For those that don’t know, a recent episode of “Survivor” featured the outing (the disclosure of one’s being transgender) of a transgender man on national television. A gay man from North Carolina went on television and said “Why haven’t you told anyone you are transgender?” I’ve watched edited clips and read a good bit about the context of the comment, and it was done in a disgustingly malicious way. The perpetrator outed Zeke Smith in order to try to save himself from being voted off the show.
In some ways telling transgender people that we have to be transparent with our gender histories is just another example of the demands of the majority on the marginalized majority to conform to their ideas of how we should act. More specifically, it is another example of the objectification of trans bodies. When you publicly out someone it can send a message that binary trans people are not men and women. Just to be clear, transgender people don’t owe cisgender people anything when it comes to disclosure unless you are our doctor or romantic partner.
I think Jennifer Boylan said it best in her New York Times article when she said that being transgender isn’t a secret, but it can be private. Privacy in our trans identities is about more than individual autonomy. It’s often about safety. Forcibly outing a trans person in public can get him/her/them killed. This is not an exaggeration. My initial thoughts about the show airing the episode as is included questioning the worthiness off putting Zeke’s safety at risk for the rest of his life for good ratings. I later found out that Zeke approved the episode being aired as is. I think agreeing to air the show was incredibly brave of Zeke.
I do think that LGBTQ people should generally push themselves to be open about being LGBTQ. Now I am not saying that 15 year olds still living at home should announce to their homophobic/transphobic parents that they are LGBTQ, but I do hope that financially stable people over the age of majority take reasonable steps to come out. I can get frustrated with people who sit on the sidelines while out and active members of our community risk their lives to further equality. The ability to be recognized as one’s true gender is a privilege that not every trans person has. Often trans women, and for sure nonbinary people, do not have the privilege of being seen in this way. Not coming out adversely affects those people and our movement as a whole. Is being out hard? It sure can be, but now more than ever visibility matters.
As you know, I’ve been MIA these past couple of Sundays. I’ve been incredibly busy with school stuff. I’ve got some big things to talk about this week since I’ve been gone. The biggest thing that I’ve missed sharing is that I have now passed one year on testosterone. March 25 was the big day. I celebrated by having supper with two dear friends and then night on the town with a much bigger, diverse group of friends. Many of my law school friends and some of my friends from the local trans support group came.
Over this past year my shoulders have broadened, my feet have grown a shoe size, my hairline and jawline have squared off, and my voice has dropped. I’ve had an explosion of acne and hair. My weight has begun redistributing from my hips to my growing beer belly… lol. I’ve gained a lot of confidence. I’m told that I walk with a greater amount of swagger. I can truly look in the mirror and be happy with the man I see looking back at me.
This past Friday was Transgender Day of Visibility. It is a day to celebrate the lives of all transgender people. It’s a day to celebrate the successes and diversity of our community. It’s an interesting day for me because at this point in my transition experience I am no longer misgendered by the general public. If I choose to not out myself people presume I’m a young cisgender man.
Visibility is important to me, especially as a transgender man who has the privilege of being recognized as male. I think when people think of being transgender the first image that comes to mind is a transgender woman. The issues of transgender men and nonbinary or genderqueer folks are largely left out of mainstream conversation. When I come out to people, oftentimes they say that they would have never known. Maybe so, but I also wonder how much of that may be due to the existence of trans men never coming to mind. At the same time, we are not talking enough about the struggles of trans women, especially trans women of color. There has truly been an epidemic of trans women of color being killed that is not being talked about. And the fact that we have to focus on the issue of just not being killed takes away from other serious, but more mundane issues for the trans community.
Shifting within the topic of visibility– I was lucky enough to be elected yesterday as the Young Democrats of Georgia Stonewall Caucus Chair. I am incredibly excited and honored to be elected. I look forward to working with the Caucus Vice Chair and Secretary. When I was giving the Caucus report to the entire YDG membership I mentioned that I am the first openly transgender person to be elected a caucus chair in YDG. I received a standing ovation by most, if not all, in attendance which felt incredible. I think its fair to say that as an organization, the Young Democrats of Georgia supports transgender equality.
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.