Well to those who don’t know, I accepted an internship with the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund in New York City for the summer. It’s going to be truly amazing to work with all of the trans attorneys there. It’s also going to be incredibly nice to not have to teach others about trans issues for a couple of months. The idea that I’ll be learning more about trans issues and trans legal theory through the trans attorneys there is incredibly exciting. Of course, about a week after accepting the position at TLDEF the judge with the EEOC in Atlanta offered me a summer internship. Obviously I declined to take it. I think I made the right choice for me.
SCOTUS is sending back Gavin Grimm’s case to use the correct bathroom to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals in light of the reversal of the federal government’s position. It’s pretty heartbreaking to say the least. To try and make a difference in the case’s outcome, a handful of trans law students and I joined an amicus brief for the case. The National Law Journal wrote an article highlighting some of our stories. The statewide legal newspaper republished it, and even the School gave the article a mention on it’s website. That at least feels pretty good.
Last weekend I finally got to burn one of my binders. It’s a right of passage of sorts for trans guys who’ve had top surgery. Wearing a binder is pretty horrible, so I was really glad to see it go. Before you get all “you could have donated it” on me, it wasn’t in a condition good enough to donate, and I’ve saved two more to donate to trans guys in need. They’re the Underworks full torso size large. If you’d like one or know someone who would, comment below.
Tomorrow is 3 months post-op. I’m still a little sore, but I can sleep on my stomach comfortably. I have a little discoloration between the scars in the middle of my chest. I guess it’s some bruising. It doesn’t hurt though. If you’re wondering about top surgery and have specific questions, just comment below.
On Thursday I had supper with a trans guy and his parents who is wanting to transfer to UGA. His mom came in contact with my mom through a LGBT mom’s Facebook group, and she emailed me to set it up. I enjoyed meeting him and his family. I can see why his mom and my mom connected. They’re both very involved in their kids’ lives to say the least. I was hoping he would be a little more active in asking questions of me. He’s going to have to learn to not rely on his parents as much. I think that my transition has been extra satisfying in knowing I’ve navigated the vast majority of it on my own. Of course I’ve had help along the way through emotional support and people answering my questions. But it feels good to know I’ve been the catalyst for my own happiness.
Wow, a lot has happened over the last week. I guess I’ll start with the Cheeto. As all of y’all should know, the current administration has announced a different stance on transgender students in regard to Title IX. Obviously I think they are wrong and that discrimination based on gender identity is sex discrimination. I’ve been feeling pretty down about the whole situation lately, not because I fear for my own safety in the School’s bathrooms, but because I fear for the younger trans kids.
On a different note, I had three interviews on Friday. The first one was with the EEOC hearings unit. I interviewed with Judge Hagan. I think it went well, but I’m not sure if it went well enough. He did say that I would hear back by the middle of the week. The second one was with the Georgia Law Center for the Homeless. I think I knocked it out of the park.
The third one was not really much of an interview as it was just an offer to intern at the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund in NYC. I would be working with two of my very favorite trans guy attorneys (Yes, I include you in the broader group, T-Rex Sr.) and would be absolutely in love with the work. I guess the hangup I have is figuring out if it would be the right move for my career. I’m interested in employment law and working with an administrative law judge would be great experience and great for my resume. However, it will be nice to spend the summer broadening my knowledge of trans legal issues rather than just teaching others about them. A summer at TLDEF would be an amazing recharge. I’m going to have to think hard about this if I am so fortunate as to get an internship with the EEOC.
So for the first time I’m taking a stand on pronoun use. As many of you know, I do my best to be generous when people slip up and use the wrong pronouns for me. Yesterday, at the Working in the Public Interest Conference someone whom I used to consider a friend misgendered me in front of a group of people. This person has done it periodically since we met. I have gracefully corrected this person time and time again, but this time I’m done. I don’t take lightly removing someone from my life, especially a colleague, but I have to take care of myself.
Yesterday was also Barrister’s Ball. It’s basically the Law School’s prom. I even rented a tuxedo for the event. A group of my friends went to dinner before. We had overpriced Italian food lol The Ball was so much fun. I certainly got my money’s worth! As I walked around the Georgia Theater, I felt a tremendous amount of love from my fellow students. So many people told me how good I looked or congratulated me on my offer or just chatted with me about the night. I had a really amazing time.
As I sit here in my apartment taking in the sunshine and a break from school work, I can’t help but wonder a little bit about how I got to this place. I was talking to a friend over Skype that I haven’t talked to in months, and she told me that I seemed different, happier than she’d seen me in a long time. I think that’s true. It’s nice to look in the mirror and see a handsome man rather than just dream about him.
The testosterone has changed more than just my appearance though. It’s given me a sense of true confidence. It has taken me a while to grow into me, and I’m certainly not done yet. It can be hard at times to separate the hyper-masculine man that the world wants me to be and the masculine man that I am… and sometimes the not-so-masculine man that I can be. It’s changed the way I look at the world in some respects, but at the end of the day I think it’s just allowed me to really be me.
On the other hand, I can’t seem to quiet that little voice in the back of my mind. It’s the self-sabotaging, doom and gloom voice that I’ve had since forever. I find a weird sense of comfort in darkness. At least the monsters come out and play in the dark. The light just makes them hide in the shadows. Then again maybe it’s all in my head. As one white-haired law professor would say, “Argue against yourself, Mr. Mason.”
On a different note, I hope y’all will send me good wishes on Friday. I have two formal and one informal job interview. I’ve got to stop with the Sunny D and Cosmic brownies because I’ve got to fit into my dress shirt. Maybe one of those monsters in the dark is shrinking my dress shirts…
Oh, and in true poetic fashion, I just filled out my selective service form on top of my Young Harris College Bible with a UGA Law pen and stuck a Harvey Milk stamp on the envelope. I wonder if it will get accepted.
Tomorrow will be two months since my top surgery! I am overall very, very pleased with the results. There’s one little thing that I’m hoping will smooth out, but I won’t go into the details here. If you’re interested in top surgery and want to know more, send me a comment or message here, and I’ll give you more info. Umm, my chest is a lot less sore than it was. I can lie down on my side for short periods now. I’m not 100% yet, but it’s definitely better. I’d really like to get back in the gym in a couple of weeks. Maybe I’ll feel up to it in March. I’ve been thinking about posting some pictures here, but I don’t think I’m ready to do that just yet. I’ll be happy when the scars fade.
I shaved for the first time since October last Saturday, and I have noticeable stubble a week later. Of course I would love to be able to grow a full beard, but I’m also kind of glad that I don’t have to shave all the time just yet. I am glad that my acne is starting to clear up. It definitely helps with people not thinking that I’m like 12 years old… lol
So last week I talked about an incident in class involving the use of the word transsexual and other offensive language used in reference to transgender people. I had a meeting with the professor, and he was open to my comments and thanked me for coming to talk to him. We had a respectful and productive conversation. He even said that he would go back and discuss the case in a way that is more authentic to the trans experience. Obviously I was thrilled with the result of our conversation. I was a little disheartened when he didn’t go back and discuss the case in our last class. The last case we talked about in class was the last one in the discrimination section, I believe. I’m going to be pretty angry and disappointed if he doesn’t go back and address all of the incorrect things that happened in the presentation of that case. I hate the idea of people thinking that it’s okay to misgender someone or call someone a transsexual or think that trans people have gender identity disorder.
Yesterday I went to another trans support group meeting. It’s always good to hang with other trans people. I’ve been feeling a little down lately with all of the political idiocy going on. It was nice to get a little recharge by being around my people.
Well I’ve had quite a lot going on this last week. I spent most of my free time rewriting a portion of my paper on the constitutionality of gendered bathroom segregation. I’m using it as a writing sample for my LGBTQ-related summer internship applications. I’m still not happy with it, but I’m not sure that I’ll ever be. I applied to mostly Georgia internships for the summer, but a couple of my top ones are actually in New York City. I don’t know if I’ll be able to handle all those Yankees, but I know that I would have the time of my life working with the firms I applied to there! Fingers crossed that I get some interviews…
So I finally had to sit through a case with a transgender plaintiff. It was for my employment law class and was a Title VII sex discrimination case. I knew it was going to be bad when I read the description of the case in the syllabus. It said “6th Cir. advances protections for transsexual workers.” I probably should have said something in class, but I was very angry. It was likely best that I said nothing to him. I was correcting him under my breath in class. Apparently I was loud enough for some of my friends sitting close by to hear me…
I understand that the case used that term. The case also constantly misgendered the plaintiff and referred to the outdated term, “gender identity disorder.” However, I think any professor teaching a case on an insular minority has an obligation to accurately represent the minority group regardless of how the Court does. When I emailed him to explain how I felt about his handling of the case, he said he used the term transsexual because the Court did. I just think it’s interesting that the very next case used the term “negro,” and I didn’t hear him use that term in class…
My email explained my thoughts on the use of various outdated and offensive terms. I also explained that I think the sex stereotyping theory used in the case is not accurate to the transgender experience. An accurate, scientifically supported theory would be to categorize gender identity as one of the many components that informs biological sex.
The email I received was not exactly the response I was looking for. He did say that he wanted to meet with me. To be fair, he did correct himself and used the correct pronouns to describe the plaintiff about halfway through. I don’t think he understands the hurtful and hateful wording that he used.
I’m not looking for an apology. I just want him to have another class discussion explaining the case the right way. I’ve pretty much decided that I’m going to go up the totem poll for anything short of another class discussion. It’s so very important that the next generation of lawyers has a basic understanding of the trans experience and what terms are correct in describing it. You can’t effectively advocate for someone or something that you don’t understand.
I’m sorry that I missed posting last week. I’ve been incredibly busy with school and my research clerkship. My research professor gave me a much bigger project than I think either of us anticipated, and I’ve been working long hours to try and finish. I keep running into 40 page case after 40 page case that I have to go through…
So a lot has happened over the last couple of weeks. Like I mentioned in my last post, I did spend inauguration day changing my gender marker on various identity documents. I started with the Social Security Administration. The woman of color who handled my case there was wonderful. She asked how I was, and I said that I was good but a little sad. She said that she hoped everything got better for me, and I said that it will take four years. We locked eyes in a moment of solidarity, and she said she understood. She happily corrected my gender marker for the SSA. As I left, I wished her the best, and she wished me the same.
My next stop was the DMV to change my driver’s license. I was most worried about the DMV. The DMV should take a surgeon’s letter or court order as proof for a gender marker change, but I wondered if a surgeon’s letter would actually work. As I approached the first line of defense at the DMV, the woman asked what I was there for. I quietly said to change my gender marker. She quietly asked if I had all the documentation, to which I affirmatively replied. I took my number and grabbed a seat. For the first time ever, I got to check “Male” on a government document.
I was worried about which DMV worker I would end up being at the mercy of. I was assigned to a woman that seemed to be the manager, which was nice. I was afraid of getting someone who had never changed a gender marker before. She was very polite and changed it with no problem. You can be sure that my heart was pounding as she read every line of my surgeon’s letter, which at the time seemed like it took her forever to do. I could tell that the letter’s wording was what helped her make the decision to change it for me.
I ended with applying for a passport in the Tate Student Center, which was largely uneventful. Once I get my passport back, I’m going to file for a legal gender change so I can amend my birth certificate. I think that will just be a matter of time and money, both of which I have little of…
Anyway, this past Wednesday was my 25th birthday. The day itself wasn’t that special. I was at my externship all day. My supervisor did pick up some amazing chocolate peanut butter cookies from Fresh Market. I did go to Atlanta yesterday and had lunch with my mom and sister. We saw Hidden Figures, which was amazing. I especially appreciated all of the underlying bathroom access issues that Katherine had. Who knew we would still be worrying about where people use the damn bathroom? I think the movie made it clear that worrying about where one is going to the bathroom seriously hurts not only productivity but well-being.
I’m back at school for more fun in the sun. It has been a surprising adjustment to be back at school. In retrospect, I don’t think I got much of a break with my recovery taking up my break. I did get my grades back last week, and I knocked last semester out of the park. I was not expecting it at all. It feels good to have my hard work pay off, but I’m quite frankly terrified of replicating the results in the semesters to come. I’m not exactly sure what I did differently. A friend of mine said that I seemed to be more focused… maybe so. I obviously had my top surgery on my mind last semester, but I think I was more at home in my body than I’ve been in past semesters. The testosterone settled in around mid-semester. The proscribing doctor said it would take about six months to adjust to the effects on my mood, and I guess that’s about right.
I had the pleasure of chatting with my favorite professor last week, and I’m extraordinarily thankful for her taking the time to listen to me. I told her deeply personal stuff about my winter break and received compassion and thoughtful input. I realize that I’m very blessed to have such a relationship–friendship–with this professor.
So I’m still in love with my chest. It’s a weird thing to say, but I am. I’m still in pain around my incisions, and it’s been an adjustment to stand up straight, but I love the way it looks. I have been healing a little slower than expected, and I do have a little spot on one on my incisions that’s a little concerning. Maybe I’ve been healing slower because I’ve been dealing with some allergy issues, but I’m not sure. I do long for the days where I can sleep on my stomach, but that’s probably a couple of weeks away.
I did receive a few medical bills that I wasn’t expecting for my chest totaling about $600 dollars. I have no idea how I’m going to pay them, so hopefully I can get something worked out. I really need to get on that.
I originally planned to spend all of inauguration day in bed, but I think I’m going to be more productive. I plan to go to the social security office to change my gender marker and apply for a passport designated “male.” I hope that I don’t run into any problems. I might even try and change my driver’s license. The way I read the regulation, I should be able to change the gender marker with just the doctor’s note. The problem is that the change is up to the discretion of the DMV. Athens seems to be a pretty progressive town, but we shall see.