Support Groups

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Support groups are something that I think many people don’t think of regardless of what the support group is for. There are tons of support groups out there ranging from the most common like alcoholics anonymous to the Harry Potter Alliance Support Group (Yes it does exist Google it). The point I am making no matter what it is you need support with the help is out there it simply is just a matter of finding it in your area or online.

The traditional form of support groups is of course in person, but with the rise of technology especially the internet we can do anything via other ways in today’s world. There are your traditional in person support groups, but you also have online support groups, Skype support groups, other platform groups, etc. Utilizing these other platforms you are able to reach out to other people in the world not just in your local area. It might give you more perspective on things than just utilizing your local support groups. Not that I am dissing the local support groups I think they are great and vital to a community. I just think in today’s age we should also take advantage of the other things that are out there for us.

For me I was never a huge fan of support groups when I was younger and my grandparents sent me to alanon for teenagers dealing with someone close that is an alcoholic. My father who is now deceased due to the disease was a severe alcoholic. Maybe I wasn’t fond of the support groups when I was younger because I didn’t utilize it like I should. I wasn’t very vocal and I tended to just sit there and listen to others instead of sharing my own stories. As I have grown up into the adult I am today support groups are a lot like therapy. In order to get something out of it you have to put effort into it. You can’t just simply show up and listen to get the best results from either. Therapy requires you to talk about your problems or issues that are bothering you in order to work through them and over come them. In order to get the most from support groups you also need to talk so that you can get other peoples perspective and support.

When I first came out as trans I didn’t know a single person that was trans. Obviously I knew that existed, but I didn’t personally know anyone even online let alone in my area. The first thing I did was google trans people and started watching youtube videos which ultimately at that time became my support group. It wasn’t until I was researching stuff online one day about trans that I ran into a website about a local trans group here in Florida where I live. I called the lady and she asked me a few questions and she said I could start attending the support group whenever I wanted. That it was once a month and they meet for about an hour and a half. My first thought about attending this support group was what are you thinking you aren’t trans enough for that support group. Of course these thoughts were my own problems of not being on T yet and not through my transition enough that I visually identified as a male 100 percent of the time. To be perfectly honest I was scared to death. Worried about meeting other trans guys and wondering what they would think of me. Plus I am older and knew that probably most of them were younger than me and further in their transition. But the truth of the matter that group couldn’t have been more welcoming.

The first meeting I went to was a loved ones meeting so I brought my partner along with me. It made me feel more at peace and not so anxious about talking in front of other people. I wasn’t sure I would talk the first time I was there, but I actually found myself opening up more than I ever had about being trans. I no longer was that little kid that just sat there and listened to other people’s stories instead I vocalized my own too. That support group has given me friends I wouldn’t have had, challenged me in ways I didn’t know I could be challenged and most of all gave me strength to be who I am and not afraid to be me. To me that has been the best thing about this support group. I can’t tell you how important support groups are and how helpful they can be. I know that support groups aren’t for everyone and not everyone can easily open up about things. It takes time, courage, and honesty to yourself in order to get there.

I am an introvert so I was challenged with those things in the beginning and even when new people join the group I get worried about what others will think about my story, but than I realize it doesn’t matter because its my story and as human beings we all have different stories especially in the trans community. We all go down a different path and have different plans for our lives. We live the journey we feel fits us the best and we find courage and believes in ourselves. No matter whether you go out and try to get involved in a support group or not remember you are not alone and there are people out there just like you dealing with similar thins. Whether they be good, bad or indifferent. There are months I don’t necessarily want to go to the support group, but I get up put my clothes on and go because I know at the end of it I will be thankful I went to know I have the support of other people in the same shoes as me.

Your best friend when trying to find support in your area typically is the lovely Google search engine. You can also reach out to your local LGBT center if you have one in the area and they might be able to direct you to a local support group. Also high school or college Gay Straight Alliance groups might have sources for you as well. Just go out there and start searching that’s what I did and I stumbled across something that has changed my life and helped me know I am supported even if the people I love don’t always support me. The last thing I will say is keep your head up and utilize all the support you can get out there.

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How to be a good Cis Ally!!

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Are you a cis ally? Or do you know a cis that wants to be an ally? I think we all have at least one cis person in our life that could utilize this information. Transgender people are outnumbered by cis people in today’s society and cisgendered people should be aware that we are the minority. Trans people are easily degraded and put down by people who are ignorant and don’t understand anything about what being transgender is all about. Cis allies are important to combat that kind of behavior and to have another voice in the community fighting for our rights just as much as your own. Truthfully unless you’re a white cis male you were a minority at some point or still are.

Which brings me to my point. Just because you call yourself an “ally” does not make you one. Unfortunately, there are innumerable ways to be a bad one. This is even true of people at large LGBT organizations and in the LGBT spectrum who really should know better. Instead we see the same mistakes being made over and over again. Even more pervasive are people who they they’re open-minded and tolerant but, in truth, hold views that keep transgender people firmly in second class citizen status. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard or seen the following:

  • “You can do whatever you want to your body; I just don’t want to pay for it.”
  • “I have nothing against transgender people, but I think businesses should be able to hire or fire whoever they want.”
  • “I don’t think people should use a different bathroom until they have had the surgery.”
  • “You should only be able to get a new ID if you’ve had the surgery.”
  • “Businesses should be able to serve whoever they want. You have to respect the owners’ religious beliefs.”
  • “I don’t want my children having to deal with issues like transgender teachers.”
  • “I was in favor of repealing ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ but I don’t think transgender people should be in the military because [fill in the blank].”
  • “I have nothing against transgender people, but I could never date one.”
  • “Transgender women shouldn’t play against real women. They should just have their own league.”
  • “Schools aren’t equipped to handle transgender issues. Why don’t they just have separate schools for those children?”
  • “You may be a woman, but you’re not the right type of woman.” (Hat tip to Lisa Vogel.)
  • “I don’t believe that really happened to you when you transitioned.”
  • “I don’t care how my actions affect you.”

After all these bad examples, however the question remains: What makes a good ally? In all the examples above, people take these positions based on a lack of understanding of the lived experiences of so many transgender people; of how hard it is to find work, or medically necessary health care, or accepting partners, or athletic activities where we’re welcomes, or safe spaces; how hard it is to simply not be othered.

The starting point to being a great ally is listening and not just listening but hearing what we are saying. Here is a list of 5 ways to be a good ally.

1) Don’t assume.

Don’t assume anything. Don’t assume that because someone passes as a certain gender, that you shouldn’t ask what their preferred pronouns are. Don’t assume that just because trans* women are more frequently victimized that they also aren’t creating art, contributing to their communities or seizing political positions as well. Don’t assume that feminist services, like women’s shelters, will be safe places for trans* women. Don’t assume that you know anything about their experiences, their lives, their sexuality or politics. Don’t assume that because someone came out to you as trans*, that you can now out them at every chance by adding that they are your “transgender friend.”

All gender issues involve all people of all genders. Don’t assume that a feminist issue only affects cisgender women or that misogyny doesn’t affect trans* men because of their past experiences with gender. Don’t assume that trans* people even want to be male or female and not somewhere on a gender spectrum or that medical transitions, which are often inaccessible to poor trans folks, are the only ways to “legitimately” transition.

Check and double-check that spaces have access to gender neutral bathrooms and that your organizing includes resources that actually understand trans* issues. The best way to find this out is by asking trans* folks what services they use.

Create spaces where everyone can identify with their preferred pronouns. Suggest folks begin their introductions with pronouns when they enter an organizing space. Tell people your pronouns first, creating a space where it’s not weird for someone to follow-up with their own. Create spaces that don’t just focus on transphobia, but celebrate trans* folks.

2) Use your privilege.

Sometimes activist events can be problematic, but you still really want to go and they’re doing their best, with no funding and inclusivity is expensive… Don’t buy into this. If an event has a strict “women only” policy, don’t go. Tell others why you aren’t going. Tell the organizers. Let them know that transphobic spaces aren’t acceptable. Use social media to get the word out to local media, other organizers and even the venue. In 2012 a transphobic “radical feminist” conference had its event space pulled after activists denounced their exclusionary agenda.

When you hear a joke with a transphobic punch-line, call folks out on it. It’s not comfortable being the person to bring a context of oppression into someone’s privilege. Do it anyways. Start by checking out this tool on calling people out. Refuse to tolerate transphobic language, even when it’s used by drag queens (even RuPaul). Talk about trans* issues, successes and celebrities. Draw attention to trans* culture and how often it is silenced.

Lead by example. How you interact with trans* folks affects the actions of those around you. Folks are much more likely to take cues from a non-trans person. Use this privilege to be respectful and inclusive.

3) Insist on action.

Many radical campaigns mention anti-transphobia as a tenet of organizing. Hold these folks to task. Ask for concrete action. Adding a “T” to an LGB organization isn’t enough. How exactly are spaces being made more inclusive? How is the policy against transphobia going from paper to the real world? What trans* perspectives are organizers using, what trans organizations have they reached out to?

When organizing a protest with the possibility of arrest, make sure trans* folks know their legal rights and risks. In Canada, people are placed in prisons based on their sex assigned at birth, not their chosen gender. This means that trans* folks are often at an increased risk of violence in holding cells and prisons. Follow the tips in this tool about safety for trans* folks during direct action.

4) Don’t ask.

Don’t ask trans* folks to identify within the gender binary. Don’t ask trans* folks about their genitals, their sex lives or their surgery/hormone status. Don’t ask trans* people to educate you on their oppression. Don’t ask trans* folks to fit into a narrative of being “trapped in the wrong body.” Don’t ask trans* folks to be responsible for breaking apart the gender binary when they are just living their lives. Don’t ask to be included in trans* only spaces. Don’t ask to speak for trans* people, to lead trans-focused organizations or committees. Actively seek out trans* folks for these roles, making space for their experiences.

5) Listen.

When trans* folks speak about their experiences, just listen. When a trans* person tells you that your space is not safe for them or uncomfortable or inaccessible, hear them out. Never be above putting your own voice as a person with cisgender privilege aside to create space for trans* experiences. Listen to the kind of change trans* people are working towards and take cues.

It’s amazing to see mainstream media taking notice of some of the work of trans* folks and their experiences. Trans activists will continue to do important grassroots work — it’s up to cisgender allies to support them and make sure that there is always a welcoming space to celebrate it.

Remember listening and actually hearing what we say is number one priority when being a good cis ally. It’s important to continually stay a true cis ally and not stray away from that even if people are trying to talk you into another direction. Be true to what you believe in because at the end of the day you have to answer to yourself. We need your support through every aspect of our lives so go out and be the cis ally we all know you can be.

 

Trans vs. Cis

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The term “cisgender”, sometime shortened to “cis”, means someone’s gender identity aligns to their sex assigned at birth. Basically if your mom and dad’s reaction of “It’s a boy” or “It’s a girl” is accurate than you are cisgender. Although I never heard of cisgender until I came out as trans it has been in use since the mid 1990s. Many people tend to find it as a useful term because it helps shift understanding about gender, making cisgender into a specific gender identity rather than a default setting. The Merriam-Webster dictionary officially added the term “cisgender” to its unabridged edition.

Critics of the term “cisgender” have complained that it’s unnecessary, and some have mistakenly concluded that is it somehow related to sexual orientation. I’d like to know what your take is on this. (Please comment below) In reality, though, it’s an essential word in understanding and acknowledging a spectrum of gender identities. By using cis woman with trans woman as opposed to trans woman with just plain woman, we’re spreading the message that said trans woman isn’t abnormal. Same applies to trans men and cis men.

The term cis privilege which describes the societal advantage of being cis has also become part of the discussion in society surrounding gender identity in recent years. This being said we know that in today’s society cis gendered people just like white people have privilege over others. Although we wish this wasn’t true unfortunately our society has not crossed that barrier yet.

The term “Transgender” sometimes shortened to “trans”, refers to a gender identity that is different from the sex assigned at birth. If you look it up in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary it states “someone who identifies with or expresses a gender identity that differs from the one which corresponds to the person’s sex at birth”.

A lot of people consider it an umbrella term and points out that transgender can refer to people who identify as a trans man, trans woman or simply as transgender. The term transgender encompasses a wide range of identities, and identifying as transgender does not necessarily mean a person has undergone surgery to alter their body or is taking hormones, or that they wish to modify their physical appearance at all. The fight for transgender rights has been in the spotlight recently, partially because of the national fight over North Carolina’s HB2 law, often referred to as the “bathroom bill,” which effectively bans trans people from using the public bathroom that matches their gender identity.

Trans and cis are equally important in identifying different aspects of gender. I know some trans people inherently aren’t fond of cis people, but unfortunately they are part of society. Your parents might be cisgender, grandparents, friends a lot of society is cigender it doesn’t make them less equal than us just as much as we aren’t less equal than them. As trans and cis people we need to come together to achieve a common goal of equality no matter what you are.

Studies have shown that transgender people typically have the brain makeup of the gender they identify. Unlike cisgender people whos brain makeup typically is based on the gender/sex they were assigned at birth. There are a multitude of facets about transgender and cisgender. It’s only now that we are starting to get data about transgender people. We are able to now see how being on HRT has effects on people after 20 years where before we were unable to see those because the data didn’t exist.

No matter what side you are on we were all made equal and should all stand up for our rights as human beings. Make friends with your cis allies and make friends with your trans people. As a society we focus so much on relationships so go out and make them even if the person is different than you.

External Transphobia

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Any trans person in today’s world has been affected by transphobia at some point in their lives. Transphobia and prejudice against trans people are sadly all too common in our society and trans people often are met with discrimination and prejudice when they try to get on with their lives and perform everyday activities. As with all other prejudices, transphobia is based on misconceptions and negative stereotypes about a group of people (in this case the trans community or those who are perceived to be trans) that are used to “justify” discrimination, harassment and even hate crimes.

Do we live in a society that people are so into themselves that they can’t see around their own judgements? I realized how society was when I came out as a lesbian and dealt with homophobia. When I thought nothing could get worse I came out as trans and realized that I would run into people who were transphobic as well. Although I have not yet encountered some of the same hate I received from being a lesbian I have encountered some transphobic behavior. Just because we encounter transphobia doesn’t make us any less of a person without it. We simply just have to learn to deal with it in our own ways. Here are some things that people may say or do that can be translated into transphobia.

  • The belief/insistence that trans women are not “real women”
  • The belief/insistence that trans men are not “real” men
  • The belief/insistence that non-binary genders are invalid
  • The belief/insistence that transsexual people are gay people in denial and wish to have sex reassignment surgery to attempt to restore ‘heteronormativity’
  • The refusal to acknowledge a trans person’s true gender
  • Refusal to use the correct name for a trans person
  • Repeated and deliberate mis-gendering of trans people
  • Exclusion of trans people from activities, services or conversations

In every aspect of our lives we may encounter insulting transphobic behavior from mainly cis people, but that isn’t to say that you may not encounter transphobia from another transgender person. My last post talked all about internalized transphobia that transgender people encounter so if someone is troubled with their own trans identity they might force that attitude back on someone else who is trans. You never know where you are going to receive transphobic behavior from so you must be ready.

For me I can handle the insults because I brush it off to ignorance on the other persons behalf, but it can get hard when they become belligerent in their behavior or continually do it over and over again. Recently I had a conversation with another trans guy that is currently in the closest, but talks in a group chat among trans and cis folks. He told me about how there are two cis guys that are constantly making inappropriate comments about trans people, essentially making fun of them. He came to me asking me for help on what he should do because he is in the closet. Just because you are in the closet or stealth does not mean you can’t stand up for what you believe in. It doesn’t out you to simply sat to the people making the comments that you don’t condone their behavior and you believe it should stop. I know this isn’t always the easiest approach because you are never sure what kind of response you may get, but that’s where being ready is vital.

When handling transphobic behavior you want to try to stay calm. If you get mad, upset, irate, or any other behavior you might get the person doing the transphobic behavior to get more intense. This will just escalate the matter and make things worse for you in the long run. I know it’s not that easy when someone is degrading the person you are simply because they don’t like it or understand it. Still stand up to them and speak your mind just do it in a tactful manner.

If you are encountering physical transphobic behavior do anything you can to get away from the situation. Unfortunately this is to common in today’s society. Look at the amount of trans people who have already been killed today. The hate is out there whether or not you personally see it or are affected by it or not. Protecting yourself from violence is your number one importance from being any part of the LGBT spectrum. If you can’t get away from the offender do your best to protect yourself. Adrenaline is a magical hormone we posses to help us in situations like this. When I was a lesbian I was in several physical altercations due to the fact that I was a lesbian. I was jumped several times, one time being thrown into a retention pond over a 7 foot tall fence. There were times I put up my fist and tried to protect myself as well. You have to quickly evaluate the situation and determine what is the best outcome.

No matter what we do or say transphobia is going to be a part of this society. Unfortunately as much as we would all like we aren’t just going to be able to erase it off the face of this earth one day. Hatred towards groups that are beyond what people consider the “norm” are always at risk for verbal and physical abuse. We have seen it for generations and generations. A lot of the mindsets get passed down from generation to generation too. It unfortunately is how our society works. This isn’t just in America it is all over the world. We just have a little more freedom in America to be ourselves. Remember stand up for what you believe in and stay true to you because at the end of the day no matter how much transphobic behavior you encounter you have to answer to you.

Internalized Transphobia

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What is internalized transphobia and do we all as trans people have it? Internalized trans-phobia refers to feelings some people have inside about them being trans that they might not even be aware of. It refers to how some people hate that part of themselves and are ashamed of it. For me I was transphobic towards myself in the beginning and it was because I didn’t understand nor did I want to be part of such a hated group at the time, I was simply scared. It took me a long time to come to terms with who I was and therefore made me transphobic because I didn’t want to be trans. I felt like that would make me more of an outcast than I already was identifying as a lesbian. Having internalized transphobia isn’t a bad thing. A lot of the time its out of fear, not understanding, and being worried of what that means for you.

How does this happen?  This happens because of discrimination, ignorance and stigma in society against people who display gender non-conforming behavior.  In other words against men and boys who appear feminine or girls and woman who appear masculine or “butch” or people who are more gender-queer and don’t appear to be completely male or female. Historically, trans-folk have been the butt of jokes, been made fun of, laughed at, been misunderstood and have been the object of derision and violence.  Transgender people have been seen as “less than”. But the truth is we are no different than anyone else.

This attitude has been widespread and so to finally arrive at the idea that this could be you; that you could be a member of this hated group can be very scary.  Not only that, but by growing up in a culture and society where this attitude is common, you take it in and part of you believes it whether you want to or not. This can happen because we often learn the attitudes and beliefs of those around us before we become self-aware enough or wise enough to start questioning them.  We often learn these things from trusted people around us parents, teachers, church leaders, etc.  so that we tend not to question them.  We learn that a certain group of people can be mocked before we know that we are in that group and then we are stuck in the position of hating something about ourselves.

Sometimes the messages or feedback we get from parents and teachers when we are very young contribute to feeling bad about being gender variant.  Like a parent disapproving of acting too “boyish” or “girlish”.  These messages can be very quick and subtle, like a Mother telling her young son not to “stand like a ballerina”.

What happens when you have internalized transphobia? Feelings of hate and shame for yourself which you might not even be aware of can result in low self-esteem and depression.  They can cause you to feel uncomfortable, embarrassed and inferior, even unlovable.  They can make you feel like hiding a big part of yourself or pretend to be someone else.  They can make you to not want to be around people, to withdraw or be a loner.  These feelings can certainly make you feel very unhappy and angry.  Some people take a long time to come out as trans because they have so much internalized trans-phobia.  It can hold you back in life, not only in terms of finding a way to be the gender you are, but in many areas of your life such as forming deep and satisfying connections to others.

Sometimes internalized trans-phobia can keep you from connecting with other trans-folk.  When one has a deep hatred of the gender-queer inside it can get confusing to be around other trans-folk.  You may see them in the way you learned early on as freaky, or not good-enough in some way.  The negative feelings can get pushed outward in this way.

What can you do about internalized transphobia? The first thing to do is to try be aware of it.  Try and acknowledge it if you have it. This is hard to do because we usually automatically try to avoid things about ourselves that we are embarrassed about.  One can feel ashamed of being ashamed!  It gets complicated so it really helps to have a therapist who is knowledgeable about gender issues to do this work with, but a supportive friend or a support group can work too.  It helps to have lots of people in your life who are supportive and positive about you being trans.  It takes time to “undo” deep down beliefs about gender-variant people, just like it took time to get them. Be patient and understanding of yourself. You are learning who you are and need to remember that your happiness and well being is the most important part in your life. So surround yourself with supportive people who love you for you and don’t judge you for who you want to be.

Bathrooms and Trans People

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What is the big deal with bathrooms today??? The last time I checked the purpose of a bathroom was to relieve yourself of your natural bodily functions. Apparently there is more to do in a bathroom than most of us thought. Bathrooms have been around for decades and we have never had such an issue about them until now.

The bathroom bill movement started around 2012-2013 with college campuses installing gender-neutral bathrooms. Than in late 2014 early 2015 Texas and several other states passed a bill that would require transgender individuals to use bathrooms that match their birth gender. It was in 2016 that the federal government came into play and stated that people can use the bathroom that closely matches the gender they see themselves as. Than when Trump came into office he banished that and now we are back to square one. In the middle of all this mess you had the HB2 bill that happened in North Carolina restricting trans people from using any other bathroom than the one that corresponds to their sex at birth as well.

My question is how did we get here? When did simply going to a restroom become such a controversial topic? Trans people have the right to go to the restroom just like anyone else and its not up to the government whether its Federal, State, or local to decide which bathroom we go into. When I was a kid and the lines were long my dad took me into the men’s bathroom with him to pee. For crying out loud all we have to do is pee. Why should I be forced to go to the women’s bathroom when I obviously don’t identify with it. Nor as I grow further into my transition will I look like I belong in there.

Aydian Dowling is a prime example of someone who most women would yell if he came into the women’s restroom. 26-trans-guys-who-are-way-too-hot-to-handle-2-28498-1454555758-2_dblbig

Does he look like he belongs in the ladies restroom?? No, of course he doesn’t, but according to today’s society because he was born a female he should technically go to the ladies restroom. Want to know how I think a transgender child, teen, or adult uses their genitals in the bathroom? To eliminate urine. Surprise! Oh, and thanks to social stigmatization and ignorance, that same individual will probably do their business and then hurry out of the restroom as fast as possible. Not what I want for the people I care about.

The ones who are being affected by this the most are children. Children can’t simply go to the bathroom they identify with without getting yelled at. So what are we talking about here? We are talking about girls being able to use the girls’ restroom, and boys being able to use the boys’ restroom. It explicitly states a student may use the facilities consistent with his or her gender identity, irrespective of the gender listed on the pupil’s records.  It does not say “all students” can pick which bathroom they want to go in, depending on their mood. We are NOT talking about boys using the girls’ bathroom and girls using the boys’ bathroom. We’re just not. If someone says we are, he or she does not understand what makes someone a boy or a girl. Having a penis or a vagina does not make someone a boy or a girl.  Being a boy or a girl references one’s gender identity, which exists in one’s brain. Talking about genitals only references one’s natal sex. For those people who insist having a penis or a vagina is what determines whether someone is a boy or a girl, why??  WHY must genitals trump brains? I don’t understand. What is this focus on genitals? Why do some people act as though what someone has in their pants is more important than what they have in their heads?? I mean, you could function and lead a productive life without a penis or a vagina (provided there were modifications made for the elimination of urine), but you can’t function or lead a productive life without a brain. Brains trump genitals, as they should in the gender debate.

Others seem convinced a transgender person is going to be interested in looking at other people’s genitals in the bathroom.  That whole “man in a dress in the women’s restroom” argument? Only serves to prove the ignorance of the opponents. A transgender woman is not a man in a dress, she is a woman. She likely has the same interest in seeing the genitals of the other women in the restroom as the general population. In my 31 years of life I have never once had someone climb over or under the bathroom stalls to see what genitals I had. This just isn’t natural curiosity in human beings. Transgender individuals being “allowed” to use the restroom that matches their brain gender identity is not enough. The understanding of gender identity needs to be increased in the general population. Please, if you care about this issue, speak up.

Being Misgendered

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Who wants to be misgendered?? I certainly don’t, but unfortunately sometimes it happens, sometimes by mistake and other times with malicious intent. For trans people we have to decide whether or not we are going to correct someone or just let it slide off our backs. For cis gendered people it’s recognizing what you did and correcting it as soon as you realize it. Personally I get misgendered all the time, most times on accident or just the person plain out doesn’t know and sometimes out of malicious intent. One of the reasons I am misgendered is due to my voice. I have not started hormones yet so I still currently have a high-pitched feminine voice. Although I wear male clothes, have a male hair cut, and present as a male my voice gives away my birth gender. The hope is that once I start hormones my vocal chords will thicken and other things will happen to help present more as a male.

For trans people we have to decide how we are going to react to it. Are we going to flip our lids every time we get misgendered or are we going to remain calm, correct them, and move on? I prefer to stay calm and correct the person even if they are doing it with malicious intent. I never want to bow down to their level. It’s hard sometimes especially when people continuously misgender you and you have corrected them, but all you can do is continually correct them and eventually they will have it hammered in their brain enough they will respond correctly. For example when I came out at work there is one lady that never missed a beat with my name, but would constantly still use she/her pronouns. On multiple occasions I asked her to please use male pronouns and now she thinks before she speaks and 99 percent of the time gets it correct. Sometimes its simply a learning process especially for people who have known you a long time and have used your previous pronouns.

Malicious intent is a whole different can of worms and shouldn’t be tolerated by trans people. The problem with this is when someone is being malicious with their words will it turn into physical violence and that is something trans people have to be careful with. No one wants to put themselves in harm’s way so do you correct them and take the chance or do you just ignore it and move on. For me if I feel like I can defend myself against the person I will correct them if I don’t than I simply walk away from the situation because my life is more important than one measly person. Do what you believe is best, but remember to protect yourself because not everyone understands or is okay with who we are.

For cis people it’s all about realizing what you did if you misgender some one. Don’t over react and say “Oh my I’m so sorry I really do see you as a man/woman,blah blah blah…” Simply apologize and use the correct gender and move on. Trust me most trans people aren’t going to flip out on you because you misgendered them as long as you acknowledge it and correct yourself. It’s the people who don’t say anything and don’t correct themselves. Remember that we are who we are whether you understand it or not so the first step is gendering us properly no matter how long you may have known the person. I understand it takes time and it may be part of the transition for you too, but you have to realize how important it is to them to be gendered correctly.

Whether your trans or cis being gendered correctly is important. No one wants to be gendered the opposite of what they identify at. The same goes for non-binary people who don’t identify as either gender. So, just be patient and understanding no matter what side you are on because what you say does matter to someone.

Mental Health

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Mental health is something we all struggle with at some point in our lives. Some of us like myself struggle with it more than others. Mental health has such stigma around it in society that people who struggle with their mental health don’t go seek help when they are in dire need of it because they are to concerned about what society is going to think of them. We need to stop treating it like it’s contagious or that people who have some form of mental illness are just categorized as crazy. Mental illness can range from simple depression or anxiety to more complex things like bipolar 1 or schizophrenia. Regardless of what you are struggling with doesn’t make you any less of a human than someone who isn’t.

Personally I have struggled with mental illness most of my life in some way shape or form. I have been diagnosed with a multitude of different things, but one thing has stayed the same and that I have always struggled with depression. Depression can and will take over your whole life if you let it. The reason I decided I would write about mental health this week is because I personally have been battling with a severe bout of depression over the last month or so. The medication I had been on was helping for a long time to steer off the depression and anxiety that goes along with it, but it got to a point like most medications do, that it stopped working and I needed to switch to another one. For me switching medications is always scary because you never know how your body will react and I never want to get as low as I have been in the past. So, I decided it was best to go see the doctor and talk about changing my medications. The doctor decided to change my anti-depressant and see how that alters my mood. I currently take anti-depressant medication, a mood stabilizer, and ADD medication. When changing your medications you never want to change more than one at a time especially if you are changing them due to a possible side effect, so you are able to weed out the one causing it.

A little bit about my battle over the years of mental illness and things that I have done to help combat it. I have tried to commit suicide two times, both times landing me in the ER hanging on to life. Afterwards I spent at least a week in a psych ward where I underwent group therapy, one on one therapy, medication therapy, and solitude. I’ve also been baker acted two other times for threatening suicide where I also spent at least a week in a psych ward. At those moments in my life I was at the lowest of my lows and to me there was nothing left to live for. I was struggling with my own inner demons of who I was as a person and my life as it was at the moment.

Both times I tried to commit suicide I was in my early 20’s right after I realized that I was transgender. Do I relate it all to that no of course not there were other factors that attributed to it as well at the time. I do know that the fight I was battling with myself at the time of who I was seemed unbearable at times and had a lot of influence into my mental health state. This fight still continues to this day I have just learned other ways to deal with it and the fact that I will be starting testosterone soon and I will eventually have top surgery makes me feel better about the parts of my body I don’t like. Unfortunately from trying to commit suicide I lost a lot of short-term memory functionality especially in the beginning over the years parts of it has come back, but I still struggle with my short term memory.

Over the years I have gone through extensive talk therapy and medication therapy to help combat the depression and what I now know to be called dysphoria. The therapy over the years has helped me work through past hurts, current hurts, and other aspects of life that are hard to handle. It has also provided me coping skills to utilize when I get in a position that is hard to handle or my anxiety spikes, I can use them to help me deal with the problem. One of the best coping skills I have learned is simply to stop take a deep breath and count backwards. It makes you become focused on what you are doing and takes you back from what is going on. By doing this it allows you to grasp what’s going on and clear your mind.

Now that I look back at those years and what all I have done with my life I am thankful I didn’t die even though at those moments I felt like there was nothing to live for. No matter how hard things get for you, ending your life is not the way to go. There are resources out there to help you with the mental health problems you are having no matter how mild or how extreme they are. You just have to be willing to take the step to get them and recover from whatever is effecting you. Be brave, I know that is easier said than done and going through therapy isn’t easy, but at the end of the day it will make you a stronger person. Everything that has happened in my life has made me into the person I am today. I am a better person because of the struggles I have gone through and will grow as a person for all the struggles to come. Life isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. So, keep your head up and if you want to talk about your journey and struggles shoot me an email or comment on this post.

The Dreaded Gynecologist

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Who wants to ever go to the gynecologist? NOT ME! I don’t think many people enjoy this task even cis women. I’ve never liked going to the gyno even prior to me coming out as a trans man. I always tense up and feel violated during the exam, even though I have a fantastic doctor. Unfortunately as a trans man who has not undergone bottom surgery I am still required to go regularly to the gynecologist in order to maintain my health.

Why do trans men hate the task of going to the gyno? Have you ever asked yourself what makes you refrain from going or scared to go? In society genitalia is considered to be taboo because it deals with sex and who wants to talk about parts of our body that have anything to do with sex. In American society we shame these parts of our bodies which causes much distress to the trans community when trans people already struggle with accepting their bodies.

The current lack of healthy, open, guilt-free discussion about our bodies feeds into a serious gap in trans men’s healthcare that has potentially fatal consequences when you consider that pap tests are used to screen cervical cancer.  Body shame, combined with fears over trans-phobic treatment from medical providers and an increased likelihood of gynecological care not being covered by health insurance amounts to a potentially deadly health disparity that’s unique to trans men.

Fear is a crippling emotion that can keep us from doing things we love to doing things that are necessary in our lives. When we are fearful of something we tend to ignore it and act like it doesn’t exist. The problem with doing that with health related things is risking your own health in the process. Going to see a health practitioner is scary enough for trans people. For trans men the worse is going to the gynecologist because of how feminine oriented this doctor is seen by society.

Here are some things that trans guys can do when seeing a gynecologist.

1.Set the Expectations for using correct pronouns

Pap tests don’t have to be considered a woman’s procedure. It is a clinical medical procedure and there is nothing feminine about it. The doctor does not need to refer to your anatomy as anything other than the clinical terms. The reality is that certain people of all genders have body parts that require gynecological exams. It’s simply that our society is so gender binary that it effects every aspect of our lives and we as humans have a hard time separating that. Your doctor should not be one of those people, they did take an oath to care for each patient’s individuals needs.

The truth of the matter is your doctor may not have any trans related experience and may not know to ask what pronouns you go by. This is a conversation you likely will have to initiate. You can simply ask your doctor to use gender-neutral terms associated to your body and give them other language you would like them to use in association with your body parts. Now remember they are doctors and human so they still might use clinical terminology when relating to your genitalia. Personally I am okay with the doctor using clinical terms when relating to my body parts.

2. Ask to Verbally Walk Through the Procedure Before it Happens

If you have never had a pap smear before or you haven’t had one in a long time it’s a good idea to have the doctor walk through what is about to occur. For a trans man going through his first pap test after publicly identifying as a male, this can be terrifying. Even is a man experienced pap tests previously, approaching one as a man is a whole different story. Asking the doctor to go step by step can help calm your nerves and any fears you may have associated with the procedure. Remember you always have the right to know what is going to happen with your body no matter what anyone says. You also have the right to tell your doctor how fast or slow you want to go as well as if you need breaks in between. Just remember it’s easier to set these expectations prior to the procedure instead of in the middle of it. If your doctor cannot respect this, you can consider switching to a different doctor.

3. Bring in Other Tools to Make the Procedure More Comfortable

Think about things that calm you down on a regular basis and how you can utilize them while you are in the middle of the procedure. For some people it’s talking non-stop, blocking out sound, having someone with you, counting backwards, music, and more. If you are unable to utilize any of your tools during the procedure you can always find a way to use them to de-stress afterwards.

4. Bring Along a Support Person

When you are going through a procedure with any doctor, but especially with the gynecologist in such a vulnerable state you tend to lose power. Which than feels like you lose control of the situation. Bringing an a support person can help you feel like you have taken back some of the power you might have lost being put in a vulnerable state. Personally I wouldn’t have someone in the room with me because it actually makes me more uncomfortable, but I can see the value in having someone there to support you especially if you are extremely scared. When you have a support person in there you can discuss other topics that can get your mind off what is happening at that moment. Plus, they can help you defuse stress and tension afterwards.

Remember that you’re a man, your body is a man’s body, no matter what anyone else says about it. No matter how uncomfortable, scared, nervous, or anxious you are about going to the gynecologist you need to go in order to stay in good health. Use different techniques to combat your fears so you are able to get through it. Especially now that you are only required to get a pap test every 3 years. Once every 3 years isn’t to bad to have to go through one of the worst thing we as trans guys have to go through. As society becomes more aware of trans people and hopefully more understanding so will the healthcare system.

Hysterectomy

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Most trans men will have one surgical procedure in his lifetime related to his transition, if not several of them. The question a lot of trans guys ask is whether having a hysterectomy is one of them. Some doctors recommend having a full hysterectomy within 5 years of starting testosterone. There are two main reasons why doctors believe this should occur. The first one is the concern that long-term testosterone therapy may cause ovarian cancer or endometrial hyperplasia. The other reason is because after having a full hysterectomy your testosterone can be decreased due to having no estrogen to combat.

There is no research to prove whether the risk of such cancers increases due to long-term testosterone therapy. Trans men are a small population and typically undergo a full hysterectomy early in their transition if they plan on having one. The ability to research the long-term effects of testosterone is minimal. Due to the lack of knowledge between long-term testosterone use and gynecological health, and because a lot of trans men experience embarrassment and/or unable to access care, some feel it is necessary to undergo a full hysterectomy as a safety precaution. If a trans man chooses not to have a full hysterectomy they should continue to have regular pap smears and should seek care in the case of abnormalities in that region.

For me personally I have had a partial hysterectomy, so they have removed my uterus and fallopian tubes. Due to the fact that I still have my cervix and ovaries I am still required to undergo regular pap smears to check for cancer. I underwent a partial hysterectomy due to years of endometriosis growth and was unable to continue with the pain I encountered every month. Currently I am debating whether or not I want to have the rest of those reproductive organs removed. The reason I didn’t have a full hysterectomy at the time was because I was unsure of going on hormones and did not want to be placed on artificial estrogen, plus the parts that were left were fairly healthy at the time.

There are different methods of having a hysterectomy. They can perform laparoscopic which is the most used method or can cut you under the belly in order to get to the proper organs. My doctor performed my surgery laparoscopically with 4 small incisions using a camera and small instruments in order to remove my uterus and fallopian tubes. This method has fewer complications and a faster recovery time. I would recommend this method to anyone undergoing this type of surgery.

Of course with any type of surgery there are always risk and complications that can happen. These can include bleeding, infection, problems from anesthesia, blood clots, or death (rare). Some other problems that have been reported after hysterectomy include irritable bowel syndrome, incontinence, damage to the urethra or bowel, prolapse of the vagina, back pain, or loss of sexual feeling or function. Depending on the type of procedure you undergo, these risks may be more or less common.

Most insurance companies will pay to have a hysterectomy so fortunately this is one of the few surgeries that has the possibility of being covered through a trans guys transition. Check your plan though because every plan is different even if its the same insurance company. Mine was covered by my insurance all I had to pay was my 20 percent coinsurance portion.

If you decide to undergo any type of surgery just be prepared and know what you are getting yourself into. No surgery is  a minor surgery even though it may seem like it. There are always risks and complications that can occur so be prepared and ask questions.