Transforming the Dialogue at Simmons College

Hello Friends!

The fine folks at the Simmons College* MSW program reached out to me last week and asked if I would like to participate in their new program aimed at educating their population on trans* issues.  Of course I’m happy to help!

To be more specific, Megan, the marketing coordinator for Simmons, informed me that Simmons is “the third US women’s college to accept students who identify as transgender,” and also told me the college is “embarking on an exciting initiative that aims to educate the masses on trans* lives.”  Neat!  I’m in!  But first, let me let Megan finish explaining what exactly this project entails.

She continued, “[t]his spring, we are launching “Trans*forming the Dialogue,” a campaign designed to shift the conversation away from the problematic questions that are often asked of the members of the transgender community and foster a more progressive dialogue.”  Any readers interested in seeing the final project can find it here in June.

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So, I am one of a few bloggers she has invited “to be a featured voice in this campaign and provide [my] unique perspective.” To that end, I answered three questions:

1. What are the do’s and dont’s when asking a trans*person about their experiences?

Well, I like to keep it simple: keep it respectful.  Speak from a place of integrity.  I guess what I’m saying is, it’s actually really easy to talk to trans people about their experiences if you come to us as a person first (that’s why you start from a place of integrity), and as a trans person second.  Ask yourself, before you ask me, why are you about to ask me the question you are going to ask?  Is it to learn about me, or is it to objectify me?  Is the answer to the question necessary for the interaction we are having?  The thing that I think trips up some cis-gender people, people who are allies and who want to get this right, is that they are so worried about embarrassing themselves or saying the wrong thing that they end up embarrassing themselves or saying the wrong thing.  Remember the golden rule: treat me how you would want to be treated, and interacting with trans* people, or any minority culture or person different from you, becomes much easier.

2. What are 2 – 3 questions that one should NOT be asking a transgender person?

Do not ask me what my “real” or “birth” name is.  It’s none of your business (in the case of my birth name), and actually, you know what my real name is, it’s the one I introduced myself to you as.

Do not ask me what surgeries I’ve had.  The state of my medical transition, if I am transitioning medically, is also none of your business.  Just like cis-gendered people do not have to justify their gender presentation to me, I do not have to justify my gender presentation to anyone else.  This is why coming to me as a person first, and as a trans person second is important. While my gender identity is important, it is only a part of the whole.  Treat me like a whole person, and we got no problems.

3. What are 2 – 3 questions that one SHOULD be asking a transgender person?

Please feel free to ask me what pronouns (if any) I prefer.  Sometimes people play with the gender norms, confound them, complicate them, fuck with them, and we might not be aligned with the traditional gender presentation our preferred pronouns would have you believe. Meaning, for example, sometimes dudes have breasts, sometimes ladies have stubble.  I would never be offended if someone wanted to know how I preferred to be referred to.  See how that’s different than asking me if I have a penis?

I am also always happy to answer the kinds of questions Megan has asked here.  Let’s talk about how to start a conversation, let’s talk about cultural norms, let’s talk about opinions and experiences.  I am very open with my transition, duh, I’m spilling the beans on a public blog. But not all trans people want to share their lives with the whole of the internet.  Start from a place of respect, a place of integrity, and let us lead you to how far we are willing to go with the divulgence of personal information.

I’m sure I’m missing some things, but that’s why I’m not the only blogger they approached.  I want to thank Megan for reaching out to me and giving me this opportunity.  Thanks Megan! And I applaud Simmons College for engaging the trans community: it’s this kind of willingness and effort that is the starting point from which we can foster real and meaningful dialogue across the sometimes too-silent gulfs between discourse communities.

Also, in closing I want to give a shout out to Simmons’ queer group, SWAG.  In the sea of poorly-chosen queer acronyms, SWAG knocked it out of the park. Great job people!

If this was your first time here, thanks for stopping by, and as always,

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli


* Woot-Woot Massachusetts!

Workin’ on My Fitness

Howdy Folks!

These past few months, while I’ve been working on the book, my workout routine has fallen off quite a bit.*

While it was necessary in the beginning for me to concentrate my time and efforts solely on writing (to get a good and consistent practice in place), now I can bifurcate my attention (and spare time) to the dual focus of writing and exercise.

So, since fitness is frequently a hobby of trans guys (as our bodies, with hormones and surgeries, get more in line with what we’ve always wanted them to be), I thought I would post my routine, in the hopes that to someone it might prove helpful.

Some caveats:

I AM NOT A PROFESSIONAL TRAINER.  OBVS.  I am of moderate ability, in an average body.  I have no physical handicaps (other than some shoulder/knee issues).  Please exercise caution during all physical activity.  Use my workout as a base, and modify it to suit your goals.

I am not new to working out, so if you are, please start slow (lower reps than me, less time for cardio), consult a doctor, etc., etc.  I stress: modify my routine to fit your body type, ability, needs, time, etc., etc.

I hate going to the gym.  HATE. IT.  I like how I feel after, but dread going because of all the typical reasons: takes too long to get there, cardio is boring, weights are boring. Oh yeah, and if I’m doing it right, it’s hard.

I like this home routine I’ve created because using body weight is more fun to me than using traditional weights.  With this routine, all you need are two chairs and a broom stick (and a body and 30 minutes).

I chose 30 minutes to start for a duration, and when I did it this morning, I was plenty out of breath, and it took almost exactly 30 minutes (30:45:06 to be exact).

You’ll notice I do the bodyweight routine at home three days a week, and cardio (jump roping in the basement, more convenient than going to the gym and, for me, WAY more fun than a treadmill or elliptical) three days a week.  Even God took a day off, so I do too: it’s 20 minutes of yoga at home, so it’s pretty chill.  It’s not hot, or meant to double as cardio–it’s just meant to be some healthy bodily self-love at the end of the workout week.

Eli’s Weekly Workout Schedule

Body Weights: M/Th/Sa

Perform all exercises as a massive superset. Rest 3 minutes between. Repeat 3 times.

-Squat (10 reps)

-Plank (60 seconds)

-Pull-up (10 reps) (This is how I do pull-ups at home)

-Pushup (10 reps)

-Tricep Dip (10 reps)

-Wall Sit (60 seconds)

-Lunge (10 reps/leg)

-Crunches (15 reps)

Cardio: Tu/Wed/Fri

-30 minutes jump rope

Yoga or Lake Walk: Sunday

-20 minutes on the mat

Are you a gym enthusiast?  Have some pointers or feedback?  Let’s see it!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

*There are other reasons, too: an injury, cold weather.  I just wanted to note them here to act as camaradic** fodder.  If you gave up a little, let’s get back up together!

**Why yes, I did just invent the adjectival form of camaraderie, thanks for noticing!

My Invisibility Cloak Came in the Mail! I Mean, in a Vial!

Hello friends!

Well, this past February marked 2 years on T.  I’ve been busy, so busy writing my book that I have had little time for this type of transition writing.

But I did want to check in, and write a little update, and talk some about today, the trans day of visibility.

First, to continue my cavalcade of odd anniversaries, here’s my 25 months on T update.

As far as physical transitions go, I am steady on my dosage, still doing IM injections on my own, and so the changes at this point are gradual.

My voice seems to have settled into a much deeper but still sometimes squeaky range.  I think the squeaking has more to do with operator error than range.  I have to push more air out, with greater volume, for deeper and more even results.  I can’t speak from the same place in my throat that I did before testosterone, nor can I use the same amount of air.

My chin remains the dominant place for hair growth for me, but my sideburns are slowly coming in.  The mustache is still struggling, but he’s there.  K talks about the “hair” on my chest occasionally, but I think she’s just being supportive.

Muscles are dependent on my gym routine, which has gotten more sporadic because of a knee injury.

Socially, I am 99.9% of the time read as male, with only the occasional “miss” from behind, likely because of my short stature.  I don’t care at all when I’m mis-gendered; it no longer feels like a deep personal wound.

The territory I’m moving into is of the “stealth” trans person.  And as today is Trans Visibility Day, I thought I would take some time to write a little about living a stealth life.

Most of you know I live in Chicago.  I believe being able to afford to live in a major city is a privilege when one is trans.  I’d like to write a little bit about the other ways I am privileged before I write any more about living a stealth life.

I’m white, and a trans guy, so as I pass I have the patriarchy on my side big time.

I’m able bodied, and I’m in the economic middle class.

Oh, and I’m conventionally attractive.

IMG_7053

Not bad.

In short, I’m privileged as fuck.

So going forward in this conversation, know I know this.  I know when I talk about my experience it is a charmed one.

So, carrying on:

The other day I was at work, and a new co-worker and I were chatting, some issue of women’s clothing came up, and she made some comment to me, the jest of it being, “you boys don’t know how tough it is to be a lady.”

It was just idle workplace chatter, but it was nice to be affirmed in my gender.  I have been stealth for a little bit, but when a comment is made by a person who just reads me as male, without knowing me as trans, it’s still affirming and feels good.

I could have very easily said back to her, “Actually, I wore bras for years, and I know exactly what you’re talking about.”

But I didn’t say that.  Why?

Because sometimes it’s nice to not be a trans talking head.  Sometimes it’s just nice to be a man.

That’s what being stealth affords me: it affords me the privilege of blending in.  It allows me to “pass.”

God, I hate that word: passing.

And stealth, I hate it too.

Because stealth makes it sound like I am hiding.  Like I’m ashamed to be trans.

Let it be known: I AM NOT ASHAMED OF BEING TRANS.

But I don’t want to talk about it every time my maleness is innocuously brought into conversation.

Sure, I “pass,” but what exactly does that entail?

Passing is, in my case, short for passing for a man.

It implies I’m not a man, that I am an imposter.

And that’s not true.  It’s actually the opposite.

Actually, for so many years, I “passed” for female.  I responded to female pronouns, and a female name, and I used the women’s bathroom.  But it was always fake.  I was always faking it, and so I “passed” for female.

Now?  My body and my presentation are aligned with my internal sense of self.  The world is able to read me as the man I always have been.

“Passing” and “being stealth” aren’t indicative of a mis-aligned body; they’re indicative of a maligned system, a system that only reads gender in strict binary ways.  We have to work to broaden the terms, so men who can’t afford surgeries or DON’T WANT THEM can still be read as men.  Maybe some trans women don’t want hormones; they should still be addressed as women.

I think I’m starting to ramble, so let me say this:

I like being trans, and I’m happy to answer people’s questions about the trans community, as much as I can, because I can’t speak for all of us.  Sometimes I am just going to be a dude, and so sometimes that means I’m not going to bring up my trans-ness in conversation.  And thank god, because who wants to listen to lectures all day?  I guess I’m just growing up, meaning, I’m settling into my male body and in that way being trans doesn’t come up so much anymore.  However, if someone says some ignorant thing about the trans community, or the queer community at large…or about women, or people of color (because more broadly it’s about intersectionality, isn’t it?  We have to have each other’s backs, don’t we?), I would surely speak up.

And so this blog, and its role in my life is changing as well.  MLWT is still relevant, in that I am still trans, but the physical stuff, the hair growth and voice change and sex drive are no longer the crux of my transition story.  It’s more anthropological than biological at this point in my life.

So as things arise, I will still post here, but this blog is taking a bit of a backseat to my other writing project.  Feel free to still comment, as I will still happily respond to them.

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

I’m Baaaaack!

Darlings!

It’s been thirty long days without you, but I return a successful man.  I completed my Nanowrimo task, and now have a 45,000 word first draft.

First draft of what, you ask?

A graphic novel memoir, title to be revealed at a later date.

I’m spending these next 2 months reading some supplemental texts, and on my weekends reviewing my draft and planning rewrites to dive into my revision process in February.

For appetite whetting purposes, this memoir is about my family, our multi-generational addictions and habits, war and fishing, Stevie Nicks and french orphans.  More details to come–

I am back to my weekly blogs starting this week, and November was a huge success in that I have a very solid writing practice down, clocking in at two hours each morning before work.  This last month has been enriching and full of surprises.  I worked hard, and lo and behold, it paid off.

I’m glad to be back to the ol’ blog!

Be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

An Excused Absence: NaNoWriMo

Hello Friends!

It’s that time of year again…NaNoWriMo!  For those of you unfamiliar with this concept, click this.

Official National Novel Writing Month crest.  Image courtsey of http://nanowrimo.org.

Official National Novel Writing Month crest. Image courtsey of http://nanowrimo.org.

Yes, my participation in National Novel WrIting Month last year was, ahem, abysmal at best, but this year I’ve got new resolve and a functioning plan.

That project I’ve been hinting at in my recent posts?  Well, it’s a writing project. A big one.

It’s not a novel in the traditional sense, but it is large in scale, and would benefit from some deadlines and structure.  And NaNoWriMo is just the place to get encouragement and resolve.

So far, I’ve created a Pages Doc with to-do lists for the days leading up to Nov. 1st.  I’ve also made a calendar with writing prompts for each day in November to keep me on track.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Between now and then I have the following to do:

Plan secret surprise for wife (this will be revealed in December…)
Organize notes into one Pages Document
Write blog post alerting readers to my impending and epic absence
-Research & fill out calendar w/ notes for each daily prompt

Yeah, about that last crossed off one…

I’m taking a month off the ol’ blog.  I want to utilize November and get a large chunk of writing done when I’m energized and excited, and I just can’t focus on both this project and MLWT at the same time.  I love you guys, and will still respond to queries and comments and emails, but the posts will have to wait.

You guys know how hard it’s been for me to find a good writing practice.  It’s been so hard I’ve made private most of the posts in which I’m bitching about my writing practice because I sound like a preening ass in them, and so I have nothing to link to for this reference.

And I have a great project right now, honestly, you’re all going to be so impressed if I can make the most of November and come back in December with something great to show for it.  So I have to go.  But I will be back.  And we all might just be really proud of me.

Trust me.

And, in the meantime, be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli

Greatest (T)its

Dear Readers,

I’ve missed you!  I didn’t post these last two Fridays because I’ve been busy with another writing endeavor, one secret at this point, but as the project evolves, I’ll consider some sneak peeks…

I thought, in the meantime, I’d do a top ten list of the most viewed posts.

The Homepage, at 25,800 views, is killing it, and my About Me page was in the top ten as well.  I took those two out of the list below, as to limit to only posts and not pages.

And so without further adieu, let’s start this party off right with…

10. Post-Op Depression: Ugh. Ok…that was a rough start.  Anyway, on to number 9…

9. Photo Comparison: Face Shape on T: Wherein you get the pleasure of gazing upon me.

8. At Home in the Underground: Departures and Returns: Where your hero says goodbye to an old friend.

7. 11 Weeks Post-Op: What a slick baby!

6. Blog Brothers: Some of the dudes I looked to for fraternity and inspiration when I first started this journey.

5. Day Six: First Look at the New Chest, or Parade of Photos! Gross.  But informative!  (Still gross.)

4. Two Weeks Post-Op: You guys are really into the topless pics, you old pervs.

3. The, as it were, titular post.

2. Top Surgery How-To: Compression Vest and Bandages Daily Regiment: Boring.  But if it makes you happy, I’m supportive.

And the number one most visited post, with over a thousand views is…

1. Top Surgery Check List! Hooray!

You have a favorite that didn’t make it on the list?  Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.  Have a favorite trans blog you’d like to inform me of?  Leave it in the comments!

Thanks for reading, friends, and be nice to yourselves,
Your Pal Eli