Friday, September 28, 2012

Coming out pt 4 Hearing it ~Sevan

We've shared personal stories in part one and two; we've talked about steps involved in coming out in part three; now it's time to talk about how to handle someone coming out to you.

Similarly to our “part 3”, there’s no way I can speak to every individual circumstance. Though I’m hoping I can keep it broad enough to cover as many experiences as possible.

In no way is everyone who’s trans* like me. So they’re not necessarily going to respond how I would…keep that in mind as well.

When someone comes out as trans* to you, it may come as a complete shock. Many trans* people try very hard to fit within binary ideals. Being “big strong men, who don’t cry, might have military background, etc etc” or being “very feminine, girly, home-maker, etc” (though this is less likely thanks to the wide acceptance of “what is feminine”)

If you take one thing from this blog post; please hear this: They did not do this to hurt you. In fact, this isn’t about you at all. They love you, might look up to you, respect you and genuinely want to keep a relationship with you. Otherwise, they wouldn't come out at all; they’d just leave your life.

They may have already come out as gay or lesbian, or may be married and/or have children. You may have long history with this person; might be their spouse or parent! Everything you already know about this person could be in direct opposition to what they’re now telling you about themselves. You may want to argue with them, and try to tell them how you see them. Try to avoid this, if possible.

For transsexual adults; they have usually done everything in their power to keep from transitioning. So asking if there’s something more that could be done to keep from transitioning will only be met with the answer “no” So keep from asking that, if you can.

Hopefully, the person who is coming out to you has read my last post, or similar information about coming out. They've thought long and hard about how you might react. Fear of you reacting poorly could have had a hand in them not coming out much sooner. Parents, friends, family and spouses are very important to trans* people. As much so as anyone else.

I don’t want to put too much emphasis on “what not to do”; because I don’t prefer to be negative. Whether your friend or loved one sits you down for a face to face, a phone conversation or sends you a letter/email; they have thought through this; and chose the method that made them most comfortable, and hopefully thought through the method you would respond best to.

When I came out to my parents; I did so via email. I feared this wouldn't be the method they’d respond best to; but it was what I needed to fully express myself, explain myself, and include some links that I thought might be helpful. I wanted to be able to express myself fully and correctly. I thought they would likely respond best to a face to face, but when I thought over that at great length…I felt there was no way I’d be able to hold my own in that conversation and get all of my thoughts out. As my anxiety rises, my ability to express clearly dwindles. This was a situation where I needed to be perfectly clear. That’s why I chose email.

For my sisters, I did find a way to sit down face to face. There was far less anxiety for me in talking to my sisters than talking to my parents. So each person in my life was unique, and the way I approached them was unique.

What you say first will set the tone for the future. Watch your words carefully. If you can’t think of a kind response; it is ok to say “This is a lot to take it. I need some time to process before I talk about this again.”
That might be rough for your friend or loved one to take in, but it’ll go far better than what could quickly escalate. Emotions run high when coming out. Of course if you’re supportive and happy for your friend or loved one, share that information right away!

Learn all that you can about what it is to be transgender. Find support for yourself if you need it through PFLAG meetings or transgender support groups that might be open to SOFFAs (Significant Others, Friends, Families, and Allies) Find books on the topic, documentaries or local educational presentations. Seek out a therapist to talk to about your feelings if you need support. Your trans* loved one is dealing with quite a bit, and it would be a huge stress relief to have you educate yourself and not rely on them solely for your education about all things trans*.

Be honest about your boundaries. If your friend or loved one is talking about nothing but transgender topics or transition; you may need to gently say,

“I need some space from that topic. Can we have a “transition free day/group of days?”
Those around the trans* person often go through a process of transition themselves. New name, new pronoun, new look. It can be a lot to take in. Be honest about your needs, but if it’s support you need, find online venues; such as or Trans Family Spouses yahoo group. Both are in the side bar. There is also SOFFA* Support online:

Or local support groups or therapists; sometimes it’s good just to be able to talk to someone openly. Try to avoid going to your trans* loved one to provide you support.

If you are unable or unwilling to be there for your loved one through their transition, it is best to be honest about that. While I hope that relationships can always be maintained, that’s not always possible. I believe its best not to drag such things out. It just elongates pain. That’s not to say that you should throw your relationship away at the first sign of difficulty; but sometimes it really is best for all people involved to just, walk away. Only you can know if you’re at that point.

Above all, be honest about your feelings and your process. Let your friend or loved one know where you’re at. There’s nothing worse than being in the dark about where we stand. Fearing that we’re going to lose someone from our lives; when really that person just needs some support and some space; is a pretty terrible feeling. They've been honest with you about who they are, and where they’re at. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Coming out trans* pt 3 Saying it ~Sevan

Cyndi and I have both told our personal stories around coming out. Now comes the most difficult post in our four part series. Suggestions and thoughts about the process of coming out. 

Let me first say that there is no possible way I can account for every unique I'm going to do my best to keep this broad. There's no one right way for every person to come out. There just isn't. Since my experience is primarily with transsexuals/transitioning…I think my focus will be there. Not because I’m trying to ignore the rest of the umbrella, but because I want my advice to be sound, and based on personal experience/ knowledge.

The first thing I would to understand what transgender identity is for you. Those who you come out to will want to know if you intend to transition, what that might look like for you, what surgeries or hormones you might undergo, etc. While "I don't know" is a perfectly reasonable response, it tends to upset those you're coming out to. So either be prepared for an afterthought to your "I don't know" or prepare an alternative. 

*Nothing* is ever set in stone. Ever. Especially not transition! It's a path, it's a journey, and minds can change along the way. Prepping those around you for these potential changes is highly advisable. You may decide early on that SRS is required and very necessary, but along the way may decide that it's either not desired, needed or affordable. You may be against top surgery (especially trans woman, much more so than trans men) but find that hormones don't offer what you wanted/needed; and suddenly top surgery appears very likely. 

Some, (such as families) can have a very hard time with transition, and they may need support as well. Knowing where to direct them can help them to help you. Such as:
There are also books on the topic, but I'm much more for personal conversation than reading myself. I'm sure you can find some books if the person you're coming out to is a reader. 

While many would say “Be prepared to lose everyone and everything” to transition…I prefer to be a little more hopeful. I think when we go into conversations with a defeatist attitude…we end up losing. We have already gone through the loss in our own heads and I do agree that one should be prepared for every eventuality; that includes success and support!! That *is* a very possible outcome!

I think that coming out takes some soul searching as preparation. Many don’t do this. I know I didn’t…I waited until I was backed into the wall, mid transition; with my voice already changing…that’s when I came out to my parents. It should come as no surprise that that didn’t go very well! I left them out. I expected them to be unhappy, and they met that expectation.
Take some time to remember what it was like when you *very first* discovered you were trans*. What did that feel like? What did you want to hear? What would help you through that? I know for many (if not most) that this is a painful discovery. Of course we want unconditional love and support. I know some people who have gotten that reaction; and what a blessing! For most though; just like for us trans* people, it’s a process. It will take some time for those you’ve come out to; to come around.

Boundaries are a difficult thing for majority of trans* people. (It’s even mentioned in the Standards of Care!) If you are working with a qualified gender therapist; coming out should definitely be a topic to go over with them. As you will likely be the only trans* person your friend/family will know…they are pretty likely to bring their feelings and process to you. (or if they’re like my parents, the exact opposite and bring nothing to you.) They need to find other places to express their feelings about your transition so that the process doesn’t damage the relationship. This is where strong boundaries come in. Being able to encourage them to take those feelings to a support group, or trans* mentor (if your area has such a program) online forum…somewhere. Especially if they’re having negative feelings they need to process.

With that, accept some boundaries that your friends/family needs to set. I know that early on (heck…often times; still!!) Cyndi and I talked about transition pretty much to the exclusion of all else. That’s taxing for many people. There might need to be some boundaries set around that. I think that compromise can be healthy and contribute to and strengthen relationships. Some compromises are unreasonable and would be harmful. Your therapist can help with these unique and important issues.

Transition can be lonely…but it doesn’t need to be. Support, friendship and family is important to anybody but definitely important for trans* people navigating in an often times cruel world.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Gendered language ~Sevan

We will get back to our discussion on coming out soon, but I just created this graphic and I wanted to share:

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Coming out Part 2 ~ Cynthia Lee

Coming out take 2 ~ Cynthia Lee

My coming out as Trans* to my friends and family was met with a collective ho-hum. I got many people who reacted in a way that indicated they were not surprised. One of my friends said to me “I knew this about you for years, I was afraid you didn’t know”. Another friend said, “That makes sense. This explains a lot.” Another friend asked, “What took you so long?”

I was rather stunned by these reactions. I thought I had done a fine and dandy job of being manly and macho. I really thought that I had been successfully portraying a man to the world. Now that I have had time to reflect on my life pre transition I see clear as can be that I was dropping hints to my true gender my entire life. All my life I was actually playing the part of a man and doing it very poorly it turns out. I had expected them to attempt to defend my ‘manhood’ and try to convince me I was nuts. I expected the same treatment that most transsexuals deal with. Rejection and transphobia were what I expected but I was given love instead.

In the end I have lost no one to my coming out. All of my family and friends accept me as Cynthia. This was anti-climatic. I had prepared for ultimate rejection and being challenged, or dissuaded from my transition. I had not prepared for being accepted and loved unconditionally. It was very wonderful and awesome that I have kept my friends and family, but I had not prepared myself for this outcome. Person after person that I came out to were ok with me transitioning. In a way, it was a tad aggravating. What do you mean my portrayal of ‘man’ was so lousy that no one was buying it!??! I was so sure of the excellent job of role-playing ‘man’ that when I discovered that it was not excellent it kinda miffed me a bit. Nevertheless, it should come as no surprise. Women are not men and they do a lousy job of being men full time. Sure, some women can play the part of a man for a while, but no woman can live as a man 24/7 and not let her guard down and let the woman inside out on occasion. Turns out that I was showing the inner woman, I was letting her out on a daily basis.

Therefore, my gentle reader I want to boil it down to this: You have no idea if your friends and family will accept you or reject you until the moment of truth. It is worth the chance you take and it just might end with acceptance.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Coming out trans* pt 1. It's personal ~Sevan

This is a tough topic for me to cover because of how vast and individual and unique each person, and each coming out is. It's going to vary depending on what state (with what rights) you're in. How old you when you start coming out you are; will play a role. Plus many other things will come into play when we talk about coming out. 

I think I’ll be splitting this up into a few different entries because otherwise this large topic will be either far too long, or not properly covered. So I want to start first with my personal experience with coming out.

I was asked once which was easier; coming out as lesbian or coming out as trans*. (I've done both, and that had come up in this conversation.) For *me* it was easier coming out as trans*, and while difficult, I feel that there are many things that helped my coming out to be successful when I compare the two experiences. 

When I came out as lesbian I was in church, all my friends, all my music...were church. All my social events were through the church. So when i came out as lesbian (back in 2000) and was given the choice to "apologize to the whole of the church for your sins against the church, and move out of the apartment I lived in with my spouse to save me from "sin" and "temptation. Or, I could leave. I chose to leave. I felt, and still feel; that I had committed no sin. Especially against the church. Once I left, all of my Christian music brought pain of being kicked out of the church. All of my friends who were part of the church immediately stopped being friends with me. All my social events were gone. I was alone. I had not sought LGBT support because I didn't expect to need it...and once I did need it, I didn't know where to turn. 
Shortly after, I lost my job because of the stress of being proselytized at work by my co-workers, being shunned by co-workers. My father once showed up at work screaming at me about my "fruity life". My partner showed up at my work suicidal a few times, and needed me. 

My anxiety was through the roof.

At only 18 years old and in my first apartment; having a strained relationship with my parents, not able to see my sisters, friendless and jobless...yea; that was REALLY tough. 

After coming out lesbian to my parents our relationship was severed. For many years after  I had no contact with them. Almost never saw them. We patched things up after I left my partner of three years but under the patches were some scars left behind. I have had a very difficult time being open about most personal issues and pieces of my life.

When I came out as trans* I chose carefully who I would tell. How I would tell them. I had the support of my local LGBT center, and trans* support group. I had online support and read how others had come out, what had worked, what hadn't. 

As 28 I had a much better idea of how people might possibly respond. I knew myself much better; I knew what I needed in order to give voice to what was going on in my life. Has it gone well? Not really. My parents haven’t accepted my gender variance and don’t recognize my new name. I didn’t have that many friends, but those that I did have I was very very close and honest with, and it was easy to tell them. Luckily for me, they took it in stride and it wasn’t that big of a deal.

With my parents I sent them an email. That may not work for everyone, but I was fearful that if I tried to tell them over the phone, or in person, that I would stutter, or stumble over my words, or not say the hard things and not tell my full truth. Writing an email allowed me to do all that. I was able to save it, edit it, think about it, re-word things and include links that might help them to understand from sources outside myself.

When a person comes out (as anything, trans*, lesbian, bi, or gay) they often are exposing something they’ve kept secret. Something so integral about themselves, something they’ve buried and hidden; sometimes for many many years. To expose that piece of themselves, to bring it into the light when it has been buried for so long is to show you – the person we’re coming out to; a core part of ourselves that has no protection around it anymore. We had to tear that protection away in order to bring it to light. It’s altogether freeing, scary, amazing, and terrifying.

At the start of coming out, this piece of ourselves (at least, for me it was this way) it was as a new born baby. It is naked, exposed, and without much defense. Something that is so important, but has remained a carefully kept secret.

When someone close to me rejects this about me, they have struck out at that new born baby who is lacking any defense. That hurts in a huge way.

In the next few blog entries Cyndi and I will be talking more about coming out. More personal stories, more information for the trans* person who wishes to come out, and some information for those who might have someone come out to them. How to behave in that moment, what things you might consider saying, and how to follow up with that. This is a huge topic as I said at the top. Hope you’ll stay tuned. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Bisexual and Pansexual..same thing? ~Sevan

I've noticed an issue that seems to be coming up to a fever pitch lately...and it's an issue between two sexual identities. Bisexual

 and Pansexual.

What I'm hearing so far...the argument goes a little like this:

Pansexual: Since Bi means "two" it's binary, and not inclusive of trans* and other identities.

Bisexual: That's not true!!! How dare you tell us what our identity is! Bi can mean two..sure, but as in "same as, and different than...which includes everyone!

Pansexual: Dude...chill out. It's fine if you don't dig trans* people...every gender/sex isn't for everyone. It's fine. Don't sweat it.

Bisexual: Why are you being insistent on Bi-erasure!!!!

Ok so that's a SERIOUSLY over simplified version, and only from my perspective...and I'm pretty sure I'm missing some of the information since this whole disagreement really makes no sense to me at all. The way I'm seeing it is that many Bi people seem to feel/believe that Pansexual IS the same as Bi, and therefore, there's no need for the additional sexuality.

Also, bi-erasure is in there somewhere...and trans* politics being put above bi politics is also in there somehow.

Now that it's all clear as're on the same page as me.

As a trans* person, let me tell you about some of the relationship types I've seen. I've met a couple who was straight. One was pre-everything trans woman, and a cis man. His sexual identity never changed to encompass his trans wife, because she's a woman regardless of her body.

I know a few couples that are gay men that are with trans guys, and they felt no need to change their sexuality due to dating trans guys...because trans guys are GUYS.

As a genderqueer person, who's married to a trans*woman. I personally identify as pansexual. In LGBT spaces I often identify as Queer because it's easiest...I'm genderqueer, I'm pansexual, I'm polyamourous...I'm Queer!

If someone's identity is bisexual, and they feel they can and/or have been attracted to trans* people and feel their identity is bisexual. Awesome. That's great for them. I would never presume to tell someone what their identity is.

To me, looking at a word in a literal means two=binary man/woman system. That's what it means to me which is why I don't feel it fits me. If it doesn't mean that to you, that's ok. We don't have to use just one word at a time to understand each other. We can, in fact...have whole conversations with many words in order to get our point across and see eye to eye.

Once again I'm so happy for the community I'm a part of. The organizations I interact with actively seek out participation who are gay, lesbian, bi, and trans*. All are equal and important. I don't understand why it seems to be this way elsewhere, or at the very least...just that some seem to feel it to be this way. We really really can get alone and work together for better visibility. Honest.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pronouns (yes...again.) ~Sevan

Let me first say....that yes, even *I* have gotten rather tired of thinking about/talking about pronouns. However...the more I express myself, the more I speak about transgender issues and genderqueer life...the more people have started to ask me "so then...what pronouns do you use?"

And I've been grateful, happy, thankful, and frustrated all simultaneously. Grateful, happy and thankful because "wow! You're asking me, and that's so respectful and awesome that you thought to ask!" and frustrated because..."Wow...I don't like the words I've got available to me."

So humor me, if you might...and let's walk through my process and it's gone thus far.

My line of thinking started with "Well, men and woman don't get to decide; Hey! I hate the pronoun he or she! I refuse to use those!!" That's never happened. (I don't think...maybe it has. That'd be interesting..) and as such, I decided that maybe ze/hir just felt weird because it was new, and that maybe instead of reinventing the wheel...I'd just stick it out, and surely I'd get used to their use and all would be well!

Yea...hasn't happened. In fact, I've grown increasingly unhappy with them. Particularly hir. I hate that every time I say "hir" I feel the need to follow that with "and it's spelled h-i-r." or if I write it down, I feel the need to follow it with "and it's pronounced hear".

I don't like the way it feels in my mouth. I don't like the way it feels in my ears. I thought I'd like it. I thought I'd come around with use and normalcy. I've not. Ze is ok...I don't struggle with that, though it's odd to me as infrequently as we use the letter "z" in almost feels like "Z's a weird letter that we never use...let's assign it to those weird people over there! How fitting"

And yea...likely that's just my mind. But that's what we're talking about right now isn't it? *My mind*, my process.

A non-binary acquaintance of mine has created the pronoun set "jhe/jher" but to my mind it sound...french. Or...something. I know it doesn't sound like it fits in English. I don't begrudge jher, and have no problem using jher set in reference to jher. I just don't like it for me. (though I would very much prefer ONE set that is for everyone...I have very little hope that's likely to actually happen...too many "hands in the pot" it were.)

In addition to this thinking process, and dislike of the words I've chosen to go with thus far...I'm rather unhappy to go back to all those people who have asked me what pronouns to use, and have done their best to use them, to please...switch.

That's what needs done though. That's what exploration is all about, isn't it? Going down a path to try it on, see if it fits, finding it doesn't, and trying something else.

So what do I propose instead? Why, I'm so glad you asked!

He She Ze/Ne
Him Her Per
His Hers Pers

As I said, to some extent; Ze doesn't bother me. The "Per/Pers" set does have "phe" that goes with it in place of He/She, but I can't really work with that so much. There was a time that I went by Phoenix, and Phe was the short "nickname" for that...and so in my mind it just hearkens back to that, rather than being a proper pronoun.
Ne is a set I just recently came across and it fits nicely and easily into English, plus it doesn't have words that sound like it already in existence, (such as hir, hear, here) however oddly...when I read it: ne went to the store. My mind tries to make an "h" out of that "n". The mind is a tricky thing!! Also I'm a geek and I keep hearing in my mind "We are the knights that say NEIH!" Yea yea...I know. I've warned you, my mind is strange! Strange I tell you!! *hem*

Per/Pers has it's base in Person. Which I love! I'm always saying that I'd like to be seen as a person, rather than a gender...and bottom line, this set fits perfectly into that ideal. That base structure of the word also puzzles me as to where "Phe" then comes in...that has no base in Person. Hmmm. Then again...who wants to be refered to as Pe....No I. those who have walked with me, and used Ze/Hir in reference to me...thank you so much for that!! If you would work with me as I experiment, and walk down this new path that's barely worn, where few have walked before; I thank you for your understanding, and respect as I find what works best.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gender expression examined ~Sevan

We've talked about many things about gender here on our blog. I think it's widely understood and accepted that gender identity center's in your brain. (as seen in the genderbread person)

Property of 

What I don't see discussed much is gender expression. In the picture it shows expression as being what's on the outside; clothes, piercings or no, make up or no, etc.
I've been thinking about expression alot lately and rolling it over in my mind. It's a tougher thing to tackle I think. In part because the way we express ourselves, how we present ourselves isn't just about gender. It's about you like clothes to fit. What types of materials you like, what colors you like, how modest you are, or aren't.
There are many things that go into how we express ourselves.
Not just gender. 
I have heard or seen folks judge trans* people based on the way they dress or look and deem them "not trans* enough" but that's wholly unfair. A. There's no such thing as "trans* enough" and B. How can you judge someone's innate sense of gender by the way they express themselves? Expression is rarely a full complete picture of a person! Ever heard "Don't judge a book by it's cover"? 
Let's step entirely outside of trans* people for a moment and look at the broad spectrum that is gender in general. 
Everything from women who enjoy skirts, dresses, make up and all things "girly" expression; to women who prefer men's clothing and more masculine pursuits. Then of course, everyone between those two points, and the many who like all of these things depending on mood and day. 
A "butch woman" is no more trans-man than a trans-man is a butch woman. Her butch expression has nothing to do with her gender, and everything to do with other parts of herself. I can't attempt to describe what this would I'm not her, and I'm not trying to paint anyone's identities. (which is pretty hard to do, and still use examples!) 
If we look at the broad spectrum of men's expression; from muscular "jock" expression, to t-shirt and jeans, white collar/suit expression, and drag queens. All of these men identify as *men* in their gender. I have heard a number of drag queens bristle and become upset that it's assumed that they are or, want to be women. 
So if we turn back to trans* people and the vast vast identities and expressions of those identities...any, and all expressions that you might see in cis-gendered people; you would also see in trans* people. 
Let me paint a picture for you. A trans* woman, who is also butch. I've met such people. I've also heard it said of such a person that "what's the point of transitioning?" This is an old way of thinking! The point of that in this person's mind, soul and heart of hearts...she's a woman. The secondary. We don't transition for presentation or clothes!! 
I have seen trans* men who enjoy being drag queens after they've transitioned. 
Expression is also not just a way of expressing gender. Many express their religion through their clothes and jewelry or tattoos. Many people use their clothes and other expression to represent their tastes in music, political affiliations, causes that are important, veganism. The list goes on and on. Many androgyn/non-binary/genderqueer identified people don't always enjoy the androgynous style of dress. I know I don't care for it. 
I'm not sure I can properly explain all of the layers that go into an individuals expression. Their gender is only a fraction of what you're seeing when you look at any person. While gender and transition is pretty important to most trans* people I know, it's still not the whole of them. They are more than the sum of their parts. Just as any other person would be. 
I've heard Cyndi say that even though she loves skirts, and prefers them, but worries how her expression of self will be received. I know I've worried more than once about how I'll be viewed. Especially when I dress up in a skirt along with a men's button up shirt and tie. 
It's really difficult sometimes to allow yourself to bring your expression in alignment with your gender identity, when those identities and expression doesn't match with social expectation. It's a tight rope walk sometimes.
I used WeeMee app to create my male and female an example of how I can vary from day to day. (though obviously...regardless of my expression, my favorite color is still blue. lol)