Checking In

I have no topic here tonight. I have no flashy insight. It’s been almost 2 weeks since the last post, so, I should at least check in.

Got some bloodwork back- all looks good; estradiol climbing, T barely existent. Went to a wonderful holiday party last night at the transgender support center down in Charlotte. I feel called to volunteer there. I’m looking forward to it immensely.

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Wonders Never Cease

I went in there expecting to have to fight. I even had a plan if I needed to walk out. See, I’ve never had good results for long when I went to the VA for health issues. I was leery about reaching out to the LGBT Care Clinic to begin with. I was leery about going in to meet the counselor who was supposed to decide if I was “trans enough” for HRT. I was even leery about going to group therapy.

But, every step, that trepidation turned out to be unwarranted. The director of the clinic was kind and warm (and his email signature specified his pronouns . . . very progressive for VA, I thought). My counselor was amazingly sweet and supportive, complimentary of the steps I’d taken on my own “already”, and told me just a few minutes into the appointment that there was no doubt that my decision to start HRT was clearly right for me. Even Group was OK, with yet more bright and obviously compassionate care providers facilitating.

But, today . . . today I was meeting my prescriber. Today I was meeting the woman who held my fate in her hands, as the gateway between me and that sweet, sweet estrogen.

You may not know, but transgender hormone therapy is kind of a mess, academically speaking. Heck, it’s only been in the last 5 years or so that it’s been widely accepted as “safe”. There’s almost no meaningful research, what has been done is tainted by poor methods or out-of-date protocols, and there’s no real push to do anything about it. If you want an education in female “cross-sex” HRT, you’ve got to weed through tons of poorly documented anecdotal evidence, fight through mountains of prejudice, and hope like hell the person on the other side of the prescription pad has done the same. Or is at least willing to listen.

I’ve done that research. I’ve found the work of the few people actually working to refine the protocols. And I found some less than well known information compiled mostly by one man out of Detroit, who is so passionate about this that he keeps his entire catalog of research in an updated PowerPoint on his Facebook for care providers and patients alike; the same PowerPoint he uses to present at conferences every chance he gets, when he’s not treating his thousands of patients actively in transition. I want to do it his way. His way is to use the body’s natural feedback loop to trick it into shutting down testosterone production with high consistent levels of estradiol (A form of estrogen most commonly used in hormone therapy) WITHOUT having to resort to anti-androgen compounds (or “blockers”). His protocol relies on injections of estrogen, to skip “first pass” liver processing (hard on the liver, and reduces the efficacy of the estradiol). Most protocols rely on blockers to squash testosterone levels, and use barely significant levels of estrogen administered under the tongue to encourage feminization. His method has lower risks, lower side effects, and most importantly, shockingly better results.

And so I went in today expecting to have to defend his position as my own. I don’t know how much time I have (for those of you joining us already in progress, I have terminal heart failure), so I want to be as aggressive as possible. I’ve been on sublingual E- it’s impossible not to swallow some of it, and every microdot that goes through my digestive system is lost opportunity. F that. Gimme the good shit, Doc, and gimme a lot of it. Now.

And she did. Injections? No prob. Skipping the blockers? Of course, that works just fine. High levels of serum E? Well, she’s a little leery of the upper end of his range, but she’s willing to shoot for the low end AND she’s willing to read his research.

She’s also willing to write any and all letters I need for changing my birth certificate and getting an orchiectomy.

I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but . . . things went really well at the VA today.

On “Best Friends”

People say that when you come out, you lose everything. They say that no matter how supportive family and friends might be at first, they’ll eventually fade away. Either they don’t want to hear about transition issues all the time, or you aren’t really the person they always thought, or any other number of explanations.

Clearly, not me, though. I mean, look at the outpouring of support I have. Look at all that love and acceptance.

And yet, one of my closest friends, one of the first people I even came out to, has decided that I’m not worth the effort anymore. My “new world” is “out of touch with reality”. 15+ years of friendship, gone like that.

Maybe they’re right. Maybe you do lose everything.

Holiday Craziness

I don’t have any deep insight or revelation to offer in this post. I’ve been busy with typical holiday stuff, getting to go out and spend time with friends and loved ones. It’s really nice to be me when doing so.

On the other hand, the emotional changes going on right now are HARD. Coming to terms with everything I missed out on not getting to grow up as a woman. There’s actually a lot I have to say about it now that I reflect, but I’m off on a whirlwind day of holiday reverie. Maybe tomorrow.

Happy Festivus.

How To Be An Ally, and Mean It

I want to make it clear that I am in no way trying to diminish the importance of the support I have received since coming out and going full-time. The words of encouragement from friends and family mean the world to me and have helped me immensely.

But I’d trade it all for this.

Trans people don’t need you to tell us you’re proud of us, or you admire us. Trans people don’t need you to tell us we’re brave. Trans people don’t need you to tell us we “look great” or anything of the sort. It’s really, really nice to hear those things, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not what we need.

Trans people need you to stand up for us when we aren’t around. Trans people need you to advocate not just with us, but on our behalf when we’re not being listened to anymore. When we are judged and pushed out and ostracized from a group simply for making the excruciating decision to come out, we need you who are left behind to make a big deal about it. We need you to stand up to transphobia and hate and fear. We need you to care not just about us as people, but the environment in which we have to exist. We need you to care about the trans people who can’t come out yet, or may never be able to come out. We need you to say something to the people who snicker and scoff behind our backs. We need you to be as brave as you say we are.

It’s easy to support trans rights when you’re trans- you’re already being judged, so might as well own that shit. And of course, when someone who wishes to stand against us hears our calls for equality, they fall on deaf ears, because we are seen as less, as freaks, as aberrant or deranged. But when you stand up on our behalf, it means something very different. When ever someone outside a marginalized minority stands up for them, it means more to those who look at us from the outside and cringe. It’s harder to rationalize away. It’s significant.

That’s what we need.

Trans Women and “Male Privilege”

There are a lot of things on which the trans community disagrees. One such thing relates to the concept of “male privilege”. As trans women, we live part of our lives as if we were men- at least until we figure it out and do something about it. As such, some folks think that trans women benefit from “male privilege”- the inherent societal advantages that come with being perceived as male. In fact, many TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists)/ “gender critical scholars” use this claim as part of their position that trans women aren’t “real women”. Conversely, others point out that trans women are certainly not perceived as being “male” in the sense that cis men are, and are far from privileged in any way (especially in the case of trans women of color, who have shockingly high assault/murder rates).

I’m going to assert that the confusion and disagreement over privilege stems from the fact that privilege is not a singular thing, but rather can be divided into what I call “internal” and “external” privilege. This not only serves to unpack and elucidate issues of privilege as it can pertain to trans women, but carries important implications on how we can address issues of privilege in the way we raise our children.

There is no doubt that (unfortunately), most children being raised as male in our society are taught to have very different expectations than those being raised female. The extent may differ, and there are certainly those who struggle to minimize such things in their own children, but in general, boys grow up expecting to be listened to when they speak, for example. Many women will freely report that such expectations were not ingrained in them. Even if we work to minimize projecting “gender roles” as parents, we live in a society that imprints such things on our children despite our efforts. So, boys grow up thinking certain things about their relation to people around them that girls likely do not. It is these ideas about one’s place in society that informs the position that trans women carry their “male privilege” with them through social transition. If you are raised to believe that you have a place in conversation and generally control your own situation (to varying extents in relation to other marginalizing factors like class or ethnicity), you retain those ideas even as you present as the woman that you have always been. This, they say, makes trans women fundamentally different from cis women, and they therefore experience the intangible benefits of this privilege. This sense of using the term privilege, note, is purely internal. It is about the way people think, act, and see themselves, and so I here label it “internal privilege”.

“External privilege” is exactly what one would assume in light of this- the privilege realized from the way others see and act towards us. We have little to no control over external privilege- others treat us how they treat us. Classic examples of external male privilege include such events as women being ignored in group conversations or business meetings, or even the casual nature with which sexual harassment occurs. Men are far less likely to experience these events than woman are.

It should not take much convincing to demonstrate that trans women don’t experience external privilege. In fact, it could easily be argued that without total “passing” (yet another privilege), trans women are even lesser considered than cis women. This would be the crux of the objection to the idea that trans women continue to experience male privilege, and I think it significant enough to reject the claim. Trans women do not benefit from male privilege, because this external privilege is far more impactful on one’s life, options, and even safety, than the internal privilege that may have been acquired before social transition. We could go even further and point out that depending on just what sort of upbringing one had, how one identified throughout their pre-discovery life, and even how soon a trans woman recognizes that she’s trans, will all have an impact on her views and attitudes about herself in relation to society. It’s entirely possible for a trans woman to present male for a significant portion of her life and *not* acquire the self-identification that we are here associating with internal male privilege.

But this also points out something about privilege. Internal privilege is *learned*. We raise our boys in ways that enforce these ideas. So, we could just as easily raise our daughters with the same concepts of self. If part of the experience of being on either side of privilege is internal and related to how we see ourselves, we can teach ALL our children such things. We can raise our girls to expect a seat at the table, and we can raise our boys to expect girls to take their seats. I would even go so far as to argue that external privilege grows out of internal privilege- people project the values they have onto their interactions, and create the atmosphere in which they live. No matter where we fall in relation to this demarcation of privilege, we subconciously contribute to it unless we actively work against it.