Thank You.

Dear Readers-

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, it’s natural that we take time to reflect on what we are grateful for. However you may feel about the origins of the holiday itself, it’s a good thing that we sanction thankfulness at least once a year. So —

First of all a thank you. I hit 16,000 views this week! What a wonderful milestone. You all are the best.

Despite the climbing number of views, I often wonder whether the things I say here actually reach people. I wonder if anything makes folks think– there isn’t a lot of dialogue, so it’s easy to think that no one really considers it much at all. Sometimes when I struggle with an idea for a post, I wonder if anyone would be sad if I stopped writing.

But then sometimes you get a note like this. A Crossfit friend of mine messaged me this on Facebook the other day:

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I am so touched. Not only because she had no need to go out of her way to say anything, but also that someone would connect their experience with mine, despite being very different in reality.

I am thankful for every person who approaches life and lessons as open-minded as this friend. I have more faith in the world now.

I’ll post my response here:

darling-

thank you. Your kind words mean a lot. The struggle for authenticity is a real one, whether it’s because you’re trans, or queer, or leaving a religion or a culture behind. It’s all the same struggle. If only other humans would recognize and acknowledge that, we would be a hell of a lot more empathetic as a society. Thank you for seeing that our struggles and our triumphs are the same because we are human.

-b

Thank you all. Be most excellent to each other.

Living Stealth: A Guest Blogger and His Choice to Remain Secretly Trans

Dear Readers–

It has been a while! I have been going through some life stuff lately (a new job, new relationship, new hair cut, etc.) and have been busy.  In my time away, I asked a friend of mine who is trans if he would be interested in guest posting.

Before I leave you with his post, a little primer on the concept of living “stealth” as a trans person.  Some trans folks (like me!) choose to be very public about their transition, for varying reasons.  Myself, I have always been pretty much an open book. Plus, social media, like, exists. Also, I really like being able to dialogue with folks about gender and sexuality stuff. I don’t see myself as a “Man,” I see myself as a trans person who happens to prefer to look more male than not. As such, there is no way I could ever present myself not as a trans person, at least in my more meaningful interactions with people. I don’t just announce my trans status to my barista, for example, but all my coworkers and crossfit gym friends know, and I’ll tell any new friend I meet pretty much right away.

I am lucky, though. I “pass,” which means that I have a choice in the matter. For many trans people, especially trans people of little means (usually trans women of color, hence much of the epidemic of violence against them), passing is not an option, so they are “out” as a trans person whether they wish to be or not.

On the other hand, some trans folks prefer to be what we call “stealth.” This means that you do not disclose your trans status publicly at all. And likely it means that very few people (i.e. spouse, parents, siblings, etc.) know at all. And yes, this is also a very privileged position.

I have always struggled with the idea that one can be trans and stealth. I feel very much like trans people should be open about their transness (except in circumstances where violence is likely to occur, of course) because in being open, we are visible, and in being visible, we cannot be ignored.

But I also recognize that I am coming out as trans in a very different time. Without further ado, here is a blog post from a stealth friend. I hope that in reading it, you have empathy for those of us that have to hide, for whatever reason. As always, be most excellent to each other.

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Why I Choose to be Stealth

I’m not sure that I would choose to be stealth if I were coming out as trans today—in fact, in the age of the internet and social media, I am not sure how anyone transitioning now as an adult really can be stealth without vestiges of their previous life somehow catching up to them. But I transitioned before the era of social media, so by the time I created my Facebook and Instagram accounts, I had been living as a man for years. I’m thankful that there are no pre-transition pictures or videos of me floating around the internet to come back and haunt me.

I’m not sure how much easier it is to transition now, but transitioning when I did came at great personal cost—and not just monetarily. Coming up with $8,000 for surgery, therapy, and other transition-related expenses was difficult for me as a college student. I worked nearly sixty hours per week throughout college to pay for surgery, so transitioning effectively prevented me from having what I thought of as a “real” college experience… but even the fact that I could figure out how to save that kind of money and how to navigate the medical system meant that I had significantly more access than most young trans people, then or now. That I was even in college to begin with meant that I was in a privileged position. I’m aware of that.

I needed to transition and I cannot even imagine what my life would be like now if I hadn’t. I was lucky enough not to be suicidal, but I had no vision of myself living into even my 30s until I was well into my transition. That said, transition has still been a huge source of loss for me.

Coming out as a lesbian a few years before transitioning had already greatly eroded my relationship with my family; transitioning demolished the little that was left of those relationships. To my parents’ credit, they never cut me out of their lives entirely, but it took more than another decade for my parents to start treating me like a full member of the family again. When I had top surgery at 20, we jointly agreed that they wouldn’t fly out to be with me. They said I was making a mistake by transitioning and couldn’t bring themselves to support me having surgery, so I took care of myself.

Years later, two of my grandparents died in the same year and I was not invited to either funeral: my parents had never let me tell my extended family that I’d transitioned and my appearance at the funerals would have embarrassed them. It didn’t matter that I, too, was mourning my grandparents’ loss and wanted closure. Again, I took care of myself.

A decade after I began living as a man, they finally consistently used my correct name and pronouns. By then, I had been taking care of myself for years and whatever trust had existed between us was irreparably broken. I love my parents and I sometimes even like them, but I will never really be able to trust them again. I think the same is true from their end: they love me, sometimes like me, and will never completely trust me.

In addition to losing my place in my family, I also lost friends who couldn’t understand why I felt the need to transition. That included basically everyone who wasn’t trans. Because my parents were still living in my hometown and didn’t want anyone to know I’d transitioned, I lost contact with all of my childhood friends.

I lost a lot in transition, but I also gained two incredible things: a body that I don’t hate and the ability to simply live my life as the man I know myself to be. Unfortunately, I also know we still live in a world in which being out as trans would mean not really being considered a man.

Because cisgender people always assume that I’m also cisgender, they feel comfortable saying things in my presence that they would never feel comfortable saying in front of me if they knew I’m trans. So I know that, despite the recent visibility of trans people in the media, most cisgender people’s understanding of transgenderism hasn’t really changed much at all.

Cisgender people are still obsessed with genitalia and think that a person’s genitals tell them important things about who that person is. And cisgender people still cannot decouple sexual orientation and gender identity enough to “get” how a person could transition and become gay… or how some trans people are actually also straight.

I know that, if I were out as trans, cisgender people would question everything I do that challenges conventional notions of masculinity or manhood and ascribe those interests and activities to me having been raised as a girl, though that couldn’t be further from the truth. I picked up my “feminine” interests and activities many years into manhood. For me, being out as trans would mean feeling pressured to reinforce traditional notions of masculinity in order to be taken seriously as a man. It’s ironic how even cisgender people who vocally oppose gender stereotyping are often perfectly comfortable questioning the manhood of a transman who wears nail polish or the womanhood of a transwoman who cuts her hair short.

And, in my experience, cisgender people believe they have a right to know the gender that someone was assigned at birth because they ascribe tremendous meaning to birth gender. Heck, people celebrate “knowing” a baby’s gender months before it’s born… and years before it gets any say in the matter. Many cisgender folks still believe in the technicalities of gender… that a penis technically means something and that a vagina technically means something completely different. It’s all so technical and scientific, you know?

If cisgender people ever stop ascribing meaning to my birth gender and making absurd assumptions about me because I transitioned, I might feel more comfortable telling them that my birth certificate bore an “F” and that I did, in fact, transition. I’m waiting for a world in which being trans has about as much significance as being left-handed or having red hair does, because that’s about as much significance as being trans has to my identity most days. Until then, I remain stealth because I have no interest in letting them take my ability to live as a man—an ability I have paid dearly for—away from me. They have already taken enough.

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.

A Year in Review: My First Year on Testosterone

Today marks one year that I have been on testosterone.  I have identified as trans for over a decade (at least to myself) and had been thinking about it for years, but it was one year ago today that I got my testosterone prescription.

I remember walking out of the endocrinologist’s office with my prescription for AndroGel, a topical testosterone, and thinking “This is it.  Now I get to see what happens next.”  I used AndroGel for the first 5 months, and then switched to injections.  The changes were gradual at first, so much that I barely notice a difference in photos and voice recordings over the first few months.

And then suddenly– BOOM!  I got way stronger, I grew a beard, and my voice has changed significantly.

I have documented my emotional changes here and here.  I have discussed my physical changes here as well.

I’m still learning how to fit in, where my place is in the world.  I’m still learning how to fit into the queer community, how to navigate male culture. I still have a long way to go.  But looking at these photos, I see how far I have already come.  I am happy and I am ready for what comes next!

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50 Shades of Black and White

One of the most interesting things about my transition has been my emotional change.  I still haven’t turned into a raging Hulk or a crazed monster, which was honestly my biggest fear, so that’s good.

But, I have noticed a huge change in the way that I feel and process emotion. I had always heard that testosterone can turn a trans guy into kind of a dick.  As in, perhaps, insensitive, short-fused, or brutally honest, I suppose.  We will use “dick” as shorthand for all that.  It’s just faster to say.

So I was afraid T would turn me into a dick.  Although I would not consider myself an overly-emotional person pre-transition (thanks Scandinavian family!), I did  consider my “big heart” one of my best attributes. So, yeah, I didn’t want to lose that part of me.

Turns out, T doesn’t make you a dick.  It does, however, enhance some attributes which, if used the wrong way, I suppose could lead to dick behavior. So, like Ani DiFranco says, every tool is a weapon if you hold it just right.  In this case, every transguy can be a dick on T if he’s naturally-inclined to be so.

Anyway. I have noticed two really big emotional changes.  One I have written about already— I feel like my range and expression have drastically narrowed.

The other is that I have noticed a change in my ability to block emotion.  Otherwise phrased, my brain now can completely turn my emotions off, if it wants to.  Even if I didn’t say so.

Other trans friends of mine have described this as the thought process of a trans guy suddenly becoming more “black and white.” I either like something or I don’t. And I decide pretty quickly which is which. And it also turns out that once I make up my mind, I can’t really change it.

In my previous brain, there would be a conflict.  I would feel something, say a positive, loving emotion, toward something that my brain recognized was not a smart place to spend that emotional energy.  And there would be a conversation back and forth between emotions and brain.  And if brain relented, emotions could return as they had been.

Now, it’s totally different.  If I like something, and then there’s an event that changes things, suddenly I don’t like it any more. Not only is the change pretty drastic, pretty quickly, but I also can’t access those old feelings. I remember that they existed, but I can’t go back to feeling them.

SO WEIRD.  It’s like a safety mechanism, or something, but it feels very quick and dramatic for someone who is new at this.  Everything is an adjustment, and I’m still very much learning.

It’s been almost exactly a year on T.

Revisionist History: Talking About Life Pre-Transition

imageHow do you talk about your life before transition honestly?

For me, this is a hard question that could have real potential negative ramifications.

If I refer to myself in the past as a “little boy,” and then people find out later that I am trans, I run the risk of looking like an outright liar at worst, and perhaps disingenuous at best. I would hate for folks to think that I am purposely recasting myself in a way that might make me seem untrustworthy or, even worse, fake. I pride myself on being authentic in my life and I don’t want people to think my transition and my trans identity is not authentic.

There is also the concern for safety. If I refer to my past “when I was a little girl,” I out myself in a way that opens me up to attack, whether physical or otherwise.

This also would feel perhaps disingenuous. Truthfully, I never made a very good “little girl,” as defined by our culture. I never got that mold. And I am not just talking about wearing dresses or playing with dolls (nope to both). I never really identified with other girls, either. I tried to learn how to talk like a girl, care about girl things, get along with other girls, and I never did a good job. I never felt like I fit in, never really understood what the big fuss was ever about.

And this is not just about social gender roles and stereotyping. Even when I hung out with very non-normative women and girls, progressive women and girls, radical women and girls– I still felt like an other. I have learned to love women, and I have many women in my life that I love, but I was never one of them.

When I refer to my pre-transition life, especially my life as a child, I usually call myself a “kid.” You know, “When I was a kid, I loved to play four square with my friends…”
That sentence loses nothing by saying kid instead of girl. I was a kid. My gender assigned at birth changes nothing about the significance that four square played in my life.

But there are other situations that kid is insufficient for. When I talk about my 13th birthday party, when I invited over my “best girl friends” for a 1970s-themed slumber party, where we made tie dye t-shirts and watched “Now and Then,” that story might lose something if I say I had a bunch of other kids staying the night. There is something about that experience that I think cannot be explained by taking the “girl” element away, despite all my feelings about not really ever fitting in.

There’s also the aspect of my female socialization that, although perhaps ill-fitting at times, has been an unshakeable part of my personality that will never be undone. Being raised and socialized female taught me a compassion for other people that I doubt I would have otherwise. It taught me how to listen when others talk, how to help those in need, how to put other people’s needs above my own, and other things I probably won’t uncover for years.

I may not have fit in with my female past identity, but the lessons that socialization taught me will remain with me forever. I am still trying to figure out how to honor my past and the gifts it gave me, while taking time to de-emphasize gender in those moments when gender is irrelevant to what I am trying to convey. It’s an art, I suppose, and I am learning as I go.

If you are a friend or family member of a trans person, do try to be sensitive to talking about someone’s past. Try using gender neutral statements like “when you were little,” “when you were a child,” etc. Let the person define how they will discuss their childhood– and don’t be offended if they say they would prefer not to talk about it. Childhood can be very traumatic for trans people and if they haven’t yet figured out how to talk about it, they might just want to skip it altogether.

Remember, be most excellent to each other.

Top Surgery and the Nipple Double Standard

Friends:

Yesterday, I had what is known as “top surgery.”  Basically, a plastic surgeon took my breasts and turned them into a male-contoured chest.

I did not have big breasts to begin with, but 10 months of testosterone and lots of weight lifting made them even smaller.  Basically, I had what would be typical for a male breast reduction.

I went to see Dr. Brian Eichenberg in Temecula, California, which is about an hour and a half from Los Angeles.  He was amazing and so was his staff.  He was kind, respectful, and took every opportunity to show me that he understood and respected me.

The procedure was supposed to be a fairly simple one.  I went under IV sedation and local anesthetic (no general anesthesia, thank goodness) and the procedure was done in about 2 hours.  Immediately afterward I felt fine.  I wasn’t too groggy, and went to Jamba Juice for a smoothie to celebrate being able to eat again.

Then, about an hour after I got back to the hotel (the doctor wanted me and my nurse friend to stay overnight in case there were complications, and for a check up in the morning), we noticed that there was a blood stain on my compression vest.  The doctor had me in an ace bandage wrap, a binder, and I have two drains (one under each armpit) to collect the extra fluid from my chest.

So through the ace bandage and the binder we noticed a blood spot about the size of a quarter.  Christina, my nurse, went to go get water and some other supplies.  By the time she came back, the spot was the size of a coaster.  We immediately got into the car and went back to the doctor’s office.  They rushed me right in and the doctor came in to look.

Turns out, I had a small artery about the size of a human hair that was bleeding into my chest.  Because it was an artery, with every heartbeat it was pumping more blood into my chest.  Because I ate after the first surgery (doh!) the doctor had to call in an anesthesiologist to put me under general for the second procedure.  In the 30 minutes we waited for him to arrive, my chest swelled considerably.  It was tight and by the time I went under, I was in real pain.

Turns out, this is a complication that only happens in one out of every 8,000 or so procedures.  The doctor said he hadn’t had one happen in about 8 years.  Luckily, it was an easy fix.  They drained the fluid, cauterised the vessel, and put me back together.

Needless to say, I was WAY more out of it after the second procedure. General anesthesia is SO GROSS and leaves the worst taste in your mouth. Christina let me celebrate being done with an extra big Coke from Chipotle. I haven’t had a real Coke in so long!  The taste and the bubbles did the trick and I felt much, much better.

I spent the rest of the night getting up and down to empty my drains and take more meds, but slept okay.  Today, I woke up feeling like a whole new person.  I went in for my check up and got rave reviews.  Everything already looks amazing!

I have to keep the drains in for another few days and wear the binder for another two weeks.  But in the moments where I have glimpsed my chest in the mirror, it’s hard to believe what I see.  Is that really me?!

I have gotten a lot of questions from people about what it will be like to be able to go shirtless in public.  I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be weird.  After 31 years of being told to always keep my chest covered in public, it will be a power force to overcome.  I have been practicing around the house and in front of my friends, but no doubt it will still be strange for a long time.

This is the double standard of chests and nipples and nakedness for men and women.  Yesterday, at 8 am, I could have been arrested for walking around with no shirt on.  Today, at 8 am, it would have been perfectly acceptable and normal.  This is insane to me.  What is it about women that needs to be covered?  Men have nipples, too.  People sexualize men’s chests, too… just check out any Abercrombie bag, Calvin Klein ad, or an other ad aimed at men.

Are women’s nipples really so offensive?  What do we, as a society, think will happen if women suddenly go topless in public?  In Europe it’s no big deal, and they are still functioning just fine.  There are many societies in the world where women are topless on the regular and the earth keeps rotating.  We need to get over it.  We need to stop telling little girls to wear “training bras” (which are basically just under shirts) when they go outside but little boys roam free and shirtless.  Women should be able to wear bikinis or go topless if they want to at the beach or pool.

My nipples are exactly the same today that they were yesterday.  Is it all the fat and skin they took away that was so offensive?

#freethenipple

#LoveWon but We Have a #LongRoadAhead

I’m pretty sure you’ve heard that yesterday, the United States Supreme Freaking Court decided that gay people can get married in every state, and that states have to recognize all marriages performed in other states (not just heterosexual marriages, as was universally the case before).  Yay!

BUT. Obergefell v. Hodges  is not the final frontier for gay rights.

Far from it– yesterday’s decision is only the beginning.  First, there will be continued fights over the definition of parentage in states that seek to deny LGBT folks the right to foster, adopt, or second-parent a spouse’s kid(s).  (That fabulous op-ed linked below is by a former professor of mine, Doug Nejaime.)

There’s also the issue of what happens in the 29 states where it is legal for an employer to discriminate based on sexual orientation (32 states allow discrimination based on transgender status).  If a LGB employee in one of those states gets married, they’ll have to list that person as their spouse on their tax return if they file jointly. Employers can see that.  They’ll probably list their spouse on their employment documentation, too.  Employers will also see that.  If the employer is anti-gay, that could unwillingly out the employee and put them at risk of losing their job.

What if the person wants their spouse on their company health insurance?  Employers will definitely see that.  Hell, they might even be able to get away with denying the employee or their spouse benefits based on Hobby Lobby  and RFRA (ugh, SCOTUS).

Or how about the 33 states where it is legal for a landlord to refuse housing to LGBT people?  Obergefell  might have given us marriage, but we still have big things to worry about.

Add to all these problems the specific battles trans folk fight, like bathroom access, medical coverage, and protection from violence and abuse, the picture starts to look a lot less rosy.

I’m not trying to say we, as a nation, should not be celebrating yesterday’s win.  We DEFINITELY SHOULD.

But we need to remember that the fight continues for many of us who are poor, or live in a state that is not on the West Coast or in New England, or are not white, or are not male, or are not cisgender, or are incarcerated, or are a minor with conservative parents that want to send us to gay conversion therapy, or any number of other intersectionalities that marriage does not help.  And please, if you are gay or lesbian and yesterday’s ruling solved all your problems, please, please, please keep fighting for the rest of us.  We are going to need you.

#BeExcellentToEachOther

Love is a Verb

Today is Fathers’ Day, which is always a bittersweet day for me. On the one hand, as I get older, more of my peers become fathers and I get to watch them grow and learn as they teach a little person how to be a human.  I am happy to say that the friends I have that are fathers all seem to be doing a pretty good job.

The sad part is that I do not celebrate my own father on this day.  He and I have not had much of a relationship for a long time– probably 10 years now or so.  After my parents divorced, my dad found a community in an evangelical congregation in Texas, and he has become progressively more religious ever since.  It is to the point where you cannot even have a conversation with him– every fourth sentence is a non-sequitur about God or Jesus, such that it is more like talking to God’s automated phone service more than another human.  Every conversation ends with “I’m praying for you.”

I came out to dad as a lesbian back when I was 17 years old.  He’s even met a few people I have dated. But he never, ever would discuss it, never asked about how my love life was, or if I was happy. His strategy was just ignore.

So our communications have been reduced to a bi-annual “I love you. I’m praying for you.” email for the last few years.  A few weeks ago, the email came, same as always, except this time noting that he and his wife were now back in Texas, after a brief stint in Hawaii.

I had been wondering whether I would tell him I am trans.  His email caught me in a capricious mood, so I decided to tell him.  I explained what I was doing, why I was doing it, and I asked him to please refer to me as “Bennett” and use he/him pronouns.  I also included a recent photo, so he had some context.

The response was: “I hope you don’t care if I still call you Annie. I love you. Dad.”  And he included a photo of me in a dress, when I was about 3 years old.

I waited about 15 minutes before responding to him.  I told him that his email completely ignored everything important about what I had told him.  I told him that if you love somebody, you respect them.  Love is a verb.  By completely ignoring what I’d said, he was not being respectful, or loving.  I told him he could call me Bennett, or he was free to not call at all.

Being a father, or a parent generally, should be about love as a verb.  The words mean nothing if you don’t acting in a loving, respectful way.  Your kids aren’t going to turn out to be everything you want them to be.  They’re individuals.  But you love them anyway, because they’re yours.

Happy Fathers Day too all you dads (and the caregivers that have to be moms and dads both) and remember to be most excellent to each other.

Things You Probably Shouldn’t Say to a Trans Guy When He’s #Passing

Greetings fair Readers! A friend of mine sent me a Buzzfeed article written by a transgender guy about things people say to him that he takes issue with.  I read it and laughed, but had a different take some of the comments than he did.  So I thought I would write my own version of this list, and invite you Readers to comment.

But first, a story: I was at the tattoo shop the other day getting a “XX” on my lower left hip.  The shop I went to is a great place in East Hollywood where I got my barbell tattoo done.

The XX has several meanings– (1) my chromosomes are xx, I’m a xx boy, (2) XX is a target for my weekly injections (xx marks the spot!), (3) XX is the rune symbol “inguz,” which symbolizes male sexuality and creation.

So I am getting my XX tattoo and the artist never asks why or what it means.  He’s a nice guy, softspoken, calls me “bro.”  Somehow, during conversation, the subject of Catilyn Jenner comes up.  The tattoo artist turns to me and says “What do you think about that, Bro?”

I was at a crossroads– do I out myself? Do I stay quiet? I weighed the options, and seeing as how we were almost done at the shop, I figured it wasn’t worth the time or energy to get into it.  So, I simply said “I think it’s pretty amazing and brave of her to be who she is.”  And he paused for a moment, then said “Yeah, I guess it is pretty brave.”

The person I brought along with me on this adventure pulls out her cell phone and texts me “#passing.”  Indeed! #passing!

So now that I’m #passing, I have noticed more of the comments that the Buzzfeed transman discussed.  These are the few that happen most frequently to me.  If you meet a trans guy (or if you’re talking to me), think before you say any of the following:

1. “Wow! You’d never know you’re trans!” I am certain that I am guilty of having at least thought  this before, if not actually said it, before and since transitioning. It’s hard for me not to think this sometimes when I meet another trans person who #passes really well.

But in reality, what this implies is that the trans person is somehow trying to “fool” or “play a trick” on everyone, and if they’re passing, then they have succeeded. It also overemphasizes the physical aspects of transitioning as a way of validating someone’s trans identity.

All trans people are not able/willing/desiring to #pass, and we need to get over our obsession with this being a measure of true transness.

2. “But, who are you going to date?” Um, people?  I generally prefer to date humans.  Seriously though, what does this question mean? I am a queer person, who dates other queer people of all manner of stripes.

I generally try to date people that are attracted to me, want to hang out with me, and that I feel the same way about– isn’t that how anyone finds someone to date?

3. “What was your real name?” We talked about this.  If I want you to know, I’ll tell you.

4. “You’ve got a _______ _______ than me!” This could be “better beard,” “bigger arms,” deeper voice”, etc.

The part of that sentence that you’re not saying is “… and I’m a real dude, not some fake dude!” It’s insulting, and it makes it seem like all the hard work that I have put into shaping myself has been to create a costume, rather than it being me realizing my potential.

Us dudes comes in all shapes and sizes and origin stories.

5. “So what do you do when you have sex?” If you would not walk up to the cashier at the grocery store and ask them this question, then don’t ask me.

6. “What was wrong with being a butch lesbian?” Well, the word lesbian is one you only apply to women, first of all, a group to which I have never really considered myself to belong.

This isn’t about being butch or femme, it’s about so much more.  I can be femme even in my new more male body, just like I could be butch in my more female version of my body. Being a butch lesbian still makes you a woman, which I am not.

7. “If you sleep with men, doesn’t that just make you a straight woman?” Nope.  If you can’t figure out why this isn’t true, then I have taught you nothing. 🙂

Next post: things you can ask….