Dreaming? Nonbinary feminine-to-masculine gender reassignment

So, new day. It’s been interesting, thinking on the gender presentation thing, but this isn’t the kind of problem that can be solved overnight. There are a lot of inputs that have been on my mind, recently…not all of which would be right to share, here, because they deal with specific people who are either in my life, or whom I’ve overheard.

One of the issues that has arisen is about seeing transgender positionality as an essentially privileged thing. I can see how the viewpoint would arise; I’ve noticed a definite trend in the demographic makeups of the genderqueer, nonbinary, gender-variant, and transgender groups that I’ve been in. But…I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that gender-variant identity is essentially White. For one thing, that’s not what I’ve observed.

For another thing, it’s probable that White TG/GQ/GV/NB people are more likely to be visible because of their relative ability to transition and relative safety in doing so; whereas TG/GQ/GV/NB people of color may already be marginalized enough so that they don’t feel capable of visibly taking on another stigma.

I know that in my case, I have enough stigmata that my life is pretty complex already, and this is without my changing to a male gender role so far as my public life is concerned. While I do think I would have been better off having been born physiologically male, a future of hormone administration isn’t welcoming…and, I’m looking at physically transitioning to a place where I’m seen as a Black male. A non-heteronormative Black male, at that.

Big deal with this: the U.S. has a prison culture. There are only a few males on the African-American side of my family who have not been in prison. I have not interviewed each of them about the circumstances which led up to their arrest; however, it’s well-known that police will target people of color over White people.

It’s also known that life inside a prison is violent and that rapes do occur, even in same-sex facilities. If it isn’t other prisoners, it could be the guards (particularly in a women’s prison). I don’t believe, if I were to be arrested for doing whatever, that I would be safe in either a women’s prison or a men’s prison (and I’ve had my supposed sexuality used as a weapon against me enough, already).

Which…just brings to light the lack of space afforded nonbinary people in this culture. Bathrooms, until relatively recently, have largely been either men’s or women’s; locker rooms and bathing facilities are men’s or women’s; apparel is either men’s or women’s.

It’s just one of those things. This is not to mention the surgical, “correction,” of those people who do not clearly fit into either the, “man,” box or, “woman,” box, which often causes lifelong scarring (I’m talking about psychological scars, but I would expect physical ones, too, from what I’ve heard and read).

Just in general, it’s a risky thing to transition. Especially if you’re not White. I have and had been attempting to hold solidarity with those people in history who have been gender-nonconforming and did not have the tools to be able to physically transform themselves. It doesn’t mean their identities were invalid, or nonexistent.

Now we have the tools, but society has not yet matured. For some reason, other people’s gender and sexuality are things that a great many people (not to mention, governments and the medical industry) want to control. I am not entirely sure why, at this point.

What I do know is that there is nothing at this point that requires that I change myself to, “make my outside match my inside.” My outside already does match my inside. My problem is that others see me, and the idea they get from my appearance is not at all accurate to who I am.

I would like a beard and a voice drop (just for myself), but the deal with that is that I’m likely to get hair all over — not just on my face. I also would likely get hairline recession, which I don’t want (it’s a reason I went on birth control — I was starting to lose it on my own), worse acne, and I’d lose my curves. I’m still not certain if I would be able to safely and comfortably bind for the foreseeable future. It’s easier after having been on testosterone, but I haven’t heard of it being a sustainable practice.

There is a possible in-between zone, where I could get a full beard and voice drop and then stop testosterone. I’d get back my curves (good? bad?), but then I’d still have the cartilage growth to deal with (which I can’t predict from here), possibly still hairline recession, and coarse body hair. It’s not that great a place to initially aim for, largely because it’s illegible to the vast majority of people…and people don’t like things they don’t understand.

The best-case scenario on testosterone is to get top surgery, stay on birth control or get a hysterectomy, get off of the medication that’s causing my weight gain, and become more physically active so that I can become buff. Of course, still maintaining my line of work (Librarianship) and my other plans for the future. It’s vastly easier to transition when one’s end point is…not something that makes one obvious.

And the fact is, still, that on medication for mood, anxiety, and detachment from reality — I’m essentially asexual, with a few rare instances of wanting to get close to certain people (but not really to have sex with them — a fact which people don’t understand, especially since I’m relatively open when talking about my body).

Also, I had been getting encouragement from one person who thinks I might do well on testosterone. The other day, I could see it. If I retained my long hair and got a beard and started presenting masculine, maybe with some eyeliner…yes, I can now see the possibility in that, and how it might make things make more sense in my life. I need to remember that I’d be transitioning to be a nonbinary masculine-appearing person, though: not to be a man.

On the other hand, there are a lot of other things to consider, like whether I’ll still recognize (or like) my own scent if I go on testosterone. I do know that getting top surgery isn’t anything I’m really hot on, because there’s nothing wrong with my chest. If I did get it, it would be, “because that’s what people do,” or for the sake of convenience and safety, or as a concession to other people. The first and third reasons don’t fly with me. For the sake of safety, though — that’s something different. And I would like to be able to be in public without a shirt.

(I did just remember that new eyebrow filler which will draw hairs on your face. That could be fun to experiment with!)

Why does it seem like my main problem in all areas of my life is having too many options?

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Facial hair :)

So…you know how I’ve been sick?

I haven’t shaved my face for about a week and a half. It means I have about 6mm of hair growth. I don’t mean, “down.” I mean coarse hair. And yeah, it is the way nature made me, before anyone starts.

I kind of like being able to visualize a beard. The thing is, if I start testosterone to get more of that…I may lose some of the hair on my head.

And gain it on my cheeks. 🙂

I think I’m starting to understand what was meant by living your life the way you want to live it, because you only get one shot. (Even though, that’s debatable.)

I’ll see what I feel like, tomorrow. I suppose it isn’t like I’m ever going to go bald on my face…like, face-bald or something.

Unless I get alopecia. Could happen.

Stress and triggers. Recurrence of a familiar stance…

A few things have happened, recently. One: I’ve realized that I don’t really want to be female, though that doesn’t mean I want to transition to male. Not everyone around me seems to remember that “female,” does not always equate to, “woman.”

Another: Because of the stress of this final semester…I’m questioning whether I’m dealing with a bit of psychic fragmentation. I don’t think I would call it Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID), but then I don’t really know what the medical opinion on this, is. I’ve just slipped back into a state that I recognize, which I haven’t dealt with for months (if not years).

I do know, however, that I definitely have used dissociation as a coping mechanism, in the past. Although it would be interesting if my way of being gender nonbinary was actually that I was plural (that I, “really,” had multiple identities, or deep facets that somehow include the same sets of identity and personality all the time)…I haven’t heard anything to that effect, and at this point it sounds too dramatic to be true.

On the other hand, I definitely have different subroutines in my mind, and I’ve read that being entirely, “integrated,” into one person, is an illusion, in all people.

It’s just…it’s weird that this mental constellation would come up again. Right now I’m dealing with a stronger-than-normal sense of being not-woman, along with what I can only call a darker viewpoint. I’ve also dealt more strongly with ideas about, “demons,” and the darker side of the paranormal, in this state — along with feelings of persecution when the darkness gets to the surface and others recognize it and try to condition me against it.

To be clear: when I’m like this, I’m not about being, “right.” I end up dealing with feelings of amorality, in favor of pragmatism and emotional validation, though I won’t generally open up about what I’m feeling. I know what is said to be the, “right thing to do,” or say, but…sometimes it’s hard to do it and keep what I’m actually feeling, hidden.

Though I won’t get into what it was that happened last night (I got triggered, particularly around issues of reproduction and, “motherhood,” which for me are obviously linked to ideas about gender and sexuality — which are obviously…slow torture for me), the pattern and the feelings are familiar. As is the social dynamic.

If it’s anything like it has been in the past…it may wear off by next Tuesday or Wednesday, at the latest. If it doesn’t shift, it would be weird. But…when this does happen, it leaves me without a non-occlusive vocabulary with which to communicate my state. That is, I do have a vocabulary with which I’ve explained this to myself: but others don’t understand it. To them, it suggests ideas that I was (thankfully) never exposed to, but which cause them to feel moral revulsion towards me.

I can see why this has come up, though, if I need to function and I am somehow not up to the task: I can switch into a mode which allows me to get things done by, “letting someone else deal with it;” that is, changing into a different person who can cope. And yeah, that does sound like DID, but DID is a serious condition, and I don’t feel that ill.

Of course, those around me may beg to differ…

Getting this stuff out of the way…

WordPress says that three hours ago, I started working again on my Final for Instructional Design. (I opened a window here to vent thoughts which should not make it into my paper!)

The good part is, this is now mostly done…but I have realized that it’s easier to teach something I know little about and am learning about alongside others, than something I’ve accumulated knowledge about for well over a decade, and others know nothing. Or maybe it’s just a sensitive issue for me, due to the content and audience (the topic of my Instructional Design seminar is gender variance).

I suppose that if I hadn’t gone through what I have, though, I still might not know anything about LGBTQIA positionality, beyond the GLB portion of that. But I was pushed by necessity: something which most non-trans* people don’t seem to experience.

And I think I would rather not be teaching this stuff, but it’s something I have specialized knowledge about, and which I can see an obvious knowledge gap about.

Anyhow…I can now read this over, make any final changes, and submit it. I’m hoping to get this done by tonight or tomorrow so that I can get back to studying for my Database Final, and get that turned in tomorrow night. This is largely so I can stop thinking about it. I would like to get on with Summer, sooner rather than later.

Seeing family, set off thoughts on gender.

Over the last week, I’ve been visiting family, which has been more educational than it has been a holiday. Accordingly, I haven’t had all that much time and energy (or internet connectivity) to spend on studying. Starting tomorrow, I’ll have to get back on it.

Tonight after work was spent venting confusion and participating in conversation about gender-nonbinary positionality. I needed this, regardless of how much study is piling up. I haven’t yet checked to see where I stand as regards my current workload, but I know I was only given a half-week for Spring Break.

Overall, I feel like I’m doing pretty well, though that wouldn’t be the case without accommodations. I do have the excuse as well that a large part of the reason for the visit was to attend a memorial, though no one has asked me for that information, yet.

Anyhow. Now I’m back, albeit touched more than a bit by being read as woman-by-default, by my extended family.

We didn’t really get to my topic at the gender group tonight, and I’m okay with that, because I did get to engage in conversation and feel heard. Basically…I’m coming to a realization that I’m more of a soft guy than a hard woman, although historically and contemporarily speaking, I am gender-fluid.

My thing is that I don’t fit into any ready-made gender category; I have more like a mixture of traits (and whatever else one may use to determine gender). My identity itself is clearly not-girl (to me), but that doesn’t make me a woman or a man, either. And yeah, that sounds (and looks) about right. My body is mostly typically female, but not entirely so…and I’m okay with that. I relate to my body as my own body, not the body of anyone I’m assumed to be which I’m not. I’m lucky that way.

I’m also lucky that the people closest to me understand (and normalize) where I’m coming from, which eases a lot of tension I might otherwise have.

The issue I’ve been having recently is not knowing how to present. Particularly, while on break, I started thinking about differing versions of femininity. This was mostly tipped off by visiting a number of Japanese(-American) markets…and identifying with red and pink and violet. (In particular, Japanese clothes tend to have some really beautiful shades of red, for reasons I’ll get into below.)

I was remembering what my Japanese-American grandmother told me about colors of clothing when I was little; that red was a color used in girls’ clothing, and that the colors became more subdued as one married and aged. This sounds ridiculous to the parent I have who isn’t Japanese-American…but I must have learned this when I was 6 years old, and aside from Inu Yasha (which was written by the female author behind Ranma 1/2), the red-clothing thing seems to be a pattern which conforms to what my grandmother said.

I think I still have my first red kimono with white flowers all over it (my grandmother tried to shape me to become as ethnically Japanese[-American] as possible, regardless of my race; though notably, she never did introduce me to maru obi [a woman’s waist wrap] or obijime [a waist-cord accessory], though I still have the kanzashi [hairpin] she gave me).

But there’s a lot of drama and ambivalence around this. In Japanese culture, it isn’t a good thing to be mixed-race (as I am), at least unless one is mixed with White; for what reason, I don’t know. I’m thinking it may have to do with war, and also with ethnic pride. I know that my grandmother wanted 100% Japanese(-American) grandchildren, but because of the family having been in the U.S. so long…it’s very common for families by the third or fourth generation to begin marrying and having children who aren’t fully racially Japanese. It doesn’t always go over well with the rest of the Japanese(-American) family, though.

I did get to see both sides of my family over the last week, I should state. There were race tensions, and general tensions that had to do with long-standing family dynamics, which I won’t get into here (if I can help it).

Anyhow…we went to a couple of different Japanese markets…and, well, you can see on this blog that I have a big thing about colors and their psychological effects. This may even overrule the subject matter of some of my work (or attempted work), at least in my mind. It’s something that has had me looking at artists like Mondrian. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned anything about color symbolism before now, though.

Kandinsky went into an actual book, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, about symbolism, including his personal meanings behind his use of colors in his art. I’m not rigid enough about it to really codify it in a book, at this point (like I say I could never run a cult because I change my mind too often), but this, and Josef Albers’ works, in addition to color-field artists…they’re things I keep in mind. Even if I haven’t deeply read Kandinsky’s book. 🙂

While I was at one of these markets, I found a beautiful little incense burner which was a glossy red-violet ceramic dish with white glaze highlights. I was immediately attracted to it. Now that I think of it, I remember thinking that it must have been made for someone like me, because of its color.

Which, in turn, brings up the question of what exactly a woman is. Especially, what it means to be a woman outside of the U.S.

Like I said earlier, there is a large emphasis on red and pink in a lot of Japanese stuff (like clothing, in particular) because of its symbolism and relation to girls and women. Red stands for blood; it also stands for power, fire, and fertility. I’m uncertain if it is linked to Amaterasu, the sun goddess in Shinto faith; but the Japanese flag’s red circle is meant to represent the sun.

Anyhow…I wish I had taken a picture of this incense burner. I ended up putting it back because it cost $14, and I ended up spending about $22 on a metallic pink water bottle instead. I could use the water bottle (and actually, already have). I don’t need another incense burner (I don’t even know how long it has been since I burned incense). I think I even commented that I could “reinforce my gender another time.”

The thing is that I don’t know if I’m walking a line here of appearing to be a cis woman even though I’m gender-fluid with very apparent forays into femininity. The thing is, “femme,” is not the same as, “woman.” I’m comfortable being femme. I can even like to be femme, but I have to remember that I’m not a woman, or else I get into dangerous territory where other people are treating me like a woman and I go along with it, and start to think of myself as a woman. The major problem here is that the term, “woman,” for me, carries with it a lot of social expectations, expectations of myself, and cultural baggage. That is, I disidentify with it in order to preserve my own identity, or sense of myself.

And then I talk about making jewelry and sewing and embroidery and becoming a Librarian. But none of that makes you a woman. The way I’ve thought of it is that being a woman is something that comes from inside. At least it has been that way, for the transgender women I have known. According to another source, though, who happens to be a Second-Wave feminist, people are born and then they do what the society tells them they should…that, for example, women don’t wear “Women’s” clothing to express something inside of them, they do it because of societal and cultural power constraints, and because they don’t consider other options.

The thing is…my disidentification with girlhood and womanhood…(I will say I was at one time a girl — but a thirty-something-year-old human is no longer a child, regardless of sex)…doesn’t extend to eschewing femininity. I’ve lived through a time where I was “dressing to character,” so to speak; where I chose and wore clothes because of their gender designation (as masculine).

At this point, I feel like I’ve grown beyond that; literally, because of age and lack of exercise, my body is no longer androgynous; figuratively, because I like certain clothes regardless of what message that sends to other people. I haven’t yet learned how to deal with the responses from others that come with this, though. In particular, I get a lot of positive attention for being femme while being female, which means I’m being seen as a cis woman, and I don’t know what to do with that.

Maybe that’s why I dislike it.

In addition, though: I also want to dress in more red and pink and purple (with green and blue), as versus the cool and neutral colors I had been drawn to and which make up most of my wardrobe.

I guess it actually literally is, “passing,” as a woman, only I’m not trying, and I don’t have a history of living in a male body. But if, “passing,” is being seen as something you’re not…which seems more accurate to the origin of the term as regards race relations…(that is, transgender women are women, they are not men, “passing,” as women)…

Is that what I’m dealing with? Passing privilege? It would make sense, then, why I would have a great deal of trepidation toward being seen as male and presenting femme at the same time. Transitioning to male seems like it would put me into the space of a pre-transition, gender-nonconforming, assigned-male person. And that is a very difficult space to exist within in my culture, even where I am. Let alone, the possibility of living permanently that way, as versus as a transitional phase.

That would also explain why I even have the ability to feel, “normal,” because my difference can be (and is) glossed over. That is, the erasure and lack of understanding of my identity grants me a level of relative safety (as most who don’t know about transgender people will see me as a lesbian woman when I complain of being misgendered by straight men — and most people here accept lesbian women; at least, heteronormative lesbian women). But it’s still very apparent, when I speak, to those who are also gender-variant, that I’m coming from a gender-variant viewpoint. My appearance just doesn’t fully disclose my identity; and if it did, I run the risk of presenting as a stereotype — for the sake of other people — in order to be socially intelligible. And, given the risks of being readable, it’s to my benefit not to be so.

I guess you can kind of get a glimpse of what I’m going through, here.

I think…I should look back over this tomorrow, and see if I can draw any further conclusions out of it. Right now, I think I’m in it too deep, and I’m probably up too late to think clearly, in any case.

Maybe fiction provides a safety vent.

There are a couple of things I’ve realized recently, or am in the process of realizing, though I’m not sure they all need to be written out for the world to see. Well, maybe they need to be written out for me to see, then.

One of the major realizations is that I can be healthier (and more myself) when I express myself through fiction writing. In the rest of my life, I find it relatively more difficult to break through and do something I normally wouldn’t. I feel like it’s as close as I would get to acting…at this point in my life, at least!

But I do kind of have this really…this side that I think of as deep, dark, and rich, that normally doesn’t see the light of day. I can’t maintain it continuously for more than 3-4 days at most, as well. This is part of what originally caused me to identify as gender-fluid. It also caused me a lot of confusion in my younger years, before I had enough context and experience to know I wasn’t transsexual and in denial.

These days, I feel solidly genderqueer, if anything. I’ve found that I’m relatively comfortable with my physical body, but…I’m not a woman or a girl, even if I take on femme (feminine, regardless of physical sex) attributes from time to time. And that doesn’t mean I have to be a man or a boy. Nor does it mean that I’m obligated to look like, or model myself into, a man or boy.

I fall into the category which is presently called “gender non-binary” in forward-thought U.S. culture. Even so, this term isn’t widely known: there is presently very little recognition that anyone like me could exist.

Anyhow, there are aspects of myself which are untenable in a normal, everyday environment. Fiction is one of the outlets I have in which to express character which can’t fit (in a cohesive/coherent or safe way) into my day-to-day persona.

That is, I have a lot of complexity in my character, and the embodiment of all of it in my daily persona would result in confusion in the outside world (not to mention cognitive dissonance within my own mind: say, from holding space for two or more realistic options to both be potentially valid [even though mutually exclusive] and operating on that). I believe I’ve tried this already…it’s not easy, especially when your future potential embodiment is at stake (I was considering testosterone at the time…long story [spanning about 20 years]).

What fiction allows me to do is let these portions of myself out to play in a controlled (and somewhat contained) environment. I have noticed my own tendency to take small cues and work off of those in fiction, as well. It’s kind of like a real-world Rorschach thing: seeing a shape on the wall which continuously looks like Q-Bert (I have one of these, I’m not kidding), but instead of visual interpretation as in a Rorschach test, the interpretation is of situations and motivations.

I used to have such strongly ingrained negative thoughts that I’d have trouble dealing with realistically considering any other option when they would arise by suggestion. They often (or inevitably) result in half-truths or false-truths that can make sense within the narrative, but might not (or would not, depending) be defensible in reality. This is why I like using unreliable narrators; though usually they aren’t outright lying, more than voicing something that won’t leave me alone, and of which I question the truth value.

But, as I have learned within the last decade, just because I (or anyone else) think(s) something, that doesn’t make it true — no matter how true it seems or how much you do or don’t want it to be true. (In fact, an enhanced sense that something is real [say, in hallucinations and delusions] can be a red flag that it may not be.)

I think I’ve gotten everything out, on that point, that I needed to.

There’s another question that has arisen for me recently, which is whether it is actually to my benefit to be a freelance writer instead of being on payroll. The major reason I’m in my LIS program is that due to my condition, I need a stable source of income, and benefits. I’ve just been thinking, though, about the amount of pressure a writer might face to write what their employer wants them to write, should they be salaried.

It just seems like as a freelancer, one retains a certain amount of autonomy, even though there is an exchange there where it comes to financial security.

I’m losing my train of thought, right now, so I’m just going to go ahead and post…

Solid footing…?

I’m thinking again about female-to-male gender transition, a.k.a. gender reassignment, a.k.a. gender confirmation.

Tonight, for whatever reason — maybe because I’m feeling better, maybe because I slept so long, maybe because it’s becoming clearer life is transient…and the rebirth I’ve been hoping for in which I get to be male will never exist…

…and that my attempt to hold solidarity with all the people in the past who were female and did not feel themselves to be women; and with all the people now who feel the same way and don’t have the privilege of gender reassignment…

…and, because I’ve noticed relatively unhealthy coping mechanisms coming up (namely, the hope that having a girlfriend who can see me will be enough to fulfill me [usage, anybody?], but also that I compulsively try not to be “pretty” because I don’t want the attention [which usually invalidates my gender] and this is wrecking my body)…

…and because I’ve realized that I actually would rather have male parts than female, even though I don’t “hate” my body…nor do I know for a fact that being in between a fully male and fully female body will be inferior to what I’ve got now…

…and because I know that the reason to keep my chest the way it is, is to distract from my belly, when I don’t want either of them (and testosterone may actually help the belly flatten)…that is, the state I haven’t wanted to be in with a belly and breasts and apparently male, is the state I’m in now, as nominally female…

…and because being overtly MALE is a new thing…and would be a more vulnerable position than I’m in now…

…and because the main point of contention is that I don’t want to inject myself with hormones on a weekly basis for the rest of my life…(though this might be the “manly” route)…

…and because there is no way I want to be pregnant…

(…and because I did hear myself in a recording earlier tonight and realized that I don’t sound clearly male or female…)

…and because I don’t have to change my name…

I think I’ve realized…that this is serious. I have a very short jump to being fully legally, chemically male. Socialization comes after that. I have one year to get everything together before other issues may arise.

I first went into counseling specifically around gender, 15 years ago. (I haven’t yet actually taken testosterone, but it’s extremely fast-acting.)

The problem is that the situation is confusing and I was and am in the thick of it, without decent words to describe what I’m going through.

But I’m tired. I need sleep. The point of it or this is that I’m wondering if I am bordering being transgender and male as well as nonbinary, at least at this juncture.

I’m not certain getting further into this is warranted at this point, as I do notice my brain fogging up on me. I just wanted to note this. Before it went away.

(sorry for the partial sentences) 🙂