ADVENTURES OF A
I wrote this at a Reading Queer event. Thank you to Reading Queer and please support your local queer and arts groups.
At 19 I pierced my belly button.
Rode the El to Belmont, paid in cash, watched a needle pass through my skin. It was the first in a lifetime of needles to gradually take back my body.
These days, I put the needle into my thigh. There is no visible mark, unless you count my voice, my muscles, my facial hair, my hunger, my Adam's apple, my desire, my lack of anxiety, my happy trail.
And so when I'm asked about being a man with a belly button piercing, I smile.
So I promised a lot of people that I would tell them how men treated me differently once I started passing as a man. Which is basically that they respect me as a human, and they are very nice. As a female passing/visibly gender non conforming person, when a dude approached me in public, 99.9% of the time it was to ask me for money, hit on me, or go into some homophobic "you need Jesus" type thing. And if I tried to say no, they would often get very aggressive. There was also the occasional yelling of dyke/tranny/lesbian (that one confused me because "lesbian" isn't a slur?). Now, men mostly talk to me to ask for help connecting to the wifi, to tell me they like my shirt, to start a conversation about how the movie version of The Black Panther didn't live up to their childhood dreams based on the comics, etc. And if they are hitting on me or asking for money and I say no, the response is usually something like "ok, have a nice night man". What surprises me most is that I'm not particularly gender conforming man, but men still seem to respect me even if I'm in a crop top and heels. Maybe that's just acceptable gay mens attire in Miami?
I've been thinking for a while about the various ways that organizations that do not really care about sexual harassment set up rules about sexual harassment that end up hurting vulnerable people and furthering the gender binary. Some examples:
Since coming out as trans and medically transitioning, my life has become utterly absurd. People have no idea how to deal with someone who is transitioning, especially when you aren't clearly transitioning from male to female or vice versa. The most absurd thing to happen to me was when I ended up in a meeting with the Dean about the appropriateness of my nipples.
I frequently swim at the campus pool, and I had been swimming topless for a few weeks without any issues. But, I decided to email the Dean of Students to find out the rules on (legally) "female nipples". At the time, I was the TA for a course where I was ostensibly female: the professor called me she, my emails sent from my feminine legal name. And after running into one of my students in the men's bathroom, I thought I should know the rules in case one of them saw me topless at the pool.
So, I emailed the Dean of Students explaining that I was legally female but on testosterone and wondering if I could swim topless. He responded immediately, asking me to meet with him ASAP. I set up a meeting the following week and was prepared for him to have serious issues with my toplessness. Note that this is a 6'5 white man that I've never met before. I go to his office, he closes the door, looks at me, and goes "yeah your nipples are fine. Florida state law is a little ambiguous so if someone calls the cops you could have trouble but personally I don't care what you do on campus". I asked him for that statement in writing and went to the pool later that day.
So, I got what I wanted and I've tried to be happy about it. I do swim topless about once a week. But it bothers me that I'm not sure I would have gotten the same answer if I were another race/less masculine/better endowed. Why did he need to see me in person, in a closed door meeting, to say my nipples were fine? Why not issue a campus wide statement? Why is this rule applied on a case by case basis? But, the absurdity of it all keeps me laughing
sorry mom I'm topless on the internet
This post is meant for non binary people who are trying to figure out how to transition when the goal is not to pass as male or female. I really hate giving an exact date that I started T because I feel like it contributes to a toxic competitiveness of what you "should" look like after x months on T. I'll give a general amount of time here for reference, but please keep in mind that there is no right or wrong way to be trans. I do not mean to imply that what I have done is "right" or better than what anyone else does.
At the time of this post, I am 8 months on low dose testosterone. I call it "low dose" because at this dose, my levels are far below the lowest end of normal for cis men. However, in absolute amounts, my dosage is not that low. I would caution anyone interested in low dose T that, even in low doses, your body can change quickly on T. My voice dropped after about 2 months. I started growing facial hair after about 3 months. I have also gotten much more muscular, my jaw has widened, my breasts have shrunk, my acne has gotten worse, I smell like a man, and I am much hungrier and hornier than pre T. I still occasionally get my period. I haven't had any issues with mood swings, aggression, anger, etc.
I have not had any and I don't plan to. I pass as male shirtless and I frequently bike and swim shirtless.
I wear whatever I feel like on a given day, which covers a wide range of styles from crop tops to men's button downs to rompers to oil stained jeans. Sometimes I wear jewelry and light make up, sometimes I don't.
I get my hair cut by a woman at a local barbershop. I usually get a low fade with longer hair on top. Finding a good barber is my number one tip if you want to look more masculine without dealing with the medical industry.
I don't shave my body. I do shave my face.
In academia, I use "he". With my tutoring clients and my biological family, I use "she". Socially and especially in queer spaces, I really don't care and many people use "they" for me. I enjoy the mix of pronouns but it gets hard when people from different parts of my life meet each other.
My ID's are in my birth name with a female gender marker, with the exception of my birth certificate which says "X" (Thanks Oregon!!!). I don't have any desire to change my legal name. I also don't really want to change my gender marker but I will probably change my passport to make it easier to travel and go to sea. I did renew my passport after 2 months on T, with an updated picture, and I've gotten far less shit from TSA than when my passport picture looked very feminine.
I have 4 tattoos, gauges in my ear lobes, a belly button piercing, and 6 other piercings. Piercings and tattoos have been almost as important in making me feel comfortable in my body as T has.
I run 5-6 times a week, bike and swim maybe once a week, and do push ups and pull ups every day.
I almost always pass as male, regardless of my clothing. I find this strange - that I can be in a dress and heals and still get called sir - but it doesn't particularly bother me. My voice is very low and I think that most people cannot fathom a woman with a voice as deep as mine.
Hi! I am a PhD student in Physical Oceanography, as well as an avid runner, and a non binary trans masculine person. I started this blog because I struggle to find deep, insightful interrogations of gender from trans people, with the exception of a few superstars (Dean Spade, Jennifer Finney Boylan, Thomas Page McBee, Andrea Long Chu). And while those superstars are great, they are mostly writers who transitioned years or decades ago. It is also worth noting that everyone I listed is white and lives somewhere that is known for being trans friendly. Our trans stories need more diversity.
Maybe the world doesn't want to hear a trans story beyond: I was born in the wrong body, but I had surgery and now I am Fixed. I am writing this blog for every trans person whose story does not fit that arc, and especially for my fellow trans scientists.