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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Finally Finished Moon Cycle Blanket Part I

I said a while ago that I was planning on working on a knitting/crocheting project for when I'm menstruating so I have a piece to use for rituals regarding that subject.  It's going to be kind of a knit-crochet quilt in which each period I make a square kind of like the one pictured... this one is crocheted, which is easier for me; each new square will have a different design and different shade/shades of red, probably getting more complicated as time goes by.  One thing I'm pretty good at is crocheting colored designs into squares, so that'll probably be a theme going onward.
Piece one of a menstruation quilt.
I'm seeing a lot of uterus-related crafts on my favorite forums lately (my personal favorite forum is "why would you DIY that???").  Although they're super silly, I think they'd make great ritual pieces so I'll probably try them.  One involved pink gemstone cave slices with fallopian tubes and ovaries welded onto it.

When I was done with this square I put it on our little doggie and it looked so great I decided to also crochet a tiny hoodie for her in the same color.
Penelope the Yorkie in a tiny red hooded sweatshirt.
I also have pink and black yarn.  Not entirely sure what I want to do with it yet.  Probably something queer, though.

I've been on a big repair kick somewhat instigated by my roommate, who also is into repair due to his involvement in open source communities (one of the big issues regarding open source is that anti-open-source legislation often makes it impossible to repair your own stuff, forcing you to take it to a retailer instead or just let it stay broken).  So we've been trying to repair things before throwing them away and replacing them.  The three "R"s--Reduce, Recycle, Reuse--should have "Repair" as an extra one.

This same roommate goes through socks like nobody's business, so I started darning them for him.  This, for me, is also a great way to practice a new useful skill, speaking as somebody who would like to sew and repair more clothing.  I learned basic patching and replacing buttons and stuff in high school by taking a sewing class, but socks I just never learned to repair.

I also have been repairing glassware, including a plate of mine my roommate had accidentally broke and a couple pieces from that same roommate that I accidentally broke.  I found a glassware and ceramic glue by Elmer's that seems to work super well.

Next possible repair will be my air mattress, which I will need at PSG in a couple weeks but probably has a hole or two.  I've done this repair before so hopefully it'll be an easy one.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Personal Protein Powder Recipes (and Meal Strategy)

I like replacing a solid food meal with a protein shake on work days.  It doesn't really cut down on calories much (if at all!) because I like my almond butter... but it does make preparing food for my 12 hour days a lot less miserable and a lot more easy.

At first I'd drink them for breakfast, but in the end I settled on drinking them for lunch while eating a small breakfast either leftovers or fruit earlier.  There are a couple of reasons for that.  First, it just feels better for some reason, like I feel the right level of hunger at the right time instead of going through spikes of intense hunger pangs followed by feeling totally stuffed.    But more importantly, it makes it easy for me to consume my calories before my lunch break, so I can use that time to go for a half-hour walk (and Pokémon hunt) or, if the weather sucks or I'm not feeling it that day, write.

So my daily meal strategy (at least for a work day) is to eat leftovers for breakfast, a shake for lunch,

Since protein shakes by themselves aren't great, I've created and worked with a lot of recipes to make them more interesting.  What follows are some of my favorites.  The protein powder I use is Primal Fuel by Mark Sisson's Primal Kitchen, but most of these will work with any protein powder found in vanilla or chocolate.  Unless otherwise specified, just put them in a blender bottle and shake.  Below the actual recipes are some add-ins you can use to increase the nutritional value, textural appeal, or taste.

Also, I make all of these ahead of time by around a day.  Even the hot ones made with coffee or tea are cold when I drink them.

Cherry Almond
2 scoops vanilla powder and applicable amount of cold water
13 cherries (chopped, crushed, or blended)
2 tablespoons almond butter
a half teaspoon almond extract
a half teaspoon vanilla extract
I chop the cherries, but this would be better machine blended if I weren't as dedicated to not having to clean a blender)

Chai Tea
2 scoops vanilla powder and applicable amount of hot water
1 chai tea bag
a pinch each ground cinnamon, cardamom, and clove
I make the water into tea using my personal water heater and put all the tea in the blender bottle; don't just put the teabag in unless you want a mess.

2 scoops chocolate powder and applicable amount of water
coffee grounds
cacao powder
Convert the water into coffee in a coffee maker.  I add crushed ice or put in the fridge.

Pumpkin Pie
2 scoops vanilla powder and applicable amount of cold water
1/4 - 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
a teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

Almond (or Peanut) Butter Cup
2 scoops chocolate powder and applicable amount of cold water
2-3 tablespoons almond (or peanut) butter

Things to Add for Health (or Flavor)
The following ingredients can really be added to any of these shakes to troubleshoot particular nutritional or flavor issues you might be having.
  • Replace the water with coconut water for a potassium boost.
  • Replace some or all the water with whole milk if it's too watery and you can tolerate it.
  • Add ground flaxseeds or chia seeds for an omega-3 boost and textural change.
  • Add some stevia extract if you really can't handle the lack of sweetness, or xylitol for the same plus some added dental benefits.
  • Add a teaspoon or so ground dulse or kelp for added iodine and potassium.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Why I'm Not Going To Stop Calling Myself "Queer"

I reclaim a lot of slurs.

I'm a Pagan, who uses the term Warlock and also Witch... all three of them slurs.  Although I don't anymore, I used to use "tranny" very often as well as a number of others when I still considered myself gay.  And I prefer to be considered "queer" pretty much above everything else.

Several months ago a group for trans people I was in was archived, and when I went to go see what the last few days of carnage were like, I found that one of the instigating factors was an intense uptick in the words members were suddenly required to avoid using or censor out.  One of those, to my annoyance, was the word "queer."

The reasoning is the same reasoning I see over and over again when people try to silence our in-community use of this word:  We're too young to have ever known this word as anything but a positive.  And with some exceptions, this is pretty much par for the course as far as people's arguments against reclaiming slurs.  Either you're not old enough to understand or not visible enough to understand, explanations given like "this word was never weaponized against you, you've only heard it used in a trendy or cool way, you have no idea how much this word can hurt."  In the case of "queer," we're supposed to stop using it to protect the sensibilities of older LGBT people, the people who really understand.

I would like to invite you to my childhood and adolescence.

I was born with a gift from my father... a surname that I shit you not rhymes with the word "queer" or, if you're going to split hairs, "queerer."  I also looked like this throughout most of it:

FYI that isn't a shadow it's a part of my hair.
That said, "queer" and variations thereof were a regular part of harassment when I was a kid, all the way up through high school.  "Shearer the Queer."  I heard it on the bus.  I heard it whispered in class.  I heard it on the playground.  And I assure you, nothing about this was positive, edgy, trendy, or radicool in any way.  This was bullying, it was harassment, based on assumptions about me that only incidentally turned out to be almost-correct.

I grew up in a small town that, because it was a small town, elevated the voices of the least marginalized and most bigoted of the residents.  Most things were fairly minor, like when our senior prom's signage all declared that couples tickets could only be bought by girl/boy pairs even though it cost the same as buying two single tickets, but it peaked at a strong attempt to force HIV+ people to put signs disclosing their status on their front doors.

You ever hear those people who talk about how liberal and left wing folks are all in our "bubbles" and we all live on the coasts with other entitled liberals and leftists, never to consider the feelings of those who live in more rural, conservative areas?  The reality is that so many of us--including people like me, who live in the Midwest but in generally progressive areas within it--did grow up in the bigoted, closed-off communities we're supposed to be pouring all this empathy toward.  We fled those communities, and for damn good reason.

On an aside... there was somebody (a congressman or something, I don't know) who tweeted in relation to trans students that this is an issue that needs "local knowledge," an argument implying that somehow small communities will know what's best for their particular trans students.  Can you imagine being the kind of person who thinks that?  "Local knowledge" means rural queer and trans kids stay miserable.

I'm kind of reminded of this when I hear these arguments about older LGBT folks, particularly their perceptions of how much better young people have it.  Once an older trans person at a panel I went to--who only lives part-time as a woman to protect her marriage--waxed poetical about how much easier we had it, not knowing she was lecturing to a group of people who had experienced multiple sexual assaults, employment obstacles/poverty, and intense childhood bullying over our gender expressions.  It is easy to, due to the way we've generationally decided to handle our oppression, assume that they have it "better" than we did and are taking their good fortune for granted.  The reality is that the difference between generations is that we have different wider things to fight for or against.

I didn't fight in Stonewall and wasn't out during the brunt of the AIDS crisis, but I did come out during a particularly miserable year for gay rights in my state (in which I regularly came home to find the words "queer," "fag," and "dyke" in graffiti on my door).  Many younger trans and queer kids, as well, came out after the US already had same-sex marriage, and they may be more likely to transition young, but they're in the middle of a massive fight for trans rights in their schools that I never had to deal with.

And all of us are part of this overall legacy, we've all had these words weaponized against us (even if the elder LGBT folks saying so didn't notice), and we all have our own individual responsibility to decide where we stand on that terminology.

For me, "queer" is what I am, it's what I was as a kid, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Happy trails,
-- Jackson

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Adventures in Facial Hair Makeup

Some of my favorite experiments in expression are doing culturally "feminine" things in a culturally "masculine" way and vice versa.  I try explicitly to avoid the whole "man version" hype, as the point isn't that my masculinity is too fragile for me to do the "feminine" version, just that I like certain aesthetics and like playing with them in a particular way.  Some examples include things like neckties, but in more feminine colors and patterns, or kilts, or manicuring my nails really well but in a way that reads "pretty but masculine."  One of my biggest experiments is in facial hair grooming.

Note:  This is part genderqueer expression/presentation personal musing (because a lot of this is fresh and new and cool to me and I want to talk about it!) and part implied trans male passing tips.  Whichever is more interesting to you, really.

There is a fair amount of makeup in this picture.

I grow a pretty good beard and moustache that don't absolutely need much help, just a little wax if I want it curly, but I grow enough to fill in all the important parts.  But sometimes I want to look super sharp, in which case I strive for a look like my Instagram-sexy photo to the right.

When I style I try to work with the natural pattern of my facial hair rather than against it.  Trying to make it look like you have a lot more facial hair than you really do rarely works.

So for instance, my beard does not connect to my moustache.  It looks like it's making an effort to, with the funny little points rising up from my jaw, but it never quite gets there.  I use an eyebrow pencil to straighten some lines and fill in some patches... but I don't dare try using that technique to add those connections.

I also shave the really patchy stuff off.  I get patchy facial hair up my whole cheek, and it looks good enough that I can forget to shave a couple weeks and not look terrible.  Going for a sharper look I try to get straighter lines, the problem is my little "points" (the ones pointing to the moustache) aren't even.  One is nice and sharp and comes to a beautiful point, the other is kind of patchy, owing to the silly direction the hair grows.  So as an experiment I tried filling it in with an eyebrow pencil, a look that I love, especially in combination with a somewhat filled-in moustache and eyebrows.  I also use colored moustache wax... it's not always necessary but does darken a bit.

I still need to get the hang of it, because although most people don't notice it's makeup, it's not particularly difficult to tell, and in bright light it looks colored on.  The thing is, I'm OK with it if it looks like makeup, but I want it to look like good makeup, like well-done eyebrows where you know there was work done but it's compelling.  But coloring under a longish moustache is unfortunately harder than I would have thought.  Whoops.

Speaking of eyebrows, I've started working on those, too.  I'm not great at shaping them, but I've at least gotten rid of most of the unibrow and stray hairs.  I've also tried eyeliner, which was a big thing cis guys were doing when I was pre-T (meaning it was unavailable to me because we're subject to a gross double standard about things like that), but I don't particularly like it.  I keep thinking it would be cool to do more out-there, obvious looks (like purple eyebrows or something, which I do in fact know how to do) but I always wind up with stuff like this instead.  But you know, whatever works.

Happy trails,
-- Jackson

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Pretty Food, Personal Diet/Exercise Updates

A content note that this post talks about some eating disorder behaviors.

I learned about the new food fad that is "cloud eggs" (where you whip egg whites to stiff peaks, put them on a baking sheet, sink the yolk into them, and bake them) and had to try it because it's not often there's a food fad out there that is 100% something I actually eat.  I almost caved and ate avocado toast recently--out of spite--but I didn't, and my experiences with paleo "bread" are so terrible I probably won't.  Maybe with some rice-based bread on a day I feel like cheating on paleo?

I garnished my cloud eggs with some bacon roses, chives, and mint leaves and gosh is it ever gorgeous.  One of the prettiest plates of food I've made in a long time, and I make a lot of beautiful food.  Problem:  They don't taste nearly as good as basically every other variety of egg out there.
Some stumbling blocks I'm running into... well, they're not the worst stumbling blocks ever.  One is my old Easter candy, which I got in the midst of a post-Easter binge.  There's very little left and due to very deep scarcity issues from growing up poor it's hard for me to throw it away.  Maybe I can find somebody to give it to.  Even if I don't, it really hasn't been my problem.  It's so rich and my tastes are starting to get so acclimated to non-sweets that I can't really binge on it like I used to.

The other thing that's been tripping me up, oddly enough, is rice.  On a paleo diet grain is forbidden, but both among paleo eaters and especially for me, the Big Bad is really wheat, with many of us occasionally eating white rice because it's polished from all the anti-nutrients and gut-irritators paleo teaches are the problem with grains.  Because it's so innocuous compared to wheat, white rice tends to be my biggest "minor cheat" food, meaning in theory I allow myself to eat it one day a week or so (usually Monday), hence why I was able to eat that lovely green curry, or the occasional sushi, or a carnitas bowl at Chipotle or something like that.  This is fine, but I'm starting to talk myself into eating it more often, which isn't good.  I did get to pat myself on the back yesterday because I went to Chipotle fully intending to get a bowl (including white rice) and like three seconds before ordering pulled myself together and got a salad without rice or beans instead.  I was very worried I'd feel deprived, because I'm a creature of habit... I tend to go to restaurants and order the exact same thing, so shaking this up by getting something primal-compliant or choosing not to eat something that comes with the dish that isn't primal-compliant is a stress-inducer for me.  I always feel superhuman when I'm able to do it.

I did not feel deprived.  The salads are pretty much as tasty as the bowls.  After all, guacamole  and pork are certainly compliant enough, and they're the good parts of the meal.

Happy trails,
-- Jackson

Monday, May 22, 2017

Toxic Things Said By Trans Men Today (and my Serious Responses)

A couple days ago I talked about how important it is that we not reflexively excise trans men from our analysis of toxic masculinity.  Today, as if on cue, yet another trans guy decided to go on a winding dipshit rant about how he doesn't understand how [insert expression here] can be considered trans.  I'm not going to post it exactly here for confidentiality and rules reasons, but here are the main points made:
  • He sees a lot of people calling themselves trans men who "look like girls," who don't bind, who don't want testosterone, who are OK with being considered/called girls, present as female.
  • He doesn't understand why they consider themselves trans men if the above is true, stating their response is just "I wish I was born male" because "it would be easier."
  • Therefore, why can't they just consider themselves girls and love themselves how they are?
This is one of those posts that was written in such a way that it's borderline concern trolling, "just trying to understand," and so on and so forth.   I would also submit that I have been a member of the trans community for much longer than this dude has and have not actually met anybody who meets all these criteria.  The ones who come close either:
  • Are absolutely NOT OK with being "considered girls."
  • Are nonbinary (perhaps they aren't even trans men) or have expression that changes (for instance, somebody could be a glamorous fem on Instagram but usually look more masculine).
  • Were testing the community waters to see if they wanted to transition (in which case posts like this absolutely don't fucking help).
In other words, this is a straw man.  People like this don't exist in nearly the numbers required to be so pissy about their existence.

Also, and this is a really important part so pay attention, toxic trans guys never point this out when cis men do it.  Furthermore, whenever I've changed my expression, they've never flipped beef about it because I still look like a man to a casual observer.  A long time ago this led me to the epiphany that toxic trans masculinity has a lot more to do with passing anxiety than it does a real belief that men must be masculine.  That's how come they emphasize hormones so much.

A lot of this is due to the trauma of they themselves being constantly misgendered for so long, denied things they were entitled to, and so forth.  So like I said a couple days ago, toxic trans masculinity requires more nuance than toxic cis masculinity.  But you can't just let it go that so many of us hold an attitude that is this fucking ridiculous and harmful.

But wait... there's more.  After the borderline concern trolling entered some worse elements.

One of them went something like this:
  • Ugh I'm so SICK of being called a "transmisogynist."
  • I'm so SICK of people not being allowed to have different opinions.
You know those people who are so wrong they circle around to being right?  That's kind of what the first part of this is.  See, there are very very few cases in which the term "transmisogyny" belongs anywhere near a forum for female-assigned people.  The term "transmisogyny" refers to oppression specific to trans women, and while I think there are valid critiques of the concept (notably that the inclusion of male-assigned nonbinary people but not female-assigned ones requires you to put nonbinary people into a binary), the fact is that by the definition of this word we are not targeted by it.  So if people are calling you a transmisogynist because of your opinions about nonbinary people who were assigned female and especially trans men, no matter how femme, those people don't know what they're talking about.

But you weren't talking about that.  You were just mad that somebody called out your fem-phobic bullshit.  You're allowed to have opinions, but somebody's existence is not an opinion.

One of my favorites, though:
  • They're called "transtrenders."
  • They are suffering from internalized misogyny.
"Transtrenders" is language used by transphobic feminists to imply all of us are following a trend and is not something that trans people should use.

Like, ever.

Seriously, transmedicalists/truscum do this shit all the time and it's super obnoxious.  If you use this terminology as a trans person against other trans people, you should know that this is language that was invented to describe YOU.  Especially if you decided to transition recently, and by "recently" I mean in the last five, maybe even ten years, because there was a boom in trans people coming out in this time period.

It doesn't matter if you think you're "one of the good ones" who is a Super Manly Paragon of Cis-Like Masculinity.  They believe all of us are a trend.

Again, there's a lot of anxiety in this.  What truscum are afraid of is that their own access to medical care and respect is being compromised by trans people who don't want or need the same things they do.  It's a trans version of respectability politics that, just like all respectability politics, doesn't do anybody any damn good.  It's cis people who block our access to these things!  If they don't have nonbinary and femme people to point to as reasons we're not serious about our transitions, they'll just find some other bullshit reason... something they've done forever.

  • I agree, but there's only so far this discussion will go before claims of "toxic masculinity" are thrown around.
 There is a very simple solution to this, man.

Don't be toxic.

Seriously.  I'd never say that every single accusation of toxic masculinity is accurate, but if you're talking about it while agreeing with a post that obviously is somebody being toxic, what other conclusion can I draw from that?

Happy trails,
--  Jackson

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Coming Back From The Derail

Notice that this post has to do with dieting, so keep this in mind if these subjects are triggers for you.

The wheat derailed me a bit more than I thought it would.  Still not doing so bad, but I'm a little more lax than I should be.  I wouldn't call myself "regretful," though, because my roommate found a super cool Hmong and Thai restaurant that is hidden away in a little flea market that I never would have found otherwise.  Also, no wheat!  I did eat rice... not the worst thing, and in fact a lot of mostly-paleo folks will eat white rice, but I think the next time I go I may give the rice to whomever I'm with (a friend of mine is coming over tomorrow who I don't see often, so we may go).  I can't think of anything terrible in some green curry, though, so good deal, hell, even if I do eat some rice.

Oh, I gotta show you pictures of the food and this place:
Green chicken curry with Thai basil and white rice.
And my roommate Eric looking particularly blissful at the experience to reveal that this came from basically a small food court at a flea market:
Eric looking blissful.
Anyway, rice really wasn't the problem, it's... gosh.  I don't even know.  I just feel derailed, like I want sweet things all the time.  I've been compensating by eating more fruit than normal and did have some chocolate today, and more honey in my tea than I normally would.  All things that would be pretty innocuous for me if they weren't an overarching trend.  Mowing down two pounds of cherries isn't a big deal if it happens once, but doing it daily is going to be a big problem.

On a different health note, my last blood pressure reading was 114/90 which is fantastic for me.  If I can get my blood pressure to stick at a good level, this whole thing will have been worth it regardless of what my scale says (admittedly I'd really like to get my money back, though, of course).

Anyway, it's Sunday and I'm at work, so I should let you go and maybe do a few cubicle laps (I work alone on weekends so I can look ridiculous with less worry and get my steps/exercise in!).  Happy trails!

-- Jackson

Saturday, May 20, 2017

(Trans) Masculinity So Fragile

Perhaps you've heard of the fragility of masculinity.  This is a concept in which even the hint of a "feminine" thing touching a man will surely cause him to shrivel up into pink dust, never to be considered a Real Man again.  It's very big in advertising, where products that could easily just be gender neutral are separated into "men's" and "women's" versions, with the "men's" versions reassuring us how Manly and Not Delicate we are.  Dr. Pepper Ten is a great example of this trend.  People associate "diet" drinks with women and femininity, so they went to the obvious extreme to point to the dude market.  It's not a "diet" drink.  I remember from their radio advertisements that they marketed this as an excuse to eat more bacon rather than a way to lose weight.

When reading discourse on fragile masculinity, there's an implication often made that this is a cis male thing.  Either "cis" is written as an explicit qualifier, or it's just kind of assumed that trans men run by different rules, that our histories being assigned female make us understand intuitively how ridiculous all this is.

The problem is that it's not true.  Trans men also have toxic, fragile masculinity, in a form that tears a lot of schisms in our communities.

Before I continue, I should mention that this is a subject that requires a lot of nuance, because there are differences in how and why cis men and trans men express masculinity the way we do.  Back when I didn't quite pass well yet, for instance, use of explicitly manvertised products was a way I coped with not passing, and on a level I probably thought it helped me pass.  Having people read me as female because I used a Chapstick once (a thing that literally happened) makes things like some ridiculous lip balm that's "engineered for men" look more reasonable.  I even still have an Axe "detailing tool" that I wash with every morning.  It was and continues to be silly but in its own way therapeutic, and I'd like to remind you that cis people will zero in on any shred of femininity left in you like it's a cancer that'll just keep growing and growing until the façade has broken and you're a girl again.

Because of this, I'm not going to focus on trans men's personal use of things like this, which has a lot to do with the expectation placed on trans men to be purely and perfectly masculine.  I will, however, talk about the attitudes common in our community that people don't talk about enough.

So recently on Tumblr, as a part of its insufferable 💮🌸everything is so v-a-l-i-d🌸💮 culture, there was a post talking about how we need to learn to accept masculine trans men.  "Not everybody wants to be a princess boy!" it supportively explained, "some trans men just want to be men."  This is one of those statements that is uncontroversial to a fault... something you could reply "well, obviously" to without much thought.

The problem is that... well, it never really was that controversial, at least within the trans male community.  You don't pop into an FTM-only forum and find people going on about how annoying it is that there are so many masculine trans men, asking them to stop posting photos of themselves in hunting gear or suits, insisting they shave their beards or put on more makeup to fit in.  Desire for more rather than less masculinity is the default in our communities.

So why would people ever believe that masculine trans guys are marginalized or shamed for being masculine?  Because so many masculine trans guys are toxic to other trans guys that they wind up either kicked out or pressured into leaving.

And we know exactly why these guys are leaving because they can't just leave, they have to whine about it first.  They leave because they see like two makeup-related posts and hate that they can't point out that the posters don't "pass well enough" without people telling them to knock it off.  They leave because they think "real men" don't need trigger warnings and refuse to post them.  They leave because nobody wanted to deal with their extreme misogyny, such as a guy I watched pitch a fit because people didn't want to take his patriarchal dating advice.  Trans guys whining that sexism and misogyny don't exist because people are still mean to them specifically or they have to pay more for auto insurance now or something.  And the truscum... Jesus.  The number of people going on and on about how dysphoria is what makes you trans and so anybody not getting medical intervention isn't trans (it isn't and they are) is astounding.

They wind up creating their own spaces, which they often (but not always) run as an echo chamber of trans-MRA truscum filth.  Not all masculine-oriented trans forums are filth, of course, and there are legitimate reasons why somebody would rather stick with other masculine trans men than general-population folks (maybe they're triggered by makeup or something).

But that's just the thing:  Masculinity isn't inherently toxic.  None of the masculine accoutrements is inherently toxic or indicative of fragility, you can be the guy who wears the big beard and the flannel and even the fedora and not be a terrible person, and people know that.  But assuming that other trans men must conform to that, picking on people who don't, and being a sexist pig are toxic trash that we should not be condoning at all.  That's what people aren't accepting, not masculinity.

And we sweep it under the rug--like, a lot--every time we talk about toxic masculinity as if it's the exclusive domain of cis men.  It isn't.  We need to work through our problems, too.

Happy Trails,
-- Jackson

Sickness, Smokers, and... Wheat. Oops

I have a cold, which really sucks because it always derails any progress I've made.  I start thinking thoughts like "I'm sick I can't possibly stick to my diet right now I need to heal," an ironic idea because eating non-compliant food makes me feel sicker.  I didn't do too bad by any means, but I did drink some sugary stuff and eat some wheat tortillas (I normally asked for corn but the server at a Mexican place assumed I wanted flour and I was in too sick/shy a mood to say anything).  This resulted in some really vicious gastrointestinal problems.  I didn't have the antacid issue but I did have very painful stomach cramps and some other more embarrassing issues.

All in all, though, considering how often I would cheat beforehand, a good two or three weeks of fairly strict primal eating and one slip-up involving a sweet tea and three flour tortillas is not a huge deal.  I also, for what it's worth, turned down a heck of a lot of food during this same time period, including a lot of free food, which is my kryptonite.  I'm talking cake, breaded fish, candy, the whole lot.

The sickness I've been dealing with by taking garlic in pill form (and in non-pill form), extra probiotics, noodle-free chicken soup, and Dayquil when I need it.

I also made a rummage sale purchase.  It's something I've been looking for cheaply for ages:

See, I do a lot of slightly-more-complicated-than-usual DIY stuff, including stuff like making my own bacon, which I like smoking.  I've been doing this on just a regular grill, like one you'd take camping with you, which is really hard to regulate heat-wise and makes it easy to overcook stuff.  So I was looking for a smoker, something with a side box so I wouldn't basically just be grilling but with more smoke flavor, and in spite of having looked around pretty much everywhere for one of these damn things where do I find one?  Two blocks away from my house.  And it was great serendipity that this happened as I usually work on Fridays, happened to have had a day off for working Sunday, and was driving around with my mom at the time.  This meant I not only got a smoker for ten bucks, but mom was able to transport it in her truck, and it was super close.

I already made some bacon in it that I think turned out good, as well as some ribs.  I didn't actually finish the ribs in the smoker, I put them in the oven after a while because I was already hungry and didn't have several hours, but man did it ever make them delicious.

I also, due to the Gander Mountain financial troubles, got a really inexpensive electric meat grinder/sausage maker.  So my next project I think will be venison bratwurst or maybe even hot dogs, probably smoked because, darnit, everything's better smoked.  I also found out that it's possible to make black garlic--something I've always wanted to try--in a rice cooker, so I may have to grab a dedicated rice cooker I left at my parents' house for that.  I'll also probably do it in the shed as it apparently smells pretty strong.

Anyway, as far as my DIY updates, that's about it for now.  Happy Trails!
-- Jackson

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

On Minoxidil and "Not for Women" Warnings

More a biotin beard than a minoxidil beard,
but I wanted a trans man beard photo for this.
I follow a couple of minoxidil-related forums for trans men who use it on their faces, seeing if it will increase facial hair growth.  For transparency I will mention that through some miracle of the Gods I have pretty good looking facial hair acquired through years of HRT and good old genetics, so although I occasionally consider minoxidil elsewhere (I usually decide against it... because I'm lazy about it) I haven't used it on my face.  But I'm always interested in what other trans men are trying, especially pre-T and non-T trans men, because there are so many who are either trying to avoid hormones or who don't have access to them.

Minoxidil (also known as Rogaine) is a topically-applied medication that stimulates hair growth and regrowth in people who are experiencing hair loss.  In relation to beards, it's most often used by trans men who are on hormones but who aren't getting the beard growth they want.  I've also seen it used on chests and other body parts.  What follows is what I know about minoxidil based on my limited use of it and the stories of others.

Is Minoxidil Off The Table Because It's "Not For Women?"

Recently there was a popular forum (I'm not in it but have seen the posts) that banned talk of minoxidil for health-related purposes.  The main reason?  "It even says on the bottle not to have contact with women and children!"  So I wanted to address that, because the reasoning here is heavily flawed, speaking as somebody trying to study herbalism explicitly to benefit trans people.

lot of medications out there--including testosterone--have very strict warnings regarding using them in women.  The thing is, though, trans men aren't women.  So rather than just assume that there's some biological reason we can't take these medications, we need to individually look at why women aren't supposed to use these drugs.

Sometimes it's because the drug is known to cause birth defects.  This will be relevant for folx who are intending to get pregnant, but if you aren't--especially if you have gotten sterilized--this alone shouldn't be a concern for you.  Sometimes it causes damage or changes to reproductive organs, in which case it all depends on whether or not you want to keep those organs.

But a large amount of the time, the reason these drugs aren't recommended is because they have some sort of masculinizing effect.  If you read the information pamphlet coming with a vial of testosterone, which is used for some conditions in women, you'll find a list of side effects including, notably, growth of facial and body hair and deepening voice.  Basically, the reason they want to be extra careful with women who use testosterone is because they want to make damn sure they don't wind up looking like men, something most women do not desire or need.  For us, these aren't side effects, but the intended purpose of the medication.

Minoxidil has a similar issue.  It came under fire years ago because women would try using it for female-pattern baldness and report it made them grow facial and body hair.  This is why minoxidil for women is formulated with a different concentration of the medication... because if accidentally put on the face or in higher than needed concentrations it can give women facial hair, which most women do not want.

There are, to be sure, other side effects with minoxidil.  But trans men have been using it for a long time, and doctors have even occasionally prescribed it to us for use on our faces and chests, so as far as being a major bogeyman drug, it really isn't.

But Does It Work?

Minoxidil works, but--just like everything else--is limited.  I've seen some fair results in trans men taking it instead of testosterone, but there's a huge genetic component to that.  Many women and trans men naturally grow at least some facial hair without any additional help; the reason people assume we don't is because most women spend their lives trying to remove said hair and so we don't notice.  I come from a long line of women able to grow some facial hair, and in fact before I came out I went through a nice hippie phase where I let all my hair grow out and found I could grow some too.

Because of this, sometimes it's on the fence whether or not a pre- or non-T trans man's facial hair growth is actually minoxidil magic.  It may very well be that he's been trying to hide his facial hair for so long he didn't know he could grow one to begin with, or that he naturally had a lot of potential to grow facial hair due to genetics that was just popped into place with the minoxidil.  I'm actually--minus the minoxidil use--a great example of this:  I was keeping my facial hair to a small chin circle for years, because I thought I couldn't grow anything else.  It wasn't until I started dating somebody who loved facial hair that I let anything else grow out, only to find that unbeknownst to me I had obtained the ability to grow sideburns and a moustache!

In addition, minoxidil hair growth when you aren't on testosterone tends to look very different from typical male facial hair; it may be finer and lighter.  Obviously this is not a judgment call... if you just want facial hair and don't care if it looks a little different from the outside, then by all means go for it.  Another complicating factor is that it won't change your voice or other aspects of your appearance, so if you're trying this as an alternative to testosterone you may need to work on your voice through other means.

Since it's so limited, most people on minoxidil are also on testosterone.  Generally it's something I see in people who have been on T for a couple of years and aren't satisfied with the patchiness of their beards.

What Alternatives Are There?

Minoxidil is probably the most effective thing for growing a beard other than pharmaceutical testosterone, but it also has a lot of contraindications and side effects.

My own technique now that I'm off hormones is to supplement with biotin and eat a lot of undercooked egg yolks.  I've been doing this for a couple of months and some areas of my face are filling in now... but I'm not sure what would have just naturally happened.  Ironically I started this for nail growth so I could have pretty manicures rather than for beard growth.

In the future I'm considering trying a specially formulated beard supplement (which has a lot of biotin in addition to other hair-friendly herbs and vitamins.  When I start that--if I choose to--I'll let you know, but I want to make sure I know the particular herbs before I start that journey.

Of course, you can also just use glued hair.  Amazon has some good looking theatrical beards, the problem being they don't always look great close-up.  With practice, though, it's something to look into.

Anyway, if I get any more information on this I'll update.  Happy trails!
-- Jackson

Sunday, May 7, 2017

On Being An Animal In A Zoo

There's a big critique people use trying to "debunk" the paleo diet.  This critique goes something like this:
  1. You are not a caveman.
  2. You are living in modern conditions.
  3. Therefore, there is no way to accurately mimic a pre-agricultural lifestyle.
All of these are true, and in fact, most of us don't really want to go back to a pre-agricultural lifestyle (outside of some hardcore rewilding fanatics).  I'm somewhere in the middle... I genuinely do want to mimic pre-agricultural conditions as much as possible, excepting of course the lack of modern medicine and the relatively high risk of life-threatening injury, but I don't have the ability to go move off to some sort of primitive lifestyle commune... I work on computers all day!  And I like my modern conveniences... maybe we won't have them forever, but I'm going to enjoy them while we've got them.  So what's a modern caveman to do?

My favorite way to envision it is this:  You are like an animal in a zoo in which you are also the head zookeeper.

Zoos are never ideal for animals, because they didn't evolve to live in cages (OK, some do better than others, and there's less risk of being eaten, but we're talking generally here).  But at the same time, not all zoos are the same.  When I was a kid, there were two zoos that I went to every year.  One of them had large enclosures with trees and rocks multiple animals living together in their own ecosystem.  As I grew up, the enclosures got better and better.  The food got better and better, too, with less weird animal kibble and more whole foods.  Some zoos take this to greater extremes, with predators chasing after hunks of meat stuck to tracks, or being fed excess giraffes to the horror of people who don't understand animals apparently.  The other zoo I went to, although I didn't register it at the time, was a terrible roadside zoo.  It specialized mostly in local wildlife, but that's about where the environmental appropriateness ended.  It had black bears in cages barely bigger than they were, and charged guests to feed them Charleston Chews through the chain links (no, seriously).  There was a large pen for a herd of deer... I distinctly remember riding on one.  Wait, I have a picture, I'll get it...

Anyway, this zoo has sick animals.  There isn't a bear there that knows how to bear, or a deer there that knows how to deer.  Most of us, in industrial societies, are in that second zoo.  We eat things that aren't natural to us.  We get stimulated in ways that are not natural to us.  We don't sleep right.  We don't stand or sit right.  Our living spaces are stressful.  We wind up with medical conditions we just assume are normal.

But it's not possible for us to just go back and live wild... the skills that requires (toolmaking, gathering and hunting food, finding water, etc.) are endangered, and besides, most of us have bodily damage for living this way so long, not to mention giving up modern conveniences just plain sucks.  So most of us will be destined to be zoo animals the rest of our lives, but we do have the opportunity--being our own head zookeepers, after all--to make our zoos the best damn zoos we can, which can mitigate a lot of that damage.

This is something people in the paleo diet and natural health communities do all the time, and it's these things that people often point to when trying to debunk them. "Why do you need this supplement if it's 'natural?'"  "If you evolved to walk barefoot why would you need shoes that simulate bare feet?"  "But all plants have been modified by agriculture though!"  "If you're so natural why would you wear blue-blocking glasses instead of just not using screens ever?"

The answer to all of these is that our bodies expect types of treatment that they cannot get through the way they evolved to get it.  There are some nutrients we have a very hard time getting living in modern conditions.  We are legally blocked from going without shoes in a lot of places.  There are too many people to forage for all of our plant foods.  Living without screens makes it hard to keep in contact with people or keep employment.

So there are two options:  You either give up and just accept that the wreckage done to your body is just the norm for today's day in age, or you can try and mitigate it how you can through the best you can do... something that will vary person to person based on ability.  Just like a lion in a zoo might chase after a hunk of meat on a track at a zoo, we might sprint to emulate hunting or fleeing.  Just as an enclosure may have fixtures emulating natural surroundings, we may surround ourselves with plants or pictures of nature.  Just as a zookeeper might fit an orphaned baby animal with a device emulating how it may be held by a parent, we wear accoutrements that simulate the natural conditions of our bodies.

None of this is a bad thing... not the most ideal situation as far as our bodies are concerned, but this is only because there's absolutely no way to reach that ideal without entirely dropping out of society, something that is also bad for most of us as a social species.

This is not a post saying "you should go out and buy all the things!"  Capitalism and consumerism aren't there to protect us, and for all of them there are other ways to mitigate this damage that can be fully or mostly DIY.  But their existence and use are not arguments against paleo or natural philosophy, lifestyle, or culture.  Those arguments are based on misunderstandings of how it works... we are not players in period reenactments who think we're doing things in some perfect ancient way, we are mitigating effects we know are happening that other people either ignore or don't recognize, in ways that are accessible to us.

So that's my musing for the day.  Happy trails,
-- Jackson

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Social Problems with "Butch"

Many years ago (Maybe ten years ago?  I feel like everything is ten years ago, though.) there was a list of notable butches that made the rounds.  It included, if I remember right, one or two trans women... and about three trans men.  Out of those three trans men, stuck on a list of all perceived-women (a couple of nonbinary folx were also put on this list but it was clear they were added "as women"), only one of them identified as "butch."  The other two were extremely upset... neither had been consulted on whether or not they would be comfortable on a list like this, and were added without regard to the social conditions that separate "butch woman" and "trans man."

Yesterday there was a big to-do where somebody who doesn't know what the hell she's talking about ranted, in a nutshell, that trans men who reject the term "butch" are being homophobic.  And although I haven't heard that particular iteration of this before, it's not that uncommon for queer women and especially lesbians to view trans men as lesbians who rejected the community, as lost butches, or some variation on that.  One of the reason TERFs are "kinder" to trans men than they are to trans women is because they often view us as misguided members of their own community.

They're all wrong, but I wanted to talk a little about why they're wrong (and, in fact, some vestigial ways in which they're "right").

First, I want to talk about the word "butch."

Just a note, my own experiences are obviously not universal, and many things I thought were a given ("ten years ago we said this while today we say this instead") are regional and based on specific communities.  So if you don't have the same experience... no sweat.  I'm not trying to take your preferred language from you, but I wanted to point out some things about how we talk about it that aren't universally correct.

One of those things is the idea that "butch" automatically refers only to women.  "Butch" as a synonym for masculine has been used in a lot of communities, including non-queer ones.  "Butch" and "femme" are still used by lesbians, but it wasn't that long ago they were also used to a wide extent by and in reference to gay men.  I mention this because I see some of the backlash against this tirade against trans men rejecting "butch" coming from gay trans men who seem to believe them being gay means they can't possibly be "butch."  Also worth noting, I have never identified as a lesbian, but I did identify as "butch" when I was a woman.

On a personal level, the only problem I really have with being considered "butch"--just considering my own history and the fact that "butch" is not actually inherently gendered at all--is that I consider myself more on the androgynous side.  For me it's an extension of people who "pump up" my masculinity, behaving as though I'm a paragon of butch masculinity when I prefer to be considered a patchwork quilt of gendered elements.

But that's on a personal level, though.  A trans man who considers himself fully masculine may also avoid considering himself "butch..." because there's a strong social element to that term.

Litmus tests for homophobia in trans people need to be treated differently than those for cis people.

I think I kind of get what the above person meant with this bizarre statement.  Maybe.  Rejecting a term just because it is associated with lesbians?!  I mean, when cis hetero people avoid certain labels and other stuff because they're associated with queer people, it's often homophobic.

But you really need to look at trans folx' rejection of these terms with a lot of nuance and recognition of why we would feel that way.  A heterosexual trans person may very well have had to deal with people trying to coerce them into not transitioning in favor of "just being gay" for years.  Many, many people would prefer us be gay or lesbian cis people than be trans people of any sexual orientation, and so homosexuality becomes something we're pressured to accept for ourselves, even if we know it's not accurate.  And use of terms "flipping" our sexual orientations is something heavily weaponized by cis people who are uncomfortable with us... often even those who don't think they are.

When I came out as trans, I also came out as gay.  I changed that later (something I may talk about a different time), but I was a trans man, only into men, trying to navigate a queer community that really would rather I consider myself a straight ally.  In fact, the word "ally" became a low-key insulting term people used to describe me in order to erase my transness and therefore my gayness as well.  Even after people started using the correct pronouns, they were calling me a "Kinsey 0" (a term used for an exclusively heterosexual person).

Obviously nobody who knows what they're talking about is going to call me "heterophobic," but heterosexual trans people get the same stuff, just with the accusation of somehow being homophobic for it.  So they're constantly having people undermine their genders by casually and persistently excluding them from the language that would typically be used to describe a heterosexual cis person.  Essentially, the people who hem and haw about why trans men rejecting "butch" is homophobic would never say the same thing about a cis man... in fact, they probably wouldn't call a cis man "butch" in the first place.

I would never claim that trans people can't be homophobic, but not using a term to describe ourselves certainly is not.

Finally, on "butch flight."

There's a concept out there called "butch flight."  This is a perception (one used mostly by bigoted radical feminists) in which they believe that once upon a time the lesbian community was loaded to the brim with happy butch women.  Then, suddenly, they all started hating their womanhood in the early 2000s and decided it would be easier to be men, so they all transitioned, and now butch women are an endangered community.

This is a concept with a lot of... issues.

Like I said, I identified as butch as a woman, but I was still straight.  Generally I'm not being targeted because I wasn't going to be a butch lesbian, I'd at best be a butch bisexual (I just physically like guys too much to ever want to exclusively be with women).  So they aren't really crying over the "loss" of me, but I can still see the threads of this as somebody who keeps contact with a lot of trans men of varying sexual orientations.

First off, it's entirely not true the way it's stated.  Transition from female to male is much harder than people believe it is... we don't get immediate and unconditional male privilege like so many people think we do, we wind up having to face loads of medical gatekeepers, often hundreds to thousands of dollars out of pocket for healthcare (and our existence is considered a pre-existing condition, relevant if this AHCA crap passes), changing names and documents, having gaps in our employment histories, and so much more.  Most of these don't apply to butch lesbians, and those that do apply do so in very different ways.

But I am--and this is a very unpopular opinion among trans folx and queer folx these days so please don't treat it as if it's our consensus--very much on the side of nurture and culture when it comes to gender and sexual orientation (something I, sadly enough, have in common with a lot of these bigoted feminists).  So the idea that there are cultural things in place that sway us back and forth between having more butch lesbians and more trans men isn't inherently gross to me.  But it's important to consider why this would be, if it is the case.

See, long ago I heard of this concept where people believed butch lesbians had privilege over femme lesbians.  This was based on the fact that a number of butch lesbians were emulating toxic masculinity, and that femme lesbians can feel underrepresented and pushed out due to a lack of immediately visible queerness.  People associate lesbianism with masculinity, even though lesbianism is not inherently masculine.

At the same time there's a contempt for butch women.  In my local community, butch women were treated terrible.  They were treated like they were ugly, disgusting, and giving the community a bad name.  Whenever people had a choice in groups to put someone forward as a representative of lesbians, they always picked one of a couple particularly feminine, traditionally attractive women.  My community had more butches than femmes, but everybody--including the butches--wanted straight people to associate them with the femmes.  They were the ones always getting dates, getting elected into campus board positions, and taken seriously.  This is not "femme privilege."  There were a lot of other issues there that I don't really have time to get into (related to that aforementioned "emulating toxic masculinity" bit).

But if this is really a case of trans men being people who left the lesbian community because they couldn't deal with being butch... could you really blame them?  Why--if you have a choice--would you stick to a community where people call you ugly and disgusting and a bad representative all the time both in and outside your community?

Again, I've been a butch woman and perceived as a butch woman for many years after that, including some stints knowing I wasn't but acting in that role anyway because I had no other choice.  There was a special level of bullshit in those experiences.  Being butch led to people not only rejecting me, but shouting slurs at me.  Once I had somebody demand I be fired because I was butch.  And no, that's not why I'm a man, but it wasn't pretty, either.  I guess if it were just people on the outside of the community doing it, one could argue that this was people abandoning queerness for homophobic reasons.  But we get this shit in the community, too, sometimes moreso depending on what the local dynamic is like.

Anyway, that's all I have to say about that for now.  I may elaborate on stuff like nature/nurture or something later, but for now, happy trails!
-- Jackson

Friday, May 5, 2017

I Guess Screw My Calendar Then (Plus, Teeth)

First, The Calendar

After that last menstrual debacle--since I had been regular up until that point--I had anticipated everything to go back to being regular, roughly anyway.  Yesterday I saw a tiny drop of blood and convinced myself it was not blood, only to this morning find that, yup, it's back.

I'm glad I wasn't on a sex vacation this time.  And I wasn't too lazy to put a cup in this morning rather than just free bleeding, which I did throughout most of my last cycle since it was long but also quite light.

It's actually not an alarming gap between this cycle and the last... but it's not regular, normally it's around 40 days for me rather than the 30 that it was today.  The problem is that I'm going to be going to Pagan Spirit Gathering next month, and I'm worried I'll wind up with my next cycle sometime during it, which would royally suck.  It won't be a super huge deal to use a cup, but my partner will be there and... well... sex vacation issue all over again.  Either way I need to at least make sure I pack one of my cups, just in case it happens.

Hopefully I'll remember to start that knitting and/or crocheting project I was talking about earlier... I do already have the yarn.  Just need to do it.  The plan is to do at least ten minutes (that's a low number) of knitting on the project each day during my period so I have something to use during relevant rituals when I don't want to use actual blood.

A Bonus Inspirational Note About Ex-Friends

Anyway, I woke up this morning on a stressful note because an ex-friend of mine--one who I "friend divorced"--is trying to friend me back.  I'd unfriended him because he changed a lot, from a radical-left-leaning Pagan-ish person with a lot in common with me to a married Christian man who used not just one but multiple "thin blue line" profile pictures.  I mention this because I wanted to put it out there that you are NOT obligated to continue to be friends with people who flirt with terrible politics, even if they were totally good friends before.

The Dental Stuff and Weight Stuff

So, teeth.  I don't remember if I ever brought this up here before, but I have a history of very bad dental care.  When I grew up my parents never really instilled good brushing and flossing habits in me, so as an adult I struggled to gain those habits.  When I started college and lost my health and dental insurance I went off the rails into natural healthcare, not only trying to fill the gaps of poor health coverage but really buying into the medical conspiracy theories out there.  I refused to get my wisdom teeth taken out, insisting they were fine.  I'd also gone vegan and was brushing my teeth with natural toothpaste to avoid animal testing, and I still didn't floss regularly.

I started flossing after I started eating meat again, because meat stuck in your teeth is a special hell when you haven't had that experience in seven years, and eventually started using fluoridated toothpaste again, trying to make up for what I was sure was terrible teeth.

About two and a half years ago I got dental insurance through the Exchange and made a New Year resolution that I would get my teeth fixed.  My goal was to get a general check-up, get my wisdom teeth removed (they were getting infected and I'd had to go through multiple rounds of penicillin over them), get all my cavities drilled, and start really taking care of my teeth in a very complimentary way... I'd go to a conventional dentist but take care of my teeth naturally at home.

Once I went to the dentist, the wisdom tooth removal took place very rapidly.  Like, within two weeks they were gone.  I have some continuing sinus problems because they grew into my nasal cavity (I briefly was able to transfer liquid from my mouth to my nose, which was disgusting), but overall it's so much better.

Then I set to getting my cavities drilled, and I had a lot of them, at least two in each quadrant (there are eight quadrants).  I lost count.  They were like Swiss cheese.  I can trace this back to a couple different reasons:
  1. Veganism is terrible for your teeth.  Like, really bad.  Regular veganism isn't as bad as, say, raw veganism, but it's not great.
  2. I had a huge soda addiction so my teeth were in a constant sugar and acid bath.
  3. I had years of not brushing and not flossing in my past.
Anyway, it took over two years to complete my New Year resolution, because dental care is super expensive.  There's one more thing I need to have done--my teeth need to be re-shaped to deal with some pain the cavity drillings caused--but then I'm hopefully done other than regular cleanings.

My main concern was getting rid of the soda.  I drank only diet soda, so the sugar wasn't there, but the acid was definitely there.  My dentist did suggest that if I relapse into soda addiction I try drinking it with a straw so it doesn't bathe my teeth.  I haven't drank diet soda at all since for a while but I wind up drinking flavored carbonated water instead... it's not sugary and has less acid, but is still acidic.

I brush my teeth with homemade clay-xylitol based toothpaste (a quarter cup bentonite clay mixed with a half teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon or so xylitol, and some essential oil so it tastes good with enough water to give it a smooth texture).  I also use a copper tongue scraper, floss daily, and use a liquorice toothstick.  The toothstick not only cleans the teeth, but it gives me something to chew on when I'm in a snacking mood but not actually hungry.

I have until the 11th to get down to my target weight for this challenge, with 3.2 pounds to go.  I should make it... I've been doing pretty good with my diet, and not eating grain and refined sugar makes me lose weight pretty stably.  I probably should exercise some, though, both because of the boost to weight loss and because it just makes me feel better.

Anyway, Happy Trails,
-- Jackson

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Why I'm "Genderqueer," Not "Nonbinary"

There's a lot of pain in the way trans people talk and write about ourselves, prompted by callous requests by cis people that tear us in opposite directions.  We are expected both to conform to our lived genders--and only "man" or "woman"--110%, and simultaneously to use gender neutral facilities and labels.

About ten years ago I met a notable trans woman who gave a transgender 101 presentation on campus and told her story.  At the time, since I was pre-T and lacked confidence, I favored gender neutral restrooms and beamed about how I'd found one in the building.  Her response was to quip "Good, if somebody has a problem with me using the ladies' room they'll have somewhere else to go."  That stuck with me, and she's not exactly wrong.  It's a common invalidation tactic to tell a trans man or trans woman that we are, in fact, something other than men or women and that we must not only use "neutral" amenities but be very enthusiastic at the opportunity.  To use a topical example, a school in my district has been corralling trans students off in gender neutral restrooms.  These restrooms can be a huge relief for a lot of trans people, including trans people who don't identify with either "male" or "female" as well as those who do but don't pass well yet or have the confidence to start using what would be their proper bathroom... but many of us aren't in that situation.  We know we're men, or we know we're women, we know we belong in those spaces, we're much more comfortable and safe in them, and cis people try to degender us by forcing us into a third category, insisting that this is totally progressive and we should be grateful.

Because of this there are trans folks out there who really, really hold on to the label "binary."  A month ago or so I read a rant by a trans guy on a trans male forum where he complained about people who would dare take away his right to call himself "binary," because that was "misgendering" and, after all, he was a veritable Ron Swanson of manliness!

Being fully male or fully female doesn't make you "binary," though... because there is no binary.  Not just for trans people.  There is no gender binary, period.  Full stop.  So fully male and fully female trans people exist, but not "binary" trans people, nor "binary" cis people, for that matter.

Back when I still identified as fully male rather than in-between-worlds as I feel today, I was always very torn about this, because I wanted language to express that I was fully male without reinforcing the idea that a binary existed.  Often I would settle on "binary privileged," because it was usually in the context of talking about the privilege trans men and women may wield over those who don't fully feel that way, but this never really described it for me outside of that context.  That said, I would not necessarily heckle a trans person who called him or herself "binary," because we have very inefficient language to describe our feelings and sometimes it's important to make that distinction.  That doesn't make it correct, though.

That perception didn't just stop when my gender identity morphed again and I stopped considering myself fully male.  If I hated calling myself "binary," why would I call myself "nonbinary?"  And to complicate things, when I came out, we didn't really use the term nonbinary.  I never developed an attachment to the concept of "nonbinary" because I was critical of the binary anyway, and so instead I use the term that we were using locally much earlier:  Genderqueer.  I love this word.  It's not sanitized for cishet consumption.  It doesn't reinforce a false dichotomy between "binary," a concept that doesn't exist, and "nonbinary,' which by extension either also doesn't exist or alternatively encompasses everyone.

I'm not going to tell people not to call themselves "nonbinary" for the same reasons I don't hassle people who call themselves "binary."  This is a concept for which there isn't much accurate vocabulary, not everybody likes the word "genderqueer" (either because they object to the word "queer" or because they don't like the history or want something that isn't going to scare away the cishets), and so forth.  And I'll accept people including me under the "nonbinary" umbrella for simplicity's sake, as solidarity is more important to me than purity.  But on a personal level?  I really don't like it and rarely use it for myself and prefer if people are talking about just me they stick to "genderqueer" instead.

Happy Trails,
-- Jackson

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Genderqueer as Reclamation

One of the parts of the Standard Trans Narrative is the notion that the way we learn about our transness is by growing up absolutely hating the things we're supposed to do to keep up the facade of our assigned gender.  It's not uncommon to see stories of trans men in which they talk about having hated the lace, the makeup, the color pink, and so on and so forth.

When I went to my gender therapist to get on hormones her questions about my past were very pointed.  In fact, when I would say I didn't remember feeling anguish over some part of my past, she would assume that I had merely repressed some deep trauma about it.

The reality is this:  My female history really wasn't that traumatic... at least as far as gender was concerned.

I was really badly bullied, and remembering back I think my relative lack of traditional femininity probably did have a lot to do with that.  But I didn't really hate my femininity, and I was interested in many stereotypically feminine things... I liked my long hair, I liked jewelry, I liked doing my nails, I liked certain cosmetics.  Most of the stuff I didn't like I was rather neutral about.  I didn't really care for dresses or high heels, but didn't hate them or feel super uncomfortable in them.

I had a style that I liked calling "camp counselor chic."  Summer camp was a huge part of my life until only a few years ago.  I even went to camp counselor related conferences!  My look was a combination of homemade hemp and embroidery floss jewelry, leather sandals, and bandanas.  I really loved bandanas, worn more like a hairpiece than anything else, to hold my hair back.

Transition changed a lot of that... but it wasn't really my own idea.

I started off by pretty much keeping the same styles I had, just with shorter hair and no makeup.  My style had come off as very "butch" before, so I didn't think it would be a big deal.  But to others, it was.  My "friends" were really invested in making me "pass," and nary a day went by when they didn't point out--trying to make it look like they weren't judging me--some stylistic choice I'd made that "wasn't helping."  My earrings were a big point of contention, and eventually I stopped wearing them.  I stopped wearing bandanas because they emphasized my feminine head shape.  I stopped wearing hemp jewelry and friendship bracelets anywhere but camp itself.

In short, I gradually started letting go of things that people said feminized me.

I never should have had to do this.  Trans men are held to a very different standard than cis men, the latter of whom are treated like some sort of feminist folk heroes if they wear feminine things.  It's not just that we were assigned girls and therefore should strive to be as far away from girlhood as possible, but a deep anxiety about the concept of a trans person who doesn't want to "pass."  This is because as a trans man who was on T long enough to permanently masculinize, I don't really get a lot of flack about it when I wear makeup or feminine things anymore... or at least I don't get any more than the cis boys rocking Instagram looks.

I've started getting a lot of this back.  Quite a bit of it doesn't really interest me anymore--I don't like colored nail polish like I did as a teen, or huge pendant jewelry--but where it does, I reclaim the shit out of it.  I also have experimented more with things I wanted as a kid and teen but was never allowed to do... fun with hair dye, jewelry for my nose, etc.

Anyway, I don't want to make it seem like genderqueerness is inherently about these things... genderqueer people have all sorts of different types of expression, including ones that look totally gender-conforming.  And I also don't want to imply that trans men who wear feminine things (or trans women who wear masculine things) have somehow crossed the line into genderqueerness.  I'm not genderqueer because I like these things, it's a function of my overall philosophical view of gender itself.  But for me, a lot of my expression as a genderqueer man has to do with taking back these stylistic elements and interests, things that I genuinely loved when I was younger and gave up merely because I was pressured into it.

Happy trails,
-- Jackson

Monday, May 1, 2017

My Libido Has Tanked (And It's Fantastic)

Content note:  This post contains a lot of descriptions of sex, including fetishes and kinks.

I went on testosterone under the premise that my libido was already so high that it wouldn't be a big deal.  Another trans man, when I excitedly asked about the first couple months, said that I would feel like a terrible person for a while, but that I wasn't.  I didn't believe him.  "I'm already used to wanting sex all the time, and am into all sorts of weird shit, so I'm sure it'll be fine" was my thought process.  If I could handle an awkward vore fetish on the onset of puberty, I could handle anything!

And, well... I was wrong.  I was super wrong.  I was embarrassingly wrong.

It wasn't just an increase in libido.  It was a shift in the entire scope of what I was looking for from sex.  Where my main drive before T was connection with people, after T it was an insatiable need for orgasm.  I could not sleep without having an orgasm.  Sometimes in the middle of the day I wouldn't be able to concentrate without coming.  And the triggers for this started getting... bizarre.  And that's an understatement.  Although I needed daily orgasms, I could not actually achieve said orgasm at all without vividly imagining very intensely disgusting things, things I never wanted to actively participate in but which were nonetheless unsettling at best and sickening at worst.

Keep in mind that I already had thought I was disgusting for years, due to the aforementioned fucked up fetishes I acquired as early as puberty.  I had only just gotten over that shame, only to put myself in a situation where it was much, much worse.

Talking to other trans men as well as cis men and trans women who had all at some point gone through a testosterone bath, this was totally normal.  My roommate once blurted out one of the bizarre, disgusting things that popped into his head while horny--I'm not going to put it here because it's really, really, really bad--and what struck me was how incredibly similar this was to the horror show inside my own head.

This is something really hard for cis women to understand a lot of the time.  Cis feminists, for instance, regularly bring up the idea that certain things that turn adult men on are problematic and therefore not natural.  This makes it really stressful when you go through that testosterone bath only to find that your sexual tastes became traumatically fucked up even though you know that the things you picture when you're horny are not right.  You start thinking, in your shame, "do I secretly want to do this shit?"

The answer for most of us will be an emphatic "no."  For me, I found out that I was aroused by some things explicitly because I never wanted to do them, something I have a hard time explaining to myself let alone the goddamn internet.  One time I read a great letter in Playboy.  Somebody had written in explaining how he, although he was straight, had fantasies involving being fucked by other men.  There was the suggestion that maybe he was bi, but somebody else wrote in to say that he had the exact same thing happen.  I think people are really quick to rush forward and proclaim that these are really latent queer people, but having gone through this, I seriously doubt it.  Testosterone compelling people to explicitly get turned on by things they absolutely do not want is a thing that happens.

I don't want you to think that going on T will make you some sort of threatening fuck monster, because it doesn't really work that way, and yes, you can control your actions just fine.  But it snowballed into something really uncomfortable and unsettling, one problem creating another and another.  It started with the high libido, which would give me a reckless urge to orgasm.  So I'd want sex really bad, but there was a problem:  I didn't really want sex, I wanted to orgasm.  So all my sexual activity was really targeted on getting to that point.  I couldn't handle slow, sensual sex very well because it would frustrate me, in addition to the vaginal thinning that made me bleed whenever I tried penetration.  In fact, the sheer number of times I'd make myself come meant I was chronically raw and could barely feel anything anymore, so stuff I would have enjoyed before T became irritating at best and painful at worst.  This snowball falls onto partners, who think they're doing something wrong when really your body is just a complex sexual Rubik's cube that nobody understands (including yourself).

After I went off T, my libido tanked.  Hard.

In fact, it's lower than it's ever been in any time in my life I can remember.  Now, for instance, I rarely ever masturbate before bed, something I already mentioned I'd needed just to get to sleep not very long ago.  I think about it, realize "nah," and sleep instead.

It was, by the way, very difficult to explain to my partner after I went off T why this extreme tanking of my sex drive is actually a good thing.  But wanting to orgasm without actually wanting sex is not conducive to a good relationship with somebody who wants lengthy, enjoyable sex, especially when it's hard to achieve that climax without having intensely terrible mental pictures that have nothing to do with your partner.

Since my sex drive tanked, I haven't really felt driven to orgasm.  There is no singular, overwhelming drive to come, which overall makes sex better rather than worse.  I like it, but I don't crave it.  Because of this, I also don't burn myself out so much.  My sensitivity issues are gone (owing both to not overdoing it anymore and to physical changes causing better lubrication and less thinning), meaning it's no longer painful.  This means when I am with a partner, there's no rush to the finish line anymore.  There's no pain or bleeding or other shit like that, either (usually).  It's so much better, like ridiculously better.

Happy trails,
-- Jackson