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

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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

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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