Love-Fest Part Two: The Mazzoni Center in Philadelphia, PA

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As promised, love-fest part two…

For those who don’t know, finding a doctor to help you with your medical transition is a tricky business. Not only do you have to work with your insurance and find a doctor who is actually educated on how to assist transgender folks, but you have to hope that your doctor is accepting, supportive, and won’t trigger you by misgendering you the entire time. Making the choice to medically transition can be hard enough in itself, but then you have to realize that you’re basically handing over all of this hard to talk about information to a doctor and then hoping that they see you as “trans enough” and actually help you.

Doctors are the gatekeepers not only to our health and transitions, but to our futures and if we’ll have them. Once you’ve decided to take hormones or get some sort of surgery, every day waiting for that to happen is hell. The worry that you’ll pour out your soul and hand over your life to a doctor who will deny you access to medically transition is a constant and legit fear. And can lead to thoughts of ending it all if it means not being able to transition.

When I started my own search, I ran into road blocks because my insurance groups anything transgender as a mental disorder. That means I needed to get a therapist to diagnose me as having gender identity disorder before I could talk to a doctor about hormones. The problem came that not many therapist in my area accepted my insurance. Those that did were not educated in diagnosing and treating transgender people. Even if I could have found a therapist in my area, I would have needed to wait (sometimes months) to get an appointment. Then after my initial appointment under WPATH that therapist would need to see me for 3-6 months before giving me a diagnosis and referral letter to see a doctor about getting on hormones. At this time all I could think about was getting on testosterone. Every time I got misgender was complete misery. So each time I got a reply from a therapist saying I couldn’t be treated by them felt like someone was shoving me towards the edge of a cliff.

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Then one of my friends told me to check out Mazzoni Center. Though I had heard of them before I didn’t consider them a real option because of the distance they are from me. I live in New Jersey and don’t drive so even though Mazzoni is just in the next state, I would need to figure out a way to get to my appointments. Lucky for me, one of my very close (and amazingly supportive) friends offered to help me out.

I have to say in a way I’m grateful I was forced to travel to Mazzoni. Though the back and forth was hard to schedule sometimes, I couldn’t imagine a better place for people to seek help for any part of their transition.

From the moment I arrived at Mazzoni I felt accepted. Every member of the staff was careful to avoid names and pronouns until they knew which I used. The walls were covered with posters supporting the LGBT community, fliers for free or low-cost programs, and (even though it didn’t appeal to me personally) free condoms and lube in a side corner of the entrance way. Mazzoni doesn’t just treat transgender folks. Anyone can come for STD testing, AIDS treatment, and other general health care. They also partner with a Walgreens that is literally attached to the clinic where people without insurance (or people who’s insurance will not cover trans/lgb related stuff) can go and get their meds at a reduced cost.)

During my very first appointment, my doctor made sure I understood the way Mazzoni worked. They use what’s called Informed Consent. This means that instead of waiting longer and dealing with a therapist, the doctors do a few tests to make sure my body is healthy enough to medically transition and I meet with a social worker to discuss any social concerns I might have and make sure I have a support system in place. After that I only needed to sign some paper work saying I understand the effects of taking hormones and I would get my prescription. In the future, any letters I need for surgery the doctors at Mazzoni will be happy to help me with those too.

Mazzoni worked with both my financial situation (I had to pay out of pocket but they work on a sliding scale) and the distance I needed to travel. They scheduled my initial appointments on the same day so that I wouldn’t need to travel twice unnecessarily to meet with both the doctor and the social worker.

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some of the amazing staff

 

Even the way the doctor talked about me being trans was a welcome relief. Instead of using female terms to describe my body, he kept things as un-gendered as possible. Instead of saying I was trans, he talked about how my hormones were just the wrong ones. When going over changes I should expect after starting testosterone, he kept saying things like “your voice will drop, just like it should have when you were a teenager.”

It was amazing and validating to not feel like I was mentally ill. Instead being trans was seen as a medical condition. It was like I was stopping by to pick up insulin or something.

The doctor answered any questions I might have. The staff was eager to help me try to find a support group back in New Jersey if I ever decided I wanted or needed that. They even helped me get the right forms for my name and gender marker change on my New Jersey licence.

I’ve heard of people traveling as far as from Kentucky to go to this clinic and and I can easily see why. In areas where it’s still hard to find educated doctors, Mazzoni is not only the best option, it’s worth the trip.

I still make that trip into Philadelphia for all of my trans health care needs. I could really go on and on, but I see that my post is getting lengthy. Maybe on another day I’ll talk about the day I got my first shot and gush some more about how amazing Mazzoni handle that landmark day for me.

Be sure to check them out at their website!

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Love-fest (Part One) – Philadelphia Trans Health Conference 2017

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Yes, I know I missed (yet another) Thursday. But I have a good excuse this time.

I was attending the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference (PTHC) and was busy surrounding myself with other transgender people at an amazing three day event!

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For those of you who don’t know, PTHC is a convention held each year for the past 16 years. It’s run by the Mazzoni Clinic (which is the clinic I go to – hint hint, love-fest part two is going to be about that clinic.)

I could go on and on and on and on…and on about how great the conference is, about how even though this is my second year I still felt like it changed my life. And really, I could talk non-stop about how amazing it felt to be in a place full of hundreds of transgender people, sitting in sessions on everything from health insurance and legal transitions to relationship struggles and mental health advice, and meeting some of the most amazing people (including some of my heroes and role models.)

But for the sake of this post, I’m not going to make this post stretch on for thousands of words. Instead I’m going to focus on just a few amazing moments.

  1. Last year, I was honored to have the chance to meet one of my heroes. His name is Aydian Dowling and some of you might have seen him on the cover of Men’s Health or on Ellen. He’s a trans Youtuber and advocate. He also owns a clothing company called Point 5cc. Check them out. He and his company do so much for the community. This year, Aydian and I chatted again, and he remembered me. Now here’s a guy who stands on his feet for three days straight meeting all of his fans and he keeps a smile on his face the entire time. He takes the time to talk to each of them and make them feel special. It’s amazing. He even recorded a video message on my phone for a friend who couldn’t make it to the convention.
  2. I also got the chance to meet up again with several other of my trans heroes who Youtube. Chase Ross and Aaron Ansuini where there meeting folks. As well as Skylar Kergil. It was great to see these guys and be able to tell them how much I appreciate what they do for the community. And how much they inspire me to try to do the same. I was honored to be able to help Chase and Aaron at their booth selling shirts and also bought Skylar’s new memoir to use for the final project in my Transgender Narratives class.
  3. At one point during the conference, we all walked down to city all, where they gave speeches welcoming us all to the city of brotherly love and told us that even though the current presidential administration might not, they all supported us. They raised the trans flag at city hall and kept it flying the whole weekend. Gavin Grimm, the young man who’s case to use what bathroom corresponds to his gender identity made it all the way to the Supreme Court, also gave a speech.
  4. One day during the convention, I saw someone drop their wallet on the ground. I picked it up and ran after them to return it. A vender saw this and called me over to give me a rose for my good deed. Later that day I met a mother who was talking about how much she was enjoying the conference because she got to see her son interact with other trans folks and she was just so proud of him. I gave her the rose because she was so wonderful. And that’s just the kind of love-fest that the conference has going on. Good karma just getting passed on and on and on.

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It was hard to leave at the end. It was hard re-entering a world where I am the minority. Though I have friends who love and accepted, it’s different. It’s hard when there are days when I don’t feel like cisgender people understand what I’m going through. But it’s amazing when I go to PTHC and realize that even though it feels like I’m alone some days, I’m not. I’ve seen them. They exist. There are other trans people out there. They are real and wonderful and diverse and struggling in the same ways I am and overcoming the same things that I will.

I’m already counting down the days to next year.

Being Trans at the Doctor

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About two weeks ago I had the misfortune to develop at UTI that turned into a kidney infection. So, even though I tend to avoid all medical professionals like the eyes of a professor asking who would like to start the discussion on the reading assignment, I had to buck up and deal with it. In the end I guess excruciating pain and a high fever trumps my dislike of doctors.

Now, of course, my doctor knows I’m trans. It’s not something we discuss much, I visit a separate clinic for my hormones and such, but it’s there in my paperwork and from time to time she asks me how that’s all going. I mean after all, if anyone should have the details of my body it should probably be the person checking up on that body.

And while everyone in the office is super respectful, sometimes they trip up. From time to time they double check which pronouns I’m using and how I’d like them to refer to me which is always wonderful. I’d always rather have people ask then use the wrong thing and me either have to cringe or correct them. Still, I can tell the nurses feel weird when the have to ask me “female body” questions. They don’t want to offend or upset me, but they also don’t know a way around the conversation. It matters that they care and for me that’s enough.

However, this time since I had to actually be hospitalized, I had to deal with more than just my personal doctors.

It started in the ER with admissions. The lady helping me fill out my paperwork was all sorts of confused. My old name was still in their system. And when my doctor sent me to the ER somewhere in the paperwork she sent, it referred to me as a “female bodied person.” So this poor lady looked at my name, my paperwork, my ID and insurance card, and then asked, “So…you’re a…man?”

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This was the look she gave me while asking.

If I hadn’t been feeling so crappy, I may have laughed. Instead I told her I was transgender. Which seemed to confuse her even more. She just replied, “Oh…Okay…I’m gonna just put you down as male.” And I figured I’d just tell my nurse/doctor once I was admitted that I was trans so they would be on the same page.

Now everyone in the ER was amazing to me, led me to the men’s room when I had to give a urine sample, addressed me as “Sir,” and all that. It was very annoying to have to take off my binder, but the gown was baggy enough and I was in enough discomfort that I didn’t really care so much.

Fast forward to the most hilarious part of the entire evening. Once I was admitted, the nurse and aid were coming in and out of my room setting me up and making sure I was all set with everything from pain meds and IV fluids to a toothbrush. At one point the aid came in and attached this item to the corner of my bed.

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I had two friends in my room making sure I was set for the night before they left. One of them was enjoying this even more than I was. As the aid left he said to me, “So, when are you gonna tell them you won’t be using that?” And we both died. It wouldn’t have been so hilarious if it wasn’t for the fact that it took the poor aid about 3 minutes to get it to attach to the bed in the first place.

I will say it was awesome to pass as male so well that it was assumed I would be able to use that (even though if I was cis, I would still rather walk the 10 steps to the actual bathroom.) And it was a high note of a really crappy day.

The rest of my stay was pretty uneventful as far as my trans-ness. One of my nurses did ask a few questions about my transition, but only after we had developed a bit of a rapport and she asked if it was okay to discuss the subject. Even then, she was just curious how long I had been out and if I had enough support.

So all and all I’d vote it a good experience. At some point I’ll have to write up something about how an amazing experience looks and gush about how wonderfully accepting the Mazzoni Clinic in Philadelphia is in dealing with people under the trans umbrella.

And both me and my kidneys are doing well now to anyone concerned.

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After 3 days at the hospital I was very happy to leave and be feeling better

 

 

 

 

 

Top Surgery

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The other day I was talking with one of my friends about top surgery. And it came up that she was wondering just how long I had been wishing for it.

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Now before I go on, if you know a trans person please, please, please don’t ask them about their body parts or surgeries they might want without knowing with absolute certainty that they are open and willing to have that discussion with you. Even if they seem open to talking about at some times, they might not always be open to it the next day.

Back to my story though, her question really got me thinking. Because while I had no clue what top surgery, gender dysphoria, or being trans meant was as a child, looking back I know that my chest was always something I felt insecure about.

I couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5 when I started complaining about having to wear a shirt during the summer. I grew up with an older and younger brother, no sisters, so a lot of the time I felt like I was just one of the boys. I played rough with them, wore all of my older brother’s hand-me-downs, and at that age I didn’t see much difference between us. So when my mom tried to explain to me that they could be shirtless because they were boys and I couldn’t because I was a girl, I didn’t really get the point.

I have this very clear memory of watching The Rescuers Down Under as a child. During one of the first scenes the little boy of the film crawls out of bed in the morning after sleeping shirtless and pulls on a shirt to run out the door. I wanted that so bad. I didn’t understand why. But I wanted to wake up shirtless and just pull on a shirt to start my day. Even now when I watch clips from that movie something inside me remembers that urge and how strong it was. (Though, admittedly, most clips of 90’s cartoons make me tear up a little.)

Then I got older. And puberty hit. Around the same time my family started growing and suddenly I had sisters. Sisters who weren’t like me. Sisters who loved their bodies and didn’t mind showing them off. Meanwhile, I hid in over-sized sweatshirts. The only clothing I had that wasn’t hand-me-downs, from the boys’ section, or loose and baggy were the dress clothes my mother had picked out. I hated them. They were tight. I felt like they showed everything. I couldn’t wait to take them off at the end of the day.

Even before I had, or thought I had, any reason to, I would try to look as flat as possible. I wore sports bras that were just a little too small. I hated pictures of myself where you could see a visible bump on my chest. I was thankful that I was smaller. I figured it was just because I was a tomboy. I argued that it was just because having a chest got in the way.

Flash forward to when I started to question my gender. When I started to find other trans guys out there, things started to click in my head. Suddenly the years of hating my chest made sense. And while it was amazing to know that I wasn’t alone and there was something I could do about it, somehow seeing the possibility of a flat chest only made things worse.

It’s like before I had always been dysphoric about my chest, but I just figured that was life. Everyone has things about their body that they don’t like. I tried to be happy that my chest wasn’t larger and just deal with it.

But now, now I had a picture of what my chest could be like. I had a reason why I hated my chest. I wasn’t the only one. That was amazing. And so validating. But the costs of top surgery are so much more than I can afford and the goal seems unobtainable some days.

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if only it was that easy

 

I think about top surgery. Every. Single. Day. It’s always on my mind. A lot of my friends are post-op and while I celebrate and congratulate them on their shirtless selfies, I can’t help but be jealous every time I scroll through my Facebook or Instagram.  I know it will happen eventually. In fact after I graduate from college this year, that will be the next goal I work towards. I save as much as I can to put towards the costs and it helps to know that every little bit is another step closer. But there are days when I would give anything to have them gone. Days when I feel physically sick because of how much I hate this part of my body. Days when I feel like I’ll always be waiting.

So in answer to the question my friend asked me, “How long have I been waiting for top surgery?” I’ve been waiting for top surgery for three years. Which is as long as I knew it was a thing and may not seem like that long in the grand scheme. But how long have I been wishing that I would have a flat chest like all of the other guys I’ve wanted to be like my whole life? More like 26 years. And that my friend is a long time.

Two Years on T

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Wow. Time really flies.

It’s been two years since I started taking testosterone.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the day I got my first shot. I hadn’t let myself believe it could really happen. I was sure something would stand in my way. I wouldn’t be able to afford it. My blood work would come back saying it wasn’t healthy for me. I wouldn’t be “trans enough.”

And so when my doctor  left the room saying he would be right back with my prescription, I actually cried. (And immediately told myself there was no way I was starting my new life “as a man” by crying.)

 

Testosterone saved my life.

I remember when my voice started to drop. I couldn’t stop recording myself to play back what I sounded like. I could talk without my high voice giving me away. I remember when the few black hairs on my chin started to multiply. I remember when I started passing in public. When I could give my name without fear that people wouldn’t believe me.

Now, realize that every trans person’s transition is different. Hormones is not for everyone. And it makes them no less valid. But for me hormones was something that I needed to feel like I was my true self, to feel like the world was seeing me as that true self. I couldn’t live with the reflection in the mirror anymore.

My transition is still on-going. There are a lot of things I still hope for myself in the future. There are a lot of days when I’m still dysphoric about my body. But when I look back to who I was before starting hormones, it gives me hope that things will continue to get better. At the time it seemed like I would never be able to get on hormones. I know that one day I’ll have more of a beard. That one day I’ll have top surgery. One day I’ll look back and feel like the years since those milestones flew by too.

 

Side note…I’m on WordPress for 1 year. 🙂

Hip to be an Ally: Thoughts on the #TransMilitaryBan Bandwagon

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The other morning I woke up and noticed a post about Trump’s latest twitter escapades. It hurt me, sure, but I wasn’t surprised. I worried for my community and I tried to get on with my day.

A few hours later, I was back on my phone and suddenly my Facebook was full of people ranting and reacting to the Trans Military Ban. Now I follow a lot of trans and queer pages and friends so I might tend to have more than the average trans-ness on my Facebook feed. That said, suddenly EVERYONE was posting about it. Most of them cis. A lot of them straight and cis.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love all of the support. I love it when my cis, straight friends feel compelled to stand up and speak out for marginalized communities.

What got me was that just days before Trump’s twitter post, the Texas senate passed a bathroom bill requiring all transgender people to use the bathroom of the gender listed on their birth certificate.

I saw maybe two posts about that bill. A bill that could actually become law very soon. Not just words on twitter. And actual law with very real consequences.

Yeah, I don’t live in Texas. I’m not in the military either. But I gotta admit bathroom bills scare me a lot more, though both of them worry me about what they might lead to.

And I have to wonder how many of the people posting are just jumping on the whole “let’s hate Trump all over social media” bandwagon. Where are the people freaking out about all of the trans people being murdered. A trans person (mostly trans women of color) has been killed almost every other week so far this year. Where are the memes about that? The petitions? The hastags?

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I’m glad for the support, really I am. I dunno if I’m jaded or judgmental or what, but I can’t help but get a little annoyed at all of the shares by people who are just following what’s in right now.

Especially when so many of them are getting it all wrong. I saw one post were two guys were arguing on the difference between “transgender” and “transsexual.” Really guys? That’s not the issue here. (Not to mention their definition and terms were all 10 years behind the times.)

I will say it is great to get to weed out a few more transphobes from my facebook.

Also be sure to check out this video, he says a lot of what I was thinking and offers some ways to be a good ally.

Learning to Shave

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Being trans, there’s a lot I feel like I missed out not growing up as a boy. I had to deal with people not wanting to give me stereotypical boy toys. I never spent a summer running around the woods shirtless with my brothers. I never peed my name in the snow. I never got a “what it takes to be a man” speech from an older male relative. I never had a group of friends all going through the same weird puberty changes together.

And I never had someone to show me how to shave.

Now I realize that not just trans guys have to brave the waters of their first bits of stubble alone. I’m not even sure if my brothers got that lesson from my father. I’ve got friends who grew up with single moms and had to figure it out on their own. In fact, talking to people, I started to wonder if the whole stock image photo of a father and son sharing a bathroom mirror with matching shaving cream beards was something made up by Lifetime movies.

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this doesn’t exist, right

Either way, I was excited to start shaving. Even before I started testosterone I enjoyed shaving off the peach fuzz and one or two chin hairs I had. It was a way for me to feel like a man, even if it was only in the privacy of my own bathroom. I was totally intimidated though. I had never been that great at shaving my legs, always sporting at least a few band-aids on my shins. But after a few minor cuts, I was able to get the hang of it.

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a reenactment of my first shave

Even though I don’t have to shave every day and could  at least three days without people noticing my pitiful neck beard, I enjoy the morning task every day. It’s validating to look in the mirror each morning and see the man I’ve become staring back at me. I know some guys who think it’s a pain, but I don’t see myself every getting tired of it. Unless of course this patchy mess starts to resembling a dignified beard. But even then I’ll enjoy trimming it.

There’s a lot I wasn’t taught about being a man. Most of it I get from the amazing role models I’ve collected over the years. But a lot of it I’m making up on my own. I’m not alone in that. I think every man, even the ones with fathers who lead them by the hand along the way, have to decided how to be a man for themselves.

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even superman shaves

More Than Trans

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Since I’ve been horrible about posting regularly I’ve decided to do a special Monday edition of Thursdays With T (read, “I had some extra time to kill today.”) and hope you enjoy cuz I’m not really sure where I’m going with this.

 

I’m proud of my identity. Not the run around with a trans flag as my superhero cape and yell from the rooftops to educate the world about everything LGBTQ+ (and not that there’s anything wrong with that – you do you,) But I’m out for the most part (definitely on social media) and with the right friends on in the right context I’m happy to discuss my identity and I’m proud to think that I’ve help other people understand things that they don’t get about the community.

But that’s not all that I am. And though it may be hard to to believe reading this blog, there are a lot of other subjects that I’m passionate about and enjoy having a conversation about. Or even attempting to educated. I mean I’m studying to be an English/Creative Writing professor after all. Hopefully my future career will be full days of discussing poetry, how to map out writing an essay, and the importance of the oxford comma. True, I also hope to be out about my identity as a professor, but I also don’t want that to dominate my classroom. (Hopefully my future students won’t ever find this blog so they can discover all of my typos and bad grammar and hold it over my head.)

Anyone who knows me in real life also knows I’m obsessed with superheros. Seriously my apartment looks like a 10 year old decorated it because there are superhero posters, comics, and paintings everywhere. Heck, I even have an Iron Man Mr. Potato Head.

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would totally sleep here (link)

I love Supernatural and if you get me talking about I will not shut up and will probably force you to watch a fan made video or a clip from the actors at a con and generally talk your ear off about how much I love them. I’m also a radio deejay during the school year. And though my co-deejay and I are planning to do a LGBTQ+ themed show this year at least once, generally I don’t talk about that sort of stuff on air. Even back when I considered making my own YouTube channel (don’t lie, we’ve all dreamed about being a famous YouTuber) I wanted to talk about writing and poetry.

I’m sure you can all understand (cis and trans alike) that no one can be summed up in just one aspect of their identity. And it’s the people who let one aspect rule their entire personality that you tend to avoid because they’re either really bored or so obsessed that you need a week break after spending 5 minutes with them.

So yeah, I’m proud of my identity. I’m proud of my sexuality. But I’m also a proud fan of superheros and more. I’m also proud of my writing. And I can talk your ear off about any and all of it. I can talk about how being trans has affected that. And I can talk about how it doesn’t affect it at all.

The Speakers in my Poems

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As most of you probably know, I write poetry. I’ve even been lucky to be published in a few literary magazines (some under my old name but some under Abe) and one day I hope to get enough together to publish a book.

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For those of you who haven’t taken poetry workshops, when a poem is discussed a good teacher will always tell everyone to keep the narrator, or speaker, of the poem and the author separate. Just because someone submits a poem about being a serial killer or surviving abuse or diving off Niagara Falls does not mean that the author of the poem has done any of those things. It helps to separate any sort of judgement on someone personally and also encourages people to write poems beyond themselves.

Still, when talking about the speaker, most peers and teachers will used whatever pronouns that the authors uses. If a dude writes a poem, people will assume the speaker is also a guy, unless it obviously states that the speaker isn’t. Even then, I’ve noticed people trip up and keep saying “he.” Though recently I had a professor encourage students to use “they/them” pronouns when talking about speakers that weren’t specifically gendered, which was awesome, for the most part it’s assumed that guys write poems with guy speakers and vice versa.

This is all to explain that for most of my life, it was always assumed that my poems were written from a female perspective. My speakers were always referred to as “she.” When I came out as trans at my old college, people had no clue how to gender my speakers. Some people tried “they.” Others were stuck with “she.” Some would use “he.” A couple of people were all over the place, often varying pronouns within the same sentence – “Well it seems the speakers is have a hard time becaue his friend doesn’t want her to explore their talents.” It got confusing, but it didn’t really bother me whatever people used.

This past year , I took a poetry workshop class. And unless students were trying to do the whole “they/them” thing the professor suggested, they used “he” consistently for my poems.  For the first time in my life it was just assumed that all my speakers were male.

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It was an odd feeling. Partly because a lot of the poems I wrote for that class were about myself as a child. Even outside of poems, I have a hard time deciding how to talk about my younger self. Usually I stick to gender neutral pronouns, or avoid them all together. I never name myself in stories of when I was younger if I can help it either.

While I respect the decision of some trans people to use the pronouns they use now for their younger stories, in a way that feels like lying for me personally. True, I feel that in many ways, I have always been a boy. But when I’m talking about how I used to be a girl scout, how my mother took me to get my ears pierced, or when I and my cousin who’s a girl would have sleepovers, those stories all feel very connected to a time when I was a “she.” Though I know that I’m a guy. I also connect a lot with my trans-ness. Perhaps that has something to do with it.

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So hearing my fellow students talk about me as a child and say “he” was interesting. It was a great feeling to know that they all saw me as male. But also it made me think of what my life might have been like had I been born male and got to have a childhood raised in that way. By that’s a story for another day.

For now, I’ll just say how validating it was to realize that not only am I seen as male but my peers, but also that they don’t have a second thought about me being able to write from a guy’s perspective.

Back in the Closet for Summer

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This past year at school was amazing. Not only because of the experiences I had, but also because for the first time I was surrounded by people who had only met me after I started transitioning. Even though some people on campus knew I was trans, they had first met me as a dude named Abe. They would have had to do some major digging to even discover what my old name was. That meant for the first time in my life I didn’t have to be misgendered on a daily basis and people didn’t trip up on my name. Now this isn’t to say that I live surrounded by unsupportive people, but even my biggest allies still mess up now and then. After all they spent a long time using a different name and different pronouns. But at school, people never had the problem.

After that wonderful year, I’m back at my apartment for this summer. Let me explain something about my apartment. I live in a building that is mostly older people. For many of them it’s their last stop before living in a nursing home or hospital. They’re all set in their ways and they don’t get out much. In the 7 years I’ve lived there we’ve had two out gay folks. The first was constantly joked about behind her back. She eventually moved out. The second was constantly accused of coming on to the other men in the building and people posted pictures of Jesus on his door. He died. While both of them were liked by some people in the building, they also had to deal with a lot of shit.

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Enter me. Now I’ve always presented a little on the masculine side of things. And for a while when I was hanging out with my female friends in the building there were whispers behind my back about being a lesbian (poor souls could not have been further from the truth) and some of the old ladies sat around discussing what we did behind closed doors.

When I started transitioning, the people in my building made a few comments. They constantly asked me if I had a cold when my voice started to drop. Some of the ladies made comments about my hair, but since a majority of them also have short hair they joked about how much easier it was to take care of and assumed that was the reason I had chopped mine off too. I have no clue how they justify my packages that arrive for Abe or Abraham.

You see, I get along pretty well with a lot of my neighbors. I keep to myself for the most part, but it’s nice when I’m coming or going to be greeted by a chorus of old folks asking me about my day or saying how sweet I am. I’ve always joked it’s like living in a building full of grandparents. Sometimes they forget that other people can still hear well and when I walk down the hall, they’re still discussing how sweet I am and it makes me smile.

Or at least it used to.

Now I’m greeted to a chorus of people shouting my old name. Saying I’m such a good girl. It reminds me of how I used to feel before I came out and my friends would use the wrong words. I hated it, but I also couldn’t blame them because they didn’t know any better.

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The funny part is, since I’ve started my transition a bunch of new people have moved in (it’s a pretty quick turn-over rate in my building). They see me doing laundry or whatever and call me “man” or “sir” and then an older neighbor will come in and say the complete opposite. Or they’ll hear the neighbors talking about me and gets confused when I’m not the picture they had in their heads. Heck, I’ve even caught some of my neighbors, old and new, staring at my chest trying to figure out what’s going on there. I swear I could almost see the thought bubble above one of their heads saying “Where’d they go?” while she was blatantly staring at my chest as she talked to me.

The things is if I told just one person that would probably be the end of it. Rumors spread through my building like wildfire. I just am afraid to deal with the outcome.

It’s not even that I’m close to any of  my neighbors.

But since I have this plan to move out after graduation it seems like a lot of trouble to deal with for just one more year.

So I answer to my old name and force a smile when they talk about how I’m such a sweet girl, hope that I never run into any of my neighbors when I’m in a public bathroom in town, and count the days to when I can return to a place where I can be Abe full-time again.