Trans I am, said Peter.  Now what? When my second year at Carolina started I was still using female pronouns and mostly going by my birth name (with the exception of my girlfriend who almost always called me nicknames), but I wanted to change that.  So I made two major decisions that propelled me forward to the person that I am today.

1) I got my first binder. (Alright, alright, I know I talk about binding a lot, but it is REALLY important to me.  It changes the way that I see myself, the way other people see me, it changes my attitude, my confidence, and when I looked in the mirror after I got one I finally started to see my physical appearance match the person on the inside.  I am planning on doing a video blog soon about binders, because I think it will be easier to show you rather than write to you about how drastically it changes my appearance and you can probably even see my confidence level go up.  I’ll also talk more on the video about how binding affects my emotional stability.) Binders aren’t the cheapest things in the world, I actually consider them to be quite expensive (good ones run up in the $50 range, which is a bit much for something that I consider underwear…or maybe I’m just cheap…either way, I’m not trying to blow 50 bucks on a binder, I mean, I could live off 5o dollars for at least a couple of weeks).  AND you can really only buy them online, so you are always running the risk of it not fitting.  AND there are certain logistical issues with some binders that make them difficult to wear (but I’ll get into those during the video).  So, basically, I wasn’t sure if I’d like the way it felt, I wasn’t sure I could find the right size (my dimensions are a little wacky, I have a super tiny rib cage so technically I need an extra-small, but I have decent sized boobs so if I get too small of a size then it could be unhealthy for me to wear, ya-da-ya-da).  BUT THEN I found the Big Brothers Used Binder Program (I’ll put a bit about it on the resources page) which allowed me to get a free used binder and all I had to do was fill out an application and send five bucks for shipping costs.  It was the best thing that ever happened to me.  I still wear it.  Since then, I have acquired only one other binder which was given to me as a gift.  From the day I got my first binder, I’ve worn a binder almost every single day.  I’ve come to very much dislike how shirts fit me without one.

2) I changed my name.  Not officially, I’m still struggling with documents and shit, but socially I started going by Peter.  This didn’t happen until late in my second year, probably February or March, but the second I decided on Peter I made sure everybody knew and I never went back.  Here is a common question that I would probably include on a FAQ page if I had one: How did you pick Peter?  Honestly….

Yes.  That’s right.  Peter Pan, y’all.  Of course, it took more than just that.  Several people in my life had pointed out that I have the characteristics and mannerisms of little boy Disney characters (Peter Pan, Mowgli, Arthur (from Sword in the Stone, this is my FAVORITE MOVIE and I implore all of you to watch it!), ect..) but Peter Pan was the one that I got way more often than the others (although, I wish it had been Arthur).  People have called me Peter Pan as a nickname all throughout my life, and now that I was deciding to adopt a more masculine name why wouldn’t I give it a shot?  So I did.  And I loved it.  It stuck, it fit, I like the way it sounds, I like the way it looks written on paper, I like the way it looks in my handwriting, and it makes me feel good.  I also tried Brendyn for a bit (this is what my parents were planning on naming me if I was male-bodied), but even my mom agreed that I am definitely not a Brendyn.  Peter became mainstream at the end of my second year, but mostly during the summer following during which I spent two months in Asheville, NC playing amongst smelly queers, squeaky clean opera singers, tents, PBR, and waterfalls.  Outside of Drum Corps, last summer was definitely the best summer I’ve ever had.  Meeting entirely new people allowed me to introduce myself as Peter from the get-go and allowed me to be me, and make great, awesome, beautiful, life-long friends who will always know me as Peter.  My first friends who didn’t know me by my birth name, who didn’t know where I came from, who didn’t know who I was before Peter, and best of all, they didn’t care.  They let me be me, they supported me being me, they loved me for me.

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Family Reunion

July 26, 2011

Erin’s party/family reunion was this past weekend at my parent’s lake house.  Guests included 7 cousins, 5 uncles, 5 aunts, 1 baby cousin once removed, my sibling, both of my parents, and 17 miscellaneous family friends.  Before arriving I was only aware that 8 (including my parents, my sibling, and a couple of family friends) out of the 38 guests knew about my trans identity, which meant I was entering a space where most of my extended family and family friends had no idea.  So…how did it go?

 

THIS is a cartoon figure of me (quiet accurate I might say) climbing a metaphorical mountain of family doubt, worry, and anxiety. SUCCESS SUCCESS SUCCESS!!!

*TOTAL SUCCESS.  LIKE WAY BETTER THAN I WAS EXPECTING. SO HAPPY I CRIED KIND OF STUFF. MY FAMILY IS COMPLETELY SUPPORTIVE!!  Most all of my extended family is alright with my transition.  I got more invitations to come visit far away family in this one weekend than I’ve gotten ever in my life!  Aunts were telling me directly that they read my blog and they support and they love me for who I am, uncles were inviting me to come party at their beach houses (which is their indirect way of showing support), cousins were asking about the process and calling me Peter and using male pronouns (although, most of my family still used my birth name and feminine pronouns.  My cousins reverted back to it when we were around other members of the family.  I felt like correcting people all weekend would have been exhausting and would have been taking away Erin’s attention, so I let it be.  I was content knowing that everybody knew, and everybody was accepting, and everybody will one day in the very near future call me Peter).  It was 100% way better than I could have ever imagined.  Of course there were a couple exceptions…

The first being an uncle on my mother’s side of the family.  It was weird with him.  I mean, I never actually discussed it with him, mostly because he avoided talking to me/looking at me/being in the same room with me all weekend.  When I forced him into a good-bye hug, he awkwardly and adamantly grabbed my hand to shake it and then turned his back.  Like it made him sick to touch me or something.  I could be misinterpreting this…I’d like to think that maybe he shook my hand to give me some kind of manly induction or something weird like that, but that doesn’t explain the not talking.  I mean, he couldn’t even bring himself to say good-bye after the weird handshake.  Makes me a little sad, but really 1 disapproval out of my entire extended family is something I can live with…of course, I’d like to try to make things work between us, I don’t at all think its hopeless, just a little weird right now.

The second and only other exception was, of course, my mom.  My interactions with her were rough the entire weekend.  I guess I was hoping that after my initial arrival and everybody treating me so kindly that she could at least put aside our differences for Erin’s party and see that I’m not an embarrassment, that she doesn’t need to feel ashamed of me.  Maybe I’m just shooting in the dark right now, but I feel like she acts differently around other people because she doesn’t want people to think that she approves (because it is clear that she definitely does not) so she over compensates by being way more disapproving than normal.  She ended up kicking me out of the house on Friday night, the reason being that I was going to sleep in the wrong bed.  We have a family friend who lives with my parents and sibling in Mount Pleasant, and apparently he has a specified bed at the lake house.  For the record, that same bed was my specified bed for 10 years before it became his, so naturally when I was going to bed I was drawn to it.  Mom said that I wasn’t allowed to sleep there, I explained that I already talked it out with the friend who was still down at the dock swimming and that we had the sleeping situation all figured out, and asked her why she was so upset.  It made her even more angry that I was raising questions about the motivation behind her rage, so she just told me to get out.  I suspect that she was simply misplacing emotions.  It hurts me when she kicks me out, which is way more often than I’d like to admit, but I think it hurts her more.  I can’t understand why she continues to do it.  When I arrived the next morning, on Saturday, for Erin’s party, I was surprised to learn that after I left the previous night my mom began to cry.  I’m not sure what it was about, but at least now I know that this is affecting her, before I thought she just didn’t care.  I know she cares.  I know she hurts.  And I know she is struggling.  What I don’t know is how to help her if she won’t give me a chance.  Saturday wasn’t much different from Friday, I tried to tell my mom about the new job I just got (I guess I thought she would be happy or proud or that it would invoke some sort of positive emotion in her) but she just brushed it off and began talking to my aunt who works for the same company as me.  She made it very clear that she didn’t care at all about my personal successes.  Saturday night she yelled at me again for sleeping in the wrong bed, but it didn’t escalate because unlike Friday night this time there were other people in the room.  I woke up on Sunday said good-bye, didn’t get one back, didn’t even get a hug back, she couldn’t wait to get me out of her house.

I will never be hopeless about the relationship I have with my mom.  There is so much potential there.  It is going to take a lot of time and a lot of talking and a lot of struggle, but I’m not going anywhere and I think she knows that.  In 5 months I will come home with irreversible changes, by Christmas I won’t resemble anything like what I’ve looked like for the past 21 years, and there will be no way around it.  I hope we have enough time and drive to figure stuff out before then.

*Side-note: while searching for a picture to put here, I typed in “happy family” to google images (don’t be judgey), I guess I was curious to see what our (American society) interpretation of a happy family is…the answer:

 

…because the only way to be happy in America is to be white, heterosexual, and have 1-2 blonde-haired children.  C’mon corporate, gimme something more realistic. 

 

Okay, so I really want to make this post mostly about my bathroom experiences, but first I’d like to express some fears I have about this weekend.  This weekend is Erin’s high school graduation party/family reunion out at my parents lake house.  This is also the first time that I’ve identified as trans at a major family function.  This is also the first time that my extended family has had public access (ie this blog) to details about my gender identity.  And THAT creates problems.  It’s not that I don’t want my family to know (or else I would have unfriended them before I posted this all over Facebook), it’s just that now I have no idea who knows and what they know.  I know some of my cousins are up-to-date with my blog, but have they told their parents?  Will they call me Peter (because this is the first time that I’ve ever gone by anything other than my birth name in front of my extended family)?  Will they be asking me about it all weekend (which really wouldn’t bother me at all, I’m just worried about taking attention away from Erin, because after all it is Erin’s party)?  Will nobody say anything at all and just ignore the whole thing (which is what generally happens when something unconventional is happening with someone in my family)?  I just have no idea what to expect.  And the scarier part is, I’m not sure how I will react.  I don’t want an overwhelming amount of attention pointed my way all weekend, and I’m not even sure if I will correct people when they call me by my birth name.  It is easy for me to correct people when I am surrounded by friends and people who are used to calling me Peter, but its a whole other story when I am in a room full of 30 people who have no idea about my life and are generally pretty conservative.  I love my family, every single one of them, but I’m just a little anxious about this reunion/party.  Of course, I’ll blog about it when the weekends over, but for now wish me luck.

OKAY. Bathrooms. I use a family bathroom or unisex bathroom whenever available, but if the choices are only men and women (this is exclusive and I encourage all of you to push for gender neutral bathrooms.  It is really important!) then I use the men’s restroom.  This started about a year and a half ago, when my physical appearance became more masculine (wearing a binder really made a difference, but also maintaining short hair, growing out my leg and armpit hair, wearing “boy” clothing, and just all around changing the way that I stand and walk added to my masculinity).  I use the stall (I have a device that allows me to use the urinal, but I really only use it if I am at a huge event where the likelihood of an accessible stall is greatly lowered), but this can cause problems.  Men’s restrooms are VERY different from women’s restrooms.  They are generally a lot dirtier, they smell like pee, sometimes the stalls don’t have doors on them (and most of the time the toilets are pissed on), and they definitely don’t have trash cans for tampons and stuff.  DIFFICULTIES.  If the stall doesn’t have a door I won’t use it, I’m not trying to have some guy walk by and see that I don’t have a dick.  If I am on my period and need to deal with tampons or pads then I have to sneak them in and then sneak them out to the big trashcan by the sinks.  It’s very sneaky and public and uncomfortable.  The reason that I do this instead of just using the women’s bathroom is because I get screamed at in women’s bathrooms.  Example: I was at Carowinds (an amusement park nearby) about a year ago and didn’t want to go into the guy’s bathroom because I was with people who didn’t know I was trans. I was avoiding tell them so I didn’t want them to see me going into the boy’s room.  I made a HUGE mistake and went to the girls room which consisted of like 20 stalls and 40 ladies washing hands, waiting in line, and using the bathroom.  From across the room (literally the farthest lady away from me) came this shouting, “What are you doing in here?  You can’t be in here you pervert!  This isn’t the boy’s room!  Get out of here right now!”, so every other lady between me and the shouting woman looks up and at me and begins shouting also.  Moms were grabbing up their kids, getting them as far away from me as possible, teenage girls were hiding in stalls, some old lady got up in my face and pushed me out of the bathroom.  It was humiliating.  I invoke a certain fear in people when I go into a ladies restroom.  Women are socially taught to fear men (and masculine presenting persons), that all men are sexual predators, and that any man who enters a women’s restroom (even if by accident) is a sexual pervert.  I have gotten yelled at, I’ve gotten shit thrown at me, I’ve gotten pushed and pulled out, I’ve gotten security called on me, so I just fucking quit.  I havent been in a women’s bathroom in 1.5 years and I have no intentions of ever going back.

Ladies restrooms are not for me, but guy’s rooms aren’t so easy either.  In addition to the sometimes missing stall doors and lack of personal trash cans, I am often very anxious about entering an all-male territory.  I’m a small guy and I still have a very feminine body, so I feel very vulnerable and defenseless entering a space where I might look like I don’t belong.  I have had guys say shit to me about being gay (because at first I often appear like I am a gay male (which is fucked up that people are stereotyping), well that or a teenage boy) but I just ignore it.  I had a guy once approach me in a bathroom for my number because he thought I was a really cute gay boy, but that’s a different story.  I have had store managers come pull me out of men’s restrooms and ask me about my genitalia (which is possibly the most inappropriate thing you could ever do).  Quite often the first thing that people say to me when they are confused about my bathroom choice is, “but you are a girl, right?  you have female parts, right?” How would they feel if I asked them about their genitalia every time they exited a bathroom?  It is just NO ONES business what kind of junk I have, what kind of junk anybody has, they do not have a personal right to know what’s in my pants.  I have also had guys to try pull up my shirt to prove that I have boobs and am therefore a girl (which is an unfair assumption, some guys grow breasts and not all women do).  It scares me.  To willingly enter a place where I know I am easily overpowered.

I have definitely encountered more physical harassment in guy’s bathrooms, but you know what, women’s bathrooms aren’t any better.  They want proof too.  They want to see my body and know my body and make sure I’m okay, that I’m one of them, before they let me into their space.  I feel like I am constantly trying to explain myself.  “Sir, you can’t be in here, this is the women’s room.”  Oh, sorry, I just need to stick this tampon up my penis really quickly.  And the thing is, I understand their confusion.  We are all raised in a society where they are only two types of people, masculine men and feminine women, and those two people have very specific physical characteristics that separate them.  I don’t fit into those guidelines.  I understand that I confuse people, that’s part of the reason I’m writing this blog, to educate people.  I just wish that the people I confuse could perhaps be a little less rude.

Dealing with bathrooms is a DAILY problem for me.  There is always a risk.  Not being able to have a personal space to use the bathroom, not being welcome in women’s or men’s bathrooms, being outcast and publicly humiliated on a regular basis is just one of the difficulties that I face everyday as a transman.

Save the Date!

July 21, 2011

WHOA, WOW, I do apologize for my nasty tone yesterday.  Allow me to make up for it:

I have an appointment/consultation scheduled with an endocrinologist in the area…ON AUGUST 15TH! As in 3.5 weeks away, 26 days, as in the most perfect timing ever, as in I must have some seriously great karma (or more likely I was just looking in the very wrong place for doctors yesterday).  I am beyond excited!  When I got off the phone with the scheduling person, I realized I wasn’t breathing, I mean, this is the beginning of a new life.  I’m not sure if I will actually start testosterone on the 15th (it might just be an initial consultation visit), but August 15th could potentially be my new birthday (of course, I will still celebrate the actual day of my birth, but now I’ll have two birthdays to celebrate!).  This timing couldn’t be more perfect.  I was worried before because I am most likely moving locations in the Spring and I wanted to be on testosterone long enough that when I got to my new location I would be passing (passing: in my case, this means being socially seen as a man), you know, with a low voice and everything.  A lot of changes happen within the first 3-6 months, so it would be ideal to transition for those months here, in Chapel Hill, where I have friends and a supportive community.  I just didn’t want to move somewhere new and have my voice cracking as a 21-year-old adult.  Also-this is perfect because I teach marching band at a local high school and I was initially worried that if I started transitioning too soon then I would have to explain to the teachers, to all of my students, AND all of their parents, that I was trans.  I have yet to lose a job because of my gender identity, but I feel like if there is one job that is super strict on things like that it would be grade school education.  Which, of course, is completely fucked up.  I WISH I had a trans teacher in high school, it would have saved me a lot of confusion, but unfortunately not all parents share my same views.  And since I am moving away and this will be my last season working with this specific school then I’ve decided that I would like to avoid any potential bullshit, start testosterone during the season, but time it so that I am just beginning to see major changes a the very end of the season, then move away and get another teaching job as male-identified (because I started this job three years ago, when I was female-identified, this is a sticky situation).  Of course, I realize that this may seem like a cop-out, and in some ways I suppose it is, BUT I feel okay about it because I have never been a secret keeper about my identity.  My students know I go by Peter (although most of them still call me by my birth name, which is how they met me when I started the job), they know I date women, they know I don’t shave my legs or my armpits, and they know that I’m really fucking cool (I’ve never had a problem with any of my students disagreeing with my identity).  It is not my place to educate them on gender identities, that is not my job, but if I am approached by a student of mine (and I have been several times) and they are seeking support then I would absolutely be there to help in any way that I can.

Basically, today was a complete turn-around from yesterday’s lull in excitement!

Another great GREAT GREAT thing happened today:  My mom called me, we talked about some trans stuff, and it went fantastically!  I haven’t really said much about my relationship with my parents mostly because I’ve spent a lot of time recounting my history and during that time I was very distant from them.  I’ve actually been distant from them for years (I used the term distant loosely, they always helped me when I needed it, I always came home for vacations, holidays, birthdays, and what not, but we were distant in the fact that I never talked to them about personal details of my life.  I am willing to take the blame for half of that.  I didn’t talk about my life because I knew they didn’t approve, so why would I start a conversation that I knew would end in argument?  I think they are also a little to blame, though, because they never dared to ask me about my personal life.  They probably thought the same thing I did, why try when you know it will just end badly?)  HOWEVER, after my conversation with my mom today, I have the highest hopes that things between us can be restored.  Last night I got an email saying that I had a new subscriber and when I looked at the email address I immediately recognized it as my moms.  I panicked.  I got scared, I got really scared, I hadn’t told my parents yet about the blog because I was planning on waiting to tell them in person when I see them this weekend, but I knew the risk I was taking.  It’s all over Facebook and I am friends with my family so its pretty obvious that I wasn’t trying to hide anything.  I just got a major flashback to when my parents found out I was a lesbian before I had the chance to tell them myself.  Scared the shit out of me.  I talked to her briefly last night about logistics for my coming home this weekend and she barely mentioned the blog.  She said that she’d read it, and that she sent it to my dad, and that she was confused and concerned (concerned is a scary word for me because in my experience it usually indicates that someone has already formed uneducated opinions around the situation).  We resolved to talk about it when I come home. 

Today she called me again and we talked for probably half an hour.  It was the most productive conversation that I’ve had with her about my gender identity in several years.  She wanted to know how to introduce me?  Does she have a son now or a transgendered daughter?  Was I really sure that I wanted to be called Peter (because the word “peter” reminds her of a penis, haha)?  Can I send her some resources for parents with transchildren?  Can I introduce her to anybody that may be able to relate?  Am I gonna grow facial hair?  Am I going to have surgery?  You know that surgery isn’t covered by insurance, right?  How are you paying for it?  When do you hear back from the job interview you just had?  Have you looked into doing any transgender medical studies?  I bet you can make some money doing that…it was incredible.  Her tone was of genuine curiosity and confusion.  She wasn’t angry or sad or overwhelmingly unsupportive.  She did mention that she struggles with the moral aspect of this situation, but honestly, that is something that only time can change.  I almost cried with joy when I got off the phone with her.  I was so happy to have a conversation about the progression of my life without feeling completely defensive and misunderstood.  I think we both realized tonight that my transition is a huge opportunity for bonding.  I mean, this has the potential to bring me closer to my parents than I’ve ever been, or it could push us apart forever.  I am paralyzed with happiness knowing that my parents are willing to give this a shot.

Doctor Frustration

July 20, 2011

4-6 months.  That is a long time and it is WAY  longer than I am willing to wait for some doctor to hand me a prescription for testosterone.  Today I spent some time contacting endocrinologists in the area, asking about appointment dates and doctor availabilities.  This is what I was told:

a) Yes, Dr. Popular is accepting new patients, but we probably won’t be able to get you in until October or November.  Okay, first of all, if you can’t get me in until 3 months down the road then in my professional opinion you are most certainly NOT accepting new patients right now.  Secondly, why the hell is Dr. Popular booked until November?  Everybody and their parents must be in need of an endocrinologist right now.  Booked, everyday, from 8am-5pm, until November.  I might suggest inviting another doctor to join your practice, Dr. Popular, you know, to help share the burden of giving hormone treatments to every single person in the entire state of NC, because according to your schedule, you must be treating all of them.  Seriously, I know someone who dislocated their shoulder, got scheduled for surgery, had the surgery, and nearly fully recovered in the time it would take for me to just get a consultation visit with an endocrinologist.  MED STUDENTS: I encourage you to look into the field of endocrinology.  Based on my research, you will be constantly busy and will therefore be a billionaire.

b) Oh, you’d like to schedule an appointment?  Actually, you need to have your referring physician (this being my therapist) call and schedule the appointment for you.  You can’t do it yourself.  As if having to go to therapy for months and getting diagnosed with a “psychological disorder” didn’t already make me feel incompetent and insane, NOW I can’t even book my own appointments?  Are you kidding me?  You actually need me to call my therapist and get her to schedule my appointment for me?  I feel like a child.  I was so taken aback by this question that I continued to offer alternatives until the person on the other end just cut me off.  I mean, I can schedule it and then have Dr. Parks call you?  Or how about I can get Dr. Parks to fax over my records and then I can call back and schedule it? Or how about—-Nope, nuh-uh, I’m sorry, but you can’t do it yourself.  I’m feeling incapable and insulted.  Also- how the hell am I supposed to schedule a time with Dr. Parks to call together?  I mean, she doesn’t know my availability for appointments, and I know she is super busy, and she’s having a baby in a few weeks!  This lady needs to rest, not stress about finding time to schedule appointments for me like she’s my mother.

Overall, I feel discouraged.  I guess I just don’t understand why this has to be so damn hard.  I’ve been waiting for a while to go on T and every single time I get close I feel like something pushes back my start date even farther.  Bahumbug, y’all.  I’m calling some different places tomorrow and let’s hope I have better luck.  If it really comes down to it, I will definitely travel for hormones.  If I can get a prescription in Charlotte in a month, but can’t get one in Chapel Hill until November then you bet your ass I’ll be driving to Charlotte.  I’ve been waiting too long and I’m getting antsy.

ANNOUNCEMENT:  Today, folks, was my final session of therapy with Dr. Parks!  That means I’m close.  SOOOOOOO close to testosterone.  I am hoping to start definitely within the next month if not before then.  She is in the process of writing my letter, which she will email me sometime next week, and then I’m home free!  I’m going to book my endocrinologist appointment tomorrow because sometimes it is very hard to find someone in a hurry (I heard a nasty rumor that a well-known doctor in Raleigh books 4-6 months in advance, but I am SERIOUSLY not tryin’ to wait that long.  In 4-6 months I plan on already having my voice drop and accepting acne back into my life), so I’m going to check out a couple of doctors at Duke and another couple in Chapel Hill.  See who can get me in the fastest.  EXCITED ABOUT IT!…

Also-I’m realizing that I may very well be on my last period ever. FUCKING YES.

So, there actually was a single day in my life that I refer to as: The Day I knew I was Trans.  This is a very common question that I get asked, “when did you know?”, “were you always a boy?”, “did you know as a kid?”, and I should clarify now that not all transpeople have the same experiences as me.  I’m sure some people did know as kids, I’m sure some people knew their whole lives, and I’m sure some people, like me, had a wake-up-call-day.  I can only speak for myself here.  I actually have pictures from the exact day I realized I was trans, it was Erin’s 16th birthday celebration (I think sometime in May after my first year of college) and we were on a family vacation at Myrtle Beach:

This is me realizing I'm trans! Well, not actually in this moment, I think right here I was praising our server for calling me "buddy" (which is gender neutral) instead of sir or ma'am.

 My realization came about six hours earlier than this photo.  I was in the hot tub with my parents and we were all just lounging about in our bathing suits…PAUSE: I guess this is as good a time as any to discuss my bathing suit discomfort.  Its hard, y’all, its uncomfortable, its embarrassing, and its hard.  Identifying as a male and having to wear a bikini top.  You know, everyday I walk around in my binder (an undershirt specifically made to bind your boobs to your chest making it look and feel hard and flat) and it makes me feel safe, secure, and comfortable with the way I look.  But the second someone suggests swimming my whole body image changes.  All of the sudden my chest is exposed and emphasized, I can no longer use the men’s restroom (the topic of restrooms is coming up so stay tuned!), everyone now feels like they have the right to call me ma’am, girl, woman, her, she, just because they can now see that I have breasts).  It’s not easy standing in front of someone I don’t know, with a high voice, and a bikini top on, and then introducing myself as Peter.  I can see it on their faces, Peter? Is her name really Peter?, then they will ask me again, You said Peter, right?…yeah, Peter…oh, okay, just checkin’.  I can see them get flustered, looking for facial hair, looking down at my chest, looking for a package at my crotch.  It’s indescribably uncomfortable.  I DON’T LIKE VERY MUCH HATE bathing suits.  However, I refuse to let my discomfort keep me from swimming.  I do know some pre-op (pre-operation/pre-top surgery/pre-boob choppage) transmen who won’t swim at all, or if they do they will wear binders in the water, it is a serious problem for a lot of people. 

Okay, sitting in the hot tub with the family, I propped my arms up on the side of the tub in cool-guy fashion, revealing my hairy armpits to my parents for the first time.  Mom: Put your arms down!  Dad: Shes just doing it to get attention.  Me (in sarcastic rebellious tone): What? This is the way God made me!  I began to feel embarrassed and sad.  I tried to put my finger on it, why was this such a big deal to me?  I had never had a problem with my armpit hair before, I liked it, I was proud of it, and then it hit me.  I wasn’t embarrassed of my hair, I was embarrassed of my boobs.  I had no desire to shave my pits, but I had a dramatically overwhelming desire to get rid of my breasts.  That was it.  In that moment I knew that I no longer wanted to identify as a female.  I knew everything that I had been searching for in my period of not identifying: I wanted to get rid of my boobs, I wanted to change my name (I hadn’t picked one yet), I wanted to drop my voice, I wanted to be able to play in the sun topless, I wanted to be male-identified.  That was the moment I started identifying as a transman.

Welcome to Carolina

July 17, 2011

1) My first week of college, I fell in love.  I mean the hard kind.  I met a girl at orientation, who just happened to be living in the same dorm, who just happened to be moving in at the same time, who just happened to need some help getting all of her stuff on the elevator, so I just happened to be there willing to help, and we just happened to become friends, which progressed to sex, which progressed to dating, which eventually led to love.  We were best friends and we were lovers and we were inseparable.

2)  I changed my entire physical appearance. I had been threatening my parents for years that I would cut my hair off and pierce my lip and that is EXACTLY what I did. AND to make matters worse, I waited until UNC’s parents weekend to do it.  They came up for a football game and while they were getting lunch I had a make-over.  I don’t have exact photos from that day, but basically the transformation looked something like this:

TA-DA!!

 3) My little sibling came out to my parents.  Erin had been dabbling with gender for a year or so and once I moved out they decided to tell my parents that they were questioning their gender identity and sexual orientation.  My parents initial reaction was to blame me, I was obviously encouraging and influencing and “recruiting” Erin to the dark side, and my parents were adamantly accusing me.  Not only did this upset me, but it upset Erin, because now Erin felt guilty for the way my parents were treating me.  It was a sticky situation because I no longer lived at home, I was finding it difficult to support Erin from far away, and Erin internalized all of the bad things my parents were saying about me and took on this immense burden.  It has been almost three years since Erin has come out (and six for me) and I feel like my parents are still waiting for us to get over this “phase”.

4) I met my first transperson.  I had started to go to LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex) meetings on campus so that I could meet other people like me and form a supportive community for the rest of my time at Carolina, and that’s when I first realized that transpeople actually do exist.  I guess I thought that the “T” part of the acronym was there just to be inclusive because, to my knowledge, transpeople were a myth.  I thought that a transgendered person is the same thing as a drag queen/king (THIS IS VERY FALSE), that transpeople were only found in Discovery Health documentaries, and that all transgendered people were MtF (male to female).  I literally had NO idea that transmen existed and that they lived all around me in my everyday life.

5) So I researched.  This was the first thing I found: http://www.youtube.com/user/skylarkeleven#p/u/50/uWD6AUOacfI.  I cried for hours.  I watched it over and over and over and I am probably solely responsible for at least half of all the YouTube hits its gotten, I still watch it every now and then.  Watching this video makes me excited.  Excited about the possibilities of transition, excited that there are other people I can relate to, excited that my voice will drop in 3 months, excited that I’m going to look very different, and mostly excited that there are people who exist, just like me, and they survive, and they are happy, and they are healthy, and they are beautiful.

6) Immediately after watching that video I knew I could no longer call myself a lesbian.  But I wasn’t sure that I was transgendered either.  I mean, that’s a BIG DEAL to just watch a YouTube video and decide that you want to transition for life.  So I tried this period of time where I didn’t identify as anything.  My girlfriend called me nicknames instead of my birth name (because my birth name made me feel more feminine than I was comfortable with at the time), when people would ask me how I identified I would reply, “I don’t”, and when people would assume I was a lesbian I would tell them that I wasn’t (which was confusing for some because I was obviously a girl dating a girl….WRONG) .  It was very hard for me not to identify.  I had been relying on my sexual orientation for so long to tell me who I was interested in, who I should be hanging out with, what kind of parties and clubs I should be going to, what kind of clothes I should be wearing, and so to just not identify made me feel like I was lost.  I didn’t know who I was or what I liked but I knew for sure that I was growing increasingly upset when people assumed I was a lesbian.

JUNIOR YEAR:  My dad found me and took me back home, where I spent most of my time for the next several months crying, arguing, and sleeping.  All I did was school (calculus) and band, I had no other privileges.  I acquired terrible eating habits for the sole reason of trying to avoid shared space with my parents, so I simply wouldn’t go into the kitchen to get something to eat.  I was very sad and skinny and angry and misunderstood and alone.  I taught myself how to survive without other people, I became the worlds worst communicator, I did whatever I wanted because I realized that no matter what decisions I made, I couldn’t hurt my parents anymore than they were already hurting.  It was the absolute lowest I’ve ever felt.  My mom tried to get me involved in counseling, individual and family, but it was Christian therapy and overall probably more hurtful than helpful.  Mom cried a lot, she read some DUMB DUMB DUMB article online that says “if your daughter is gay then its the moms fault and if your son is gay then its the dads fault” and she fell into a depression just as deep if not deeper than mine.  Looking back I wish I had been there to support her through that time, but I was young and I needed support for myself first.  I used marching band and sex (and I mean sex, not relationships.  At this point, I was mainly being used as an experiment for “bi-curious” (y’all remember that term?) girls, just to reaffirm that, yes, they were straight) as my only forms of expression.  I threw myself into the band program, was on the leadership team, was helping out with rehearsals and lessons, and at the end of the year I got a phone call to march baritone for the Troopers Drum and Bugle Corps (<–PLUG) and it was the best thing I’ve ever done for myself (seriously, I know I’ve mentioned DCI before, you should check it out).  Not only did it keep me preoccupied all summer, so I didn’t have to stay at home, but it gave me a stage to be openly gay and accepted.  From day one I made sure everyone knew that I was gay.  It was an important part of my identity that had been hidden and damned and it felt good to be able to be me.  I learned a lot that summer, it changed my life, I met people from all over the nation, I met gay people from all over the nation (no DCI isn’t a gay thing, it just happens to be a very accepting sport) and I became more confident in myself and my potential to survive.

SENIOR YEAR:  Stuff with my parents was still in the shits.  We weren’t talking, we gave up on compromise, we gave up on therapy, and we just began pretending that everything was fine (and this began a new phase in my relationship with my parents, I call it the my-parents-love-me-and-care-about-me-as-long-as-I-NEVER-EVER-mention-the-fact-that-I-date-women phase).  This was the year that I developed a close relationship with my little sibling.  We used to be best friends as kids and then I hit that stage where the lil sib becomes annoying and then we began to fight, but over the past couple of years Erin had gotten real quiet (I just got off the phone with Erin and they prefer to use gender neutral pronouns.  This means that instead of saying him/her, brother/sister, he/she stuff, I’m going to use they/them/their/sibling.  I will do a post on pronouns very soon because it is very important).  Erin stayed out of all of the conflict I caused by keeping their mouth shut and internalizing emotions.  They would stick up for me when I wasn’t around and that’s how I knew that they cared.  Erin was a freshman and I was a senior and to Erin that made me to coolest kid in school.  Erin was in marching band, so was I, they played saxophone, so did I, we basically spent the entire year together in school and out of school becoming best friends and making up for lost time.  I met a girl through Erin’s swim team practice from a near-by school and told her that I thought she was very cute.  She didn’t even smile back, just kind of ran off…but two weeks later we started dating and thus began my first serious relationship.  We started dating on Christmas Day and dated all Spring.  She came to see me march drum corps and we lasted through the summer.  I was over high school, I was over it by winter break freshman year.  I got accepted to great colleges, decided on UNC, I got my high school diploma handed to me in a part-time rodeo arena, I tossed my hat, I got out, and I never looked back. 

Here's a gem that I found lingering about on my computer. I'm on the right and Erin is on the left and this was taken at the end of the summer before I left home for college.

*Some of the things said in this post have been kept as secrets for a long time.  I feel comfortable talking about them openly now and I just wanna throw a warning to people who may be triggered by sexual harassment or conflict.  These events in my life have made me a stronger person, but it took a while to get to that point.  If you are struggling with related issues please don’t hesitate to contact me for support or check out some other available resources in the “Resources” tab of this page.

FRESHMAN YEAR:  Welcome to Mount Pleasant High School, here’s your rebel flag, your giant fishhook for your camo hat, and your choice of electives (agriculture, drafting, masonry, or mechanics).  Don’t mind your textbooks, we won’t be using them…Freshman year was a blur.  Thrust into an environment where the boys have more facial hair and bigger potbellies and the girls wear more make-up and less clothes.  This was a transition period where I made decisions that would affect the rest of my high school career.  For example, I chose marching band over volleyball. I consider that the single best decision I ever made in Mount Pleasant mostly because it eventually lead me to DCI (Drum Corps International-check it out, YouTube it, I think it’s fucking cool, I even have a tattoo dedicated to the activity) but also because band kids are much more forgiving of differences than most other high schoolers.  I also had a major crush on the saxophone section leader (and I was in the saxophone section).  At the time, however, I wasn’t really understanding that it was a crush.  I had never really crushed on a girl before because I had really only messed around on an emotionally detached level.  Years later, after all of my personal growth and looking back on my younger years we both acknowledged my crush (mainly in the form of my page long good-bye note in her year book…gah, so embarrassing) and consider it something to laugh about now.  Freshman year was also the year that I chose to fight for the things that I believe in.  Up until then I had never really been confronted with right or wrong as far as huge societal issues went, but realizing my differences pushed me into this rebellious, angry phase that empowered me to let people know (and fucking tell them loudly) that they were WRONG.  This was also the year of my first sexual assault and the first and only time I got jumped by more than one person.  Both happened on school property between when school ended and when band practice began and were initiated by my peers.  I was jumped for making an argument for same-sex marriage in my social studies class.  I’m still not sure the motivation for the sexual assault.  I’ve only told a select few people about those incidences until now.  At the time, I kept quiet about everything, I was small and scared, and physically defenseless, I was in a new school with bigger, older people and I thought that causing a scene was the sure-fire way to become an outcast for the rest of high school.  I regret not talking about it when it happened, I needed support but felt like I had nowhere to go.  If you have experienced similar things or are currently experiencing similar things then I urge you to check out the “Resources” tab, I will continue to update it when I hear of different organizations.  You should know that there are people willing to help, including myself, if you can’t find a good source of support then shoot me an email and we can look together.

SOPHOMORE YEAR:  This was the year of my first official girlfriend (we will call her C, because I haven’t asked her permission to write about her).  She was two years older than me, we shared the same birthday, and I thought she was the absolute coolest and cutest person I’d ever met.  When we met she was in a monogamous (I’ve recently realized that A LOT of people who practice monogamy don’t even know the definition of the word…monogamy: refers to the state of having only one mate at a time; dating one person at a time; being committed to a single person) relationship with another girl from our school, but it was kind of a secret.  I made it a point to befriend the both of them, but I was way more compatible with C than her current girlfriend.  So, in true high school fashion, C broke up with her girlfriend right before summer and began to date me.  It was exactly what I wanted and then everything in my life went to shit.  Okay, I’ll try to explain this the best I can: C’s ex-girlfriend took singing lessons from the chorus teacher at my high school.  So during a lesson, the ex was bitching about how C broke up with her to be with me.  Well, the chorus teacher lived in an apartment with my high school secretary who was also a marching band instructor and knew me and my family personally.  The chorus teacher brought the news home and told the secretary who then decided it would be appropriate to tell my parents. Oh, and at this time I was away at summer camp so I wasn’t even home.  The secretary first goes to my best friend’s house and proceeds to ask him many inappropriate questions about me and my sexual orientation and when he refuses to answer she drives to my house, MY HOUSE, where my parents are and I AM NOT, and she sits them down and tells them that I’m gay (Ex-gf–>chorus teacher–>secretary–>my parents).  WHY WOULD SHE EVER THINK THAT IS ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR?  SHE IS AN ADULT WOMAN CAUSING UNNECESSARY DRAMA IN HER STUDENTS LIFE? So, I get a phone call from my mom and she is so upset and crying so hard that I think she’s probably throwing up at the other end of the line:

“I didn’t raise you this way”
“Why are you punishing me”
“You are going to hell”
“Why have you been lying to me”
“This is all my fault”

A painful string of hurt, anger, hatred, fear, misunderstanding, sadness, and guilt spilled out of her mouth as she cried to me begging for an explanation.  I’m gay, mom.  And I’m sorry.  Summer camp ended and I was sent home and grounded.  Not just no-TV kind of grounding, I’m talkin’ no TV, no phone, no internet, no friends, no life type of grounding.  Then I made a bad decision.  I stole my mom’s car and drove it 2.5 hours away from home in the middle of the night with no money, no food, and a phone that I stole back from my mom, to see C at the college she had just started attending.  Mom knows all and called C before I even arrived at her college to tell her I was on the way.  I spent the day there and came back home the same night (I was too scared of the consequences to stay any longer).  I arrived at home to an empty house, but only 10 minutes went by before I heard the garage door rising.  My mom was home, by herself, my sibling and dad had been told to stay away for a while.  Words were exchanged, things were thrown, my mom foamed at the mouth with rage and disappointment, and the result was me on the street with a bag of luggage and nowhere to go. I was barely fifteen.

TODAY, JULY 12, 2011, I WAS OFFICIALLY DIAGNOSED WITH GENDER IDENTITY DISORDER!  This is a huge step in the process to hormone treatment.  The basic outline of steps goes as follows:

1) Begin therapy
2) Attend 6-12 sessions (this is dependent mainly on where you go for therapy and what your endocrinologist (the person who actually prescribes your hormones) requires or suggests)
3) Get diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder
4) Get a letter of recommendation from your therapist that basically states that you are competent to make decisions and that they see no reason why you shouldn’t move forward in the process
5) Take the letter to your endocrinologist and consult with them about hormones and the effects and all the physical changes
6) Get a prescription for hormones

So, today I completed step 3 and I’m so excited about it!  Next week I get my letter from Dr. Parks, and then testosterone, here I come!  Although I am so stoked to have been diagnosed, Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is quite a controversial topic.  For starters, it is kind of fucked up that perfectly stable, competent, adults have to be diagnosed with a mental illness/disorder in order to achieve happiness.  And the only reason that GID even exists is because our society views cross- or multiple-gender feelings as abnormal and sick.  But where does that idea even come from? The Bible?  Older generations?  Baby boys wear blue, and girls wear pink, because…..well, just because.  There is no good reason why that should be a normalcy.  What do babies born with both or neither genitalia wear?  In our society, babies born with both genitalia often get surgery immediately after the birth to “fix” them and make them more normal.  A lot of the time, the doctors don’t even inform the parents that their baby was born with ambiguous junk, don’t even tell them that their baby is intersex.  Somebody chose our genders for us (and I mean gender, not sex.  Sex: more of a biological term usually referring to male, female, and more recently, but still rare, intersex.  Gender roles: characteristics that our society pushes on the sexes, usually masculine for males and feminine for females).  All of us.  You were born, slapped with an F or an M, and thrust into the world to survive under the assumption that whoever picked your gender for you was right.  FUCKED UP, Y’ALL.  I say let the babies grow up and decide for themselves.  It is nobody else’s business but theirs.  Gender stereotypes are completely socially constructed and therefore should be absolutely unrelated to what genitalia a person is born with.

Another controversy arises from the treatment of GID.  The treatment of hormone therapy physically changes the way a person looks to fit that persons psychological being.  This is unheard of as far as medical treatments go.  Many people believe that instead of being a mental disorder, it should be classified as a physical disorder because no part of the treatment is designed to change the psychological aspects of a person, only the physical ones.

Having to be classified with GID sucks, but it has also helped a lot of people.  Because GID is a psychological disorder, some insurance companies will pay for the therapy and hormone treatments.  So, transgendered people can get treated without having to be extremely wealthy.  The cost of therapy, plus hormones for the rest of your life, plus any surgeries that you want to have done really adds up, so having a solid diagnosis that your insurance accepts is a huge asset to a lot of people.

That being said, consider me happily mentally ill!  Also consider me adamantly against having to be considered mentally ill to pursue hormone therapy.