6

One year post surgery!

This is the sixth post in a series about my experience with having bottom surgery. The other parts are: Are You Excited?, I Got Sliced All The Fuck Up!Recovery Update16 weeks post-surgery update, and Six Months.

As usual, proceed with caution. Total TMI-city ahead.


Holy crap! It’s been a year since my surgery! It feels like eternity and like it just yesterday at the same time.

I know I tend to get wordy af  on this blog, but I honestly don’t know how much there is to say about this that I haven’t said already. The last six months since my last update have been fairly uneventful in Vaginaville.

Back in early September (seven months post-op), I was finally able to start dilating once a day. This was about a month later than originally planned, but I had to wear for the granulation and tear inside to fully heal before I could step down from twice daily. It was a long time dealing with that hell. With that out of the way, dilating was a lot easier and less painful. I was slowly able to switch back to using my largest dilator for the whole twenty minutes. Over the next few months, it became a lot easier to get my dilators in, which cut down on the amount of time dilation takes. Now I can get set up, dilate, and clean up in just over a half hour.

The swelling has, of course, gone down a lot since six months ago, but it still looks and feels a lot more swollen than I’d expect at this point. More on this in just a second, though.

Peeing is still a mess. If it comes out in a stream, it shoots forward instead of down. Mostly it just sprays everywhere and my whole bottom gets a pee shower. Ew. The worst part of this is it means I have to sit on the seat to pee, no hovering over a gross toilet or in a porta-potty. Double ew.

Yesterday, I had my one-year followup appointment. My appointment was with a new PA in my surgeon’s office, but she came across as extremely knowledgeable, competent, and assuring. She told me everything has healed perfectly and it looks really great down there. I asked about the swelling and she said everything looks normal and most of that is still just scar tissue and gave me some stuff to put on it to help reduce that. She also told me the way urine comes out when I pee is “an unfortunate side-effect of the anatomy” and some people are just like that. Kind of a bummer, but I’m still just happy everything is completely healed properly.

When it comes to dilation, I’m in the clear to experiment with doing it less than daily. She told me it could just be twice a week, once every two weeks, or might still need to be daily. This is very individual and I’ll need to figure out what works for me. By early December, I had started to feel comfortable that I’d be okay to dilate less frequently, but I wanted to wait it out until my appointment before trying it. With the long healing process I had, I’d rather be safe than sorry. The only day I’ve missed in the last year was last Saturday because of the hecticness of the Women’s March and dilating the next day was no problem at all. So I’m hoping and looking forward to freeing up my mornings more for running before work with less rushing.

While I’m mentioning last Saturday’s Women’s March, I should also note that was the first time I tried to pop a squat outside to pee—look, it was crazy and the porta-potty lines were long, okay? I tried my best to squat down and angle myself as well as I could, but I still peed all over my jeans. It was not a good situation. Ugh.

Mostly, life has been back to normal. Beyond the peeing situation, I don’t have to worry much about things. Our Disney trip a few weeks ago was the first time I had to deal with dilating without a completely private place to hole up in, as we were sharing a hotel room with a friend. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I was able to make it work with minimum hassle.

I wear bikinis and leggings and running tights without any worry of anything anymore. I don’t have to worry about hiding anything. It’s a nice bit of freedom. I spend a lot of time thinking about how happy I am to have proper genitals. Putting on a pair of jeans that really just fits for the first time was an oddly amazing feeling. Things just sort of feel right. I feel much more like me. And I feel more like a woman. Genitals don’t make gender, but they can affect how at home your feel in your body and identity.

Last summer, I had my hormone levels checked. I had expected a small rise in my testosterone to a more normal female level. This did not happen, though. My level was exactly the same as it had been while on testosterone blockers prior to surgery. However, the ultimate outcome I had hoped for from that—better running performance—did happen. The side effects from Spironolactone (the blocker) are no longer a part of my life with the exception of still having to pee all the time.

Beyond all this, most of what else I have to share about my experience was included in my post about the Women’s March, so check that out. Otherwise, I think this will by my last update about my surgery. Ultimately, I feel happy and empowered beyond what I expected was possible.

Happy birthday, Vagina! ❤️

It’s amazing and empowering to be a transgender woman and feel comfortable in a bathing suit.

12

Six months

This is the fifth post in a series about my experience with getting my junk rearranged. The other parts are: Are You Excited?, I Got Sliced All The Fuck Up!Recovery Update, and 16 weeks post-surgery update.

As usual, proceed with caution. Total TMI-city ahead.


Ain't nothing stopping this!

Ain’t nothing stopping this!

In some ways, I can’t believe it’s already been six months (and a few days) since my surgery. In other ways, it feels like it’s been eternity. I legit can’t remember what having a penis feels like and that’s pretty cool. I remember life with it, but what it actually feels like day in, day out is gone from my memory. Peeing standing up? Did I ever even do that? It’s like I haven’t!

Anyway, it’s been a couple months since my last update so here’s where I’m at…

I’ll start with the bad worst stuff first.

I’m still in pain. A lot of it. And it’s the fucking worst.

At this point, I fully expected to have zero pain left. I knew it’d take a full year for the swelling to go down, but I didn’t expect six months of pain. While I got lucky with how well the surgery itself went, it seems I’m pretty unlucky with how my body is healing.

Since my last update, I’ve been going to the doctor roughly every two weeks for granulation. I’m lucky that I’m close enough to my doctor that I can drive there when necessary, but it’s a two hour drive each way. A full trip ends up taking nearly five hours, which means missing most of a day of work…every two fucking weeks. Plus the cost of gas and like $10 worth of tolls. And getting probed in a vagina that’s already in pain is the damn ass pits. My doctor herself is much better at this, but many of my appointments are with the PA and she’s…not gentle with the speculum.

At my last two appointments—two weeks ago from today and yesterday—I was granulation-free. That sounds amazing and I want to scream “FINALLY!!!!” BUT I’m still a lot of pain when I dilate so it’s not really as big of a win as I wish it was.

Two weeks ago, the PA prescribed more Estrace cream (basically it’s an estrogen cream you shoot up your cooch…it’s weird). It’s supposed to soften things up inside and make dilating easier. Honestly, it’s hard to say if it’s helped or not, though, since I’ve still be in so much pain. The good news on this front is it’s not just some phantom pain that we won’t be able to figure out. At my appointment yesterday, I saw my doctor and she found a tear inside. It was a few inches long in exactly the place where I have most of the pain. She cauterized it so we’ll have to see how it heals. I have some pain in other places, but it’s more of the muscle soreness variety deeper inside and near the opening it’s consistent with scar tissue that still needs to finish healing from the granulation. I’m really hoping this is all the end of it though.

After having to dilate three times a day for an extra two months beyond what I was originally told, I was finally able to drop down to twice a day in the beginning of July—I’ll have to keep this schedule up until the beginning of September. Unfortunately, dilation still hurts like hell and is a struggle a lot of the time. At its worst, it’s excruciatingly painful. At its best, time consuming. The morning is always easier so I can generally get both the purple and the blue dilators in (the blue is the biggest one I have). It takes some time and hurts, but it’s doable. In the evening, it’s always much more difficult. I don’t even try getting the blue one in anymore. And even with just the purple, it takes me 20-30 minutes to slowly work it in. It’s not just that things are tight down there, but it’s that I have to be very gentle because of how much it hurts from everything else. Much of it is just that I’m a very tense person and I have trouble relaxing while dilating. Unfortunately, even the muscle relaxers I was given a while back don’t help with this. Making the problem worse is that the opening of my vagina is tight enough that it wipes most of the lube off the dilator as I slide in so I keep having to pull it out and add more. Then I end up with an ass crack full of lube to clean out later on.

On the plus side, dilation is almost the entirety of my remaining pain. The ambient pain during the rest of my day is 100% non-existent most days. Every once in a while I’ll have a day where I’m in some pain, but that’s becoming increasingly rare. Another plus is that I don’t have to wear pantyliners much anymore. I wear one at night, but that’s about it. I can probably credit my vagina’s tightness which keeps the lube out of my vagina instead of having it slowly oozing out of me over the course of the next few hours.

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¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Okay, that’s enough about the pain, right? Let me talk a bit more about the schedule.

Not having to dilate in the middle of the day anymore is a huge win. It means I can actually go out for a whole day at a time. It means I don’t lose an hour in the middle of my work day. It means I don’t have to carry my dilators to and from work anymore. It’s freeing as hell.

However, dilating is still having a huge impact on my life.

In the morning, I lose an hour to it. That means everything else gets pushed back an hour. Where I used to get into work around 8:30, it’s now 9:15 to 9:45. This takes me from getting on a nice empty train at 8:06 to having to ride a train packed like a Rutgers frat house basement party. It smells just as bad, is just as hot, and has just as many creepy dudes. I try to get up earlier to account for it, but on mornings when I run before work, which is 3-4 days each week, I’m already getting up at 5:30am and don’t have it in me to go earlier than that. These mornings become a huge stressful rush.

In the evening, I have to make sure I leave time for dilating. If I go out after work or on the weekends, I need to either plan to come home an hour earlier or resign myself to going to bed an hour later than I would otherwise. I also find it’s even more of a struggle to dilate if I’ve had more than one drink or…done other things. So I don’t really go out and drink…or do other…much anymore. And I don’t even mean like getting drunk or anything like that. I don’t drink heavily too often, but even just having two beers at the bar with my friends is something I can’t do now without regretting it later in the evening.

In general, I just go out a lot less than I used to now because it’s such a burden to have to deal with. Even if you take the drinking out of of the equation, which generally is completely fine by me, the time aspect of it is enough to keep me at home. That hour makes a big difference when I have to then turn around and get up at 5:30 the next morning. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to deal with it. Until I no longer have to dilate in the evening, this is going to continue to suck. I miss going out with my friends. And I hate having two hours each day that are just lost. I can’t really be productive while I’m dilating. I can’t get work done or write or anything, really. I can read or watch TV, but that’s about it.

Next month when I go down to once a day, I’ll get back either my mornings or my evenings, depending on how I want to do it. Eventually, I’ll probably be able to work it out based on my schedule for the day. And I’m hoping that once this tear heals that’ll be it for the pain and I’ll be able to insert my dilators more quickly and easily.

Random Magikarp hanging out at Tumblr HQ

Random Magikarp hanging out at Tumblr HQ

Okay, I think that covers us for all the ways in which this shit totally fucking sucks. There are a lot of positives, though! Despite all of this, I really love having a vagina. Not in like a weird way, but just in that it feels like the right thing to have. My body feels much more like mine (I think I’ve said this in every post). When I’m not dealing with dilating, life is easier. I don’t have to think about my genitals or worry about it. I still feel different from everyone else around me, but a lot less so.

I’ve been riding this huge high of body positivity recently. I actually really enjoy wearing a bikini now, even in front of coworkers like I did a couple months ago during a big outing the Tumblr engineering team went on to Mohonk Mountain House. I actually find myself looking for excuses to wear one now. I want to go to the beach or the pool now. I haven’t actually had a chance to, but I want to!

The body positivity has also spread beyond just things directly related to my genitals. I’ve been running in just a sports bra and shorts a lot this summer. It’s just something that’s really nice to be able to do. It’s just this whole thing where my body is starting to feel closer to “right.” I still hate hate hate hate just how tiny and basically non-existent my tits are, but one thing at a time!

And speaking of running, I’m like six weeks or so into marathon training for Chicago in October and that’s been going pretty well. The biggest issue is just dealing with the time constraints of dilating and training.IMG_0130

And while still on the topic of the body positivity, the weight I lost from surgery, about 12 pounds, has stayed off! This was a really unexpected win, but it’s helped a lot with my positivity. I hate myself for letting this be a thing that affects how I feel about my body so much, but I’m still taking this as a win.

Welp, I think that’s about it for now? I feel like these posts are just a jumbled up mess of thoughts. It’s hard to encapsulate a couple months of stuff at a time. Perhaps if I didn’t wait so long between updates it’d be a lot easier to form coherent posts.

7

All about being on the cover of a magazine

tumblr_2016-Jun-13It’s been a week since it was announced that I’m the cover model for the July issue of Women’s Running and I’m still trying to gather my thoughts on all of it. I’ve been trying to sit down and write this for weeks now, since well before the news even broke, but I’ve struggled to fully grasp it all. Most of last week has been spent with my phone vibrating with notifications faster than I could even read them. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Google Alerts, and texts. It’s been distracting to say the least!

I won’t lie, being on the cover of a magazine is kinda cool. I can’t act like I don’t think it is, especially when, apparently, I’m making history by being the first openly transgender woman on the cover of a women’s fitness magazine. I’ve been told I’m even the first trans woman on the cover of any fitness magazine, but I don’t don’t know that’s actually true or not. Honestly, it doesn’t make much of a difference to me so I haven’t bothered to look into it.

A lot of people have asked me what it all feels like. My answer is usually just something about it being super surreal and totally weird. Sometimes, I make a joke about how this is just my 15 minutes of fame and it’ll all be over soon. While my friends and coworkers have asked me about it, most of the attention is online so when I step away from the computer or my phone I get to go back to being a normal person. I like that. No one has recognized me (yet) out on the streets or anything and I’m thankful for that. I don’t want to be recognized! Though, if you are reading this and you do recognize me, totally say hi! For real! I’m awkward, but friendly.

As cool as all of this is and as proud of it as I am, I was hesitant to say yes. It wasn’t that I wasn’t excited, I was. It’s that being a trans woman isn’t exactly all unicorns and rainbows. As you’re probably aware, our country is currently in the midst of a big debate about whether or not people like me are even human and deserving of simple basic rights. You know, things like access to restrooms. For most cis people (cis just means “not transgender”), this is relatively new, but we’ve been dealing with this for forever. The only difference is now this is happening with a lot of media attention. This isn’t the post to go into detail about how hard this world makes it for people like me to exist, but trust me when I say it’s extremely dangerous to be transgender right now. And it’s even worse for transgender women of color than it is for those of us who are white.

When Women’s Running’s editor-in-chief, Jessica Sebor, emailed me to ask if I wanted to be on the cover, part of me wanted to immediately write back with a resounding FUCK YES, but I couldn’t. I knew I had to really think this through. I spoke with my wife about it, I reached out to a few friends, both trans and cis, for their thoughts, and I slept on it. I almost said no.

I’m no stranger to visibility. I live my life very visibly. I’m open about being trans and wear that on my sleeve. I’m proud of it because it’s part of what makes me me. Between a number of articles I’ve had written about me before in regards to being a trans athlete and/or the startup I co-founded, MyTransHealth, I’ve also had a fair bit of attention outside of my daily life. To be honest, most of it kind of makes me feel weird. I say yes to things I think could be a net positive for trans people, but I generally don’t like intense amounts of attention on me. When I’m with friends, I’m certainly an attention-grabber, but outside of small groups of people I’m comfortable with, I get very uncomfortable. I don’t even like when I have to get up and speak at my company’s weekly all-team meeting.

This visibility is totally different though. This isn’t just a small one-off article that few people will actually read. This is the cover of a fucking magazine—I mean, it’s not TIME or Sports Illustrated, but Women’s Running has a respectable readership level. And because I’m, apparently, making history, there is a lot of attention around the cover from various news sources. Huffington Post, People, Cosmopolitan, USA Today, Shape, New York Magazine, BuzzFeed, Adweek, TIME, Today, NY Daily News, Jezebel, Pink News, New York Times, Hello Giggles, Pop Sugar, Business Insider, Perez Hilton, Greatist. Well, you get the idea. There’s been a lot. Plus, tweets seen by tens of millions of people. This is a lot.

I had to think about all of that. I knew there’d be attention and visibility, though, I didn’t quite expect this many news outlets to pick it up. This kind of attention isn’t just exhausting, but it’s dangerous. NYC is a hugely diverse city, but we have much more than our fair share of anti-trans violence. While most people will forget about me pretty quickly, I still risk being recognized by violent transphobes while out in the world. I have to endure an influx of internet bigots harassing me online and starting threads on Reddit and wherever else to talk about me. Over the past week, I’ve been called a man, it, freak, pedophile, and all kinds of other things thousands of times—yes, I broke the number one rule of the internet and read the comments. This is all par for the course for anyone like me who even dares as to so much as exist, but it’s greatly elevated over the normal level right now. While the reality of the last week has actually been much better than I expected it to be, I had to really think about this risk.

I also had to think beyond myself and about the rest of the trans community. Am I fueling unwanted visibility for trans people everywhere and giving into the cisgender voyeurism of trans lives? Am I making things harder for others, the way that Caitlyn Jenner has? Is another magazine cover really what trans people need? Ultimately, I would never want to do anything that makes things harder for others or sells out my community for a quick dose of fame.

And let’s not skip over the article itself. I wanted to know exactly what I was going to be on the cover of. I asked to read a draft of the feature before agreeing. I wanted to be sure the article was accurate and positive for trans people. Women’s Running, of course, had no issue with letting me read a draft ahead of time. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect an issue here. Women’s Running has always been amazing with anything else I’ve worked with them on, but I had to be sure.

Finally, I had no desire to be “the face of transgender running.” Or even the face of anything. There are many others like me out there and I could never speak for them all. We’re all unique people. I do my best to be clear that when I talk about my experience, I’m speaking for myself. Still, I was already likely the most well-known transgender (woman) runner out there. Trust me, that’s not saying much. Mostly, it’s just because I’m a loudmouth on the internet and not because I’m special in any other way. I’m certainly not the fastest. I’m definitely not the most well-spoken. There are plenty of high school and college trans athletes who are more deserving than I am. And on the trans men side of things, let’s not forget we’ve got the amazing Chris Mosier kicking ass and making the US National Team for the duathlon. Really, I’m not all that special, I’m just a loudmouth.

Anyway, you’d think I’d have already figured most of this out after being a finalist for the Cover Runner Contest last fall. I entered because why not? I didn’t think it’d go anywhere. I was shocked when I was a finalist, but I still didn’t expect to win (and I didn’t). I never felt like I needed to actually face it as a reality.

Ultimately, I said yes to the dress cover, obviously. The shoot happened less than two weeks later at 5 freaking a.m. in Brooklyn (normally an hour from Jersey City by subway). I spent a few hours running 30ish feet at a camera while photographer James Farrell, said “one more time!” which turned out to mean “a hundred more times. We brought a few outfits with us, but I only ended up wearing two of them—I changed in a Starbucks bathroom.

I was really nervous to do the shoot. I’m not photogenic and I’m very particular about how I’m photographed. To be honest, though, it was a completely fun experience and everyone I worked with that day was super amazing. I didn’t want it to end! Not because I wanted to keep running laps in front of a camera, but because I was enjoying the time hanging out with the crew. And, yes, I got to keep the clothes!
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After the shoot, it was pretty quiet until the week before the magazine came out—the interview for the feature had been done well before I was asked to be on the cover. Since then, it’s been a total whirlwind. Women’s Running had me make a video to introduce myself and asked if I would take over their Instagram and Snapchat accounts for a day. I did Instagram the day the issue hit shelves and Snapchat this past weekend. And, of course, there have been a bunch of talking to writers for articles about the cover.

In the end, I know I made the right decision. With everything blowing out of control over the last few months about bathrooms, this feels like a bit of a win for trans people right now. Of course, the timing of this coming out right after the awful and hateful attack in Orlando was a coincidence, but many reached out to tell me that this news served as a much needed ray of light for them. My heart has been so heavy since last Sunday, but knowing I was at least part of something positive for the LGBT community last week means a lot to me.

In the last week, I’ve had so many people contact me to tell me what it’s meant to them to see someone like them on the cover of a magazine. Not someone who is already a celebrity, but someone who is an everyday person like they are. I certainly don’t want to be anyone’s role model, and I shouldn’t be either, but I wanted to be able to show other trans people what’s possible. I wanted to do something that would give some amount of hope to other trans people right now, especially those who are seriously doubting whether or not they should transition or can survive in this world as a trans person.

Lastly, I just want to hit one last point since I saw someone comment about this. The feature does discuss the fact that I have had surgery. I was never asked about this. This was information I volunteered because it was relevant to my answers during the interview. Savita was respectful and never asked anything inappropriate. Besides, it’s not like it isn’t public information at this point anyway. I’ve written 10,000 words about it here!

On a shelf

A post shared by Amelia Gapin (@entirelyamelia) on

3

I am a transgender woman with mental illness and I am a finalist to be on the cover of Women’s Running

Women's Running Cover Runner Contest

I’m a finalist!

Because my life is totally weird, I’m currently a finalist in the Women’s Running Cover Runner Contest. The eight finalists were chosen from over 3,000 applicants and the winner will find herself on the cover of Women’s Running magazine.

To be perfectly honest, this is a super surreal thing to me. When I entered, I didn’t think there was any chance I’d be chosen as a finalist. Just a quick look at the bios of the other seven finalists makes it clear some really amazing women with incredible stories entered. When I read their bios, my immediate reaction was that I don’t belong among them.

I do have a lot of conflicting feelings about things like this. If you read my bio on the site, I’m not hiding being transgender. I’m pretty upfront about it. However, I’ve always hated the idea of being treated like I’m special. I don’t want to be on the cover of a magazine simply because I was born with the wrong junk and being trans is all the rage in the media these days. I have no desire to play into the voyeurism of trans lives by cis (not trans) people.

If this blog post is not your first introduction to me, you probably know already that I’ve done a bunch of interviews for sites about being a transgender runner, not to mention all the stuff I’ve done for MyTransHealth. I’m sure it looks like I’m someone who seeks attention and loves to have the spotlight on her. The reality is, these things always make me feel intensely awkward and uncomfortable. I’ve even done a few interviews that I never publicly linked to because I didn’t want to add anymore attention.

I’ve also turned down just as many interviews as I’ve done. My first question anytime I’m approached for an interview is what is the story about and what’s the angle? If it feels like my involvement can have even a small positive impact for trans people, I’ll accept. Otherwise, I say no. I look for articles that are trying to highlight the struggles of trans athletes or trans people at the gym and are taking the stance that transphobic bigotry is not acceptable. If a writer isn’t willing to take that stance or is just looking to write the same voyeuristic story about a trans person’s life that’s been done over and over again, I have no interest.

This brings us to the Women’s Running Cover Runner Contest. Why do I want to be on the cover of a magazine? Honestly, it’s not having me on the cover of a magazine that’s super appealing to me. The reason I want to be on the cover and why this matters to me is because for a women’s running magazine to put a transgender woman on their cover means they’re willing to take the stance that trans women count the same as cis women in athletics, or at least running. They can’t put a transgender woman on their cover and then say she’s not a woman. This is really big to me. Of course, a magazine cover doesn’t instantly change the world, but Women’s Running is a major running magazine and having a transgender woman on the cover would still be pretty rad and, at the least, makes a statement. It doesn’t have to be me, it doesn’t matter who it is. It just so happens that right now I have this opportunity to be a part of their support for transgender athletes.

Women's Running Cover Runner Contest

Now, that’s all fine and well, but if you read my bio for the contest, you’ll see that what I really talked about was mental illness and how running has been there for me to help me through. It’s no secret that I suffer from depression. I’m not ashamed of it…anymore. I talk openly about not just about having depression, but also spending a lot of time feeling suicidal and wanting to die. I do this because I don’t think it should be a stigma. I think it should be something that can and should be openly talked about.

The question asked for this contest was “how has running changed your life?” This was my response:

Running has literally saved my life time and time again. When I was transitioning, running was a safe place to deal with all of the things going on in my life and process both the ups and downs of it all. There is no way I would have survived transition without running. Even outside of transitioning, running has always been there for me as an escape from my depression and a way to work through everything so I could move past it. It’s brought me peace and bliss when I most needed it. I’ve started runs feeling on the verge of suicide and by the end had a huge smile on my face and saw nothing but the beauty in the world. I wouldn’t still be here if I didn’t have running in my life.

This isn’t hyperbolic, this is my life. Running isn’t just this amazing thing I love to do because it’s fun, feels great, and makes me feel awesome. It’s literally my lifesaver. The more I run, the more put together and stable I am and the less I want to die. This is what I wrote about because this is the answer to that question. Running keeps me alive.

So, yes, a transgender woman on the cover of a women’s running magazine is pretty rad and super important to me, but my story for how running has changed my life is about mental health. To break it down to the simplest terms, being trans has affected my running, but my running has affected my mental health.

I really do hope I win and I hope you’ll take the time to visit their site every day to vote. I also hope you take the time to read the bios of the over seven finalists. And if you think one of them should be on the cover more than me, please vote for them every day.

11

A follow up about the Bruce Jenner interview

I wrote yesterday about my fears for Bruce Jenner’s two hour interview. In some places I may have failed to make some of my thoughts perfectly clear, but I stand by my point.

I received a lot of comments accusing me of not supporting Bruce Jenner and being bitter because Bruce’s story doesn’t match my story, as if this is actually in any way about me (it’s not). While it is true that Bruce’s story is very different from mine, it obviously has parallels. But much of this criticism came at me dripping in class privilege, without any consideration of what our community’s most marginalized members deal with. A complete lack of the intersectionality of class and race with trans issues.

To be clear, of course I think all trans stories are worth telling! To say otherwise would be ridiculous. My point was that we are all different and unique. We have different stories and experiences. Bruce’s story is just one of an infinite number of trans stories and we should be wary how much the media focuses on his. I would never try to suggest Bruce doesn’t deal with many of the same feelings and things all trans people deal with. However, Bruce’s transition is still very different. Having money can’t buy your way out of transphobia and all the dysphoria and feelings, but it can ease many of the of the struggles around being able to simply pay for shit. If you cannot see or understand this, you have a serious case classism that I can’t help you with.

I say this as someone who lives with an immense amount of privilege. I’m white, my wife and I do not worry about money, and we live in the NYC area. It makes a difference. A HUGE difference. My transition was relatively easy because of all of this. That’s not to say being trans is ever made easy or any of it is easy, but I do have advantages many do not have. While there is too much to go into around this in this post, it is still important to consider. Still, just like Jenner’s, my story matters too. As I’ve said, all trans stories and all trans experiences matter. However, trans activism and media should focus on our most marginalized and our most at risk.

We must not leave anyone behind in our fight for equality. The LGBT movement largely left the T behind and mainstream feminism has largely left women of color behind. We must not make the same mistake other fights have had and the only way to ensure we don’t is to focus on those most marginalized. Lifting their stories and focusing on them lifts us all up. I’m sorry white trans folks with money, but this means it’s not all about us.

So, yes, Bruce Jenner’s story matters, but it should never be the focus of our community.

As for the actual interview, it was absolutely not the transwreck many expected. The interview was far from perfect, but it was more a fender-bender than a wreck. I clearly underestimated Bruce a lot, but I never didn’t support him. Diane Sawyer made mistakes and drifted into a few of the standard tropes, but largely avoided any major faux pas. While the interview clearly showed just how far the media has to go on trans issues still, it was, without a doubt, an indication of progress and real effort being put in.

While I found the use of he/him pronouns and repeated referring to him as a man to be very jarring and likely to be confusing to many cis (not trans) people, I actually completely understand Bruce’s request for that. I get the compartmentalization of what is essentially a persona you put on vs the actual real person you are. I think that’s something a lot of us have had to do to some degree. And Bruce’s request for this is why I am using masculine pronouns in this piece. This is what Bruce asked us to do, at least for the interview, so that is what we should do.

For me, the biggest issue was the repeated question of what Bruce will look like “when he emerges as she.” There is just so much wrong with focusing on how a trans person will look after they transition. I know this is always the question on people’s minds, but it can really miss the point of transition. It is this thinking that creates hierarchies based on our appearance. It is because of this that those of us who “pass” or are pretty are often treated better. It is because of this that I use women’s rooms with no problem and am consistently gendered properly while my friend Robyn has the complete opposite experience despite even having a more femme style than I do. It doesn’t matter to anyone else what we look like. It only matters to us.

All of this said, the reality is we’ve been burned time and time again by the media and “good intentions.” One only needs to look back a year to Piers Morgan’s interview with Janet Mock and Katie Couric’s interview with Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera to see what I mean. Or how about a couple months ago with Jill Soloway? Skepticism is completely warranted and we should still exercise it until being burned is no longer the norm. I actually think this string of tweets by Casey Plett really nails of lot of why we should continue to be skeptical.

Additionally, I stand by my fear that media will center too much around Jenner’s story instead of those I mentioned above. I want to be wrong here, I absolutely do, but until the media starts to get this right, I will continue to be skeptical.

I’ve seen a lot of cis people come out this week in support of Bruce Jenner. That’s GREAT! For real, it’s absolutely awesome to have people supporting trans people, but it’s hard to not question where these people are when we’re calling out transphobic jokes in TV shows and movies. I didn’t see people speak up when a trans woman was murdered every week for the first two months of this year. Are these people speaking up against the proposed laws in Texas, Florida, and other states to limit our right to access public restrooms? Supporting Bruce is great, but it cannot end there. This is why I continue advocate for our focus on our most marginalized and to focus less on coming out stories and more on the lived experiences of trans folk.

I 100% support Bruce Jenner, but let’s make sure we never leave anyone behind. Let’s fight for more than just the scraps that fall off the table of equality. Let’s fight for a seat at the table.

22

About this Bruce Jenner interview

Update: I’ve written a followup here and turned off the comments on this post after an inbox full of attacks. If you still wish to comment, feel free to do so on the followup post.

Screenshot 2015-04-24 11.18.11Tonight, it’s expected that Bruce Jenner will reveal they’re transgender in a two-hour interview with Diane Sawyer. For most of us trans folk, especially the ladies, this is something we’ve been dreading for quite some time.

It may be tempting to see this as a great bit of visibility for the trans community and another chance for us to talk about trans issues. It may appear we are gaining an advocate and spokesperson in the mainstream media. None of this is true, however. There is nothing positive to come from this interview tomorrow. Most of us are actually quite afraid of the world we will be living in after this evening.

(Please note that I am using the singular “they” as Jenner’s pronoun. Jenner has not yet asked us to use a different pronoun and doing so before being told what to use would be inappropriate.)

What is important to consider is where Bruce Jenner is coming from. They are a privileged white person who exists in the heart of celebritydom. They are already a household name in mainstream media…and rich. Yes, this is going to make their personal experience difficult in a way most of us could not imagine, however, this is where the problem lies. Jenner’s experience does not and will never line up with the experience of 99.99% of trans people. Everything about Jenner will be about them and not about trans people.

Jenner will never understand the fear of being fired from their job simply because they are transgender. Jenner will not have to fear violence at every turn. They will not struggle to afford treatment (hormones, surgery, etc) while fighting with insurance companies to get anything at all covered. They will not experience housing discrimination.

Jenner will literally be able to buy their way out of any experience even remotely typical for those of us in the transgender community. Jenner will be able to snap their fingers for a new wardrobe, a body guard, medical treatment, and anything else they need.

This is not the person who should be the face of our community. The face of our community should not be our most privileged and least marginalized. It should be exactly the opposite. The face of our community should be our most marginalized. Our focus should not be trickle-down in nature. We need to be lifting up from the bottom. No one should be left behind. Our focus and the face of our community should be transgender women of color.

Jenner is not equipped for these conversations, nor should they even be expected to. Even for me, it took a couple years of listening to others in my community before I felt confident enough to be having important discussions around trans issues. I needed to learn the limits of my experience and to not speak over or for those less privileged than me. I needed to learn when to elevate the voices of others and speak in ways and about things with the nuance necessary to not over-step my boundaries. This does not come automatically.

This will not be how things go with Jenner. They will immediately be treated as an expert on transgender issues by the media. Their experience will be put front and center as The Transgender Experience™ instead of just one of many ways to be transgender and experiences to have. We saw this happen recently with Zoey Tur.

Jenner is not an expert on trans issues. I don’t even consider myself to be an expert and I am involved in the community and with activism. In reality, no one can truly be an expert on trans issues because trans experiences are varied and individualistic. Being a vocal part of the trans community and speaking for trans people means having a deep understanding of this fact. It is impossible for Jenner to possess this understanding.

Going even beyond Jenner’s ability to speak for trans people, we’ve already had a glimpse of the nastiness to come from the media. It’s not pretty. Simply look at TMZ and other tabloid publications. Jenner comes with too much baggage. People are too eager to use them being transgender as another way to attack him in pursuit of a quick buck.

Much of the bullying and attacks on Jenner feel like a flashback to the 90s for me. I still have mental scars from the imagery and treatment of trans people in the 90s. Media depictions like those on Jerry Springer set me back almost two decades in figuring out who I was and how to navigate being transgender. I fear a repeat of this for transgender youth of today.

Bruce Jenner’s stardom comes with immense visibility, but visibility isn’t always positive. Each insult hurled at Jenner isn’t just an insult of Jenner, it’s an attack on all trans people. These “jokes” are at the expense of all trans people. We are the punchline. Jenner will be a magnet for transphobia and transmisogyny and while they may be able to endure it and shelter themself from it thanks to decades of experience being in the spotlight, the vast majority of the trans community cannot.

Jenner’s “journey” and this interview won’t be about transgender people and the trans community, it will be about them and all of us will be the innocent victims handed over in exchange for media profits.

Regardless of all of this, Jenner still deserves our respect. They deserve to be properly gendered however they ask us to do. But I beg for the world to not look to Jenner to speak for us.

Update: Based on a lot comments I’ve received in various places, it seems as though I completely failed to make one of my main points clear enough. I 100% support Bruce Jenner and all trans people. My issue isn’t with Bruce Jenner themself at all. It is with a society and a media that will no doubt center around their experience and their story as THE transgender story and experience. We all have different stories and experiences and they are all worth being heard. I don’t want to, in any way, imply that I don’t believe that. Bruce’s experience is just one of an infinite number of them. What I fear is what will be thrust upon Bruce and the elevation of THEIR story over all others. This will only serve to bury the stories of our most marginalized.

2

Apparently, I’ve been testosterone-free for two years

Here's the photo I shared yesterday for Transgender Day of Visibility. Look how damn trans I am!

Here’s the photo I shared yesterday for Transgender Day of Visibility. Look how damn trans I am! I’m just spewing it all over Tumblr HQ.

Apparently, today is my two year HRTiversary (anniversary of the day I started hormone replacement therapy). Who knew? I mean, I guess I did in the back of my head, but I completely forgot about it. I only even thought about it today because of a friend who reminded me this morning by wishing me happy HRTiversary.

I feel like I’m supposed to write something about this? Honestly, these anniversaries (HRT, “full time,” coming out, etc) feel like they’ve lost any real meaning to me. Sure, these days mark very important steps in my life towards happiness and honesty, but they also remind me of how long I told myself lies to avoid all of this and all the reasons why I had to. Why isn’t this my ten or eleven year HRTiversary? It easily could have been.
So, really, I don’t have much to say about this, but I do think it’s kind of ironic this is the day after Transgender Day of Visibility, a day which I have so many conflicting feelings about. Visibility is cool and all, but it’s also dangerous and brings extra attention to us, both individually and as a community. I try to be visible every day, but that’s just how I like to live my life. Partially, it’s because I don’t want to hide being trans anymore, partially because it allows me to take control of it and my identity, and…I don’t know, there are a bunch of other reasons too. Anyway, I’m not going to really go much into that when Red Durkin really nailed it yesterday. Just go read that.
I think my point here is I live being trans every day, anniversaries of various steps I took along the way seem kind of redundant. Absolutely, it’s nice to take a brief moment and be like “whoa, I can’t believe it’s been that long already” or “huh, that’s it? Feels like it’s been forever!” And that’s kind of the thing, some days it feels like it’s only been a brief part of my life, like the days when I’m reminded I’m still figuring out some parts of (openly) existing as a woman in the world. But there are other days where my pre-transition life feels like an entirely different life. It feels like a lifetime ago, like maybe it was just a past life and I’ve since reincarnated as this trans as fuck person who only kind hates herself instead of entirely hating herself.
Either way, the past is the past and it’s important to never forget it and learn everything you can from it. I wouldn’t change anything about it because I wouldn’t risk changing who I am. But…it’s the past. It’s done. I try to look forward as much as possible. Tons of awesome things have happened and changed over the last couple of years, but I feel like making any real big deal about these anniversaries is giving the past more attention than it deserves…or maybe just misplaced attention. I don’t know. It just feels weird, okay?
Man, that was cynical, wasn’t it? I swear I’m not nearly that cynical of a person!
Anyway, on a different note, being testosterone-free for two years is pretty fucking rad!
13

Gymming While Trans

Having to dress like this to go outside generally means having access to a gym is important

Having to dress like this to go outside generally means having access to a gym is important. I also don’t have a more appropriate photo handy for this post 🙂

Almost a year and a half ago, I wrote about how worried I was about gymming while trans. As it turned out, I was actually more scared of approaching it than I originally thought. So I didn’t. I kept paying my monthly gym membership, but never used it again. Eventually, I moved to Jersey City and used this as motivation to just up and cancel my membership. I never once stepped foot into that gym again after starting transition.

Instead of dealing with it, I ran all of last winter outside with no help from the treadmill, which lead to some safety issues during New Jersey Marathon training because of all the snow and ice on the ground. I just didn’t have the strength to walk in there and say “hey, I need to update my membership to reflect that I’m a woman. I’ll also be using the women’s locker room from now on.” I played that out in my head over and over again and I simply couldn’t imagine it being a smooth conversation that didn’t end in complete humiliation.

Skip ahead to a few months ago–November, I believe–and I was finally ready to deal with all of this. I had been wanting to try spin for years and my wife convinced me to book a class with her. I was excited and terrified all at once. I was especially worried because it was an early morning class before work. I wasn’t going to just be walking in, spinning, and leaving. I was going to have to shower and get ready for work there. Eep!

I spent the night before freaking out to my wife about it. I was a complete nervous wreck. “But someone is going to freak out about me being trans!” “I’m going to get chased out of there!” It went on and on while she tried to talk some sense into me, but I couldn’t really calm down about it.

The next morning, when we showed up, I was already dressed for class so I threw my crap in a locker and hopped on my bike. Class was amazing and I immediately fell in love with spin–so much so that I try to do it at least once a week now. After class, it was time to actually deal with this whole being trans in a locker room thing. Luckily, this particular spin studio has an open locker area with private unisex changing rooms, bathroom, and showers. Definitely the way to go. I didn’t have to worry about someone freaking out that I was “in the wrong room” or anything like that. I went about my business and showered, got dressed, did my hair, and put on my makeup. Entirely uneventful!

Life would be so much simpler if every gym was like this, but sadly that’s not the case.

Shortly after that, I decided to join ClassPass which lets you take an unlimited number of fitness classes at hundreds of studios for one flat fee each month. The only catch is that you are limited to three visits per studio per month. Since I like doing spin once a week now, that meant having to branch out to other spin studios. The not so fun thing about this is not all studios have private unisex showers and changing rooms. My second favorite spin studio has women’s and men’s areas, as does the gym I’ve joined since.

Now, I actually have to deal with using single-sex locker rooms and it’s terrifying every time. It likely wouldn’t be nearly as bad if I worked out after work and just threw some sweats and my jacket on and left. But I workout in the morning before work. I have to shower and change there. In a locker room. Full of cisgender women. While hoping no one notices I’m trans and freaks out.

On Tuesday, I came out of the shower all wrapped up with a couple towels and hurried over to my locker. I try my best to not really look at anyone and just go about my business as quickly and quietly as I can without being noticed. Sitting on the bench next to my locker was a middle-aged woman. I looked up for just a second to see this woman staring at me with the dirtiest look. It cut through me hard. Her face was screaming “YOU DON’T BELONG HERE!” I was horrified. I grabbed my clothes from my locker and ran back to a shower stall to change in private. When I came out, she was gone, but my fear wasn’t. I half expected someone who worked there to come in screaming at me.

While looks like that don’t happen every time, I’m still constantly terrified. I keep my eyes down and don’t look at anyone. I try not to talk to anyone so I don’t have to worry about my voice outing me, but other women will occasionally talk to me. I respond quickly and quietly, praying they don’t think anything of my voice.

I always change in a shower stall or bathroom stall or whatever private area is available. Under no circumstances would I want someone to see what’s between my legs. Fuck, I don’t even let people see my stomach. While other women are walking around in their bras, I always have a shirt on.

But that’s sort of the thing here that people freak out about. Politicians, transphobes, and people-who-claim-they’re-not-transphobes-but-are-totally-not-okay-with-trans-women-in-women’s-spaces love to obsess over our genitals. They seem to care more about them than we do. They go on and on about how we don’t belong in women’s spaces (e.g. locker rooms) “because penis.” I’d really like to know how they know what’s between our legs. We don’t go around showing them. I go through great lengths to make sure no one could ever see my genitals.

Despite this, other women get to change out in the open locker rooms. Some women are more private about their changing than others, but there’s always the one or two of them who give zero fucks and are hanging out straight-up naked. That’s cool, I don’t really care much what you do. If you’re comfortable baring all in the locker room, that’s totally cool.

But, here’s the thing, you being naked actually makes me terribly uncomfortable. I’m in constant fear of being accused of just trying to see other women naked. Yes, I’m into chicks, but I’m in the locker room to change and shower. That’s it. I keep my eyes down. When I’m using the mirror, my eyes don’t wander an inch.

And even if I did want to see you naked in the locker room and snuck a peak, do you have any idea how much dysphoria I’d have to deal with for the rest of the day? How badly my body image issues would be triggered? No, you probably don’t have any idea. At best, I’d just completely shut down and be useless for a few hours. At worst, I’d spend much of the day thinking about how much I’d rather just die.

I’m not suggesting people don’t change out in the open if they’re comfortable with that. My only point here is that if the presence of a trans woman in a locker room makes you uncomfortable, you need to get over it. It takes every bit of emotional strength I have to get through each and every time I enter a locker room. I’m scared out of my mind every time.

1

A quick note to any trans people who may see this

As the trans community mourns the suicide of Leelah Alcorn today, I just want to send a quick message out to anyone who reads this.

If you ever need help or are scared or in a dark place, please please please reach out. You can comment here (and I can reply via email based on the address you enter), tweet at me, or message me via my Facebook page. I will always be here for you. And you can always contact the Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (US) or  877-330-6366 (Canada). Whatever you do, please contact someone. You life matters and, no matter how hard it may sometimes be for you to see it, there is hope. You can be trans and you can thrive.

7

Christmassing

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

So, it’s Christmas morning or whatever. Cool. I like Christmas. A lot, actually. Like for real. I have all those wonderful and fond memories of waking up on Christmas morning as a privileged white “boy” in America. There were seemingly endless presents under the tree, a loving family, a wonderful dinner, and all the wholesome feel-goodness of an ABC Family Christmas special.

But the thing is, I woke up in my own bed this Christmas morning for the first time in my 31 years on this planet. That’s not so bad on the surface. I mean, I don’t even have a bed at my parents’ house anymore. For about a decade now, my brother has taken up residency in my old room without vacating the one he had. And besides having to sleep on the couch and be woken up by the same brother coming home at 3am every year, Christmas is simply hectic as an adult. My family. The wife’s family. 70 miles between them. Oof.

This year, we’re doing none of that. Thanks to no longer having a relationship with my in-laws due to my being trans, I haven’t had to make the trip to see them in three Christmases now. The wife still goes to see them for dinner because family and all that, but now I relax at home after the drive back up from my being with my family for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning.

Now, like I said, I woke up at home this morning for the first time. I’m not seeing my family today. This actually has nothing to do with me being transgender directly, they accept me as their transgender daughter 100% without question. Being trans is a non-issue for my family. I’m not seeing my family because I haven’t spoken to my father in three months and have no plans to change that any time soon. See, he’s kind of an ass. Not your deadbeat father kind of ass and not abusive or anything like that. I don’t really think the particulars here are important, to be honest. However, I do fully believe if I wasn’t trans I’d be at their house right now. The issues with my dad weren’t directly caused by my transness, but my transition did help to show how little he actually wants to be a meaningful part of my life. That, in turn, helped me finally realize I could save myself a lot of grief by not bothering with him anymore.

So here I am on Christmas with a simple plan…exchange gifts with the wife, go for a run, watch A Christmas Story a few times, and then put on the Doctor Who Christmas special. It’ll be quiet and relaxing, but it doesn’t feel like Christmas…despite this towering 9-foot tall tree that’s been mostly cleared of ornaments by our menagerie of felines.

To be honest, this post doesn’t have much of a point. I just haven’t really posted in a while and the whole thing has sort of been on my mind.

So anyway, merry Christmas!