Welcome to the New My Life Without Tits!

Friends, Interweb Travellers, Gawkers, and the Gender-Curious,

It's pronounced E-Lie

It’s alive!

Let me reintroduce you to the blog My Life Without Tits.

Ta-dah!

Now let’s take this rig for a spin.  Please watch your step as you board the blogcraft.

-Just north of this post in the address bar you will notice a new url: mylifewithouttits.com.  Yes,  I have purchased my domain name and own rights to everything within it (unless otherwise noted).  So all those top surgery pics are mine, all mine!  And remember to update your bookmark!

-No doubt you notice a new theme: I wanted one in which I could customize the sidebar and widgets, and the old one just wouldn’t do.  But it did serve me well, and I thank the WordPress overlords for use of it.  With this new theme you get:

-An updated About Eli & About His Blog tab

-Updated Blogroll and Related Sites tab with some of the old and trusted blogs (Shout out to Transman, Karen,  Maddox, and friends) alongside some new blogs of interest and sites with trans resources.  Go and get to clickin’!

-The new Education/Public Speaking tab for employers, community organizations, and educators who would like to work with me in a professional capacity.

-I cleaned up all the old/broken links and messy tags and categories.  Looking for top surgery info?  Just type “top surgery” in the search box and all those posts have been properly tagged.  Want more information on my experience with testosterone, click on the Testosterone category in the side bar and there you’ll have all my bitching, right before your eyes!

This has been a labor of love, and I’m pleased with how all the changes have manifested themselves.  But of course this blog updating activity is always a process, so if you find a link that doesn’t work, or a tag missing, let me know.

I hope you enjoy your time here on MLWT.  If you’re new here, welcome.  If this is old hat to you, welcome back.  For the foreseeable future, please expect a new post weekly, likely on Fridays.

Thanks for dropping by, and be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

 

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.

 

Buongiorno!

Friends!

What a long absence I’ve had from you.  I have thought about you from time to time, and now I return with an update.

These last few months have been busy, busy with submitting rejected chapbook submissions (Three in all!  So many pages of forgettable poetry!  I’ll regale you with a poem at the end of this post if you’re good!) and wedding planning.  I’ll let you guess which of those activities was more fun…ok, here’s a hint: planning the wedding also entails planning the honeymoon, which is three weeks in Italy.

Bam!

Italy!

K and I have been having a great time booking places to stay (some time in Rome, some in Florence, some in Cinque Terre) and, with the help of Duolingo, practicing a little Italian in hopes of currying favor with the locals.

So, if you want to tell someone the man eats an apple, give him this: l’uomo mangia un mela and my love!

But don’t let all these exclamation marks fool you, it’s not been all fun and games.  Life is hard and depressing if you look at it that way, and over these cold and dark months it’s been easier to look at it like that than any other way.

My birthday passed through these parts last week, coupled with an injury that has kept me out of the gym for two months (well, an injury that has kept me from running, but my apathy kept me completely out of the gym) and I’m feeling pretty bad about myself.  Today I went back to the gym for the first time since, oh, October? And of course I’m not back to square one, but I’m pretty sad about my state.  So I called myself all kinds of names on the way home, remembering to be shitty about not going to the gym, and about being a weird trans thing, about being a traitor to my writing practice, yeah, I really let all the old jabs out of the bag.  Once home, during the shower I just wanted to lay down in the tub and take a nap.

Instead I dried off and laid on the couch and looked out the window and sighed for a little while.

Then I started to think about the difference between acceptance and giving up.  The last few months, while I was out of the gym, I tried to convince myself what I was doing was a good thing, that accepting my body for how it was, for eating more sweets and skipping yoga was mentally healthy.  But of course it’s not: I was giving up.  And now I find myself in this body, not a bad one, but not one I like.

So I figured that acceptance is going to the gym two or three times a week, every week, instead of going 5 times, making it 3 times, and giving up because I didn’t go 7.  Acceptance is about always trying, but not berating myself if I don’t succeed every time.

I’ve spent so much of my life trying, trying to be a better writer, a fitter person, but there are limitations to every body.  So I am currently trying to enjoy the things about myself that I am happy about (I am actually a pretty good writer, and actually have a pretty nice body) without giving up on a writing practice (even if my practice only happens once a week, and sometimes it’s in the form of reading rather than writing) or a health regime (even if that regime means going to the gym 3 times a week, and having a couple cookies at lunch).

So that’s that.  But I am curious, friends, do you have some insight in to how you balance between reaching your goals and accepting yourself?

Oh, I am past due on an anniversary on T video update, but it’s coming soon.

But, for now I leave you with:

Jupiter

Grandpa’s rough hand turns the ignition to break the quiet darkness of early morning.
Up on a chair I squint into the dark frame of the kitchen window but can’t see him
Shift in the stiff driver’s seat.  The sound of a door snapping shut,
The quick spark of his lighter, the car in reverse at 4 am
Tell me things about his life I won’t understand until after his death.
Only years later did I learn of the mallet he kept under his bed
In case his son came at him in his sleep.
He feared waking to the sensation of fingers gripped
Around his neck, his own hands but younger and out of control,
Acting on crazed impulse or auditory hallucination.
In that house, our lives depended on the distance we kept from them.
Every night ended with ice cubes clinked against an otherwise empty tumbler:
A depleted god’s thunder clap.
The screen door opening after a night at the V.F.W., another clap.
Count the seconds between flash and boom.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

After Seeing Dan Savage Last Night

K and I went to Lincoln Hall last night to see Dan Savage talk about his new book, American Savage.

Image

I know lots of queers, and especially trans folks, who have a problem with Dan Savage.  Myself, I’m a fan.  I’ve read his column since the “Hey Faggot” days, and although I might not always agree with him, I’m sure glad he’s on my side.  And yes, even as a trans person, I do believe he’s on my side.

I don’t like turning my back on allies for discrepancies with my ideologies.  And he is an ally, a powerful one, to the queer community.  And he reminded me of something last night: I have a right to my own opinions, my own voice.  In fact, using my own true voice is the only way to be brave and honest in this world.

As I was searching through my old posts last night, looking for drafts to expand upon, I realized, especially in my (very) old posts, I sound like a scared little bitch.

What I mean is, I was so afraid of offending the invisible online trans community I sound like I’m holding a goddamn tea party when I’m talking about being trans.  My tone is so unoffensive, well, I find it offensive.  I find it offensive because it is unauthentic.  And so my tone, along with the content, is something I will be looking forward to altering as I revise older posts and send them off to be considered by different audiences.  I understand why I sounded so scared: I was scared, scared of identifying as trans, scared of what that meant for my life.  But I’m not scared anymore, so it’s time to take the interesting ideas I had back then and give them a little support, a little confidence, a good brushing off and squinting at.

After his speaking engagement, Dan stuck around and signed books for us.  When I met him, I introduced myself, identified myself as a trans guy, and gave him the url to this here blog.  I invited him to drop by and see what this guy is up to.  Who knows if he will; he does have like a bazillion fans, but I was proud of myself for looking Dan Savage in the eye, shaking his hand, and telling him I’m trans, I’m a writer, and I have a blog of worth.  And, it was my first act of writerly self-promotion.  Rad.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

 

Five Days on Testosterone

So, a while back I gave you a teaser post with this image:

IMG_0931This is the epigraph to Conn and Hal Iggulden’s Dangerous Book for Boys.  It occurred to me that maybe I had missed some important boy shit (since I was socialized as female).  I decided I should go back to the beginning and cover my bases.  So, I am going to use this dangerous book as a guide, and I will post my findings on MLWT.

I wanted to start this week, perhaps with a video on making paper airplanes, but my sick ass has been sick, and my “first week on testosterone” voice just sounds like an unrelated laryngitis.  Earlier in the week, as my voice went huskier, I tried to convince myself it was dropping, although I knew there was no way that that was what was happening.  I wanted to see if I could trick my body into doing it.  No dice, and no voice, for two days now.  So as far as my first week changes go, there are none.  That makes a lot of sense to me, as I was expecting none.  Wait, my leg was sore as fuck for two days.  So I guess I got that to look forward to for the next 50 years.  Cest la vie.  My next shot is in two days.  I’m planning a step-by-step testosterone injection guide, so look forward to that, my darlings.

So next week it is!  I have a few video series in mind for MLWT.  Eep.  Like most folks, I dislike myself on camera, but I think I will like to look back over these changes someday.  I enjoy seeing the videos of trans guys going through their transitions.  It is great to see them come into themselves.  I love the nuances, not just how their bodies and voices change, but their mannerisms too.  And I want to give back to the community, and I want to have a record for my own account.  And so here we go.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Peering into the Abyss. The Abyss Peering Back.

As many of you know (and many of you wished me well, and I thank you for that), last Tuesday I was supposed to have my first testosterone shot.  I chose to postpone it until Feb. 21st.

Last week I was freaking out, big time.  I was stuck in this ugly place surrounded by all the extreme and negative consequences of testosterone.  I had convinced myself I was damaged and mistaken and I was doing psychological harm and I would regret going through with hormonal transitioning.  And so on top of that I was then saddened by the idea of being stuck in my current body.

It got ugly.  Then I watched this video:

I love Dade’s videos, but this one just freaked me out.  The idea of not recognizing myself has crossed my mind.  And that terrifies me.  I think I’m just going to have to be conscious of paying attention to all the changes, the widening of my jaw, the facial fat redistribution.  I think in the beginning most trans folks are paying real close attention: we are anxious for the hormones to start making the difference we want them to make.  But I can see how, many months in, I could lose track a bit and catch a reflection in the mirror that is unfamiliar.

And so as the evening went on, I got a terrible stomach ache, which I presumed to be anxiety-produced, and decided that hey, if I’m getting so wound up about this that I’m giving myself stomach aches and calling myself names, maybe I’m not ready for T yet.

Then the vomiting started.  It was a flu, not anxiety.  So I’m lying in bed, shaking and moaning and I make a deal with God: take away this disgusting illness and I won’t go on T.  Yes, it’s superstitious and embarrassing and not a little bit transphobic, but I want to be honest.  This is me being vulnerable, damnit.

I woke up the next morning and immediately reneged on my promise.  God didn’t heal me, my immune system did, and even if God (exists and) heard me, I’m certain the creator of the universe (has more important shit to do and) is smarter than to expect payment on deals made in extreme physical duress.

But, I did feel that a little more time was needed: I wanted to write some sort of good-bye note to the old me, I wanted to get in touch with a trans dude support group, I wanted to make some plans for upcoming posts to mark, in my own way, the impending changes.  I was able to do all that, and now I feel a bit more ready.  I just felt like I was about to do this big important thing with no way to honor the old me and the impending new me.  I feel more settled now.  Not entirely, but now I can pinpoint my anxiety to the unknown, and not shit I have left unfinished.

Essentially, I am beginning to obsess a bit, obsess about the unknown, about the negative, and it does me no good.  I cannot keep watching youtube videos, expecting to find some snake oil sentiment that will cure my nerves.  There aren’t answers to my questions, yet.  I understand the parameters to my decision to take testosterone: I know the pros and cons, I am as informed as a responsible adult can be.  I have to trust that the way I have felt about my body since I was 3 years old is true.  I have to trust that we all die of something, and that testosterone alone isn’t going to kill me.*  I have to trust the professionals in my life that are telling me I am making an informed decision, and I have to trust that they will help me look for any warning signs.

I have to redirect my attention to the positive, to the likely, and away from the scary, unlikely negatives.  After all, I could get ovarian cancer and die from the estrogen in my system.  And how pissed would I be about that!

I have to keep saying, “fuck it.”  Over and over again, “fuck it.” Because I have done the research and I am ready.  But standing on this cliff is doing me no good.  It’s actually hurting me.  It’s time to jump.

So, in the coming weeks and months expects videos to start popping up on My Life Without Tits.  Expect a new feature, “Boy Experimentation.”  Expect voice recordings of poems, in different registers, as we spend this time together.

Get excited and be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

-Matt Kailey just posted a question on his blog, concerning trans dudes and dying.  Check it here.

Helpful Tips for T Injections

So helpful! Thanks to Making the Man for posting this! Reposted by Your Pal Eli

Making the Man

Hey guys and gals. This article/picture has GREAT information laid out plain and simple about the different injection sites, pros and cons of each site, and proper technique for each site. It’s kind of dry reading, but REALLY informative. 

http://www.inmo.ie/MagazineArticle/PrintArticle/5676

 

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