This is a little (a lot) late coming and I do apologize. I started writing this a few times, but hit some head-space issues. You need to be in the right frame of mind to dig deep into your own emotions and psyche and put this kind of content out for everyone to see.
I think the last Ask Me Anything covered a lot of ground for a lot of people. I still owe some answers from that and they will be below along with the few questions I was asked this time. I may, as I write and let the words flow through me hit on a few other topics. I will put a trigger warning here at the top, as I am not filtering my content (as much as it could put me at risk) and want to be 100% open and honest.
tw (trigger warning): suicide, depression, dysphoria
The actual question was what am I attracted to. Male, Female, etc. While this is generally considered by some in the community as a ‘no no’ question – I have opened myself to nothing being taboo so that I could help educate. At the moment the best answer is either Lesbian, Bi-sexual, or pan-sexual.
Lemme ‘splain, then lemme ‘splain.
I have experience with intimate attraction with only one gender, those who express themselves as female. I do find something appealing looking at the male form however, which leads me to bisexual. That said, I am not sure I care what gender someone expresses as (including none), as I may be attracted to them for multiple other reasons.
Now on the last AMA I talked about this topic
Do you have to be bi or gay to be a transgender?
No! Being Trans in my sense is about physical expression matching mental/spiritual/emotional. Sexual attraction is an entirely different matter.
Also, much like I talked about with binary genders, there’s an entire spectrum of sexuality that I am ill-equipped to discuss tonight.
I was more afraid to answer it than I am now. I did not have a lot of experience with the other sexualities out there and believe me there are a few. We as a society are focused on a binary aspect, which really does not hold true anymore. There’s hetero-, homo-, bi-, pan-, poly-, demi-, and a-sexuality. Each has a different type of individual they are attracted to (or lack there of) sexually and/or romantically. I found this lovely little chart to go over the various orientations and romantic orientations (which yes, can be different)
So with all of that in mind, as I have not had *any* opportunity to explore alternatives, but know when my heart flutters – I believe I am at least bi sexual, but likely pan sexual. This is a complex topic, far more complex than I realized last October when I started these sorts of things. I am glad I’ve had some time to learn and understand the complexity, but there is so much more out there than many people realize.
One note here, while we are talking sexuality: Even though the B in LGBT is for Bi, they get a lot of hate in society and even within the community. There’s a lot of invalidation of their beliefs/wishes that is frequently called Bi-sexual erasure. The concept of bisexual erasure is that they are really just gay or lesbian, to people regardless of what they have self-identified as or declaring they must be gay or straight, you can’t be both.
While the rest of us were celebrating this weekend over the same-sex marriage decree quite a few in the Bi-community were upset by the lack of recognition. In some of the talking head, aka news, stories they indicated Gay and Lesbian couples could be married with no comment or recognition around those who are Bi. These people did have reason to have a gripe. It isn’t Gay Marriage guys, it’s Same Sex Marriage. I also think, personally, take a day to celebrate the momentous victory; then we can get into further battles of recognition and fixing the text. There are hundreds of battles ahead, as they say at my job – celebrate the victories.
For those who are still confused, or not quite understanding from a lack of sufficient explanation on my part, the BiSexual Resource Center had this chart I found. Please do not contribute to BiSexual erasure.
I felt it important to go over this as I use this blog to talk about issues that are close to me for various reasons. I know some folks who are bi and have heard the gamut of insults and comments, ranging from “You’re just confused” to “You’re greedy”. It bothers me and it isn’t right. Consider yourselves educated on a topic you may not have even known existed.
Surgery/Process and Emotions
There was a question posed about how I felt about the surgery, the recovery, and what it was like.
Going into the surgery, of which I have only had the breasts done, I was terrified. Terrified of how I would look coming out. Terrified of living in the world having breasts and a penis. Terrified of how they would look, move, how my existing clothes (bra’s especially) would fit. Anxiety doesn’t quite cover it. It was terrifying. Now, the clinic was nice and anyone in the Tucson area I would recommend the doctor without a moment’s hesitation. His bedside is a bit cold, but his skill is there.
Coming out of the surgery I was dopey for a few days and had to have my best friend drive me back and forth to the Doctor. Had some bad reactions to the chemical cocktail of recovery meds I was on, muscle relaxers, anti-inflammatories, antibiotics, painkillers. Ended up with a fever and a rash briefly, but removed one of the meds (the pain killers) and was good. The scars healed remarkably fast, though having to wear nothing but a sports bra for a about two months got old into week 5.
Then it was like nothing happened. By the Winter Party work holds I was as comfortable with them as if I had been born with them. I had a strong desire to show them off though, can’t lie. When you finally have something you’ve dreamed of for nearly three decades, you want to put them on display. From an physical emotional standpoint now, I still kinda want to show them off (more on that in a bit), but they are part of me and are comfortable. They resolve a good portion of the dysphoria I feel every day.
That being said, while we are on the topic of surgery (we will be for awhile)
My sense of gender dysphoria has actually gotten worse as time goes on.
My voice, my need for a hat or a wig, and of course the genitalia. I am so often mis gendered for my voice, even when I put effort into it. I am misgendered if I wear a T shirt vs a tank top, which is why on weekends or if I am going out during the you won’t often see me in a T-shirt. My frame reads male, shoulders, stomach to chest ratio, lack of hips, etc. Even when dressed fully as a woman (Elsa, Yang, Sinon – I will cut slack on the Phantasm) at Phoenix Comicon this year, I was called the wrong gender so many times I wanted to throw myself off the top of the Hyatt. That isn’t an exaggeration. I have a lot to live for and a lot of people that depend on me and things to keep me around – but I have to say the thought crossed my mind, even briefly.
I got a brief moment of pleasure from one exchange, when I was wearing my signature Elsa:
Person: “It takes a lot of courage for a man to dress as a woman.”
Me: “Well, since I am a woman…”
Now this other woman looked rightfully embarrassed and her friends did the “ooooh” to her, but that didn’t take the sting out of the words. I know she was trying to be complimentary but all she did was add to a weekend of pain and disappointment. The bright spots in the weekend were meeting Alyson Hannigan, Alexis Denisof, and Danielle Panabaker who felt so warm and gracious. A&A complimented me and told me how much their child would have loved to see me (shot below). Those 3 were the only ones who had a genuine smile and didn’t wince. Yes, some of the stars I met winced. I study micro-expressions for fun and saw it and wish to <insert higher power> that I didn’t.
So we have a voice that no matter how hard I try I get called the wrong gender. A body that in a dress with real breasts, high heels, full make-up, and wig that still gets called the wrong gender. A head that if I take off my hats or wigs will never pass. Let’s talk about that because I know I have people who read this who are considering HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy).
Start as soon as you are able.
I didn’t. I will regret it the rest of my days. My family has a genetic disposition towards hair loss. I recently explored options for replacement and the lowball estimate was ~$14,000 to $20,000 JUST FOR MY HAIR. To say I was despondent the rest of the day and week doesn’t even begin to cover the emotions. Let me put it in perspective – I will never be comfortable without a hat or wig forever. People will only see a male failing to be female. No public places, work, pools, oceans, beaches, dinners, dances, ever – without some form of wig or hat.
A little exercise, put a rubberband around your head. Not comfortable is it? Try it for 10-15 hours. Try it knowing that if you move the wrong way it could fall off and people will laugh at you. That’s happened. A lot. I suffer to exist.
Vocal surgery is only moderately effective, just as expensive, and also not covered by insurance. Almost nothing in the transition is actually covered when you start to add it up as it is considered cosmetic. Heads up insurance companies – it may be cosmetic for some cisgendered individuals – for trans folks it is necessary.
Honestly, the least dysphoric thing is the genitalia. Due to the medication it has shrunk and if I am wearing the right kind of clothes you can’t even tell. Hell with the right arrangement I’ve inadvertently created a camel toe before. This was fixed before going in public, but it amused me briefly. The surgery here is largely successful and I am one of the lucky damn few that has coverage through her jobs insurance. I am holding off on the surgery here, for a bit longer as medical technology keeps advancing. I have read stories on a 3D printed uterus; which gives me hope that not only one day could I have one of my own rather than a facsimile, but even potentially carry a child.
Here’s a question that came from the last AMA.
You and others in the community talk about passing. I see that people get confused and use the wrong pronouns. These are people you know and strangers too. I can’t quite figure out how I can look as masculine as I want and no one questions me. I suppose it’s the breasts? But even if I bound them I imagine no one would question. Women aren’t their breasts (large, medium, small, or none). Women aren’t their voices, complexion, or their body hair. They aren’t their way or walking or the things they buy. It seems to me you have this pressure to pass. Do you feel this dichotomy? This pressure to pass while wanting to fight and say that women aren’t our bodies? Do you ever wonder what could be if feminism didn’t have to be a movement, but was a truth? Does your daily fight to pass take part in a larger conversation for you?
During the last AMA I talked about how much the misgendering hurt. It hurts to the core. So I think the section above, and now below touches on that question.
I am often told to ignore the comments/misgendering – Ignoring it isn’t an option.
“They were just ignorant.”
“They didn’t know”
“They didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“If they were malicious, they don’t matter. Ignore them.”
It isn’t that easy. The malicious ones, I can fight back against verbally. Anyone that knows me, knows I can be like a surgeon with words. The ignorant and accidental – it isn’t them. It’s me. I failed. I failed to pass. It means even though I went to effort to APPEAR female, I failed. The world saw me as something else.
So what does it mean to pass? How about another helpful image.
You see, if I don’t pass society thinks I am more of a freak show. That I am a deviant. That I am wrong. The raw number of ugly stares I get at the grocery store are enough to keep me sheltered in my home eating poorly. The attempts to make conversation can become efforts in humiliation. Don’t get me started with flirting. I am not sure I can ever pass.
Society expects so much out of trans individuals. They expect us to look in such a way that we are aesthetically pleasing, and I suppose as I write this out, this is no different than it is for cis-gendered women. I love that we have Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner.
Listen to the media talk about Caitlyn. They wasted no time treating her like any other high profile female.
I love that they can be out there using their fame as a soapbox and spring board for the issues we face. I also resent them. It’s petty and jealous of me. I know it, but I do. I resent them for having the thousands of dollars, professional make up artists, stylists, fashionista’s, and photographers that make them look supermodel gorgeous. They aid in the false expectations society expects of the rest of us. I don’t have someone, in the media, that I can look at and go ‘they represent me’.
So many days I wake up and wonder why I bothered. Why I made the decision to pursue this. I am a woman, but I had to decide to pursue the transition – THAT is the one decision I had in this. I wonder why I keep trying. Why I should try. Most of the days I don’t even have an answer for myself, so I go through the motions of the day. I pick my friend up. I go to a job I do love. I do what I love in my job. I leave and drop my friend off. I come home to an empty house ( it isn’t a home anymore). Rinse and repeat. I survive. I don’t live. That is part of the reason this post is 3 months late. I didn’t have the energy to do it. I couldn’t bring the passion and honesty to write what needed to be written.
On the flipside, there are days which are better than others. I do have some days which are truly happy, but those are few and far between. They usually involve my best friend and/or her roommate. Yesterdays photo shoot for my new cosplay page was a good day.
Let me be absolutely clear on one thing in this realm of morose depressing thought: I am incredibly appreciative of my friends I have, of my co-workers, of my superiors at work. Without that network I would not be here or as successful as I am. I do have some of the best friends, leadership, and co-workers a girl like me could ask for. I also know how hard it can be on them to deal with me on the bad days – of which there have been many recently. Know that I love you and thank you for everything you’ve done, sacrificed, and been for me. One in particular I will never be able to repay; but know the tears I am dripping on my desk right now are those of a thankful person.
What have friends that live in different cities/states done for you in support that you’ve been most appreciative of?
I started to type I can’t type anything I specific here. Truth is I can. I just spent the past 45 minutes delving into depression and suicidal thoughts to write this. One of the things that keeps me going. It’s huge and it is from those out of state folks, but also from people at work. They tell me:
How brave you are…
How strong you are…
You give me someone to look up to
You inspire me (this from someone who became a leader in their local area after)
I have people reach out to me to help them with friends or family members who are trans, or might be. I am no expert on it; aside from my experience, but I am happy to share. I am happy to continue this blog, even if it hurts me to the core sometimes.
So what have folks done for me? They told me they were there. They told me they needed me. As silly as it sounds, it makes me feel like a superhero. I mean that’s what a true super hero does right? Give people hope.
So, going back to a point earlier, I may be envious or even a bit resentful of Caitlyn, but if you tell me she isn’t brave or a hero – I will cut you with words. If this post and the one before it haven’t shown you the pain, fear, and loss we experience above and beyond what most people have to endure and how heroic it is to be out there for the world to see and cut apart into 5 second sound bites, then you really need to rethink heroism.
At what point did you change bathrooms? or would suggest changing bathrooms? this is an issue I’ve been trying to figure out, and i’m just not sure. and your thoughts and input would be greatly appreciated!
I changed bathrooms at work when I started my transition. I offered to use the unisex bathroom and they told me flat out if someone has a problem with it the other person could use the unisex one. That said, even now bathrooms hold a special panic for me. My drivers license says F next to sex, which gives me protection most of the time. It doesn’t change the fear.
So when to change?
When you present as your self identified gender in public.
I was writing something originally about when you feel safe, comfortable, or have legal protection. The reality is that is my own dysphoria and fear. If you are presenting as a specific gender (because guess what , when you are trans – you ARE that gender) then use the bathroom of that gender. You might be nervous, I still am, but damnit it’s a bathroom. Why the frak people think we want to do more than go to the bathroom in one is beyond me. Do these same narrow minded myopic nitwits have the same concerns about others on the LGBT spectrum in the rest room? There’s no secret conspiracy to look at children through the stall walls. Which is a comment someone I used to have as a friend on facebook mentioned once. I really had to ask WHAT THE FRAK?
Nevermind that. Actually some of them do. Guess what – gay guys don’t necessarily want you. Lesbians aren’t going around peeking through the stalls for a chance to see another woman’s genitalia. It’s the friggin bathroom – thats the last place I want to see what’s below the waist. It’s the same for trans folks – we want to go in and use the bathroom and go about our lives. Do pedophiles and other such individuals interested in sexual assault exist? Yes. Do you think a law keeping me from using the right bathroom will stop them? If you are…you are an idiot. Go back to your village.
Instead, let me give you more facts and some images to put it in perspective
To subjective. True, but it is still accurate. How about this? (Source: http://mic.com/articles/114066/statistics-show-exactly-how-many-times-trans-people-have-attacked-you-in-bathrooms)
Not enough? Ok fair deal.
Here’s a survey from the Williams Institute and some of their statistics:
The study focused on people who identify as transgender or gender non-conforming/genderqueer in the Washington, DC area and found that an overwhelming majority — 70 percent — had experienced some sort of negative reaction when using a bathroom. The study notes that this is in spite of the fact that DC’s enforcement regulations contain “the strongest language in the country in regard to gender-segregated public facilities” to protect trans people from just these sorts of issues.
The primary experience trans people reported was verbal harassment, with 68 percent reporting they were told they were in the wrong facility, told to leave the facility, questioned about their gender, ridiculed or made fun of, verbally threatened, or stared at and given strange looks. Some also shared that the police were called and others noted that they were followed after using a facility. For 9 percent of respondents, actual physical assault has also occurred, including being forcibly removed from the restroom, hit or kicked, intimidated or cornered, or slapped; one respondent reported being sexually assaulted.
(Source – http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2013/06/26/2216781/transgender-bathroom-study/)
Need more? Try this one: http://mediamatters.org/research/2014/03/20/15-experts-debunk-right-wing-transgender-bathro/198533
Don’t see your state on the list? Then there’s a chance they have debated, or will debate, trans exclusionary laws on bathrooms. Arizona has tried TWICE to keep me out of the right bathroom for me. The battle here probably isn’t over.
So to the original question, still use the one you identify with – but be careful. I would recommend getting a new ID sooner rather than later if your state allows it. I hate to put such fear into a statement that can be empowering, but there is risk and you need to be aware of it.
Note: Arizona is actually fairly easy to get a new ID and not terribly expensive.
Is there anything you feel you’re “giving up” and will miss as you complete your transition?
I didn’t answer this last time except with a bit of snark about being able to go topless – which is odd in it’s own way. It further goes into the societal view of women as sexual objects. Think about it – if I hadn’t changed my ID to say F had the breast surgery – what then? A ‘man’ by law with breasts. Would I be arrested? Fined? Worse? Probably, but then the double standard of watching literally dozens of guys running around Tucson topless. Fascinating to consider isn’t it?
So what do I think I might have given up?
Being happy truly in my personal life (work life is fantastic). I have moments of joy. I have good days, but then the day ends and I stand alone. The more I learn and the more I struggle I don’t think I will ever truly be happy again. I don’t think I will find someone to replace or even come close to filling the gap of 15 years. I think I am going to be alone until the day I die. I am overweight, I don’t pass, I have near debilitating social anxiety at events because of the first two. I think I will be single the rest of my days and I gave up a good relationship to pursue some semblance of self.
Do I think all trans individuals face this? No. Some are truly lucky and have someone who is in their life and completes them and that they complete. I think a lot do though.
I think that as I complete this transition and write open and honest posts like this I am risking a lot. I think there is a lot of discrimination in work places (beyond my current employer, who once again is awesome) that I could face.
I also think I am giving up cis-male privilege. I had it easy and now I get to deal with these lovely stats ever day I leave my house.
Yes – more statistics.
|Thats right, the national average is ~1%. The trans average ranges from 41-47% depending on which study you read.|
If people were to ask me if you are trans, what would be the best way for me to answer them? (Other then nonya)
“Yep, she’s a transwoman. If you want to know more about it, please ask her. She’s very open to questions as long as they come from a place of wanting to learn more.”….and yes I just wrote that as I do suggested verbiage for work.
I would also point them to John Oliver
What can your friends do to continue to support you? (Redux – it beared repeating)
- Continue to make me feel safe. Continue to treat me as one of the girls. Continue to have conversations with me as if I was born genetically / physically female. Continue to be awesome.AND….Share posts like this and others I do. Share the experience and knowledge when you hear someone make a comment you think if I was in earshot of would hurt me. Do not be silent. Do not be passive. There’s a reason people post about being a LGTBQ Ally. No matter what happens legally or socially – our numbers will always be a minority. Stand up and be counted as a friend and ally when you hear something. Stop the ignorance of others. Just because I didn’t hear it myself doesn’t mean it was right to let it slide.If you are afraid to do so, I get it I really do get it. But ask yourself why you’d be afraid. Then think of all I, and others like me, go through. It’s probably something like that. Sorry to turn this around on folks, but I don’t know another way to try to help folks understand.Ultimately as a friend, continue to be one. This journey isn’t over. I am alone in many respects in my life with not much chance of that ever-changing.
- One trick here, if someone told a joke ask them to explain it (even if you understand) make them explain why the racist, mysogonistic, and/or LGBT joke was funny. It tends to make them as uncomfortable as the joke would feel to those on the receiving end.
I do need the friends. I do need the support.…and let me tell you (again) it is appreciated.
- Borrowing from another article: Listen When Trans People Tell You That Something is Transphobic or Transmisogynistic
When a trans woman complains about RuPaul’s Drag Race having an entire game named after a transmisogynistic slur, don’t try to defend it by saying that they’re drag queens, so it’s okay. Similarly, when Stephen Colbert usestransmisogynistic slurs on his show, don’t defend him by saying that it’s “just satire.” Trans people (or at least most of us) actually do have senses of humor. We love to laugh. But we don’t like to constantly be the punchline of jokes that make light of violence against us or portray us as liars who want to trick you into sleeping with us. So please, believe us, we know when we’re being insulted.
- Be aware of these resources and provide them to others who may need them (I don’t but there are a lot of us who do):
US: (877) 565-8860
Canada: (877) 330-6366
Trans Lifeline is a non-profit dedicated to the well being of transgender people. We run a hotline staffed by transgender people for transgender people. Trans Lifeline volunteers are ready to respond to whatever support needs members of our community might have.
The Trevor Project: http://www.thetrevorproject.org/
So what’s next Jess?
Look I may have scared some of you with some of what I talked about earlier. I am sorry. It may even be a career limiting move at times, but here’s the deal. Jessica Darke is here to stay, even if there are times she doesn’t want to.
I decided this a long time ago when a friend from Rochester sent me the most heartfelt message I have ever gotten but I haven’t ever put it in writing. My goal is to become no less than a director level at my employer. I want to prove to people that a non passing trans female can do it. I will continue to be that symbol of hope out there that even if three people need, that’s three people who are better for me enduring just another day more. I refuse to roll over from my own fears, my own battles. I refuse to let myself become another statistic. There will be no #HerNamewasJessicaDarke hash tag if I have anything to say about it. I will continue to fight. I will continue to be and continue to educate, even on this small venue.
NOT ONE MORE.
No more Leelah Alcorn’s. No more Karis Ann Ross. No More Jess Shipps. No More Cameron Langrells. Not one more Rachel Bryk. Not one more Blake Brockington.
NOT ONE MORE