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Mission: Transition
One gender warrior's letters from the front
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Just as well I didn't get around to posting what's been on my mind since Wednesday. I wouldn't want to scare any more people, and I'm basically okay now. Really.

Had blood drawn for the routine tests at 3 months on T. The referral from Nick's office listed my name as "S_____, S____ 'Sam'". This only confused the lab staff. Someone asked if it was short for *gag* Samantha. You'd think they'd know by now what that combination of tests is for. And I'm fairly sure the form even listed my sex as "T".
"Yeah, I confuse a lot of people," I said, laughing at the poor confused people. Unfortunately, I was too frazzled from the past couple of days to explain. This was an opportunity to provide transgender-awareness education, and I fucking missed it. Well, next time. I'm supposed to get the tests again every 6-12 months, except probably sooner this time because I'm increasing my dose. I'll probably go to the same lab next time. And eventually I'll have more facial hair and the official name change. At that point, if I see the same people again, it will be impossible to forget to explain.
Thinking of me as female, however, did not excuse their behavior. The guy at the desk called me "darling".
I stopped in the middle of what he was asking me to do, waiting for the nausea to subside.
He thought I hadn't heard and repeated himself.
"Just wait a moment while I finish barfing at the way you're talking to me."
"What's wrong?"
Then the phlebotomist asked if I was scared of needles. Of course that is insulting in a different way to a guy, but it would still be pretty condescending to a woman.
I would never talk to a woman like that. Cads. Cads. Men who don't respect women don't deserve to have sex with them.
Which makes me wonder if I'm a less credible person to defend women if I'm a man.

Random pointlessly-dirty adolescent-male humor of the day (this was even before I started T): I was preparing a whole chicken for cooking. I put seasoning on it and in it. I put twigs of fresh rosemary in it. Long thin pieces of fresh rosemary which I stuck into the chicken, between its legs. I said to taurendur, "This feels vaguely pornographic."
He laughed.
depressed, angry
The Werewolf Cure

Once upon a time there was a young man who became a werewolf. Every month he would grow fur and fangs. Worse, he kept killing his neighbors' livestock and he couldn't stop.
He went to the local healer for help. "I have just the thing for you," she said, producing a bottle from somewhere deep in the back of a cupboard.
"Has this been used before? How do you know it works?"
"Of course it's been used before," said the healer huffily, not too pleased to be challenged by her patient. "Didn't you hear about Rosie? Six months symptom-free. And of course you know Agnes. Everyone does. But few remember know that she used to be a werewolf in her youth."
"That's all very well," said the lad, "but do you know it works on men?"
The healer was really offended now. "Arrogant young fool, what do you know about medicine? There is no reason for the treatment to work any differently on men and women. No reason whatever! Do you want my help or not?"
"Yes, ma'am. Sorry, ma'am." And he paid the healer and swallowed the potion.
After that, instead of turning into a wolf, he turned into a woman every month. And he lived unhappily ever after.

Random pointlessly-dirty adolescent-male humor of the day:
SAM I guess I like most kinds of food.
bikinikiller You're a growing boy.
SAM [nods and points to his crotch]
bikinikiller [laughs] Is that going on your LiveJournal?
music, happy
It's a bit tactless to come out as trans at a memorial. Even if it's to people for whom the news wouldn't be a total shock and cause an uproar, it's not what they're there to think about. Maybe they won't mind, but all the same, it seems inappropriate. It's an uncomfortable situation to find oneself in.
If I'd still been going to UC Berkeley Department of Music events since "I" graduated, I wouldn't have been in that situation. What the hell. There was no way that was a good enough reason not to go to the concert in memory of one of my professors.
I started out avoiding people I knew. Some people saw me and seemed not to recognize me. I wondered if that was true. I don't even know whether I'd rather be not recognized at all or recognized by someone I wasn't going to come out to. I thought, "I know several of these people and none of them know me -- who I am now." It was much lonelier than being alone.
I thought I wouldn't stay for the reception afterward, but my resolve was weakened too much when I saw the cookies. Then the director of the UC Chorus said, "How are you? I almost didn't recognize you!"
Then she was talking to someone else, but when I could talk to her, I said, "Since you did recognize me, now I'd better explain myself."
Marika looked at me and nodded. "No, I -- think I understand."
I explained anyway. I concluded with, "If you remember certain things about when I was in the chorus, you'll find this highly ironic: I'm singing tenor now. And I like it! I joined my church choir just so I could sing tenor." Highly ironic because I was quite a high soprano, and Marika made me sing alto, which was difficult and irritating.
After that I came out to a lecturer whose class I got moved out of by the second week of the semester -- I'd be surprised she recognized me even if I still looked the same -- and two people who had been graduate students while I was there. There were at least five other people there I should have talked to. Guess I should have started talking to people earlier in the reception.

Out of respect for Professor Thow, there will be no joke posted today.
14th-Apr-2007 07:52 pm - What a drag
No, the drag show last night was not a drag. Not at all. But that's not just a random pun: it wasn't all fun to be around all those drag kings.*
Too many of those lucky bastards just pass too well. I mean even without the painted-on facial hair, which only looks bio male on stage. Their binding works better, but maybe that's because they don't do it every day so they're willing to go tighter, and some of them are smaller-busted than me anyway. Most of their faces looked more right than I think mine does. One of them put on a dress and looked like a drag queen. And at least one of the other kings has a really good boy voice. My voice sounds female whenever it decides to stay at the old pitch. Which is still most of the time.
I'm envious, and worse. Isn't being able to pass that well kind of wasted on people who are just dressing up? I mean of course they want to look bio male, but they don't need to make anyone actually believe they are bio male. Okay, Sam, stop grumbling. Either increase your dose or don't.
While I'm waiting, I should try those actual hair sideburn's like Manny's. (Manny Nuff, isn't that a great drag name?)
Hanging around backstage with bikinikiller, I got mistaken for another drag king, and we had to explain. Then someone asked me if I wanted to be a drag king. Oh, for gods' sakes. I don't want to put myself in a context where everyone just assumes my attempt to look male is merely performance art.** Unfortunately, the best way I could come up with at the time to say this was, "If I were in drag, I'd be wearing a dress!"
"Well, have you ever considered queening?"
"Fuck no. I spent a few years in drag all the time, and before that I was regularly in drag all my life. I've had enough."
And bikinikiller said, "It's all drag for me."

Vaguely on topic, here is an example of the way my brain works in the morning when I had fun late at night:
There once was a drag king, whose beard
Was painted with makeup that smeared.
She said, "'Twas my plan
"To look like a man,
"But now I am just looking weird."

Random pointlessly-dirty adolescent-male humor of the day (proving once again that women do in fact make jokes like this too): at the Mills College Fetish Ball, they had a bowl of mixed Skittles and M&M's. They called this S&M's. Yummy!

*Except bikinikiller; who is all fun to be around.
**Not that there aren't drag kings who are both female and male. I must be in a footnotey mood.
8th-Apr-2007 09:23 pm - Whee, fagginess!
music, happy
I am most definitely getting more comfortable with thinking of myself as queer male. I used to think of myself more as a straight guy experimenting.
But then, looking for a new-used tie for Easter, I found a lavender one, with flowers on it, including prominent pink ones. I am rather surprised at myself for being able to tolerate that tie at all, even for Easter. As if that weren't foppish enough, I discovered I had a small square of lavender silk lying around. It was meant for stage magic. It can also be a pocket square. I noticed this?
I have an actual fucking honest-to-gods seersucker suit. I bought it during my butch female phase, I guess trying to ease into male clothing gradually. If I've got it already, Easter is the time I would wear it, right?
Add the yellow silk shirt, which was a women's shirt but it didn't really show that except the collar wasn't really stiff enough for a tie, and I was entirely the human Easter egg this morning. When I took off my choir robe and everyone was commenting on some aspect of my outfit, I started wishing I were dressed a little more normal. This getup was distinctly gayer than me. Don't get me wrong, I don't worry about others being less likely to accept me as male. It just doesn't quite match my internal gender. Much better than women's clothes, though.
The weird thing is I wouldn't even consider wearing that without having become fairly fag-identified. Digging other guys doesn't make me -- anyone -- less masculine, or vice versa. I was going to say something intelligent about that, but I'm too sleepy tonight to say anything intelligent.
What the fuck. I guess it's okay to wear things like that on Easter.

Random pointlessly-dirty adolescent-male humor of the day (even wackier than usual due to sleep deficit): while I was getting dressed, having slept too little and made myself hyper in order to get out of bed at all, my actually rather dignified Easter bunny lapel pin made me think of Playboy bunnies. Then I suppose we could mix the Easter Playboy bunnies with the Energizer bunny. Happy Easter! I know I already have the power to keep going... and going... and going....
30th-Mar-2007 09:38 pm - 3 months as a quarter-boy
3 months on T tonight. Time flies. Incidentally, another milestone is that last week I was exactly the age my father was when I was conceived. This seems significant for me, but I don't know exactly how except that I feel old.
There have been a lot of changes that I notice. Almost everything started quickly, and is continuing more gradually. This is probably because I'm taking a low dose so not much change can happen yet, but I'm fairly young so my body responds quickly to what I've got. I could increase the dose, but I'm not impatient -- well, not that impatient -- and I may as well give myself some more time to adjust to my current libido before risking increasing it again. I'll probably leave something out by mistake, but here's a recap of what's happened so far, in no particular order:
  • First thing I noticed (I hear this is usually first): my body odor has changed. By now I'm acclimating to the new smell, but I still kind of notice it. Now my vaginal secretions smell different as well, but I'm not sure how much of that was supposed to happen and how much of that is a yeast infection I seem to have contracted from touching there more often.
  • My emotional health is much better because I'm not fighting myself about that anymore. This in turn has markedly improved my physical health. I wish I could say for sure that my "male energy" is stronger. This was the major reason T was so important, although the physical changes are cool too. But everything's so weird with all the different changes at once, I'm not really sure. What the hell, I feel so much more alive, not to mention more interested in remaining alive.
  • My libido, as I mentioned above, is way way up, except during my periods. Even more than that when I ovulate. Funny because before T my libido was often highest during my periods. I've gotten over my fear of sex.
  • My sleep pattern is weird and unstable. I need less sleep but can't stay asleep even as long as I need. For a while last month I was waking up at 5:30 a.m. feeling as if I'd drunk too much coffee. Then during my periods I need more sleep again.
  • My clitoris is distinctly bigger (even allowing for the fact that it's erect more often), and a different shape. The little point comes out of the hood now, and it never did before.
  • My sense of smell is stronger. Shrug.
  • I already had a little bit of dark hair on my upper lip and chin, and slightly thicker lanugo in a beard-shaped distribution around that. Now the chin fuzz is a little more symmetrical, the lip stuff is just barely dark enough that some people notice it, and while the sides don't show any more than they did, they do grow faster. Meanwhile I have exactly one thicker darker hair on my arm.
  • Bicycling up hills is easier, even if I feel more tired that day. My arms are just barely starting to look more arm-shaped.
  • I weigh the same or slightly more, but am I imagining it or is my butt slightly smaller?
  • I eat so fucking much!
  • I sweat more. Now I know why men's handkerchiefs are larger than women's. Every time I go anywhere on my bike, I have to mop myself off when I arrive. I'm literally dripping. My dirty laundry stinks after a few days, too. Before T, often I didn't even sweat enough for a reasonable female body.
  • My voice is sometimes lower, but infrequently and unpredictably. It was really weird and cracky one or two times. The lower end of my voice range has not gone down hardly at all: I still usually sound funny singing tenor. But my speaking voice is more likely to be lower in that range. While it's not any easier to sing tenor, it's ironically sometimes harder to sing soprano. Sometimes my voice can't decide whether those pitches belong in falsetto or not, which makes them uncomfortable to sing.
  • During two of my three periods since starting T, I was much less depressed than my periods usually made me before. But in some other ways, I notice more of a difference from my lowest to highest estrogen levels. Even if I'm not depressed, the estrogen makes me so lethargic, weak, and just generally not right. I am doing better the rest of the month, so my menstrual cycle is, if anything, a bigger roller coaster than before.
  • It's affecting my brain too. Dirty humor is now automatically funny. Maybe I'm imagining it but I may be getting better at maps (that would be nice) and more interested in politics and trucks. And suddenly other people talk about emotions in a more confusing way.
  • I was already a little less mature than when I was trying to be female, because my male self never had a chance to grow up. I can't be a man until I've had more time being a boy. Starting another puberty makes that worse. I'm mentally adolescent as well as physiologically. I have lost some of my self-control, and I now take a dim view of authority. I've gotten in trouble with the grown-ups a few times.
  • I'm more comfortable with my body just the way it is now, and it isn't because of the slight changes that have happened already. Knowing that I've started the process of changing some things makes me more at ease with what hasn't changed yet, and with what I can't change or don't plan to change. Of course, it helps immeasurably that someone else is enjoying my body the way it is, seeing me as male and still getting so much pleasure from my female body. Surprisingly enough, I may even start being interested in vaginal penetration. I couldn't stand the thought before, but now it doesn't define me as female, why not use what I've got?
  • I have acne.
  • I'm bisexual.

I've started a calendar of events of particular interest to the non-traditionally gendered. I may add more events if I get around to it. Please contact me if you know of an event I should add. Here's the XML feed for it.

Random pointlessly-dirty adolescent-male humor of the day:
SAM: When you move the laser back and forth this fast, her reflexes are so fast chasing it, she kind of vibrates.
BARBARA: Vibrating kitty!
SAM: I could make a joke about that....
After wading through a lot of confusing information, with the help of people at the Transgender Law Center, I finally clarified the current state of name changes in California. Much to my surprise, I am currently emotionally stable enough to handle thinking levelheadedly about this horrible fucked-up mess, so I'll explain it.
The DMV used to let you get a state ID card with a new name if you were also changing the gender marker. This requires filing Form DL-328 with a doctor's signature. You don't need to have had surgery.
Things have changed. People will tell you how they did it, but if it wasn't within the past few months, that's outdated information. Technically, you can still get a new ID card this easily (although sometimes the records of your old name aren't properly "verified" with the SSA, and it doesn't work). But since late 2006 (I started transition just too late!), it's much less useful to do so. The SSA will no longer change your name with just a new ID card. This means you're left still paying taxes under the old name, so you have to come out to the HR department at any new company you start working for, and I'm guessing it wouldn't work too well to change your checking account, so you end up being outed every time you write or receive checks. Grr.
So I decided that wasn't useful enough. It'll be good for my mood to have a new ID card, but I really need to deal with the other stuff. I will still want to file Form DL-328 for the gender marker, because you can't get a court-ordered gender change without surgery: even when the hormones have made significant irreversible changes, that's not good enough, which is another gross injustice. But I'm going to start working on a court-ordered name change.
The California courts website has information on how to change your name in California, and how much it will cost by county. Synopsis: it costs $320 in Alameda County, but you can get a fee waiver if your income is really low. I mean really low: less than $1063.54/month. I think I qualify now. So I might as well do it before my income goes up, eh?
You file a bunch of forms, which require your old name a distressing number of times, and even *ulp* your official sex (why?). You publish the name change for 4 consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where you live. I don't know yet how much that will cost, but I figure this is really not optional for me at this point. At least 6 weeks after you filed the papers, you have a hearing in case someone wants to come and object. I guess this is to make sure people don't change their names to hide from someone. Then the judge signs a decree. You need a certified copy of the decree, which I think may be another small fee. Then at long weary last you can change your Social Security records. The Transgender Law Center recommends you only get a new state ID after this is done, because it's a little easier.
I'm poised at the beginning of this process, and will probably be posting updates on it.
I'm not looking forward to this exactly. The whole rigamarole looks depressing. I couldn't have started seriously working on this any earlier, because it was too distressing to face. Ironic because it will be very good for my mental health to have it finished.

Last night I dreamed the T had adjusted my hairline already, and I passed a lot better. It looked awfully right in the dream mirror too. I'm guessing it will be different in real life, judging from my male relatives' hair. Good dream though. Almost as good as the one with naked people in it.

Random pointlessly-dirty adolescent-male humor of the day: you know testosterone is affecting your brain when the word flamingo, seen out of the corner of your eye in an entirely neutral context, looks like flaming O.
depressed, angry
I probably mentioned before that while I was trying to be female, my male self never really had a chance to grow up. I can't be a man until I've had more time being a boy. This combines synergistically with my current adolescent hormones.
One effect of this mental adolescence is getting in trouble fairly frequently. That is to say, not terribly often, but distinctly more often than before. I've been occasionally irresponsible in other ways, I guess, but what really pisses other people off is the decrease in my already inadequate ability to know when to shut up. This boy is just not good at dealing with grownups. In the past few months I've been reprimanded by a dance instructor for not respecting his authority, by a supervisor for asking for too much, and now *groan* by The Boy for making sex jokes related to him in public.
Despite appearances, I'm actually a nice guy. And it hurts me to hurt other people. Even when it isn't another person with whom I am currently completely besotted, whom I also care about as a friend, and who is just about the only thing really going well in my life and I couldn't stand to make it not go well.
My naughtiness didn't create a terrible problem between us. He forgave me. But can I forgive myself? How can I not blame myself when I am not at all confident I can prevent the same dumbass behavior in the future? How can I know it won't happen again, that any of these categories of inappropriate comments won't come out of my mouth just as easily next time? How can I even know where to begin, trying to behave myself, if the part of my brain that says, "um, hey, not a bright idea" isn't fully functioning?
With his characteristic acceptance, his ability to look at things from cockeyed angles in order to see the good in them, The Boy said all this was a "learning experience". Okay, but I'd better do that learning quicker than I think I can, before something worse happens.
The problem with transitioning in so-called adulthood is it often involves going through adolescence all over again. Once was bad enough.

For the record, since I've mentioned him so often and two people I was talking to in real life wondered about this: no, The Boy is not jailbait. He is in fact almost as old as me. Nor does this have anything to do with BDSM. Er, isn't it normal for those attracted to guys to use the word boy this way?

Pointlessly-dirty adolescent-male humor of the day (in fact, the joke that got me in trouble today): We do not always wear robes in this particular church choir. There was a discussion about when we are robing during the Easter season and when we aren't robing. Some bass said something about disrobing. I, bloody fool that I am, said, "No, that's at my house."
Shit, wouldn't a meaningful moment of eye contact with The Boy be enough to make that joke for the two of us? I still say there's a good chance that nobody else noticed I was referring to any specific person. But that's no excuse, and I take full responsibility for my dickheadedness.
17th-Mar-2007 07:42 pm - Tool drool
I didn't go to the FTM International meeting. I was too busy being a man. I was actually on a construction site today! Including using a power saw! ROAR! Volunteering with Habitat for Humanity.
I was seriously fucking inept with the hammer, though. I had to pull out almost as many of my nails as I left. I had an almost superhuman ability to get things crooked: I even seem to have jinxed one of the joints so that it didn't go together straight even when someone else took over. This was discouraging as it's something I'm considering as a career.
I just haven't practiced with tools enough. This is partly from spending too much of my life sitting on my butt. It's also from trying too hard to be female. Not that I ever believed there was anything wrong with a "girl" using tools, or even really enjoying using tools. When I was growing up, tools were a "Daddy thing," but his belief that I was a girl did not prevent Daddy from enthusiastically sharing this interest with me. As with so many areas of my life, I was the one censoring myself. My passion for tools, which started in childhood, was too strongly connected with the maleness that I was trying to deny. So eventually, I made myself forget how much I loved tools. And I buried my confidence in my ability to learn to use them better. There was a time when even the girliest of my sisters was more willing to use tools than I!
Well, that's over now. I guess I've been cured satisfactorily if I once again have difficulty leaving hardware stores.
Oh yeah, and the lifting heavy objects bit was cool too.

Discussion topics: I've described a more complicated reaction to gender norms than merely either conforming to them or not. There must be more to say about complications like this. Also, why are guys supposed to like tools anyway?

Random pointlessly-dirty adolescent-male humor of the day (or maybe not random because it's related to the post): "I'm nailing in all these studs; then tonight I get to go home and be a stud!"
15th-Mar-2007 09:19 pm - FTM from my past
music, happy
I keep thinking of kerrickadrian as the first FTM I ever met. That's not strictly true. Or maybe it is. It depends on how you look at it.
A few years ago, Reuben was a tenor soloist/paid additional tenor at my church -- just as The Boy is now, incidentally. Reuben wasn't entirely stealth, but I hardly knew him. Don't think I even spoke to him at the time. There was no reason for me to know he was trans. He passes fine. But I had this odd sense that there was something I ought to know about him, and had no clue why. This was during my femme phase, if I remember correctly.
Then last year, I was talking to Pastor Kim about transition. She said I should get in touch with Reuben.
My first reaction was an exaggerated flood of relief at the prospects for my own voice on T. I'd somehow gotten worried that it might ruin one's voice: I don't know why I thought that but I didn't have any way of knowing otherwise. But I know knew I'd heard one FTM sing, and there's nothing wrong with his voice. It's not as much like the average bio-male voice as it could be, but it's beautiful, if a little eerie (falsetto timbre with tenor pitch, go figure). And now I've heard some FTM voices that are completely ordinary. Sort of silly that I was worried about that. But Reuben's existence helped me stop being worried.
I asked Pastor Kim if she could get me in touch with Reuben. She said she didn't have current contact information for him, but she would try to track him down. In the meantime, however, the gods got me in touch with him.
A few weeks ago I was playing recorder at the BART station, and I got a dollar from -- Reuben! I thought it was Reuben. I wasn't sure whether I remembered what he looks like well enough. Looked and sounded as if he might be FTM, now that I've started paying attention to such things, check. Tall enough to help him pass, medium to slim build, check. Brown hair, glasses, [insert word for those Jewish caps that I will make a fool of myself if I try to remember and spell], check. But I wasn't sure.
The Dude That May Or May Not Be Reuben put the dollar in my box, said "Recorder power!" and continued to the fare gates.
I almost stopped in the middle of the piece I was playing and said, "Tranny power!" (yes, of course I know it was too public to say that). I really almost stopped in the middle of the piece and said, "Don't I know you from somewhere?" But somehow my brain didn't work fast enough to do that. And The Dude That May Or May Not Be Reuben left.
Since then, every time I've played at that station, if I remembered to, I literally prayed that I would see him again. I didn't. Not while playing recorder. But the gods don't always work the way we expect.
Last night I was on my way to the FTM coffee shop thingy, and I was late. I'm always late, because of teaching, but I was really running behind that evening. I didn't know why it was taking me so long to get ready to go. I finally got to 16th and Mission. I got off the train, and there at the top of the first flight of stairs, talking on his cell phone, was -- Reuben. I was even more sure it was Reuben. I walked around to the other side of him and looked at him. I probably looked like I was cruising him. He hung up his phone just at that moment. As I'd planned, I said, "Do I know you? You sing, don't you?"
"I don't think I've seen you before."
I opened my mouth to say where I thought I had seen him.
But he beat me to it. "Reuben."
"Ha! Yes. You are Reuben. I'm a member of Trinity Church in Berkeley. But you saw me before my transition."
In the ensuing brief conversation, I gave him my card. I like opportunities to create connections between FTMs. We need each other. Well, maybe Reuben doesn't need any of the rest of us anymore, now that he's been successfully transitioned for years. But it's the principle of the thing.
No, Reuben and I did not exactly talk about transition. From the way I was talking, though, he could probably tell I knew about him.

Another thing that happened last night was that I met Max Valerio, author of The Testosterone Files. But I didn't know it was that Max until he had left already.

I almost wanted to give that panhandler today some money just for calling me sir.

Random pointlessly-dirty adolescent-male humor of the day (urghhh, the joke is on me this time): I mentioned my recent extreme horniness. Then I mentioned being surprised I'm turning out to be a queer guy. Then I said, "I'm having difficulty thinking about anything but The Boy."
The guy I was talking to looked at me funny. "You call it The Boy?"
Ouch. That was a little too funny. I was more embarrassed than I knew I was still capable of being. I spluttered. "No! I call him The Boy! An actual person. My friend with benefits."
We kept looking at each other and spontaneously cracking up for several minutes.
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