Monday, September 17, 2018

U B U

Bear with me here, I'm trying to complete a thought.  It's hard to put into words, but... I'm not trans because I want to fit in with women.  I'm trans because I have to try if I want to fit in with males.

I have a very vivid, but incomplete, memory: I was a kid - I don't know how young, but my parents were still married so it was probably before high school.  We were eating at a Chinese restaurant.  I don't remember any of the conversation that led up to it, but my dad said, "I believe that above all else, homosexuality is a sin.  If you can't accept what you are..." and that's all I can remember about what he said.

I do remember feeling a little confronted, though.  I didn't say anything, but inside I wondered if I was gay.  I didn't really understand what gay meant at the time, and I'd definitely never heard the word transgender.  But I knew I was feminine, and at the time I thought the two might be the same thing.

But it wasn't until years later that I thought about how backwards his statement was.  Realizing you're gay is accepting what you are.  Gay is your state of being.  Being gay and continuing to date the opposite sex, pretending everything is fine... that's refusing to accept what you are.

Same with trans people.  If I were to put on a dress and makeup and hang out with more women, that wouldn't be me rejecting my identity, but rather accepting it.  "Why can't you just be yourself?"  That is me being myself.  I spent my youth hanging out with groups of males, pretending like I fit in, faking that bond of brotherhood the rest seemed to have.  It's not comfortable, and it doesn't feel natural.

Transitioning isn't like moving to some strange new world, it's more like coming home. 

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Transfinancial

In a previous blog, I made an off hand comment about most trans people being poor.  A friend asked for clarification in the comments, but I thought I would expand upon it here.

Admittedly, that was just an assumption on my part.  It's true that most of the trans folk I've met were struggling financially, but then, so are a good deal of the cis folk.  So I did a quick google search, and found several articles that back me up.  Yay, I'm vindicated.  But it seems like a no-brainer to me anyway.

Take an average person, with all the daily struggles an average person has to pay the bills.  Now add one or more of the following factors:

1. Clinical depression, making even small tasks seem like hard labor. People who don't have depression don't understand just how taxing it can be.  They say, "Cheer up!  Get over it!" and so on, but don't you think we've tried that?  It's like living life wearing a backpack full of rocks, or running on a battery that only charges to 40%.  We don't choose to be sad, and we can't just make energy happen with positive thinking.

2. Being kicked out by family, so they have to earn their own way through college or even high school.  This one never affected me, as I was already an adult when I realized I was trans.  But the abundance of information out there means people are figuring it out at an earlier age, and some of them end up on the streets because of it.

3. Difficulty finding/keeping a job that allows transgender people. 

I know, there are laws in place to protect things like that, but that doesn’t help as much as you think.  Saying, "You can't fire trans people because the ACLU would be all over it" is a bit like saying, “There’s no crime anymore because we have police.”  The ACLU doesn’t have an unlimited team of super soldiers who are dispatched whenever someone’s rights are violated.

At-will employment also means the employer can just invent a different reason the person was fired.  It's difficult to prove otherwise, and a lot of people would rather not get into a long legal battle.  And even if you don't get fired, you still may end up in a work environment so hostile that it's hard to stay at that job.

Getting hired is probably even more difficult.  I can't prove it, but if an obviously trans person comes in for an interview, their resume probably ends up at the bottom of the stack.  And just like the firing problem, it's going to be difficult to prove that that's the reason you weren't hired.

Even if you pass and are living as your preferred gender 100% of the time, you still may have problems when it comes to showing the employer your identification, that still has your old sex on it. 

This is one of the reasons I haven't come out at work.  In the past I have heard transphobic comments from a few coworkers, including our HR director.  I don't know if transitioning would get me fired, but I do know I would be uncomfortable working with these people afterward. 

Of course, let's not forget that some trans people are saving up for expensive operations, and these procedures often aren't covered by medical insurance.  Not to mention extra expenses like therapy, hormones, and dual wardrobes.  Being trans is costly.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Transgender Fiction: Flesh and Blood

I just finished reading the novel Flesh and Blood by A. E. Dooland.  This is the sequel to Under My Skin, which I blogged previously.

Not to get too spoilery, but to recap: Under My Skin introduced us to Min Lee, a stressed-out Australian/Korean woman who eventually realizes she is transgender.  Min meets a schoolgirl named Bree, who feels like a live action anime character.  Min faces prejudice at work and has to deal with the challenge of coming out to her doting boyfriend Henry.  While it ends on a high note, you know that there are many more challenges in Min's immediate future.

In Flesh and Blood, Min has to deal with family issues and money problems.  Now presenting as a man full-time (though non-binary), Min realizes that he just can't bring himself to tell his mother.  He tells her a few lies to give himself more time, but those lies only cause Mom to text Min more often.  Meanwhile, Min also meets Bree's dysfunctional family, and makes some terrible financial decisions.

I found many aspects of this book relatable.  Bree's brother specifically reminds me of my brother-in-law.  Both sets of parents are so set in their ways, that it's damn near impossible to change their minds, just like some relatives I know.  And of course, money is always a problem with me.

Min makes some huge mistakes in this book.  There were points where I was practically yelling at the book, “You shouldn't do this, what are you thinking?” …even though I make similar mistakes.  Min's justifications are realistic, and while sometimes I felt like calling him an idiot, I can understand the pressure that led to these rash decisions.

What I love is that I can see the other characters’ points of view, even the ones who aren’t particularly nice.  Min’s mother is controlling on a level that I would call psychotic.  But she also sacrificed a lot to give Min a good life; working awful jobs so she could put Min through college.   She thinks she knows what’s best for Min, and she wants to live vicariously through her daughter, so she doesn’t care if Min doesn’t want the same things out of life.

Parents should really consider this.  If you child is suffering from depression, really ask yourself: are you one of the sources of that depression?  And if so, do you have to be?  Why?  Is it really worth losing your child forever, just because they aren't living the life you would have chosen for them?

If you feel that whatever you are doing is protecting them, are you sure they’re better off?  I’ve known a lot of overprotective parents, and I’ve known parents who gave their children too much freedom.  Invariably it was the overprotective ones that did the most damage.

So while Under My Skin is a novel every transgender person should read, Flesh and Blood should be read by every parent of a trans child.

So I’ve now read all three of the books set in this universe.  I'm currently rereading the third book, "Solve for i", which is more of a spin-off than a sequel.  I accidentally read it first because I didn't know it was a series at the time, and this time I'm picking up a few things I missed the first time.  Solve for i is still my favorite of the three.
 
I hope Dooland releases more books in this universe soon.  I would especially like to see more of Gemma Rowe, my favorite character.  Solve for i also introduced a character named Mikey, who doesn't get a lot of screen time, and who might have a backstory worth telling.  Hint, hint, @asynca!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

And The Voyd Would Be Calling

This is a wonderful comic I read on Tumblr:
"Helen finally gets to chat with Karen" by Yamino

For those who don't want to click the link, a summary:  Voyd is a character from the Incredibles 2.  Some fans have speculated that Voyd is transgender.  A Tumblr artist called "Yamino" has taken this idea and run with it, drawing several Voyd-related comics.  In this one, Helen Parr sits down to chat with Voyd.  Voyd reveals that her parents rejected her because they couldn't accept her powers or her gender identity.  Helen is very accepting, and invites her over for tacos.  There's some sequel comics in which Voyd meets and interacts with the rest of the Parrs. There's a chronology page here: Chronology

I've read this comic at least a dozen times now, and I'm not even sure why I find it so compelling.  It's not a particularly deep story, it's just a short conversation between two off-duty super heroes. And yet, reading it satisfies some primal need for being accepted.  All I know for sure is that whenever I read the comic, it releases endorphins.  It's like some strange "acceptance porn".  And frankly, it pisses me off that we live in a world that makes such a comic necessary.

I'm currently reading "Flesh and Blood" by A. E. Dooland.  A full blog will come later, but basically it's about a transman who is stressing about coming out to his mother.  The mother is the kind of woman who will do anything for her daughter... as long as the daughter lives exactly the kind of life the mom wants her to live.  Meanwhile, his current hosts are so accepting that it once again reminds me of the above comic.

The mother feels like she sacrificed so much to put her daughter through school, and she wants her child to get married to a wonderful man and have many children.  But the daughter would rather be a man herself.  I haven't finished the book, so I don't know yet what the mom's reaction will be when the truth comes out, but I can't bet it won't be good.

It seems like a lot of parents live vicariously through their children.  I don't think this is unhealthy in itself, as long as those parents still let their children make their own choices.  If your dream was to be a musician, but your child shows no interest in music, don't force the kid into living your dream.  Simple, right?  Don't pound a square peg into a round hole.

Having a transgender child should be even more of a no-brainer, because it's not a choice.  You can choose whether to transition, but you don't actually choose to be transgender.  That's a state of being.  Abandoning your child because they're transgender is like kicking them out for being left handed.

Transgender people are already one of the most suicidal groups in the world.  According to some sources, more than 40% attempt suicide at some point in their lives.  I've been close.  Trans people need more emotional support than just about anyone.  Abandoning them is practically attempted murder.

So it's not the life you wanted for them.  So what?   It's better than no life at all, which is what you're driving them to when you kick them out.

There's a meme that says: "I don't understand why people think that having a LGBT+ child means they failed as a parent.  Disowning your child means you failed as a parent." I think that pretty much nails it.


Saturday, July 28, 2018

...But The Math Is Irrelevant

Counterpoint to this blog.

Reasons I will not transition (in no particular order):

1. I love my wife.  Even if I don't show it as often as I should, she is the world to me.  She has stated that if I were to transition, she would be supportive, but she would not stay with me.  Losing her would be like losing a limb.

2. I started too late.  To be fair, I know people way older than me who transitioned.  But they're not me.  I find it unbearable that I didn't transition when I could have been young and cute.  Even if I started tomorrow, I would be in my 50s before I was really able to be seen as a woman. 

3. I am poor.  Yes, most trans people are.  But with my debt and the way I live paycheck to paycheck, transitioning would throw me straight into bankruptcy.  I would probably lose my job as well, and I'm not qualified for much else.  The decision to transition could leave me homeless.

4. I am not 100% convinced I would find it fulfilling.  It's such a huge gamble.  What if I did everything, and still wasn't happy?

5. I don't pass.  With my frame, I don't think I would ever fool anybody.  Yes, I know the point isn't to convince others, it's to be comfortable with myself.  But I don't think I could bear the whispers behind my back, being constantly misgendered, and so on.

6. Bathrooms.  While the politicians keep tossing the law ball back and forth, I am absolutely terrified at the prospect of using a public restroom while dressed en femme.   I absolutely can't go into the men's while wearing a dress, I'll get killed.  I'm afraid to go into the women's if I don't pass, I might scare them.

Hmm, this list is a lot shorter than the previous blog.  But the reasons themselves are quite weighty, and hard to get past.  The only circumstances in which I can see myself transitioning is if I were to win several million dollars.  Enough money that I don't have to leave the house until I'm fully transitioned. And even then... I just don't know if I would be brave enough.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Doing the Math

Reasons I know I'm transgender (in no particular order):

1. I strongly wish I had been born female.  When I get in a really dysphoric mood, it's literally all I can think about.  It is my one wish above all others.

2. When I was a child, and we would play Star Wars or GI Joe or whatever, I would play female characters as often as possible.  I wasn't even sure at the time why it was so important to me, but I would go out of my way to make sure I could play women, whether we were using action figures or actually running around the backyard. 

3. I've always picked female characters in video games when possible.  I am about 90% more likely to buy a video game if I can play a female character.  I play games to escape and live another life for a while, and I'm just not interested if the only characters are males.  It's not just "so I can look at a female bum."

4. I prefer books/movies/shows/etc with female leads.  I want to identify with the character in order to care what happens to them, and it's harder for me to relate to males.  I know that sounds sexist, like I don't care if men live or die, but we are talking about fictional characters here.

5. When I look in the mirror, I don't relate with the person I see.  The man in the mirror is perfectly attractive and I don't hate him.  But it just doesn't feel like I'm looking at me.  I feel like there should be a woman looking back at me.

6. I like wearing female clothing.  If it were just a matter of thinking skirts are comfortable, I would try kilts.  But no, I am actually happier in female clothing.

7. I only play female characters in D&D.  In fact, it's the main reason I play- to live vicariously through these female characters.  If I go too long without playing D&D, I start to feel more dysphoric. 

8. When I fantasize about a perfect dream life, I'm always female.  I don't care about being rich or thin if I can't also be female.  I fall asleep at night picturing myself in other lives.  I have a ton of different fantasy lives in my head, but I'm a woman in all of them.

9. I have an easier time making friends with women than men.  With men I feel like an imposter, like I'm putting on a mask and trying to fit in.  But with women I feel like I can just be myself.  To be fair, I do currently have more male friends than female, but that's an accident of fate.

10.  I don't have stereotypical male interests.  Specifically, I hate cars and sports.  Yes, I know that describes a lot of men.  And to be fair, I don't have a lot of stereotypical female interests either.  But I still believe it belongs on this list. 

11.  I am a feminist, bordering on misandrist.  I believe in women's rights, as everyone should.  But I also find myself having to suppress an innate prejudice against men in general.  I'm definitely not an expert on feminism, and I try to just keep my mouth shut so I'm not accused of "white knighting" or whatever.  But I do have a natural instinct to side with women even before I know all the details.

12. When I use chat rooms online, or play online games, I am strongly inclined to present myself as a woman.  It's not enough to play a female character, I need the other players to think the player is female as well.  Otherwise I just feel wrong.

13: I concluded that I was transgender by myself.  I didn't actually know the word at the time, but I knew what was wrong with me.  Some people tell me I'm too suggestible, and they believe that I must have come across a transgender website and latched onto it like a hypochondriac surfing WebMD.  But I sought this information out myself because I wanted answers.  I knew what I was like, and I knew what I was looking for. 

14: I believe that women have tougher lives than men, and yet that doesn't sway me.  If a gender neutral being were allowed to pick a sex, male would be the obvious choice.  Stronger, more political power, more respected, higher pay, etc...  It's a no-brainer.  But this isn't a choice.  This is who I am.  This is how I'm wired.

15: Trans life is a tough life, but I want it anyway.  Actually that's not true - I don't want a trans life, I want a ciswoman life.  But lacking any magic lamps, a trans life is a better option than a male life.  It's a life full of bigotry, loss of family and friends and employment, etc... but still preferable to pretending to be male all the time.

16. It goes against some of my own beliefs, and yet I still feel this way.  Sometimes I'm not sure I believe the concept of gender, or that men and women are mentally different, and yet I still feel like I have the mind of a woman.  I don't believe in destiny or a higher power, and yet I still feel like I was "supposed" to be a woman, as if some deity got my sex wrong.  It's a paradox, but ultimately my dysphoria is stronger than my logical beliefs about genders.

17. Everything about transitioning scares the everloving crap out of me, and yet I feel I'm supposed to be doing it anyway.  From finding a new job to deciding which bathroom to use, just about every aspect paralyzes me with fear.  Which is probably why I haven't been transitioning.  But I strongly believe it would be better for me.

18. When I dream at night, I'm often female.  Okay, in most of my dreams my gender isn't really a factor, since I'm seeing through my own eyes.  But when gender matters, I'm often a woman. Again, it doesn't prove anything, but it shows how much I subconsciously think of myself as a woman.

19. When I create characters for stories I write, my first inclination is always to make female.  In my mind, the default is female, and I have to force myself to make some characters male just for realism and variety.

20. When I design a character, whether for a story or a D&D game or whatever, I spend a lot more time on the female characters than the males.  The women have detailed backstories and I agonize over their outfits and equipment, while the men are more one-dimensional and hastily created.

21. I have a lot of feminine mannerisms.  The way I stand, lean, sit, gesture, etc.  If I was more extroverted, I'd probably get called metrosexual a lot.  But since most of my conversations occur online, that's not an issue.

22. I find the shape of my body annoying.  I'm clumsy, I feel like I'm too tall, and frankly I feel like my guy parts shouldn't be there.  I'm uncomfortable talking about my genitals in a public blog, but basically it feels like having a giant mole in an uncomfortable place.

23. The sheer longevity of of my gender issues.  Some people say it's just a phase, but I've felt this way my entire life.  Sure I didn't always know the word "transgender", but I've always identified more with women.  I had my real epiphany sometime around 2006, and there hasn't been a moment since that I doubted I was transgender.  There may have been times I tried to talk myself out of it, or looked for alternative explanations, but I always knew what I was.  If it lasts my entire life, is it still a phase?

24. I've been to two psychiatrists and two psychologists about my gender issues.  I visited them regularly for about two years.  None of them had any trouble believing I was transgender.

Wow, that's actually more points than I thought would occur to me when I started writing this.  Every time I think I'm done with this list, I think of another one.  Even once I post this blog, I might have to edit it again if I think of any more good ones.  I know a couple of them are redundant, but it's still a lot of reasons.

When each point above is criticized individually, I agree with the detractors.  No single point proves I'm transgender.  Everything I've listed can be explained or excused or handwaved, without resorting to gender dysphoria.  The things I did as a kid?  Kids do all kinds of crazy things.  The preference for female characters?  Maybe I like lusting after them.  Dreaming I'm a woman?  Dreams are pretty random.  Liking skirts?  They're comfortable.  The general feeling I should be a woman?  Maybe I'm just having a broader identity crisis.

But when all these points are put together, they add up to something.  If you don't think so, you're being willfully stubborn. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Transgender Fiction: Under My Skin

A while back I posted about some lesbian romance books I've been reading.  One of the books was called "Solve for i" by A. E. Dooland.  I didn't realize it until I was done reading it, but it was actually a spin-off of two other books: "Under My Skin" and "Flesh and Blood".  So I read them in the wrong order, oops.

Under My Skin is about Min Lee, an Australian/Korean woman with oodles of artistic talent.  She has an excellent (but stressful) job, and a wonderful boyfriend.  Her life isn't perfect, but it's stable.  That is, until everything gets shaken up at once.  She is given the lead on an important project at work, she becomes friends with a hyper schoolgirl, and she begins having confusing thoughts about her gender identity.

I’m kind of glad I read them in the wrong order.  Min’s story gets so hopeless as the novel approaches its climax, that I was starting to get stressed out myself.  It was a relief to partially know how things turn out.  I swear, though, Lemony Snicket has nothing on Min Lee. 

If I’d had half as many things go wrong in one day as Min does, and I also lived in a 26th floor apartment with a balcony… well, all I’m saying is I’d be tempted.  There've been times when a lack easy access was the only thing that saved my life.  This is one of the reasons I don't own a gun:  I don't need that kind of temptation lying around.  But (and I'm trying to avoid spoilers here, but it needs to be said) the book has some of the best anti-suicide arguments I've ever seen. 

Sometimes I thought the book was a little repetitive, but it works.  Min’s thought process is cyclical like mine.  It's probably common among trans people - constantly talking yourself in and out of taking self-affirming risks.  Heck, half of my personal blogs are variations of the same whine.  I'm also redundant, I repeat myself, and I say things over and over.

Gemma from "Solve for i" is a side character the story.  She's a friend of a friend who has a couple of significant scenes with Min. I still relate to Gemma more than any fictional character I've encountered, but Min Lee is pretty relatable too.  Even though she's* the exact opposite of myself (she's FtM and I'm MtF), Min's feelings are very similar to mine.  How she discovers her issues, how she feels about having to dress in the wrong clothing every day, loathing the person she sees in the mirror... these are so much like my own issues and experiences that it made the book feel very personal.

*note, since Min is FtM, I should probably be referring to her as "he".  However, for reasons given in the books themselves, "she" is less confusing.  Min is non-binary and doesn't care about pronouns, and some of the other characters continue to call her "she" throughout.

Since she's my opposite, my inner transwoman balked at some of Min's distaste for the things I want so dearly.  I was reminded of something Data said to Spock on Star Trek: "In effect, you have abandoned what I have sought all my life."  But I can still relate to it in more general terms.  The cis people in the book ask a lot of the same questions and make the same anti-trans arguments I hear in real life.  Min's own inner debates mimic mine.  I really feel for her, and there were times the book made me cry.

Since this book was written by an Australian author and takes place in Sydney, it was neat seeing the little differences between American and Australian culture.  It was even more interesting seeing how much was the same.  Most of the time life was so similar that I forgot this was taking place on the opposite side of the world.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I aside from having to google a few words now and then, nothing really confused me.

If you are trans, you will find a lot of familiar things in this book, and may even find it life affirming.  If you are cis, you may come away understanding trans people a little better.  There’s a positive message at the end that’s so powerful, I really wish everyone would read this book.

This series is such a joy to read that I'm giving them the greatest compliment I can give an author:  I'm not taking them off my Kindle when I'm done reading them.  I know I'm going to read them again someday, probably soon enough that I don't want to have to redownload them. They're worth reading, and reasonably priced.  But... do try to read them in the right order.

I still need to read Flesh and Blood.  It takes me a long time to finish a book, and Dooland tends to be a little verbose (in a good way), so it might be a couple of months.  But I will post here when I'm done.