Transforming the Dialogue at Simmons College

Hello Friends!

The fine folks at the Simmons College* MSW program reached out to me last week and asked if I would like to participate in their new program aimed at educating their population on trans* issues.  Of course I’m happy to help!

To be more specific, Megan, the marketing coordinator for Simmons, informed me that Simmons is “the third US women’s college to accept students who identify as transgender,” and also told me the college is “embarking on an exciting initiative that aims to educate the masses on trans* lives.”  Neat!  I’m in!  But first, let me let Megan finish explaining what exactly this project entails.

She continued, “[t]his spring, we are launching “Trans*forming the Dialogue,” a campaign designed to shift the conversation away from the problematic questions that are often asked of the members of the transgender community and foster a more progressive dialogue.”  Any readers interested in seeing the final project can find it here in June.

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So, I am one of a few bloggers she has invited “to be a featured voice in this campaign and provide [my] unique perspective.” To that end, I answered three questions:

1. What are the do’s and dont’s when asking a trans*person about their experiences?

Well, I like to keep it simple: keep it respectful.  Speak from a place of integrity.  I guess what I’m saying is, it’s actually really easy to talk to trans people about their experiences if you come to us as a person first (that’s why you start from a place of integrity), and as a trans person second.  Ask yourself, before you ask me, why are you about to ask me the question you are going to ask?  Is it to learn about me, or is it to objectify me?  Is the answer to the question necessary for the interaction we are having?  The thing that I think trips up some cis-gender people, people who are allies and who want to get this right, is that they are so worried about embarrassing themselves or saying the wrong thing that they end up embarrassing themselves or saying the wrong thing.  Remember the golden rule: treat me how you would want to be treated, and interacting with trans* people, or any minority culture or person different from you, becomes much easier.

2. What are 2 – 3 questions that one should NOT be asking a transgender person?

Do not ask me what my “real” or “birth” name is.  It’s none of your business (in the case of my birth name), and actually, you know what my real name is, it’s the one I introduced myself to you as.

Do not ask me what surgeries I’ve had.  The state of my medical transition, if I am transitioning medically, is also none of your business.  Just like cis-gendered people do not have to justify their gender presentation to me, I do not have to justify my gender presentation to anyone else.  This is why coming to me as a person first, and as a trans person second is important. While my gender identity is important, it is only a part of the whole.  Treat me like a whole person, and we got no problems.

3. What are 2 – 3 questions that one SHOULD be asking a transgender person?

Please feel free to ask me what pronouns (if any) I prefer.  Sometimes people play with the gender norms, confound them, complicate them, fuck with them, and we might not be aligned with the traditional gender presentation our preferred pronouns would have you believe. Meaning, for example, sometimes dudes have breasts, sometimes ladies have stubble.  I would never be offended if someone wanted to know how I preferred to be referred to.  See how that’s different than asking me if I have a penis?

I am also always happy to answer the kinds of questions Megan has asked here.  Let’s talk about how to start a conversation, let’s talk about cultural norms, let’s talk about opinions and experiences.  I am very open with my transition, duh, I’m spilling the beans on a public blog. But not all trans people want to share their lives with the whole of the internet.  Start from a place of respect, a place of integrity, and let us lead you to how far we are willing to go with the divulgence of personal information.

I’m sure I’m missing some things, but that’s why I’m not the only blogger they approached.  I want to thank Megan for reaching out to me and giving me this opportunity.  Thanks Megan! And I applaud Simmons College for engaging the trans community: it’s this kind of willingness and effort that is the starting point from which we can foster real and meaningful dialogue across the sometimes too-silent gulfs between discourse communities.

Also, in closing I want to give a shout out to Simmons’ queer group, SWAG.  In the sea of poorly-chosen queer acronyms, SWAG knocked it out of the park. Great job people!

If this was your first time here, thanks for stopping by, and as always,

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli


* Woot-Woot Massachusetts!

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

The Boob Tube

On my search for top surgery information, I have come across a plethora of youtube channels dedicated to dudes showing off their rad pecs post surgery.  I find it so sweet and funny: boys just casually speaking into the camera, topless, occasionally touching their chests absentmindedly.   Don’t get me wrong, I’m not laughing at them.  It’s funny to me because they’re giddy, and their happiness is infectious–I can’t help but laugh a little.  Theirs is the kind of deep joy that can’t be contained in a smile.

Many of them are on T, and while that’s not the road I see myself taking, it pleases me so to see them fulfilled, to see them comfortable in their skin.  I have been uncomfortable with my chest for many years, and to see their smiles–I know why they are so wide.  It is really satisfying for me to see someone who has had similar pain and trials to succeed and be free of the anxiety and self consciousness.  It’s not only encouraging to me, or inspirational, although it surely is.

When these boys touch their chests, or look down at their pecs, and then smile into the camera, I see their humanity, I see their love for themselves, and it is so beautiful.  It was a long time coming.  I can’t help but smile as I write this, because although I don’t know any of them personally, well, I am just so damn proud of them.  I feel a kinship to them, to their struggle, and that is a powerful feeling.

So, without further adieu, my favorite youtube top surgery channels, in no particular order:

Meiko Elias Xavier has a lot of great videos documenting his top surgery outcome and T updates.  My favorite is here.  Sweet tattoo!  Meiko is hoping to get metoidioplasty and has a blog dedicated to that topic as well.  If you’re feeling moved by his story, or would like to help him in some way, go here to donate to his fundraiser for surgery.

KYFord23 (Mr. Man) has a really interesting and nicely produced video documenting his days leading up to surgery and the big reveal post op.  This video has a great example at the end of the big smile I am talking about–watch his face as the bandages come off.

-Kaden at xRenegade44x has a pretty great video while he’s still in post-op.  His girlfriend and mom and brother are all in the room, and his girlfriend’s commentary is cute–wait for her comments on the hickey she finds on him…

Of course, there are countless others I have come across, and just by visiting any of these channels, additional top surgery videos come up in the sidebar from other users.  So go exploring!  Let me know what you find of interest!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Blog Brothers

I have read a lot of information* that has helped me make an informed decision on top surgery.  Lots of internet research in the form of personal blogs, youtube videos, and researched articles on trans websites have helped me begin to understand the nuances of this procedure, both physically and psychologically.  I would like to acknowledge them here, both to thank them for their encouragement and information, and to corral together the best resources I have found hopefully to be of help to others.

As a non-binary individual, these blogs have been helpful in feeling less alone:

Maddox, over at Neutrois Nonsense, has been a great support, and answered a question I shot over there in more detail, and with more grace, than any reasonable person could ask for.  Looking for non-binary support?  Looking for a thoughtful, detailed read about all things trans- and neutrois-related?  You found it with Maddox.  So many entries on top surgery! And transgender topics!  And queer book reviews! Maddox also has a tumblr account as well.

Queer Rock Love is a blog Maddox referred me to, written beautifully by Paige Schilt . QRL “is a collection of personal stories about a gay, transgender, rock-n-roll family raising a son in the heart of the South.”  If you are interested in the intersection of raising children in a queer environment, this is a great place to start.  Katy, Paige’s partner, is a butch lesbian who has undergone top surgery, and continues to identify as female, and for that reason is of particular interest to me.  But Schilt’s writing is so engaging, and honest, and funny, and attentive, I find it hard to believe anyone would not enjoy reading it.  Some posts I particularly enjoy include The Little Zeus’ Room, Think Pink, and The Incident.  And Passing (or not) at the Pool.  Oh hell, just read them all.

-Ashton at Butch on Butch also has some well-investigated posts on being a butch who had top surgery.  I particularly enjoyed these posts on top surgery from her tumblr account.  And she has a great post on resources for folks looking into top surgery. But back on WordPress, Ashton recently wrote a wise and kind post about acceptance of the self–go and check it out.

These blogs are at the FTM end of the gender spectrum:

Josh over at Gender Outlaw has a pretty sweet workout routine I am borrowing from, in an effort to get my body in the best shape possible pre-surgery.  His blogs are interesting and really informative for those transitioning ftm.

Matt of Tranifesto fame has a brilliant and erudite ongoing Q and A segment of his blog.  Researched, thorough, and enlightening, his posts are always a joy to read.  His writing is compassionate and tempered and, without sounding like too much of a kiss-ass, a really great example of informative trans-related writing.  The most recent one, on the topic of the “shades of grey” that some trans people inhabit resonates with me.

-Ryan at RyanSallans.com has lots of top and bottom surgery information, and another great work out routine for shaping up before top surgery.

Some articles of note here:

Dude Magazine has a brief interview with Max and buddy Art on top surgery without T.

Zak and Adrian at The Art of Transliness also have a good article on top surgery sans T.

And that is where I will stop for now.  Thanks for stopping by, and leave a note if you please, I’m always happy to respond!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

*I’m new to this proper blogging business, so some of the above authors will likely be surprised by my interest in their writing.  I have not commented on all of them.  I just read today that this absence is a blogging faux pas.  I apologize to you guys and ladies, I’m just a beginner, and will be commenting soon on your posts.  But please know you all have been of great encouragement to me, and I would surely not be taking these positive steps to be more fully myself if not for your writing.  Thank you.