Monday, August 10, 2009

44 (not nearly) Questions for the Questioning Trans, or, You Might Be Trans If...

You know, I’ve been transitioning from female to male for well over a year now, but I still occasionally have unsettling WTF moments. Maybe it’s the hormones, or maybe it’s a really stunning sale on, but every once in a while my head will break the surface of what in the moment feels like the scary, weird, murky Sea of Transition, and my (in this scenario) breasts will heave, lungs choking for air, legs churning in the waters, arms grappling to find purchase where there can be none. “What am I doing!” I gasp, a woman adrift in a hostile, manly deep.

It is for precisely these moments of confusion and doubt that I have taken a soggy cocktail napkin from AA’s “44 questions” brochure and crafted my own: “You might be trans if….” helpful checklist. Rub whatever facial hair you have as if you were Aladdin and your chin a lamp, adjust your crotch thusly and read on. These are mine, and they’re intensely subjective, but I urge you to find your own, if any of these plays like the icy transfinger of death on your questioning vertebrae.

  • Do you have “the phantom-limb syndrome?” You might be trans if you know exactly what I’m referring to.

  • Does the department you’re “supposed” to shop in make you break out in cold sweat? Do you experience unexplainable allergy symptoms (hives in the shape of the symbol for Mars) when merely tromping near the undergarment display?

  • Does being mistaken for the other gender make you feel tickley and strangely elated? Conversely, does it really fucking piss you off?

  • Do you eye-grope smokin’ hot representations of your “opposite sex”, in magazines, on tv, the internet, all the while recognizing you don’t necessarily want to sleep with them, but you like their style?

  • Do you ever say to yourself, “I’ve got this woman (or whatever your born gender is) thing down!” like it’s a job or a shtick?

  • Do transpeople of either gender make you unaccountably queasy? Do you feel an urgent need to express your opinions about transgender men and women, possibly in a blog?

  • Have you spent any amount of time at all, researching surgeries, hormones, ftm/mtf sites, drag kings, queens et al just because you’re “curious?”

If you’ve managed to read through these questions without your eyeball twitching, your lizard collar flaring, your fur at end, then sister-brother, move on. You’ve achieved some level of comfort in whatever skin you’re in. Me, I’ve printed this on rubber so I can stretch the letters large to recall that the skin I’m in is changing, every motherfucking day, and with various degrees of ease or pain.

It can be textbook Jekyll and Hyde up in here: one day I’m skipping (butchly) through fields of curling thigh hair, twirling under musky skies of pit-stank, gripping my newly arrived back fat with happy hands, thanking the dear Lord for the migration from my ENORMOUS working-class Euromutt thighs to this more masculine destination. Other days my facial hair makes me extremely nervous, each hair like an ant on my clean kitchen counter; the secondary sexual characteristic of thick-necked goiter fat is galling – I miss my pretty face.

The other list, and again, it’s entirely subjective, is my hormonal gratitude list, also perhaps stolen from twelve step groups (I wonder if there’s a 12 step group for thievery?). It reads like this:

  • I am so happy with the way things have…erm….changed downstairs. Who knew what a sigh of relief that would bring?
  • The thought of returning to my previous body makes me feel like I’ve been trapped overnight at Ann Taylor.
  • I love that I don’t have to buy pants to fit my ENORMOUS Euromutt proletariat thighs anymore. Waists actually almost work now, as do belts!
  • I actually kind of like masturbating seventeen times a day. “When do you find the time!?” you, a more reasonable person might ask. I make the time.

I recognize these may read as rather superficial, and don’t speak to the myriad ways gender gets forced down our collective gullets, one way or t’other, and how being perceived one way or t’other is vexing, painful even. When I get read for male, it’s like Jesus is giving me a scalp massage, but when a someone gives me the boob-scan and slots this into their “Ma’am” compartment I puke a little in my mouth.

So if ever you are in some sort of trans-panic, some freak-out about who you are and where you might want to go, feel free to use my list as a template. The mind, as I “understand” it, wants order, likes to create form and meaning (“oh look, there’s a monkey pushing a wheelbarrow with a pig in it!...Oh…wait, shoot…it’s just a bush growing over a trash can…”). Residing in the elastic, the lava-lamp of transition, can stir up a little terror.

I know a guy who, one day in trans-panic, shaved off his entire bushy beard and put on make-up and a dress. Sometimes we have to re-boot, hard boot even.

So before we shave our legs with that Daisy razor let’s linger on the list. Remember: God gave us a penis to use our brains with, or something something. Relax, tranny, relax. Believe me, we’re all gonna end up who we are anyway so let’s take a deeeep breathe, put our boots up on the coffee table, wipe our hands on our shirtfronts, and peel that paper off our begendered cupcake. All together now: lick! See, in a world where NPR insists “Sarah Palin has a following” we’re really not all that outré. And if you’re not going to finish that, hand it over to me.


  1. SAM! What a phenomenal writer you are! I enjoyed reading this very much. Bravo!


  2. check....


    check...check...check, check, check check checkcheckcheckcheckcheckcheckcheck....

    oh, crap.

    my tail is puffed again, isn't it.

  3. damnit and thanks... and damnit.

    You are certainly a good writer.

  4. Hrm. Does the fact that I'm here contribute to answering that last question?

    cold sweat check, tickly check, like their style check, "curious" like whoa. the others less so, mostly.

    anyway this was super clever etc.

  5. The phantom limb thing has totally happened! I went to scratch my crotch one morning and managed to be startled by the fact that there wasn't anything there. A few seconds later I realized, "Oh, right. Bio-female," and laughed about it. Obviously, everything else applied, too. :P

    Very amusing stuff. Consider yourself followed!


  6. Do excuse the slight blog necrophilia, but I just wanted to comment on this and say that I got linked to this post a while back and re-reading it when I'm down makes me feel so much better - I'm usually happy with the nice little androgenous self I'm slowly tugging out of my skin and with knowing that I am somewhere in the middle of the crazy gender spectrum. Even though my body doesn't reflect that *yet*, I'm normally optimistic about the fact that I'll get there someday, somehow.

    And then I have bad days: bad days where, for some insane reason known only to my brain, I think that although I am unshakeably certain I will never be happy with my body unless I get me some testosterone in my blood, and get the puberty I wanted instead of the one I was given, I somehow don't deserve it - because I do like some stuff about being biologically female. And I don't want to transition fully. This of course, means that I'm not a *real* tranny and I shouldn't even consider wasting my doctor's time with asking about it.

    Reading this post helps, because I sit there and tick yes to all of the above. And it's comforting to know that other people out there have the same moments of 'oh god, is this a good idea?'

    So thanks. And thanks for making it something I can laugh at too. This whole gender business can get waaay too serious at times.

    God, excuse my long windedness as well.