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Posts tagged trans*

Aug 20

Shifting pronouns and disclosure

When I came out to myself and others last fall, it wasn’t as a trans woman — it was as genderqueer. At the time my strongest relationship to gender was aversive, in that I didn’t want to be seen as male or referred to by male pronouns. Anything else was fine, but in practice I went by “they” with most folks and stuck with “he” in those situations where I didn’t feel comfortable raising the subject. I was inching towards a more femme presentation, but was unambiguously read as male most of the time.

Things have changed since then. I’ve been deliberately building connections with trans women and especially other nonbinary transfemale folks like me over the past year, and a few weeks ago I decided that I want to be referred to as both “they” and “she.” I’m more and more comfortable calling myself a trans lady (which to me is the equivalent of “trans guy”) and am getting really excited by the bodily changes already brought on by the last five months of HRT, some of which I was unsure about when I started. I’ve also been less afraid to do my version of femme in public: sometimes a dress and cardigan, sometimes denim cutoffs, lace tights and black sneakers.

I feel like I’m moving towards a place that I can comfortably exist from day to day, and that’s been truly wonderful. But it’s also meant that I’ve become less and less okay with being read as a cis boy.

Because of the identity I came out into, I didn’t feel a need at the time to disclose publicly at work. A few people have approached me over the past year to ask about my preferred pronouns, and I’ve been thankful for that. But most folks have likely continued to assume that I’m male, and I’ve decided to leave that belief unchallenged up until now. My desire to avoid confrontation overpowered my desire to be validated in my identity — I didn’t want to have to explain nonbinary identifications or pronouns to people who might not have a lot of experience with the topic.

But now that I’m also comfortable going by “she”, I’m having to reevaluate the situation. Do I want to send out a work-wide email? Should I just let the people closest to me know? These are still questions I’m very much concerned about, because while I expect that most people there are aware of trans people’s existence, I doubt I fit their mental image of a trans woman. 

I imagine the worst possible reactions to my request: that people refuse to change or else do so only grudgingly, treating me as demanding for wanting to be called something other than what might be easiest for them. I wonder how much my appearance will factor into their responses — I look different than I did even a year ago, but I lack the markers they’ll probably be looking for, especially long hair.

I catch myself doing this a lot lately: dreaming up worst-case scenarios, hedging, weighing the costs of my potential comfort. I try to remind myself that what I’m asking for isn’t much — just a small shift in language. But even this feels like a lot to ask sometimes.


Jul 27

feeling the wind and learning to associate

invisiblyqueer:

       Lately i’ve been feeling dysphoric. i mean this in the most nasty, terrifying, clinical sense of the word. Not just about my trans* clit, but about my entire body. This is something i struggle with from time to time, but for the last 6 months i’ve been managing ok.

       But the last few weeks have been wretched. i’ll notice my hands, for instance, and realize they’re mine. Upon this realization, i begin to detach from my body, feeling my brain drift elsewhere. My conscious mind refuses to recognize or exist in my body.

       The trouble with that is, this is the only body i get. Sure, i can (and have and plan to continue to) change parts of it. But there are parts that will always be what they are. Most of the time these days i can manage to find ways to love and acknowledge my body and embrace my transness.

       But i, like most other people living in this fucked up society, have internalized some shit about how my body is supposed to look and feel. After wallowing for a couple weeks, i realized i needed to do something proactive to shift my experience.

       i was riding in a car, somewhere in Kentucky, with the windows rolled down. i put my hand out the window to feel the wind. i became hyper-aware of the sensation on my hand and arm. Rather than retreating inside the car or ignoring what was happening, i focused on the feeling of the wind.

       i channeled all my energy toward that feeling while looking at my hand. i could feel a perfect 3D representation of my hand, sensation all around. i watched my arm hair, which is longer than i’d like it to be, dance in the wind. This was my hand, my arm, my hair.

       Feeling and seeing in the same moment helped me to associate with my body in a deep way. It’s been almost a week and i haven’t felt any negative emotions about my hands since. They help me cook food, make crafts, touch people, play music, write. My hands are incredibly important to me and what’s more, they’re mine, they’re a part of me, and it’s about time i made peace with them.

This helps.


Jul 23

reclaiming a history

invisiblyqueer:

       A few weeks ago i posted a picture of myself on my Facebook account. This isn’t in any way shocking news on its own, but the picture was of me as a boy. This felt significant to me.

       Before i started hormones i untagged all of my boy photos. i wish i’d have saved more of them, but at the time i was invested in my world not having an excuse to see me in a way that was incongruent with my current identity. It was a thing that i’d needed to do.

       But, during the course of my transition (goddess, i want a better word here… one that implies transition is a thing i see as continuing on without end) i found myself searching for ways to retain a sense of having a history. i didn’t simply land in this gender, hunky dory, empowered, and sure of myself. It’s been a process. It’s still a process.

       i often talk and write about that process and how it’s shaped me. An important part of that process though, is having lived as a boy. Sometimes this was done with reluctance, while at other times i found genuine ways to embrace a masculine presentation and way of interacting with the world.

       i no longer yearn to be seen simply as the gender i am now. i work to be read as trans*, as a person with a history. All that struggle, all that backstory, has shaped who i am and given me perspective.

       i was standing around the other night with some trans* women i know, sharing facial hair stories. i love facial hair stories. We chatted about how often folks react strangely to our tales from prior gender expressions. Folks often “cannot see it,” which in some ways i find pleasant. i’m thrilled in moments when i’m seen as me, unencumbered by cultural assumptions about how i’m supposed to groom and clothe this body.

       But sometimes, it can be painful or uncomfortable. i feel as though part of my life gets erased, my very transness rendered in past tense. My history becomes shrouded and misunderstood. Both the pain and joy of what i endearingly refer to as “the beforetime” become insignificant. The journey itself is cast as complete.

       At the end of the day, i am who i am now, and that’s the life i want. But that life has a story. i’m trans*. To me, the transformation was (and is) incredibly important. Obviously everyone is affected by their own history and gendered experience, i just experienced a rapid evolution and shift in experience that helped me notice how valuable the journey itself was. Most of my current friends have only known me as ellie, so i wanted to make that journey visible again. Besides, i look really cute in that picture.

 


Jul 8

two sides of a coin

invisiblyqueer:

       About eight months ago, i was at a meeting with people who had only ever known me as a “she.” i was trying on a new set of pronouns, ze/hir, to see if they fit. i was trying to stretch myself to understand my newfound conception of myself as occupying a non-binary gender.

       i introduced myself with these new pronouns and received explicit non-verbal affirmations from a very queer room. Some of these folks were likely honestly been happy for me, for my openness in exploring my gender. But it seemed like most of the room perceived me as “more queer” than the last time they saw me, and unfortunately this affirmation made the striking impression that in this specific circle, “more queer was more valuable.” But, in reality, my gender was no more or less valid at this point than at any other in my life.

       A few weeks prior i had identified as a woman. i was a woman. It’s not that these folks didn’t affirm that, or thought of me as less for expressing a sense of self that mapped easily onto a social binary. But they certainly celebrated that i came to know myself differently later. This made me feel odd and silent, why did my identity suddenly merit applause?

       This is not intended to imply that new conceptions of self shouldn’t be affirmed or celebrated, but it’s important to celebrate those that aren’t new and those that do map onto a binary. In more radical queer communities it seems that things that are read as “more resistant” are placed on a pedestal. This mindset politicizes others’ identities. Further, it merely inverts a hierarchy of normalcy that is all-too present in macroculture.

       Trans* folk often respond to this mainstream gender hierarchy with anger and resistance, and rightly so. We’re told our identities are less valuable, less significant, less valid, etc. None of this is acceptable and to reject normative conceptions of what gender is and should be is incredibly important. But the point here is not to simply invert that hierarchy and put others on top.

       What i take issue with is the existence of a hierarchy in the first place. The process of inverting this tiered structure of value legitimates the process of differential valuation based on gender identity and presentation. When queer communities prize and cherish non-normative identities/presentations above binary identities/presentations, we imply that it’s ok to place some identities/presentations over others at all. This seems so directly incongruent with the social values that i work to cultivate.

       A few months later, i was at another event. A self-identified trans* woman who was organizing was talking about her experience of her gender. She talked about pitching up her voice and walking with a “feminine gait” as being “phony” expressions. Now, while i support her sense of her gender, the way that she cast these affectations played into the cultural conversation that paints trans* feminine folk as fake women. i sat there afraid to speak. What voice would i use, the one that i was the most comfortable with or the one she would perceive as “real?”

       Here i was placed on the other side of the same coin. My gender, although non-binary, is in some ways normatively feminine. i often pitch my voice up. i swish when i walk. Hearing these things described as phony left me feeling uneasy about speaking up. This wasn’t a possibility for me because i was slated to speak at the event, but i was more nervous after this comment than when i entered the room.

       i worried that the judgment of phony genders would be reflected onto me before i even got to open my mouth. This privileging of non-normativity has very real potential to create hostile queer spaces. i expect my gender to be scrutinized and questioned in straight spaces; it’s unfortunate but i’m not shocked when it happens. But for these types of things to happen within queer and trans* spaces is incredibly disheartening. Isn’t the goal to build a society that is affirming and inclusive of all people, regardless of how they feel or do their gender?


Jun 5

passable: transnormativity, privilege, or both?

invisiblyqueer:

       i was at a focus group for trans* feminine folk. Well, it was actually a group of trans women, but i was there and am not a woman so I amended the name in my head. i went for a reason: i wanted the health center to become more inclusive and to provide better service — this is probably unsurprising, but i had some thoughts on how to do that.

       During the group i talked about how it would be useful for medical practitioners to not assume that everyone has the same narrative. This seems basic to me, but surprises all the women in the room. They’d all strongly identified as women and seemed very invested in being read as such, whereas i’m not and am invested in being read as trans*. In that space, i claimed the identity of being a faggot with tits.

       It was out in the open that i was different than these women. i’d made them aware, and explicityly challenged their assumptions. So, i was surprised at what happened next.

       As the meeting was winding down, one of the women smiled at me, looked me up and down and said, “you look good, you’re really passable.” i felt like i’d been smacked in the face. i sighed, but recognizing that this was intended to be a compliment, i searched for a smile and thanked her.

       i left, my brain clouded by shock, gasping for sense. i’d told these folks that i didn’t identify as a woman, that i tried really hard to be visible as trans*. Had she not heard any of that? Was she incapable of perceiving my genderqueer presentation?

       i was deeply hurt and fairly confused. My identity was dismissed completely. After sitting in a room with these folks for three hours, she still assumed my experience to be identical to hers. Even after telling her i’d lowered my hormone levels to maintain a more androgynous body, she somehow thought it would be an honor, not an insult, to tell me i was passable.

       It felt as if i was being lauded for hiding my transness. After the long difficult road that brought me to my current state of trans* empowerment and intentional visibility, i was aghast to find out that i might be passable. What’s more, it felt transphobic, even though it came from a trans* person. If a cis person had said something similar, they’d be devaluing my transness by extoling my beauty based on cis standards, the only difference that this seemed to come from a place of internalized cisnormativity.

The second this thought struck my brain however, i remembered my own sites of internalization. Although i work incredibly hard to recognize those sites and don’t impose them as standards on others, i can acknowledge that this tendency comes from a real place. Our society sets up norms of how people should identify and what those identities should look like. It then links those norms to a social hierarchy based on who fits and who doesn’t.

       So, I’ve realized that if i seem to pass to someone, they probably view it as a privilege. They may superimpose their own struggle to pass and congratulate me for seeming to achieve their goal. The truth of the matter, that i often don’t pass (which is sometimes a really great thing and sometimes quite scary), is irrelevant to this scenario. She saw something in me that seemed desirable to her and complimented that.

       i was left with several questions and very few answers as of yet. How do i receive compliments that feel like insults with grace, especially when they come from my community How do i simultaneously push back on the idea that because i’m trans* and male assigned at birth, i must be a woman? How do i also work to push the boundaries of what it means to be a woman? How do i do those things while respecting the reality that many trans* women don’t want to challenge those ideas and their identities are valid. How do i balance my gender, my activism, and my respect for others? When those conflict, is it possible to honor each concern? When it isn’t possible, what should take precedent? i don’t have answers yet, but I’m incredibly excited about this set of questions.


May 14

Sometimes I wonder if I’m really doing trans* studies or if I can really call myself a trans* theorist. Then I remember that when I use the word “gender,” I don’t mean “the differing behaviour of men and women,” and that in fact, I try not to start from an assumption that there are such things as “men” and “women” or even “male” and “female” bodies in the usual sense. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of one’s fringe status even within an already-marginalized subfield.


May 8

So people are always asking about my name…

msamberhazard:

…and I figure I might as well share with y’all.

My first name is a story.

My last name is me telling it.

My first name is Amber.

This name came from the night I finally defined myself as a womyn. I had gone with my then roommate/lover to be alone at her parents’ new place up in the snow (her parents had not yet moved). I had been defining myself as genderqueer/genderfluid at the time but had come to the conclusion that I was almost certainly a womyn; the overwhelming stress and workload of art school had denied me the time necessary to sit down and think.

My former lover and I were constantly busy stocking and tending the fireplace and wood pellet stove; the high ceilings of the housse took forever to fill with warmth. As I sat there that night, holding my mala necklace in my hands, I began to examine the beads in the light of the glowing embers. The necklace was long, and comprised of carved bodhi beads spaced with three opaque amber beads. Those amber beads captivated me; they looked like tiny stone peaches or an explosion trapped in time. I began to consider the transmutational nature of amber, how much it has changed from it’s original state, how pressures and forces and influences and time came together to forge something entirely different, something beautiful, something new… and I realized that was exactly what was happening to me.


My last name is Hazard.

Many people are familiar with the word “hazard,” as a noun.

It may surprise you to know that “hazard,” has a verb form as well.

haz·ard/ˈhazərd/

Noun: A danger or risk.

Verb: Venture to say (something).
 
When I chose my new name and my new life I chose a life of speaking out along with it… not just the act of coming out but everything which would come after. This is not an act of bravery or heroism; it is integral to my survival as a trans* womyn.
So that’s me: Amber Hazard… always changing and never silent.

<333

(via msamberhazard-deactivated201210)


Mar 27
“This spectre of rape that cis lesbian “radfems” habitually raise, centered around the supposed inherent threat of the phallus, minimizes the appalling rates of physical and sexual violence committed against trans women, particularly trans women of color and sex workers. It also twists the picture of systemic violence to make it look like trans women are a huge, systemic threat to cis lesbians when in fact trans women as a group face incredible systemic barriers in almost every aspect of life.” Queer Feminism (via transfeminism)

(via seraseatscissers-deactivated201)


Mar 23

shifting nouns, shifting ground

invisiblyqueer:

       Nouns are as complicated for me as pronouns. My relationship to identity monikers is both a site of confusion and a site of growth. When i decided to transition this time around, i thought of myself as a woman.

       My identity fell upon binary lines. i didn’t even really feel all that connected to the idea of being a trans woman. i was simply a woman, and began taking steps to align my body and presentation with that reality. This was a process that was simultaneously liberating and hindering.

       i grew my hair out, awkwardly at first. i started taking estrogen. i learned to sew fabulous dresses and wore them everywhere. i shaved my body hair. i wanted to be perceived as a woman, period. This never really happened.

       Some folks in my life saw me this way, but these folks were particularly gender conscious and were committed to allowing me to define myself. For them i am incredibly grateful. i was given some space for becoming. i was empowered by knowing that there were folks who took my word about who and what i was.

Read More

<3


Mar 11

On Lucille Sorella and “Feminization Secrets”

Twitter recommended that I follow Lucille Sorella today — she’s a self-described “genetic girl feminine image advisor” who runs a site that purports to give advice on femininity to trans* women.

I’ve realized that I have intensely negative reactions to this kind of “resource” for trans* folks, especially trans* women, and that’s something I’m trying to work through. I understand that for some folks, this might be a valuable source of information that’s hard to come by elsewhere. In this respect, this site and others are especially useful to older trans* women who don’t have such vibrant queer and trans* communities to discuss gender with. But it’s hard for me not to see Sorella’s work as exploitative, no matter how well-intentioned.

(I was on the fence about this interpretation until I examined the shop section of Sorella’s site. For those who don’t care to take a look, she links to a number of products, such as the “Ultimate Hypnotic Feminization Program.”)


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