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I’m Sorry, but This is a Curse Not a Blessing

Transman’s last post mentioned the horrors of puberty and the way girls in his sixth-grade class worshiped at the altar of Judy Blume, trading her books and waiting for periods, boobs, and boyfriends. Transman wanted none of that and yet somehow got two out of the three way before the girls in his class.

A badge of pride to young girls on the verge of womanhood; a lumpy pad of shame to Transman. Why are they called napkins? Who's using them at the dinner table? Image: tranquilheart.hubpages.com

Transman came of age in the 1970s in the Deep South. Old people told him very seriously that babies were either found under cabbage leaves or brought by storks. Transman vowed never to touch cabbage and to shoot any stork he saw heading his way; of course, he has since changed his tune; kids–at least, his kids–are pretty cool. Long story short: No one explained any of the facts of life to Transman. He lived in ignorance similar to what Loretta Lynn described in A Coal Miner’s Daughter.

"I'm just trying to help you navigate puberty, Transman. Why do you spurn my efforts?" Judy Blume image: tulipan-verlag.

Seriously, he had no idea what was going on the first time Aunt Flo made a visit. Transman had been playing catch with his next door neighbor, Robbie, when he went inside to get a drink of water and to pee. Imagine Transman’s horror when he saw that first brownish stain in his skivvies. “What the f$%k?!” Transman said to himself as he pulled up his pants and went to the living room to call his mother at work.

He dialed the phone with a shaky hand and explained the terrible thing he had just seen.

“You have your period,” his mother said bluntly. “Your sister might have some pads in the vanity. You just stick them in your underwear.”

What the hell kind of foreign language are you speaking, lady? Transman thought. What are you talking about periods and pads for? I’m not writing an essay; I’m bleeding to death or something.

Transman hung up the phone and stared out the window at the palm tree in the front yard. If his mother was correct and he had his period, then he was doomed. If he was correct and he really was bleeding to death, he was doomed. Either way, Transman felt like shit.

"I shall keep womanhood at bay!" Image: exquisitelyboredinnacogdoches.blogspot.com

There was a banging on the door. Transman had forgotten about his friend.

“You comin’ back out?” Robbie yelled.

Transman opened the door and said, “I don’t feel so good. I think I’m gonna watch TV for a while.”

Robbie tucked the football under his arm, said, “Cool. It’s almost time for Ultraman anyway,” and started into the house.

“I really don’t feel good,” Transman said, standing in Robbie’s way. “I kind of want to be alone.”

Robbie’s brow furrowed.

“Oh,” he said and stepped back outside. “Okay.”

Neither boy spoke about it, but the dynamic between them changed that day. Transman had days every month where he felt like crap–like a badger and a wolverine were clawing at each other from opposite sides of his spinal column–and he didn’t want to play war or build forts or jump ramps with his bike. Transman started hanging out on the sidelines more and more.

When it came to her son and bras, Transman's mom was "The Misunderstanding Mother." Image: ebay.com

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Transman’s boobs appeared shortly after his period starting coming around uninvited once a month. Transman had spent most of his childhood shirtless. In second or third grade, his parents started encouraging him to wear shirts all day, not just at school or to go into 7-11 with his brothers. By fourth grade, his mother was demanding he wear a shirt “all damn day”–even if it was the same T-shirt every single day.

Transman tried to ignore the tingling feeling in his chest and the tenderness. He wore sweatshirts and jackets to hide the little lumps that were forming on his chest, but on picture day in the sixth grade, his mother made him wear one of those god-awful shiny polyester shirts that were so popular in the 70s. Transman put it on and his mother took one look at him and said the most awful thing she could have said, “You need a bra!”

"Oooh, and they're so perky!" Transman took solace in the fact his grandma was too shy to say the words "boobies" and "nipples" out loud. Image: romances.com

The womenfolk of Transman’s family rejoiced in this news and made a communal shopping trip to Beall’s Department Store to buy Transman some bras. His grandmother was both proud and petrified as she took him to the lingerie department. Transman stared at the floor while his grandmother, mother, and a saleslady looked through bras and held them up to Transman. He silently prayed that no one, especially not his nemesis, Paul Wheeler, would see him.

“You want a little padding, so your nipples don’t show,” his grandmother whispered, mouthing the word “nipples.”

Transman went to school the next day  wearing a bra. Because boys have a mental sensor installed for this sort of thing, every boy in school found reasons to walk behind Transman and snap his bra strap.

Around lunchtime, with his back blistered from constant “thwaps” of elastic, it dawned on Transman that no one would ever see him as a boy again. He was angry that his mother had made him wear the damn bra. He was angry that the universe had made him blossom into womanhood before everyone in the whole goddamn school.

Poor Eddie Foster had no idea this was going on in Transman’s head when he made the fateful mistake of doing like all the other boys had done that day and hooked a finger under Transman’s bra strap.

Transman spun around and punched Eddie. He pushed Eddie up against the beige concrete wall of the cafeteria and hissed, “Don’t ever touch me again.”

As is the code among boys, no one ratted on Transman for hitting Eddie, since to do that would have acknowledged a boy getting beaten by a girl. Transman knew this to be the truth, but he told himself Eddie kept his mouth shut because Transman was such a badass.


‘You Do Know This is Permanent, Don’t You?’

Every once in a while, some well-meaning person in Transman’s life will assess the changes he has gone through and mentally weigh the ones he’s got ahead of him and get a concerned look on his or her face. Transman doesn’t need a crystal ball or psychic powers to figure out what’s on the person’s mind; he knows what’s coming. Said person will lean in close, look Transman in the eye, maybe even touch his arm, and say, “You do know this is permanent, don’t you?”

Sometimes, Transman is tempted to dramatically embrace the person and say, “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for pointing out the obvious!”

"My dear, Kay, without you pointing out obvious shit to me, I would surely be a fool." Image: hollywoodheyday.blogspot.com

But, he doesn’t.

Transman just nods and calmly says, “Yep.”

For folks who aren’t part of the trans community, lemme tell ya something: there are pretty rigid standards of care for folks who want to transition with physical interventions like surgery and hormones.**  We can’t just walk in with a huge bag of cash and demand surgery and hormones. We can’t just change our ID cards, birth certificates, social security cards, etc., at a whim. It’s a long, involved, expensive process. If you really want to know details, you can read the World Professional Association for Transgender Health’s standards of care here: http://www.wpath.org/

"Are You There God? It's Me, Transman." Image: winiferdintheburbs. blogspot.com

What these well-meaning people don’t seem to get is that Transman has never ever ever ever never ever been comfortable with his body–well, okay, he was pretty much fine with his body when he was a kid; but, when he hit puberty and suddenly sprouted boobs, Transman’s body betrayed him.

Up until then, he was seen and treated as a boy by everyone. Then, hellooooo–when did Transman wake up in Dolly Parton’s body? Crap! When the girls in sixth grade were passing around Judy Blume’s Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and wishing for their periods, Transman was down on his knees every night praying that that would not happen to him: “Are you there God? It’s me, Transman. Please, please, please, do not open the floodgates.” (He did stop short of breaking into a James Brown-inspired dance; perhaps this is where he went wrong; maybe God likes funk and soul and was only waiting for Transman to join the Soul Train line dance.)

"Damn, I'm so intense I don't need hair." Image: startrek.com

Anyway, Transman knows good and well that the secondary sex characteristics brought on by testosterone are, for the most part, permanent. The deeper voice, the facial hair, and (even more, in his case) body hair are permanent. Even if Transman has to stop taking testosterone, those things will be forever part of him. Transman knows that if he goes bald on testosterone, he will stay bald. He’ll rock it like Patrick Stewart. What won’t stay are things like the fat redistribution on his body–the fat will move from his gut to his butt like on a woman’s frame. Not good.

Transman knows that when he has those appendages on his chest removed, they ain’t comin’ back. He’s counting on that. He wants them to be, as Lefty Frizzell once sang, “gone, gone, gone.”

"Everyone wants to look like me except you, Transman. Why? Why don't you want to look like me?" Image: whatsthestorynow.blogspot.com

What Transman doesn’t get is why people don’t seem to show the same concern when someone wants to turn into a living Barbie doll. Women who are uncomfortable with their bodies and want double-extra Ds and a big round bubble in the back don’t have to sit on a therapist’s couch for months to make sure they truly understand the changes they are about to make. Those changes are permanent and have more than a few immediate and long-term risks. The surgeries will change how the recipient is perceived by others and how she perceives herself.

How many people tried to intervene when Pamela Anderson, who already had a great body and beautiful face, decided she wanted to have her own permanent life preservers installed? No one seems to have told Joan Rivers, “Whoa! Put on the brakes, Joanie!” when she decided to become the first living figure at Madame Tussaud’s. Who was there for them?! Where were the well-meaning, big-eyed, touchy-feely folks in Pammy and Joanie’s lives? Why did no one spin Pete Burns round like a record, baby, and scream, “No, Pete! Don’t! Don’t do it!”

Oooh, Transman feels cheap and catty now. He needs to have his “bitchy bone” removed.

** Not every transperson goes through the same process. More and more medical teams are starting to practice “informed consent” with their trans patients.


Envy of a Fur Shirt

"I can keep myself warm in winter." Image: poptower.com

Transman is feeling some mixed emotions today, kids. His oldest is officially a teenager. That’s not so upsetting beyond the fact that Transman now needs to invest in a deep freezer and take up hunting to keep the family in food. What is upsetting to Transman is that the lad has suddenly sprouted more hair than Transman. Transman used be proud of his furry legs and hairy stomach, but within a matter of weeks, Transman’s son has sprouted what is the potential for chest hair of Tom Selleckian proportions.

This isn’t just Transman’s hangup. Even cisguys have chest hair envy. Transman has heard many a hairless cisman wish for more chest hair because it is something they, too, associate with manliness and virility. It doesn’t help when guys who do have lots of chest hair brag about having had to start shaving when they were 8 or something and how much their women love running their fingers over the pelt on their chests. When the folliclely blessed say things like, “The only place I don’t have to shave is the soles of my feet!” it makes the rest of us seethe with envy. Then, the best we can come up with is to loudly express our joy at not having back hair. When back hair becomes sexy, we are screwed.


What Kind of Man Are You?

When one decides to follow through on changing genders, there are certain “Standards of Care” that are usually followed. One step in the process is to park one’s butt on a therapist’s couch and discuss the whys and hows of the situation.

Transman had a great therapist during this part of the transition process. She never let Transman off easy and asked him all sorts of questions to make him think. One that he still struggles with is “What kind of man are you?” Transman’s therapist wanted to know what kind of man he saw himself as–macho? (If you start singing the Village People, Transman will punch you right in the throat.) Intellectual? (Yeah, Transman laughed out loud at that suggestion, too.)

“Well, let’s put it this way,” his therapist said, “who are some of the men you admire? Who do you model yourself after?”

Transman stared at his therapist. Like every other person on the planet, Transman is an amalgam of all the people, places, and experiences in his life. How could he point to one or two men and say, “That’s me!”

Atticus Finch: Bespectacled bad-ass.

The first person who popped into Transman’s mind was Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird. Sure, he is fictional and was created by a woman, but Atticus is a well-rounded man, the sort of guy Transman wants to grow up to be like. Atticus takes care of his family and his community, stands up for those who have been silenced or who are weaker than him, and he’s not afraid to take action.

Transman also digs the fact that Atticus read to his kids and practiced the Socratic method with them–asking them questions about things until they came to their own conclusions about a given subject. Plus, being in Transman’s position, he’s gotta give props to a dad who lets his daughter climb trees and wear overalls.

Transman was a little afraid to admit his admiration for Keith Richards and Waylon Jennings because both dudes had had a little problem with substance abuse. Even though Transman is a frustrated would-be cult rock star, his admiration for this pair has very little to do with their musical abilities. It’s all about attitude, baby. Keith and Waylon always stick to their principles when it comes to art and self-expression.

"Look, mate, I need my wardrobe back." Image: esquire.com

Transman has borrowed many things from Keith Richards, including fashion tips like “cut your own hair without the use of a mirror,” and “drape yourself in your girlfriend’s scarves; borrow her eyeliner and earrings, but wear a skull or two so people know you’re a dude.” Transman only hopes that he has the courage to dress like a pirate/gypsy/gangster when he’s pushing 70.

Unfortunately, Transman never followed through on practicing those three chords he learned on guitar, so he will never follow in the bootsteps of Keith or his other musical hero–Waylon Jennings.

To young Transman, Waylon was, as the kids said about four years ago, da Bomb. The man exuded cool and as someone–maybe, Emmylou Harris–said, “he’s so manly, even his voice has a beard.” Transman has gotten some of his fashion sense from Waylon: to this day, he believes jeans and vests should be staples of a man’s wardrobe. Transman’s also waiting for his own beard to come in full enough to have a goatee. He doesn’t care whether it’s in style or not. He will make it his own!

Every man needs a good vest. Image: morrisonhotel.com

But, fashion aside, there was much to admire in Waylon. Transman always dug Waylon’s individuality, artistic integrity, humor, and his generosity to fellow musicians. Most people familiar with the history of country music know that Waylon was always vocal when it came to artists’ rights to creative control over their own work. That is a big part of his legacy and it filtered out beyond the confines of Nashville to other parts of the music industry.

Despite his own popularity, Waylon always gave credit to his band members and the other people who helped him along the way. He credited his drummer, Richie Albright, for talking him out of quitting the music business altogether in the early 1970s. He said it was Albright who suggested they use the rock’n’roll business model and that reignited the spark in his music career. He also gave credit to his wife, Jessi Colter, for her musical and emotional support. Waylon highlighted great songwriters, too: Shel Silverstein, Billy Joe Shaver, Kris Kristofferson, Harlan Howard, and of course, his buddy, Willie Nelson. It takes a big man to share the credit and glory–especially when a man has overwhelming success in his chosen field.

Transman also digs the fact that Waylon took responsibility for the mistakes he’d made in life. For example, when it came to drugs, Waylon said no one had helped him get addicted to them, so no one  but him could get him off them, either. Waylon did much of his own detox sitting on a swing in his front yard, watching his youngest son, Shooter, play. It may have taken him a long time to grow up, but Waylon finally decided that his his wife and kids were worth being clean for.

Not all of Transman’s role models are celebrities. Mostly, he looks up to the guys around him who work hard, take care of their families, and generally make their communities a little bit better by donating their time and skills. That’s all Transman wants to do these days. Someone else will have to be the rock star.


So, You Wanna Go Out?

Photo illustration by Transman

Why would anyone date  a freak like you?” my macho redneck cousin asked. “I mean, chicks want a real man.”

Transman has secretly asked himself the same question. Why would anyone want to be in a relationship with me? Besides the fact that I’m handsome, funny, smart, charming, and can cook?

Well … Transman gave it some thought and came up with some reasons why Transman would make a good partner (it should be noted that Transman is coming from a straight guy perspective here; he appreciates other men, but he likes the ladies. Really likes the ladies.) As always, Transman speaks for himself. Maybe other transfolks agree with his views; maybe they don’t.

10. Transman is not afraid of buying feminine products at 3 a.m. Transman didn’t ever like buying those things for himself, but if his girlfriend sends him to Walgreen’s in the middle of the night to bring her back some Tampons, Transman won’t balk at the request. He knows That Time of the Month sucks. Especially when That Time of the Month doesn’t show up on the regularly scheduled date. (And, speaking of  dates, That Time of the Month always seems to show up on date nights. WTF? Transman wants answers from the Cosmos on that one.)

Exactly. Photo from Datingish.com

9. Transman has his own job and car. Transman is astounded at the women around him who put up with guys who sit home all day playing video games while their girlfriends work. Then, these boymen expect their girlfriends to come home and cook for them, do the laundry,  go to the gas station and buy them a pack of cigarettes and a six-pack, and then maybe have a little nude fun to boot. Transman is employed.  In fact, Transman currently has three jobs. Wait, Transman is making himself sound like a selfish career-minded workaholic who will forgo family time just move up the corporate ladder. Transman just means he does not fear hard work and will take care of his family. He can drive himself to the gas station for coffee and doughnuts.

8 a. Transman is good with kids. He has some. He can keep them entertained without resorting to bribery. He tells great bedtime stories. He even knows how to feed them nutritious food without them catching on. [Don't tell Transman's kids, but they've eaten way more cauliflower and onions than potatoes in their mashed potatoes. The "herbs" that Transman sprinkles on everything he serves them? Yep, it's spinach. Shhhhhh.]

8 b. Transman doesn’t fear babies. He has experience with those, too. He’s not afraid of changing diapers or getting puke on his shirt, but things might get awkward when the girls are swapping birth stories and Transman forgets himself and chimes in with, “both of mine were 10-pounders! I was in labor for 24 hours with the first one!”

7. Transman understands that pee goes in the toilet, not all around it. Transman knows what a shock it can be to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and sit down in a puddle of urine. Transman promises to always clean up after himself in the bathroom. Yes, that includes rinsing the whiskers and shaving cream out of the sink.

Transman's not afraid to scrub grout. Photo from SuperStock.

6. Transman is handy … but he knows his limits. He can start a car with a screwdriver, put things together, do basic repairs. But, he also knows when it’s time to turn things over to an expert. Transman’s not going to flood the house just because he thinks he can figure out how to remodel the bathroom using Youtube tutorials.

5. Transman knows when to shut up. Transman understands that sometimes you just need to vent, to think out loud with another person breathing in the same room. Transman won’t try to solve every problem unless you want him to. He knows how to listen for key phrases like, “I need you to …,” “I want you to …” “Could you …” and so on.

4. Transman can hold a conversation. He understands there needs to be some back-and-forth. Not everything is about him. Transman will let you talk. He’ll listen, process, and respond accordingly. Because Transman has a broad education and long life experience, he can talk about a variety of topics, too. If you’re ever on “Cash Cab” and need to call someone for help with random trivia, Transman’s the man, honey.

When this dude shows up, call Transman. Photo from Discovery.com

3. Transman notices details. This really has more to do with him having ADHD and hyperfocusing on shiny things, but Transman will notice when you get new earrings or a haircut. Unfortunately, Transman’s ADHD also impairs his “editorial function” and he might accidentally insult you as he’s trying to compliment you. When Transman says something like, “Wow, that hair cut took off ten years and ten pounds … I mean, you look kinda waifsh now … you know. Ah, never mind,” believe me, his heart is in the right place.

2. Transman knows when he needs to dress up. Transman is a jeans-and-T-shirt kind of guy, but he understands societal expectations about clothing. Got a company holiday party or going to see Great Aunt Myrtle Belle? Don’t worry. Transman will shave and put on a tie without you needing to tell him. You might still have to help him match things, though. Transman can get a little crazy with the patterns. “Plaid, stripes, and polka dots are okay together, right? Whoa, the tweed’s pushing it over the top.”

While Transman thinks his clothing choices reflect his bohemian sensibilities, he probably really just looks like Willy Wonka to the rest of the world. Photo from the Examiner.com

1. Transman has had the same equipment. Therefore, Transman knows what feels good. That’s all he’s saying, but the ladies know what he means. Wait, Transman has more to add while we’re on this delicate subject: Transman’s cousin’s main point of being a “real man” came down to genitalia. Transman pointed out that, yes, he didn’t come with standard-issue factory equipment, but thanks to accessorizing, Transman has the distinct advantage of always being able to be ready–no Viagra needed, thanks–and he can be any size, color, texture, etc., his lady might be in the mood for … hell, he can even glow in the dark and be cherry-flavored if that’s what she wants. Transman’s cousin got very quiet as he thought about the implications.


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