Sunday, March 27, 2016

Clocked - The Honesty of a Child

Being a part of any new group often requires learning a lot of new terminology.  You get on a trans-related board for more than a few minutes, and you'll see people toss around words like MTF, clocked, TERF, deadname, cisgender, dysphoria, stealth, passing, genderqueer, misgender, etc.  Most of them you'll figure out through context.  Some are inflammatory and can incite anger if you misuse them.

I'm not very active in the trans community, so I tend to learn these terms slowly.  I just recently came across the term "clocked", and at first I mistook it to mean the person got punched.  As it turns out, it means they didn't "pass".  In other words, they were recognized as their birth sex instead of the gender they were attempting to present.  Which, to be fair, can feel a lot like being punched.

Back in 2007, I dressed en femme to Nashville Pride in Centennial Park.  I hadn't dressed out very much, and I was very nervous about going out in public that way.  But Pride seemed like one of the safest places to do so.  Now when I say "safe", I don't just mean I was worried about getting physically attacked (though it is a genuine fear), I also mean psychologically safe.  Pride is a such an accepting, celebratory atmosphere that I thought I could handle it.

I wore a red-ish wig, which isn't a good color for me, but I liked it and this was a special occasion.  I shaved my legs, wore a skirt, a girdle, blouse, and a lightly stuffed bra.  I still wish I looked more feminine, but I loved how the outfit felt.  It felt like me.  It felt like coming home.

We parked as close as we could to the festival, but it was still a good walk across the park.  On the way there, I passed several park-goers who weren't there for the festival.  I could feel them staring at me.  Whether they really were, who knows.  But one thing I didn't imagine - I heard a child ask her mother, "Why's he dressed like that?"  The parent replied, "Don't stare at him, honey."  There weren't any other people around they could have been talking about.  I'd been clocked by a child.

So my true self looks like a disguise, a disguise so bad a child could see through it.  I didn't see how old the girl was, but she sounded young enough to believe in Santa Claus.  A kid that young will believe that's the real Goofy at Disneyland, but a man in a dress breaks her suspension of disbelief.  I think that says something about our society, and how early we push gender roles on our kids.

That incident was like a slow acting poison.  The moment it happened I was hurt, but I let it go because it was a fun day and there was a lot to see and do.  But ever since then, it's one of those things I keep remembering over and over.  It is easily the strongest memory I have of that day.  I can't fault the kid - it's their job to ask questions, and learn about the world.  I bear no ill will toward the mother, who was likely caught off guard and didn't know what to say.  There's no villains here.  There's just me and my issues, my lack of self esteem, my disconnect between mind and body, and my inability to let little things go.

It makes me feel better to wear dresses.  But it makes me feel worse to get stared at.  My fears of being clocked outweigh the benefits I feel from dressing out.  And that's why I don't.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Find Some Other Way To Feel

So... a few nights ago I cried myself to sleep.  It wasn't just crying, either; it was outright sobbing with a bit of thrashing for good measure.  For a minute there, it was a right proper temper tantrum... albeit a quiet one, so as not to wake my wife sleeping downstairs.  I've been feeling very transgender lately, and I have no outlet.  I keep thinking about what I don't have, what I've never had, what I'll never have.  I might be able to handle it if it weren't for all the other stresses we have right now, but when everything goes bad at once I just can't hold on.

As a coping mechanism, I'm reminded of a scene from Daria.  In the episode "The Misery Chick" (S01E13), a student dies, and the other students find their own ways of dealing with the loss.  At the end of the episode, Sandi (one of the Fashion Club) walks up to Daria and asks her how to stop feeling so sad.  Daria charges her ten dollars up front, then we have this exchange:
Sandi: So like, what's your advice?
Daria: Find some other way to feel. Then you won't feel sad. Good luck.
Sandi: That's what I get for ten dollars? Are you kidding?
Daria: See, it's working already.
Sandi: [pause] Thanks.
It sounds like Daria swindled her, but it was actually genuine advice.  For the few seconds Sandi was mad at Daria, she wasn't thinking about the dead student, or any other problems.  All she could think about was how Daria took her for ten dollars. 

I have to keep my mind busy.  Right now I've got a vacation coming up, and I'm going to keep my mind focused on it as much as possible.  When I get back, I'm going to focus on fixing the house.  If I'm busy with that, I don't have time to sob about the things I can't fix.

I hate to say "count your blessings" because it sounds trite and has Christian overtones.  But it's still a good idea to dwell on what you have, not what you don't.  So here's a list of positive things in my life.

1. I'm married to an incredible woman.  She's smart, strong, and she impresses me on a daily basis.  I'm still amazed that she stayed with me when I came out as transgender.  It upset her, and there were some rocky moments, but she took the time to understand me and actually gave me support.  It's hard to find people like that.  She stayed with me for all those years we were living paycheck-to-paycheck, constantly worrying about paying the bills.  She could easily have gone off with some rich guy, but she picked me.

2. I'm nowhere near being homeless or hungry.  Recently we were discussing "what is wealthy" on a message board I frequent, and the consensus was that it's a relative thing.  Most wealthy people don't consider themselves wealthy, but they're often jealous of the "wealthy" people across the street (who only make slightly more money than they do).  I doubt many people would consider me wealthy, but there are a ton of people who would envy what I have.

3. I have enough toys to keep me entertained for years.  Too often we're mad because we can't afford the newest video game or that we can’t buy every DVD we see.  But my house is crammed with movies that I love to watch over and over.  My Steam account has hundreds of games I still enjoy playing.  And my hobbies are relatively cheap - you can play D&D with just paper, pencils and dice.  If I were never to buy another new toy again, I’d still have plenty to keep me busy.

4. My cats are awesome.  Well, all pets are awesome, but mine are better than yours, nyah nyah nyah.

5. I have very supportive friends and family.  I'm not as close to them as I should be - blame my introverted nature - but they're always willing to help when I need it.

6. I have a decent job.  Yeah, I should be a lot farther in life, but I enjoy my job and it has some decent perks.   If it wasn’t such a good job, I wouldn’t be able to take this upcoming vacation.

7. They're making Star Wars movies again.  And so far they're actually good.  Star Wars may have saved my life once, years ago, when I was extremely depressed.  No matter how bad things got, I always knew I couldn't die before the prequels were completed.  It didn’t matter how good or bad the movies were, I just had to see the whole story on film.  And now?  With Disney owning the rights, there might be new Star Wars movies until the end of time.  I’m going to have to look into immortality; I don’t want a little thing like death to keep me from seeing all of them.

8. Transgender rights are gaining acceptance.  Yes, there's still a lot of bigots out there, but things are a lot better than they used to be.

9. The Cheesy Gordita Crunch.  Greatest invention since the telephone.  Scratch that, I hate phones.  Greatest invention since the automobile.  Wait, I also hate cars.  Greatest invention since the Super Nintendo.  There we go.

As long as I concentrate on the above list, I have no excuse to be mopey.  I’ve got problems plenty, but blessings more.

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." - Philippians 4:8 you never thought I'd end a blog with a bible verse.  Don't worry, I'm still an atheist; it just seemed an appropriate quote.  Happy thoughts!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


When I go clothes shopping with my wife, she thinks I get bored.  I'm not bored, I'm depressed.  I keep seeing all these thin, beautiful, female mannequins wearing things I'd like to wear.  I'm sad because I wish it was me trying on these clothes, and I wish I could look as good as the mannequin when I wear them.  Sometimes I have to distract myself just to keep from crying.  Sometimes I end up acting like a jerk just to speed things up.  Which just makes me hate myself more.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Gamergate, SJWs, Sexist Comics, Blah Blah Blah...

Of course by the time I report on something in this blog, it's long past being old news.

Gamergate was a controversy that started in 2014.  You can read the Wikipedia article here, but here's my completely biased summary:  A bunch of male gamers got offended when women pointed out that a lot of video games were sexist.  In order to prove that the gaming community wasn't sexist, these guys threatened to rape and kill several famous female gamers.

This movement spawned (or at least popularized) a few new internet terms, such as Social Justice Warrior and White Knight.  For the uninitiated:

Social Justice Warrior (SJW):  Anyone who isn't a misogynistic, racist asshole.  Or from the Gamergater point of view, an SJW is someone who won't stop whining about sexism, racisim, and other social issues.  It's basically a more modern variation of "politically correct."  For some reason SJW is considered a pejorative, even though both sides believe SJWs want to wipe out sexism and racism.  I guess if you're proud to be sexist and racist, SJWs represent a challenge to your worldview.

White Knight:  A male who believes in equality.  Or from the Gamergater point of view, a male who rushes in to defend a female in an internet discussion, who doesn't really believe what he's saying, but pretends to be a feminist because he hopes to get laid.  A Gamergater doesn't believe that any male could ever actually be a feminist, so any time someone with a male avatar speaks against Gamergate he must be doing it to impress the ladies.

All I want to know is:
What happened to geeks?

Seriously, guys, what is wrong with you?  When I was in high school, we wanted there to be more female geeks.  We loved our geek media, and didn't want to give it up, but we wanted girls to share it with. Girlfriends or platonic female friends, it didn't matter, we just wanted more acceptance of our hobbies.  Geek didn't become mainstream until years after I graduated.

Young geeks today just don't appreciate how well they have it.  In my high school, liking Star Trek immediately put you in a special category of students, the lowest end of the social totem pole.  When I think about how things have changed, I want to believe that things have gotten better.   I want to picture kids walking around openly wearing their sci-fi shirts.  I know there's still bullies, but when that bully is also wearing a Game of Thrones shirt, he's probably not picking on them for enjoying fantasy.

Girls are finally openly into video games. Now to be fair, when I was in high school back in the early 90s, I did know several girls that liked video games.  But they weren't into them.  The played them as a pastime, but they didn't talk about them or read the magazines or wear the hobby on their sleeve the way boys did.  But now girls are proud to wave their geek flag high.

Guys, this is what we wanted.  This was our goal.  We all hoped to one day marry a woman who would play video games with us.  So why are you trying to scare them off?

Look, guys, if you ever want to have a relationship with an actual woman, here's a tip:  Be a feminist.  And by feminist, I don't mean your uninformed misogynistic definition of the word.  I mean the real definition of feminist:  Someone who believes in the equality of the sexes, and recognizes that society makes life easier on males.  And when I say be a feminist, I don't mean just saying the words.  Research it.  Believe it.  Recognize your own privilege.  Don't get offended when people point it out to you.

But don't expect your feminism to make you special.  That's like wanting special treatment for not murdering someone.  Feminist is what you're supposed to be.  Don't tell women you're "not like those other guys".  Those "other guys" are assholes, and not being like them isn't some grand accomplishment that should immediately get rewarded with sex.  Not being a jerk is just the start of the journey, not the end.

What are you so worried about?  What do you think you're going to lose if video games become a little bit more feminist?  Are games going to be that much less fun just because the women wear more realistic armor?  Do larger breasts and g-strings really enhance gameplay?  Does adding the option to play as a female character lessen the experience, even when you're still allowed to play as a male character?

Look, I've never been a fan of censorship.  But we're not talking about censoring games, so much as enlightening programmers.  They have to realize that half of their target audience is female.  Making games that appeal to a broader audience can only increase their sales.  There's no downside here.  It's just a simple matter of adding more options.

More games should allow you to select your character's sex and skin tone.  If they want to include skimpy outfits, fine, but make them optional.  Give players more choices in customizing their virtual avatars, even in single player games.  A good game will draw players regardless of character design, so there's no reason to alienate half your audience with hypersexualized avatars.

I'll let you in on a secret - while my gender may be questionable, my sexual attraction is not.  I like women.  I appreciate nudity.  I'm not offended by skimpy outfits or sexual themes or even full-blown pornography.  But I don't need to see it everywhere I look.  In fact, nudity is actually sexier if I haven't been looking at it all day. 

Disclaimer:  I don't claim to be an expert on feminism, and the following paragraph is based solely on my own experience, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt.  But most feminist women I've talked to still like feeling sexy.  They enjoy playing attractive characters in video games.  They still like reading comics with sexy superheroines.  Most of them aren't even offended by nudity.

For many, it's just the amount that's the problem.  Let's look at comic books for a minute.  I'd say about 90% of female superheroes wear ridiculous outfits that would never be comfortable in real life.  They stand in positions that aren't humanly possible, and have body shapes designed more for porn than athletics.  Does it have to be 90%?  What if we invert that?  We can still keep the sexy women in skimpy outfits, but let's make them 10%.  Let the other 90% be a variety of body types, in a range of clothing styles.  There, you still get to see a little skin, and female readers have more characters to whom they can relate.

It seems like most of these artists really only understand how to draw one female body type.  They can draw all kinds of men, but every female is just Superhero Barbie in a different tight outfit. If I were in charge, every comic book artist would be required to read "Escher Girls" regularly.  They would also have to print out these two Shortpacked strips, poster size, and hang them on the walls of their office.

Good: Batgirl's 2014 Redesign
But the main thing is I want to see more female programmers and comic book artists. I want women involved in all aspects of design.  I want new female heroes designed with more practicality in mind - not at the cost of pizzazz, mind you, they are still super heroes.  But their suits would be more befitting of the athletes they are, instead of everyone looking like supermodels.

A lot of existing female costumes would get redesigned, but the ones for whom "sexy" is part of their main theme would stay sexy.  Catwoman would keep wearing slinky outfits, as sex is her theme almost as much as cats.  Poison Ivy might still wear skimpy foliage, since she's more into nature than modesty.  Power Girl would still have the biggest breasts in the DC universe, as that's part of her character and all body types should be represented.

Bad: Harley's Cheerleader Lingerie
But Harley Quinn can bloody well go back to her much superior original costume, so she actually looks like a harlequin again. Batgirl can keep the practical outfit she started wearing in 2014, the one that got caused such an uproar among misogynists.  I'm a little torn on Black Canary's stockings - they're kind of a signature for that character, but they're also very silly.  And Wonder Woman... well, she's had a ton of different outfits over the years, both good and bad.  Just pick one of the ones that doesn't look like a swimsuit.

But that's just if I was in charge.  Someone more feminist than me might come up with even more conservative designs.  We'd all object at first, but only because we're hardwired to hate change.  In a couple of decades, we'd be so used to the new outfits that the old ones would look ridiculous.  Heck, I was raised on Superman comics in which he wore his underwear on the outside.  It's only been a few years since they updated it, and I'm already so used to it that I wince when I see the older costume.

The bottom line is, it's not all about you.  You're not the only one reading these comics or playing these video games.  Making a few small changes to a product can double its audience.  Personally, I'm twice as likely to buy a comic book or video game if the main character is female, and I know I can't be the only one.  If the creators of media would just pay more attention to the world around them, they'd know how to increase sales and make the world more inclusive at the same time.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ain't No Party Like A Pity Party

When I first came out as transgender, about 10 years ago, I coped with it several ways.  I went to two psychiatrists, two psychologists, and a support group.  The psychiatrists prescribed me drugs for social anxiety.  This first pills I tried worked great, but had terrible side effects.  The next pills I tried did absolutely nothing, except more side effects.

The psychologists gave me someone to open up to, but never really gave me much advice.  It was helpful to get things off my chest, but for those prices I might have been better off telling my problems to my cats.  I finally stopped seeing the professionals when my insurance changed its pricing, making my copay too expensive to continue.  I guess the insurance companies think mental health is a luxury.

I only went to a few sessions of the support group.  They were good people, but the environment was just too depressing.  You put that many depressed people in the room, and the depression takes form, hanging in the air like a cloud.  I'm usually not very empathic, but just entering the room felt like walking through a mood-lowering fog.

But more importantly, there weren't any geeks there.  The other transwomen I spoke to only seemed to care about hobbies that are traditionally held by women.  That was so odd to me.  Geekdom is gender neutral these days (even if there are a lot of sexist geeks), but the local trans community only seemed to draw people who cared about clothes and knitting and such.  So while I could open up to people about my problems, I never found anyone with whom I could really connect.

Eventually I started playing D&D, and that became my therapy.  Playing a female for a few hours each week took place of dressing en femme, and while it wasn't much, it kept me from suicide.  But lately it just hasn't been enough.  Last night I couldn't sleep because I just kept thinking about... well, trans things.  I can picture myself as a woman walking around inside my skull, banging on the walls wanting to escape.  Wailing to be heard.  Collapsing in a heap, defeated.

My insurance has changed two or three times in the past 10 years; maybe it's time to look into whether psychology is once again viable.  But I don't know, it just didn't do much for me last time.  I could try the support group again, maybe there's geeks there now.   But sometimes dressing up just depresses me more...  I never found a look I found acceptable, and when I look in the mirror I just see a guy in drag.  All that does is makes me realize I'll never be where I want to be.

I think it would help if I had a friend to talk to, but none of my friends understand trans issues.  When I bring up these things in conversation, I can feel them getting uncomfortable.  Maybe I'm imagining that part, but I can tell you for sure that they don't understand what I'm going through.  The concept is alien to them.  But when I talk to other trans people, I just don't connect to them the way I do with my geeky friends.

I need to meet more trans geeks.  I need at least one really geeky transperson as a friend.  Hopefully one who shares my specific geek interests - Star Trek, Star Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, DC comics, Nintendo, etc.

The part the bugs me most is that even if I found the perfect friend to confide in, I don't have the slightest idea what I want to say.