Recommended Reading: Beard hacks, finasteride hell, and 5 other things ‘trans masc’ folks might not know about.

This is an awesome perspective w/r/t doing transmasculinity. People don’t talk nearly enough about the physical challenges of top surgery, and instead focus on the pain and dysphoria of the “before” and the peace and ease of the “after”.

In conjunction with this, Finch does a great job of outlining the multiplicity of dysphoric experiences we may have as a way of rebutting truscum gender/diagnostic essentialisms. There is no pure, “prior” experience of dysphoria against which all other trans peoples’ feelings should be measured…instead, start thinking of dysphoria as a way to put words to your understanding of your body in the world as a tgnc person. There’s no “true trans” or “fake trans”, there’s just each one of us, and the limited language with which we need to (unfortunately) justify our lived experiences.

Let's Queer Things Up!

Every so often — especially in transitioning — I’ll have one of those “why didn’t someone tell me this sooner?” moments. Because we’re in the age of information, I think a lot of folks in the transgender community just assume we already have the information we need.

But in actuality? Many of us don’t.

I’ve found that when I share some of what’s surprised me, there’s always a decent number of trans people who are also hearing it for the first time. While transition is a process of discovery, I can’t help but feel that life would be a hell of a lot easier if we did a better job of sharing what we’ve learned with others.

This article, then, is a mishmash of some of the clever, enlightening, or flat-out surprising things that I would’ve appreciated being told at the beginning of my transition.

As someone who is genderqueer…

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the word “march” has many meanings

I was surprised to see Uncle Sam at the Amsterdam “March for Our Lives” solidarity gathering. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been –– the dry, dying grass of our crumbling imperialist hellscape is always greener from Europe, right? For expats, I can only assume this to be even truer –– I suppose, after years away from “home,” it can become easy to confuse a longing for Target’s welcoming bullseye with the desire to to get emotional about the Declaration of Independence. Or something. Or, perhaps, I’m still giving them too much credit.

So, the March –– which, for the record, was not actually a march but a gathering in a park adjacent to the U.S. Consulate building –– took place on Saturday the 24th of March, as others around the world did the same. I was, and am, glad I went: it was heartening to see the proportion of people under eighteen who were there rivaling overall adult turnout. Most of the speakers were teenagers; all are praiseworthy for their courage and eloquence, particularly a blonde fourteen-year-old who I could only describe (at the risk of sounding glib) as “spunky.” Needless to say, she sported a denim vest, assorted pin-back buttons adorning the front, over her “March for Our Lives” t-shirt.

Cool teenagers aside, one of the organizers –– a trim white woman in her fifties who had the look of someone who hand-knitted pussy hats and worshipped at the altar of Elizabeth Warren* –– helped my brief experience at the gathering to be disappointing from the start. She went up to the mic at around 2:00, the scheduled start time. She thanked the police for “protecting the people” and “making sure everyone had a safe protest experience.” She then encouraged American expat attendees to sign up to vote, at which time they could also pose for pictures with the aforementioned Uncle Sam character.

An adult speaker whose speech closely followed this woman’s used “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” as its centerpiece. Most ironically, in addition to the Declaration of Independence, she took the Constitution as American gospel. The Constitution is, has been, and will continue to be demonstrably complicit in the U.S.’s colonialist, white supremacist, cis-hetero-patriarchial (yadda, yadda, you all know the rest) order. Although it appears to be a misconception that the Second Amendment was ratified solely to permit the existence of slave patrols, it was still an amendment that applied only to adult, property-owning, white men. It was still phrased in a way that did not permit individual black people to own firearms. It is still conveniently abandoned by “frightened” police officers when they decide to open fire on innocent black bodies; it was still only able to be restricted when the Black Panthers assembled their armed militia.

We were, after being pumped full of bizarrely patriotic rhetoric, reminded that we needed to leave the area by 3:00. There was another gathering authorized to happen at that time. I wondered if the schedule of legal, safe, non-combative protests for the day was up in someone’s office break room, right between the dirty Keurig and the recycling bin, perhaps attached to the communal refrigerator.

“Now for some chants! What’s a protest without chants?” The adults in charge of this thing seemed far too giggly given that we were protesting the U.S. government’s complicity in the murder of schoolchildren. She led us in some chants. I felt almost embarrassed –– perhaps we were doing this because of the high proportion of under-eighteens present, but I felt like I was acting out a puppet show of how to “peacefully protest” instead of actually, uh, protesting. This feeling was only amplified when we concluded our gathering, and were beckoned to a nearby hill to take a group picture that was sure to be, as the trim white woman in her fifties said, “Instagram-worthy.” I yearned for Jean Baudrillard’s counsel on all of this mess, but instead, I went for coffee with Isabel (which was delightful in it’s own right!).

This gathering, protest, whatever it was (or, laments Baudrillard, inevitably appears to be but in fact is not) evoked a number of conflicting emotions in me. My overwhelming takeaway from my hour standing in mild, 50ºF weather, cornily chanting and taking an occasional picture, was that this gathering was not necessarily empty of purpose but rather had the wrong purpose. This, I feel, can be dangerous given the number of kids that were there. Before I explain that further, I want to note that the primary happy emotion I felt throughout the rally was hope for ~the next generation~**. The sheer number of young people (particularly kids under twelve) present was heartening. Knowing that they knew what an AR-15 was when they were years from fifteen themselves made my heart seize. Seeing their energy and willingness to take time out of their day to demonstrate made it relax, just a little.

That being said, I do think that there is a danger in normalizing these (in)actions as what a protest is, and even more of a danger in framing this as what a protest should be. It would have been far more honest to call this a solidarity gathering or even a vigil, both of which are real and essential parts of grieving lives lost to politicized violence. If a protest is authorized by the authorities, who and what, exactly, are you protesting? If your protest wraps up in a timely manner so that the next scheduled event can take place, if your protest inconveniences no one, what is its purpose outside of making individuals feel more socially progressive? There was an atmosphere of faith in the American political system, despite the system (and its white male beneficiaries) being responsible for the very horrors they protested. Meanwhile, vote! Vote! Surely salvation from the present systems of power and violence lies in the system installed by powerful! My only hope is that those kids who continue to participate in this sort of thing realize the true scope of possibilities under the umbrella of “protest,” not just the G-rated kind.

I’m not going to rant anarchist-ly (that’s an adverb I’m saying is real now, because the real-fake-word-binary is socially constructed) anymore (in this post). I have several other interesting stories from the past week that I’m interested in sharing, but I’m going to keep the contents of this particular post focused on the March. All my love to the people of Florida, of Maryland, and to all those affected by gun violence who remain invisible.


*This was meant to be more observational than mocking. She fits neatly into a very specific breed of 40-60-year-old trim white women who have probably canvassed for the Democratic Party at least four times. They all have that voice, too, you know? Kind of Midwestern, a little like they’re chewing on something. In spite of myself, I find it rather comforting, in much the same way I’m sure they find their recent decision to only purchase organic fruit.

**Is nineteen old enough to start talking about the next generation? Do I get to consider “gen Z” kids as youngsters? No clue. But the spunky fourteen-year-old (b. 2004) who spoke at the gathering referred to 9/11 as a historical event in the same breath as the Vietnam War and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Although I (b. 1998) don’t actually remember 9/11, I still “feel old.”

the best of intentions

When I am left unchecked with my thoughts, my tendency to reason my way out of new, potentially frightening situations reveals itself naturally. When I’ve finished my studying and scroll mindlessly through Facebook until I will myself to carry on with my night, I open all of the events happening “near me,” and take brief pleasure in the idea of being a part of them. Despite it’s relatively small size, the Pioneer Valley holds a far greater number of convenient social opportunities than does my hometown. As a first-year, and even last semester, I daydreamt about what I might do, knowing full well I would back out: today I might go to that concert, that meeting; today I might check out that café, today will be the day I visit that store I went to once and promised myself I’d return to.

I’m a solitary person. I am also a person who invents myriad excuses as to why I can’t or shouldn’t go to a particular place. I choose to stay in instead of going to a reading or talk, I tell myself, it’s too hot, too cold, too rainy, too sunny, the stars haven’t properly aligned, I’m wearing blue today, etc. It’s hard to take myself seriously with some of these excuses, so they feel more like semi-comfortable lies. These lies are thrown into focus on those rare occasions that I do keep to my word and venture to some off-campus event I planned to go to. In September I went to get a tattoo; I spent time with my friends; I walked around Northampton while it was still relatively warm. I felt the kind of fear usually coupled with freedom, and it was a refreshing change from the knowing shame that comes with inaction. It was scary to see and be seen. It was frightening to know that those evening strangers in Northampton saw me and knew I saw them. In public I feel that I am especially on display; in the dark I feel on display for some unknown figure on the opposite side of a one-way mirror.

My tattoo looks lovely. It was the product not of plan but instead of intention. Booked and partially paid for, it was a part of the narrative that could not be swapped; it was a final draft past any point of revision. Fears can’t easily cancel these intentions as they do tentative plans.

My ambivalence toward going out is, paradoxically, tied to my fear of confinement. I spent my first year at Mount Holyoke afraid to ride the public bus because I knew that its schedule would never be entirely, truly reliable without discrepancies or inconveniences. Relying on others to make my plans realities, I reasoned, was foolish; it was better to avoid such interference entirely and make no plans at all. Although I’m no longer afraid, per se, of public transportation, when I am away from home or “home” there is always a fear nestled in my heart. If I shut down; if I’m drained of energy and I’m somewhere alien to me, what do I do? Of course, I can take the bus home, but that bus’s schedule is not under my control, that bus is shared with people who might disturb me, that bus might even not come, I might be waiting at the wrong bus stop, I might be on the wrong side of the road, I might –––

Enchanting as such autonomy may be, the idea I can ruminate my way out of the confines of my own brain is just as ridiculous as refusing the bus for fear that it might be a minute late.

Discussions around changing wholesale my thought patterns (whether one calls them symptoms or behaviors or neuroses or quirks) tend to reveal their futility pretty quickly. Enchanting as such autonomy may be, the idea I can ruminate my way out of the confines of my own brain is just as ridiculous as refusing the bus for fear that it might be a minute late. And anyway, the prospect of overcoming something so bound up in my own personal character feels distant. Distant things are to be taken less seriously than things that are close; they are to be dawdled around and pushed aside until they are soon.

This trip to Amsterdam has been soon since I first learned it was an option. I began the research and internal application process at the very end of 2017’s spring semester, frantically scheduling informational meetings around classes and finals and telling almost no one of my plans for fear of bad luck. I walked into the office dealing with students studying abroad and was unwavering in my decision to do so as a sophomore, in Amsterdam. Meetings like these taught me to shift my language surrounding my plans: it is not that I might go abroad, it is that I intend to go abroad. My proclivity toward canceling plans out of fear and inconvenience had to be buried as I performed worldly, mature studenthood. It even temporarily vanished as no one was there to interrogate or ruminate on it.

Since the day I received Laurel funding from Mount Holyoke, I have not entertained the idea that I might back out of my decision to go abroad. I have not seriously questioned myself: Are you ready for this? I know already that the answer would be a resounding no. I’m afraid and I’m never going to feel ready. There is no plan that will be executed precisely the way I want it to be. I fear the mistakes that, inevitably, I’m going to make. I fear the vulnerabilities I will no doubt show. In the past several months, people have asked me, are you excited? And I say, I’m nervous. Several people close to me once replied: you know, you don’t have to go. And I will say I do.

Thinking seriously about this still leaves me breathless with fear –– which, I should note, my body’s compensatory anxiety already does, even when I am not actively thinking about it. Knowing this, I place my soon-to-be reality in a specific mental container: one for things I factually know are real but have not gestated long enough to have consequences. I received an email an hour ago, which contained details regarding our spring break excursion from Amsterdam to Morocco. This is a planned experience that I do not waste my time convincing myself to partake in; rather, it is the inevitable experience that will be, and thus, in some ways, already is.