Happy Thanksgiving

Today in the U.S. we celebrate a day of giving thanks for our blessings and the good things in our lives.  I give thanks for you, the readers, who still come to this blog even though I haven’t made a substantial post in almost three months.

During this recent period of work, travel and activism, I have failed to acknowledge one important aspect of this blog that you, the readers, have made possible:

You have broken the 100,000 views mark!
In fact, you’re only 54 views away from 105,000!

So thank you, readers, for your interest in American Trans Man!  May we have many more posts together.  (And I promise I will post again before the end of the year.)

–ATM

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14 Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today marked the 14th Annual Transgender Day of Remembrance.  Each November 20th, we remember the gender variant people who were killed simply for being themselves.  You can learn more about TDOR here.

Candlelight procession and vigil, Boston TDOR, Nov. 18, 2012

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Something to Read

Hello readers.  I miss you.

And I miss writing on this blog.  Unfortunately, I’m working on some other stuff right now and don’t have time to make posts, but I’ll be back soon-ish.

In the meantime, I’ll put up a link to a great column by a trans woman that I think is worth reading (if you’re so inclined).  The column is called Being Trans is No Joke and you can go to it by clicking on the title.

-ATM

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What Does Body Dysphoria Feel Like?

Body dysphoria.

The incongruity between what the brain expects the body to be versus how the body is actually configured.

For trans people, this can (but doesn’t always) include varying degrees, permutations and combinations of feelings and discomfort around the unwanted presence of breasts and the desire for a penis, testicles and a masculine, virilized body by many trans men, or the unwanted presence of a penis and testicles and desire for breasts and a less virilized, more feminine body by many trans women.

In the trans community, we hear about the results of extreme cases of body dysphoria, such as when struggling young trans men cut their breasts or desperate trans women amputate their own male genitals.

In our community, we refer to it, we discuss its ramifications, some of us undergo surgeries and make medical changes to our bodies to get relief from it it, but often, we don’t seem to describe it, especially how it affects us on a physical and/or emotional level.

Why is that?

There may be as many answers to that question as there are trans people.  I do not know for certain, but my hypothesis is that for many trans folks, dysphoria is very personal and private, perhaps difficult to articulate and maybe even uncomfortable or emotionally painful to talk about.

If that’s true, then why would I want to publish a post about such a difficult topic?  Because I think this information is important for both trans and non-trans people.

For non-trans people, receiving information about what body dysphoria feels like may help them gain insight, understanding and even empathy for what their trans friends, relatives and loved ones may be experiencing, or may help to open a dialog on this topic.

For trans people (some, anyway), I see a potential benefit of this discussion based on my own experience.  Early in my process, I was confused about who I was and I didn’t think that I was trans “enough” because I couldn’t relate to the narratives I’d heard involving extreme cases of body dysphoria.  I didn’t know that manifestations of body dysphoria were unique to each individual, that there are many different ways and degrees that people experience dysphoria (and for some, not at all), and I especially didn’t realize that I’d been feeling body dysphoria my entire post-adolescent life.  It was such a constant part of my existence that I couldn’t dissect out the dysphoric feelings and recognize them.

It wasn’t until I compared notes with an articulate trans man who was willing to speak about his body dysphoria that I could understand, identify and name some of my own discomfort.  I believe that’s one of the real benefits of these types of narratives — helping people understand themselves and their experiences, especially in context with others so they can know that they are not alone with these feelings.

When I first conceived the topic for this post, I assumed an individualized nature of body dysphoria and with that, knew that providing only my own narratives would not be enough representation of the varied experiences of people in our community.  So I made a “call for submissions” around this topic on local community list servs and through a few friends.  I received a number of replies, some of which you will find in this post.  This small collection likely still does not constitute a good representation of the varied stories in our community, but it’s a start.

I am grateful to everyone who sent me their narratives and I am sorry that I was not able to use all of them.  Some did not have quite the focus I was looking for. I invite readers who are so inclined to add their own narratives to the comments at the end of this post or send them to me by email to americantransman @ gmail . com (leave out the spaces) and I can compile them into a follow-up post.  I invite fellow bloggers who might write their own posts on this topic to provide links to them in the comments section of this post.  And I kindly remind the reader that the writers of these narratives are speaking for themselves only.

And so please read on if you would like to know what body dysphoria feels like for (some) trans people…

Continue reading

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What It’s Like to be Trans

Chaz Bono – photo taken by my friend Jonas

I went to the Boston Spirit Magazine 2012 LGBT Executive Networking Night earlier this year and Chaz Bono was the guest speaker.

Now the fact that I mention Chaz Bono, transgender son of Cher and Sonny Bono, author of the autobiography Transition: The Story of How I Became a Man, subject of both the 2011 documentary Becoming Chaz and upcoming 2012 documentary Being Chaz, and recent participant on ABC’s 13th season of Dancing With the Stars, might make you think that this post is going to be about Chaz Bono.

This post is not about Chaz Bono.

I only mention Chaz because he said something that got me to thinking, and that got me to writing.  Chaz gave a 15-minute synopsis of his life as a way to explain to the audience what it’s like to be trans.  He said that he sometimes tells people who want to try to understand it to imagine that they wake up one morning, feeling the way that they do now, but discover that overnight while they were sleeping, their body changed to that of the opposite sex.

Chaz Bono – photo taken by my friend Jonas

I’ve heard other people (trans and non-trans) make that suggestion before, but I wonder about the utility of this method.  I think that it may not help some (many?) non-trans people ‘get’ what it’s like to be trans.  Why do I think that?

First, this approach focuses on having a certain body but not on how the body affects the responding actions and behaviors of others.  I’m not sure that many non-trans folks realize how much their perceived gender (as based on the sex of their body) influences the interactions that people have with them, and I doubt that they could imagine the subtle (and perhaps even not-so-subtle) differences in how they would be treated in the world if the sex of their body changed overnight.

Second, even if non-trans people could imagine what it might be like to have the body of the opposite sex, they probably would not be able to conceptualize the dysphoria that would come along with it, which can have physical manifestations and/or psychic pain and can even be debilitating for some trans folks.

Regardless of the difficulties and shortcomings of this method, however, the goal is worthwhile, at least that’s my opinion.  So, I would suggest that if a non-trans person wanted to try to understand what it is like to be trans, they could imagine something a bit more radical than the waking-up-with-a-body-of-the-opposite-sex scenario, yet not so far ‘out there’ that they can’t get their head around it.

And so, I make the following suggestion…

Continue reading

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The Episcopal Church Guarantees a Place for Trans People

The week has been an interesting, exciting and overwhelming one as I attended part of the 77th General Convention of The Episcopal Church in Indianapolis as a member of TransEpiscopal:

TransEpiscopal is a group of transgender Episcopalians and our significant others, families, friends and allies dedicated to enriching our spiritual lives and to making the Episcopal Church a welcoming and empowering place that all of us truly can call our spiritual home. We are an informal group meeting mostly through the Internet and though many of us are affiliated with the Episcopal Church we have no official relationship to the Episcopal Church.

Watching the Church legislative process in action was fascinating, educational and uplifting, especially in witnessing the support, good will and fellowship from allied bishops and deputies.  

On the flip side, some of the less-supportive testimony and arguments were disheartening to hear, especially those delivered by bishops and deputies from the more conservative dioceses as they explained why the House of Bishops and the House of Deputies should not approve resolutions that would guarantee trans people a place in the church or allow the trial use of new liturgy for same-sex blessings. 

However, the “no votes” were 25% or less of the total and the resolutions passed by wide margins.

In doing so, The Episcopal Church has officially adopted language in its non-discrimination canons guaranteeing trans people access to ordination and all levels of laity participation, joining the United Church of Christ which enacted similar protections in 2003.  In addition, The Episcopal Church approved the trial use of liturgy for same-sex blessings and issued a Church-wide response to bullying that includes gender identity and expression.

In addition to the legislative process, other memorable moments for me were the IntegrityUSA Eucharist that was held at the end of the day that the non-discrimination resolutions passed and during which founder Louie Crew was recognized, trans people played an integral part and Bishop Gene Robinson preached an amazing sermon, and the TransEpiscopal Eucharist that was held the subsequent evening, during which a young trans person was baptized into The Episcopal Church.

These moments are all captured in narratives and photographs at the following sites:

Web site for The General Convention of the Episcopal Church

The TransEpiscopal blog and my posts:
“A Church Where All Can Actually Mean All”
“Healing Waters”

Web site of IntegrityUSA, staunch supporters and allies of TransEpiscopal, and IntegrityUSA’s web site for the General Convention where you can see IntegriTV videos of interviews and happenings throughout the convention. There you can also see a two-part video of the Integrity Eucharist that includes two ordained trans participants, Rev. Carolyn Woodall and Rev. Cameron Partridge, as well as Bishop Gene Robinson delivering his moving sermon.

IntegrityUSA – Working for the full inclusion of all the baptized in all the sacraments:

Integrity is a nonprofit organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender [LGBT] Episcopalians and our straight friends. Since our founding by Dr. Louie Crew in rural Georgia in 1974, Integrity has been the leading grassroots voice for the full inclusion of LGBT persons in the Episcopal Church and our equal access to its rites. However, advocacy is only one facet of our ministry. At the national level and in local chapters and diocesan networks throughout the country, the primary activities are: worship, fellowship, education, communication, outreach, and service to the church.

The Chicago Consultation, supporting and allied with TransEpiscopal:

The Chicago Consultation, a group of Episcopal and Anglican bishops, clergy and lay people, supports the full inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians in the Episcopal Church and the worldwide Anglican Communion. We believe that our baptismal covenant requires this.

The Consultation, of which TransEpiscopal is a member:

The Consultation is a coalition of thirteen independent organizations in the Episcopal Church committed to peace with justice.

The Integrity documentary “Voices of Witness: Out of the Box” that features trans people who have been ordained in the Episcopal Church, as well as Bishop Gene Robinson and others who provide witness to trans people of faith.  This video, produced by Integrity’s Communication Director Louise Brooks, was offered to The Episcopal Church, especially to deputies and bishops ahead of the General Convention as an educational tool for the trans-related resolutions that were to be legislated at the convention.

I don’t usually talk about religion on this blog, but I have been so overwhelmed by what transpired at General Convention that I was moved to write about it.  I have been blessed to find The Episcopal Church and make it my spiritual home, and I am proud of what the Church and its members have done to recognize and value trans people and other people who are marginalized, discriminated against or outright rejected by other denominations.

–ATM

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When a Hysterectomy is Only a Hysterectomy. Notes from the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference – Part 3.

I learned something at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference that made me sit up and take notice.  Well, it’s not that I didn’t sit up and take notice of anything else, but this particular tidbit is worth repeating.

I don’t remember who it was – one of the surgeons I listened to, or maybe one of the docs in the medical track of workshops that ran during the conference (I apologize to the person I’ve forgotten who talked about this because I cannot give them credit) – but they mentioned that they knew of trans men who’d had a hysterectomy but discovered when they went for another procedure, sometimes even years later, that they still had female reproductive organs that they had been unaware of.

Although I don’t know that this situation occurs often, I can see how it could come about relatively easily, so I thought I would provide some information on this subject in case some readers are unaware of how this scenario can arise.
Continue reading

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