Regrets

Hey everyone,

I had lunch at with a [french fry-stealing] friend this past Wednesday, and she asked me a question that I thought was worth some elaboration here. She asked if I had any regrets about transition. After a little thought, I said yes. I wish I could have told certain people goodbye. There are others, but two of those people would have been Granny P. and Bud. They lived up the street from me growing up and would babysit my sister and me. Bud introduced me to the second–Georgia was my first–love of my life, golf. We would hit golf balls all over their yard. Bud would even play dolls with me. He would be Barbie, and I would be Ken… naturally lol. Granny P and Bud treated us like we were their own grandchildren. In fact, Granny P would tell my mom that the only time she and Bud would fight was when she told my mom we misbehaved.

The last time I saw them was at Christmas of my 1L year. Even then I knew it would likely be the last time I saw them because I thought it would be too hard to maintain the relationship after I started testosterone. I don’t recall if they knew I changed my name to Harris. For some reason I think they did, but they certainly didn’t know anything else about my transition. Granny P passed away at the beginning of finals during my 2L year. Finals were a good excuse not to go to the funeral, but I really haven’t had much of an excuse not to go see Bud since then. I just don’t want to get hurt again by him, or the other adopted family members in my life growing up that I’ve put off seeing.

My friend’s follow up question was whether one of those people was my dad. I said no. The last time I talked to him was middle of March, 2016. I didn’t want to talk to him and only did after he basically coerced me into it. We did briefly talk about my transition. Apparently he found out through Facebook, not that we were friends. I remember thinking while I was on the phone with him that my voice would soon start changing. I also remember him being not quite accepting of my transition, but not necessarily wanting it to be the reason we don’t have a relationship. But he was too late. In my mind I told him goodbye a long time before.

Removing him from my life has been an act of self preservation. I don’t hate him anymore. I’m very rarely angry about all of the terrible things he did to me when I was a child. Honestly, I don’t think about him very much at all. When I do I get a little sad. I’m sad about the childhood that he took from me. I’m sad that he won’t get the help he needs. I’m sad that my relationship with him will probably affect my relationship with my own little family one day. However, I think I’m doing what’s best for me. I don’t regret that.

All the best,

Harris

P.S. Wishing a special Father’s Day to queer dads and dads supportive of their queer kids.

 

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Alumnus

Hey everyone,

As many of you know, graduation was on May 19. Although, it seems like yesterday in a way. The moment when Professor Shipley called my name and I received my [currently empty] diploma tube from Dean Ringhand was the greatest moment of my life. It was really surreal.

Graduating was a personal accomplishment like no other. This will be my first diploma with “Harris” on it. My license has my name on it too, but I think this diploma says more about me than my license does. I’ve always been a Georgia Bulldog, but now I have proof.

My mom and uncle went to Georgia for undergraduate school, so when I was growing up we would come to Athens fairly often. Back then the University represented a lot of different things to me. In my mind it was pinnacle of academia. It was also a safe harbor of sorts for some of my “stereotypical boyish” childhood interests that weren’t always accepted. My mom generally tolerated my frequent wearing of UGA shirts over more “feminine” clothing, and most people encouraged my being a maniacal fan of Georgia sports. But at its core, UGA represented this fanciful level of safety for me. In high school I would tell myself that I just had to work hard at school and golf so I could go to UGA on scholarship. Somehow that achievement would make the years of abuse from my father fade away. It was a lie I told myself to survive those years.

When I first got to Georgia Law, my focus on survival didn’t end. The near constant misgendering, feelings of inadequacy, and pressure to perform just about killed me. Slowly those things lessened. The past three years have been better than I ever dreamed in so many ways, even with the hardships. I made friends whom I now consider family. They corrected people who misgendered me, looked out for me in public restrooms, gave me pep talks full of rainbows and butterflies, comforted me while I cried after the 2016 election, threw me birthday parties, and treated me like one of the guys. Some of my favorite moments were just hanging out with classmates and professors. My professors–and classmates, to be honest–are some of the most brilliant people I’ve ever met. I am thankful for the world-class legal education I received. My favorite class was on gender identity and sexuality law (obviously). It was taught by the first openly gay teacher I’ve ever had. It was truly glorious to look to the front of the classroom and for the first time, see myself looking back.

All of my internship experiences were impactful too. For example, I spent a summer in New York City where I worked in an office full of transgender people, learned about ballroom, and felt like I got to meet Marsha, in a way. I also worked for the first female Judge of the Western Circuit Superior Court, a Georgia Law alumna. A friend of mine reminded me that his generation of transgender people likely wouldn’t have had that opportunity, which was something I carried with me every day. I carried a lot with me through law school, which is why I am deeply grateful for the support I received.

All of this is to say, I am so proud to be an alumnus.

All the best,

Harris

 

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Photo Credit: Jen Wolf

2nd Tranniversary

Hey everyone,

Yesterday I celebrated the second anniversary of my first testosterone shot by going to brunch with a few close friends. I am very lucky to have these people in my life.

Time sure flies when you’re going through second puberty… Anyway, I’m glad I made voice videos for the majority of my first year of transition. It’s always fun to go back and see how far I’ve come. It’s also abundantly clear that I was really depressed when making most of the videos. I was feeling the weight of having to constantly reinforce who I was and how I was going to be treated while silently hoping that that the changes were going to be what I imagined. Luckily, as time has gone on the testosterone has taken effect, and it has greatly alleviated my dysphoria. Honestly, there are very few weeks that go by that I don’t catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror and have to fight back tears. I feel strong and handsome in a way I never have before.

People have asked me which tranniversary this is for me, which is a fair question. I guess I could have five: one for my coming out as transgender (6/3/15), another for my legal name change (12/2/15), another for my testosterone shot (3/25/16), another for my top surgery (12/13/16), and another for when I got my gender marker changed on my license (1/20/2017). All these events obviously are significant to me, but the anniversary of my first testosterone shot is particularly important.

I don’t mean to glorify my ability to medically transition, and I recognize the immense privilege I have in being able to transition, given the just the costs. Also, it’s important to reiterate that I was no less a man the day before my shot. While July 3, 2015 was when I first told the world who I am, March 25, 2016 was when I first felt like the most me. Obviously it would take months for the changes to become apparent but having that first shot gave me so much hope for the future–hope that the world would see me as I knew I was and hope that the man of my dreams could be the man in the mirror. As a side note, March 25, 2015 was the day I found out I was accepted to Georgia Law, so the day is especially… special.

All the best,

Harris

Growing Pains

Hey everyone,

It has been a minute, hasn’t it? Well my GPA survived last semester relatively unscathed, which was a miracle given the trials and tribulations of those months. Now I have one semester left. More accurately, I have half a semester left. Then I suppose my name will change again. This time, it will be Harris R. Mason, J.D.

This semester, I’ve been running myself ragged in an internship with a local Superior Court Judge. Interestingly enough, until this past Friday, I have no reason to believe the Judge or her Staff Attorney know I’m trans. I didn’t tell them, at least. I thought it would be interesting to find out what it would be like at a job with no one knowing. It’s been interesting and relatively uneventful. Trans issues have popped up a few times, but luckily everything has worked out in a way that didn’t make me feel like I needed to out myself, or conversely, nothing about my own gender entered the equation. But perhaps they’ll find out after reading the article the School published…

I’m on spring break now, and honestly I’m feeling a little lonely. Yesterday, I went to the Athens Trans Support Group meeting. We went around the circle and shared what we wanted to add into our lives for the upcoming spring season. I said I’d like to start writing my blog again. So here I am.

Tonight, I watched Paris is Burning for the first time. I miss my trans people. It was really nice to go to the meeting. There were quite a few trans guys there, and we had lunch together afterward. They invited me to go to Sister Louisa’s for drinks. I planned to go, but then I didn’t feel like it when the time came.

So I was featured in a little write-up that was in an e-newsletter published on Friday. I talked about being the first openly transgender man to graduate from the law school–about how emotionally draining it has been to educate people on transgender-related issues. I also talked about the support I’ve received over the past 2.5 years.

It’s more complicated than what made the published product. I realized I haven’t been able to forgive like I thought I had before doing this interview. I can’t help but still be a little hurt and angry. There have been many wonderful people help me on this journey. But some of those wonderful people have hurt me badly too. No one has ever meant to hurt me, but ignorant actions still hurt. I’ve found it has been helpful to remember that the problems I’ve faced have been systemic, rather than individual biases against me. It has helped me come to terms with how I’ve been feeling lately.

I’ve also slowly been realizing that empathy and understanding aren’t just for people of less privilege than I have. To make change you have to meet people where they are. This has been really hard for me to do, because meeting people where they are usually means prolonging my hurt until they catch up to where I need them to be. But they’re called “growing pains” for a reason, and one day we’ll get to where we need to be.

Until then, I can focus on the fact that the University of Georgia School of Law published an article celebrating the graduation of an openly transgender person, and that’s something to be proud of.

All the best,

Harris

Why I Haven’t Been Posting

Hey everyone,

 

So this is the hardest post I’ve ever written. Please excuse the choppiness.

 

I’m sure a lot of you have noticed I haven’t been posting since I got back to Georgia from my summer in NYC. Honestly, it’s because I’ve been having a really hard time. When I first got back it was quite the shock to my system to go from LGBT heaven to, well, Georgia. It was like I could feel the oppression as soon as I landed in Atlanta. Once again, I was back to being the only one. Before you start with the “no, you’re not the only one” nonsense, I am the only trans person I see on a daily basis. On rare occasions I’ll see one of the other two trans guys in graduate/professional school, but that’s it. It wears on me sometimes.

 

About a month after being back in school, the firm I thought would sponsor my two fellowship applications told me they aren’t able to support a fellowship at the moment. At the time, I had already put in a month’s worth of work into designing a project and already had letters of recommendation and references lined up. Needless to say, I was disappointed.

 

Then the Scout Schultz/Georgia Tech shooting happened. I didn’t know Scout, but it was hard not to take it personally. I think the thing that hit so hard for me was the repeated misgendering right before the police officer shot Scout. I couldn’t imagine how horrible being misgendered in their darkest hour must have felt for Scout. But then again, I really can.

 

To this day I can’t help but think that Scout might be alive if the GT police had proper equipment and crisis training. Scout might have been able to listen had they not kept calling them, “man.” There’s plenty of gender-neutral language available that would have helped. I’m so sad that Scout couldn’t get the help they needed.

 

Not too long after that I got misgendered by a classmate and then by a staff member a couple days later. When it rains, it really pours.

 

Thanks to a pinky promise [insert sarcastic eye roll], I already tried to meet with the law school’s therapist before the misgenderings. I made an appointment, but when it came time to go I freaked out and didn’t go. Therapists can be scary creatures for marginalized people because it’s hard to be honest with someone that likely doesn’t have a similar experience. There are a lot of trust and power issues involved with therapists that can make marginalized people afraid of seeking help. Therapists are even scarier when you have what’s called “Character and Fitness” (basically an evaluation to make sure you’re fit to practice law) coming up. But it finally hit me that my not being okay was affecting friends that I love. It didn’t seem fair for me to not take care of myself and hurt them in the process. Even if I wasn’t ready to do it for myself, I thought I should do it for them. So I made an appointment with an outside therapist, and this time I actually went. It was alright. I plan to go again.

 

I don’t know for sure that seeing a therapist will actually make me feel better, but I do really appreciate three special people who care so much about me. Thank you Grumpy Cat, Rainbows and Butterflies, and Appalachia.

 

Harris

Sea of Happy Faces

Hey everyone,

I am back in Athens after my summer in NYC. Overall I had a great summer there. It was the reenergizing experience that I needed personally. My favorite part was getting to know the different people in the office. Everyone was so special in their own way, and I learned a lot from each person. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that one of my very favorite parts was hanging out with Kylar. I miss my friend terribly. I am forever grateful for his mentorship.

This past summer has been great for me professionally as well. Being at an impact litigation firm has solidified my belief that impact litigation is what I want to do–what I’m supposed to do. I loved the research assignments I worked on, and I did great work this summer. I am really proud of the work I did.

So I’ve just finished the first week of my last year of school. As good as I probably should feel right now, I’ve actually had a hard time being back. I’ve definitely been up and down a lot over this past week. It has been really great to be home in a lot of ways. I’ve really missed my law school friends and certain professors, but I really miss my friends in New York too. I knew it would be hard to go back to being the only trans person in my day-to-day life, but actually experiencing it is another thing. It can be hard to be lonely in a sea of happy faces. And all of this is compounded by the fact that the job search clock is ticking faster than ever. Knowing I could graduate without a job offer is terrifying. I’m just trying to focus on my applications and let things work out the way they’re supposed to. It’s much easier said than done.

All the best,

Harris

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