He Asked for It

So my pronouns are a point of contention lately.  Previously, I have stated I was content with feminine pronouns.  That’s no longer true.  I’m not even sure it was true at the time I stated it.  The thing is, I want to try to be content with my identity before I go changing it.  I wanted a female chest to be enough, but it wasn’t, and never was.  And the more I look at my gender identity, the more I uncover parts of it I am unhappy with.

And so the pronouns need a good squinting at.

I don’t like female pronouns.  Period.  I wanted to be okay with them because they make the most sense to those around me, and so I am able to avoid confrontation.  Using male pronouns, or rather, merely rejecting female pronouns puts my identity and its “other” status front and center.  People may miss my missing tits, but they can’t avoid my non-traditional pronoun choice, whatever it may be.  And this scares me a little bit.  But I didn’t start this blog, am not getting this surgery, to start tiptoeing now.

So I consider my options: female is out.  So it’s male pronouns, the singular “they,” or no pronouns at all.  I’m not considering the gender neutral ze, as it sounds archaic and not at all like english.  To my ear it is a kind of foreign I don’t feel comfortable claiming, nor is it very functional.

The “plural they?”  Sorry friends, I didn’t get a Masters Degree in English to turn my back on its rules, rules that I find sometimes frustrating but still love.  There is no singular they in English: they is always plural, and confusing as hell in a conversation when we try to make it singular in usage: “Eli went to the store; they’ll be back in a half hour.”

“Who did Eli go with?”

Ugh.

So male pronouns turn out to be my practical, best option.  But I have to fess up: they also turn out to be my preference.  I like being called he, and feel he fits my identity most closely of all the pronoun choices.  This choice will ruffle some feathers, yes, and will out me as trans in almost every conversation, but isn’t that kind of the point?  There is a lot of push and pull in coming out, be it as trans or as gay or as a Twilight fan.  You want to hold on to the the ease of your pervious identity, but living an easy life is not always living an honest life.  If I’m being honest with myself, then I am, as I have said in the past, much more masculine than feminine.  So there you have it, I am a trans man.

That wasn’t so hard now, was it?

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Rite of Passage: My First Suit

My best friend is getting married in June, and I am giving a speech on his behalf at the reception.  So, in addition to preparing for surgery, I am also preparing to attend a very important ceremony.  Note my surgery is scheduled for May 25th.  The wedding is June 16th.  This will be my new chest’s first big event.  This will be the first time my family, and many of my old friends, will see my new body. So I want to look awesome.  So I need a suit.

I have never bought a suit, never had my measurements taken.  I needed a trusted friend to go with me to purchase said suit.  Enter G.  G is a grad school buddy who has a kind manner and a playful approach to life.  He is a great writer–I admire his work and work ethic.  I admire his manner.  I admire his height.  I knew he would be the right man for this job: he had no problem with my name change (he knew me first by my birth name), and has always been very supportive of my evolving gender identity process.

So I felt good about asking him to accompany me to The Men’s Warehouse to buy my first suit.  I recognize this to be an important rite of passage in every young boy’s/trans boy’s life, and so I went with him alone.  Originally I had wanted K’s sage fashion input, but she and I agreed it was important for me and G to do this together.

There is something in G’s voice when he calls me Eli, something in his tone when he refers to me as buddy, that I recognize as respect–not like gangster respect, more like camaraderie.  It’s recognition: he treats me like one of the guys, or one of the people, but knows I don’t want to be treated like a lady.  It is his willingness to look past cultural norms for my birth gender and see the identity I prefer, and to acknowledge me in that way.  And this is what landed him the Men’s Warehouse gig.

A co-worker of mine has a friend who works at the Warehouse, and he was going to be there, which put me a bit at ease.  Since I am not on T, I feel a bit uneasy, say undeserving, in male-specific spaces, and so the fact that I had a “friend of a friend” there made me less nervous about potential embarrassing situations.  But when G and I walked in we found out that this person was late, and may be out for the day sick.  I got a little concerned at this prospect, but it was the store manager who ended up helping us, and that put me back on track.  He was friendly, knowledgable, and professional.  My femaleness only came up once, in the form of me pointing out hips, and the manager was quick to point out one of his male employees who had a “ba-donka-donk” and said many men have hips and weight in the rear to deal with when it comes to suit purchasing, so my body shape was not a problem.

I suggest Men’s Warehouse as a first look for trans guys when purchasing suits: they will measure you (and keep your measurements in their system for easy access should you go to another of their locations), they have a tailor on staff (very important for those of us who are shorter, or have more hips than cis-men), and their suits are mid-ranged in price.  This is a great place for a first suit or a starter suit.  They offer free steaming and pressing for the suit for life, and while there is the downside of buying a suit from what I would consider a “less trendy” retailer, this is a great place to start, with a fair selection of styles and colors and good price points.

I was very satisfied with my experience there, and how I was treated–that is, no differently than a male customer, as far as I could tell.  And it was great to have a cis-male friend with me: not only did it put me a bit more at ease, but also he asked questions that I either was too nervous to remember to ask or didn’t even know to ask: he had me sit down while wearing the pants, to check for comfort in the waist, he asked the manager about the return policy, and took me aside at times to check what I was thinking about certain styles or colors of the suits the manager was suggesting.  He was a great friend to have that day.  In fact, I am very thankful to have G in my life, and want to publicly (if not semi-anomously for him) thank him here.  G, this trip together meant a lot to me.  Thank you.

In the end, I left with this suit, in grey.  I look nothing like the model, but when do we ever?  Yeah, it was the manager’s idea, but it was brilliant: the boy’s section offers shorter pants that need very little tailoring, and a better fit for jackets as well.  In fact, in my case the jacket didn’t need to be altered at all, and the pants only need some letting out in the hips, no adjustments for the length was necessary.  Also the price came way down: I could buy two boy’s suits for less than the price of one men’s suit and needed far less tailoring.

We will be returning to pick up my suit on May 11th–and I might post a picture or two on here of the complete ensemble, once my shirt and shoes arrive in the mail…

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Some Recent Links of Note

The blogs I follow have been posting some great links lately, and I wanted to gather them here for anyone poking around my blog.

First, from transbeautiful we have this great story from MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, Transgender in America.

Cece McDonald, who was mentioned in the Harris-Perry video, needs our help.  If you would like more information on her case, go here.  Or go here to sign the petition to drop the second degree murder charge against her.

Next, My Transgender Journey linked to an exciting article on a recent EEOC ruling regarding workplace discrimination in the trans community.  Metro Weekly reports that the “EEOC ruling that gender-identity discrimination is covered by Title VII is a ‘sea change’ that opens the doors to employment protection for transgender Americans.”

The blog of the National Center for Transfgender Equality also has some great information on the EEOC ruling here.

And last but not least, The Pink Agendist is in the process of getting Project ProteKT off the ground–go here to learn more about his fledgling queer youth resource, and how you can get involved!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

The Countdown(s) Begins!

Today is one month to the day until my pre-op appointment with Dr. Medalie.  We will meet face to face, and face to tits.  We will make the final Peri- versus DI- method decision.  Then, two days later, so long tits.

And two days ago I got a package in the mail from his office detailing where and when my appointments take place, what to do the night before surgery (don’t eat, don’t drink, [and for good measure I have added “don’t sleep”]), and I also received a sleek brochure from Marena ComfortWear, in which Valerie (Dr. Medalie’s secretary) has bookmarked, circled, and highlighted the garment I am to pre-purchase (she has also noted that I am to buy the black, not beige model) and bring with me to surgery, because I will give it to them before they knock me out, and I will wake up in it after my tits are gone.

Some of the Countdowns I Have Going in My Head:

-19 more work days until we leave for Cleveland, which means

-32 more days until surgery, which means

-8 more weeks of binding (four weeks of the regular misery until surgery and then I’m guessing about three more weeks after surgery in this little beauty.  Actually, I have gone back to just the old sports bras until surgery, having given up on binding due to the abrasions and cuts and general pain and discomfort that was causing.  With the light at the end of this tunnel so near, I can deal with an extra half inch of shelf protrusion until the end of May.

And so now I am spending some of my time during the day thinking about all the things I have to look forward to after surgery.

The Following Things I Anticipate Greatly After My Chest Is Reconstructed:

-The feel of my guitar against my body

-The fit of my clothes

-K’s hand on my chest

-My hand on my chest

I also find myself thinking things like “this is the last rent check I will write with tits,” or “this is the last case of cat food I will buy with tits,”  which are silly commentaries but fill me with joy nonetheless.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

 

Q&A with K

My partner, K, and I have been together for 2 and a half years.  When we first met I would have identified myself as a dyke, and on some days I still claim that title.  But now, as I see myself more and more as a trans identified person, I thought it might be good and necessary to ask her a few questions.  I was curious about some particular aspects of how she is dealing with this transition, and I wanted to give her the space to speak and air any joys or concerns.

I met K at the wildly popular grocery store chain by which I am currently employed.  She was one of the people who trained me.  That isn’t to say she was my supervisor–but rather one of the best worker bees this particular grocer has ever had.  So she was one of the lucky ones who got to train the new assholes.  And luckily, I was one of those assholes.

K was quiet and mysterious.  She was direct and kind.  She had curly hair that flirted with me when she wasn’t looking and wore chunky glasses that couldn’t hide how hot she was.*  I liked her immediately.  I loved her, I would say, right from the start, but as I was in a relationship with someone else, my heart hid that love.  It didn’t do a very good job.  I uncovered it on the beach of Lake Michigan as we looked out at the water and hoped.  I found this love in between the pages of poetry we read to each other, underneath blueberries at breakfast in her studio apartment, and through stolen glances we shot one and other over rows of apples and in the frigid walk-in freezer.

K has been my unwavering support during this time of discovery and uncertainty.  She has allowed me the safe space to be myself, and has given me the encouragement to believe that I can do this, that I can be the support I need, that I can rely on myself.  So, I asked K a few questions, and she was gracious enough to answer.  Below you will find those answers unedited and in her own voice:

1. How do you identify your gender?

As female. My expression of “femaleness” has varied stylistically over the years: one part riot grrl to one part soft butch, plus a fair measure of art school androgyny-loving queer. I’ve now settled into a less effortful, more genuinely myself expression of my gender—a sort-of crunchy femininity with fitted clothes that flatter my body, but without the hyped-up, high-maintenance performative femininity of “high femmes.”

2. What are you most looking forward to from my top surgery?

I’m looking forward to what I perceive as your coming into greater alignment with yourself.

I’ve known you through many manifestations of ‘you.’ I remember the ‘you’ that diligently maintained her shaved legs and underarms, and who was, at the outset of our relationship, maybe a little intimidated at the prospect of being with an unshaven femme. I remember a you who would brag about how nice her tits looked in a snug T-shirt (and though this observation was absolutely spot-on, it never quite “rung true” as being how you really felt about yourself or your body, and seemed to me instead like you were feeling out the territory—perhaps trying to get me to reveal my own attachment to something you felt ambivalent about, or maybe—through my corroboration—learn to love them yourself).**

I’m looking forward to observing a new ease in you after top surgery. I think you’ll start to experience being in the world as generally more pleasurable and less stressful. I like to imagine that all the days will feel more like this one: an early spring; the first chance after the cold season to stretch your legs out before you at a sidewalk cafe—hands behind your head—and feel the sweet kiss of the sun on your body.

3. What are your concerns for surgery?

Well, the logistics: the challenge of navigating new cities, neighborhoods and public transit systems can always be, to a certain degree, stressful—add to this the importance of arriving on time for surgical appointments in the least agitated state possible…yeah. But having identified this before finding ourselves in the heat of the situation, I think we’re in good position to combat it. We’re flying into Cleveland days early, anyway, so there will be plenty of time to get acclimated.

My other primary concerns are about family stuff: my dad lives in Northeast Ohio and has generously invited us to spend a week with him post-surgery while you recover. So while he’s totally great and being really respectful of the whole situation, there still exists the interesting circumstance of our having to deal with this really private thing around him and his girlfriend, who we don’t know very well.

I don’t have any real concerns about the surgery itself. In the first place, it’s not terribly complicated, but moreover, you’re in good health, your surgeon and his staff are competent, likable, and among the best at what they do, and I know in my gut that it’s gonna go smoothly.

The hardest part will be helping you to relax—but then again, I guess that’s my specialty 😉

4. What do you enjoy about having a trans-identified partner?

You are the first trans-identified partner I’ve had! (Though I wonder if some of the folks I’ve dated in years past, if pointedly questioned about their gender identities now—in the context of the growing cultural awareness/acceptance of trans people—wouldn’t claim a more nuanced gender…)

I like it. I’ve always embraced the “full spectrum” –type label with regard to my sexual orientation, having had intimate contact of some sort with straight, bi, and gay men, and straight, bi, and gay women. I have always been attracted to queerness.

I am not coming from a place of having ever really privileged the body over the person, and am fluid enough in my appreciation of aspects of both men’s and women’s bodies (to say nothing of “masculine” and “feminine” character traits) that, to me, a (read = the right) trans person seems poised to be just this perfectly dreamy fusion of some of the best offerings from the two distinct sexes.

So lucky me.

Plus, I think it’s really important not to see the world (or people) in black and white, so if I’m with someone who understands complexity on such a deeply personal level, the odds are greater that they will be able to see and be sensitive to all the variegated shades of myself.

5. What challenges do you face as the partner of a trans individual?

This remains to be seen. While understanding your name change to have something to do with gender, the majority of our friends, while supportive, are not yet privvy to the whole conversation. There are so many subtleties—a male-contoured chest, but female pronouns?

I think your trans-ness might be largely overlooked (by people who know us) and not commented upon, in which case things will remain laregly unchanged for both of us. If, in the future, we do start asking people to use different pronouns and effectively “think” of us differently, I’m sure it will be unprecendentedly challenging for everyone involved—not ‘cause they don’t love you and won’t want to do what makes you most comfortable, but just because, well—old habits die hard, and it’s a lot of brain re-wiring to do.

6. How does having a trans-identified partner affect your own identitiy in the queer community?

While this is difficult to answer in that—at present—I don’t really feel connected to a queer community at all, I think that if people somehow started reading us as a straight couple I would find it mildly troubling. I mean, I’m sure it already happens sometimes and I don’t even know it—so no harm, no foul—but geez, to be thought of as so persistently common—I guess it just offends my vainly colorful ideas about myself. 😉

The queer community we left in Chicago was exceptionally progressive—all the dykes I know will be cool about it (as they’ve been gracious all along about accepting my self-labeling as “queer” regardless of the genders of people I’ve been involved with along the way). Furthermore, I’m secure enough in my own identity to be unmoved by anyone who might dare to insinuate that I’m somehow a “traitor” to the lesbian cause or perpetuating heteronormativity. I won’t say, “they can suck it,” but will instead compassionatley observe that they are deeply and sadly out of touch.

 

Thanks K!

And to sum up, a quick note from Eli:

I wanted to add some links here for resources for the partners, no matter their identity, of trans individuals.  Forgive me if some of these sources overlap, but I do like to be thorough. 😉

Partners of FTM: A Live Journal community for, well, obviously.

-Hudson’s Guide links for SOFFAs of FTMs

-Maddox’s post on resources for allies of FTMs

TNET, the trans arm of PFLAG (and find PFLAG’s support guide for trans allies here.)

-Michigan State University has a good resource list here for FTMs and their allies

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

*She is still all these things.
**Christ, she’s fucking insightful too.

For My Readers, From Brysen:

I received this message from Brysen today, and it really is for all of us, so I wanted to share it with you folks, and remind you how thankful I am for your support, and knowledge, and to let you know you have made some good in this world today, in (at least) this way:

Brysen writes,

“Hi all! As all of you were such a huge part of where I am today, I thought I would share some unbelievably happy news.

My father and I have always had a less than positive relationship. He was a abusive alcoholic. I actually spent my twenties and half of my thirties with almost no contact. In the last two years he and I have come to a new understanding. (he quit drinking 15yrs ago). Over the weekend I told him via text (I know lousy way, but I still respond to him poorly during conflict) about my name change and a whole list of other things going on with me, encompassing my lifetime thus far. I was expecting the worst. Instead, I received this via text, ” I LOVE YOU. If this is what makes you happy and is right for you, then it is right for me and it is what I want too.”
Acceptance. Saturday April 14th 2012, after years of so much ugliness and separation…I have acceptance.
Now on to accepting myself.
Thank you ALL!”

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Top Surgery Check List

So in an effort to get my shit together before surgery, I am posting today about my pre-surgical care.  I know this will be helpful to me, but I hope this serves as a list for those of you considering surgery to use as a starting point to get your own shit together.  I am indebted to many trans bloggers, but to Maddox, Ashton, and Tam specifically and would like to thank them here, for the thousandth time, for all their suggestions and support.

Pre-Surgical Health Care

-I am upping my vitamin A, C, and E intake to boost my immune system and prepare my skin to do some heavy duty healing in the near future.

-I am downloading audio Dharma presentations sponsored by the Insight Meditation Center on their website Zencast.  They have free talks you can download, on topics as varied as the basics of Buddhism, to ones on dealing with specific negative emotions (you know, like the ones trying to haunt me right now) such as fear, anxiety, and doubt.

-I am going to restorative yoga classes every Thursday night leading up to surgery, for of course a general sense of wellbeing, but also to encourage good circulation and practice healthy breathing (this I find especially important for top surgery, as breathing will be largely restricted for some time post-op, and I want to be able to stay calm and give my cells as much fresh oxygen as possible.)

-Epsom salt soaks and magnesium supplements have also become part of my routine in an effort to reduce stress.

-Vitamin E oil  and Aloe Vera will be applied topically to the affected area (ahem, the tit region) to encourage skin elasticity.

-As for sources for the above mentioned goods, I suggest Trader Joe’s for the topical vitamin E, Target for the epsom salt, and Pure Formulas for the dietary supplements.  As with any supplement, please check with your doctor before following any of my suggestions.

Post-Op Care

-Steri-strips!  I am following Maddox’s suggestion for the Scar Away Silicone Healing Strips.  Ashton also suggests silicone strips from BioDermis, so I might try both and track how the results vary.

Scarprin silicone based scar gel will also become part of my routine, granting that I can find it, as Amazon seems pessimistic about its return.

-Cortizone injections!  This is also under Maddox’s suggestion (see their comprehensive post-op scar treatment post for more details), and something I will be talking to my doctor about before I leave for surgery.

-Four weeks off work!  You heard me right, a whole blissful month of the 3 Rs: reading, writing, and not reaching for things over my head.

-I will continue my pre-op dietary and supplemental care in order to continue to support my immune system and encourage healthy healing.  My exercise will consist of as much walking as I feel fit to do–June will be a fine time to explore the local farmers markets on the weekends, the bike trail during the week, and the local conservatory just to mix things up.

-And, as a side note, there will be plenty of water consumption.  I usually drink between 50 and 75 oz. of water a day–post-op I will try to stick closer to 75.  Your daily intake will vary according to your weight.

I think that about covers it.  You folks have any suggestions?

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli