Monsters in the Dark

Hey everyone,

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.

All the best,

Harris

 

Less Sore

Hey everyone,

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.

All the best,

Harris

Teaching

Hey everyone,

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.

All the best,

Harris

Sex M, Hgt 5′-03″, Eyes BLU…

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Hey everyone,

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.

All the best,

Harris

Eventful

Hey everyone,

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.

All the best,

Harris

 

Glasses

Hey everyone,

I’m back in Athens for another semester of law school. I’m pretty happy to be back here in Athens. This holiday break was a whirlwind of emotions. I enjoyed spending time with my mom and sister, but there was so much other stuff going on that it wore me out.

I was supposed to have lunch with my Atlanta Legal Aid people on Friday, but a false alarm for snow caused us to table lunch until another time. I definitely miss all my Health Law peeps! I was also supposed to have a drink with my friend, Grumpy Cat, but at the time I thought it would be best to head on to Athens. I think the political climate will make this semester a little extra difficult, so I’m kinda sad that he’s going to be in Atlanta this semester. He’s been a dear friend through this election fiasco. (Now don’t get a big head, Grumpy Cat!)

I’m lucky to have a trans guy friend who lives close by. He’s been nice enough to help me get my stuff back and forth from the law school. It’s going to be at least another week before I can carry anything of substantial weight. I just plan on camping out at the law school on the days that I’m there and leaving everything in my locker overnight.

As much as I hate my limited movement and forced dependence on others to do the simplest of things, I couldn’t be happier with my new chest. While parts of my chest are healing slower than expected, I don’t have words for the joy that it brings me. Truthfully, having top surgery, like most of my physical transition, has been a bit of a leap of faith. I haven’t been 100% sure of anything thus far. Maybe that’s the lawyer in me–always questioning and appreciating the merits of “the other side”– but I’ve just been doing what I think will make me happy. And looking at my chest in the mirror does just that.

Every time I look in the mirror I can’t help but simultaneously break out into the biggest smile and fight back tears. Growing up not really knowing that you are trans is kind of like having bad eyesight, and not even knowing it. Don’t get me wrong, I always knew that the girlhood that society thrust upon me didn’t describe me at all, but I didn’t just pop out saying “I’m transgender.” But now it’s like I have these wonderful glasses. I can finally see how much I’ve missed out on, and how beautiful life really can be when lived authentically. It hasn’t been easy, but I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

All the best,

Harris

Adios 2016

Hey everyone,

Well today marks the first day of 2017. As I look back on 2016, I can’t help but feel conflicted about the past year. On on hand, I’ve had some of the most incredible experiences in my transition experience and of my life in 2016. I turned 24 in January. I started testosterone in March. I started my first job as an openly trans man in June. I started my second year of law school in August. I had top surgery almost three weeks ago, and recovery is going okay. I’m a little concerned about parts of my chest, but I’ll spare you the details. I’ll probably call the doctor’s office in a couple days if it doesn’t get any better.

On the other hand, I’ve always been someone who has always excelled in school, but it’s been pretty hard to learn how to tame the law school beast. I’m halfway done though, and with all that I have on my plate, I think I’ll give myself a bit of a pass on the first half of law school.

I’ve talked about it in previous posts, but the election has been especially hard to deal with. I have my externship on Wednesdays and Fridays next semester, but I’ve already taken off the inauguration as a mental health day. I honestly don’t know how marginalized groups are going to survive the incoming administration and the empowerment of hate that is sure to come with it. The Pulse nightclub shooting hit me pretty hard back in June. I expect the same kind of hate to plague the next four years.

Last week, after 29 years and two days of marriage, my parents divorced. It’s for the best of course, but at the same time, it’s another subtle reminder of the “no so good” aspects of my childhood. A week later, my father has already violated the divorce decree by essentially commandeering and changing the locks on our old house despite my mom having possession for the next 60 days. What a man…

In 2017, I have several resolutions. I resolve to live more authentically than ever. I resolve to love myself by putting my mental and physical health first. I resolve to find power in my own vulnerability. I resolve to strengthen existing friendships and cultivate new ones. I resolve to actively combat bigotry and hate. I resolve to empower marginalized people. I resolve to be the best man I can everyday for 365 days.

All the best in 2017,

Harris