An Experiment:

I assumed all along that I would post pictures of my chest wrapped up after surgery, and topless pics after the bandages and binder comes off.  But recently I have been pondering doing some video as well (of me talking about the surgery) as a resource for others, but also as a chronicle for myself, of this process.  And so, in the event that I decide to post video, you will see my face and hear my voice.

You, dear readers, already “hear” my voice through my writing, and I wonder, what, if you put an audio tone to it, does my voice sound like to you?  What does it sound like in your head?  Does it sound like your own voice?  Does it have no sound?  If I asked you to guess, what would you say?

And my face, you have seen my chin in my suit photos, and my face is obscured in a few WordPress images of myself, and so I wonder, when you read me, what do I look like to you?

If you have not seen any of my pictures, take a minute now, don’t go look at them, and ask yourself, what does Eli look like?

I find it curious that there are those of you (Kira, for example, or Karen) that I have never seen, yet I have a blurry image of you in my head.  I imagine some of you have that same experience for some of the blogs writers you read.  Just as a matter of record, I was wondering, what do I look like to a stranger, if all that strangers knows of me is my written language and what I don’t want to look like (that is, conventionally female)?

Be nice,
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.

New TS Blog Posts Uncovered!

So I was poking around on ye olde internet last night and found a gem:

Sebastian over at xxboy had top surgery with Medalie in 2010 and details his lead-up and surgical experience thoroughly here.  I was super excited to find this because I am obviously interested in hearing stories about top surgery experiences, especially ones with Medalie.


-Your Pal Eli

Choosing a Transgender Life

Blogger Periphereality has caused a bit of (presumably unintended) stir with his post here about his ideas on the limits for the parameters of  transgendered definitions.  That is, his argument concerns the liability, or fairness, for a transgendered person to label themselves with the gender of their preference.  I am butchering his argument and so I will stop paraphrasing him now.  I do ask if you go to his blog, that you respect his right to free speech and take special note of his disclaimer, at the very top of his post:

“Before reading, please note that as a philosophy student it is my job to logically and objectively look at both sides of two arguments. My opinion doesn’t supersede science, so much as discuss the value or worth of science. Also, I do not wish to offend or sound insensitive, and if you feel as though I am, please stop reading for I don’t wish to offend. You need to understand that this blog isn’t written and posted on a transgender support group – the context is not the same. If you aren’t comfortable with that, then please accept my apologies and move on.”

I found this post linked on Kira Moore‘s blog, where she also responds to Perpih’s post.  Kira’s response is touching, and sincere, and I find it deeply moving to read a post about such intimate and well, primal, pain.  I don’t want to spend too much time talking about the validity or problematic features of Periph’s post.  I also don’t want to address what a MTF or FTM individual may or may not say in response to Periph’s post.  As I don’t classify myself as strictly FTM, I find it unfair and misleading to attempt to be a voice for that community.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am finding myself these days somewhere on the boarder between man and woman, and thus trans is the label I claim.  So I will speak from a transgendered perspective.

This post topic, actually, has been on my mind since before Peripherality’s post was brought to my attention, the idea of claiming male or female status without having been socialized as male or female throughout our lives.  I never felt that I could claim being male not because I didn’t have the right to, or because of some invisible patriarchal hand oppressing my true gender identity.  Nor did I feel ashamed or ill-equipped to claim male because I didn’t “always feel” that I was male.  Because, of course, I have always “felt” male.  But really, what the hell does that mean when I have never been treated as a male?  I was socialized as female, grew up with the same standards of beauty and misogynistic oppression afforded all the other little vagina-havers.  I got my period (even though I detested it), I grew female breasts (even though I am removing them next month), and have been referred to with female pronouns my entire life.  Of course I didn’t like it, but I have had a decidedly female history.  So how do I know what it means to “feel male?”

I am okay with this history.  I am working toward the human I want to be, in the form I believe best represents my psychic identity.  I find my evolving gender presentation is just one facet of my identity, and because its changes are visible and tangible, essentially corporeal, it is a kind of change I can watch happen.  The capacities of aspects of my identity that are just as important to me as my ability to express gender (empathy, compassion, insight, wisdom) change over time and I can’t (noticeably) experience that change.  It happens too slowly, and in a largely invisible way.

For example, in my twenties, I remember being more concerned about being funny than being kind.  I was great at parties but I was cruel to my friends, and I am not proud of that.  I know I am a much kinder person now because over these years I have come to the realization that kindness is important to me, and have daily, at a near glacial pace, worked to be more kind (I am still just as funny, but in different ways. ;)) and so I know I am a different person.  But I can’t point to my history and say, “there, see it there, and there, those are examples of me changing” because human emotional maturity happens over a lifetime, not under a scalpel.  I can of course point to historical examples of me behaving differently than ways I behaved in the past, but those moments are illustrative of the results of change, not the act of change itself.

Am I troubled that I will never be “a real boy?” That at the genetic level, I will always be female?  No, it doesn’t bother me in the least.  Because for me, I am very happy to claim the transgendered label.  I want it to be known that I have never felt the benefit nor the burden of being a biological man.  And I want it to be known I know what it means to withstand the oppression of being raised female.  I want to be recognized as having lived a transgendered life.  I want all the respect towing that hard line bestows, because that is the life I am living everyday, no matter how much I sometimes might wish things were different [read: easier on my gender preference].  Do I wish the gender binary wasn’t so suffocating?  Probably.  But I also don’t know what it means to live outside a system that has always been in place.  Go ask the fish how the ocean temperature feels and he won’t know what water is.

I don’t judge anyone who feels they were assigned the wrong gender*, whether they have known since birth or since yesterday.  But I also know I want human suffering to be alleviated through more tolerance and equality no matter the minority status you might claim.  And I’m not going to get that equality through assimilation into a severely broken system.  I want equality for transgendered individuals?  Then I have to stand up and fight for transgendered individuals.  And for me, part of that fight is identifying as transgendered.  For others, part of that fight is claiming their rightful gender as they see fit, and that sometimes means assimilating into the broader culture via “passing**” as their preferred gender.

I am not only the sum of my parts, I am the sum of my biological parts and my personal experiences.  I am a work in progress.  I am a living creature and that’s what we do, we change and change and change and we only stop changing when we die.  And even then our parts, our molecules and DNA and scars and hormones convert into food for the earth, and I take great comfort in that.  I take pride in it too: I want to be good to myself, and to others, and I want to be nourishment for this place in which I have experienced so much love and joy and wonder and heartbreak.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

*I want to reassure my transgendered brothers and sister who identify themselves as male or female, that this is not an attack on their identity or desires or most deeply held convictions.  This is my attempt to clarify, for myself, my place in the gender spectrum.  I believe my thoughts on this topic have no bearing on your own experience or identity, not should anything I write serve to alienate you in any way.  My deepest apologies if I have offended any of you.  Of course, as always I welcome your comments.

**”Passing” sounds so sneaky to this ear, and it is obviously NOT what those who “pass” intend to do, to “pull the wool” over anyone’s eyes.  J.C. Prime has a good post on passing, or rather, “being read as” a gender other than the one assigned at birth.  I think his post complicates the issue at hand here wonderfully.

A Reader Reaches Out: Let’s Give Brysen Our Attention!

Brysen left this as a comment on one of my posts, but I thought it better as a post of its own, and implore you all to give Brysen the benefit of your time and experience:

Brysen writes,

“At 42, I’m at an impass. I myself was my fathers son/daughter. He not unlike others, had no idea how to relate, nor did my mother. I was abused by my father as a child and my mother hid from his alcoholism and his abuse of others in religion, forcing my sisters and I to follow suit. Decades of therapy and “two middle fingers” (thanks for the loan, lol!) have healed most of the damage and trauma. due to the religous fear, and all around fear of rejection, I lived in hiding of being gay until I was 30. Living in hiding sucked. I wasn’t just “not out” I was not out, not dating, not involved, and filling my life with my career to avoid facing what I was missing.
Here I am at 42. I am once again tired of hiding. I’m a masculine lesbian that is niether male nor female within but as so eloquently put recently…some where in between,…and I like it. It is who I have been my whole life and he/she/we are dying/living to get out. I don’t consider myself trans, but I don’t like my chest as well. I’m totally cool with the bottom bits ( Your terminology cracks me up) but I am NOT good with my name. I have started calling myself Brysen and have mentioned changing my name to one of my friends and my twin sister, I’m not sure what to do. I feel like it’s the right thing for me, but who changes their entire name at 42. I live in good ole conservative southwest Florida, and for the first time I went out as myself today. Unshaven legs in shorts, unshaven armpits in t-shirt, my handsome short boy hair styled, and armed with anxiety I greeted the world with a smile. Thankfully I was in turn greeted with a smile.
At this point I’m at an impass of what to do for me. Change my name? live out loud? Let go and be honest of who I am? Any and all advise, relation, experience, suggestions would be sooooooo appreciated. From any and all brothers/sisters at arms.”


My advice, Brysen?  Who changes their name at 42?  You do, it sounds like.  And why is that not a good enough reason?  Doesn’t your desire count?  I’m 34 and I’m changing my name because it is right for me, and if anyone has a problem with that, they can fuck the fuck off.  I know what’s best for me because I spend a helluva lot of time contemplating it, and discussing it with the ones I love and trust, and I came to a conclusion.  I decide what is right for me.  And Brysen decides what is right for Brysen.

What I have found in my early encounters in coming “out” in public (with unshaven armpits and hairy legs) is that I care about it a shit-ton more than anyone I meet on the street does.  No one notices it but me.  Maybe it’s because I live in a liberal area populated with lesbians.  Maybe it’s because I am from Chicago.  I don’t want to advise you to be unsafe, but I really don’t think  you’ll be run out of town by pitchforks and torches for wearing cargo shorts in public.  Butches are strong in numbers in America.  But now let’s look at the LGBT scene in “southwest Florida”

-The Gay Social Network is a site dedicated to providing a social scene for gays and lesbians in SW Florida.

– A Siesta Key and Sarasota Area LGBT resource page can be found here.

-PFLAG chapters in Florida can be found here.

What do I recommend, Brysen?  I recommend you get an LGBT-friendly therapist.  (a list of which can be found here for Ft. Meyers, here for Estero).  I recommend you get used to living a life you want to lead, and I recommend you start thinking seriously about who you are authentically, because it’s the only way worth living.  I recommend you start unpacking all this baggage you have been carrying around with you, because you are going to be spending a lot of time in this new skin, this new identity, if you work for it and want it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re 42 or 62 or 82: you are alive, friend, and I want you to start believing you deserve the space you take up, the air in your lungs, and the love you feel in your heart for yourself.  i want you also to give yourself a break, to know this is a long road of self-work in front of you, and know that you are doing the best you can.

I speak boldly because I am in a position to do so: I have been spending a lot of time with my therapist (who I found on the same website I linked to above) unpacking my own shit.  I have a supportive partner and friends who have known me a long time and care about me.  Do you have those kinds of people in your life?  Be honest with them, be honest with yourself, and your whole world will shift in ways you never imagined.

Good luck, Brysen, and know I am here to support you.
-Your Pal Eli


Readers, you all are good and kind and intelligent people, and have a helluva lot to say about gender.  Let’s help out our friend Brysen.  What advice do you all have to give?

What Kind of Man Is This?

Hi All.

I have been struggling these past couple days with some anger, due to the societal limitations placed on gender distinctions, but tipped off by my father’s reaction to my trans coming out.  I will attempt to decipher these feelings here, but I also have some exciting news to share.  So this post is two-fold.

The Good News

-Pre-op appointment scheduled on 5/23

-Surgery still on 5/25

-Post-op appointment on 5/31

We have booked plane tickets and made contact with a sweet private b and b, through airbnb, a great website to find nice places to stay while out of town, without paying for hotels.  We have used this site before, it’s totally legit, user friendly, and we have had wonderful luck there.  I highly recommend it as often you can have kitchen privileges and are given a nicer space to stay in than your run of the mill hotel.  Also, usually the places listed are way cheaper than hotels (we found many reasonable options in Cleveland for much less than even the cheapest [read: shittiest] hotels).

Things are moving along.  We are happy.  I am excited and nervous, but much more excited than nervous.

The Recent Anger

So I sent my dad the letter I posted here last week.  And he didn’t respond for a few days.  He talked to my sister and asked her all the reasonable questions: how much would it cost, was I sure about this, isn’t surgery dangerous, etc.  He cares about me, for sure, and I thought it kind of him to ask these types of questions.  I wish he would have asked me, or some other trans-educated individual.  Not to dis my sister, but she doesn’t know the answers to those questions.  I sent the letter last Thursday and he called me on Monday night.  I am okay with this lag, I wanted him to take his time, which is why he got a letter, rather than a phone call, in the first place.

He said two things:

“Well, I have loved you your whole life, I might as well keep on loving you.”


“You know, you could have called me, you don’t have to wait and send me an email to talk to me.”

The first thing might have been cute, or endearing, coming out of someone else’s mouth.  But coming from my dad, it is just another example of his lack of conviction.  My whole life he has done things the easy way, he “raised me the best he could” has always meant he raised me the way that was the easiest for him: whenever I really needed him, whenever my mom was too drunk for me and my little sister to be left alone with, whenever my uncles were drunk and terrorizing us, he was nowhere to be found.  But if I wanted to smoke some weed, or go out for a hike or play guitar, he was there.  He was there because those are easy things, things he liked to do.  It is easy to claim he still loves me, it is easier to say he will just keep on doing what he has been doing because loving me requires very little of him: he has never supported me in any way that would put him out, he has never been asked to do anything difficult.  So saying “I’ll just keep on keeping on” allows him  to circumvent the specifics of my surgery.  It allows him to be neither supportive nor confrontational.

When I got accepted to college I wanted him to be proud of me.  I wanted him to tell me I did good.  Instead he didn’t speak to me: he pouted because I was going to a school that was out of state.  You have “loved me this long, so [you] might as well keep doing it?”  Don’t do me any fucking favors.  I know this may sound childish, or like I’m being bratty, but I am learning not to settle: I deserved to be loved, and I deserve that love to be sincere and strong when coming from my parents.  If he can’t provide me with that kind of love, then he isn’t my father.

Oh and, “You know, you could have called me, you don’t have to wait and send me an email to talk to me.”

What can I say?  The dude just loves to complain, always has, always will.

This betrays a larger issue in my life: the complete lack of positive male role models.  My father is actually my sister’s dad; my biological father skipped town after knocking up my mom: he was 24, she was 17, and I have never met him.  And I never want to: he is a coward and I surely don’t need him.  I got a Masters degree and am loving and kind and have a wonderful partner and many good friends. I have a lot going for myself and I sure don’t need to clutter my life up with people who have no regard for my well-being.

So between my cowardly father and my selfish father, I’ve got no good male role model.  That’s a problem for a young boy.  It’s worse when you’re male only on the inside.  I would ask my dad about cars, and he would dismiss me.  Maybe he thought I wouldn’t be good at it because I was female, maybe he thought I was not being serious (I asked many times, I don’t see how that could be possible) or maybe he saw this coming, saw this trans part of me, and didn’t want to encourage my maleness.  In any event, my male identity was never acknowledged by another man.  My uncles are shit to me, always have been, and are not a viable option for any kind of positive role model.

Ugh, I look back over this and think I sound so whiny.  My life could have been much worse: I wasn’t abandoned, I wasn’t sexually abused.  But then I wonder, am I making excuses for others’ shortcomings because I am trying to exercise empathy, or is it because I was socialized as female and feel it my job to make other people more comfortable?  Is it my fucking responsibility to make excuses for the shortcomings of the men in my life?  Hell no.  So fuck that shit.

I sympathize with my dad: I have spent a great deal of time and effort searching for jobs when he was unemployed, printing out college applications, recommending local groups to get involved with when I thought he was lonely.  And for what?  He never investigated any of those jobs, never filled out a single application, never contacted any of those groups.  I don’t care if he doesn’t do what I suggest to improve his life, but he didn’t act at all.  He rarely does anything to improve his station in life, including giving his child his honest opinion on important matters.

So I got mad, really fucking mad: I, like so many others, was cheated out of having a dad, or any good male role model in my life.  All I wanted was to go camping (but dad’s car was in the shop, or he was broke, or he was lazy) or practice guitar (but if we didn’t play the songs he wanted to, then we didn’t play at all), etc. etc. etc. Enough.  I’m done giving him full access to my life when he doesn’t appreciate it.  When he doesn’t respect me enough to give me his honest opinion, or voice his legimate concerns, when I tell him I’m having surgery.

And then I started thinking about my gender, and getting all riled up about having to use the women’s locker room at the gym and not liking my pronoun options and feeling generally angry at the world for being unable to see who I really am.  But the problem is obviously this: I’m not mad at the world, I’m mad at my dad.  I want an apology I will never get, I want a do-over life with him and that is impossible.  So instead of being mad I have to let it go: I have to accept that he is not the man I wish to have as a father.  And I have to recognize I am not the girl he wished to be his child.

I have to accept the defects of our language.  I have to accept that being trans means spending a lot more time and effort figuring out my identity.  And I have to remind myself that all this pain and anger and doubt is worth the trouble.  I get the reward of living this life honestly and with no regrets.  I have to remind myself that this will pass: today I am hurt and angry, tomorrow I am excited and pleased  and two months from now I will no longer have breasts.  I will, however, still have two middle fingers.  I will retain the right to be mad: I was dealt a shit hand, born poor into a dysfunctional family.  Join the club, right?

But I don’t blame the abusers in my family, I am happy with the person I am and am becoming, and without that start (read: without those assholes) who knows what kind of person I could be right now.  And I like this anger: it reminds me I am strong and complicated and my emotions are working.  My anger tells me I have questions that need to be answered.  It is an alarm for my brain telling me something is amiss and I need to take a look at my insides and find out what is wrong.  I am fucking pissed off I didn’t get an extraordinary dad, one that could see the boy in me, despite all my defenses trying to hide him, and raise me accordingly.  So I will be that man: I will be my own dad and teach myself how to be that good man, the one that has always wanted to be acknowledged and loved.  I will love myself, and stop waiting for others to fill that spot for me.

In the book Gender Outlaws, Scott Turner-Schofield authors a short essay called The Wrong Body, and in it he states, “I knew that being born female would build a bridge to the kind of man that I wanted to become: a man unlike [my] father in every way.  Being born female makes me a man that good men may look to for ways to understand and honor women, a person that people may look to for ways to find and appreciate themselves.”  I have to stop being disappointed with my father, that he is a disappointment is not news.  I want to start being the kind of man he never could be.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

A Question for My Readers:

How do you identify your gender?

What does it mean to you to “feel like a woman?”  if you identify as so.

What does it mean to “feel like a man?”

If you identify as something else altogether, what does it mean to you to feel like that identity?  How do you know what you are?  How do you know you are not something else?

Thanks, and be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

What This Fear Is Good for

And now, after coming out to my therapist, and my girlfriend, and my parents, now, after entering a new community online and creating a blog and writing real and intimate details about myself to an unfiltered audience, now after contacting a doctor and making an appointment and arrangements for surgery, now I question, do I really need top surgery?

I am not worried I might change my mind.  I will not change my mind since I have never wanted breasts, there is nothing to change back to: I have always wanted a male chest.  This chest, the one I am approaching, was always mine.  I am not worried about what other people think: people I don’t know won’t care, and the people that matter to me, are important in my life, are supportive.

I am worried about surgery: look, I know this might sound ridiculous to some of you, but I am worried about dying.  Ugh.  Even reading it now as I type it I cringe.  I sound like a little bitch.  This surgery, as I understand it, is fairly safe: how many boob jobs are happening right now?  How many people are having liposuction right now?  How many people, in the United States alone, today will go home without an appendix, or with a new penis?  They gave Dick Cheney a new heart, A new HEART, for chrissakes.  A DOCTOR PUT HIS HANDS INTO DICK CHENEY’S CHEST CAVITY, REMOVED AN ESSENTIAL ORGAN, AND PUT A NEW ORGAN IN.  THEY TOOK HIS OLD VAMPIRE HEART OUT OF HIS CHEST AND PUT A NEW INNOCENT ONE IN AND SEWED HIM UP, AND HE’S LIKE 800 YEARS OLD, AND he survived.  I will be fine.

The thing is this, that I have a switch in my head that is stuck in the “on” position.  The switch is labeled “overactive pessimistic imagination.”  And it is in this position because I had it rough as a kid.  It was traumatic and ugly a lot of the time.  A lot was taken away from me that shouldn’t have been, innocence, my ability to trust, things of this nature were damaged in largely irrevocable ways.  And so you find the nervous adult before you.  One that has overcome quite a bit of that trauma, but also one who hasn’t forgotten that this world we live in, guess what–it isn’t fair and shitty things happen to good people all the time.  I’m not in that house anymore, not terrorized by those people anymore, but that fear, that gut-level instinct sticks with me and colors how I navigate the world I live in now.

Now, my life is the best it has ever been: I have a good job that pays my bills and is only as stressful as I make it.  I am writing regularly again.  I am in love with a kind and supportive and intelligent and really fucking hot woman.  She loves me back the same and I am embarrassingly happy with her.  I am more comfortable in my skin now than ever before, in large part due to the acknowledgments I have made to myself and to others about my gender, and in large part due to the upcoming surgery.  So with this OPI switch on, it seems only natural, and almost inevitable, that because everything is better than it ever has been before, that it will likely all be taken away from me.

I am in good physical condition for surgery.  I am vegan, and go to the gym at least three times a week (but usually five), and I don’t smoke or drink.  I get an appropriate amount of sleep most nights, when I’m not lying in bed worrying about things I can’t control.  I have a healthy sense of humor and laugh a lot.  I will live through surgery.  But, I still ask myself, is this surgery worth risking my life for?

I have said it before, I was comfortable “enough” with breasts, but I can’t go back to that, to ignoring my body.  The way I was living before was about repression, and just like coming out as gay, I can’t go back into the trans closet.  I can’t unlearn everything I have found out.  I can’t bind for the rest of my life in public and hunch my shoulders at home.  I don’t want to spend the summer months under multiple shirts and never go to the beach.  I’m a Pisces for God’s sake–I want to get in the water.  I want to have sex with my girlfriend with the lights on.  I want to come out from under all these covers.

When I squint into the horizon of my future, and see the blur of what life is like without tits, I see not only good posture but also what that symbolizes.  I can feel some of the tension leave my body, and the tension that is released from this surgery is an old tension, one I have been carrying around for decades.  One that reaches out and sticks to other insecurities in the air, and weighs me down.  I know surgery is not some magic potion.  The magical is often mysterious and misunderstood and that is why it is magic–how it works is hidden.  But I know how surgery works: I go in, my breasts are removed, I come out and am able to be in the world in the form best suited for me.

Is it worth it?  Ask yourself: everyday of your life you are mistake for someone else.  You look in the mirror and see someone else’s reflection.  You start to feel like that other person, you think, but you can’t be sure if this is how that other person feels or if that’s just what you think that other person is supposed to feel like.  That uncertainty becomes part of you.  You start to hate that other person for trapping you like this.  You are given the chance to have surgery that would correct the mistake.  This is not about controlling how other people see you, as we can do very little about how others choose to interpret us.  But after the surgery you would be able to see yourself, for the first time.  In the mirror, at home, in the world, you are no longer haunted by the reflection of that other person–now it’s just you there looking back.  So of course it is worth it:  the risk of this surgery to me is minimal.  I might have a greater chance of being hit by a car crossing the street to get to my bus stop than dying during top surgery.  If I turn tail here, if I change my mind then I am not only a coward I am also a liar.  And I want more for my life than that.

What I risk by not having top surgery is far more terrifying than death: a life full of doubt, doubt of myself, doubt about what I could have had, what my life could have looked like to me.  I risk losing respect for myself.  I risk finding out who I really am.  I have this opportunity in front of me, to be honest and brave in a way few people ask of themselves.  We watch t.v. and go on Facebook and eat a lunch that is too big and yell at strangers and we do all this to avoid looking at ourselves.  I am not pretending I am not here anymore.  I want to learn how to look.  I am trying.  And maybe through this practice, the practice of looking at the fear and acting anyway, I will finally start sleeping through the night.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Big News!

I’ve got a surgery date: May 25th with Dr. Medalie in Cleveland!  All systems are go for this: the good Dr. M is ready to write me a letter, and so today I am checking out plane tickets! Also, last night I sent out my mom and dad’s letters: I’ve not heard from dad (likely he hasn’t checked his email) but mom was incredible: teary over “how hard this must have been for [me]” to hide being transgendered growing up and feeling different and not having anyone to talk to about it.  She was wildly supportive and reminded me many times of how much she loves me. And called little sister S and told her the story as well: she too was very supportive and said many kind things.  The most touching of which being that she is proud of me.  I recognize how lucky I am to have such a loving and accepting family. So now!  On to the planning!  My checklist includes: -Purchasing plane tickets -Contacting HR and getting part-time disability set-up for June.  I plan on taking four weeks off work, as my job is labor intensive (I am a ground level shelf-filler for a wildly popular groceries store chain) -And so if I am taking a month off I suppose I should tell my supervisor about this too.  K and I talked this strategy out during a long bus ride along the Connecticut river: I plan to tell my immediate supervisor and the store manager.  I will also tell a few close friends at work, and let the news make the rounds organically.  My workplace is full of people who “enjoy their privacy” [read: can be cold and uncaring of others, but also just enjoy their privacy, which I respect] and so I see no reason to share my private life with them.  I will tell my friends, and will not force them into a closet: they can tell who they want, and I trust them to not share with malicious intent. -Investigate whether or not my insurance company might pay for some or all of this surgery: since I had uterine cancer at such a young age and have a few other contributing factors, it is plausible this could be considered preventative care.   Then, all the little things: setting myself up for post-op care, including the purchase of steri-strips, getting some sweet reads for while I’m laid up, and removing everything I love from the top shelves.  You guys have any advice for post-op care?

Be nice to yourselves, Your Pal Eli