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.

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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

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.

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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.

 

 

 

Miss Me?

Hello there!

I have been busy visiting family in Ohio, and working on the creation of some trans-friendly policies for my workplace.  That, in addition to a little chapbook I am trying to finish and my regular schedule of avoiding shit I have to do and well, I just wandered off for a while.  But here I am, with a mini-post.

First, drumroll please…

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Yup, I got my social security card in the mail, so now I can change my name at work.  One of my student loan companies changed my middle name, but refused to change my first name with only a new ID.  They wanted to see the judgment oder too, which would be fine if the woman on the phone hadn’t told me the reason they were willing to change my middle name was because “married women often change their middle name to their maiden name, so [they] only require a state issued ID for that.”  But if you’re not some straight lady changing her last name, well, then, you can submit all kinds of additional information and wait.  Douches.  Privileged douches.  Ah well, the SS card is really the most important thing, and for that I am pumped.

And, for the record, this is what not shaving for six days will get me…

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That stubble and 2.25 will get me on the Red line.

Hey, tell me, how are you enjoying the fall?  I am leaving the windows open and sniffing the breeze like my cat.  Autumn makes me feel invincible.

As always, be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Photo Comparison: Face Shape on T

So, it’s been just over six months on testosterone.  And although I already posted a vlog on the topic, I wanted to do a face comparison, pre-t and now.

Let’s get right into it: this photo was taken 2 weeks before I started testosterone, in mid February (as you can tell by the lipstick doodle that is peeking out on my chest)–

Heartbreaker

Heartbreaker

And this one was taken today, 6 months and a few days on testosterone:

Nice lighting, bro.

Nice lighting, bro.

I do see a bit more definition in my jaw.  Also, check out the rad difference in my biceps.  Lefty was always the weakling, but righty is on the money.  My chest is also definitely filling out in the way I’ve always wanted it to, not that unfortunate way it ballooned in junior high.  You can also see a lot more muscle in my pecs and around my shoulders now versus six months ago.

Speaking of hearts and face shapes, here’s some graffiti I saw while out on the town today:

So sassy.

So sassy.

All in all, not too shabby.  Dare I say…I’m getting a little beefy.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

6 Months on T Update

Hey!  Here’s a video update!  Sorry I don’t look into the camera, as I’m not sure where it is on my phone I should be looking.  Also, this video is long, please enjoy as much or as little as you would like.  It’s mostly about testosterone and mental health.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Testosterone Update

Hello friends!

I’ve been just working and enjoying the summer here in Chicago.  After a few days of sweltering heat and humidity we’ve gotten a break and today is looking to be a beautiful one in the high 70s.

So what’s up?

Well, I’ve noticed an uptick in my anxiety levels, so I went to Josh over at Howard Brown.  We talked about SSRIs, and I tried one (Zoloft), but decided I was jumping the gun with meds.  I want to try to control the anxiety with more cardio, some morning yoga, and some meditation and breathing exercises.  Also, I’ve started back to my therapist once a week, instead of every other week.  I don’t have a good routine down yet for all these methods, but I do notice I feel a little relief after practicing each one.  And so that is encouraging.

I also asked Josh to lower my testosterone dosage: .3 ml was keeping me in the high range of normal–I thought maybe my body would feel more comfortable going through these changes at a slightly lower pace.  So I started .2 ml injections this past Thursday, and will return to Josh in three weeks to have my levels checked again.

Remember boys, your dosage, and your pace, and your whole transition is in your hands.  If you don’t feel good, or something doesn’t feel right, talk to your doctor, and tell him what you are comfortable with and what you are uncomfortable with: if he doesn’t listen, he’s not the right doctor.  Fortunately for me, Josh is a smart guy with good suggestions, so when I told him I wanted to lower my dosage, at my own suggestion, he was very receptive.

So, what prompted me, exactly, to lower my dosage?

Well, I’ve been sleeping terribly.  I’ve been having anxiety-related chest pains pretty regularly.  And heart palpitations.  I’ve been feeling light headed.  These symptoms and I have a long history together, but of course Dr. J took a listen to the ticker to rule out any other more serious cardio condition first.  So my heart is healthy, and the symptoms, unsurprisingly, are anxiety-related.

Really, I think as I go through this transition, I will be jettisoning some old fears, and those will be painful as they leave my body.  I think I am digging out some soreness and letting it go and that is a difficult process.  Healing always hurts.  But I am confident I will feel a lot better on the other side of this transition.  Or rather, out of these particular woods, because as I am learning, my transition, your transitions, are never really complete, are they?  The bodily changes the testosterone is causing may peak and level off, but I will always be an evolving human, and so will you.

I’m also realizing that I can do all the yoga and meditation and exercise I want, but until I look at my history, and the pain and trauma it has caused me, the anxiety symptoms will always come back.  Until I get to some trans support group and talk about how painful it was to hide this part of myself for so long, and make some friends who are having the same social and psychological problems I am (and release some of this internalized transphobia), until I go to some Al-Anon meetings and work through the pain my mother and her alcoholism has caused me, I will never be rid of these sleepless nights, these chest pains, these feelings of inadequacy and timidity.

Wish me luck, and be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli