Busy Summer

Hey everyone,

As you all can tell, I haven’t been good about posting this summer. Honestly, I’ve been pretty busy and tired. Get ready for a slightly longer post that usual since I’m fitting a lot in!

So some of the highlights of my summer have been swimming for the first time at the beach with a flat chest. As some of you read in my Facebook post about it, it was a truly amazing experience. It is surreal to finally have been able to swim the way I have always wanted to swim. I tend to have pure moments of joy when experiencing an ordinary life moment for the first time as a societally-recognized man. Sometimes it’s because I am experiencing something for the first time in the way that I always thought it should have been, and sometimes I think it’s because I’m experiencing something in a way that I never could have dreamed would mean so much to me. Looking back, I realize that I had to hide so much of myself because I didn’t fit societal expectations of who I was supposed to be. Unboxing myself can be overwhelming at times. When I first came out I was overly masculine, party because I wanted to distance myself from the many years of playing the part of a cisgender girl and partly in an effort to be seen as a man. Now I’m slowly finding the place of authenticity.

Another highlight of my summer was the NYC Pride Parade. While my friend and I were walking down 5th Avenue, looking for a place to watch the parade, I noticed a young guy with a transgender flag tied around him. We kept walking and found a spot, but I just had the feeling that I should go back and talk to the kid. I tapped him on the shoulder and introduced myself and ended up talking to him and his family for about a half hour. They were the sweetest people. It was really great to see such a loving and supportive family. We exchanged numbers so we can stay in touch and because he wants me to have a Skype call with his high school Gay-Straight Alliance. I got a little choked up at the end of our conversation when he said I was the first trans man he’d ever talked to in person. That was really cool.

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most over the summer has been spending time with Kylar Broadus. For those who don’t know Kylar, give him a quick Google search. He’s an amazing guy. Knowing that I have such a strong trans male mentor in my life means the world to me. It truly is life changing to see right in front of me, for the first time, a true representation of all that I want to be and all that I could be. It is incredible to talk with someone who understands me so well. He reminds me that my transmasculinity is powerful, beautiful, and most of all, worthy of respect. I don’t get that affirmation a lot, at least not from someone who really feels it, and I need it from time to time. The transmasculine narrative is one that seems to get lost sometimes in all of the problems we have as a community. It can be lonely being transgender, and sometimes I feel lonelier being a transgender man. So I am deeply grateful for the people like Kylar in my life. I look forward to being there for younger trans people like my trans mentors have been there for me.

And finally, on July 3, I reached my two year anniversary of being out as a transgender man. I’ve certainly had my ups and downs, but I wouldn’t do anything differently. Thanks for being a part of my journey.

All the best,

Harris

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Hanging out on Christopher Street

Culture of Empowerment

Hey y’all,

Well this week has been quite a roller coaster emotionally. It started with coming back from D.C. on Sunday, which was an amazing experience. Monday was the one year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. I remember waking up a year ago to find out that one of my gay sanctuaries had been attacked. As the death toll rose that day I was devastated. A year later, I still mourn for those lost. An older trans woman at my internship was talking about it in passing at work and mentioned that her generation of queer people just expected that kind of stuff to happen in a way that mine has never had to. She said the trans elders are the only ones who get to be tired, and my generation has to lead the fight. That’s scary to hear, but she’s right.

On Tuesday, I got my grades back. Despite my unwavering belief that I failed Property, I didn’t. I actually did better in Property than I did in Employment Law. I was, and still am, disappointed in my Employment Law grade. I get really frustrated with exams that amount to typing contests since I’m a horrible typist. Sigh. Oh, and for all of y’all who put up with my complaining about my “feelings papers,” y’all should be happy to know I did quite well in my externship. Lol

When our GPAs were updated on Wednesday, I found out that my GPA went up from last semester, and compared to last year, it improved 3.1 tenths of a point. I was still pretty down despite this good news. It was a depressing feeling that I similarly had when I got my fall semester grades back in January. To be fair, I was experiencing feeling a little down before my grades came out. How I was feeling doesn’t make sense because on paper everything is rainbows and butterflies here in NYC. I guess emotions don’t make sense all of the time.

On Friday, I went with the other intern to watch a couple of oral arguments at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Both cases were about civil rights issues (religious and free speech discrimination in employment) and were appealing summary judgment. It was really cool to see. I thought it was interesting that some of the competitions that I’ve watched at school had hotter benches than the one I observed on Friday.

Yesterday, I went to Bronx Pride with one of my co-workers. Despite the rain at the beginning, everyone had a great time. Being around so many trans people of color, especially the elders really put everything back into perspective for me. Some have been fighting to survive for decades. Some have been thriving for decades. All have been committed to the movement for decades.

The Bronx Pride was incredibly trans-centered. They gave out many awards to those that have supported my community. There’s an entire culture here, trans and queer, that I’m learning about. I have an entire culture that I’m finally learning about and experiencing. It’s a powerful thing. I don’t feel so down anymore.

All the best,

Harris

 

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In front of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals

D.C. Pride

Hey y’all!

So another week of living in NYC has come and gone. I’m not in love with being there. I don’t hate it, but I’m not in love. Maybe when I explore the city more next weekend it will grow on me some more. I do like work and my co-workers. I did really enjoy our fundraising event on Thursday. I struggled to think of a time where I was surrounded by more transgender people. I guess the only comparable situation I can think of would be during last year’s lavender law conference. It’s always great to be surrounded by your people. It’s this feeling of family and instant comfort. I even got to meet the amazing Janet Mock and got a copy of one of her books. It was a in fact a “rainbows and butterflies” kind of night.

This weekend I went to Washington D.C. to celebrate a friend’s birthday and go to Pride and the Equality March. Overall, I had a really great time. There was glitter, alcohol, rainbows, feathers, high heels, short shorts, and more alcohol.

It was truly amazing to run around shirtless for pride. For the first time since I can remember I felt proud of how I looked… beer belly and all! Some might think that transgender people are overly obsessed with physical appearance, but once you finally get to see the person that you’ve been wishing to see for years looking back at you in the mirror, damn right you’re proud. I got many knowing smiles from other transgender people as the parade went down the street yesterday and as I marched through the streets for equality today. Having that kind of support means the world to me.

I also can’t help but think about how this trip was different than my last trip to Washington. Last time, I was so excited to go see all the monuments and proud to take my picture in front of the White House. Being in Washington has made me miss President Obama even more. This time, I joined countless others in giving the White House the middle finger as we marched by.

One could say that my behavior was childish and disrespectful. It might even come back to haunt me one day if I run for office. But, I and the thousands of other marchers today have a right to be angry and express it how we choose. Our rights are being threatened and our very democracy is being undermined. Telling me or any other marginalized person how or how not to express anger is oppressive and seeks to undermine the very real feelings that we have. This kind of anger seems to be limited to those of majority status but certainly shouldn’t be. So I’m going to keep marching, keep yelling, and yes, keep flipping the White House the bird because I’m angry.

All the best,

Harris

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And I’m Back

Hey everyone,

As you know, it has been quite a while since I’ve been on here. I have been really busy with school, finals, packing, and moving to New York City for the summer. I am kind of disappointed that I haven’t been keeping up with my blog, but obviously I’ve had a lot going on lately.

I am approximately 830 miles away from home, Georgia’s Alexander Campbell King Law Library! I’m kidding… sort of. So yeah, I arrived in NYC last Sunday afternoon by train. While it was cheaper to take the train because of all my luggage, I didn’t sleep hardly at all. The damn train whistle went off at every road/tracks crossing. There was a surprising amount of room on the train, and it was nice to get up and walk around a good bit. I’d like to fly back, but I’ll probably take the train back to save some money.

Speaking of money, this place isn’t cheap! I’m really mad that I was forced to buy eight meals a week in NYU’s dining hall, and it isn’t even open on weekends right now. I’m not sure it’s going to be open on weekends. I’ll find out more tomorrow at a hall meeting.

Right now my biggest obstacle is getting my testosterone. I was supposed to take my shot the Friday before I left, but since the prescription was in Athens, I just thought I’d wait to transfer it to a CVS here. When I went to a nearby CVS they told me that I couldn’t transfer the prescription into the state because it’s a controlled substance, and my doctor would have to write a new one. It took me a couple of days to call the doctor because everything was so hectic at work. So long story short is that my doctor in Athens snail-mailed a prescription to a CVS here in the city, and I hope to do my shot this week. That means I’ll be basically two weeks behind on my shot. Needless to say, I’m a little tired and grumpy from being low-T. I just hope it doesn’t cost me too much when I get it filled…

As for some good news, I met up with someone that will be going to Georgia Law next year. We had a great time walking around Greenwich Village and getting some ice cream. He won’t be here the entire summer, but I’m sure that we’ll hang out a lot before he heads back to Georgia.

Overall, I like being here alright. On Friday night, I had drinks with Kylar Broadus, a work colleague from TLDEF. It was really amazing to talk about the trans movement, trans guy stuff, trans lawyer stuff, and the like with him. I also am glad that it isn’t too hot so far. I live on the 14th floor of the dorm, but I don’t have air conditioner. At some point I’ll get a fan. I do still miss Athens, but I don’t think that feeling will ever go away.

All the best,

Harris

The Real Survivor

Hey everyone,

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.

All the best,

Harris

 

 

Visible For Those Who Can’t Be

Hey everyone,

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.

All the best,

Harris

 

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373 days on testosterone. 111 days post top surgery. 1 visible trans guy.

Big Apple

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Bye Bye Binder

Hi everyone,

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.

All the best,

Harris