Saturday, 31 May 2014

expect the unexpected

If I've learnt anything in my life it's that.

You never know where you will end up or what road you will take to get there. Life is just like that and it seems to thrive on the unpredictable.

That's why I am trying to be smarter about how to live and never get too up or too down because it conserves energy and cushions the big falls that life inevitably has in store.

I have never known someone who has been spared grief or disappointment. There are illnesses and accidents and they bring us to a closer understanding of our mortality. Then time moves on and we forget.

We need to live more as if every day were our last but we are human and weak and are very susceptible to fall back to old habits.

With age I hope I am getting better at learning. Instead of swimming upstream like the salmon I will try and be the sage kayaker who follows the water movement wisely and calmly.

At least I'll try.



Thursday, 29 May 2014

"Crossdresser" just doesn't cut it....

I don’t like the term crossdresser very much.

For me it has the connotation of choice and playing dress up as a lifestyle; much the way a drag queen chooses to be an entertainer and then removes the makeup after the show.

I don’t see my expressing Joanna as a choice but as a necessity and using the term crossdresser is like telling people that I dress in women’s clothing instead of playing golf. I may be wrong but I also feel that many people associate the word with some sort of odd and compulsive hobbyist.

For one thing, I don’t understand why anyone in their right mind would deliberately choose a lifestyle of cross gender expression simply for amusement. I am sure that they exist but their motivation for doing so eludes me.

For her part, my partner N does not like that I use the term gender dysphoric either because it implies to her that I am unhappy being a male which is also not the case. Gender variant, which is the term that the gender therapist Helene Cote used to describe me, is a better fit so I stick with that as a self descriptor.

My litmus test is this: if these feelings have always been with you, you have tried everything at some point in your life to get rid of them and you use crossdressing as a method of alleviating your gender expression deprivation anxiety then, in my book, you are more than a plain vanilla crossdresser.

Perhaps I am being too harsh on the term but words have meaning and power and language can be important when explaining to people what you have been through in your life.

The term "Crossdresser" just doesn't cut it for me.


Wednesday, 28 May 2014

the two spirit model

I like more and more the idea of a transgender person being a combination of a male and a female spirit and, regardless of whether it is correct or not, I find it fits the way I view myself these days.

Why destroy your male side when you can opt instead to amplify the female that resides within you?

Why indeed.

I know this notion does not appeal to every person who is in any way gender variant but then we are all different with our own points of view and our own paths to follow.

Many native cultures have expressed this idea of a two spirited being and in some it has even been celebrated. They were called berdaches in North American native communities and were often shamans, artisans,crafts people or child rearers.

Needless to say we have a less favorable opinion of all this in our modern culture which is nevertheless changing ever so slowly.

Two halves of a whole is an interesting image and I will hold on to that image in absence of a better mental picture.


Steven Barrios, the grand dame of Montana’s Two Spirit Society, is among the American Indians leading an effort to erase homophobia on the reservation. “We’re reclaiming our place in the circle,” he says. “Until the two-spirit people are brought back into that circle, that circle is never going to be completely mended.” - BY ANNE MEDLEY

Sunday, 25 May 2014

be sure to live

Get out there.

Life is short so be the person you were meant to be. Actualise yourself as a person.

So many of us live our lives in the shadows of suppression and we are afraid to try something that takes us outside of our comfort zone. As I am telling you this I am encouraging myself as well. Things are never as scary as they seem to us.

I am not encouraging you to try a new drug or take up chewing tobacco but simply telling you that we are our own worst enemies when it comes to limitations.

Now I am not naturally a risk taker but when I have needed to take them they have for the most part payed off. When it comes to my life as a part time woman this certainly applies. You could say that I had no choice in the matter but I could also have continued to suffer for many more years.

Go out on a limb and try something new that you feel will have a positive impact on your life but were always afraid to try. You might be surprised how the risks involved are far less significant and the payoffs far more beneficial.

I am trying to draw from my life lesson in dealing with my dysphoria and apply it to other areas of my life. After all there is hopefully still much of it to live.



Saturday, 24 May 2014

covering up

I have always used dermablend as a foundation. Years ago it came as a very thick almost paste like substance which was great for covering up beard shadow but it did unfortunately leave the effect that you were wearing heavy stage makeup.

These days it comes in a silkier and thinner formula which, when finished with powder, leaves a very even look which works very well for either day or evening use.

Granted I have had several treatments of laser beard removal which has helped significantly to reduce the amount I need to apply but it will work superbly well for the vast majority of people.

You need to simply match one of the shades to your own skin tone and you're set to go. An added advantage is that because it covers so well, you don't need to apply massive quantities.

For the record I use number 55 which works well for olive skin types like myself.

To date, I have not found a better product for the money.



Friday, 23 May 2014

Our socialisation

The effects of socialisation are hard to measure.

When I was very young I saw myself as neither male nor female and I did what came naturally to me. This included dressing in my mother’s shoes and clothes.
I have sometimes wondered how much the effects of being socialised as male have played in my adopting a male role and doing what is expected of me for my gender.

Had I been raised in a gender neutral environment might I have adopted a more androgynous or even feminine demeanour?

I cannot answer that.

I do feel that once we are cemented into customs we become less malleable and eventually our behaviour becomes more habitual. We have not learned how to behave as women in public.

I spent many years repressing feminine traits that I naturally possessed for fear of ridicule. Now when out as Joanna I freely express those tendencies but it took me a long time to allow myself the dignity to exhibit the required comportment, voice and mannerisms that would allow me to blend in as a woman in public.

Even if I am fine with viewing myself as a gender variant male, I am sometimes fascinated with figuring out how much of our gender behaviour is driven by nurture and how much by nature.


Tuesday, 20 May 2014

what do you need?

Gender dysphoria eventually commands your attention.

If you are gender dysphoric and you do not address your gender expression deprivation anxiety it will build and build and, if left untreated, it will virtually incapacitate you.

I know because it happened to me.

The next question becomes: what is the extent to which you must go to alleviate your anxiety? Will cross gender expression be enough? Will testosterone blockers be required? How about an orchiectomy or HRT?

The truth is that it is very difficult to know and sometimes our approach can be influenced by well intentioned therapists or others who are in similar situations to our own.

So how do we know what approach to take? In truth we don’t and the advice I give to myself is to do the minimum I need to in order to stay balanced. In other words less is better.

Before the advent of surgery and cross sex hormones people like me lived full lives with no bodily alterations; they had no choice. With the new possibilities available to us we can now imagine ourselves living as the other sex but how do we know our lives will be better afterwards?

The truth is we don’t.

I would never venture to advise anyone on this matter but would only counsel that they truly reflect on what they are willing to live with or without and what a worst case scenario would be for them.

Sometimes what we think we want and what we truly need are two different things.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

give me perspective

Life is really so much about personal perspective isn't it? Things happen to us all the time and, depending on how we perceive them, they could either be wonderful or catastrophic. Reality happens but how we deal and view that reality is what really matters. This is why perspective is so crucial and why, hopefully with increasing age, we start having more and more of it.

I have always been a reactive person but I am starting to slowly realize that this is not the best aporoach. I need to make less harsh judgements and conclusion about people and situations. Yes I am a product of my social conditioning and my genetic makeup but I can exert a ertain degree of control in order to temper these traits of mine.

I believe I am having success in this area now and am gaining greater perspective about how things that happen to me should be viewed. It is my choice to be indignant, happy, sad, jealous, envious or angry and no one controls that except me.

You can't control the other person's reaction but you can control your own.

So much that can be learned about life involves a strong sense of perspective.





Thursday, 15 May 2014

Peacock

"Peacock" - starring Cillian Murphy is an odd but curious film.

I saw it one evening when I happened to be scrolling through my cable provider’s movie offerings and, since I had heard of the film and of Cillian’s performance, I thought I would watch it.

One thing that struck me was how atypical the film was at covering certain elements. For one thing, Emma (his female alter ego) wore male underwear under her dress. The film also suggests that there was verbal and/or physical abuse behind John’s split personality; which is more or less convincing and is left largely unexplored.

Oddly no one was able to recognize John as Emma and, as real as Cillian looked in either gender, there was enough obvious resemblance there to have had someone at least scratching their heads.

Cillian Murphy is slight and almost pretty for a man so he passes quite easily as a woman. This aspect of the film is well done. But other aspects fall short and we are left wondering about several loose threads regarding the full history of John/Emma and how he comes to live his life in such a schizophrenic fashion.

Still, as a low budget art film it has its merits and I would recommend you view it given the opportunity.


Wednesday, 14 May 2014

We like our certainty

I’ve been fascinated by the idea of labeling of late. We all seem very interested in understanding ourselves as people so by knowing what category we belong to we are somehow comforted.

However labeling is a double edged sword and things are not always as clear cut as they seem.

For example, when Ray Blanchard was doing his work with pre-op transsexuals he found that roughly 15% of his androphilic (man loving) group was experiencing what he was terming autogynephilia. Anne Lawrence (one of his principal acolytes) confirmed this herself in a series of interviews conducted in the early 2000’s with a significant group of pre-op and post op transsexuals. You can find segments of these interviews and emails on her website.

But why did this occur and why was there no definitive pattern to Blanchard’s typologies? Because real life does not work like that and the theories postulated to explain certain behaviours in transsexuals were in the end too simplistic.

I found it odd when reading the writings of Anne Lawrence that she was a keen adopter of Blanchard’s work and gleefully self identified as an AGPer but then successfully transitioned and continues to live life happily as a woman. Does that even make sense?

If, as Blanchard postulated, Lawrence was a fetishist male who was in love with her own image as a woman why was her surgery even approved? Was she not more like the regret filled Renee Richards who now calls herself an intense CD who would have benefited from better drugs and psychoanalysis?

For Blanchard, Anne Lawrence is actually a man who fantasized and masturbated about becoming a female; however the end result was a happier Anne Lawrence after surgery. This does not make sense to me at all because if you are actually a man then you should not desire to have the surgery in the first place and this is all fetish based then why not just simply dress up as a woman to your heart’s content?

As I quoted Lynn Conway saying a few posts ago, all of this is more complicated than meets the eye.

Then we have de transitioners like Philip Porter who lived successfully for 26 years as a female only to go off female hormones and then realize he wanted to be a man again. Porter fit the perfect profile of a very feminine and early transitioning androphilic and yet he is happily (in his fifties) living life as a gay man.

Things are indeed not that simple and there are always exceptions to what we think should be the rules. But people want explanations and they want certainty. It’s more comforting to know that you are a normal male or female and not something in between so we look for definitive answers where none actually exist.

Human sexuality and gender expression are exceedingly complex concepts.

I have been trying to find answers to my own behaviour my entire life with no success but I carry on with a lack of certainty regarding an origin which no longer really matters to me.

Life is what it is and, more often than not, it defies definition or explanation.
Anne Lawrence

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Janet Mock interviews B Scott

I wanted to post this August 9th, 2013 interview of B Scott by Janet Mock. Janet is a fully transitioned woman while B Scott indentifies as transgender. Both are African American. The interview is interesting because it illustrates the challenges of labeling people and how we perceive ourselves and others and the bias of society in general towards those who are different:

Janet: I assume it must’ve taken you a long time to come to this place of definition, where you’re announcing that you’ve “welcomed the ‘transgender’ label.” What led you to embrace transgender as part of your identity?

B. Scott: I feel my spirit is somewhere in between, so I thought that that in between-ness didn’t fit the term transgender. I thought that because I didn’t want to become a woman that I wasn’t transgender but just a feminine gay man. It was hard to pin down, label and classify myself. I had a lot to learn but when I finally read that transgender also meant “neither or both,” I was like, “Wow, that’s me!” For the first time, I found something I was included in.

J: I definitely resonate with this process of discovery. When I was a tween, I spent a year or so identifying as gay because that was the only label that was available to me. I had no idea that trans, transsexual or transgender existed to describe my experience, so I grasped at the only definition or label available, which described my attraction to boys. My misunderstanding was also reflective of society’s conflation of sexual orientation (your attraction to certain bodies and people) and gender identity (your self-conception, embodiment and expression of gender regardless of assigned sex at birth). How were you able to unpack this?

B: Me being transgender is more about my expression of who I am, and that manifests itself in how I act, how I present myself in terms of hair, makeup, clothing, and my overall essence. My sexuality relates more to what makes my heart flutter. Transgender actually defines me more than my sexuality does. It encompasses my whole essence. It’s how my spirit is presenting itself.

J: After I heard your announcement, I embraced you because I understood your journey of self-revelation. At the same time, I was also cognizant of the vast diversity of the transgender umbrella term, and knew that people would make all kinds of assumptions, like “I thought B. was gay, now he wants to become a woman?”

B: So many people have asked me when am I transitioning and have called me slurs over the years. People have been labeling me as transgender for years. So many transgender girls, some of my Love Muffins, have come up to me and said that they love me and that me being me actually helped them. I believe they saw my gradual self-perception through my videos and saw themselves in me and my journey of discovery. They are my sisters, and so are you, long before I even identified as transgender. It’s funny how God works because over time I was gradually embracing a group of people that in fact included me.

J: I think that many people assume that transgender only means those of us who are transsexual, folks who medically transition. It’s necessary for us to state and embrace the fact that trans people have various relationships with gender. Some people are men, some are women and others refuse to be either and self-determination should be embraced.

B: Exactly! I had a reluctance to label myself period. People have yet to truly accept transgender people, and I am so aware of that. There is just so much work that needs to be done. For a while it’s like I wanted to just be gay because I wanted to be part of the acceptance of gays in America. I asked myself so many times, “Do I really want to make my journey harder?” I feel like Sophia in The Color Purple: “All my life I had to fight!” Because of my experience with BET, it led me to the realization that I am transgender because of my gender identity and expression. It was specifically because of my gender – not my sexuality – that made me a target and I realized that I am not alone in this discrimination and treatment as a trangender person.

J: I want to check my own assumptions and perceptions really quick: I embrace you as a trans feminine person, meaning someone who was assigned male at birth yet expresses and embodies femininity, but don’t let me further label you.

B: I had never heard that term before but I think you’re right. I lean more towards the feminine spectrum, but I do ovulate [oscillate] between masculine and feminine. It just depends on the day, girl!

J: Speaking of femininity, I think it’s necessary for us to have a discussion around the kind of harassment thrown your way. When I walk in the world, I’m often perceived as a mix black cis girl, meaning that my trans-ness is often not leading the way for me but I’m still subject to sexist and racist objectification and harassment. Yet when I was teenager still on my path to womanhood, I was somewhere in the middle, as this femme teen who was called a “sissy,” a “tranny” or a “shim” daily, and that level of violence was equally scary. What has your experience been with others’ perceptions and judgments?

B: People can tell that I am a man and my femininity makes me a target. I’ve heard people say things like, “You’re never gonna be a woman! Look at that jaw line and those hands!” Though the comments hurt me, I also think about my followers who are trans women and how their sense of self is questioned and targeted. For me, I just feel like a man and woman came together and made a hybrid that was me. I know that I am a target because I challenge people’s perceptions. There’s power in that yet there’s also a lot that’s thrown at me too.

J: It’s interesting how much our society devalues people who express femininity. And I can imagine as one who is often read as a gender-nonconforming black man that that must come with its own set of pressures.

B: I never thought I would grow up to be a person that would represent all these identities that would make me part of a very marginalized group of people. But this is part of embracing my truth. This lawsuit will come and go, but my identity will stay and so will the marginalization and ostracizing.

J: I hear people say this often that communities of color, specifically black folks, are more anti-gay, more anti-trans than other communities. I always say that it is not a safe world period to be a trans woman or a gender non-conforming person. I have not witnessed one community that has embraced trans folks, specifically trans feminine folks, as people, so I don’t know where these comparisons come from. Please point out the community where we can all be safe in.

B: Right? It’s like please show me that place so I can go there because even in the gay community there tends to be transphobia, and I witnessed this from some people after I said I am transgender. It hurt that some in the community were judgmental when I thought they’d be more accepting. I expected these people among all to say, “Yes, be who you are!”

J: I’ve noticed similar judgments within the trans community, and I criticized much of the discourse around your statement as misguided on Twitter. I was so conflicted when my dear sister Monica Roberts stated that she won’t “consider” you “part of Team Trans” until you medically transition. It perplexed me as to why she and many others immediately assumed that trans-ness equated to trans womanhood. It was the erasure of genderqueer, non-binary identified folks, gender diverse folks, like yourself, from our community that sparked my need for this conversation. I feel this discussion is the same kind of gender policing that is done to trans people everywhere by folks who don’t believe our identities.

B: I’m surprised by the skepticism about my identity because it took a long gradual process for me to get here, for me to get over the negative imagery associated with the transgender community and own my identity and place and get past it all. I wouldn’t embrace being transgender unless it was my truth. I believe I’m challenging the term and people’s beliefs, but I feel I can only do what’s true for me. I know that I will continue to raise awareness, and I hope that over time that who I am will serve a greater purpose for the community.

J: I myself deal with this daily from all sides, from black folks who say that being trans is “a white thing” or trans folks who say that I’m too “passable” therefore not trans enough to cis folks who say that I will never be a “real” woman. This discussion around authenticity and living your truth is what led me to tell my own story and title my book “Redefining Realness.” Only we can say what is real and what is most authentic to us. We must all learn to trust one another’s experience.

B: I’m just trying to live my best life walking in my truth. I’m used to never fitting in. People have always said something about me. I do love that we’re in the same family on so many levels, Janet, but also different and also understanding one another. I just think that we should all try to love each other a little bit more.