I Didn’t Want to be Transgender

testosterone

I remember that field and that body and my undeniable ecstasy before waking.

I was ashamed.

I was so ashamed of being transgender that I held out for years, thinking if I waited long enough, this part of myself would retreat into the dark spot of my mind – the trapdoor where all the bad memories fall in and disappear.

When the gender therapist asks me why I waited until now to start testosterone, I want so badly to explain that I didn’t think I would need it – I had the headstone picked out, the flowers – because I believed that this part of me would die quietly if I was good, if I was patient, if I was persistent.

With my hands over my ears, I shook my head when friends used to ask, “But can you imagine if things stayed the same?”

I threw blankets over mirrors, I kept my eyes fixed on the wall, I tried to forget my body the way we try to forget bad dreams.

Maybe the secret can be found at the bottom of a bottle, I said, or maybe it’s underneath my skin. But drinking didn’t destroy my queerness – just my liver – and not a single drop of blood could tell me where else to look.

I want to say I’m sorry now, sorry to everyone that was afraid for me. You remember and I do, too: Sprawled out on the floor of my childhood bedroom, hysterical because I had dreamt for the hundredth time that I was running through a field in a different body.

That was the night I said that I would wake up tomorrow and be cisgender or I wouldn’t wake up at all.

When the gender therapist asks me what I am looking forward to, I remember that field and that body and my undeniable ecstasy before waking. I remember the way the sunshine fell on my back and my beautifully broad shoulders. I remember feeling so light.

I tell him that I’m looking forward to being able to carry things. Testosterone gives you more muscle, I say with a dreamy smile.

Maybe I’ll be able to lift the heavy things (I think of moving last summer, how my knees buckled as I tried to carry my belongings up two flights of stairs) or the heavier things (like the years of denial and the lies I told my family).

I have a running fantasy.

It goes like this: I gather up every lie about my gender that I’ve ever heard, starting with birth. I return to the field. I plant every mishap – every “she,” “ma’am,” “her” – and I bury them like seeds. When I say my chosen name, its rich and deep resonance is like an incantation. Flowers, flowers as far as the eye can see, burst from the ground, opening up to face me.

They cannot hurt me now.

The gender therapist asks me when I realized that testosterone was necessary. May 1st, 2015, I say. Why that day, he asks. I tell him the truth: It was the day I became afraid to look at my own face and too embarrassed to leave my house.

Do you know what it’s like to feel naked even when you’re not? I ask. I think better of the question. I don’t wait for a response. I tell him that one feels naked all the time when their body is betraying them.

The gender therapist says he’s honored to be a part of my journey. I wonder if he says this to everyone he sees. I wonder if he means it; I decide that he does and I tell him that I’m glad, too.

I hold the consent letter in my hands and I run my fingers along the edges. My body is trembling. I walk downstairs and I let the clinic take five vials of my blood. December 7th, they tell me, and I whisper that date under my breath a thousand times as I step out into the cold autumn rain.

I’ve waited for this. Even when I was afraid, I was always waiting.

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Transphobia, Instagram, and Why I’m Done Hiding

Confession: While I am out and proud as a transgender person, I’ve been afraid of what it means to be truly visible.

As a transgender writer and activist, I’m not difficult to find on the web – I tweet my love for Taco Bell and LUSH (we got married once, I think), I post thought-provoking content on LQTU’s Facebook page and my own personal page.

Hell, I have this blog. I’m definitely not a private person.

But many readers have pointed out that unlike many public figures, I am not particularly prolific when it comes to posting photos of myself. While many of my social justice heroes are reveling in their selfies and building entire communities around their Instagram shenanigans, it’s rare that I share my face with my audience.

More than once, I’ve been asked that if I believe visibility for our community is so important, why am I so invisible when it comes to photo and video content? And why is my Instagram – which many of you were clever enough to find – private and restricted while every other platform is easily accessible?

Transphobia. That’s why.

#TransLooksLike me, in this body, in this moment.

#TransLooksLike me, in this body, in this moment.

Secretly I was hoping that, when I finally get on hormones, when I finally “look” and “sound” like a trans person, I could emerge like a butterfly from the cocoon and finally share my life in this way.

Because I was afraid that, as a trans person who is in the beginning stages of their medical transition, I would be rejected as “not trans enough” if I dared to be too visible.

It’s rich, isn’t it? Because I talk a lot about how I am trans enough, exactly as I am (I was published in a fucking fantastic book saying this EXACT THING). But I’m still terrified that I’ll be labeled a fraud if people could actually see me.

I turned down speaking engagements and podcasts for this reason. I postponed the launch of my YouTube series for this reason. I ignored requests for phone interviews because I grew tired of hearing people call and say, “Is this Sam Dylan Finch? …really?”

I apologized so many times for not looking the way that I “should,” sounding the way that I “should,” and reasoned that if I just waited until testosterone “fixed me,” I could finally live as visibly and joyfully as I wanted to.

I’ve already been subject to so much criticism (especially and almost exclusively from other trans people), saying that I don’t deserve to be visible because I’m not “actually trans.” There are entire conspiracy theories online that state that I’m doing this to “become famous” and that, in my real life, I don’t actually live as an out trans person (a hurtful and malicious lie).

They reason that I don’t post photos very often because I’m an imposter, a transtrender, a fake. They’ve actually contacted my readers before through social media and, while misgendering me, stated that this is all a publicity stunt that “she” is doing for attention.

I would be lying if I said this kind of harassment didn’t affect me.

The criticism convinced me that it was better to wait for the hormones, better to wait until I was valid in the eyes of a transphobic society, than to share myself with my readers and take up opportunities that could make a real difference in my community and in my own happiness.

This kind of bullshit keeps so many transgender people closeted, because they fear that no one will believe them. This kind of bullshit is violence against transgender people who, for whatever their personal reasons are, cannot or do not want to medically transition. And this kind of bullshit creates a hierarchy of trans people, suggesting that some of us are more valid, more beautiful, more acceptable than others.

This kind of bullshit has to stop.

Today, I created a public Instagram profile and ditched the private profile once and for all.

Because I’m not going to let transphobia dictate how I live my life. I’m not going to let transphobia keep me closeted. I’m not going to let transphobia keep me from being visible as the curvy, queer, non-binary badass that I am.

And most of all, I’m done hiding because all trans people are valid. Each and every one of us – regardless of circumstances, regardless of our choices, regardless of our bodies – are valid and real and authentic in every sense.

No more of this “you’re not trans because you haven’t taken X hormone or gotten Y surgery.” No more of this “you’re not really non-binary because the only non-binary people are white, thin, able-bodied, Ruby-rose-esque.” Enough with the rules, the restrictions, the oppressive norms. Enough with these impossible ideals that keep people down and lead to violence.

Instagram might seem like a small thing, but being visible in this way has always terrified me and it’s a huge step in my self-love and self-acceptance. I don’t want to let transphobia rule my life. I don’t want to wait until the day when I’m finally deemed “acceptable.” My body does not determine whether or not I am transgender – I do.

#TransLooksLike me, with my awkward and unintentional bowl cut, my big glasses, my round goofy face, my big unapologetic smile.

#TransLooksLike you, no matter the skin you’re in, no matter the body you have, curves or no curves and every shape in-between.

#TransLooksLike all of us, in our diverse beauty, with the collective energy and power that we bring to our communities and our world.

I’m not going to hide to make other people more comfortable. This is what #TransLooksLike – yesterday, today, always.

I’m transgender because I say I am. Not because I look a certain way, not because I act a certain way, not because I follow some prescribed set of rules or expectations.

And I’m going to post so many damn selfies, y’all. Try and stop me.

I encourage you – especially if you know how it feels to be told you’re not valid, you’re not trans enough, you’re an imposter, you’re not binary enough, you’re not acceptable – to join me as we flood the internet with our gorgeous faces.

Tag me in your photos (/samdylanfinch on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) and use the hashtag #TransLooksLike. Let’s revel in how fucking beautiful we are. Let’s show the world what transgender really looks like.

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Planned Parenthood Stood With Us. Now Queer Folks Need to #StandWithPP.

My partner, who had waited for years to start testosterone as part of their transition, had exhausted nearly every option before finally turning to Planned Parenthood to start HRT.

Planned Parenthood had long been our provider of choice for many health care services because, as a low-income transgender couple, we needed care that was both affordable and queer-friendly.

The image features a pink sticker that says "Planned Parenthood" stuck to the sidewalk.

We need to stop pretending that this issue doesn’t affect us.

Planned Parenthood made us feel safe and respected, in contrast to the misgendering, interrogating of our identities, and ridiculing by nurses and doctors who didn’t understand what it meant to be trans, let alone how to treat trans patients.

They modeled for us what respectful, competent healthcare looks like when dealing with queer populations.

Planned Parenthood stood by us, and when we were ready, they were there for my partner to start their medical transition when everyone else shut the door in our face.

LGBTQ media has been notably silent when it comes to the attacks on sexual/reproductive healthcare and in particular, on Planned Parenthood. They assume, wrongfully so, that this isn’t a queer issue.

They seem to ignore that when you defund Planned Parenthood, you are denying access to important resources that queer folks rely on each and every day.

It’s the hormones that will save a trans person’s life; it’s the HIV test and the support that helps a queer youth; it’s the exam that detects cancer before it takes a life; it’s the miscarriage care that helps a lesbian couple when their world is turned upside-down; it’s the preventative vaccine that protects us down the road; it’s the LGBT youth group that helps queer teens feel less alone.

It’s care that we might not otherwise have access to because of socio-economic barriers. It’s care that my partner and I have relied on for years because Planned Parenthood was the only place we felt safe and, often times, the only place we could go.

Planned Parenthood stands with queer folks every day, and gives them a safe space to get the necessary support that they need to live healthy, fulfilling lives. So why aren’t we standing with them?

It’s horrifying that so many LGBTQ media platforms have had plenty of time to publish (multiple!) articles on Kim Davis but can’t seem to write a single word on Planned Parenthood, despite there being so much more at stake.

It’s disappointing that countless queer folks remain silent while our elected officials try to pull funding from an organization that supports us, as if this doesn’t affect us or our community.

And I’m frustrated by this idea that the attacks on Planned Parenthood are exclusively a “cis women’s issue,” as if queer folks of every stripe aren’t impacted when you strip us of the resources that we rely on for our sexual and/or reproductive health.

I’m proud of the folks who have openly and unapologetically stated their support. But they are too few and far between.

Our considerable silence on this issue is not just hurting Planned Parenthood. It’s hurting ourselves, our families, and our community.

It’s time for all of us to stand with Planned Parenthood. Because even if you haven’t stepped foot in one of their clinics, I can promise you that you know a queer person who has.

Visit Planned Parenthood Action to learn more and find out how you can help.

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It’s Not a Race!

123 4567Justin’s note: As I’ve stated in previous comics it’s important not to forget that when it comes to wellness, personal safety is at the top of the list.  Not everyone falling under the LGBTQIA umbrella is protected by that umbrella.  So while it’s important to love yourself, express who you are, and take as much time as you need? it’s more important to survive so that you can do all of those things.

For some that might mean turning 18 and leaving home.  For others that might mean immigration!  Let’s also not forget that expressing your gender identity could get you fired in some states!

If any of the above describes your situation, then apply the “baby steps” principles to your escape plan.  Take the time to cover your bases, find a safe space (or better yet, safe spaces), and get out when the time is right!

The image features Justin wearing dark-rimmed glasses and a blue sweater.Justin Hubbell is a cartoonist and freelance artist from upstate New York. In an attempt to serve the greater good, he aims to create volumes of work revolving around the social politics that govern our daily lives. He posts his cartoons weekly at justinhubbell.com.  He has also been featured on The Good Men Project, UpWorthy, Digital America, Kabooooom, and submits comics regularly to local publications.  He has no preferred pronouns, she is a unapologetic nerd.

Editor’s Note: Transcript for this comic is pending and will be posted soon. Thanks for your patience!

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Starbucks, Please Don’t ‘Out’ Your Transgender Patrons

The image features a wooden table with coffee cups on it, with a large storefront window in the distance.

“Guess what, Starbucks? That isn’t my name.”

As a transgender person, I like to refer to my birth name – the name my parents bestowed upon me when I arrived on this planet – as my “dead name,” because it’s been dead to me for years now.

I’m in the process of legally changing it now for that exact reason.

My birth name represents the gender that was incorrectly imposed upon me. It’s a name that reminds me of all the struggles that I have faced as a trans person in a society that still struggles to affirm or recognize me. It’s a name that I never wanted and a name that makes my skin crawl.

So imagine my surprise when I heard this name flying out of the mouth of my barista and then scrawled on the cup of my beloved iced chai.

Ugh. Staaaaaarbucks! Why? We had such a good thing going.

Let me explain the full spectrum of emotions that I felt in that moment:

Embarrassed, because my birth name is private and not something I wanted to share with the entire café. Afraid, because I knew that folks might see my masculine presentation and hear my traditionally “feminine” name and figure out that I was transgender. Hurt, because this was a name that still caused me a great deal of pain.

And angry – like, ready to dump my iced chai on the barista’s head if I’m being honest – because guess what, Starbucks? That isn’t my name and, despite your usual policy, you didn’t ask me what my name actually was.

The barista looked at the name on my debit card and jumped to the conclusion that it must be the name that I prefer. In doing so, they assumed that all of us have the privilege of having legal names that align with our preferences or our gender identities.

That is simply not true.

There are countless trans folks who cannot legally change their names or don’t feel safe doing so. And should they walk into that Starbucks, they might have their birth name – a name that causes them distress and could potentially out them as transgender – called out in the café or written on a cup to broadcast an intimate piece of information to the rest of the world.

Not only could that make trans folks feel unsafe at Starbucks, but it might also make them feel completely unwelcome.

Respecting and affirming the identities of transgender people begins with calling us by our actual names, instead of assuming that what was written on our birth certificates or bank statements is an appropriate thing to call us.

Not long from now, the name your barista wrote on my cup will finally be buried in a sea of court records as my real name is finally legalized. But not every trans person has the privilege of being able to legally change their name. And they shouldn’t have to go through legal hoops and court dates just to be treated with respect.

Simply asking us for our name – every single time – can help us to feel safe in your café, knowing that we won’t be outed or humiliated just for ordering a drink.

I fought tirelessly to reclaim my identity from a society that tried, from the day that I was born, to force me into a role I did not want and give me a name that only obscured who I really was. And trans folks everywhere find empowerment in the names that we choose – names that help us capture the people that we were meant to become.

Starbucks, if you truly believe that transgender people are deserving of dignity in your café and beyond, here’s a place to start: Don’t call us by our “dead names” and out us to other patrons. Call us by our actual names and make sure that every barista understands how important this policy really is.

Help us in creating a culture in which we determine who we are and what we should be called. It’s one small step towards affirming the identities of transgender people everywhere.

And my name is Sam Dylan Finch, by the way. You can call me Sam. You didn’t ask, but I thought you should know.

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You Don’t Have to Show Pride to Have Pride!

The image includes four panels, each including someone in the LGBTQIA+ community. The first panel has a person of size with a speech bubble talking about same-sex relationships. The second panel has a person of color writing in a journal. The third panel has another person of color in front of their laptop. The fourth has a person with headphones in their room, decked out with rainbow and asexual pride flags.

This is a shout out to all the queer people (myself included) who hold back on expressing their pride as openly as others.

Some of us are only just discovering our queerness.  Others are dealing with a lousy work environment.   Many of us are just not in the right emotional space.

For some queerness presents a very real physical danger.

Maybe they’re in an abusive home, school, or state.  They might have even been the target of “religious” hate crimes.  Maybe they have a past trauma that is easily triggered.

So while expressing pride for some is a way of life and a duty? For others it’s a luxury they can’t yet afford.

Please be patient with us.  Please show us acceptance.  Don’t write us off, or put us down.
We hope to wave that banner with you some day, just not yet.

And for my fellow hesitant queers?  It’s not just okay to go through life at your own pace, it’s vital.
Never kick yourself for taking your time.  Never!  Express pride however you can, even if it’s just in private.

The image features Justin wearing dark-rimmed glasses and a blue sweater.Justin Hubbell is a cartoonist and freelance artist from upstate New York. In an attempt to serve the greater good, he aims to create volumes of work revolving around the social politics that govern our daily lives. He posts his cartoons weekly at justinhubbell.com.  He has also been featured on The Good Men Project, UpWorthy, Digital America, Kabooooom, and submits comics regularly to local publications.  He has no preferred pronouns, she is a unapologetic nerd.

 

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The Absent I: Marriage Equality and the Continued Erasure of Intersex People

Guest Post! This week’s article at LQTU is written by Celeste Orr.

The image features colorful beads that spell out the words, "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual."

Why is “intersex” an afterthought in our community?

While many queer and allied folks have been celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage, many others rightly question whether this time is indeed a time for celebration.

How can we celebrate as our fellow queers, specifically trans people of colour, face homelessness, un/underemployment, housing discrimination, staggering suicide and murder rates, and police and prison violence?

Recently many articles address this matter and note that trans issues are the “next fight” or the “next step” in fighting for LGBTQ equity, freedom, and liberation. But framing trans issues as “next steps” neglect that fact that, for trans folks and many other queer people, same-sex marriage was never the first step.

For many queer folks same-sex marriage was never the first step because we think that marriage is a fundamentally flawed institution. Marriage has deep sexist, anti-poly, and queerphobic roots. Many queer people are not homonormative and marriage, therefore, does not reflect their lives. For many other queer people same-sex marriage was never the first step because evading being killed was and remains the perpetual, all too often unachievable first step.

For queer and trans people who do not have white privilege, class privilege, homonormative privilege, and/or non-trans privilege, mere survival is always (and already) the first step.

Framing trans issues as “next steps” erases the (continued) activism and work it took for transphobia to be recognized as not just as the “next step” but a “step” at all.

Even if well-intentioned, framing transphobia as the “next step” also inadvertently re-creates a hierarchy of queer lives, identities, acts, and of (life-threatening) queer issues. Many trans activists, queer people of colour, and queer poly people have criticized this very hierarchy. Queer and allied folks should be wary of reproducing this hierarchy with “next step” discourses.

In thinking through the ways in which certain queer folks, even within queer and feminist communities, are marginalized, regulated to the bottom of the hierarchy, or are the proverbial “next step” I am not too surprised that, in the midst of this supposed queer watershed moment of same-sex marriage, the “I” in LGBTQI has been dropped, forgotten.

All of the articles I have come across in mainstream and feminist forums that address marriage “equality” and the “next steps” queer folks are “going to fight for” (or more accurately have been fighting for) exclude the “I.” Why is the “I” not a “next step” in mainstream discourse?

Building from the Organisation Intersex International’s (OII) definition of intersex, “intersex” is a general term “applied to human beings whose biological sex cannot be classified as clearly” or exclusively “male or female. An intersex person may have the biological attributes of both,” typically Western, culturally recognized, legitimized, and institutionalized “sexes or lack some of the biological attributes considered necessary to be defined as one or the other sex.”

Put differently, “intersex” refers to numerous kinds of embodiments that deviate from the (hetero)norm or, what Abby Wilkerson refers to as, “normate sex.” In other words, intersex embodiments illustrate that the cis-trans binary is insufficient.

Intersexism – the structural and systemic oppression of intersex folks – is real and palpable. Despite the fact that intersex embodiments, specifically those with variant genitals, typically pose no health risk, intersex infants and children are often subjected to state-sanctioned, non-consensual, genital mutilation at the hands of medical professionals.

This mutilation is paternalistically done in the name of fixing, curing, or managing the queerly disordered intersex body. In the United States alone, Emi Koyama reminds, “five children are being mutilated everyday.” That means approximately 1,825 children will have their genitals non-consensually cut on and de/reconstructed this year in the US by “benevolent” medical professionals.

In addition to this unspeakable violence with various long- and short-term physical and psychological effects, many intersex folks face systemic shaming, gender policing, queerphobia, and discrimination at school, work, and home.

Historically, many medical professionals have kept intersex folks’ medical records secret even when asked to view them. Some intersex people struggle with fitting into sexed and gendered spaces, like bathrooms. Some intersex folks also struggle with filling out governmental (or otherwise) forms that force one to pick a sex or gender.

In fact, these spaces and institutionalized sexing practices utterly erase the very existence of intersex people.

So I ask, why is the “I” forgotten; why is the “I” not the “next step” in the emerging LGBTQ next step discourse? Answering this question many seem easy, albeit devastating: the “I” is rarely taken into account or represented. In 1999, near the beginning of the Intersex Rights Movement, Robert Crouch referred to this absence as the “structural invisibility” of intersex people and the systemic violence they face. That invisibility still persists today.

It is true to state that the “I” has probably been forgotten because historically, intersex rights – like trans rights, disability rights, and the rights of people of colour – are invisible to the majority of people. But, I want to complicate this narrative because sometimes the “I” (like the “T,” “B,” and POC) is tactfully excluded at the expense of homonormative or (white) women’s rights. Or, if intersex rights are visible or added to the queer feminist conversation, they are added superficially.

That is, the “I” is present in “LGBTQI” but it is never meaningfully addressed. With this in mind I cannot reduce the absent “I” to thoughtless negligence. Even if the absence is thoughtless, it is political.

I suggest that the “I” is forgotten or is being tactfully excluded because intersex embodiments, by definition, illustrate and remind us that the way in which we understand sex as dichotomous is a farce. And, in turn, we are reminded that the institution of marriage, an institution based on the dichotomous understanding of sex, is insufficient. If we remembered the “I” we would have to address the fact that the same-/different-sex marriage model erases intersex bodies, experiences, and people.

At this moment of the same-sex marriage “win,” many people probably do not want to be reminded that the institution excludes a part of our queer community, intersex and genderqueer people alike.

But it is imperative to acknowledge that same-sex marriage is not really a queer “win” or it is not a win for all queer or differently bodied people. Same-sex marriage is not really a “win” because an entire community cannot fit into the sex binary. Same-sex marriage is not really a “win” if we recognize that intersex infants and children are literally being cut on so they can fit into the sex binary the institution of marriage and our culture is based on.

It is true that for some people with intersex embodiments, specifically those who do not identify as intersex and/or identify as exclusively male or female, the legalization of same-sex marriage is a win if they want to marry their partners. For other intersex people it may be non-consequential.

Ultimately, though, it is another instance of erasure and marginalization. It is another law, another moment that further entrenches the idea that sex is binaristic, that intersex bodies are “wrong.”

If we remember the “I” and advocate for intersex rights, as I call all queer and allied people to do, we cannot make the same mistake and narrate the “I” as a “next step.” We cannot continue to reproduce the violent hierarchy of queer lives and issues. Like trans people, particularly trans people of colour, the crises intersex infants, children, adolescents, and adults face is immediate and dangerous.

These issues are not “next” – they are now and always.

 —

Celeste Orr is a Ph.D Candidate at University of Ottawa in the Institute of Feminist and Gender Studies.

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