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Gay affirmations

January 3, 2013

I recently met this man through mutual friends –let’s call him H– and we’ve already seen each other a couple of times. I still have no idea where this is going to lead, but I like him and he makes me feel really good. Part of it, of course, is that he makes me feel desirable, attractive and respected, but partly it’s because he makes me feel like a gay man.

This is confusing for me because it’s been a while since I’ve needed any sort of affirmation of my gender. Actually, I’ve always gotten uncomfortable when someone goes out of their way to prove they see me as a man; I’ve never even identified completely with the idea of manhood. And I used to scoff at phrases like “he/she makes me feel like a man/woman” –when pronounced by anyone, trans or not– because I thought a person’s gender shouldn’t depend on anyone but themself.

I felt this kind of validation for the first time when I went to a rather seedy gay establishment with several queer trans guys. Lots of men checked us out and even approached some of us, and it felt amazing because (in the words of a friend) “we stopped being seen as trans and began to be seen as hunks”. I didn’t engage with anyone there, but I left feeling super empowered, like I finally belonged. Later on, I made out with a friend and I was completely floored by the way our beards and leg hair rubbed together, and by the way he ran his fingernails across my body, which was so different from the light touch I had experienced with girls.

Spending time with H has been especially incredible because he’s always known I was trans, but it hasn’t been an issue. We’ve both talked about our pasts, including my transition, and he has seen me naked, but he’s never made me feel different. Partly it’s because he’s amazing, but I think my attitude helps, too: I’ve managed to embrace my body and history so my comfort kind of rubs off on others.

I finally feel like a gay man not only in theory, but in practice. I don’t really care about being A Man or not, but being a Gay Man –and being with gay men– feels just right. I love the way H caresses my beard and body hair, the way he holds onto my hand or shoulder on the street despite the occasional insult hurled against us, and the weight of his large hand on my back as we drift into sleep. I am thrilled by the idea of being someone’s gay lover, although I don’t want to get my hopes up because he’s too perfect to be true.

But I’m also scared by how good he makes me feel because it could end at any moment. I  guess love is always like that, though, and I just have the extra fear of feeling excluded from the gay world once again (which is silly because there will always be more men who are into me, like I wrote last week). I suppose cis gays feel this too, especially if they don’t resemble the “ideal” gay man, although they mostly don’t have a history of gender denial to throw into the mix.

I know I’m not alone in my feelings because they’re echoed in an article called “There’s No Pamphlet for the Kind of Sex I Have: HIV-Related Risk Factors and Protective Behaviors Among Transgender Men Who Have Sex with Non-Transgender Men”:

“All of the participants reflected on the sense of validation that having sex with a non-trans man could provide. Many suggested that this was particularly powerful for trans men in their early years of transition and that being sexual with a gay non-trans man could feel like the “ultimate affirmation” of one’s manhood. This led many participants to ponder the risks that they, and other trans men, were willing to take to receive this sense of affirmation.”

The risk-taking doesn’t resonate with me because I’m not willing to have unsafe sex (or even have safe sex with people I’m not attracted to), but many of the participants’ quotes are spot-on. It’s a very good read and it’s gotten me interested in sexual health among queer trans men (possibly something to work on this year?).

I wish us all a great 2013, with love, strength and energy to tackle our dreams.

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On a more positive note

December 27, 2012

When I wrote my last post I was feeling really down, but during the past few months I’ve been feeling much better so I owe you an update.

The last you heard of me, I was all “oh noez, no man will ever love me!”, even though a number of people kept telling me that there are cisgender gay men who date trans guys. I had a hard time believing it, despite the fact that several gay men had hit on me in the past — men who knew about my history. I was just stuck in a pessimistic mindset.

Out of curiosity, I posted a profile on a gay personals site, stating very clearly that I’d transitioned from female to male, and you know what? I got dozens of positive responses within days! I was astounded. I ended up leaving the site because I couldn’t get used to the anonymity (and the level of explicitness) but it was a huge confidence boost. At the same time I began to get busy with a few projects I’m passionate about so I managed to pull myself out of the rut.

Since then I’ve been flirting with several guys, both in person and on facebook, and I’ve been on a couple of dates. I’m still figuring out how and when to disclose my trans status, though: the guys I met in person had known up front, but I’ve been chatting with some men who don’t know and I’m curious to see how they’ll react. I think my self-esteem can handle the rejection now.

So I’ve finally learned what people have been telling me all along: the gay community isn’t particularly closed to trans men. It’s far from being a haven of body positivity (lord help you if you’re fat, old, or have dark skin) but I haven’t felt as excluded as I thought. I just stick to the most feminist and activist-y spaces within the community.

I hope everyone is ending their year on a positive note, too!

Feeling undesirable

September 4, 2012

I’ve been thinking about this quote by Néstor Perlongher (a gay Argentinean poet & activist): “We don’t want to be persecuted or discriminated against or killed or cured or analyzed or explained or tolerated or understood: we want to be desired.”

Lately, I’ve been feeling alternately sad and angry about the cis world, particularly the cis gay male community; I have lots of reasons to be angry, but right now I’m just sad because I feel left out. When I started transitioning, gay men smirked or laughed (or at least looked confused) when I expressed an attraction to guys: they left it very clear that I could never be “one of them”. Now that I “pass” as cis, people assume I’m a cis gay male when I’m in lgbtq spaces, but men still lose interest when they find out I’m trans. I don’t want to be part of a community which has so many problems with inclusion (not just trans inclusion), but I’m still attracted to men, and it would be nice to be desired.

I know that some cis men are ok with trans guys, but it’s hard to know who they are. My theory is that most men would answer “no” if asked “would you date a trans man?”, but that many would date a trans man if they found out after getting to know him. If that were true, I’d eventually find someone if I started hitting on large quantities of men. But it’s really tiring; every rejection gets me so down on myself that it takes months for me to regain confidence (plus, I suck at the art of flirting!).

It’s not only being trans that makes me feel undesirable: I actually love being trans, and I love my body, though it isn’t always easy in a (cis)sexist world. I don’t feel ugly, exactly, but I do know I’m not terribly attractive (because of my personality, my voice, my inability to dance…). I really identify with this quote by transartorialism: “…sometimes to me it feels like we build our primary bridges into (gender)queer communities by arching our backs in bed, and that makes it so much harder for those of us with bodies and minds and personalities that are not the model of desire in our “communities” and even less so on the outside.”

Most of the time I don’t mind being single; family and friends are enough. But every once in a while I see two men together and I feel a longing to have that for myself, and it saddens me to know that it probably won’t happen. Of course, the idea of finding someone is scary, too: I’ve grown wary of cis men, so I’m really apprehensive of trusting them with my body. I usually try to ignore the sadness until it goes away and proceed with life as usual; I wonder if I’ll every break the cycle and actually do something about it.

The weight of a name change

July 19, 2012

Argentina’s gender identity law went live over a month ago but I still haven’t changed my legal name and gender. I needed time to mull over the decision and do a little mourning, though I think I’m finally ready.

Every step of my transition was deliberate, carefully thought-out. I knew full well that I didn’t have to bind, or wear clothes from the men’s department, or take T, or have surgery unless I really wanted to (or needed to). Transness isn’t a package that you buy whole. And I know that my ID says nothing about me as a person: not changing it is a valid option. There are a few trans people in my life who are choosing to keep their old IDs even though they publicly transitioned years ago.

For me, changing my name legally is fraught with emotions, especially because I have to modify my birth certificate before updating anything else. In part, I feel like I’m erasing my past, dishonoring the person I’ve been, pegging myself like a butterfly in the little “male” box. It’s like reliving what I felt when I socially transitioned, and again when I physically transitioned. Once again, I have to remind myself that change is part of life, that it’s ok to move forward, that no change in appearance or documentation can take away my past without my consent.

On the one hand, correcting my ID is a no-brainer because I’ve been living as male for a long time and it’s worked for me so far; on the other hand, it feels like a big step because it’s my final one (I might get a hysterectomy eventually, but only if it’s medically necessary and it won’t be about transitioning). It’s the only thing left that marks me as visibly trans, and though being visible can be uncomfortable, it has its bright side too: some people are deeply moved by knowingly meeting a trans man for the first time and I’d like to think that the encounter makes them more trans-friendly. Having to share something so intimate has also brought me closer to some people, like teachers, who I might not have approached personally otherwise.

Ultimately, I know I need to change my documentation to function in daily life. I avoid situations where I need to show ID –like doctor’s offices– because it’s awkward and people get suspicious; at school I’m constantly afraid of discrimination and being “outed” without my consent. I guess I could handle it if I were more self-confident and willing to disclose, but I feel prepared to move on and save my fuel for other battles. I’m ready.

Big smiles

June 8, 2012

Argentina’s gender identity law went live this week, which means –among other things– that we can now easily change our name and legal gender. So exciting! On Monday, Facebook exploded with pictures and updates from happy friends who had gone to start their paperwork. Here are some photos from the news so you can get a taste of what it was like:

(clicking on the images will take you to the source)

I love how many people went in groups, and treated it as a celebration, not a mere administrative formality. I haven’t started my own paperwork yet, but I will soon :-)

Argentina’s Gender Identity Law

May 18, 2012

Image source: Télam

Have you heard about the new Gender Identity Law in Argentina?  It passed over a week ago, but I can still hardly believe it. Here’s why it’s so amazing:

–Anybody will be able to change the name and gender marker on their ID through a simple administrative procedure. That’s it. No need for a judge’s permission, no need for psychiatric approval, no need for any body modifications.

–People who do want to modify their body will have the right to have hormones and surgery covered by their health insurance (or by the public health system, if they’re uninsured).

–There’s a special clause to protect the rights of trans youths: if a kid’s parents were unsupportive, a judge would intervene in the best interest of the child.

This law was passed almost unanimously in the Senate last Wednesday (May 9th). Nobody voted against it, though one senator abstained from voting and several senators were absent, probably because they would’ve looked bad if they voted against (now, that’s cultural change — it’s finally frowned upon to be against trans rights!)

Every account of this law mentions that it’s the most progressive piece of trans-related legislation in the world because, among other things, it avoids pathologization completely (trans identities are not described as an illness). I’m really happy, not only for Argentina, but because it raises the bar for trans rights everywhere.

Also, I think it’s a source of hope — after all, Argentina doesn’t have a great history with trans issues. Just a few years ago, when I started transitioning, it was impossible to change your ID without genital surgery. During the 90’s, many trans women and travestis suffered and died due to police persecution. The statistics for trans people –unemployment, school drop-out rate, life expectancy– are still dismal. It goes to show that countries can change, though legal rights are just the beginning. Things can get better when there’s a large movement willing to take on the fight.

That’s another thing I love about this law. It doesn’t put trans people in a passive place of suffering, illness or victimization. It wasn’t written by doctors, psychiatrists or condescending allies. The text of the law was written largely by the trans movement. The very process of passing this bill acknowledged the trans community as a force to be reckoned with. All the large LGB organizations backed the law, but trans leaders and organizations were at the heart of the process. I find that very empowering. It’s a shift from a place of despair to a place of anger. Beware, enemies of “the trans”, lest you unleash la furia travesti!

Traveling while trans

January 26, 2012
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I’m about to undertake a journey that involves many “firsts” — it’ll be my first time traveling alone, my first time hosteling, my first time in places where I don’t speak the language… I’ve never been on such a long trip, nor have I ever strayed this far from home. I never thought I’d dare to do something like this — that is, until I transitioned.

I’ve had the opportunity to wander around the country in the past few years, both with family and with friends & classmates, so I’ve been able to see how my attitude towards travel has shifted throughout my transition. I loved vacationing as a kid, but it started to be awkward when my appearance became ambiguous in my mid-teens (partly because of the public restroom dilemma, partly because my parents were embarrassed when people read me as male). Then there was a long period when travel was utterly terrifying for me, first because I was obviously queer, then because I was passing as male full-time but I knew I could be “discovered” at any time due to my voice and chest. Heck, my own city became scary for a while (though that’s another story), so why would I want to go to places that were unfamiliar and full of people?

But as I’ve mentioned before, transitioning has opened a lot of doors for me. So, when I had the chance to travel to a student conference a few months ago, I allowed myself to be talked into going. I had good reasons for not going: we’d all be sleeping together on a gym floor, I didn’t know what the shower setup would be in the locker rooms, and none of my classmates knew about my past. But deep down I knew that I’d be fine and that I was just making excuses for not stepping out of my comfort zone, so I let myself be dragged along with my friends. (Important note: I was with people I trusted and who would’ve been OK with my trans status if I’d had to disclose for whatever reason. I didn’t put myself in risk at any time.)

And you know what? I had a great time. With my newfound confidence, meeting new people from around the country was less daunting than it would have been an year earlier. And the thing I’d been most anxious about –my trans body and how I’d maneuver it through certain situations– wasn’t such a big deal after all. In fact, my worst fear about the showers did come true –there were no partitions whatsoever– but I simply bathed in swimming trunks and wrapped a towel around my waist when changing.  And when it was time get un/dressed in the evenings and mornings, I felt comfortable enough to take my shirt and pants off in front of hundreds of people –modestly facing the wall– even though someone could’ve noticed my chest scars or the lack of bulge in my underpants (which aren’t obvious signals of transness, anyway). All in all, being trans was a non-issue in that trip.

So I pretty much jumped off the deep end when it comes to traveling stealth –it might have been less intimidating if I’d been with a smaller group and staying in a hotel– but I managed to get through it with ease. Knowing that I’m capable of confronting this kind of situation has given me a huge confidence boost: I feel that my horizons have expanded significantly, in quite a literal sense. I can’t even imagine the freedom I’ll feel when I can get my ID in order.