Thoughts and ideas (plus a little gender theory) from an intellectually curious transgender person.
- “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Over my life I have had a love/hate relationship with my face. I didn't mind the way I looked but I used to hate that I would sometimes appear feminine in pictures and can recall hoping that no one would bring it up. I possess a slight jaw and my nose is aquiline and not particularly big which today helps me to pass but, back when I was deep in denial, one of the worst things you could have said to me was that I looked in any way female. Contrast this with today where I relish a reality which gives me the freedom to opt out of FFS or hormones (should I decide never to take them). Transgender people go through phases (sometimes for many years) when we plunge headfirst into defining our masculinity to avoid the inevitable acceptance which must come. We grow beards (as I did in college) and go to the gym to forget that deep inside there is an immovable and permanent identity. As I examine how I want to live the rest of my life, it is good to know I can bank on genetics I had not
Solitude brings us perspective and self-analysis like nothing else can. Yes, we are social animals but in order to be effective and caring listeners when accompanied by others, we need that time to be able to process what we have seen and heard. Only then can we return to those social settings as an even more engaged participant. I have always been more of a one to one type person than a group person. I get lost in my thoughts in big gatherings and small talk mostly disinterests me so I need that alone time to process everything once I have been involved with others in a more meaningful way...
For the longest time the subject of sex was almost taboo within the transgender community. To be a true transsexual you didn’t dare talk about your sexual practices for fear of being accused of being a fetishist and so, pre-transition transsexual women would appear in front of their gatekeepers and pretend that their identity had nothing to do with sex which is patently false. Transgender people are sexual beings as are cisgender people. But when transsexual women imagined inhabiting a female body and fantasizing as a woman, it became something not to be discussed for fear perhaps of being misunderstood by those who did not share the suffering of gender dysphoria. I love the way Lynn Conway deals with this topic on her website: “During the 1980's, Ray Blanchard of The Clarke Institute in Canada (now CAMH) coined the new word "autogynephilia" for transvestic fetishism, explaining it as the condition of "becoming aroused into masturbation by seeing or fantasizing
Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Seth Myers do their best within the framework of their mandate to educate the populace on the horrors of this presidency. Armed only with wit and humor, they endeavor to make light of a subject that is increasingly becoming supremely unfunny; their joke cracking only thinnly veiling their contempt for the morally bankrupt nitwit who currently occupies their white house. With each passing day new allegations emerge regarding prostitutes and back room deals using crooked lawyers and, as Robert Mueller inches closer to the truth, some new diversion surfaces which is served like raw meat to his base of "deplorables". This time it is the ban prohibiting transgender people from military service. America has traditionally prided itself on having the freedom to lampoon its politicians and yet things are not as free as first meets the eye because the system is rigged. The running of the country is performed by a tiny sliver of men who control the
I was at my GP’s office recently after having missed my physical last year due to my being away in Toronto. One of the first things he mentioned to me was that among his only 3 out transgender patients in his 3,000-patient practice (me being one of them, the second one is set to transition at age 63 after knowing they were trans since the age of 4. His first patient to transition did so 20 years ago at a relatively young age. My doctor is not betraying a confidence as a name was not shared and I have told him to share any information about me with this other patient. This person’s wife unfortunately passed away from cancer about 2 years ago which makes this life transition less hazardous even if a little sadder. One of the other things my doctor mentioned is that she is very masculine in appearance and he wondered out loud with me how this was going to play out in her life. I reminded him that once you get to a certain age and one has lived with dysphoria for decades, very little i
I went swimming again recently and ended up meeting a nice young woman in the locker room who was a native of Montreal and had never spoken French. I was quite surprised by this but I know it is possible because my city is very forgiving in this way. You can hide in plain sight and manage better than the tourists who are petrified and brush up on basic phrases beforehand. We chatted for several minutes as we were both getting ready to leave and she confided that she was concerned about her weight. She suffers from a thyroid condition which means dieting doesn't work. When we are young we tend to be concerned by what others think but she seemed happy with herself and was just focusing on being healthy. I told her this was an admirable attitude. This time I had a lock which means I had both my purse and phone and took a selfie in my suit and cap with no makeup except for a little waterproof foundation. The suit is all black with a little flared skirt at the bottom. Maybe not th
When I was growing up, pride was something elusive for me. Not only because my parents brought me up not to be self-aggrandizing but because being thin, shy and transgender ensured that I would not become overly inflated in the ego department. However, I would use my intellect as a shield and act as if I were above the fray as part of my ruse. I could pretend to feel superior to others but really feel left out through my inability to relate to them in an honest way. It was my method of making sure people didn’t get too close and see the real me. As the insecurity is burned off with age and we advance in our introspection, we come to terms with who we are. The guard is let down and we learn to relax. In this sense, my coming out to others has been cathartic beyond words and I have let them in to reveal the story of my life; one which necessarily used heavy construction to make certain no soft underbelly was exposed. When we build walls around ourselves, we miss out on true vulnerabi
Here is an excerpt from the conclusion of a brilliant article in the New York Times written by Andrew Sullivan which illustrates the inherent difficulties in impeaching a president particularly in this dysfunctional and deeply politically segregated epoch in which America finds itself on a slippery slope. While Trump may a corrupt imbecile guilty of crimes which Robert Mueller can prove, it is not the primary element on which one can rest the ending of a presidency... "Yet even if that evidence were incontrovertible (and that could still emerge in Mueller’s investigation), impeachment remains a political decision. Which means that unless we experience some kind of unprecedented sea change in the pathological tribalism that now defines our politics, impeachment is a dead letter. What makes Trump immune is that he is not a president within the context of a healthy republican government. He is a cult leader of a movement that has taken over a political party — and he specifically c
The following are excerpts from a People article: "The mother of a transgender teen from Florida who died by suicide this month is hoping to raise awareness by sharing her child’s story and encouraging parents to listen to their children. With her high school graduation just around the corner in June, Eric Peter Verbeeck—who was born a male—was looking forward to beginning anew. She had already taken her first steps toward transitioning into a woman named Hope, first undergoing hormone treatments and by wearing female undergarments. One of the biggest steps for the teenager occurred almost a year ago when she came out to her mother, Patricia McKay Verbeeck, about her inner struggle of living in a body that didn’t reflect her identity as a female. With the full support of her mother on the journey forward, Eric began hormone treatments to grow breasts and started incorporating more pink into her life, such as making it the color of her watch and phone case. Yet, Eric didn’t
Discrimination against transgender people sometimes makes for strange bedfellows. Here for example, you will find radical feminists aligning with religious extremists to fight a common enemy which they describe as the dreaded “transgender agenda”; the one no one told me I was a part of when I was growing up. Apparently, we are destroying the fabric of civilization by simply asking for tolerance and, by allowing 1% of the population some basic rights, is like admitting it is perfectly okay to be like us. This non-starter would amount to an admission destroying their basic platforms which rely heavily on us either being mental defectives or men deliberately trying to usurp the place of women. That neither position relies on logic or accurate information matters less than the dogma each party holds dear proving to what extent human nature relies on self-delusion. Both these groups have a tendency to not talk to actual transgender people but prefer to make conclusions about our existen
This is going to happen more and more in these open times. Here is a young gay, feminine male who mistook his gender variance for being transgender. However, he left one important facet out: the presence of gender dysphoria which he does not suffer from. This bit of news dawned on him from watching a Blair White video who is herself a rather strident and opinionated transgender woman who happens to be correct in this rather important observation. This young man now realises he is happy being a feminine male and all ends well with no harm done....
Donald Trump brags about lying to world leaders and, looking very much like the fool he is, he does not realize the joke is on him. Perhaps he has forgotten that no one is going to want to negotiate with a liar and, when Prime Minister Trudeau reminded him that the US actually had a surplus and not a trade deficit with Canada, Trump didn't believe it until his own sycophants were able to confirm it for him. Now with Tillerson gone and McMaster likely next, he is said to be preparing himself to hire proper yes men and/or radical fringe politicians like John Bolton who share his penchant for histrionics and are considered to be too extremist even for the already fringe GOP. If people who voted for this man still don't get that he was a bad choice I suppose they never will but clearly some are, because Connor Lamb's congressional victory in a safely red Pennsylvania district could signify there is payback coming this November for not having put a stop to his buffoonery s
My almost 82 year old mother has come a long way. The other day we were on the phone and she told me how she had seen the Danish Girl and felt so bad for the main character Lili Elbe and was so glad her wife supported her. This kind of reaction would not have been possible from her some years ago but with me being transgender and hearing more about my life has really opened her mind to the subject. As I ponder where to go from here with my life it is nice to hear those positive statements that only make it easier to remove the stigma I have felt so long over being transgender. She proves that people can grow and learn at any age. I wouldn't require that my mother ever accept me as her daughter just that she accepts me as I am which is more than enough for me.
You only realize how much your life has been about discipline when suddenly you are on your own with fewer pressing responsibilities. You have little basis for comparison because you get somewhere you have never been before. In your previous life you just accepted things as they were and dealt with your circumstances as best you could. Whether it is accomodating parents, partners, children or society it suddenly dawns on you one day that you have come to a new juncture where you have a right to finally look after your own needs. The lessened outside expectations combined with the bonus of a complete disregard for the opinions of strangers, offers you a new perspective. Life often brings us to places we do not expect after decisions are thrust upon us or we make those we never expected to and, I suspect I will learn to appreciate this stage of life all the more, once I am fully acclimated to it.
Stephen Hawking lived with ALS for over 50 years; diagnosed at age 21, he beat the odds by stumping doctors and going far beyond the life expectancy for the dreaded disease. Author of the now famous work "A Brief History of Time' (I recall reading my father's copy), he was regarded as one of the great minds in the field of Physics adopting his own maverick stances on the age of the universe, the big bang theory which he found highly suspect and black holes. Life couldn't have been easy for Mr. Hawking and yet his zest for knowledge must have undoubtedly contributed to his longevity. Maybe he now has a share the secrets about the nature of our existence he so desperately sought in life. I for one hope so. Stephen Hawking has been compared by many with the likes of Albert Einstein who once famously said "God is subtle but not malicious". How ironic then that Mr. Hawking would pass away on Mr. Einstein's birthday of March 14th.
Well about a year and a half and 40,500 words later (or thereabouts) my book is now finished and released. It is available through Lulu (and I believe through other affiliated partners)in an Epub format which is what most digital E-readers use. You can download a free Epub reader anywhere on the net for free if you don't own a kindle or some other E-reader. I am pretty proud of this book and as a first time author I am sure there is much room for improvement. Nevertheless, I hope those of you who read it will enjoy it and maybe get something out of it. You might even recognize yourself in my words. I would also dearly appreciate your feedback on it if you feel so inclined to review it once you have read it. Thank you! It can be acquired here
Jin Xing is a ballet dancer, former soldier and transgender woman with her own talk show which attracts more than 150 million viewers in her native China. She was also the first person to undergo gender reassignment there in 1994 and is today a respected figure in her country and throughout the world for speaking out on key issues relating to tolerance and respect for human dignity. Jin Xing is considered a cultural icon in her country which at first rejected her for this major life change which wasn’t exactly seen as a favorable thing at the time. Yet today she is one of the leading spokeswomen for transgender people everywhere and if you have the chance to watch the video below you will understand why she commands the respect that she does...
It is not just you transitioning from one state to another; your family and your friends transition with you. By transition here I refer to whatever that means for you which could simply be going from being closeted to an out trans person. When I was speaking to Helene Cote recently she noted how many of her patients come to her with an "arm the torpedoes" attitude expecting everyone else to get with the program. I told her I personally could not do this because I made life commitments to have children and I couldn't just turn the tables on them like that. However, the other day I was having lunch with my son and we were talking about his cousin coming out as gay which led the subject towards tolerance in general and then to my being trans. I then asked him whether he would ever feel comfortable seeing me dressed. He thought for a moment, smiled and said he would but maybe then suggested that changing my voice would seem quite strange to him. He asked me to show him how
I was listening to a story on the radio about matchmakers. Two ladies who did this for a living were being interviewed; one came from the American Jewish tradition while the other was from India. They both explained the process they go through and the typical age range and background of their clients. What ended up striking me is how varied their opinions were about men and women and how people’s expectations change with age. Not surprisingly, their older clients had much higher expectations than their younger ones who hadn’t lived long enough to know what they don’t want. That inflexibility creeps in and, the longer one lives alone, the less likely we will bend to the needs of another person. The woman from India said that this process shouldn’t be that complicated and that you adjust to the other person and they adjust to you. This is the tradition of her country and she herself was married at the ripe age of 20 after 3 weeks of knowing her future husband who proposed on the thir
I found this top and flared skirt at the thrift store for a grand total of $11 and I was really pleased. The lady at the cash who I estimated to be from Jamaica (her accent was light but still there) was very complimentary regarding my height and was very chatty and friendly. Not a bad deal in my estimation...
My daughter wants to have realistic sounding orchestral instruments for her movie and although my Korg Krome workstation has a huge library of natural sounds, there are sometimes better samples found free on the internet. She was able to find an entire orchestra called the Sonatina Symphony Orchestra which is a series of natural instruments individually sampled and amassed into soundfonts. SoundFont is a brand name that collectively refers to a file format and associated technology that uses sample-based synthesis to play MIDI files where MIDI stands for musical instrument digital interface and is a method to transfer digital information between different devices. In other words, I will be able to play the orchestra using my synthesizer workstation and trigger the soundfonts found in the orchestra. I am looking forward to be able to score the movie that much more now and should be able to get an early print of the film by the end of March. Those who are interested in acquiring th
I am still amazed when I ask my daughter whether she minds if I don’t change back into male clothing to drop her off somewhere. This particular instance it was not going to be extra trouble for me to change back and, since I have always been afraid to expose family to Joanna, I still have trouble believing she is being genuine when she says she doesn't mind. “Oh that, why would I mind?” she says matter of factly. “because I know some trans people for whom that is a big problem and their family does mind” I respond I raised my children to be tolerant of everyone and never thought that it would one day come back to benefit me. I suspect that one day for my son I might feel comfortable enough to do the same. For that I am very grateful.
You might be tempted to think that trans kids are a relatively new phenomenon in our society. Indeed, we have seen many of them come out over the last 10 years or so however they are hardly an invention of the 21st century. In the not too distant past these kids would have just kept quiet, tried to blend in and dare not say anything to parents who would have beat them silly, taken them straight to psychotherapy or perhaps perform an exorcism on them. Imagine coming out as a trans kid in 1969; I don't think that would have gone over too well for most of them. Trans kids can now come out due to a new environment where parents, educators and society in general is making it easier to do so. Our level of education on this subject is exponentially greater than when we were kids. All those baby boomers who would have been just like these children simply shut their mouths and suppressed if they knew what was good for them. Don't get me wrong, I am ecstatic for these kids only that th
Increasingly in both our countries (the United States and Canada) being conservative means a rural "family values" voter while to be a liberal means to be an urban "elitist" voter. In other words, two solitdes who do not comprehend each other. But is it quite that simple? I was listening to CBC radio on Sunday where the discussion centered around the conservative party of Ontario having the same type of existential crisis that the Republicans have in the States. There are the deplorable racists, the hard core evangelicals and the old school fiscal conservatives who are more progressive on social issues (ostensibly libertarians) all vying for the soul of the same party and all trying to get along. That same day another program interviewed Ken Stern, a progressive New York agnostic Jewish male and former head of NPR, who spent one year living with the other side. He registered as a Republican and lived among people he had never really overlapped with before for an
This past week I went to see Montreal sexologist Helene Cote. She is still affiliated with the Montreal General Hospital gender identity clinic which refers some transgender patients to now world renowned surgeon Dr. Pierre Brassard. The program seems to be ending from what she tells me; at least the one that was under the tutorship of Dr Assalian who oversaw my treatment in 2007. Helene has treated and continues to treat many transsexual patients and my visit was really just a checkup to discuss where I am. It helps to do this with someone who has seen many other transsexuals and understands how we think (without being one herself). For one thing I am glad that the therapists like Helene who are working on the front lines do not buy into the AGP myth. I am on the record with her that I am not Blanchard’s biggest fan and have explained my take on the mechanics of arousal (which I will address in my upcoming book). I was also pleasantly surprised to learn from her that the diagnosti
Mexican director Guillermo del Toro has created a cinematic feast for the senses. With his own very unique vision, he has crafted a beautiful allegorical tale about difference and how deceptive the true meaning of beauty and ugliness can be in this world. He has spun a fantasy tale which at once delights and horrifies us and leaves us in thought by the ending credits. My nod for the Oscar goes to The Shape of Water and fingers crossed that Mr. del Toro is up there at the podium tonight to receive his very much merited award for best picture.
Thomas Aquinas was the first Catholic theologian and philosopher to marry together the concepts of reason and faith. He understood how the secular world could offer the believer an expansion of knowledge in how observable phenomena around us can help explain the divine. His approach to spirituality greatly influenced other thinkers who may have felt conflict between religious dogma and the world of scientific discovery...
Using the women’s locker room after my swims doesn’t feel strange and I am not stared at oddly by other women who simply go about their business. To date I have even had short conversations with some of them which also feels very natural. We are after all people and not just gender stereotypes but I am also aware it helps a lot that I pass. The lifeguards know me now and say hello when I appear poolside and they see nothing out of the ordinary probably because I don’t. After all, women come in all shapes and sizes and many are shorter than me and very rotund. By the time they get to be my age they have put on weight they cannot shed and their barrel shape cannot be disguised by a two piece. I don’t worry about padding and the only thing I have done is insert some in the bra portion of my suit since I don’t wear forms when I swim. I didn’t need to come to the pool as Joanna but I wanted to as part of my experimentation. Would I ever want to live full time? I am not sure yet but this
That video I posted of Sebian Holiday has been haunting me. Ever since I saw it I think about this young man who is slowly atrophying away knowing that his illness is terminal. His poise and wisdom beyond his years have likely been galvanized by the severity of his situation. When my father was in the last stages of his cancer I recall reading a book called “Making Sense out of Suffering” by theologian Peter Kreeft in which the apparent unfairness of life could only be put into context in the knowledge that the resurrected Christ was the gateway for all people and that those whose lives seemed so dark would only gain their salvation from this world sooner. Their suffering could serve as a model for the rest of us to see that we possess more strength than we think to help us through our darkest times. I know I have learned from this young man just by watching a 5-minute video. I see Sebian’s father by his side doing everything he can for his son and his calmness has no doubt not com