Tag Archives: pre-t

New year, new semester

Disclaimer: I’m definitely a nerd. I really love school.

For me, the year starts with a bang. Practice, work, classes, groups all starting on the same day, which makes me grateful for the three day weekend.

I e-mailed professors ahead of time about pronouns again. I try not to be in people’s faces about who I am, but it if I want to be called the right pronouns, I have to vocalize it. Both professors were good about it. A couple professors I’ve had before misgendered me in the first couple days. It’s frustrating, but with one prof, I know she doesn’t mean to, she just has trouble with it and is sorry about it after. At least she doesn’t make a big deal in class, which is good. The other prof kind of hurt because he went the entire last semester without misgendering me at all. Actually I think he went the whole semester without gendering me at all, period, haha. In the end it’s okay because I know they are both supportive.

Another one of my professors was awesome about it. I’ve had him before for two classes. In the first, neither of us really knew how to address it since I knew most of the people in that class. The second class, he just used the right pronouns, and one kid in the class thought I was a cisguy for a couple months. This class is even better! On the first day he used the right pronoun, and commented that there were almost all guys in the class before the two girls joined. It was an incredible way to nudge people’s perceptions along and I’m really excited to have a possibility at being stealth in a class. It just feels good to be perceived like I want to be perceived, and it not be a big deal.

I also went to a PFLAG meeting this week and met a lot of parents. They don’t run into youngish transpeople much so it was good to meet them, represent and be there as a resource for their kids. I’m getting in really good shape running and I can tell it helps me pass better. I think it helps calm people down about their kids when they see that transpeople can look “normal” and not be harassed in public. I’m pretty lucky that even though I’m pre-T I never get a second look in public. I think if I work on my voice a bit I’ll generally get gendered right (even if it’s as a 14 y/o boy!)

I feel pretty lucky to have worked for the past 7 years running so I could have a body I feel pretty comfortable in. We started arm weights and core workout so I know that’ll help my confidence too, working on my scrawny bits. I’m thinking about posting pictures of how I dress and progress working out because it’s working out really well. Not sure yet though.

How has your year started?

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Airport escapade, part dos

Flying can be chaos, and being trans can make it just a bit more complicated.

I flew home for Thanksgiving, thank goodness. (Two days of driving within five is tiring.) I was on a late flight, and the hour and a half car ride to the airport turned out to be more like two and a half because the interstate was packed. By the time I got to the airport I was already jittery from cutting it close; I hastily said ‘goodbye’ to my parents and booked it inside.

I headed down the escalators and made a beeline for security, even though my bladder was threatening to burst. I’ve had a lot of practice holding my pee, and I didn’t want to chance missing my flight. I was in luck. Not only was I able to make my flight, it was delayed for an two hours instead of one. Security didn’t take too long. The line was long and lots of flights were delayed so the TSA peeps were trying to move everyone through there pretty quick.

I’ve flown enough in the past year that I’m pretty familiar with going through airport security as a transperson. At my usual airport they have the body scanners. I walked into it and held my arms up, like you’re supposed to. I wasn’t surprised when they stopped me. I think a binder sets off the detector pretty often. I stood where they told me to and a woman TSA agent (whom I had ironically briefly mistaken as male) was standing in facing me. She took one look at me and held her hands up, taking a step back, “I can’t give you a pat-down.”

I didn’t say anything. It’s better not to if I’m passing – it just makes everything go a lot quicker. A half-second later a male TSA agent stepped in front of me. He spoke as though he was talking to someone a few years younger than me, calmly but authoritatively. “Hold your arms out.”

I did so. He gave a quick pat down underneath my armpits. “You’re good to go.”

I took a breather and made a secondary beeline for the bathroom. I felt a wave of relief wash over me because there was a family bathroom. Hallelujah.

I made a third beeline for the food court and got a slice of pizza, a few meatballs and a pink lemonade. I awkwardly carried it all, including my suitcase and backpack to the terminal. I tried to sit down, but I had too many things in my hands to take my pack off. I set my lemonade on top of my suitcase.

Stupid. Dumb, dumb, dumb. It promptly fell on the ground and spilled e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. I got up and went to the nearest bathroom. Obviously I wasn’t going to go in the women’s – I honestly pass pretty well until I start talking. Even in high school when I was still wearing skinny jeans people would sometimes run out of the bathroom if I was in there. (Good times, good times.. not.)  I think airport bathrooms are the easiest to pass in. Everyone’s busy and hurrying, and no one knows or talks to each other. Anyway, I took the plunge and went in the men’s, trying my best not to garner too much attention by pulling a plethora of paper towels from the dispenser.

Those brown, thin paper towels. It took me no less than 5 trips, I kid you not. The whole time I was going back and forth this couple sitting where I was and watching my stuff kept encouraging me. After I finally finished sopping up my drink and my tears (just kidding. I’m not really that dramatic.. usually) one of the two guys had left and was getting back. He handed me a water bottle and said “I really hate when that happens.”

It made my day. Alone, at an airport, but someone I didn’t even know was there for me. I know I was out to them, since I had been talking a bit. I’d like to think that since we were all LGBT, they sort of had my back. But even if that had nothing to do with it, I know I met some really solid people that day.

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…and then I had pink shoelaces.

Once upon a time I was a freshman in college. Okay, so last year I was a freshman. It was actually this time last year that I was walking to the administration building to pay the balance on my account for the semester.

Blahblahblah. Anyway, my nervous, stressed little self was high-tailing it across campus. I’m sure I only had a bit of time between classes or something and was a bit peeved that I was going to get a rather large sum of money slurped out of my bank account.

I was making a beeline down a section of sidewalk, and a woman was walking in the opposite direction. As I approached her, she collapsed to the ground, and stayed there.

Shit! It didn’t look good. I ran up to her and bent down. She could hardly talk and was kind of curled up, saying something about a stabbing pain. I was worried she might be having heart problems, so I asked if she was feeling pain in her chest.  She said no, that it felt like her back. Another lady ran up, and started talking to her too. Apparently she had put her back out of place when she tripped on the crack in the sidewalk. The other lady said for me to go, and that help was coming. After a quadruple chorus of “Are you sure?” “Yes, go on ahead.” I headed toward the admin building.

A person was leaning out the window yelling “Sir! Sir, young man!” Last year, I didn’t get correctly gendered very often, so it took a sec for me to notice she was talking to me. I looked up. “Is she okay!?” I called that yes, she does seem to be okay.

I went in the building and came up the stairs. The same person calling out the window was walking down the hallway. She looked flustered. “I’m so sorry! I thought you were a guy, but then I saw the pink shoelaces.”

Woah. Hold the bacon. Guys can’t wear pink stuff? The manliest dudes I know wear something pink on occasion. It’s what I was thinking to myself that morning when I was deciding what shoes to wear. In he defense the laces were not just pink, but hot pink. But I liked the shoes, thought they were cool and all. I also thought that morning that I was confident enough in my gender identity that I could sport a bit of pink every now and then.

She continued, “you are a girl, right? are you a girl or a boy?” I felt like sometimes people stress too much about gender. (Irony intended, haha; I’m fully aware I spend 99% of my waking and sleeping hours stressing about gender.) But honestly, in the grand scheme of things, was my interaction with her really going to be that much different if I had a vagina or a penis? Does that aspect of a person really have anything to do with a verbal conversation?

Back then, I wasn’t out. I stuttered, taken off guard. “Er, doesn’t really matter… I mean… whichever works.”

“But you are a girl, right?

“Yeah, um.. well… I have to go.” Kthxbai. Awkward.

Why couldn’t I have taken that moment to educate someone? I could’ve been the person that stole her ignorance, and made it easier for other transpeople she might come across. I can’t changed what happened, or how I reacted, but I can change how I act in the future. And I will handle things like that more confidently.

My coach told me yesterday that I’ve changed in the past year – that I’m more sure of myself. I know he’s right.

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Coming out to professors as transgender

Even though I haven’t had a great deal of luck with my peers, I decided to ask my professors this semester to use my preferred pronouns. I think the reason I am telling my profs is because I respect them more than my peers. I have four profs – one I told last year.

One professor I’ve already had a class from so I decided that I would do it in person, instead of e-mailing. I hung around after class and asked a benign but necessary question about the class. Then I asked about the preferred pronouns. She said “yeah, I will… well, I can try.” I voiced my appreciation and said that know know it’s a bit difficult. Then she said, or I could just use your name. I couldn’t really talk right, I was stuttering over my words and was like, “yeah, that’s what some people do, it sounds good.” Basically, she said she would and walked out. I dunno if I expected her to ask me any questions. I guess I just didn’t expect it to be that nervewracking and I don’t know why I had to make it so awkward. I don’t know why I have to be such an awkward person, but I guess that’s just who I am. I regret not telling her sooner (I almost did last year) but I don’t even know how it would’ve gone. I trust her and look up to her, and I think when I don’t tell people sooner it tells them I don’t trust them offending them. That seems to happen a lot but it feels too vulnerable and obnoxious coming out to everyone that I know.

Anyway, to my other two professors, I sent e-mails. One I’d met briefly a few times before, and the other I hadn’t met at all.

I sent them this:

Hello Dr. ______,

I hope your holidays were wonderful and this year is starting off well for you.

I’m excited to be in your ________ class this semester!

I am writing to ask if you wouldn’t mind using male pronouns while referring to me in class and outside of class. I identify as male, rather than the female designation that shows on my records. It would meant a lot to me if you were willing to do this, and if you have any questions or want to talk further I’d be happy to. 

Take care,

Transiteration

My given name is gender neutral, so that’s why I didn’t make any mention of it.

I was nervous, but I sent them. The next day I got two replies!

Absolutely, and I think the whole class should be on board with this as well.  What you are asking is right and good.
See you in class.

and

Absolutely! I am pleased to honor your request.

I’ll see you tomorrow – have a great day!

I’m relieved. Sometimes it’s hard to deal with people messing up or not knowing the right pronouns, but if I have my professors on my side, things will be just that much better.

Did you ever come out to teachers or professors? How did you do it? I still feel bad about not coming out to other professors in the science department, as if I’ll offend them also for not trusting them, but telling some professors. How do you know when the right time is to come out?

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Life on the Other Side

I’m not the most passable guy around. I have a runners build – strong legs, but scrawny as heck arms and practically no shoulders. I don’t have a chubby face or anything, but it definitely doesn’t have the angles that scream “male!” Ninety five percent of the time people treat me and consider me as a female. The other five percent, mostly with strangers or people I haven’t known that well, I get to live on the other side.

Some things I’ve noticed:

  • Holding doors for others (which I usually did already), is non-negotiable. If this is forgotten then I am way more likely to get a dirty or offended look.
  • People, usually women, are more likely to avoid me on the street. It’s not like I’m intimidating or anything, but I think it’s just a general safety issue. I can’t help people anymore, by helping bring them to their destination like I used to because it seems like they feel uncomfortable with me knowing where they are. Again, safety issue.
  • People in customer service are more likely to cross personal space barriers. For example, the other day a man came up behind me and patted me on the back to get my attention, asking how he could help me. He was going to say sir, but when I turned around, it came out more like Sam and he lept back a foot or so.
  • People are more likely to rely on me. This one’s kind of hard to explain, but it seems like I am expected to carry stuff, find information, lead a group, and be more helpful in general.
  • People sometimes avoid pronouns. When I’m out to lunch with my family, they miiight use Sir the first time, but usually they ma’am and sir my family, but just go “and for you?” when they get to me. I’ve also had a customer service person refer to me first as “he” and then after I talked as “they.” It was the first time I’d gotten that pronoun.

Of people I know, some things have also changed.

  • I pass to the older people that my friend lives with. When I was over visiting her, she asked to keep the door to her room open so they wouldn’t assume anything was going on. It was something I hadn’t even thought about.
  • I don’t get invited to certain things anymore, like to hang out with my friend that was nannying.
  • A friend was passing out magazines to read and didn’t offer me one. They were kind of feminine-topic and they did joke about them having women in for the guys to look at, but I wasn’t really included in that either. I seem to fall in between.
  • Many times, I will look at a group that I’m in and I’m not standing/talking with the guys or the girls, just with someone random.
  • I’ve stopped being invited/forced into girl-only things like pictures. Though someone did get me to go to a ice-cream social that I thought would have guys, it was only intended for gals. Which sucked. I wanted to melt into the wall.
  • My guy friend stopped making me go in front of him in line and let me go through the door after him.

Sometimes I think it’s impossible that I need to wait two and a half more years before I can medically transition. Sometimes I think that there’s so much do transition that doesn’t involve hormones that it might be a good thing that it will be so gradual. I’m not one to live by gender stereotypes, but there is still an interesting sort of transition in how people perceive you.

Have you had any interesting experiences with transitioning? Or if you aren’t trans, have you had any encounters with a transperson that left you thinking?

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Kids Will Ask Anything

This happened back in the Spring last semester.

When I went to volunteer in an Intergenerational Computer Center with a group of elementary school kids, I expected to help with a couple computer functionality questions and maybe a couple “how do you spell ___?” inquiries.  Looking back, I probably should’ve anticipated the sheer number of questions kids have about everything. And they’re not afraid to ask any of them. A conversation I had with one of them as a result of the endless questions went something like this:

I had been helping a group of students writing poems. One girl was finished and turned around in her seat. Out of the blue she asked, “What’s wrong with your voice?”

At first I was a little confused. I didn’t think I was sick and even though I admittedly did need some water, I didn’t think it was anything noticeable. I replied, “What do you mean?”

I started to get an inkling of what she was talking about, so I tried to play it off as nothing. “Oh, this is how I always talk.”

“Wait. You’re a boy.. right?”

I froze for a second. I had trouble explaining myself to pretty much anyone, including people my age. How could I possibly explain myself to a 3rd grader? I million questions of my own went through my mind in that split second: Was anyone else listening? If the teachers were, what would they say? How would this kid react? Was it going to be a bigger deal than it really needed to be?

I did know one thing for sure – kids are incredibly perceptive. They know when their being lied to, or even if they aren’t being told the whole truth. I decided to just go for it, and hope I made some sort of sense.

“Well, I was born a girl, but inside I’m a boy, so this is how I express myself.”

“Oh, so you want to be a boy?”

“Yup, pretty much.”

She had a bit of a confused/incredulous expression on her face. “Why would you want to be a boy??

I resisted the urge to insist that I didn’t just want to be a guy – I was a guy, inside, and replied, “Why do you want to be a girl?”

“Um.. so I can grow up and be pretty!!”

I laughed and jokingly flexed my arm. “Well, I want to grow up and be really strong.”

It seemed to make sense to her and the one or two others who were listening in, but that didn’t mean their questions were over. After a brief interrogation about my short haircut and whether or not I’d changed my name they seemed to just accept it and move on. If only the rest of the world could do that too…

I sort of forgot about the conversation until one of the teachers came up to me as the kids were leaving and said, “I just wanted to thank you for answering their questions earlier. I definitely didn’t anticipate them asking them.. and I though you handled it well, very well.. so thank you.”

I have to say, the teacher coming up to me and saying that meant a great deal, probably more than she would know. From my experience, I can ascertain that kids can understand a whole lot more than we give them credit for.

Have you had any experiences with kids asking questions that adults, out of tact or politeness would not ask? Do you think kids should be discouraged from asking such questions or encouraged?

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Navigating Airport TSA as a trans* person

Airport Security (Wikimedia Commons)

Okay, so I’m lucky in that I pass pretty well to strangers. As long as people don’t look too closely at me and I don’t open my mouth, most people in passing assume I’m male. (Pun intended.) A couple months ago I was travelling to NY for the summer. I got up at three ridiculous thirty in the morning after staying up late to pack.

My family, thank goodness, loves me enough to drive me to the airport that early in the morning. If that’s not love, I dunno what is. We got there at about 5am and parted ways. I tried to act all “yeah, I know what I’m doing I’ll be fine, don’t worry about me,” but as soon as they left, I was all “oh mah goodness where do I go for my boarding pass and security and flight and argghh!”

Somehow, I manged to make it to the security check-point with my pass in hand. There, they checked to make sure my ID and pass match. My ID didn’t look much like me.. it was about three years old. I had long hair and regrettably a hot pink shirt. I tried to remind myself that this is the only time in my life I’ll see Miss Official ID Checker, but any trans* person’ll know that showing someone an old ID is rather uncomfortable. She looked at me, and my ID, and back at me. I guess my face must’ve been similar enough or she hadn’t had coffee yet because she stamped it and sent me on my merry way.

The next part flustered me a bit. I had read the TSA’s policies for transgender travelers, but by the time I was ready to go through the scanner and had already almost forgotten to put my laptop outside of the bag, take my shoes off, and check my pockets I wasn’t really thinking about being transgender. (Over time, it’s become so comfortable to be out in male clothes that I think less and less about it.) At the time, I didn’t know that they had switched out the nude body scanners for less revealing millimeter wave scanners. With the new system, the officials are required to punch a pink or blue button (how cliche) to tell the machine what “stuff” to ignore.

The scanner-checker must’ve  pressed the blue button since I appear male. Obviously, as a pre-t pre-surgery guy I have a lack of certain stuff and an unfortunate overabundance of other stuff. When I went through the machine a TSA guy held me up.

“Please stop right here, sir.” He said a quick few words to the person behind the computer screen and turned back to me.  “It’s flagging a region on your chest, I’m going to give you a pat down.” Before could react and say that I’m biologically female, he was doing so. Okay, for any cisfemale I’d imagine having a middle aged guy patting down your chest would probably be at the least awkward and at most grounds for a sexual harassment complaint. But I’m not a woman and I don’t identify with my chest. It didn’t feel awkward to me, besides the fact that a stranger was invading my personal space. He was just doing his job. In a few seconds he was finished: “Thank you, sir, you can go ahead.”

Even though he referred to me as male after the pat down, I have a small chest, but not that small, so I find it hard to believe he didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. But it definitely didn’t faze him either. I’d like to imagine he did figure it out and decided to be respectful about it. I guess on the way back I might just opt for a pat down since I’m probably going to get one anyway.

Have you (cis or trans) had any experiences with the TSA, good/bad/otherwise? Can you think of anything the TSA could do to seamlessly accommodate people across the gender spectrum?

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