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Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Nutrition Update (And A Gripe)

I had a huge diet win today:  I had something in my hand... and put it back.  And didn't eat it.  And I was fine.  You have no idea how big that is for me. I've been doing reasonably well sticking to a paleo/primal diet, with a few mishaps and mistakes (being only human).  I started using PaleoTrack, which I noticed finally has an app, so I can look at my sodium/potassium ratio (very important for me as I have hypertension) and my omega-6/omega-3 ratio.

I use a lot of apps.  Yeah.

Anyway, I cook most of my own food when I'm at home and then at work I eat frozen pre-packaged meals... mostly paleo-labeled meals (they're not always really paleo, which I'll write about later) and some packaged meals by Atkins and some others that aren't paleo or marketed as such but are really close.  Sometimes I make my own food and take it in containers.

Today I ate a good breakfast of eggs, kipper snacks (a canned herring product that really helps with that omega-6/omega-3 ratio), sauerkraut, and avocado.  I had a couple snacks I should not have eaten (but I didn't eat a lot of them so that's not a total loss by any means) and then for dinner my chosen family and I went to Texas Roadhouse.  This was where I had my huge win:  I reflexively reached for one of their rolls.  I had it in my hand.  For about thirty seconds I stared, bewildered.  And then I put it back.  I had their peanuts instead (not paleo, but I'm not super concerned about the occasional legume).  I had a steak, shrimp, vegetables, and a baked potato.  They put way too much salt on the baked potato, which is ironic because I chose it specifically because potatoes have a lot of potassium.  It was overall a good meal and I came home feeling pretty good.  Then I drank a probiotic beverage and here I am now.

One thing I've been irritated about is, as I sort of mentioned above, the branding of paleo.  Paleo has always had a lot of branding, but these days it's a big enough thing that you can find products labeled "paleo" and "paleo friendly" with relative ease.  While I use these products I'm increasingly pissed off by how misleading they are.  Like, how can you justify calling something "paleo" when it has literal sugar and soy in it?  Or you cut your olive oil with some other, non-paleo oil?

Then, when I find a product that actually does seem to fit the ingredients of paleo (even if it doesn't really fit into the point of paleo), it often is totally disgusting.  I had a pizza crust from Mikey's recently and wound up just scraping the cheese and sauce off of it and eating it like that.  It was inedible, insulting really.  I may as well have eaten a meatza... it would have tasted better and been a lot cheaper!

It's mostly because of that I'm trying to phase out most of the commercial paleo crap that I eat.  I don't think most of it is bad for me (the pictured cookies, for instance, only as far as I know have sugar in the chocolate--a lot of paleo eaters will eat chocolate with like 70% cacao anyway--and I don't have any personal malice against soy lecithin), but I hate that it's misleading and I hate that a diet that should be simple enough for any dipshit could do it is being misinterpreted so badly for marketing purposes.

It reminds me of when I tried getting the dieticians at a camp I worked at to make appropriately paleo/primal food.  I'd made a lot of concessions that year and said I could do potatoes, dairy, etc.  For the first two weeks they thought I was a vegan for some reason, and when I finally explained that that's not the case I was subjected to a summer of french fries and potato chips.  Yeah.

Anyway, I'm feeling good about it right now.

Happy Trails,
-- Jackson

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Words of Encouragement and Advice for Trans Guys Stumbling on TERF Blogs

I want to put this out there right now:  Stop reading TERF blogs.

TERFs are "trans exclusionary radical feminists."  Most TERFs target trans women, but every so often you run into one who is really, really obsessed with trans guys.  Some of them go on about how they "considered" transition and in retrospect realize it would have been a bad idea for them (then somehow believe it would be a bad idea for all of us based on this).  Some feel threatened by "butch flight," or the perceived reduction of lesbians who identify as "butch" in favor of more trans men.

Whatever the case, a lot of trans guys stumble on these and then I wind up having to hear about it for the umpteenth time on trans male blogs.  If you've stumbled on a TERF blog, a couple of things to keep in mind:

Resist your urges to link to these blogs in our spaces.

If there's one thing that really grates on me and makes me feel unsafe it's when yet another trans guy decides to "expose" these TERF blogs, with some indignant comment like "Can you BELIEVE this?!" or "Have you SEEN this?!"  Seriously, just stop it.

First off, nobody needs to see these things.  You're setting trans people up for being stressed out and triggered over something they will not be able to do much about (I'll talk about this next).

Second, blog writers can often see where their traffic is coming from, so when you decide to be dim and post a link to some TERF blog it's a big signpost to them to come troll around in our forums.  Some of these people pose as trans guys in order to get chat screenshots and photographs of things they think look incriminating, or they find vulnerable people to harass through private message.  When you link to these blogs, you're helping them do this.

You are not the first trans person to find these sites, and yes, we've tried getting rid of them.

The laws of the land as well as the terms of service of the blog sites are written and enforced by cis people and especially in the United States we have very wildly reckless ideals about free speech.  Right now with the rise of literal Nazis you have the ACLU and a bunch of pansy liberals getting together to wax poetical about how they have a right to free speech here.  These are people who literally Want. You. Dead. and yet they're being protected.

TERF blogs are also often impeccable at being terrible while also being entirely legal in everything they do.  So go ahead and report them, if it makes you feel better, but as far as calling for big "report this blog" campaigns?  We've been there.  In my opinion, it's not worth the stress to get people to go do this.

If you find your own picture on there?  Go ahead and try, I encourage you.  But generalized attempts to just get rid of these blogs have not worked.

Do not fall into the trap of arguing that these people are just trying to help you make an informed decision.

Look, as a long-time transitioning trans guy who had to do a lot of soul searching and came to the conclusion that the typical transition route of lifetime hormones and surgery was not for me, I will firmly say that I believe you do need to put thought into your reasons for transitioning as well as a cost benefit analysis.  Sometimes it feels like there are trans people who come out and then suddenly two months later they're on hormones and planning surgery when they haven't even gotten their feet wet.  And yes, I've seen some super bad advice from trans people (Like "Just start hormones and you'll know right away!" God damn it, stop saying that.).

Honestly, though?  Most of us already do this analysis, even if we look like we aren't from the outside.  And you can get honest advice about this from trans people already.

I've seen trans people who were high and mighty about people being offended by these TERF blogs because they're "just giving another perspective so people don't make mistakes."  They're not doing that, though.  They exist to prevent people from transitioning through lies and shame.  If you think somebody who spends all day posting screencaps of minor trans boys to her blog to call them deformed lesbians has your best interests in mind then you're ignorant as fuck.

The people writing these blogs are not attracted to men in general, so why listen to their opinions on that subject?

Beauty and attractiveness are subjective values, but they're also values trans people tend to get sensitive about due to cultural assumptions that we're not attractive, so TERF blogs tend to zero in on trying to make us insecure about our appearances when on testosterone.  The idea that we turn into fat, bald, hairy men is repeated over and over again.

I remember when I dim-wittedly clicked on a TERF link in Google one day to find some horrid essay "explaining" that trans men all expect to look like Ryan Sallans after transition only to be shocked and disappointed to find we really look more like Dom Deluise.  And I'm not saying all of us are happy with how we look after hormones, but we pretty much just look like guys, and guys have diverse appearances just as anybody else does.  If you're worried about these particular things--gaining weight, going bald, getting too much body hair--there are ways to mitigate them.  But for the most part these risks are no worse than any other guy's risk for having these things happen.

There's a common theme among these blogs where they are able to cherry-pick so-called "ugly" trans guys.  They wind up picking pictures of people who are older, or they pick unflatting photographs.  I saw one use a picture of Jamison Green as a terrifying vision of what trans men turn into... he was like 65 at the time the photo was taken, and it was a very carefully chosen photo of him in bad lighting at an unflattering angle.

But here's the kicker:  These authors generally aren't attracted to cis men, either, and some literally hate them.  So... why stress out over their revulsion about our appearances?  That's like taking advice about what the best pizza is in the area from somebody who is allergic to cheese.

Most of the physical things these people talk about as horrible mutilations are things cis people need or have, too.

I remember seeing a TERF blog post with a picture of a trans man's post-hormonal genitalia referring to it as "a mutilated clitoris" (I think she had even said something absurd, like "BEHOLD! The MUTILATED CLITORIS!").  I had to laugh at the time because it really wasn't any bigger than mine was, being pre-T at the time.  Clitorises and penises vary in size, as pretty much everybody should know by now, but talk about something with regards to a trans person and suddenly it's "deformed" and "mutilated."

TERFs don't go on campaigns saying that cis men with breast tissue absolutely mustn't have it removed lest they be "mutilated."  They don't talk about cis women with large clitorises as "deformed."  Their problem is not with our bodies, it's with us throwing wrenches in their absurd essentialist drivel.  Do not concern yourself with their bullshit.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Fucking My Way To An Early Period

First, in non-sex stuff, I had my bi-annual checkups (both my dental appointments and my physicals are every six months so they wind up scheduled within a couple days of each other).  It was mostly good news... although my weight has gone up a lot due to the hormone cessation, my other health markers--primarily my blood pressure--are pretty much the same.  I've gone on an app kick--I got a new phone, I'll talk about this in a later post--that is helping a bit.  At the dentist no new cavities were found, the dentist decided I didn't need a crown and just needed proper chewing instruction and some tooth modifications that'll be done in a couple months.  Much cheaper and it'll save more of the tooth.  I'll be working on some remineralization techniques as well to see if that helps with the damage.  It turns out the problem is that my chewing style grinds down my teeth in an uneven way, and very quickly.  Whoops.

Anyway, now for the sex stuff (and the blood stuff).

So last week my partner took me on what my friends have determined was a "literal sex vacation."  We went to Sybaris Pool Suites, somewhere I (I shit you not) had wanted to go ever since I saw the commercials as a child.  Did I know it was a sex resort?  Kind of.  As much as a kid can understand a sex resort, I guess.  But anyway, bucket list item achieved.

And of course there was sex.  A lot of it.  Pretty much everywhere.  I'm not going to go into details except for the relevant stuff... I wound up with an early period because of it.  Not like alarmingly early, but certainly surprisingly early.  The timing was pretty telling, as she had just fucked me with a dildo.  I went to the bathroom, saw blood in the toilet, and wasn't too worried although I did think it was probably wounding.  This isn't that unreasonable:  While on testosterone my vagina really couldn't handle penetration without bleeding.  Now that it can, I certainly... uh... use that ability... but I don't expect that things have changed as much as they have.

But the blood kept coming.

And coming.

And turned into a full-blown period maybe three days later.

And it's still coming.  My period normally lasts four days, and it's been eight so far.  Today is the day my cycle normally starts, so I'm kind of under the impression it'll go for about four more days and then stop, unless I run out of blood before then.  If it stops at that point, well, I'll just consider it normal, because I'm aware that sex can sometimes result in an early period by relaxing your organs.  She also hit my cervix a lot, since it lowers in the vagina during that part of the cycle.  Should have paid more attention to my body I guess.

One unfortunate problem of this... I was all ready to use this particular period to start a new magickal craft project with my newfound knitting abilities.  It was supposed to be a red knit blanket that I only worked on when bleeding that was supposed to be used to "trap" that energy in there for times I wanted to do some sort of menstruation-based ritual but didn't want to actually use the blood (either because I wasn't bleeding or because real blood wouldn't fit the ritual for some reason).  I'll still be doing that--I have the yarn and the needles--but it will start next cycle.

Anyway, happy trails,
-- Jackson

Saturday, April 15, 2017

(You Probably Didn't) Ask Jackson - Triggered By Bodies

So I have a thing where I love reading around trans male/masculine forums and commenting where possible, because I like helping my community, even when they're annoying or entirely misinformed or even kind of offensive.  But every once in a while there's kind of a "theme" where I'll see multiple trans people ask the same question, or different questions in the same general ballpark, and it strikes me that maybe this is something people need to know.

This serious is questions that, well, you probably didn't ask me, but which I read from multiple people.  I'm not direct quoting conversations or naming names, as these could invade somebody's privacy, but instead am writing questions based on questions from multiple people (although I may focus on just one story if it's a particularly good example).

The first subject I'd like to write about Q&A style is triggering bodies.

Dear Jackson,

I am a trans man who is living with another trans man.  This trans man is "genetically gifted," having a very naturally flat chest, and because of this he walks around shirtless freely around the house.  He refuses to put a shirt on.  This is very triggering for me; how do I get him to stop?

Triggered By Bodies

Dear Triggered B. Bodies,

I picked this to address because although your particular case is very individual, what isn't individual is the concept of a trans man (or really anybody) being triggered by the bodies or expression of... well, anybody.  Not just other trans people, but other cis people as well.  Maybe you're triggered by the sight of some body part or contour that you don't have, or one you do have but desperately wish you didn't.  Maybe you're triggered by the idea of trans men and boys wearing Instagram-fancy makeup or skirts because they remind you of things you have been forced to wear.  Maybe you're tokophobic and the idea of a trans man getting pregnant really makes you feel repulsed and frightened.  Although I'm going to focus on the presence of a well-"passing" trans body, all of these are in this category.

I'm also picking it because I have a body that, well, a lot of other trans people don't like.  I have a couple of traits they're envious of and then an expansive variety of traits that make other trans people uncomfortable on account of my audacity in not having them changed.  And I'm super sick of being asked to hide these traits--bind my chest, wear clothing where clothing isn't required, etc.--because other trans guys aren't comfortable with them.

Anyway, although the advice I am going to give you is almost certainly going to really suck for you, I want to point out that being triggered is not a choice, and I'm not claiming it is.  People can be triggered by absolutely anything or anybody that reminds them of a trauma they've experienced (for trauma-related triggers, anyway, which is what this original example is).  None of this should be taken to mean "hey, you're a terrible person for being triggered by your roommate."  But we do need to look at what we're reinforcing with how we respond to being triggered (speaking as somebody with quite a few absurd triggers).

In social justice communities, we put a lot of the onus of trigger management on other people.  This is usually fine because the most common triggers are very common, disturbing to more people than just those actually triggered by them, and often involve very concrete power-over situations.  Things like sexual assault, for instance, are woefully common, very upsetting even to people who haven't experienced it, and often based on misogynistic power structures, so universally requesting warnings about content regarding it is perfectly reasonable.

Since we want to be kind and supportive of people with traumas, we kind of go with it without question, and there are even communities out there where if anybody requests a form of censorship (putting asterisks in a particular word, not using a particular word) or warning on something, suddenly everybody is obligated to do it.  I've seen a number of these communities get absolutely ripped to shreds eventually just due to the absurdity of their rules and the extreme potential for abuse as trolls start requesting everything from meat to hair dye be censored.

Where this becomes a problem is when you talk about things that are fundamentally about somebody's very existence, especially the body they occupy.  And it's not that this is never appropriate--spaces devoid of white people and men come to mind as necessary exceptions, speaking as somebody in both those categories--but insisting a marginalized person censor his body because it triggers you is absolutely not appropriate.  And what gets me here, Triggered, is that your entire question starts with the assumption that your roommate is doing something wrong and you must find a way to encourage him to stop for your sake.

This is ridiculous... nobody should be forced to pretend their body doesn't exist in their own home, and that's exactly what you're requesting.  If somebody's existence is triggering to you, you should not be living with that person.  And if you absolutely can't (or refuse to) move, what you need is a self-care strategy and a way to take time away from seeing your roommate, not to change his behavior.  Because insisting somebody else change because their appearance happens to upset you is a terrible precedent.

Happy Trails,
-- Jackson

Monday, April 3, 2017

Deep Thoughts from the Trans Workshop(s)

Over the past few days I've participated in a local trans related event at my alma mater.  This started with a small-group round table discussion and then a couple days later there was a full-day program.  This is usually a very mixed event but this year was mostly attended by trans people.

There was a drag performer there who gave a wonderful presentation regarding the interplay between trans folk and drag performers.  This is a very nerve-striking issue for me because more and more often it seems like younger, newer, and/or more "social justicey" trans folks go to great lengths to try arguing that drag performers and crossdressers not only cannot identify as members of the trans community, but are inherently problematic or transmisogynistic.  This is absurd and ahistorical, a subject I may soapbox about later.  The drag performer was the MC at a drag show later that night during which time she included an educational session for folks in the audience who didn't understand the difference between "drag" and "trans."  I also learned that some of this tension is more two-way than I'd initially thought... see, I've seen this from the trans side, with trans folk resenting drag performers (especially drag queens) for their portrayals of women, use of the word "tranny," and a lot of other things.  What I didn't realize was that drag queens often also resent trans people who continue to perform, because after hormones and surgeries they wind up being able to achieve certain looks with little effort and then soak up tips that would otherwise go to people who have to put in a lot of work (the presenter did, by the way, acknowledge this as ridiculous).

The show itself was a very different type of drag show which had a lot of nontraditional drag in it... not just drag queens and kings, but a lot of nonbinary performers as well as people performing as their lived genders but as gender-swapped characters.  I'm thinking about asking if I could perform next year (maybe the year after).  I had interest in trying to do female drag after transitioning into a man, but now that I'm off hormones and have long hair and decided to forgo surgery I know for a fact that if I were clean shaven I would wind up with dysphoria again until I got a fair amount back.  But I was greatly inspired by Scott Heierman, a bearded drag queen comedian who was on America's Got Talent, and I think with my full beard, general hairiness, and sweet moustache in combination with a lot of very feminine elements (contouring makeup, doing my hair extremely feminine, heels, glitter, etc.) I could make a really cool look, and I can force myself to be not-shy enough to perform.  Just need practice.

Part of the discussion was about how part of the viewing experience when at a drag show is mentally trying to figure out what's "real" and what isn't.  This makes it almost kind of a game for me... as my body combines so many elements that are genuinely me.  I don't need a wig to have very feminine, long hair.  I don't need to glue hair on my face to get a beard.  I don't need to stuff a bra to have breasts.  So I could go up there while changing my body shape very little, maybe add some lashes and nails (my partner suggested a glitter beard, haha), and achieve a look that would be delightfully confusing to people who don't know me and my journey.  I'd just need to sort out whether I want a more male-read or female-read song.

In non-drag subjects, we were talking a lot about the monotony of stealth and of invisibility and stuff like that.  The main presenter here was a good friend of mine (we met before he came out, so we go way back) who is currently on hormones and is quite well "passing" as I am.  The thing about passing really well when you crave being a part of trans communities, though, is that it gives you a level of invisibility and a high stress level.  I have a full time job somewhere I'm stealth, and while it's not very difficult to find out I'm trans if you know where to look, I get a lot of anxiety over it anyway.  There's also an issue with people in the trans community treating you as "less than" if you either don't pass well enough or you pass too well.  I don't really have either problem anymore, but I know a trans man who talked about how he felt pushed out of a community effort he helped found because he was too masculine and passed too well... there's an expectation in some communities that you look a certain way, and either not trying to pass as a pre-hormonal trans man or passing too well after both wind up being liabilities.

Oh, I met some friends I hadn't seen in a while.  They'd shown up to the rally I wrote about, but one had just had top surgery and wasn't able to move to where I was to say "hi."  We had some good discussions and found he'll be coming to a queer support group I attend, so that'll be sweet.

There was more to it, but I think most of it will come later at some more relevant time.

Anyway, happy trails,
-- Jackson

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Everpresent Pull of the Golden Arches

A content note that this post deals with eating disorders.

Today I got back from a successful trip to Costco and Penzey's in which I purchased zero wheat and 100% foods that agree with my body only to go out to McDonalds with my roommate.  This is a problem for me... everybody knows that McDonalds is terrible for you, but in me there is a combination of factors that make it a particularly miserable experience for me after-the-fact. 

I have a serious food addiction that I've had since I was a kid and that largely went unrecognized (I know my mom knew something was up but she didn't really have the resources to understand what or how to deal with it).  In addition, I have a wheat intolerance, but it has a delayed reaction that makes it easy for me to eat a lot of wheat convincing myself I'll probably be fine (I almost never am: Wheat binges often result in me waking up with vomit in my throat in addition to many other uncomfortable symptoms).  The wheat issues and the food addiction wind up piggybacking on each other, with the addiction compelling me to eat wheat and the wheat triggering symptoms that make me feel like I'm starving, leading to the consumption of more wheat.

I've gone through long stints where I did great, sticking to a variety of different diets that omit wheat and make me feel great, but I am also easily sabotaged and having a hard time getting past that lately.  On the bright side, it's usually been one or two good meals followed by a poor dinner, and it's not every day.  It's really a process.

I've been reading a lot about willpower, especially in the context of restrictive diets and diets meant to keep people from getting as miserable as I often am.  Two main themes have stuck out in the past few weeks, and although they compete with each other, I think there's truth to both:
  1. Willpower is an act of empathy toward your future self.
  2. You should try to avoid needing willpower.
I mostly resonate with the first one, the problem is remembering that I resonate with the first one.  I keep trying to remind myself to create a wearable totem of some sort, like a bracelet, to remind myself of the concept of self-empathy in this way for when I'm knee-deep in Big Mac land.

Basically what this means for me is the following:  When I eat, I should be empathizing with how I expect to feel in two or three hours, or longer.  If I eat what I'm planning on eating in the quantities I intend to eat, in a couple hours am I going to be miserable?  Or am I going to feel refreshed?  If I eat this way daily, how am I going to feel about this in a month?  Two months?  A year?

There's also a tie-in to something I read about the Epicurean lifestyle, in which you try to maximize pleasure.  This on its surface seems hedonistic and counter-intuitive, as eating food that tastes good is pleasurable.  But you also have to factor in that eating said food will, in the long term, not be pleasurable.

This contradicts slightly with number two:  Avoid needing willpower.  One of the mistakes people make is that we place a value judgment on willpower, as if avoiding eating a hamburger when it's staring you in the face makes you a more moral person.  The reality, though, is that willpower is a finite resource for most of us, and being constantly exposed to addictive food will whittle away at that willpower until it's gone and you give in.

I should mention now that this is the response in an addicted person, which I have been all my life.  Every once in a while somebody--equally moralistically, I might add--will lecture me about "moderation," claiming that if I restrict certain foods entirely it will just create a binge later.  Since I hear it everywhere it must be true for somebody, but I really am aiming for eventually being totally free from my addictive foods.

It's like a cruel cultural joke to me, because in general when I'm alone I'm pretty good at keeping these urges at bay by keeping certain foods away from me, out of my house, or behind a "psychological barrier" (in which somebody has not offered me a specific food, it's not mine, and therefore I can maintain the willpower not to eat it).  Like all people, my willpower will crumble a bit between meals, and it's important for me to make sure I am eating enough good foods at the right time to prevent me from getting those cravings.  But when people go on and on about moderation?  That's just the worst.  There's nothing that shaves away my motivation and willpower faster than people telling me that if I don't eat whatever food they're trying to get me to eat, it will set me up for failure.  Which, ultimately, sets me up for failure.

Today it wasn't really that... it was just a moment of weakness when a friend asked if I wanted to go to dinner.  I at least have a good system for when this happens now... pop some antacids and elevate the fuck out of my head.  I've at least been not waking up with vomit in my mouth, but the long-term effects are still there.

But tomorrow is a new day... I'm thinking in addition to a physical totem piece I'll start making sure I have a mealplan set up.  Tomorrow I'll probably have spaghetti aglio e olio with either zucchini noodles or corn spaghetti, maybe an omelette in the morning as I have a lot of cheese.  And I'll have a lot of cool seasonings to try out, so there's that.

Anyway, happy trails,
-- Jackson