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Friday, January 12, 2018

To Trans Boys Fielding Off Truscum

In the trans community there's this concept called "truscum" or trans-medicalists.  These are trans folks on a spectrum of belief regarding what a valid trans person is, with some sort of medical standard.  The baseline criteria for most truscum is "needs to have experienced dysphoria," with extreme truscum believing you need to desire bottom surgery in addition to hormones.  The very first time I encountered this in trans men was a long time ago, before the term "truscum" was really in common use (if it even existed as a term yet).  It was a winding rant from somebody who was pleading with us young trans newbies (back when I was a newbie!) to understand the gravity of transition, implying that there were droves of sad women out there transitioning to men because it was trendy without understanding the consequences of their actions.

I nodded, intent that I was not in this category anyway.  And since then my experience has been kind of buffered.  My transition--outside of the last couple years--has been remarkably traditional.  I started transitioning back when the Harry Benjamin Standards were still in wide use, I was masculine from a very young age, and although sometimes my presentation veers more feminine than my usual, I typically look like a mix between "backwoods country boy" and "hobby farm hipster" and I blend in with cis men really easily.  That said, I see truscum from afar, but rarely actually have to deal with them, both because I pass well and because curate the spaces I occupy very thoroughly.  So I have next to no problem talking about going off hormones.  If I did, this blog wouldn't exist.

This changed yesterday, and I want to tell that story, both to blow off steam and as a reassurance to other trans people who I assume get way more crap from truscum than I do.

I have a huge love of my beard.  Like I've said more than once, if there was a significant chance I'd lose my beard, I wouldn't have gone off hormones.  So I frequent quite a few spaces for trans men growing beards to show off pictures and talk about products and stuff.  I decided recently to post a timeline photo, because I'm stereotypical like that, and since I started making this timeline way back when I was still planning on always being on T, well, I just kept labeling them like I always did.

That says "1.5 years off hormones," not 15, but you probably knew that.
I'd posted pictures in this forum before to generally positive comments, but as soon as I posted something that disclosed my post-hormonal status?  The truscum started crawling out of the woodwork to vomit their trash opinions.  One of them told me I should have "put on a stick-on beard and gone to a therapist about my voice" instead of going on hormones and then blathered on about how I make "real" trans men look bad.  Another insisted he "could tell" that I went off of them and asked a pointed question about why I would stop testosterone, which as pharmaceutical testosterone is apparently "what makes you a man."

To be clear, it was a minority of people; only two compared to a couple dozen likes and multiple positive comments.  But just as is the case with all internet harassment, a super insensitive comment has the weight of a dozen positive ones sometimes.  I eventually deleted the post, then felt indignant because I shouldn't have needed to do that, so I reposted it with the caveat that I was not going to deal with commentary on my hormonal status.  Since I disclosed in the post that the reason I'd deleted and re-posted was heckling, the admins took care of it, but because I know from private messages there were other post-hormonal trans men who felt unsafe posting afterward, I wanted to address some of the nasty comments that were made and why they're crap, just in case these blights on society get to any more of you.

1. Remember that trans people are way better at reading you than cis people.

Being told "you don't pass" (which is the end goal of telling somebody you can tell they aren't on hormones or whatever else they're telling you) by a trans person can be crushing, because I think we expect each other to have expertise on what we need to do to blend in better.  It's also easily weaponized because so many of us are self-conscious about it.

The thing is, though, we really suck at it.  As somebody who lives in a city that is a minor trans social hub, I see a lot of trans people, many of whom have been on hormones for over a decade, and can read many of them as trans.  This is because when you are a trans person who has gone on hormones, and when you've seen other trans people who have gone on hormones, you get a very good sense of what changes and what doesn't that cis people never really experience.

One time I was going stealth in an LGBT club (I really wanted to see a little of what it felt like to be treated like a cis queer person in a queer space).  I'd been stealth for maybe four months, and there was a guy I'd immediately read as trans due to things like hand and foot size and variations in his facial structure.  I just got a vibe.  We both attended a sensitivity training and, when the only people "disclosing" their identity labels were cishets, I finally got sick of it and stood to disclose I was queer and trans.  The other guy then also disclosed, both of us to shocked gasps from the primarily-cis audience.  These are people who knew us for months, and they'd had absolutely no idea about either of us, even as we totally read each other.

I tell you that to tell you this:  If some truscum is telling you you aren't man enough (or woman enough, if you are a trans woman) because they "can tell," they are peddling hot garbage.  It's OK to feel bad when people are garbage to you, but always keep in mind that they really don't know what they're talking about.  And bonus:  I bet that you probably can find all sorts of things about them that scream "trans" to you, and the most persistent of these fools I would have read as trans in like ten seconds if he walked by.

2. Dysphoria does not mean what truscum think it means.

I already mentioned in a different post, but there are a lot of people who are dysphoric who don't think that they are dysphoric, because other trans people (and not just truscum) are very bad at expressing what that term means.

Dysphoria does not mean "I need bottom surgery or I will be suicidal."  The trans experience has never meant that, not since Harry Benjamin's first rudimentary categorization of trans people, which made plenty of room for trans folks who didn't need hormonal or surgical intervention.  Dysphoria is best described as a sense of being mismatched... which can include extreme depression until the entire body is changed, but can also mean merely feeling more comfortable looking one way than another ("I don't actively hate my chest but would be more comfortable and at peace if it were flat").

Dysphoria is also often contingent on more than just your personal feelings about your body.  Truscum like to believe that being trans is a fully biological condition (they like trash terminology like "brain sex") and that without any social conditioning whatsoever, "real" trans people will still feel the same level of dysphoria they would feel if they had grown up somewhere trans people were viewed differently.  This is, however, entirely untestable as there are no trans people who grow up without this kind of social conditioning.

3. The above is kind of a moot point, though, because truscum rarely actually care about dysphoria to begin with, they just care about compliance.

Here's the thing about going off or staying off hormones:  A lot of folks who do this are not doing it voluntarily.  I've met a couple dozen trans men who went off hormones, and very few are doing it for voluntary, hippie-dippy reasons like I did.  Instead, they ran into financial difficulty and had to stop, were forced off of it by incompetent doctors, couldn't go on it because there were too many social barriers in their way, or couldn't go on it because they had medical contraindications that meant nobody would prescribe it to them.  There are even those who don't start T because they're terrified of it, partially because truscum make it seem like a terrifying thing.

And the trans men who really get harassed by truscum?  They're often in this category.  If it were really about dysphoria or preserving the fantasy that transgender status is a biological disorder, truscum as a whole would be advocating for better hormone access.  But they literally do the opposite... they behave as though the "real" trans people are a rare phenomenon and that we need a high number of checks and balances to prevent anybody but the "real" trans people from accessing medical care.

A side effect of this is a disgusting "bootstraps" effect where people who get tripped up by the obstacles put in place are defined as "not real."  Because if you were a real trans person you'd let nothing stand in your way.

It's garbage.  Don't listen to it.

4.  If somebody is having a hard time being taken seriously (by the medical establishment, by their therapist, etc.) it's cis people's fault, not yours.

I think it's important to recognize that truscum--like all trans people--often do face a lot of struggle trying to get the care they need.  One of the truscum above was going on and on about how my going off hormones (something most cis people don't even know about me) "makes it hard for people to take us seriously."

Here's a little secret that is not a secret:  Cis people already don't take us seriously.  There has never been a time when cis people as a general rule were like "oh, yeah, this is a legitimate medical condition that has an agreed-upon treatment that is definitely not controversial" that was sabotaged by other trans people.  If everybody who transitioned exactly the way truscum want, they would still have the same issues from the same people making the same arguments.

This is especially obvious when looking at the way truscum try sucking up to TERF ideologies.  There is absolutely no way to spin anything a TERF says as being accepting of truscum, and yet they still fabricate this idea that if we all would just do it their way the radfems would leave them alone.  This is preposterous, considering the seeds of TERF dogma were sewn back when people generally did transition more like truscum logic would dictate.

5.  Always remember that these people are a minority.

Like I mentioned above, the exchange I had with two people was enough to ruin part of my day because of the negativity of it, but people who were positive about it outnumbered them a good twenty to one if not more.  The reality is that times have changed a lot since these people were hatched and transitioning differently is not a controversial thing that everybody only talks about in hushed tones.  It's common knowledge in trans communities.

Anyway, that's all for now.  Happy trails,
-- Jackson

Saturday, December 16, 2017

On "Lesbian" Identity and the Cultural Construction of Sexual Orientation

I follow a page called Social Justice Ninja that posts comics.  There was one I screencapped a couple days ago that I've been cringing about ever since:

Frame 1: "You're not REALLY a lesbian! You date trans men, and that makes you BISEXUAL!"
Frame 2: "You're not REALLY a lesbian! You date trans women, and that makes you BISEXUAL!"
Frame 3: "There is NO SUCH THING as a lesbian! God created Adam and EVE!"
Frame 4: Can people please stop telling us how to define our sexual orientation?"  "Right?"
This comic is making a lot of trans men (including myself) really uncomfortable, and I wanted to talk about that... with my article on newbish queer tendencies as a suggested prerequisite text.

When I wrote that essay, one of the takeaways is that the language our community has historically used is extremely messy.  It was not long ago that most trans men started out in the butch lesbian community and were there for a very long time, and similarly, trans women regularly traveled through crossdressing and drag performance communities before transitioning.  While that by no means indicates that these identities should be conflated, we need to understand that finding resources for such things has historically been really damn difficult, and trans people do not spring from the womb understanding how we, as we get older, will be expected to describe ourselves.

Nowadays it's very common to find trans guys like myself who were never lesbian-identified, not just trans guys like me who have always been into men, but hetero trans guys who were able to see trans men outside of queer communities in a way they may not have been able to fifteen or twenty years ago.  And in some respects we kind of forgot that this was how our community originally developed, and we grow these really hard-line "if you call yourself a lesbian when you're dating a trans man you're transphobic bullshit" stances.

I used to have a hard-line stance like that.  I mostly dropped it because I eventually met a lot of lesbian-identified partners of trans men and realized that the issue is way, way more nuanced.

On a pedantic note, not everybody defines "lesbian" as exclusively attracted to women.  There are people who concurrently consider themselves lesbians in addition to "bisexual" or "pansexual" or some other mode of attraction that isn't monosexual (I don't have an opinion on it, as I am not a member of that community, but I do occasionally own "gay," and it is definitely a thing that happens).

We also ignore the many people who transition while in an already-existing relationship whose partners stay despite already-existing identities.  Is somebody who has called herself a lesbian for ten years, who has only been interested in women that whole time, somehow fundamentally changed if her partner transitions and she chooses not to leave him?  Women who have maintained lesbian identities also have occasionally fallen for cis men, and plenty of them are reluctant to stop using that terminology for themselves... but nobody looks at this and thinks she's misgendering her partner for it.  They might think other things, but not that she's misgendering him.

Finally, sexual orientation itself is something I think we get way too worked up about.  The idea that our attractions can be expressed in "I'm straight," "I'm gay," "I'm bi," "I'm a lesbian," "I'm pan," etc. is ludicrous... every single one of us is attracted to people based on hundreds of factors that are not gender and yet we have singled out this one that's supposed to define us and constructed the concept of "sexual orientation" around that.  Not only have we constructed this whole concept, when we deviate from whatever we've labeled ourselves as (whether by picking a different label or sticking with one that you've been attached to for ages that other people don't think applies) we're socially punished over it.

Because of all this, when it comes to lesbians dating trans men?  My opinion is pretty much "meh."  I choose not to expend that much energy on that sort of thing, because there's more to it than just "cis people being garbage."

So what about this makes me uncomfortable?  The framing of this is just terrible, as you have three scenarios that aren't even close to each other in terms of offensiveness being presented as if they're the same thing.  I think there are solid arguments both for and against allowing people to identify as lesbians while dating trans men... there are zero for saying women (cis or trans) cannot call themselves lesbians if they date trans women, and zero for saying homosexuality is wrong.  It's an apples and orange comparison that means absolutely nothing.

Anyway, that's enough soapboxing for the day.

Happy trails,
-- Jackson

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The Article On Newbish Queer Sensibilities I Wish I Could Read

I'm, well, not a young queer.  I'm not old enough to have experienced a lot of things older queer people have, like Stonewall or the AIDS crisis, but I have been out for almost fifteen years, long enough to have witnessed quite a few dramatic shifts in what constitutes appropriate language and praxis.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.  So a while ago some friends and acquaintances who attended Northland college started posting something their professor posted on Salon, called "Has queer culture lost its edge?"  With a title like that, I always hope I'm going to find something I really resonate with, because I identify strongly with the frustration that comes from dealing with younger and newer queer people and more importantly how they enforce an ahistoric, super sanitized version of queerness.  But I'm always disappointed, because what we wind up getting is the queer version of "Are Millennials Killing The Beer Industry?" in which younger queer people are wrongfully accused of being "oversensitive" and talking derisively about how they're "triggered."  I wrote a really long Twitter thread on it in (it's a great thread, you should read it) which I talk about the super shitty parts of this article, but I keep going back to something I thought I tweeted but apparently didn't, which is this that I really, desperately want a piece to exist that talks about the sanitation of queerness... but without treating queer youth like they think they're fragile little victims.  You can read the thread in order to learn why I don't consider queer youth fragile.  This, instead, is the article I wish I could read.

Like I said, I'm not an old queer.  But I'm not a young queer either... I've been out for almost fifteen years at the time of this writing.  A lot can change in fifteen years... and it has.  If I talked today in the way I did in my late teens and early twenties I have no doubt people would brand me as irredeemably problematic, even though it would have been considered normal--or even preferred--when I was younger.  And had you told me at that age that when I would get into my thirties I would no longer feel comfortable calling myself a "tranny," I would have been really offended, because owning "tranny" was considered radical and inclusive by many trans communities at that time.  And no, it wasn't just trans men.

Back in my day, we used a lot of slurs as well as other words that weren't necessarily slurs but were definitely coarse.  We called ourselves "fags" or "dykes," we were "genderqueer" and "genderfuck," we used "tranny" and derivatives like "trannyfag," and practically nobody used singular "they," favoring neo-pronouns that twisted cis people's tongues into knots.  "Transgender" didn't just include trans men and women alongside nonbinary folks, but was a full spectrum including crossdressers and drag performers and all sorts of other people who Tumblr posts derisively call "cis" now whenever they say something Tumblr doesn't agree with.  The folks I knew who hated to be called "queer?"  It wasn't because it was a slur, or even because they were trying to be sensitive and inclusive to the much older people who hated that term, they just preferred different slurs, like my friends who hated being called "queer" because they hands-down preferred to be called "faggot."

And quite frankly, it was fantastic.  We were fucked up, messy, beautiful, sexy people... if admittedly very problematic in the way we chose to express that.  Gradually most of this terminology became sanitized and de-sexed, and entire identities were re-written, often by choice and personal growth but also often by the shame and force.  And people started applying this stuff retroactively, as if we all must have known back then that this was "bad" language and deliberately chose to use it anyway.

Suddenly it was a faux pas to call people "drag queens" or "transvestites" who had called themselves such their whole lives.  The blurred lines between these identities and historical trans women and the language people used were sharpened and binarized by people who weren't even born until after many of these people had already died, and so misconceptions wind up proliferating until you get some nineteen year old queer person performatively educating a history scholar for talking about drag queens at Stonewall or lecturing Kate Bornstein (who transitioned way back in the 1980s and has contributed to saving countless queer and trans people's lives) on her use of "tranny," a word few would have cared about as early as ten years ago.

This sort of attitude winds up burning contemporary queer and trans people a great deal, because not only are younger and newer queer people forcibly shoving the language and praxis escalator faster and faster, the internet has given us the unprecedented ability to harass and shun people for the most menial of sins, as well as people who continue to defend them.  And listen, it may sound gross, but shunning has its place... a very specific place, reserved for people who do actual harm to queer and trans people through their political activities combined with outsize money and power; think Caitlyn Jenner or Milo Yiannopoulos.

But most queer and trans people are not Caitlyn Jenner or Milo Yiannopoulos.

As I put the finishing touches on this essay, a couple of days ago there was a trans woman who made a silly pun joke on Twitter.  It was since deleted and I don't want to contribute to the storm of call-outs, but it went something like:
"Remember, Christmas without HRT is just Cismas."
It's a clever wordplay joke, but also problematic in that it made a lot of pre-HRT and non-HRT trans folks uncomfortable.  After all, people aren't cis just because they don't have HRT.  But the response to this was ridiculous, with people throwing tweet after tweet at this woman.  There were some particularly egregious comments (like a trans man who called her joke "TERF-y," which is as offensive as it is nonsensical), but mostly a sea of people who felt it was their duty to expose this woman and call her out for her terrible crime.  A lot of people unfollowed her, making sure to be extremely performative about it.

Another particularly egregious and slightly older example was Leelah Alcorn, who committed suicide due to her transphobic parents and a bigoted society.  This was a child who killed herself over transphobia and yet people--queer and trans people, not our enemies--saw it as necessary to root through her blog digging up dirt, declaring her "truscum" and somehow believing it was necessary to "expose" her for being anti-otherkin (in other words, she needed to be exposed for sharing an opinion with like 99% of the world).

When I think about oversensitivity in the queer and trans communities, it's this sort of thing I'm thinking about.  Not people demanding trigger warnings and other accommodations for their disabilities and challenges, nor people insisting they not be misgendered just because their outward appearance doesn't match what people expect their gender to look like, nor people creating a culture where they ask each other's pronouns and refuse to use ableist words even though they are ubiquitous, nor any of the other things whiny old queers like to call "oversensitive."

It's the looming methods of silencing and disposing of large swaths of our population in favor of an ahistorical, sanitized fantasy.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Four Weird Things I Forgot About Being Estrogen Dominant

Site housekeeping note:  Due to Patreon's change of policy--which forces patrons to pay fees on every single transaction without giving creators any option to pay it instead--I took down my Patreon creator account and refunded everyone.  You can still support me through the CashMe link in the sidebar.

In this whole personal journey back to estrogen dominance, there were a lot of things I expected to happen that didn't (I didn't lose a whole lot of physical strength--not yet, anyway--and my blood pressure didn't go down a whole lot, either) and some things I didn't expect to happen that did (tendency to cry a lot, virtually non-existent sex drive).

Then there were the things--the weird things--that I totally forgot were a thing from my pre-T days that came back with eerie familiarity.  This post is about those things.

A couple notes... I don't mean to imply in this essay that these are actually connected to estrogen, although a couple of them definitely are.  They're things that were true for me before going on testosterone and after going off of it, but not being on it.

I fantasize as if it were a long-running soap opera.

I fantasize about romance again, something I didn't really do a lot on testosterone.  It wasn't that I didn't want romance, but it wasn't like now where I might lay in bed for a half hour picturing a very vivid, long-running scenario that I picked up from the night before.  One with a plot.  On testosterone I liked romantic gestures because I was there and could experience them, but there was a weird disconnect there where I couldn't as easily replicate those feelings in fantasy format.

I remembered pre-testosterone having the same thing, where I was basically able to concoct these really long, intense storylines and backstories for the imaginary people I fantasized about rather than mentally fast forwarding to something graphic, and most importantly that intense need to get to that point (I wrote about that in-depth in a different essay, though).

There are random pains in my abdomen that do not feel alarming.

One time when I was still on testosterone I went to urgent care because I felt something that vaguely--but not quite--reminded me of uterine cramps.  It only happened once the entire time, and I was overcome with this fear that there was Something Wrong (the doctor, I now believe, thought I was trying to score a free hysterectomy).

After going off hormones, when the ovaries were starting to kick back into gear, but before I started bleeding again, I suddenly felt this super familiar feeling in my abdomen... not a sharp pain by any means, but a dull and persistent pain in the ovary region that isn't comfortable but somehow feels entirely normal.

I remembered pains, but I misremembered them as being only during my period... they certainly aren't, though, and show up at seemingly random times.

I'm super into boys.

This isn't something that is well known to be an estrogen effect (I know there are lots of homophobic creeps who think it is, but... no).  Actually, stereotypically speaking trans guys tend to be more into men when we go on testosterone (especially if we were straight before, which I wasn't), but I didn't specifically crave boys so much when I was on testosterone so much as people in general.

Way back when I still identified as gay, there was sort of an understanding on my part that I probably could be physically attracted to women but not emotionally; I determined before testosterone that that's actually kind of sexist and am happy to report that I didn't go back to it (I have a girlfriend so that would have been super embarrassing).  But the number of women I actively am interested in versus the number of men I am actively interested in has tipped from the roughly 45/55% it was on testosterone back to like 20/80% (with strictly nonbinary folks being kept out of the numbers because my attraction to them exists but varies wildly).  It's pretty much sat at that point ever since.

I'm better at hunting and shooting guns.

I am a deer hunter, and can say that my entire time on testosterone was basically a giant deer hunting dry spot, and target shooting was a mess for me.  I got my first deer pre-T, and then my next after going off it.

It was... baffling.  "How did I get this deer as a teenager?"  "How come I could hit targets so well when I was a girl?"  I had a reputation for being a really good shot, only missing deer because I wouldn't take shots I wasn't sure about.

Then I went on testosterone and it was like I couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.  My brother blamed the gun... but I've shot the same gun since I was 15, so that didn't make any sense.

Back on estrogen, I'm suddenly better at shooting again... and I have no clue how that works.  It wasn't something I expected by any means.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Why I'm Glad I Am A Girl Scout (NOT A Boy Scout)

Recently with the Boy Scouts' plan to admit girls, there have been a lot of opinions floating around.  The initial stuff I saw was all positive, like this is some great idea, with increasingly more people coming out to talk about why this isn't the progressive thing people think it is.  This is one genderqueer trans man's perspective.

When I was still a girl, like many other girls I was in the Girl Scouts.  I started at Brownie level and then went all the way up through being an adult scout, working for a Girl Scout camp for several years.  I was a fairly dedicated and serious adult scout, too, seeing a lot of shifts in the organization (local, national, and international alike), many of which I didn't like, but there was one thing that I was always happy about as an adult:  We were not the Boy Scouts.  We were not affiliated with them.  We were nothing like them.  I was not the only one with that sentiment... but I'll go into that later.

As a kid I didn't have that perception.  One of the problems with the Girl Scouts is that often the leaders of individual troops don't understand that we aren't the Boy Scouts or weren't whatever they wanted the Girl Scouts to be.  One leader, during a weeklong stay at our camp, complained about all our staff members (including me, over my hair, which she euphemistically criticized for being "short" when what she really meant was "looks like a lesbian").  My mother, when she was a leader, thought that it was a Catholic organization.  So if your childhood experiences do not match my adult experiences... I get it.

And as a boyish girl, I get the aversion many folks have to the Girl Scouts.  There was a point in my childhood Girl Scout experience when I was very involved in the Boy Scouts... or at least watching them.  My brothers were big time Boy Scouts, and as a little butch girl I was envious of the stuff they got to do, things I would come to understand very differently as an adult.  This was during one of the heydays of anti-queer and anti-atheist sentiment in that organization, and I would later learn that my brothers' leaders were teaching things like that "morally straight" in their Oath literally meant "heterosexual."  So although as a proto-transboy I was predictably envious of a group of people doing "boy things," there's no doubt that were I a Boy Scout as a child I would have been absolutely miserable and traumatized by it in a way that no pinewood derby win was going to heal.

So where was I... as a young child I was envious, but as a mid to late teen and throughout my adulthood I grew a strong attachment to the Girl Scouts, especially my Girl Scout camp that I went to every year.  It was a good week or two (depending on the program) of being able to experiment safely with expression when I was doing to be bullied the rest of the year for it, and it granted me opportunities to do stuff I never would have been able to do otherwise.  Even though it took up very little of my year, most of my major memories from childhood came from the Girl Scouts.

 The Girl Scouts was also where I met people like myself for the first time... when conservatives jaw on about how terrible the organization is, it's because it's loaded with progressive queer people.  I met my first other trans guy "in the wild" (that is, outside of explicitly queer space) through the Girl Scouts, in addition to a seemingly infinite supply of queer women.  It was also where I met my first other Pagan, and I was relieved to learn you weren't bound to a particular type of religion to belong (although the Girl Scout Promise mentions God, and I admittedly wish it didn't, it's now "God*" and you're perfectly entitled to omit or change it).

"Well that's all well and good," you may be saying, "but not everyone has to be a Girl Scout."  And I'd agree wholeheartedly.  I'd even openly state that there are some serious problems with the Girl Scouts.  I remember when they tried piquing interest by creating a bunch of very shallow, girly programs (cue picture of Steve Buscemi holding a skateboard).  They could have made something great and empowering for femme girls but wound up with a shitty limo ride to Claire's.  And I'd certainly love to see a real comparable attempt at a non-gendered scouting organization.

But the Boy Scouts--even one that allows girls--just isn't that.  And that opinion is informed heavily by my teen and adult experiences with the Boy Scouts.

See, again, as a proto-transboy type tomboy I was really envious of the Boy Scouts and hung out with them often, but also as a tomboy I was intent on being, you know, "one of the guys," and that can lead you to ignore a lot of bullshit.  Don't want to be some shrill harpy ruining people's fun, that's not being "one of the guys."  So I didn't interpret the things that were happening at these Boy Scout meeting events as clearly as I would later, when I was on a multi-camp visit as a teen Girl Scout.

I think that, at that age at least, I had never been sexually harassed so much in my goddamn life.  And there were literally no consequences for the boys who were doing it.

So there we were, ages 15-17, I think maybe eight of us?  And we're at this Boy Scout camp all excited to see what Boy Scout camps were like.  One of my experiences with the Girl Scouts is that the troops are very different from the camps.  It's hard to oversee troops because they're so flavored by the local culture, while camps have all these people coming to check in and make sure people aren't doing dipshit things like running them like an anti-queer and/or Catholic organization or singing a bunch of racist or misogynist songs (side note, according to a friend I'd meet at a disability-centered camp years later there's like one person charged with going camp to camp and eradicating their racist and misogynist songs, standards of course changing every year).  I assumed that the Boy Scouts was similar, and that the gross misogynist stuff that happened at my brothers' troop would be muted a bit by this being a particularly large and well organized camp.

And I was just super wrong.  As we walked through our tour, little boy after little boy would come over to feed us dirty pick-up lines, to which staff would just giggle as if it were cute.  We'd see the few women who worked at the camp get harassed coming out of the shower, complete with jokes about drilling holes in the walls, and there was basically no repast from this at all the entire time we were there.

Then we went to go eat in their mess hall, and I shit you not, they sit us all up on this stage with a table on it, like this space of honor up where everyone could gawk at us, as we got to hear these jerkwad boys giggle and be wildly inappropriate, with nobody saying anything about being respectful.  We were introduced with something like "You may notice there's something... huh huh... different about them" by one of the adult staff.  We all just sort of giggled and sunk into our chairs and didn't speak of that aspect of our trip again.

I'm not saying that Boy Scouts environments are necessarily like this, only that the shitty behavior that we normalize in boys that demeans women and girls and treats them like objects was super amplified and treated in such a "boys will be boys" manner that was fully and completely unchecked.  So I'd gone from this space that was very open and affirming of difference--where people could be openly queer and where disrespect wasn't treated as cuteness--to one where we were ogled and treated like objects.  At the very least, my experiences with the Girl Scouts have been immeasurably more positive than my experiences with the Boy Scouts, and it scares me to think that there are people who think taking girls out of the Girl Scouts and planting them in the Boy Scouts is feminist in any way.

Finally, I want to address some things about the whole neutrality argument.  I love the idea of a gender neutral, progressive scouting organization... but you're not going to get that from the Boy Scouts, for a number of reasons, whether by girls joining it en masse or by the patently offensive idea of merging the two organizations that people keep throwing around.

First of all, the Boy Scouts are still anti-queer (even if they are marginally less anti-queer than they were back then) and is still heavily controlled by religious conservatives.  Some people have argued (probably correctly) that allowing girls in is a targeted marketing effort... few churches and conservative groups recommend mass flight from the Boy Scouts, because the Boy Scouts aligns fine with their beliefs already, whereas there is always some boycott or "alternative" to the Girl Scouts proposed whenever they make a progressive change to the organization.  No longer obligated to serve God?  Told that you need to allow trans girls?  Working with Planned Parenthood?  Better join some conservative indoctrination farm like The Heritage Girls instead.

Again, people keep wanting to suggest merging the two organizations.  These people don't understand just how different the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts really are.  Either the Boy Scouts will wind up having to conform to the Girl Scouts' largely pro-queer and often progressive views (which cause them to lose a lot of the support they get from conservatives) or the Girl Scouts will have to conform to the anti-queer, anti-atheist environment of the Boy Scouts (which would quite frankly be a tragedy and would result in the Girl Scouts losing like half their staff).  So while I'd love to see a large, viable, comparable organization that's all gender, it's just not going to happen by merging these two particular organizations.  You'd be much better off starting a chapter of a smaller group, or making one up yourself based on local needs (there have been some great projects doing this, particularly those serving marginalized children).  You're not going to get the national and international structure of the major scouting organizations, but whether this is going to be a good thing or a bad thing will be subject to your children's needs.

Anyway, that's just my own drop into that hat.  I have no desire to treat the Boy Scouts as progressive over something like this, nor do I suggest you encourage girls to join the organization.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

You Are Not Your Testosterone Level

Back before I was on testosterone, I was running under a number of assumptions about myself that--although I tried not to say it out loud--I thought validated my transition.  I could reminisce forever about the things I thought validated my transition (I do have excellent spatial awareness) but I want to talk about one thing in particular:  Testosterone.

Before I ever got tested for my testosterone levels, I was running under the assumption that I had high testosterone for a woman... perhaps even immensely high.  Sure, not on testosterone high, but certainly above average for a woman.  My level?  It was... a touch higher than average.  Just a touch, like you could have accidentally bumped a gland wrong and had an extra tiny spritz of testosterone that day.  Not enough to justify my personal assumption that I was some testosterone-driven monster woman for whom transition to male was the obvious option.

I put it out of my mind, and eventually started really noticing the way we talk about testosterone not only in trans male communities but in other places as well.  We talk about testosterone like the level you have is a value judgment.

I mean, we say we don't.  We say things like, oh, "you're a man as soon as you say you are."  But there's still this anxiety related to testosterone levels.  Lots of conversations I've had devolved into people puffing up their chests bragging about their high pre-T testosterone levels, but my favorite is the people who think having an average male level of testosterone is bad.  "My testosterone level was only 600ng/dL today and my doctor says it's fine but IS IT REALLY FINE?!" somebody may ask, having probably stumbled on some obnoxious man health blog trying to get cis guys to buy its supplements.  And other trans guys step in to do some damage control because Aidan #12 thinks a level of 600ng/dL means he'll never get a moustache, but the same thing will happen with #13 next week.

(Clarification: There's nothing wrong with picking Aidan, obviously, speaking as a trans guy with a different but equally stereotypical trans guy name).

Testosterone fever has always been a thing in our communities, but the recent cis male obsession with testosterone levels that escaped from bodybuilder culture is making it a hell of a lot worse, aided by the sweep of advertising for Androgel and other testosterone supplements a few years ago.  As somebody in the wider paleo diet community it's getting hard to navigate past all the gross testosterone obsession, including people suggesting hormone replacement therapy in cis guys.  So you have these whole communities of mostly cis dudes who base their entire dietary and exercise lifestyle on the premise that they should let their bodies behave the way evolution pushed them to also insisting they need pharmaceutical HRT because... reasons?  Because they think having a testosterone level under four digits makes them sick?

Obviously testosterone replacement has its place (and one of my goals in life is to get trans guys who need it on it) but the undercurrent here is anxiety over men becoming "feminized," which is nine out of ten times a huge red flag that somebody is a homophobic and/or transphobic concern troll with large pockets of racism from people who equate low testosterone levels with low fertility and low fertility with "white genocide" and other fake concepts.  These are people who attach absurd, non-evidence-based ideas to testosterone levels, like that having lower levels of testosterone makes a man gay (it doesn't), makes him act in feminine roles (it doesn't), or makes him infertile (testosterone replacement actually makes this worse).

The thing is... you aren't your testosterone level.  People didn't even know about testosterone before less than a hundred years ago outside of some weird experiments injecting extracts of dog balls into themselves, so the idea that this is some yardstick of manliness is patently absurd.  You could have a testosterone level of 15ng/dL and it still doesn't mean anything about who you are.

So don't stress out about your testosterone level (whether you're on pharmaceutical HRT or not).  The number is not the goal, the goal is to get the physical changes you need and to get your levels to a place where you physically feel good.

If you feel good at 600ng/dL?  That's fantastic.  If it genuinely takes more?  That's fine, too.

And if you're like me and eventually feel fine at 80ng/dL?  That's also fine.  Don't let that number mess you up.  It doesn't mean as much as you think it does.

Friday, September 22, 2017

De-Graying the Moustache

First, in general updates, I've written scripts for I think three new videos (including one for cramp bark in my trans male herbal series and an addition to my genderqueer mysteries series), but have been going through a bit of a slump lately due to both personal stress (I lost my motivation to eat well as a side-effect of that DietBet fuckery, although to be fair I exercise a hell of a lot more) and general worldly anxiety (it's the end of September and it was almost a hundred degrees today in Wisconsin, so I'm having a lot of climate-change related angst).  Not that I owe anybody an explanation for anything, but I thought I'd mention anyway.  I'm also sick.  Yuck.

Outside of the stress and sickness there have been some pretty good things going on.  I'm starting to sew clothes (I'm making a cool long jacket with a fox pattern on it right now) and play around with fashion.  Two days ago I did something I've been considering for a long time but hadn't actually done.

I de-grayed my moustache.  With dye.

Now, I don't actually mind the gray of my facial hair at all.  I've had gray beard hairs since I started growing a beard (I hear that's an estrogen side effect but even at peak testosterone it was coming in that way!).  Plus, my girlfriend likes it  But the moustache is a different story, because although I'm certainly cute (in a baby bearish sort of way), the extent to which my moustache lacks color means that it's hard to see I even have one sometimes.  My moustache sort of washes into the rest of my face.

Moustache washed into face, complete with
wiry gray hairs on the chin.
So I went out and got some hair dye specifically made for facial hair.  I started with just the moustache, but decided in the end to do a little sideburn and beard too, although I left the gray on the chin as it was.  Basically anywhere I'd use eyebrow pencil (except for my eyebrows) I dyed a bit.  And I really like the result.

I mean, I styled it better and everything too, but still.
Keep in mind that when I want to look put together what I usually wound up doing was use eyebrow pencil and dark tinted moustache wax to get it to stick out.  The problem is when it's sunny or otherwise bright, you can see right through the moustache and fixate onto the eyebrow pencil on the skin, which kind of sucks, and moustache wax is its own pile of irritation.  My moustache is trained enough where I shouldn't have to wear moustache wax for an average day, but I wind up doing so because otherwise it's invisible.  This way I can use my homemade non-tinted wax and decide not to use it sometimes.

I think I left it in a touch too long.  I got a light brown color, but beard and moustache dye runs very dark and leaving it in too long makes it even darker.  It's toned down now so it doesn't look awkwardly black, and matches pretty well.

Oh, fun fact, I've been off of testosterone and back on my natural estrogen for well over a year now, and I'm still gaining new terminal hairs, something I didn't expect to happen anymore.  The old beard's still trying to fill in between the moustache and little pointy tips like the trooper it is.  I guess I shouldn't be super surprised by this as the women in my family also tend to gain more terminal hairs on their faces as they age, but it's like... the same rate I'd been gaining new ones before.  The point is, other than being a little more emotionally volatile and losing a chunk of sex drive going off estrogen changed less than I would have expected.