10 rules for managing your penis when you’re trans

After reading Suzanne Moore’s only-half-serious advice on owning a penis, and fellow FTBer Ally Fogg’s insights on the relationship between men’s penises and society, I had an odd feeling that something was left out. Sure, their musings on the “male organ” were entertaining, but still somewhat limited in one important respect: they focused solely on men’s penises. Continue reading “10 rules for managing your penis when you’re trans”

10 rules for managing your penis when you’re trans

10 rules for managing your penis when you’re trans

After reading Suzanne Moore’s only-half-serious advice on owning a penis, and fellow FTBer Ally Fogg’s insights on the relationship between men’s penises and society, I had an odd feeling that something was left out. Sure, their musings on the “male organ” were entertaining, but still somewhat limited in one important respect: they focused solely on men’s penises. Continue reading “10 rules for managing your penis when you’re trans”

10 rules for managing your penis when you’re trans

Why I keep records of my transition

I keep a personal Tumblr for notes on my daily experiences while transitioning, as well as timeline photos documenting my physical development. Recently, an anonymous reader asked why I would keep such a history. This is my reply.

Anonymous asked: Wouldn’t most trans people not want to keep records of their transition? I mean, isn’t that like proving “you’re not really a woman, see, here’s an old picture of you” by reliving your transition? If I was trans I would think I wouldn’t want to be reminded that I was once a male.

Personally, speaking solely about my own experiences and feelings, I don’t agree with this at all.

Yes, some or many trans people prefer that their gender history remain firmly in the past. There are a lot of us who just want to get it done and move on without it being brought up, and without being reminded of it. Most of the time, I too would prefer it not be an issue.

It’s not something that needs to come up when I’m buying groceries, meeting other parents when out with the kids, and so on. It can be obnoxious when others try to bring it up in irrelevant contexts. And, yeah, I know a lot of trans people who are pretty averse to seeing their own pretransition photos, or anyone’s – it’s not something they want to be reminded of.

But the presence or absence of photos and records won’t change the reality of my history. The fact is that, for 23 years of my life, I did have a body with male-typical features, and I still have a few of them even after transitioning. Being reminded that I “was once a male”? I call that “looking down”. Photos and records pale in significance next to the experience of living in this body.

I’ve been in it my whole life, through all of its different stages. Trying to erase photos seems futile – more than just photos, I have memories, experiences, feelings. Whether there’s an old photo of me out there or not… I still remember who I was. So having to see old pictures of myself is quite a minor concern – either way, I’ll still have the memories of being that person, which are much more vivid, thorough, and full of emotion than a simple photo.

And I don’t want to forget who I was. That phase of my life is an enormous part of my history. It constitutes the majority of my existence up until now. Yes, there were difficult times, and things I’ve done my best to forget and move on from.

But I don’t feel my life up until now is disposable. This wasn’t some bad dream that I only recently woke up from. It was real, and I can’t deny that. As hard as it might have been, it was not devoid of any value. I was still a human being. I was making the most of my life, just as I am now. And even in those times, there was much worth remembering.

I also have to recognize that, during that time, I did genuinely believe I was male. It may have been an incorrect belief, it may have stemmed from my confusion of the absence of a strongly female identity with the presence of a male identity… but I did believe it.

That’s also a fact of my history, and something that can hardly be erased by deleting a photo. There were many years when I thought of myself as male, presented as male, and didn’t pursue a better option or even realize there was a realistic alternative. That was just who I was at the time. I don’t see any need to shy away from that, or deny it.

More importantly, my personal gender history, whether seen or unseen, doesn’t invalidate my womanhood. It’s completely understandable why many of us keep this to ourselves and don’t tell most people. We still live in a society where “trans woman” is taken to mean “not really a woman” or “actually a man”. We don’t want that knowledge of our history to get in the way of us being seen as who we are now. We don’t want our genders to come with an asterisk attached. We don’t want it to be the first thing people see us as, when they think about us.

But that’s their problem – not mine. Being trans and having a history as “a guy”, and being a woman, should not be incompatible. Being trans doesn’t mean you’re not a woman. I have friends, co-workers, family, my partner, my children, so many people in my life who know that I’m trans, and are still capable of recognizing my womanhood. For them, my transness doesn’t get in the way of my womanhood. It doesn’t preclude my existence as a woman, or diminish it in any way. So what excuse does anyone else have to deny what I am?

Further, I find transitioning to be fascinating from an experiential, philosophical, and scientific perspective. This isn’t something that most people will go through in their lives. It’s also something I’m only going to experience once, and I feel it’s important to make note of every little moment. It’s rare, and fleeting, and extraordinary.

Keep in mind that medical transition, as we now know it, is barely a century old, if that. We’re still at the very beginnings of transition treatment. And there’s often no other way to learn about the current process in detail except by experiencing it firsthand. Most available research has to do with hormone levels and surgery results and complications of treatment. But there’s much less information about the day-to-day mental changes that trans people can experience, or the specifics of how our breasts develop, or simply what it will feel like.

For that reason, I believe documenting my transition can serve as a useful resource for other trans women. When I was first considering whether to start treatment, and then decided I would, I still had very little idea what I was getting into. Yes, there are the broad strokes: you’ll grow breasts, your sex drive will change, you’ll probably feel better…

But that didn’t really answer the question of what it would be like. And now that I’ve been through this myself, I realize that such vague information is like being shown only a single frame of an entire movie. How will my breasts develop? How fast? What will they look like and feel like? How will my sex drive change? How will I adjust to that? Will I like it? How are my moods going to change? Is it really such a big change? Will I be the same person? When it comes to these specific questions, there’s still so little information available. And I believe trans people deserve better. To that end, I’ve tried to explain and describe and capture these things in as much detail and depth as possible, just so the world can have some better sense of what this whole experience is like. Sharing our experiences, and finding points of similarity in our own lives, is incredibly important for trans people. Knowing what to expect, and that someone else out there has been through it, and feels much of the same things you do, is a thing of comfort in what can otherwise be a very uncertain and difficult time.

Most of all, I love that this is happening to me. For me, transitioning has been an experience that’s so extraordinary and affirming and life-changing, I’m thankful every day that this is possible and that it could happen in my life. It’s damn near a miracle that something like this can be done, and all I can do is stare in awe.

I love seeing my body change more and more every day, growing into something that feels like home, even if I’ve never been here before. I love being able to feel things more intensely and deeply than I ever could before, and finally looking out on the world with true happiness, unburdened by any chemical imbalance dragging me down. I love seeing my face turn into something new and unknown and beautiful. I can finally love myself.

When I look back at what I was, I don’t feel it dragging me back. Instead, I see just how far I’ve come. All of this is possible because of the body I once had, the seed for something amazing to grow. All of this is possible because of the person I once was, the one with the courage to survive and figure this out and make it real. I can’t forget that, and I wouldn’t want to.

Why I keep records of my transition

Sorry About Your Boyfriend, You Transphobic Jerk

This piece was originally published on Thought Catalog.

Dear Anonymous, I’m sorry about everything that happened with you and your boyfriend. Anyone would agree that his betrayal and history of lies were unacceptable. Your raw pain at the discovery of his deception is plain to see, and I know it can’t be easy to find out that the one you loved the most was abusing your trust and looking for others to fool around with.

I can especially relate to your despair at knowing that you wouldn’t ever be able to offer what he was covertly seeking elsewhere — that he wanted the kind of person you could never be. It’s not hard to imagine how crushing it was to realize that the fact of your partner’s desires made any compromise impossible here.

Except if you think that’s difficult, try being a woman with a dick.

‘Cause I do mean a literal dick, not just some lowlife who’s always looking for escorts when you’re out of town. That’s right, I’m “a transsexual” (as they say among your people), just like the trans women your boyfriend was downloading porn of and trying to meet for casual sex.

I can assure you it was an utter delight to see that on the very same day I had written about the unrealistic perceptions of trans women in society, you chose to dehumanize us flagrantly and repeatedly while telling the tale of your boyfriend’s indiscretions. Evidently, chastising him for his callous relationship-destroying behavior wasn’t enough. You needed the extra bit of unique attention that can only come from indulging the public’s ever-present obsession with strange, taboo, scandalous “transsexuals.”

So what started as a relationship problem between two cis people — that means you unlucky folks who don’t get to be trans — ended up as yet another story where women like me are needlessly depicted as barely-human sex objects with gross, incomprehensible bodies. Make no mistake, I know you’re really torn up at how his sexual fixations came between the two of you, and it shows. I get what it’s like to fear that your partner wants a type of body you simply don’t have. As a fully penis-equipped woman, trust me, I know.

Situations like this can be tragic and heartbreaking. That being said: Go fuck yourself.

Certainly your boyfriend chose to be evasive and defensive about his trans porn because he knew this was the particular area in which he was secretly pursuing sex. And maybe he also knew that there was something different about this, something that set it apart from the cis porn of blondes and cheerleaders which you seemingly had no issue with.

Ultimately, he had absorbed all the inconsistent messages from wider society that subtly teach us to see trans women as both fetish objects for the pleasure of men, and as disgusting freakish men who implicitly threaten the heterosexuality of any man who lays eyes on us (let alone constantly downloads porn of us). And he knew that you, too, had received those same messages from our culture, and would see his trans porn habit in that light.

Me, I find it amusing to think that my partner and I would ever start questioning the other’s sexual identity upon finding that they had been looking at (gasp!) cis porn. But in keeping with our world’s continued inability to decide what trans women even are, you took this opportunity to engage in a typically ignorant dissection of our genders, our bodies, and precisely how gay your boyfriend is now.

On that note, let’s get one thing straight: He’s a guy who likes women, such as yourself, the partners he’s had before you, cis women in porn, and also women who are trans. You know what we call a guy who likes women and not men? Sorry to suck all the ill-gotten queerphobic fun out of publicly suggesting he’s a homo, but there’s no need for you to describe him as “otherwise straight.” He’s not straight with a twist of queer — just regular, boring Straight Classic. And he will be until he starts trying to get with other men. There’s a reason he was the “M looking for a T” and not the M looking for an M.

And if the presence of a penis in his porn still gives you pause, take a closer look at the “blondes and cheerleaders” portion of his collection. You might find that the dull cis-only titles you first neglected to scrutinize are in fact home to all manner of massive, erect penises. Thick, hard penises, up close and personal — it’s pretty much a fixture of mainstream porn intended for straight men. No, I don’t really understand it either.

Nevertheless, I’d invite you to think about how shifting said penises to women rather than men could possibly make the porn or its viewers more gay. You might call us “transsexual men,” but if you’re really concerned about his hetero-integrity, I’m pretty sure we’re still preferable to him jerking it to cis men.

By the way, thanks for saying we’re “men.” I’m sure that’ll come as news to my lesbian fiancee, who’d had quite enough of men after the first two decades of her life. While it’s pretty tasteless and tacky of you to try and police how “muscular” a woman can be before she doesn’t “look like” a woman anymore, I’d love to see what you would make of us — the short, skinny chick whose muscles have melted away after a year of high-dose estrogen, and the butch Viking goddess who towers several inches over me and has been known to lift me above her head whenever she feels like it.

What exactly do you think it means to “look like women?” And which of us has the “parts of men” according to your stereotype-addled worldview? Because I don’t think you have the slightest idea. Cis or trans, butch or femme, hulked-out or stick-thin, penis or vagina, we’re all women. So what do women look like? Us.

Yet as you were nearly done excoriating the cheating bastard, you couldn’t resist getting in one final dig at us: your shameless admission to calling us “things.” It’s always nice to be reminded that falling outside the narrow, purist categories of what makes someone a “man” or a “woman” marks me as not even a human being. After all, if you aren’t clearly male or female, you’re just a “thing” lacking any real personhood. Apparently the very substance of what I am places me entirely outside of humankind in your eyes.

And maybe you truly don’t see us as actual people beyond the mythic, sexualized vision of trans women that your boyfriend was obsessed with. But we certainly haven’t made the mistake of thinking of you as little more than a set of naked tits walking around in lucite heels, rather than a whole intelligent person capable of spreading hatred. Meanwhile, you treat us as no more than unnatural, disturbing porn-bodies fit to be called “things”, rather than real people capable of feeling pain.

If you had said this about any other group of people in society just because they happen to be a niche interest in the adult industries — if you had depicted them as insidiously corrupting your boyfriend’s very orientation, questioned whether some aspect of their bodies met your personal standard of womanhood, and concluded that they are more “things” than they are people — this would not be considered suitable for publication in any respectable venue.

But because this is about us, you knew you could get away with that. On the same day you wrote this attack on our humanity, I wrote of my wish that we could have the simple normalcy of being treated like everyday people, even as I recognized this was impossible right now. You’ve proven, yet again, just how far off such a world is for me and my kind. Thanks.

We’re not the ones who are responsible for breaking up your relationship. Still, I’ll give you the same advice your boyfriend should have listened to: Stay the hell away from us.

Sorry About Your Boyfriend, You Transphobic Jerk