Beards and Vaginas: You Can Have it All!

I stumbled across this ad on Instagram yesterday for a dating site called LumberMatch, whose header on its website actually says: “Men all over the world are growing their beards, getting tattoos and styling their hair.  There are people all over the world who love guys like us.”

IMG_7152First of all, it sounds pretty stupid if you ask me. Men are growing beards, getting tattoos, and styling their hair? Um, yes? Because men are people and people do these things? Such a weird thing to say, isn’t it? Anyway, if you can get past the idiocy of the premise of LumberMatch, you might be lucky enough to see an ad like this.

Yup, this is totally true. Some of us shave both, actually.  But let’s make it clear– I don’t shave ALL of my face. Just around the edges of my totally badass trans beard, to keep it neat.

Yeah, I have a badass beard. I also have a vagina. I’m transgender. My anatomy does not dictate my gender, and my beard is just as real as a cisgender man’s beard. In fact, my beard is better than a lot of cis guys’ beards. But really, who is keeping score?

This ad is offensive for a lot of reasons, but I’m going to stick with the first 3 that come to mind:

1. It’s ignorant of and offensive to trans men. It implies that you can’t have both a manly beard and a vagina. This is simply untrue, as me and the multitude of other beardy trans guys evidence.

2. It’s misogynist. The tone of this ad is very woman-hating or at least woman-shaming, implying that vaginas are the antithesis of what beards represent. Beards are rugged and tough. Vaginas belong where beards don’t– on the not-rugged, not-tough.

I’m not sure that the folks who created this ad have ever come in close contact with a vagina, because if they had they would know that the vagina is one of the toughest, strongest, most resilient things on the planet. Vaginas have withstood intrusion and examination and attempted control and hate and scrutiny for a few millennia and still keep going. They are strong. They are wonderful. They are tough with or without beards. They are quietly powerful.

3. It shames men for things they can’t control. Beards are a product of genetics, plain and simple. Beards spring from DNA, not a hidden hot spring of masculinity. Plenty non-masculine folks can grow amazing beards, while many very rugged guys have little to no facial hair at all.

Your ability to grow a beard says nothing about your character, your strength, or your ability to kill a bear with your own hands. It means you have DNA. Congratulations. Thinking that something so arbitrary makes one manly is silly– that would be like saying that someone with Hitchhiker’s Thumb is somehow more naturally masculine. It’s not, though it makes it that much easier for apeish, misogynistic a-holes to stick it up their own butts.

Seriously, though. Stop equating facial hair to superiority and vaginas to weakness. We can do better.

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The Fragility of Masculinity

I saw a post on Buzzfeed the other day about gendered products and how they show the fragility of masculinity.  It was hilarious. Really, if you haven’t seen it, you should see it. GO HERE.

It’s important to laugh, but also to recognize that these ridiculous things make money. Believe me, companies wouldn’t do it if it didn’t make money. Which means even though we laugh, we are buying it. If you have kids and you’ve ever wondered where they get some of their ideas about gender (“because I would never tell my child that only boys/girls could do ____”), looking at these products might be a reminder of how gendered the world is and how much you can’t filter that out.

But you know what? I have found myself falling for it too. I bought lotion the other day, I bought the “MAN” lotion. I tell myself it’s because it doesn’t smell flowery, or like a grandma. At least the “MAN” lotion smells better. But even if it was scent-free, I probably would still pick the man lotion. Ugh.  I went to visit friends recently and they confessed they spent 5 minutes trying to decide which color shower pouf to buy for me because they didn’t want to give me something “girly.” And then we laughed another 5 minutes about how ridiculous that is.

The fragility of masculinity is why, I think, people are so afraid of trans folks.  Trans women prove that masculinity can be undone. It is possible to actually shed yourself of all that makes up “manhood” and to become the ultimate picture of femininity. See, e.g. Janet Mock, Laverne Cox, Caitlyn Jenner, Chloie Jonsson. Is it because there’s proof that masculinity is not unassailable? And that if someone like a CHAMPION ATHLETE AND OLYMPIAN could embrace and embody their femininity, then it could happen to anyone?

And to be sure, trans men get their share of it too. I get SO MANY comments from cisgender men like “OMG your beard is even better than mine…” or “Wow, you can bench press more than me….” said in a tone of voice that indicates the speaker is realizing that masculinity is not something that is only inborn. It can be attained. It can be chosen– and it can be disregarded. How incredibly scary that must be for someone who is used to just thinking that they have some kind of natural advantage because they’re born male.

I mean, for some dudes, their maleness is the only real thing they have.  Our entire culture is built on this idea that biologically, males are naturally superior to females. When we start shaking that idea down, pointing to people who don’t want it, don’t need it, or gained it through taking some generic hormones, and those people who have nothing else to cling to, they can’t handle it. If they recognize that even that could be broken, undone, or simply put on, then they have nothing.

Truth is, all those products pictured in the Buzzfeed article showed us just how delicate masculinity is and has been for a really long time.

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Interestingly enough, chemically, masculinity is VERY fragile.  I went to a 1/2 dose of testosterone for 3 weeks, and in that time I lost strength, became tired and grumpy, and generally felt pretty terrible.  Recently went back to old dose and feel 100000000000000 times better almost immediately.

See? It’s fragile. Let’s break that shit to pieces and recognize that it all means nothing and definitely doesn’t make anyone superior.

Waking Up Spider-Man

tobey-maguire-cap-1 One question I get from people often is “How do you feel?” Meaning, “Hey, you’re going through a lot of things right now and your body is changing. What’s that like?”

The best analogy I have come up with is that it feels like waking up as Spider-Man. You know, the scene in the movies where Peter Parker, having just been bitten by the radioactive spider, wakes up and realizes he is not only strong, but that he can do things he never dreamed possible.

No, I don’t have magic wall-climbing abilities and I cannot shoot web stuff out of my wrists (I’m also still not crazy about heights), but I do have this sensation every day where I never know what will happen next.

Taking testosterone has caused a lot of things about me to change, but one thing that is the most obvious is that I have put on quite a bit of muscle since I started last August.  In fact, I have gained 23 pounds! I recently had a body scan done at the gym (which is something I never would have been excited about before transition), and I am down to 16.1% body fat, putting me in the 20th percentile for guys my age.

AMAZING!

Not only do I feel stronger almost every day, I also am unlocking new abilities weekly. I do CrossFit, which if you don’t know, involves a menu of probably hundreds of different exercises/lifts/movements that you do in your workouts. I have been crossing things off my CrossFit “bucket list” like crazy! Handstand push-ups? Done! Pistol squats? No problemo! I also have seen my 1-rep-max Olympic lifts go through the roof.

An example: In August, I could bench press 135 lbs. It was less than my body weight, but pretty respectable for a female.  In May, I did a 205 lb. bench press twice. Incredible!  My front squat went from 160 lbs. to 235 lbs. My back squat went from 180 lbs. to 255 lbs.

Where I used to feel like I was hitting a plateau in terms of my strength and ability, now I succeed almost every time I go to do something I have never done before. I’m stronger, faster, and leaner. I have more energy and generally feel pretty fantastic. I may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, but I am okay with that– every day it’s like I’m waking up Spider-Man.

It’s Getting Hot in Herrrrre

I have been talking to a lot of people about my transition lately, and more than a few times people have told me: “You need to write a blog!” I have tried this whole blogging thing (like when I moved to Brooklyn to become a public high school teacher) and I found that while I started with a bang, I clearly lost steam due to lack of interest, lack of time, lack of sleep, or what is more likely to be a combination of all these things. I recognize that all these factors still exist, in some form, in my life now. The difference, though, is that trans stuff is so in right now. And I don’t mean that to sound vain or flippant– I mean that honestly. Bruce Jenner? Aydian Dowling on Ellen and the cover of Men’s Health Magazine? Laverne Cox gets her own TV show? TLC specials about trans kids? Transgender issues are really having a moment in our popular culture right now, and perhaps this is one instance in which I actually have something to say on a topic that is also relevant. And so, with that, I begin. Here’s a post that can be filed under “weird stuff that happens to you when you start taking testosterone.”One thing I have very recently noticed is that I am REALLY HOT ALL THE TIME. Like, not hot-synonymous-with-attractiveness, I mean hot as in HOLY SHIT IT’S HOT IN HERE, TURN THE FAN ON.

I admit, I am not sure when this trend began. I have been on testosterone for a little over 9 months now. I only noticed this temperature thing in the last few weeks. It’s possible this is a new development (like the “Oh yay, back zits!” moment I had yesterday), but its also possible that I have only noticed this recently because I have just started sharing my personal space with cisgender women (born female, identify as female) again.
But now I have to back up– I was in a long-distance relationship for about 10 months (the relationship was 3+ years long, it had been long distance for 10 months), so I wasn’t having women in my house close enough to me for me to realize I was really hot. The only creatures I shared my living space with were my 4-legged children (I will surely talk about these later), and they all have fur coats on, so they wouldn’t know the difference.
But recently, I have been dating again, and thus have been physically closer to cisgender women than I have been in a long time. And I just had a friend move in for the summer and his fiance is around a lot. Anyway, all this is to say that I have no idea ​if I have only recently become hotter, or if I have only recently noticed it. I find myself turning on the fan, only to notice other people in the room shivering. The thought of wearing much more than underwear makes me start to sweat. DEAR GOD WHAT IS HAPPENING TO ME???
It was a high of only 70 today, and for most of the day it was breezy and overcast. It started off as a day that reminded me of Seattle, ​the kind of day where I used to spend my whole day drinking warm coffee and feeling chilly in my bones. So I wore slacks and a lightweight flannel dress shirt to work, and I walked instead of riding my bike because I wanted to enjoy the weather.
I only had to walk about 2 blocks before I was sweating my ass off and rolling my sleeves up. I used to always be the cold one– the one who wore jeans in the summer time and never forgot to bring a jacket to the movies. ​Now I can go see a movie at night time, wearing only a tank top on my torso and nothing else, and be totally comfortable. WTF​ testosterone? ​How am I even going to handle summer in LA?