Coming out…again, and again, and again.

So, a few weeks ago I posted a note in the break room at work:

“Dear friends and co-workers:

Your co-worker Eli is transgender.  Being transgender can mean many different things for many different people.  For Eli, it means he would prefer male pronouns when referring to him.

Thank you for your support.

Your pal,
Eli”

And it was up on the board where the schedule is posted, so many people would see it.  It was there for a few days.

I still get pretty consistently referred to with female pronouns.  And I want to be patient.  And I do understand, that it is (for many) just a matter of breaking an old habit.  Some people, who knew me before the name change, sometimes slip and call me by my birth name.  They usually correct themselves immediately.  And I understand, really, I do.

But sometimes it just irks me, ya know?  Sometimes I just wanna say, “look, I went to the trouble to learn your name and call you by your pronoun preference, I would appreciate the same courtesy from you.”  Sometimes, I just wanna ask them to be a bit more mindful, and acknowledge that there are more than cis- people in the world.  I am not going to apologize for the space I take up on this planet.  And I am not going to apologize for being myself, finally.

They can now thank me for not requiring gender-neutral pronouns, or the much-lauded, grammatically-troubling “singular they” in place of “she.”

So, I get to have, in a very busy and loud grocery store, daily conversations about my gender, just to get the goddamn pronoun right.  I get to correct people who may or may not have read the note.  I get to correct people who have told me they “think [they] will never get it right.”  And I hate doing that.  I hate feeling like I’m being picky or up somebody’s ass all the time because I don’t know when I should or should not correct someone, so I just better do it all the time and what an ass I must sound like, patrolling everyone’s pronouns usage.

Ahem.  Ok, I’m done bitching.

Actually, the people I work with are great.  They want to do this the right way, and are trying.  I am just feeling a bit impatient, and a bit unnerved at the fact that I have to keep talking about being trans at work.  It’s not exactly the most comfortable subject to discuss in the check out line.  So I get a bit testy–because no one likes to feel exposed like that.  No one likes to discuss their personal gender shit at work.  But English does come with gendered pronouns, so I have to muddle through these shitty conversations, again and again, until everyone is on board.

And I hate it.  I hate that I’m the only trans person at work.  Why couldn’t there have been one to come before me, so I could just stroll onto the scene and be like, “Yeah, me too, see what that guy had?  I’ll take one of those: proper gendered pronouns and complete understanding of my singular experience to go with it.  Thanks.”

I am thankful that my co-workers are good-natured about it, and do want to do right by me, and are trying.  I suppose the least I could do would be to give them the benefit of the doubt and allow them a few “she/her” get out of jail free cards.  And I do allow them the space to fuck it up: in fact, I usually don’t correct them, because I know many of them slip-up and realize the second it leaves their mouth that “she” was wrong.

But some of them don’t know, some of them were on vacation when the note was up, or didn’t see the schedule board during those few days, or whatever.  So as they refer to me with female pronouns, on the sale floor, surrounded by customers, I get to decide on the spot: do I just cringe and take it in the hopes that they figure it out, or do I correct them on the floor and have that “Um, you just called me by female pronouns and I go by male pronouns now” conversation punctuated by “Excuse me, where is the cream cheese?”

I think this would be easier for them, for my friends and co-workers, if I was on T.  Right now, they look at me and I look the same (minus the tits) and I sound the same as when I was going by my birth name and using female pronouns.  But they don’t realize that back then, in that body with that chest and those pronouns, I didn’t see myself the way they saw me.  I was always a guy in my head, and so nothing has changed for me.  I have had all this time, over 30 years, to see myself as male, and many of them have only had a week or two.  So how long does it take?  Some are calling me by male pronouns and using Eli really easily, and some have even told me that this makes more sense to them, that referring to me as male is easier for them than it was to refer to me as female.

So, trans friends out in internet-world, tell me about your trans-related work woes: did you come out?  How did it go?  What advice do you have for me?

Or, cis-folks and work friends, tell me, how can I make this transition easier for you?

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Needing Is One Thing. Getting is Another.

I went to a wake today for a kid.

She was in her 20s, but really, for those of us who have made it out of our twenties, we know most of the best stuff comes after that decade.  Just a kid.  Didn’t even get a chance to make all the really great mistakes that don’t come along until our thirties or older.  And of course the converse of that: she never got to come to the really kind and satisfying conclusions we all get to after the terrible mistakes we make as kids.  And so, as death usually encourages, it got me to thinking about my own life, and about what I am doing with it, now that this other person no longer gets to live hers.

And this song has been rattling around in my head because of it:

The lyrics:

I’ve been waiting for months
Waiting for years
Waiting for you to change
Aw, but there ain’t much that’s dumber
There ain’t much that’s dumber
Than pinning your hopes on a change in another

And I, yeah, I still need you, but what good’s that gonna do?
Needing is one thing and getting, getting is another

So I been sitting around
Wasting my time
Wondering what you been doing
Aw, and it ain’t real forgiving
It ain’t real forgiving
Sitting here picturing someone else living

And I, yeah, I still need you, but what good’s that gonna do?
Needing is one thing and getting, getting is another

I’ve been hoping for months
Hoping for years
Hoping I might forget
Aw, but it don’t get much dumber
It don’t get much dumber
Than trying to forget a girl when you love her

And I, yeah, I still need you, but what good’s that gonna do?
Oh, needing is one thing and getting, getting is another

When?
When?
Why not now?
Why not me?
Why not me?
When?
When?
Why not now?
Why not me?
Why not me?

And so, of course this might make you think of a person, someone in your life, or rather, someone who used to be in your life that you wish was back in it.  Or it might make you think of something else altogether–

In this song, at this point in my life, the elusive you the speaker is pining for is writing.  What do I need?  What do I want?  I have to forge a writing life again, something creative and independent of this blog.  I need it to live again–my life is unfamiliar without writing, or, more directly, my life is not the life I am meant to live without writing in it.  I am a writer, and a writer without a writing life is a fish with no gills.  We can’t breathe.  I know the analogy is loosely apt, and disgusting–Jesus see what I mean!  I need to get writing again–my analogies are vague, and vaguely cliche!

I have made many excuses: grad school broke my heart and I turned my back on writing because of it–and now writing, in many ways, feels like a spurned lover–writing has become the one I loved best, the one that was always loyal, and was the one I turned my back on, and now, I can no longer look her in the eye.

But, I have to heal this rift somehow, and so, in honor of the kid who isn’t going to wake up tomorrow and have another chance, I will begin right now to look my writing in the eye (by acknowledging my wrong doing in this post) and say I’m sorry.  And mean it.  Because she has always known, even when I haven’t, when I was bullshitting.  And I can’t begin to write again until I have made my amends.  It’s time I start “pinning my hopes on a change” in myself.

When?
Why not now?
Why not me?

And for that matter, why not you?  What do you need?  What do you want?  Why don’t you go get it?

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

For New Readers and Allies (and Long-Time Followers and Trans Folks):

Last night I went to a pre-wedding celebration at a friend’s house.  This part was filled mainly with co-workers, because at the wildly popular grocery store that I work, it is common for large swaths of us to socialize outside of work.  Many of us date co-workers, and in fact this pre-wedding party was for two folks who met at this store.

While enjoying some fondue, a co-worker, who I am friends with on Facebook, mentioned my blog.  We chatted about it for a bit, and in passing she mentioned it could serve not only as a resource for trans folks, but also for allies who want to learn more.  That community, the cis-gendered folks who follow this blog, is one that I don’t give very much thought to–mainly because before I published my blog’s existence on Facebook, I don’t believe there were many straight, cis-gendered* folks reading My Life Without Tits.  I believed my audience to be mostly queer of some nature or other, and in that way I also believed them to have some passing familiarity with trans terminology and culture.  We might be last, but we are in the lgbT acronym, after all.

So, in an effort to further welcome any new readers, I would like to post some trans terminology, give a run-down of some trans etiquette, and end with some ally resources, should a person be further inclined to learn more.  And for my readers well-versed in trans culture, please, feel free to add any terms or etiquette or resources in the comments section!

Trans Terminology 101**

Transgender: An umbrella term for people whose gender identity, expression or behavior is different from those typically associated with their assigned sex at birth, including but not limited to transsexuals, cross- dressers, androgynous people, genderqueers, and gender non-conforming people. Transgender is a broad term and is good for non-transgender people to use. “Trans” is shorthand for “transgender.”

Transgender Man: A term for a transgender individual who currently identifies as a man (see also “FTM”). Transgender Woman: A term for a transgender individual who currently identifies as a woman (see also “MTF”).

Gender Identity: An individual’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else. Since gender identity is internal, one’s gender identity is not necessarily visible to others.

Gender Expression: How a person represents or expresses one’s gender identity to others, often through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice or body characteristics.

Transsexual: A term for people whose gender identity is different from their assigned sex at birth. Often transsexual people alter or wish to alter their bodies through hormones or surgery in order to make it match their gender identity.

Cross-dresser: A term for people who dress in clothing traditionally or stereotypically worn by the other sex, but who generally have no intent to live full-time as the other gender.

Transvestite: A term for a cross-dresser that is considered derogatory by many.

Queer: A term used to refer to lesbian, gay, bisexual and, often also transgender, people. Some use queer as an alternative to “gay” in an effort to be more inclusive, since the term does not convey a sense of gender. Depending on the user, the term has either a derogatory or an affirming connotation, as many have sought to reclaim the term that was once widely used in a negative way.

Genderqueer: A term used by some individuals who identify as neither entirely male nor entirely female.

Gender Non-conforming: A term for individuals whose gender expression is different from societal expectations related to gender.

Bi-gendered: One who has a significant gender identity that encompasses both genders, male and female. Some may feel that one side or the other is stronger, but both sides are there.

Two-Spirit*: A contemporary term that references historical multiple-gender traditions in many First Nations cultures. Many Native/First Nations people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming identify as Two-Spirit; in many Nations, being Two-Spirit carries both great respect and additional commitments and responsibilities to one’s community.

FTM: A person who transitions from “female-to-male,” meaning a person who was assigned female at birth, but identifies and lives as a male. Also known as a “transgender man.”

MTF: A person who transitions from “male-to-female,” meaning a person who was assigned male at birth, but identifies and lives as a female. Also known as a “transgender woman.” Passing: A term used by transgender people to mean that they are seen as the gender with which they self- identify. For example, a transgender man (born female) who most people see as a man.

Sex Reassignment Surgery: Surgical procedures that change one’s body to make it conform to a person’s gender identity. This may include “top surgery” (breast augmentation or removal) or “bottom surgery” (altering genitals). Contrary to popular belief, there is not one surgery; in fact there are many different surgeries. “Sex change surgery” is considered a derogatory term by many.

Sexual Orientation: A term describing a person’s attraction to members of the same sex or different sex. Usually defined as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or heterosexual. Transition: The period during which a person begins to live as their new gender. Transitioning may include changing one’s name, taking hormones, having surgery, or changing legal documents (e.g. driver’s license, Social Security record, birth certificate) to reflect their new gender. Intersex: A term used for people who are born with external genitalia, chromosomes, or internal reproductive systems that are not traditionally associated with either a “standard” male or female.

Drag Queen: generally used to accurately refer to men who dress as women (often celebrity women) for the purpose of entertaining others at bars, clubs, or other events. It is also used as slang, sometimes in a derogatory manner, to refer to all transgender women.

Drag King: used to refer to women who dress as men for the purpose of entertaining others at bars, clubs, or other events.

This list of course, is not exhaustive, but I think it hits on most major terms.  To use some of these terms in an example sentence, one might say, “Eli is trans.  He had top surgery and prefers male pronouns.”

Trans Etiquette 101

Matt Kailey is a trans writer and activist and writes a really comprehensive blog concerning all matter of trans issues, Tranifesto.  His post, “Trans Etiquette for Non-Trans People,” does a great job of outlining some common faux pas.  Equally helpful is his post, “Ten Things Not to Say to a Trans Person.”  Go forth and learn, fellow traveller.


Ally Resources

The following are some links I find to be both useful for cis- allies and respectful of the trans community.

-Southern Oregon University has a nice page with tips for trans allies and makes the important point: “Be honest about things you don’t understand—don’t try to fake it!”

-The website Transwhat? is another great resource for trans terminology and ways to keep your cis-foot out of your mouth.  This site is more comprehensive than SOU, and so starts to move beyond the basics.

-WikiHow has a helpful article, How to Respect a Transgendered Person.  Unfortunately, WkiHow has a pretty hilarious advertisement directly under the first step on how to be respectful.  They love you long time.

If you would like to read other blogs written by people in the trans community, check out my blogroll in the right sidebar of the page on which you are reading this.  Some highlights: The Adventures of Transman, Trans*forming Family, One HuMan’s Journey, and Neutrois Nonsense.  Of course there are many more, but these I have found to be compelling and compassionate.  These are the ones that deal predominately with trans and gender issues, and the ones I find to be the most informative.  Of course all the blogs I’ve linked in my sidebar are important to me for one reason or another (Shout out to J.C.–long time no type buddy!), but not all of them are relevant, specifically, for informing cis-allies about trans issues.

Confused?  Excited? Overwhelmed? Drop me a note in the comments section–let me know what’s going on!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

*The cis- prefix, according to Wikipedia, is “where an individual’s self-perception and presentation of their gender matches the behaviors and roles considered appropriate for one’s sex.  There are a number of derivatives of [this] term[…] in use, including cis male for a male with a masculine gender identity, [and] cis female for a female with a feminine gender identity…”  Basically, most folks are cis-gendered: you were born with boy junk in your pants and you feel like a boy in your head.  It’s when the genitals between your legs matches the gender between your ears.

**This list was taken from The National Center for Transgender Equality, and can be found here: http://transequality.org/Resources/NCTE_TransTerminology.pdf.

Paw’s Tryin’

I have bitched plenty about my dad’s attitude, toward me, toward life in general, here n this blog.

So, it seems right and just to remark that three days ago he called me up, and asked if I would accompany him to a trans meeting at his parent’s church.

The church, one in the suburbs of Chicago, is a Methodist one, and is also of the  Reckoning in Christ variety.  This means they don’t just put up with LGBT folks, but rather they have gone through some sensitivity training and welcome* them.

I am very proud of him for making this effort.  I fear my work schedule may get in the way, but I am going to try to make it.  He says he would go to it even if I couldn’t come, but it would be easier for him if I was there.  Of course I would love to be there, but if I can’t, it seems like the kind of meeting that might occur once a month or so.

So, Paw’s making an effort, and I wanted to publicly commend him for it.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

*”Welcome” as in, don’t tell us we’re going to hell or use that ol’ tired “love the sinner hate the sin” bullshit line.  Rather, they treat us like people and respect our identity and orientation.

National Coming Out Day! Come One Come All!

Hello friends,

17 years ago, when I was 17, on this day I told my sister I was gay.  It went like this:

(Eli is on the phone in the dining room of his grandmother’s house, when his little sister walks past him on the way to the kitchen)

Eli: (Tells the person he is on the phone with to hold on, and speaking to little sister now) Hey S–

S: Yeah?

Eli: I’m gay

S: (surprised, but relatively unimpressed and pleased): Oh you are?!  That’s great.

Eli: Yeah. (Eli then resumes his phone chat, and his sister continues on the the kitchen.)

***Fin***

Why I came out to little sister S like that, on a whim, in the middle of a phone conversation, I have no idea.  It just struck me as the right time, and I knew my little sister wouldn’t have a problem with it.  I was so obviously butch and so obviously gay it is no surprise to me that it was no surprise to her.  As a side note, I didn’t find out it was National Coming Out Day until after I came out to her.  I suppose it was the ghost of Harvey Milk recruiting me that gave me the nudge to come out in that moment.

And so, in the spirit of that moment, I bring you another coming out: moments ago I linked my blog to my Facebook page, thus making this part of my life accessible to many friends and loved ones who didn’t know this blog existed.

For those of you reading for the first time, welcome!  Know this blog runs most current entry at the top to least current many pages back, so if you want to read in chronological order you’ll have to go back many pages, and start at the Wishing Well.

Also, know that there are graphic post-surgical photos on here, so some of these posts are NSFW, and they also might just be things you aren’t interested in seeing.  This is your warning.  There are also warnings in the post, if there are photos in it–so be aware, but not alarmed: this is no gender haunted house where a bloody, reconstructed nipple may pop out at you at any turn.

This blog has been instrumental in my coming out as trans process, and I have made some incredible internet friends here.  I have also brought together a nice little network of trans friendly blogs, and through these blogs met some very brave people, people who are generous with their time and generous with their lives, sharing intimate details so that we in the trans community can all feel a little bit less alone.

In that spirit, I welcome my cis-gendered friends and loved ones.

Happy Coming Out Day!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

I’m Feeling This:

-Repost from Your Pal Eli

Tips for Trans Men

Meike from Tips for Trans MenContributor: Meike

I started on my journey of gendered self-discovery from a place of depression, angst, and the nagging feeling that I didn’t quite know everything there was to know about myself.  It’s been almost three years since I started questioning myself and my gender identity, and I now find myself at an important milestone: being officially on testosterone.  For many, this is sort of a penultimate experience.  It marks the start of the physical change from female to male.  Feminine to masculine.

In this post I want to address two important themes: how I came to the decision to take testosterone, and what I like to call The Waiting Game.  The first topics is important not because it’s about me, but because everyone’s process is different.  Sometimes, the decision to transition or take T mirrors that of hundreds of trans* folk’s decisions.  Other times it might not be so…

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