discuss this with him hurt him more than honesty? Is it putting a strain on your relationship or your partner’s joy in his transition?
Think really hard about this. Maybe you can figure out how to make it work, but you don’t have to. If you love this person, you’ll handle this lovingly, but dragging out a slow and inevitable process is usually not the most loving thing to do, especially if everyone can tell it’s happening. If you think this is only going to get harder for you, I don’t recommend that you let it. It’s good that you’re trying to give him support through this process, but ignoring your own needs helps no one in the long run.