TBT: In Testosterone Veritas

Throwback Thursday posts are posts I have previously written on other sites. They are reposted here sometimes on Thursdays. This post was originally posted on Queereka on 2/16/2015.

CN: Transition experiences, discussion of aggression and objectification.

On Cracked yesterday a trans man named Roman Jones wrote about 6 Awful Lessons I Learned Transitioning from Female to Male. Some of the stuff in there felt similar to my experiences, though it’s been awhile (9 years) since I had to bind and much of this stuff applies more to the transition process than the stage of life I’m at now. I found his commentary about medical care especially on point – problems with getting decent medical care has been an ongoing problem for me and many other trans people.

But then late in the article Jones says:

It’s not only physical, either — transgender people who have undergone hormone therapy are a goldmine of information about the differences between men and women because of the effect different hormones have on your mind. Describing his experience with testosterone on This American Life, one trans man flat-out says “I felt like a monster.” He completely stopped thinking about the random women he encountered as people, and a nice-looking one would turn his mind into a pornographic View-Master. That guy was on an irresponsibly high dose, but most trans men on testosterone agree that it increases libido and aggression, which can be a shocking revelation for someone who’s spent their life chasing the estrogen dragon.

Here’s the thing: Testosterone does not create sexism on it’s own. People learn these attitudes (aggression, objectification) from their culture. Just because trans guys are usually raised being perceived as girls doesn’t mean that we don’t live in a culture steeped in sexist attitudes and we internalize them as much as anyone else does. T makes us look more masculine and for many guys it makes us feel more masculine, but it doesn’t tell us what masculinity means. Our culture does.

Trans men often say that T made us more visually stimulated. This is certainly my experience – when I’m on T I am far more likely to look at porn, to be aroused by the sight of my partners, and to notice attractive people around me. But visual stimulation isn’t the same thing as objectification. Lots of people are visually stimulated, not all of us see the people who’s appearance arouse us as less than human. One can be both attracted to someone AND know that they are a person. People do it all the time.

Aggression is similar. Some trans guys experience increased aggression on T. Many don’t. Some of us start crying a lot more (I cry at movies. A lot. Especially Pixar ones.) and some of us have a mellowing of emotional volatility because we’re so much less stressed out with less dysphoria. Our responses are varied because our expectations are different and our ideas about what manhood is and who we are as men is so diverse. Guys who are already prone to aggression or who see aggressiveness as a manly trait and part of their masculinity will have problems with that. These problems are created by a culture that teaches us – all of us! – that violence and anger are male attributes, a natural result of testosterone.

The models of masculinity I saw growing up in my family were extremely gentle. My father is an incredibly gentle man. My best memories of him are of sitting on blankets on the floor with him and my siblings, playing and telling stories. He works incredibly hard for my family, is soft spoken and introverted, and deeply devoted to my mother. My strongest image of adult masculinity is that of a devoted father and husband. Unsurprisingly, aggression is not a problem I have had with T.

Testosterone doesn’t create monsters of trans men or anyone else. Patriarchal culture creates toxic images of what manhood is, and some guys (trans and cis) internalize these images. When we experience an increase in libido and visual stimulation due to suddenly having our hormones corrected it shows to us and the world who we really are and who we think men are. The toxic culture we live in can create aggressive and objectifying sexist pigs out of us if we let it.

Guys, don’t let it. You don’t have to be that guy.

TBT: In Testosterone Veritas

I Want Someone Else To Call

CN: Police awfulness and mistreatment of a vulnerable person, intoxication, bodily injury.

A few years ago, when I was newer to my working-class Chicago neighborhood, I was walking along one of the busier streets in the early evening in nice weather. There were a lot of people out and about, going about their business. This neighborhood is the kind of place with a lot of small liquor stores and few grocery stores, but a fairly low rate of violent crime. The barber shop on the corner contains conversations in at least four languages at any given time, and the public high school that dominates the immediate area seems rowdy, but not violent.

As I headed down a block on one of the main roads I came upon an older brown-skinned man laying on the sidewalk, curled into a near fetal position. Several other people passed him, not unconcerned, but looking like they didn’t know what to do. He was right in the middle of the busy sidewalk, not tucked away as if he was sleeping intentionally. I stopped, knelt next to him, and asked if he was okay. I saw pretty quickly there was a mark on his face, like a bruise with a cut in the middle near his forehead. I thought maybe he’d gotten hit in the head.
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I Want Someone Else To Call

Queerphobia, and Why We Took Down Our Pride Flag

CN: Homophobia, harassment, and mention of the Orlando shooting.

Yesterday Spouse asked our landlord to come over and look at our broken shower. He arrived in the early afternoon. I was home when he came over, but about to go to bed because I work overnight.

I don’t like our landlord. Our apartment is mostly fine, but our landlord is an overly involved busybody, who regularly tells incredibly sexually inappropriate and sometimes homophobic jokes. He makes me deeply uncomfortable. Spouse is a more forgiving person than I am, and therefore has greater tolerance for his bullshit, but they don’t love the nosiness or inappropriate jokes either.

Just after the shooting at Pulse in Orlando Spouse bought a rainbow pride flag and put it up inside our front window. It has been there since, visible from the street but not extremely obvious during the day. The flag made both of us, but especially them, feel substantially better. Queer visibility is important to us, and sending a message of support and pride is important to us. It has been comforting having those bright colors visible inside and outside of our home.
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Queerphobia, and Why We Took Down Our Pride Flag

Meme Discussion, Grammar Edition

CN: Ableist and otherwise problematic meme, discussion of ableism, racism, classism.

A friend from outside of my social justice circles posted the meme below on their Facebook page. The background is an image of black text on white paper, with red pen circling a the word “you’re.” The overlaying text reads: “I don’t judge people based on race, creed, colour, or gender. I judge people based on spelling, grammar, punctuation and sentence structure.”


You know, I used to do this. Then I learned that what I was often judging people on was the quality of the schools they had access to growing up (and thus their childhood socio-economic level), their learning disabilities (dyslexia etc), and whether or not formal academic English is their first language (sometimes it turns out it is AAVE, another dialect, or a foreign language). I decided I did not want to judge people based on these things anymore.

Instead, I want to decide who I respect based on their values. One of my values is trying to recognize the ways in which my thinking oppresses other people, and trying to change my thinking to be less hurtful to people.

Ironically, as this meme is claiming to be a statement against racism and sexism, it has the risk of perpetuating racism in less blatant ways. Racism is not just judging people for their skin color – it also involves treating things that you associate with non-white people as bad. Judging people for using AAVE is racist. Judging people who speak and write more than one language, however imperfectly, is racist. Subtle racism, displayed in disdain for different communication styles, is racist and this meme perpetuates it.

Ableism is still one of those things that people don’t even think of when they create a list of prejudices they don’t want to hold. When this is pointed out, they will often recognize that they don’t want to judge people with physical disabilities, and further pressed they will recognize the need for empathy towards people with profound mental disabilities. But this work on lack of judgement rarely goes as far as recognizing the ways in which our biases may harm people with learning impairments, less visible disabilities, and mental illness.

I had access to pretty good schools growing up, and was taught formal grammar in classrooms that were mostly safe and mostly reasonably well funded. Not everyone has access to the kinds of schools I did. I have been inside schools that are not safe, that are not funded, and that are incredibly difficult to learn in. I had class on my side growing up, and not everyone did. This meme illustrates the classism that judges people for the access they have had.

I want my ideas to be understood by readers, so I make an effort to write in the clearest way that I know how. Often, but not always, this involves using formal and semi-formal English grammar, spelling, and punctuation. This tactic works for me, but it isn’t always best. There are situations in which I will forgo these conventions for language that is more appropriate for the situation, and I’m fairly fluent in speaking Internet, which is pretty clearly its own dialect. I recognize that others will use dialects they consider appropriate to the situation, and sometimes the intended audience is not me.

Meme Discussion, Grammar Edition

Frivolous Friday: Ingress Player’s Tips for Pokemon GO

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Enjoy!

I recently wrote about my favorite augmented reality game, Ingress. I didn’t realize that soon thereafter Niantic would be releasing Pokemon GO, or that it would be so popular! I was aware they were working on the game, but wasn’t prepared for it to be such a sensation. Yes, I am now also playing (and enjoying!) Pokemon GO, but I will admit that I still prefer Ingress for various reasons*.

Since the two games are similar in some ways, and they use the same set of locations for portals and pokestops and gyms, there are some tips that transfer well from Ingress to Pokemon GO.

1) If you can, use public transportation. In Ingress “hacking” portals is how you get gear, and it’s pretty similar to getting gear from Pokestops. Most public transit buses and some trains go slowly enough that you won’t get speed locked and can get a lot of pokeballs and other items.

2) Get a good data plan if you can afford to. I realize they’re not cheap, but these games blow through data faster than anything else. I decided paying for an unlimited data plan was worth it for me. Going past your data plan every month is often more expensive than upgrading.

3) Get an external battery. Lots of people like Anker batteries but I use this KMASHI battery which has worked beautifully for me for well over a year and costs less. A smaller one is fine too, but more battery means more play time. No matter what kind your choose, you’ll want the extra battery power for long play sessions, especially if you also listen to music or podcasts as you go.

4) Weather doesn’t have to stop you from playing! I tend to stay in when it’s really hot or there’s TONS of snow on the ground, but you CAN play in the rain if you want to. I take my external battery, connect it to my phone, and put both into a ziplock bag. Then I use a little duct tape to kind of make a nice neat package of them with the plastic taught across the screen. Most touch screens work fine through the plastic! Yes, it’s a bit heavy to carry compared to your phone alone, but this set up, plus water proof shoes and a poncho allows me to play in the rain for HOURS if I want to – which is particularly useful when large Ingress events get planned for rainy days.

5) Make peace with GPS drift. It will happen, especially in downtown areas with big buildings and lots of interference. There’s not much you can do about it, and Niantic hasn’t been able to fix it either. I used to work sometimes in a high-rise in downtown Chicago, and would use the drift to hack a few portals I would probably not otherwise have gotten out to, which was cool. In Pokemon GO you can use drift to incubate eggs! I get minor drift around my current work place (not nearly as dramatic as downtown) and if I leave the app open while I work it picks up about a quarter km per hour of “walking” due to drift. Not bad!

6) Stay safe! Keep aware of your surroundings, look where you are going, and don’t take bigger risks playing the game than you would if you weren’t playing. Mostly Ingress players have found that the risks are not as big as the media has been making them out to be, but I do know people who have slipped on ice, tripped on curbs, and walked into poles (okay, that last one might have been me). Keep your eyes on the road when driving or biking, and don’t go into places you’re not supposed to be. The game is not fun if you’re injured or arrested!

*Reasons: I like fielding a lot better than the gym concept. The planing, preparation, and execution of a fielding operation, whether solo or in a group, is more satisfying to me. Both games are fun, but I think seeing a big field come together is just more satisfying to me.

Frivolous Friday: Ingress Player’s Tips for Pokemon GO

TBT: A Thought About Transition

Throwback Thursday posts are posts I have previously written on other sites. They are reposted here sometimes on Thursdays. This post was originally posted on my Fetlife account sometime in 2009. It written in response to a question someone asked about moments of fear of regret about the process of transition.

CN: Body dysphoria, medical transition.

I remember the day I realized the binding had permanently damaged my breasts. I knew I hated them, knew I wanted them removed… but I was terrified. It felt more like a commitment than any other move had felt – starting therapy, changing my ID, changing my name, coming out to my parents, etc. I looked down and realized I’d done something I could never change back, and I felt totally unprepared for it. I cried (which is rare for me) but I didn’t feel like I could tell anyone else, because I was afraid they would think it meant I shouldn’t be allowed to start on T or transition any further.

It took awhile for me to come to terms with that, and I had similar moments of panic later on (the day I realized I was getting back hair for example, or the first time I realized I was balding). But that was the most serious time of confusion for me.

I suppose I could have stopped transitioning then, and I could have gone back to my earlier life. But I didn’t. As terrifying as as that moment was, going back would have been worse. I’m incredibly glad I didn’t loose my nerve that day, or I would certainly not live the life I have now.

TBT: A Thought About Transition

Go Outside and Do Something! Except Not That

One of many criticisms of the millennial generation is that we spend too much time surfing the internet and playing video games, and we apparently don’t get outside enough. This accusation has been levied against us for our whole lives, since our early days of teething on Nintendo controllers. I do not remember a time in which people older than me did not lament “Go OUTSIDE! Do something!”

This week Niantic Labs (the same company that makes my beloved game Ingress) released a new game aimed directly at users mostly younger than me. Like Ingress, Pokemon GO is an augmented reality game, requiring players to actually move around in the real world in order to play. Those who want to play need to go outside and do something, just like we’ve all been told we should.
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Go Outside and Do Something! Except Not That

Reply All Shows How To Ally

CN: Queer and QPOC erasure.

Reply All is currently my favorite podcast – it is a show about the internet. Since I basically live on the internet, it’s like having a great podcast about my hometown. They wander off topic occasionally, but when they do I still generally find the stories they tell pretty awesome. This week the episode contains one of the best instances of allying I have heard in quite awhile.

One of the segments on Reply All I like best is called “Yes, Yes, No” in which the two internet-fluent hosts explain confusing things (usually tweets) to their less net-savvy boss, Alex Blumberg. If done poorly this could be a painfully boring process, but instead it gives them an opportunity to discuss some of the most interesting parts of internet culture. They have previously used it as an opportunity to explain and condemn Gamergate, and shed light on annotations made through Genius. I love this segment because although I often have some knowledge of the things they discuss, I always learn something new.

Recently they did a Yes, Yes, No segment on a tweet about the Clinton campaign’s social media work. It was one of the less complex versions of this segment, but included a bit that I (along with probably a million other people) noticed as incomplete. They were discussing the phrases “Yas” and “Drag him” as used in that tweet. Their description of the background on the word “Yas” went:
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Reply All Shows How To Ally

Throwback Thursday: How To Get It Right, When You Got It Wrong

Throwback Thursday posts are posts I have previously written on other sites, such as Livejournal, Science Based Sex, Queereka, Skepchick, or Skeptability. They are reposted here sometimes on Thursdays. This post was originally posted on Queereka on December 14th, 2012.

For years after I began my gender transition I regularly had an experience that is nearly universal among trans* folks: Someone would use the wrong gender pronoun for me, or my old name. That was a bit uncomfortable, but not nearly as bad as what came next. If they knew me and realized their mistake it would be immediate – if they didn’t then either I or someone else would correct them, prompting the response:

“Oh no. I am SO SORRY. Oh my gosh, I can’t believe I just did that. How could I do that? I’m so so so sorry…” etc.

That was the worst part. It would last seconds, but felt like hours. In the end, I was spending my time and energy comforting the other person, and often the original conversation was entirely derailed. Now we were focusing on my transition, and the conflicts or struggles my transition was causing those around me. Again.

It still happens to me in a slightly different context. Someone will use an incorrect pronoun for someone else in conversation with me, and again they are apologizing. Repeatedly. Exaggeratedly. Apologizing to me for a mistake they made regarding someone else’s gender, and worse – they are quite forthcoming with me about how HARD it is to get those things right, how much they STRUGGLE with it because, you know, they’ve known her all these years…

Just stop it. Please.

First of all, the longer you spend talking about, and apologizing for, the mistake the longer I and everyone around us is spending thinking and talking about someone else’s transition. Furthermore, telling me about how hard it is for you shows complete insensitivity. Changing your language is hard? Tough. Deal with it. Compared to what your transgender friend is dealing with in transition, it’s incredibly easy.

How to get it right if you make a mistake? Correct yourself. A FAST apology is perfectly appropriate, but get back to the subject at hand.

“I was out with Keith… I mean Alice! Sorry, my bad. So anyway, Alice and I were out at the movies…”

Throwback Thursday: How To Get It Right, When You Got It Wrong

Frivolous Friday: Ingress

Frivolous Fridays are the Orbit bloggers’ excuse to post about fun things we care about that may not have serious implications for atheism or social justice. Any day is a good day to write about whatever the heck we’re interested in (hey, we put “culture” in our tagline for a reason), but we sometimes have a hard time giving ourselves permission to do that. This is our way of encouraging each other to take a break from serious topics and have some fun. Enjoy!

This weekend at CONvergence one of the panels I’m on is on Ingress strategy. I’m so excited to get to talk about this on a panel! Ingress is flipping awesome.

Ingress is an augmented reality game that uses mobile platforms (ie your cell phone) that plays a little bit like a globe-covering capture the flag game. Gameplay exists between two world-wide teams of players, with each team attempting to control actual physical spaces. In order to play you have to actually move around in the real world, so this game is excellent for people who like to get out and explore, those who like walking or biking, and those who want a way to meet new people (though social play isn’t crucial). I particularly recommend Ingress for people who are moving to a new city – it can be a great motivator to get to know your neighborhood, city, and new people.
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Frivolous Friday: Ingress