Workin’ on My Fitness

Howdy Folks!

These past few months, while I’ve been working on the book, my workout routine has fallen off quite a bit.*

While it was necessary in the beginning for me to concentrate my time and efforts solely on writing (to get a good and consistent practice in place), now I can bifurcate my attention (and spare time) to the dual focus of writing and exercise.

So, since fitness is frequently a hobby of trans guys (as our bodies, with hormones and surgeries, get more in line with what we’ve always wanted them to be), I thought I would post my routine, in the hopes that to someone it might prove helpful.

Some caveats:

I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL TRAINER.  OBVS.  I am of moderate ability, in an average body.  I have no physical handicaps (other than some shoulder/knee issues).  Please exercise caution during all physical activity.  Use my workout as a base, and modify it to suit your goals.

I am not new to working out, so if you are, please start slow (lower reps than me, less time for cardio), consult a doctor, etc., etc.  I stress: modify my routine to fit your body type, ability, needs, time, etc., etc.

I hate going to the gym.  HATE. IT.  I like how I feel after, but dread going because of all the typical reasons: takes too long to get there, cardio is boring, weights are boring. Oh yeah, and if I’m doing it right, it’s hard.

I like this home routine I’ve created because using body weight is more fun to me than using traditional weights.  With this routine, all you need are two chairs and a broom stick (and a body and 30 minutes).

I chose 30 minutes to start for a duration, and when I did it this morning, I was plenty out of breath, and it took almost exactly 30 minutes (30:45:06 to be exact).

You’ll notice I do the bodyweight routine at home three days a week, and cardio (jump roping in the basement, more convenient than going to the gym and, for me, WAY more fun than a treadmill or elliptical) three days a week.  Even God took a day off, so I do too: it’s 20 minutes of yoga at home, so it’s pretty chill.  It’s not hot, or meant to double as cardio–it’s just meant to be some healthy bodily self-love at the end of the workout week.

Eli’s Weekly Workout Schedule

Body Weights: M/Th/Sa

Perform all exercises as a massive superset. Rest 3 minutes between. Repeat 3 times.

-Squat (10 reps)

-Plank (60 seconds)

-Pull-up (10 reps) (This is how I do pull-ups at home)

-Pushup (10 reps)

-Tricep Dip (10 reps)

-Wall Sit (60 seconds)

-Lunge (10 reps/leg)

-Crunches (15 reps)

Cardio: Tu/Wed/Fri

-30 minutes jump rope

Yoga or Lake Walk: Sunday

-20 minutes on the mat

Are you a gym enthusiast?  Have some pointers or feedback?  Let’s see it!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

*There are other reasons, too: an injury, cold weather.  I just wanted to note them here to act as camaradic** fodder.  If you gave up a little, let’s get back up together!

**Why yes, I did just invent the adjectival form of camaraderie, thanks for noticing!

My Invisibility Cloak Came in the Mail! I Mean, in a Vial!

Hello friends!

Well, this past February marked 2 years on T.  I’ve been busy, so busy writing my book that I have had little time for this type of transition writing.

But I did want to check in, and write a little update, and talk some about today, the trans day of visibility.

First, to continue my cavalcade of odd anniversaries, here’s my 25 months on T update.

As far as physical transitions go, I am steady on my dosage, still doing IM injections on my own, and so the changes at this point are gradual.

My voice seems to have settled into a much deeper but still sometimes squeaky range.  I think the squeaking has more to do with operator error than range.  I have to push more air out, with greater volume, for deeper and more even results.  I can’t speak from the same place in my throat that I did before testosterone, nor can I use the same amount of air.

My chin remains the dominant place for hair growth for me, but my sideburns are slowly coming in.  The mustache is still struggling, but he’s there.  K talks about the “hair” on my chest occasionally, but I think she’s just being supportive.

Muscles are dependent on my gym routine, which has gotten more sporadic because of a knee injury.

Socially, I am 99.9% of the time read as male, with only the occasional “miss” from behind, likely because of my short stature.  I don’t care at all when I’m mis-gendered; it no longer feels like a deep personal wound.

The territory I’m moving into is of the “stealth” trans person.  And as today is Trans Visibility Day, I thought I would take some time to write a little about living a stealth life.

Most of you know I live in Chicago.  I believe being able to afford to live in a major city is a privilege when one is trans.  I’d like to write a little bit about the other ways I am privileged before I write any more about living a stealth life.

I’m white, and a trans guy, so as I pass I have the patriarchy on my side big time.

I’m able bodied, and I’m in the economic middle class.

Oh, and I’m conventionally attractive.

IMG_7053

Not bad.

In short, I’m privileged as fuck.

So going forward in this conversation, know I know this.  I know when I talk about my experience it is a charmed one.

So, carrying on:

The other day I was at work, and a new co-worker and I were chatting, some issue of women’s clothing came up, and she made some comment to me, the jest of it being, “you boys don’t know how tough it is to be a lady.”

It was just idle workplace chatter, but it was nice to be affirmed in my gender.  I have been stealth for a little bit, but when a comment is made by a person who just reads me as male, without knowing me as trans, it’s still affirming and feels good.

I could have very easily said back to her, “Actually, I wore bras for years, and I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

But I didn’t say that.  Why?

Because sometimes it’s nice to not be a trans talking head.  Sometimes it’s just nice to be a man.

That’s what being stealth affords me: it affords me the privilege of blending in.  It allows me to “pass.”

God, I hate that word: passing.

And stealth, I hate it too.

Because stealth makes it sound like I am hiding.  Like I’m ashamed to be trans.

Let it be known: I AM NOT ASHAMED OF BEING TRANS.

But I don’t want to talk about it every time my maleness is innocuously brought into conversation.

Sure, I “pass,” but what exactly does that entail?

Passing is, in my case, short for passing for a man.

It implies I’m not a man, that I am an imposter.

And that’s not true.  It’s actually the opposite.

Actually, for so many years, I “passed” for female.  I responded to female pronouns, and a female name, and I used the women’s bathroom.  But it was always fake.  I was always faking it, and so I “passed” for female.

Now?  My body and my presentation are aligned with my internal sense of self.  The world is able to read me as the man I always have been.

“Passing” and “being stealth” aren’t indicative of a mis-aligned body; they’re indicative of a maligned system, a system that only reads gender in strict binary ways.  We have to work to broaden the terms, so men who can’t afford surgeries or DON’T WANT THEM can still be read as men.  Maybe some trans women don’t want hormones; they should still be addressed as women.

I think I’m starting to ramble, so let me say this:

I like being trans, and I’m happy to answer people’s questions about the trans community, as much as I can, because I can’t speak for all of us.  Sometimes I am just going to be a dude, and so sometimes that means I’m not going to bring up my trans-ness in conversation.  And thank god, because who wants to listen to lectures all day?  I guess I’m just growing up, meaning, I’m settling into my male body and in that way being trans doesn’t come up so much anymore.  However, if someone says some ignorant thing about the trans community, or the queer community at large…or about women, or people of color (because more broadly it’s about intersectionality, isn’t it?  We have to have each other’s backs, don’t we?), I would surely speak up.

And so this blog, and its role in my life is changing as well.  MLWT is still relevant, in that I am still trans, but the physical stuff, the hair growth and voice change and sex drive are no longer the crux of my transition story.  It’s more anthropological than biological at this point in my life.

So as things arise, I will still post here, but this blog is taking a bit of a backseat to my other writing project.  Feel free to still comment, as I will still happily respond to them.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Greatest (T)its

Dear Readers,

I’ve missed you!  I didn’t post these last two Fridays because I’ve been busy with another writing endeavor, one secret at this point, but as the project evolves, I’ll consider some sneak peeks…

I thought, in the meantime, I’d do a top ten list of the most viewed posts.

The Homepage, at 25,800 views, is killing it, and my About Me page was in the top ten as well.  I took those two out of the list below, as to limit to only posts and not pages.

And so without further adieu, let’s start this party off right with…

10. Post-Op Depression: Ugh. Ok…that was a rough start.  Anyway, on to number 9…

9. Photo Comparison: Face Shape on T: Wherein you get the pleasure of gazing upon me.

8. At Home in the Underground: Departures and Returns: Where your hero says goodbye to an old friend.

7. 11 Weeks Post-Op: What a slick baby!

6. Blog Brothers: Some of the dudes I looked to for fraternity and inspiration when I first started this journey.

5. Day Six: First Look at the New Chest, or Parade of Photos! Gross.  But informative!  (Still gross.)

4. Two Weeks Post-Op: You guys are really into the topless pics, you old pervs.

3. The, as it were, titular post.

2. Top Surgery How-To: Compression Vest and Bandages Daily Regiment: Boring.  But if it makes you happy, I’m supportive.

And the number one most visited post, with over a thousand views is…

1. Top Surgery Check List! Hooray!

You have a favorite that didn’t make it on the list?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  Have a favorite trans blog you’d like to inform me of?  Leave it in the comments!

Thanks for reading, friends, and be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Regular Scheduled Programming…

Has hit a bump, as last week I didn’t post.  I’ve got some big posts coming up, with interviews and how-to videos, and so I missed last week as I’m planning up-coming weeks.  I didn’t want to miss two in a row, though, so here I am!

As my content right now is under construction, I just wanted to touch base (for my own journaling) and leave some links of note (to inform and entertain).

Let’s get the business out of the way:

Sugar Consumption

I’ve been doing really well!  During the work week, I have less than a serving a day of sweet treats.  One day last week I did eat a handful of mini cookies in the break room, but other than that I’ve been abstaining, and not really missing it.  For reference, I began this refined abstinence five weeks ago (from tomorrow).  Over the weekend last week, I had a ice cream cone with one scoop.  This weekend I split a half of a piece of wedding cake K and I had stashed in the freezer.  I count it as a win when I have two or fewer servings during the work week total, and one serving on the weekend.

Jump Rope, Sucker!

This  section really is about jump roping.  As in, I am so tired of an ongoing leg problem that keeps me from running, that I’ve decided to try jump rope for cardio.  See its many benefits here.

I love it!  It’s super fun, and every day I get a little better at it.  I started last week, and have done it 3 of the last 4 days.  I’ve got a little pain in my knee/shin on the right side, so I took a day off, which is the side of the pre-existing leg pain.  I think I was jumping higher than necessary to avoid double-jumping.  Basically I’m not rotating the rope fast enough to avoid the double jump, so for now I do it, until I’m better at it.  Presumably it will take more than three endeavors to be an expert.  

Fun Stuff

Here are some trans-related things I’ve found on the internet this past week, to occupy you until I come back next week with a sweet Queer Artist Post.

No doubt you’ve seen Laverne Cox erupt in joy at Beyonce’s VMA performance. 

But have you seen Brothers, a web series centered on a group of NY trans guys?

Ok, that’s it for now, but I’ll be back next week with another post.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Stand and Deliver

I’ve been using the men’s room now for, oh, almost a year.  It still feels a little strange; that is, I still feel like a foreigner…sometimes.  It’s not like one day you feel up to using the men’s room, and go in, and are forever changed and just own the place.  In some situations I still prefer a unisex stall: it’s about comfort and safety. All men’s room are different: some are obviously cleaner than others, some have different, um, let’s call it energy.  The men’s room at the Metro has a different energy than the one at Lincoln Hall.  Those of you that live in Chicago will inherently know what I mean.

I guess it’s more about the anxiety in my head that makes them different: I am worried I will be found out.  You don’t worry about that?  Don’t get nervous?  That’s call cis-privilege.  Enjoy it.  I don’t worry about it *too much* because I have the benefit of living in a major city with a strong queer presence.  So of course I don’t think, realistically that I will be discovered and thrown out or shamed or worse.  No, but I think that concern must float around in every trans person’s head, to some degree, when they are using a public restroom.

Last week when searching for a bathroom in a public place, I came across a unisex stall, and for the first time checked to make sure there wasn’t also a men’s room, because I would have rather used that.  I found that impulse interesting, and as I was washing my hands I wondered why I did that.  Sure, I was becoming more comfortable with using the men’s room, but when I thought about it, the impulse to use the men’s room over a unisex stall was because I didn’t want to take up space that I didn’t need.  I wanted someone who preferred the unisex stall to have that option.  It’s nothing profound, but it does illustrate the degree to which I am settling into my male identity.  8 months ago I would have been elated to find a unisex stall and not searched for the men’s room.

The thing that causes me most anxiety while using the men’s room is specifically the stall issue.  I used to make a big production out of blowing my nose to add a little more male noise in the stall once I was in a peeing position.  My feet are facing the wrong way, you see, and what kind of guy sits down to pee?  Actually, I have heard lots of guys sit to pee, and some of my male friends have told me they prefer the stall to a urinal.  But nonetheless, I’m the one waltzing in there without the usual equipment.  I’m not bothered by this too much, but bothered enough to start investigating STP devices.

What’s an STP device, you say?  Stand-to-pee devices range in price and complexity, and allow people with vaginas the ability to, you guessed it, pee while standing and not get urine all over themselves.  Hudson’s Guide has a full page on STPs here, and FtM Essentials has some nice models here.  For me, I just want something that will allow me to stand in a stall and pee.  I don’t want something I have to pack all day, nor do I want something with lots of parts to keep clean.  I just want something that lets me pee standing up that I can wipe down/rinse off and put back in my pocket.

To that end, initially I was torn between the Pstyle or ridiculously named Go-Girl.  Ultimately I went with the Pstyle, as I read uniformly positive reviews of it on multiple sites.  The unfortunate part of using STPs is that you don’t know which one is right for your body until you try it, and of course all sales are final, so there’s a costly trial-and-error period to start.   But being able to stand to pee in public would be really convenient and psychologically satisfying.  The Pstyle starts at $12.00, so it’s a financially low-risk place to start as well.

Oh, and I’m still off sugar!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

My Life With/out Sugar

This post proved to be a long one, so I’ve titled the sections for those of you not interested in slogging through the whole thing: you can read just the below section about my sugar history, or skip to the part after about my recent sugar fast.  Enjoy.

My Life with Sugar

I have no memory of strong feelings one way or another when it comes to sweets as a kid.  When I was young (which means grade school age for this conversation), my mom would bring home a box here and there of Little Debbie or Hostess cakes.  They only appeared if mom happened to have a coupon, or if they were on sale.  Their presence in the grocery bag was always a special treat to which I would give little thought.  I guess I didn’t really have a sweet tooth as a kid.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My gramma’s dinner table had fewer desserts.

I was an athletic kid, and most of my childhood memories are of playing outside–two-hand tap football in the street, basketball at the court at the end of my block, tag in multi-yard games.  I ate three meals a day, and sometimes I would grab something sweet out of the cupboard in between meals, if say I was at home playing video games or watching t.v.  Desssert was never part of the meal when I was a kid: I don’t really remember breakfast, but lunch and dinner always consisted of some kind of meat, some kind of vegetable, and a glass of 2% milk.  Pretty traditional stuff.

What’s funny is that when I reflect on it now, it occurs to me that the sweet stuff was always stored in a cabinet in the laundry room, around the corner from the kitchen, in the same cabinet as my grandmother’s liquor.  By the time my sister and I showed up, my grandmother had long ago given up the kind of heavy drinking that plagued my mother and her siblings.  The liquor in there was only ever accessed by my grandmother once or twice yearly, and only on very special occasions: perhaps Christmas day after the meal, and once in the spring for a drink during the Cubs’ opener.

Something like this, but replace the ball with a tumbler of Seagram's Gin. (Courtesy of azcentral.com)

Something like this, but replace the ball with a tumbler of Seagram’s Gin. (Courtesy of azcentral.com)

 

By putting those cakes in that cabinet, they were removed from the “food” area of the house–they weren’t with the soup or pasta or oil in the kitchen cabinet.  They were in another room, in the cabinet with off-limit liquor and lightbulbs.  I think, whether that placement was on purpose or not, that decision taught me that dessert was a once in a while thing, something occasional and not meant for habitual indulgence.  It was definitely in a class apart from food.  I think besides all the physical activity, that access and classification helped keep me healthy though my childhood.

After puberty, into my teenage years, I started spending more time with female friends, more time writing, and less time out of the house.  It still never really occurred to me to snack on dessert at home more than occasionally, but my female friends would go on about chocolate and its relation to their menstrual cycle.  I was a late bloomer–not getting my first period until 16, so I would listen in what might be politely referred to as indignant silence.  I was befuddled and irritated by their seeming helplessness before chocolate, which, to me, was irrationally dependent on the time of the month.  And so that was when I first started to equate sweets with femininity.  And although I did enjoy sweets, I denied it, and cut them out entirely.

I would refuse to share Ho-Hos at the lunch table, claiming I didn’t like chocolate.   When out with my friends, I wouldn’t order blizzards at Dairy Queen, turing up my nose to the very idea of something sweet.  So while the practice was good for my body, the denial was bad for my spirit.  I’m not talking about how treats are “good for the soul,” but rather that lying to shape my identity was detrimental to my character.

Every girl I went to high school with.  (image courtesy of bestworstme.com)

Every girl I went to high school with.
(image courtesy of bestworstme.com)

I held onto that old line, of not liking sweets, until my girlfriends in college, who were incorrigible sugar addicts, all wanted me to share desserts with them.  I’d have a bite here and there, just to “help them out,” so they didn’t feel so “bad.”  But by that point, to have just a little was like chiseling cracks in the Hoover Dam to relieve the pressure.  I wasn’t a kid anymore, wasn’t lying about my sexual preference for women, and so felt free to express a preference for sugary treats without feeling like I would be lumped in the same slot as the straight women going on decadently about their cravings.  But still, because my gender identity was kept secret, I felt girly for even admitting a little that I liked sweets, so I held fast to my declarations of only sharing to relieve my girlfriend’s sugary burden.

After all, where were any men talking about bon bons or cupcakes?  Where were the men going on about dessert?  What I didn’t realize is that it wasn’t that men didn’t go on about sweets because they didn’t like them, but rather because men didn’t go on about anything.  Women, in general, are more vocal about their likes and dislikes–of the two sexes I had any experience with they were more vocal about everything.  But at the time I didn’t see that: I just saw that women seemed to talk so much about dessert, and men never talked about it, so to take part in anything sweet felt like a betrayal to my fragile masculinity.  Of course it’s ridiculous, now.  Now that I am an out and proud trans man, it’s easy to indulge and not feel my very identity threatened.  But it took a surgery and hormones and a name change and lots of growth to be able to feel my outsides match my insides, as far as something as basic as gender is concerned.  So yeah, it was important, and foundational, to deny sweets to stake my claim in masculinity.   Once that need was gone, to distance myself from dessert, this happened on my honeymoon:

1511 251 81

72 5

I loved all my frosty children.  You can see I have a problem: those weren’t even all the pictures of me eating ice cream–they’re just the only ones suitable for internet publication.

 

Sugar Fast Update

It’s been six days since I started my sugar detox.*  I am doing great: I have stuck to my initial allowance of <6g/day of refined sugar.  Yesterday and today (so far) I’ve had none.  I don’t want to utter my long term goals just yet, for fear of jinxing myself.  But I will say this: six days is the longest I have ever gone without sugar.  I would like to take out the trail mix starting on day 8, and replace it with a trial mix with just nuts and dried fruit for a week.  If I can make it to week three, I would like to replace that trail mix with just nuts.  Beyond that, I would not like to speculate.

What have I noticed while limiting my sugar intake?

Well, the first day was just as I thought it would be–a struggle. I got to work and there was half a chocolate cake in the break room and milk and dark chocolate peanut butter cups in the back room, so that was just fucking great.  But surprisingly, I was totally fine: it was such a blatant display I had no problem passing it by.  If there were say, just peanut butter cups in the break room, I likely would have been very tempted to eat one, or put one in my locker for later.  But it was such an obvious cosmic joke the situation was much more laughable than tempting.

Day two I made it through pretty easy, and noticed I was a bit thirstier that day than normal.  I did get the beginning of a headache near dinner time which lasted all night.  It was a minor version of the kind of headache I’ve had in the past from too much sugar: a dull ache right at the temple and behind my eyes.

Day three was similar to day two: thirstier than normal, with a dull headache arriving right around dinner time and lasting all night.  Also that night I had a sugar dream: I drank the tastiest Pepsi I had ever had, awake or asleep.  I’ve had maybe two sodas in the last year, and haven’t had Pepsi in many years: soda isn’t my weak spot.  I also dreamed about eating a cinnamon bun, Ann Sather’s style, and then remembered after I finished it that I was on a sugar fast.  Was very mad at my dream self in the dream, but then the dream shifted its focus onto some other sweet thing I can’t re-conjure.

Day four found my interest in my 10 minute break fix waining.  I was intrigued: I ate the almonds and peanuts and dried cherries, but when it came time for the chocolate and panute butter chips, I could have taken or left them.  I ate them, and found the taste to be the same, but I felt differently about it.  I felt a little ambivalent about the experience of eating them.  That seemed like a positive change.  My headache was much duller.  But that night, an hour or so from finishing my shift at work, I got a serious craving, seemingly out of nowhere.  I didn’t seem to be thinking about sugar at all, and it felt different than just wanting a sweet.  I found myself, in my head, searching a bit frantically, like I was missing my keys and was late to work, that kind of frantic feeling.

You know the feeling.

Like this. (Image courtesy of  hyperboleandahalf.com)

I felt restless and unsatisfied so I went to the break room and drank some water.  Lo and fucking behold if that didn’t work!  It wasn’t chocolate, but I just stood there and drank my water and took some breaths and felt relieved, if not satisfied. I was able to redirect my attention, and that was the most important thing.

Yesterday was harder than normal because I was off work, and so had free time to think about sugar and had access to sugar.  K and I had a full day out of the house doing fun stuff, and it is the focusing of my attention that saves me from myself.  If I’m in the house idly, it’s bad news.

What I’ve learned is that if I eat proper meals, and eat until I’m full (not stuffed, but satiated), and drink plenty of water, and keep myself busy (not frantic, but occupied) then staying away from sugar is an achievement within reach.  If I skimp on the water, or don’t finish my meal, if I am home alone with nothing planned, then there is going to be strife.  My mind wanders to a snack.  Oh, and I have found, perhaps to no one’s surprise but my own, that the times when I’m looking for something sweet are times when I’m not even hungry.  Or when I’m very hungry and too lazy to make something for myself.

Also, as I’m sure many of you know, just as cookies are turned to sugar in your bloodstream, so does alcohol.  But this bit was new to me: there is more than one study out there showing a link between alcoholism and sugar addiction, because to your body, it’s all the same.  Because of this link, my therapist was telling me to be easy with myself, given my familial history of substance abuse: my fondness for sugar might not just be out of habit, it might also be genetic.  That pull the other night at work, out of nowhere, that frantic feeling, like something important was missing?  Yeah, that felt like an addiction.  Or what I suppose an addiction might feel like, as I don’t think I’ve ever had one.  Or have I?  So I am going to be easy on myself in that I will not resort to the usually name calling in my head if I feel a little weak, a little crazy, as I try to keep away from sweets.  But knowing that there is potentially an addiction at work here is all the more reason to cut it out of my diet for good.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

 

 

 

*Because 6g/day, given the obscene amount I was eating before, is pretty much going without.

 

Sugar, You’re Going Down

Before one can make a change to their life, they have to be honest with themselves.

I have an insatiable sweet tooth.

I eat dessert after breakfast, for God’s sake.  And something sweet after every other meal.  And something sweet as a snack during the day if it’s available.  This addiction is quite pervasive. And long-held.  And delicious.

From my honeymoon in Rome, there are more pictures of me with gelato than frescos.

I keep mostly vegan, but have rationalized in my head that no-dairy rule does not apply to sweets, and so no sweet is off limits.

My name is Eli, and I have a problem.

I have tried to taper off sweets in the past, and it works with very limited results, meaning, it works for a few days, or hours, then the consumption ramps back up to normal or is worse.

I have always told myself that going cold turkey will not work, that my cravings are too strong, and I would inevitably go right back to it.

But let’s try it anyway.

Day One: Obstacles 

So today I am going to try to eat no processed sugar.  That is the problem for me, the processed stuff; it’s not like I’m stuffing my face with pears.  In fact, I find most fruit decidedly tart.  That’s probably an indicator I’m definitely eating too much processed sugar.

Let’s outline the problem areas I can foresee for day one:

-I work in a grocery store, and most of my day is spent in the frozen aisle.  In that aisle, we also stock ALL THE COOKIES AND CANDY above the frozen food, so the deck is stacked against me in this way.

53011481

 

While I don’t usually buy cookies, I do talk about them an awful lot with customers. Actually, I don’t spend too much time thinking about the treats in that aisle, as they’re always there and, for me, exist in the same way the wood panelling exists.  But I’m sure, on some subliminal level, it doesn’t help my cause.

-I am a forgetful person, and so it is that, in addition to a lack of general will power, that will foil my best laid plans and highest held hopes.  Sure, I am weak-kneed when it comes to sugar, but sometimes when I attempt to limit my intake of it, I just plain forget I was going to try to change my diet.

53011541

-Sugar is delicious and when I don’t eat it I get crabby.  When I am at work and I am crabby, I think, “Hmm.  I am having a crabby day.  I am a good person and I am working hard.  Why not give myself a treat, to turn this day around?” So I go to the cash register and purchase a candy bar.  Because it’s true, I am a good person, and I do work hard.  It is not true that I should eat a candy bar because I am a good person and work hard.

Day One: Game Plan

So how am I going to get through today without eating processed sugar?  Let’s try the following:

-I wrote a blog post about wanting to quit reduce the amount of processed sugar I’m eating, so maybe this will help me remember I’m trying to quit reduce the amount of processed sugar I’m eating.  If you know me in real life, and you see me eating sugar today, can you do me a solid, and ask me if I remember I’m trying to quit eating sugar today?

-I will eat some sugar.

images

Wait, here me out: I have trail mix I eat daily for a snack, that has some sugar in it: 6g, to be specific, in the form of chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.  I will eat that, like normal (normal being a quarter cup on my ten minute break), and maybe it will help with the inevitable cravings.  If not, oh well, there are nuts and good-for-me shit in the trail mix, too, so it won’t be a total wash.

-I will drink water, and lots of it.  I’ve read when a person craves sugar, they’re really just thirsty.  I am pretty good at staying hydrated already, but if I get a sugar itch, I will try to alleviate it with water.  I will also try to convince myself that water and chocolate are the same thing.  This will not work, but I will try, if I remember.

-I will attempt to remember the reasons I am trying to quit sugar:

-it will rot my teeth

-it will give me diabetes

-it is widening my waistline

-it gives me headaches

-it is an addiction and I would like to be in control of my consumption.

I bet there are other things sugar is doing to my health that I am not even noticing because I have been giving the cravings carte blanche over my sugar intake.  So I’m interested in seeing how my mind and body might change after a prolonged period of greatly reduced (meaning only the 6g in my trail mix portion) portions or no simple sugar at all.  By “prolonged period” I mean a month.  I don’t know if I can make it to the end of the day, but I do know it will take at least a month, probably many months, before I notice a difference in my mind and body.

I understand that sugar is added to most processed foods, but I am lucky and my wife is a great and conscientious cook: we rarely eat processed food.  We don’t eat bread, and our gluten is quite restricted.  I think over 90% of the sugar I eat is in the form of sweet treats I give myself.

Also, I would like to note here as it applies to the topic of this blog, I realize there is some internalized misogyny taking part in my negative feelings about my sugar consumption.  It’s not just about how I don’t like what it’s doing to my body, but it’s also about feeling ashamed about liking sweets because women like sweets and I’m not a woman.  When I think of chocolate I think of indulgent housewives on the couch.  I think of moms.  And I see those feelings of shame as obvious internalized misogyny at work.  It’s pretty tangled, but I think I need to spend some time thinking about how I feel about sugar and its connotations and how those thoughts and associations are unhealthy in their own way.

Be nice to yourselves, and wish me luck!
-Your Pal Eli

Update: 17 Months on Testosterone

Hello there!

I’ve not done a video update in, oh, six months or so, therefore I’ve chosen the decidedly unceremonious hallmark of 17 months to do another update.

Voilà.

 

I also wanted to demonstrate the shift in my vocal range.  Below you will find audio clips I’ve culled from my previous videos as examples of the change, with pictures:

3 Weeks:

4 weeks on T

3 weeks on T

8 months:

IMG_3531

8 months on T

And, finally, This audio from the video update at 17 months:

17 months on T

17 months on T

Thanks for all your support and comments!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Remembrance: Matt Kailey

I first came across Matt Kailey‘s Tranifesto two years ago when I started this blog.  At the time I was certain about top surgery, and actively trying to talk myself out of testosterone.  But that argument felt a lot like the one I had with myself before I decided on surgery: I was going through the motions of a half-hearted, losing fight.  So I wanted to start looking for examples of dudes my age on testosterone: I wanted to see how it would look for a female body in its thirties to take testosterone, as I knew all the examples of kids in their 20s, with their high metabolisms and evolving bodies, would not be reflective of my transition.

Tranifesto was a revelation: TRANIFESTO in bold block lettering atop a brick wall, Matt standing confidently in front of it, eyes looking into the camera, looking at me.  Tranifesto a blog not just with his personal story, but also one with tabs for resources and links and trans FAQs.  He has a section for his bio and the bio of Tranifesto, he has a section for his public speaking and his books.  I spent a long time poking around, looking up his posts with testosterone tags, and his voice was reassuring.  Here was a guy who was a little older than me, had been on T for a while, and he was healthy.  Hell, he was thriving.  Matt’s life assuaged my fear of dying young from testosterone’s complications.

As I moved further along into my own journey I spent less and less time on Matt’s blog; what started as a weekly occurrence (I would read his Ask Matt posts religiously every Thursday) dwindled down to checking in sometimes as his new posts would pop up in my feed, and as my time allowed and interest was piqued.  I was becoming my own trans man, writing my own posts on T shots and answering questions from readers of my blog.  As my voice was taking shape, Matt’s was moving into the background.  But it was still always there, reassuring me.  One particular post of his deals directly with the fear of taking testosterone injections without any long-term studies to bolster the patient against the fear of fatal side effects.  In that post he writes,

“The one thing I do know is that you will never get out of this life alive…You will die of something, and my philosophy has always been that I would rather die after having lived a full and authentic life than after having lived as someone I am not.”

And that line, “you will never get out of this life alive,” has been a huge comfort to me. I wrote about this post of his previously here.  We all die of something, and even if testosterone is the indirect cause of it for me, at least I got to hear my real voice, look at and touch and have touched a chest that I am proud of.  I have been addressed as sir and moving in the world and being recognized by the world as a man have been perhaps the greatest joys of my life.  Clearly Matt has been a huge help in my personal transition, a soothing voice, a self-assured internet buddy, and I might not be the man I am (or might not have gotten to be him this soon) without Matt Kailey and Tranifesto.

tiredmatt28229

Matt Kailey (Image courtesy of Tranifesto)

As I was preparing my wedding and honeymoon, I’ve spent little time on WordPress recently, and so I missed that Matt died of heart failure in May.  I’m sad and his passing is a huge loss for our community.  His death, at 58, also stokes the embers of that old fear, the one of dying early.  So I let that fear sit with me for a half day, then I let it go.  In that same blog post Matt goes on to write,

“There are honestly a ton of trans guys over 50 out there. Some of us might not be as visible because we have assimilated into the mainstream and are not visible as trans men, or because we are not as Internet savvy (or as interested) as the younger guys who grew up with technology.

So don’t freak out about dying young. I can’t guarantee that you won’t, but I can guarantee that you will hear more about people who die than you will about people who are living, because death is almost always a shock, and when someone dies, people will talk about it.”

And here I am talking about it.  And even in death Matt manages to act as confidant and teacher; it is his early death that forces me to look at my own life and determine its length is in my hands.

Matt’s blog is still up and available, in fact his most recent post is about Tranifesto turning 5.  I suggest you go check it out if you’re not familiar, and if you are, take a moment there to say your goodbye.  I did, and it felt right and good.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

The Advocate has a lovely Op-ed on Matt here.

And fellow blogger American Trans Man has a short goodbye here, with links to Matt’s blog and books.

 

 

 

You Can’t Go Wrong With Skulls

Yesterday I stopped by Revolution Tattoo in Bucktown for an appointment with Omar, the owner.  The shop is on Western Avenue in Chicago.  I did a lot of research on shops in the city, googling artists and studios, asking friends for suggestions, and contacting the shops for consultations.  Revolution was my pic for many reasons: the traditional tattoo designs on the leggy walls, the antler collection above the doorway, the large bat hanging from the ceiling.  When I arrived Omar was just putting the finishing touches on a design he and I talked about two weeks prior, so yesterday was the day I got the outline for my chest piece.

2222 N Western Avenue

2222 N Western Avenue

The design has quite a lot of detail, so we did the outline in one day, and are doing the shading in a month, after Omar returns from two weeks in Europe, and I’ve forgotten how painful chest tattoos can be.  While sitting in the chair yesterday I got to know Omar, listened to some stories about his shop and the time and effort it took him and his wife to build it.  K came with me for support* and was great about helping the conversations along.  She asked Omar about his wife’s role in Revolution’s genesis and he told us about her curatorial interests and the art space they have next door.  She was responsible, largely, for the decor of the studio, which made sense to me.  Another part of the reason I chose Revolution for my tattoo wasn’t just because of the impressive bone collection or because Omar is talented, seasoned, and trustworthy, but also because the shop feels homey.  It has, as Omar said, “a woman’s touch.”  Each artist has his own station, and I’m sure they’re filled with objects specific to that person.  But there is a cohesive warmth to the space as a whole, the details make it not only comfortable and evocative, but authentic.  Revolution is a classic tattoo shop, it feels small and broken-in and interesting.  That’s the kind of local business I want to support, and it’s the kind of place I want my tattoo experience to find its home in.

Something that I didn’t expect is that Omar reminded me of my uncle Tony quite a lot.

It happened like this: I’m reclined in the black tattoo chair, Omar’s telling me a story about his beloved green 1971 Chevy truck** and out of the corner of my eye I catch this little smirk rustle his cheek, the twitch and shift of his full beard gives it away and that movement on that cheek reminds me of Tony.  Until that moment I hadn’t noticed how Omar’s beard and hair are the same color as Tony’s before he went grey.  Omar’s nose comes to the same rounded point as Tony’s but the similarity is most surprising in the eyes.  They both have playful, sharp brown eyes.  At first, I found myself avoiding his gaze at times because it felt like Tony was looking at me and that stirred up all kinds of ugly feelings.  But as I laid there, because it wasn’t Tony leaning over me, something turned over in my gut.  Sometimes clenching my fists in my pockets as Omar worked the gun’s way over my sternum, sometimes leaning into the many needle points because that felt better than to feel the ticklish vibration in my ribs, I thought about Tony and it was actually quite nice, thinking about Tony as a younger person, someone not related to me and without all that ugly baggage and I felt like maybe I was capable of healing Tony’s legacy by forgiving him in those little moments.

So I thought about healing for a little bit, how it can be healing in that moment to let Tony be free of his pain, and so then I could be free of the pain he caused me.  I could just listen to Omar’s stories, and let Tony step in and out of that room, and I concentrated on the little belly breaths I took to keep the canvas still and felt calm and pleased and at peace about my relationship with Tony.  And when Tony would lean back and out again, I thought about how my chest was healed after surgery, how my body was healed with my soul, how healing it can be to cut out things that don’t fit and aren’t representative of you.  I wish Tony would have cut out alcohol, but he couldn’t.  It was nice to imagine getting a tattoo from my cool uncle Tony.  Maybe we were in his shop, or in his garage, and maybe we were talking about girls.  Maybe we were talking about Led Zepplin.  As the gun made the arch of a wing on my chest I knew what it was like to have that guy in my life.  It was only for a few seconds here and there, and it was after he died, but Tony and I found our way to each other.  Wings are funny that way, when you don’t know how to use them they take you to mysterious places you have never been.

I looked down and saw another little feather appear.  I thought about wings and flight and how I cut out my breasts and how the scars helped me to get above myself.  I thought about how those scars arch like wings.  And I thought about that Leonard Cohen line in Anthem, “There is a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.”  I thought about how much light those scars have let in.  And sometimes when I would look down while the gun was being dipped in ink I would see this black image drawing my eye away from my scars.  Which is part of the point, but also I looked at my scars and thought about how this was their first time being really looked at in public, and by someone who wasn’t K or my doctor.  I thought about how those scars lift me.  So soon I found myself smiling easily in that chair, K sitting a few feet away and chatting with Chito, another artists in the shop.

IMG_1284

Chito and I discovered we’re from the same home town and so for a while we talked about how the town has changed, talked about the roads that used to dead end and now they go over a new bridge and all the way out of town.  There’s a pause in the chatter and he seems far away, but then he steps closer to me, away from his table and he squints at the design emerging on my chest.  Almost inaudible over The Sword’s Barael’s Blade, Chito says something.

“Skulls,” he breaths wistfully, “You can’t go wrong with Skulls.”

IMG_1287

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

*I have many tattoos, so I didn’t need anyone to hold my hand for that.  But it was my first time being shirtless in public, essentially, so it was more of a “stick around until I can gauge whether this feels like a safe space for me.”  I got a good feeling there right off the bat, but then she stuck around for the conversation and fun and ended up staying all 4 hours.  What a champ is she!
**For many years when I was a kid, Tony parked that same model in our driveway in powder blue.