Ask Me Anything – Part II

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

On  Sexuality

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)

Handy Chart Found on Tumblr

 

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)

Dysphoria/Misgendering

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.

I should remove the badge next time

Queen of the Ice and Snow

 

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.

Misgendering/Passing

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.

 

20150627_171729

Photograph of a sign from a Living Out Loud event

 

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.

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Maybe I need a yellow shirt….

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

Source @Cailin_Becoming on Twitter

Source: Twitter
@Cailin_Becoming

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)

Media Matters Info Graphic

From a mic.com article during many of the bathroom bill debates, with more to come no doubt.

 

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 withbut 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.

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Posted to facebook today (6/29/15)

VoxData

discrimination_bingo__trans__edition_by_grimm_brothers-d8bhud8

Don’t ask how many of these I can check off. (source: Grimm-Brothers Deviant Art)

enhanced-6939-1418929107-18

This officially says I can’t be fired for being trans…interpretation of the word ‘sex’ on the other hand…

http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2015/02/suicide-series-opener

This is a leading cause of death in all americans. (Source CDC)

Trans Suicide Rate

Trans Suicide Rate

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.

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):

TransLifeline:http://www.translifeline.org/

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

 

Ask Me Anything – Round 2 (The Questions)

Hey folks

In light of everything going on in Indiana and the various bits of legislation floating around states I thought it time to do another Ask Me Anything

You may ask me *any* question about *me* being Trans or in general about LGBTQ. No Question is Taboo. There are plenty of sites that discuss “What not to ask someone who is trans” and for this you may ignore those. I  know that for some people the questions are very personal, very private, and often can be something they are not comfortable being asked or answering – especially publically. I respect those people and their feelings on the matter.

I believe if I can answer people’s questions I can end a little ignorance in the world and hopefully make it an easier place for someone like me. someone who doesn’t have the awesome coworkers, employer, and friends that support them. I can maybe make it easier for people to understand why some laws can hurt and some places are dangerous for us.

Rules:

  1. Any question may be asked.
  2. If you don’t want to ask in a public forum you may contact me privately. I will post the question, but not indicate who asked it. Some people want anonymity.
  3. All answers will be from Jessica’s point of view. I do not claim to speak for the trans community. I can only speak to my experience.
  4. Questions around Faith/Religion/Etc will be answered to the best of my ability.
  5. Questions on Law, Facts, Figures. I am not a lawyer, but I am a data-hound. I will fact check myself before quoting stats and give references. If I misquote. Call me on it. I will make apologies and edits as needed.
  6. If I can’t answer a question or do not feel comfortable answering a question due to lack of experience in an area (Gender fluidity, Aces, etc) I will say so. Respect that I am respecting those individuals and groups.

How to reach me:

  • Facebook – PM me or post to the wall as a reply to this post.
    • Amusedinthedark
    • Jessica Darke
  • Email
    • AmusedintheDarke@gmail.com
  • A reply to this post on AmusedintheDark.com

 

When will I answer? 

Probably this weekend if I get enough questions. It’s a lil insane at work, but this is important to me.

Fighting The Ignorance Towards Trans Individuals

I went to bed nearly crying last night (edit: I finished this post in tears). I spent the better part of today trying to write this in my head, half distracted at work, still keeping up with the news and various responses. I still don’t know where to start. Let’s start with the facts as we know them then:

Sunday December 28, 2014, a young transwoman whose preferred name was Leelah Alcorn left her home near Kings Mill, Ohio. She walked an estimated 3-4 miles before allowing herself to be struck by a semi truck on an Ohio interstate. (source: LGBTWNation.com).

Through a scheduled post on Tumblr her suicide note appeared, (link); as did an apology to her siblings and a final note to her parents (link).

There is a lot in her note worth mentioning. I have spent quite a bit of time now reading over the comments on various blogs and facebook pages. I watched a news article on WCPO, a Cincinnati television station.  I watched as her own mother still stayed in denial as to both the gender and nature of the death.

LeelahAlcorn1

Note: This facebook post has since been taken down

 

 

I have watched as people who observed the various articles began slamming Christians, Christianity, her Therapists, her family, wishing harm upon her mother, wishing legal action upon them, wishing hate on all those involved in the loss of this child.

I’ve watched enough. Now sit down and listen.

It would be easy to blame the Christians. They seem a good punching bag these days, but they aren’t the problem. I know plenty of “good” Christians who support me.

It would be easy to blame the parents. Leelah’s note makes it pretty clear a lot of blame does belong there.

It would be easy to blame the therapists. They clearly failed.

It would be easy to blame her school(s). No one stepped in to protect her.

It will be easy in the coming days when people type #Translivesmatter to say #alllivesmatter.

Let me speak from a place of experience. Let me speak from someone who is a transwoman who is lost, has contemplated suicide more times than anyone knows, who even tried it when she was Leelah’s age.

We need to blame Ignorance, and if you will let me, I want to help end some.

Let me start with the scary one for everyone who knows me personally. If I am in any state but California someone can MURDER me and use the TransPanic defense. “I didn’t know and it scared me, so I killed them in a panic.” I want you to consider that. I want you to look long and hard at the people and community around you, around your lawmakers; and consider someone could murder me and might be able to get away with it. (Sources: Jurist , Advocate)

Just because I am Trans.

Now that I have made it personal for some of you, let me get to some even more fun statistics courtesy of the CDC.

  • Negative attitudes toward lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people put these youth at increased risk for experiences with violence, compared with other students.1 Violence can include behaviors such as bullying, teasing, harassment, physical assault, and suicide-related behaviors.
  • A nationally representative study of adolescents in grades 7–12 found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers

The link above has more statistics for you to peruse as well as What Schools Can do (Safe zones), What Parents Can Do, and more. At least one study (link) shows that at least 20% of homeless youth are LGBTQ, I have seen others that have that number at 40%. That same study shows that 62% are more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual homeless peers (29%).

Leelah did not have to die. You could say that about any child who feels the need to commit suicide and it is true, but to say that dilutes and weakens the conversation we need to have today. Much like the gay rights conversation of it’s a choice/I was born this way – trans individuals feel the same. With the numbers I gave above, who would choose this? Who would choose to go from having the lovely privilege of being a male to being female? Less pay, increased chance of rape, physical, mental, societal abuse and stigma? To be hated by some groups of feminists? To have even some Gay rights activists hate that you exist? Why in any deities name would someone choose this?

Why would I choose this when I would lose a fiancee of 15 years? When I would have someone who was my closest friend where I grew up admit to me she was ready to bolt to get away from me when we met again recently (she didn’t and we still talk)? Why would I choose to risk being ostracized by any living blood relative I have? Why would I choose to risk being alone for the rest of my life?

Why would Leelah choose to be who she wanted to be in a home where she was at risk? Why would she choose to be different when accepting what she was told would be so much easier? So much less painful?

The answer is simple: It’s not a choice. It is who we are and it is more painful to live a lie.

So many things went wrong for Leelah and I understand every last one of them.

She was told God doesn’t make mistakes. It’s just a phase. She was told she was being selfish and that she needed to look to God for help. She had all her ties to anything resembling a support structure online cut from her. She had any semblance of normalcy from school taken from her when she was moved to a private school. In her own words her parents saw her as an embarrassment to THEM. All of this from parents and therapists – who exactly is selfish?

I want to attack the parents right now and I might in a moment. Let me start with the therapists. They failed in every concievable sense. If they are licensed by any state board, there could in my non legal opinion be grounds for investigation. According to the American Psychological Association (link)  and the Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender, and Gender-Nonconforming People (link). They were in the wrong. We are not broken. We are not mentally wrong.

In addition to prejudice and discrimination in society at large, stigma can contribute to abuse and neglect in one’s relationships with peers and family members, which in turn can lead to psychological distress. However, these symptoms are socially induced and are not inherent to being transsexual, transgender, or gender-nonconforming.

And their treatment plan goes against the standards of care:

Options for Psychological and Medical
Treatment of Gender Dysphoria
For individuals seeking care for gender dysphoria, a variety of therapeutic options can be considered.
The number and type of interventions applied and the order in which these take place may differ
from person to person (e.g., Bockting, Knudson, & Goldberg, 2006; Bolin, 1994; Rachlin, 1999;
Rachlin, Green, & Lombardi, 2008; Rachlin, Hansbury, & Pardo, 2010). Treatment options include
the following:
• Changes in gender expression and role (which may involve living part time or full time in
another gender role, consistent with one’s gender identity);
• Hormone therapy to feminize or masculinize the body;10
• Surgery to change primary and/or secondary sex characteristics (e.g., breasts/chest, external
and/or internal genitalia, facial features, body contouring);
• Psychotherapy (individual, couple, family, or group) for purposes such as exploring gender
identity, role, and expression; addressing the negative impact of gender dysphoria and stigma
on mental health; alleviating internalized transphobia; enhancing social and peer support;
improving body image; or promoting resilience.
Options for Social Support and Changes in Gender Expression
In addition (or as an alternative) to the psychological- and medical-treatment options described
above, other options can be considered to help alleviate gender dysphoria, for example:
• In-person and online peer support resources, groups, or community organizations that provide
avenues for social support and advocacy;
• In-person and online support resources for families and friends;
• Voice and communication therapy to help individuals develop verbal and non-verbal
communication skills that facilitate comfort with their gender identity;
• Hair removal through electrolysis, laser treatment, or waxing;
• Breast binding or padding, genital tucking or penile prostheses, padding of hips or buttocks;
• Changes in name and gender marker on identity documents.

So in that, the therapists failed absolutely and unequivocally; perhaps on a criminal level, but I am not fit to judge that as I have no legal experience. The negligence of the parents should also not be ignored. Was it criminal? Maybe. Again I can’t say. I think there may be grounds for investigation however, as their deeply held beliefs left their daughter with so much depression and hopelessness that she didn’t see a way out. This girl was beautiful. She was going to be positively radiant and loved by someone as she got free and found her path to transition. She has a line in her note I want to make sure people read:

I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

In this statement I identify with her. I have people who tell me I am beautiful and I don’t feel it. The words of support are not wasted, but the internal psychology when I look in the mirror? Yeah I feel Leelah. I don’t think I am going to ever find a man or woman who wants to be in a relationship with me. I don’t think I am going to be happy with my final transition – my voice, my weight, my body frame, my hair, my inability to conceive a child, take your pick. There isn’t any winning. I am sad enough already. I fight depression nearly every single day of my life.

Unlike Leelah, who was so young and innocent, I believe it gets better. I shouldn’t. I see horrible stuff in the world every single day. I see between the stories and look at the truth and how horrible things are for trans folk. Yet somehow, I believe no matter how low I am, no matter how bad and dark a space my head takes me (and it goes dark trust me) – there’s always a bit of hope. That hope comes from a support structure of a family of 1’s and 0’s, images, and sometimes even voices. If I didn’t have the friends I have that have become more family to me than anyone I share DNA with – I’d be right there with Leelah. If I didn’t have a job at Intuit, who supports people like me, I’d be right there with Leelah. It Does Get Better; but…she was alone and it couldn’t. She was lost and afraid. She saw no way out from her own life and her own path.

For that as a society and a people  we need to do better. She asked as much, even as she talks about not having any hope or way out she still had some:

My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.

So this is what I am asking if you have read all of this, don’t let Leelah’s death be another sad statistic that we forget about amidst champagne and fireworks 24 hours from now. Don’t just be passive and talk about how horrible it is. TELL  people how horrible it is. Convince them that this was avoidable. There are millions of people in this country right now who are still thinking she is broken. That her parents were in the right to force her to be something she wasn’t. Even her own school is still saying “He” and “Josh”.

 If you read this and know someone who is trans-

  • Get the pronouns right. Words DO hurt.
    • I still get called He and Him and it hurts every single time
  • Let them know they have your support.
  • Don’t be passive – if a ‘friend’ makes a joke about Trans* – STOP THEM. Tell them they are offensive. If they tell you to lighten up – tell them how much it can hurt someone. It’s not just a joke.
  • Be a shoulder for them, they may not have it at home.
  • Understand we are afraid of discrimination. We’re afraid of not being able to get a job, being attacked physically, being persecuted by the law – just for existing.
  • Understand we are afraid we will likely be alone for the rest of our lives. You may go home to your spouse or kids and we may go home alone – forever.
  • Understand you can’t pray this away. This isn’t a choice any person would WANT to make. This is who we are.
  • We are not freaks, we know who we are and who we want to be.
  • We don’t want to force out beliefs or agenda on you or anyone – we just want to feel safe and be at peace.

 

If you are Trans and reading this

  • I know how afraid you might feel.
  • I know how alone you might feel.
  • Know that I am here.
  • Know that others reading this (hopefully) are there for you.
  • Know, please for the love of all that anyone holds dear, know that you are NOT BROKEN. You are NOT A MISTAKE. You are NOT a FREAK
  • It does get better. I may not seem like it right now, but it does. I am saying this from my experience. I have a lot of things in this world others don’t and I am trans. I have a job, a house, a car, friends. You can too. It gets better. Please believe that, even in those dark moments. Believe it.
  • Suicide isn’t an option. Don’t do it. Find another way.
    • If you need someone to talk to – message me or use some of the resources I am linking below.

If you are reading this and see your own life situation reflected:

Know that you aren’t alone. The entire LGBTQA+ spectrum, minorities of all shapes, sizes, colors, races, identities; there are hundreds of thousands of others who feel alone, persecuted, and hated just for being. We need to be one community. One humanity. We aren’t as alone in our pain as we think and as we feel, no matter how hard our minds convince us otherwise.

Everyone:

Show compassion. Show understanding. Be an educator. Talk to your friends, family, teachers,  coworkers – let them know this kind of thing has to stop. The ignorance must stop. Let them know the abuse must stop. The Bullying must stop. The death must stop. Revolutions are always bloody – I think we have enough blood of our children soaking the ground now. Let it be enough.

Stop talking about how horrible it is and do something to end it. Help laws get passed to protect people. Stop laws that discriminate. Let’s do as Leelah asked and help fix society.

 

RESOURCES

 

Ask Me ANYTHING – Round 1

I frequently see on many LGBTQ or Trans friendly sites, “Questions not to ask someone who is Trans”. I read over them and sometimes I am scratching my head wondering why. I know that for some people the questions are very personal, very private, and often can be something they are not comfortable being asked or answering – especially publically. I respect those people and their feelings on the matter.

I intend to do just the opposite. I believe if I can answer people’s questions I can end a little ignorance in the world and hopefully make it an easier place for someone like me. someone who doesn’t have the awesome coworkers, employer, and friends that support them. I can maybe make it easier for people to understand why some laws can hurt and some places are dangerous for us. I was asked plenty of questions. Really good ones and I am going to do my best to answer them, but first a disclaimer:

I am not speaking for anyone but me. I am not the voice of the Trans community, I am but a voice in it.

How did you know you were born the wrong gender? When did you know? What were the early signs?

I really didn’t have an epiphany one day and go “Oh shit, I should have had a vagina!”. When I was 8 or 9 I was channel surfing one night and came across a movie where a character was turned from a male to a female through some sort of spell. Something in my brain clicked at that and went “wouldn’t it be nice to be female instead?” It stuck with me. I have always had trouble sleeping at night, I am definitely nocturnal, so as a kid I would write my own dreams in my head until I fell asleep. In most of these dreams I kept taking myself into scenarios where I was either born female or was changed to female. Those scenarios felt more comfortable than the ones where I was what I thought was me.

But I was raised in a rural, small arse town in Maryland. I used to tell people drive north til you see cows and cornfields then turn left. We didn’t have the internet. I was sheltered to a point. I don’t even think I knew what Gay was until my mid to late teens. The mere concept of being able to become female was relegated to fantasy because I never even realized it could be a thing. So I was a boy/male 99% of the time, and only got to explore being a girl in my dreams and imagination. I never talked about it to anyone because it wasn’t a thing that was possible. So why bother? In 10th grade, we learned about viruses in biology class and how they change genes. I spent hours upon hours in the library and at home reading my books on trying to figure out if it was possible to create a virus that would change my gender. In classic Jess fashion I over thought it and realized I’d have trouble beating the white blood cells and how to properly introduce another virus that would stop the modifications of the first one. ….I also was trying to figure out how to add Cat DNA to it. I wanted balance, night vision, and claws. sue me.

When I left Maryland and everything there behind, for better and worse, I was on my own. I still never really thought of it. I had grown up sheltered enough in the right ways that the concepts never occurred to me as possibilities. Then I found online. I found roleplaying. More and more my characters were female. My persona became female online. I talked to people and it became fantasy play. I had friends who helped me learn the right words to use if I was going to be a girl – because I was still an idiot and didn’t quite get it. I had friends who in RL would visit and take me shopping for clothes. I started wearing them under my clothes at work and just enjoyed the sensation and how comfortable they felt.

Eventually my full-time online persona became female. Some people would suspect and try to trap me into revealing I was male. My voice doesn’t modulate well and without a lot of concentration there is no way it passes.

So it was a slow progress from dreams, to roleplay, to fantasies, to the realization it COULD be real. It felt right. It felt to me that this is who I was meant to be. Who I was supposed to be. After some urging from some coworkers to stop half assing it and make a stand for myself. I did.

Ultimately, I think I knew when I was a kid. I just was too dumb, too ignorant, and too isolated to realize it.

If it weren’t for me being as far from my family and the culture as humanly possible and roleplaying games happening at the right time in my life, I may have remained as ignorant. They opened my mind to new possibilities and removed blinders I was raised with. That is not a condemnation on how I was raised. It simply is how I was raised.

What should I, as a parent, look for in my child if they feel they may be transgender but can’t put those feelings into words?

Let me start with: I don’t feel I am remotely qualified to answer this. I can never have children. Ever. (unless I adopt, but it’s not the same as giving birth to me)

That out of the way. Children will surprise you. The world is a much smaller and aware place than it was when I was a child in the 80s. A coworker I respect greatly was talking about how their child was talking about “who we would go to war with next”. When I was that childs age I was thinking of how to stay standing while surfing the middle aisle on my school bus, trying to avoid bullies, playing my Nintendo, and reading but not really grasping Stephen King. The children of today have a better voice than we did. The biggest thing you can do as a parent is listen when they use it. Don’t discount the little things. Let them be who they want to be.

If your child wants Transformers shoes instead of Barbie? Let em.
They want to play with toys that are generally considered masculine rather than feminine? Let em.

If your boy wants to wear a pink tutu or a pretty dress for school picture day because it will make them happy. Take them shopping and get them the dress that makes their eyes light up and hug you so hard it hurts and say “I Love you Mommy” when you do it. If your girl wants to play football or baseball or wear her hair “like the other boys” let them. Fight the system if you have to, but let them. Listen to THEIR pronouns. If you look at the last thing I wrote there “like the other boys”. That means they might be self identifying with boys rather than girls. Vice versa is true. If you’ve got a boy who shows interest in getting a mani pedi? Sweet. They are awesome. I love going to the salon and being pampered.

Just don’t discourage them. Don’t tell them “don’t get too full of yourself” as I was told once when I mentioned to my family “I was told I had a sexy voice”. Don’t buy into societal stereotypes of Pink is for girls. Blue is for boys. Lego’s are for boys, but the Lego’s specially for girls are for girls only. I Could do an entire rant on that alone.

Do not let what society currently says is masculine/feminine define how you raise your child or limit your child. Watch what THEY Show interest in and embrace it with them. That’s the best thing you can do. Your child will tell you what they think they are, just listen/watch them.

You can even ask them if you want. As a parent you have a great opportunity to end the stupidity that is sexism/racism/ism-ism by simply asking them what they think and letting them know they can be whatever they want to be. They have the freedom we may not have had.

Does that help?

PS. I won’t get into anything beyond binary gender here. There’s an entire new realm of gender expression being discussed now that I am not knowledgeable enough to speak on.

What can I, as a friend, do to help make your transition easier?

Watch the pronouns. Those probably hurt me more than anything else. I was at Starr Pass the other night and a waiter kept calling me sir, even after correcting him. One of my coworkers noticed and asked if it really bothered me and really it does. It deflates me. It shuts me down.

It’s widely known I have a self image issue. I am very self deprecating about my looks at work in one of our chat rooms. I have to work very hard to pass as a female, well not as hard now thanks to the surgery, but still very hard. I even got called Sir tonight by the bartender at the movie theatre. He did self correct, but I caught it and it still stung. When I get called: “He”, “Sir”, “Jason”, “Him” it hurts every time and makes me doubt. Doubt all I’ve done so far and still have to do. Makes me doubt if I can really do this, if I can really be me. I eventually muscle through it, but for a bit my ego, which already looks like its gone a few dozen rounds with Tyson AND a stampede of water buffalo, is broken.

The other thing is to help spread the message of understanding. The campaign “It Gets Better” is so true. It does get better once you are in a wider world. So much like I said above in the question about parenting, don’t make it wrong to be a girl if you have a boy. Don’t make it wrong to be a boy if you have a girl. Let me get more into that with the perspective question below. That one is such a loaded question its not even funny.

Also, since I was never raised as a girl. I still make a lot of boy mistakes and don’t have a lot of practice with make up, fashion, even walking right (though I think I am pretty good there now). If you see me do something blatantly boyish…let me know?

I am sure there is more and when I do the video later this week I might include that…or add more in the comments below as I think about it.

 

I think what I’m most curious about is perspective… How did your perspective change as you went through your process? Good and bad.

Ok. Wow, you could not have asked a more loaded question if you tried. If you follow me on FB at all you’ll see me sharing or liking quite a few things about gender equality and sexism. For the better part of 35 years or so I was for all intents and purposes born, raised, and living like a male. I am white. This means I had white male privilege. Which for those not really familiar with the topic gave me the societal power of ignorance and blessing. I didn’t see sexism for what it was in many respects. I wasn’t affected by it. I wasn’t affected by hate crimes. I wasn’t affected by so many things, which left me ignorant to them. Ignorance of this variety is damaging. By giving up the “maleness” I am giving up some of that privilege.

In fact, not only am I giving it up. I am subjecting myself willingly to open hate and ridicule. Not just from men, but there are feminist groups out there who will never consider me a woman. There are people, closed-minded as they may be, that see me not as a person, but as a deviant. So there are some significant changes in perspective. I have to worry about walking alone at night in some places, in ways that I didn’t before. I have a statistically higher probability of being a victim of rape, hate crimes, or assault now. This transition has made me more aware of many problems in society that I could ignore because I wasn’t affected. It’s made me realize how I have been and some really dumb things I’ve done that have furthered or at least by omission of action allowed for continued bad behavior.

The short answer is the good and the bad are the same. I am now affected, so I am no longer ignorant.

I am aware now of some really odd double standards in society, things I hadn’t thought of and when I write them out you will probably realize are stupid:

I legally had my name and gender changed at the end of July. My drivers licence went from M to F. At this point I was subject to all laws as they pertain to women. I had my breast augmentation surgery last week. Now..here’s the stupidity:

From August on, I legally could not have swam at the public pool in my HOA in just my swim trunks. Sure I could have passed for male and I doubt anyone would have noticed, but had someone said something and I was forced to show my ID…I could have been charged with public indecency. Even though I was still relatively flat chested and at the maximum just had enough growth from my hormones that I looked overweight. Consider that…

Now…what if I hadn’t changed my gender with the government and still had this surgery. I’d have some lovely breasts and – to my knowledge – would have no law stopping me from walking around topless.

Additionally from a personal perspective on the concept of perspective. I have to put more work in than say some women do. I have to go out of my way to be just a bit more feminine, to say the right things, look the right way, I have to put additional effort to pass as female – all to be accepted as such in public. Some of my girlfriends can throw on a shirt, shorts, forget brushing their hair and no one will question them. If I don’t work harder to pass, then there are questions and unlike this forum, some of them can get uncomfortable. Some of them can be fearful.

Prior to the name change: Bathrooms terrified me in a public places. after the name change…I know they cannot do anything legally about it. But there’s still risk
Pools however, the ocean? I can’t enjoy due to the hair loss I was suffering before I started the hormone therapy. Yes, I can do stuff about the hair, but that’s more money and things that aren’t covered.

My perspective is continually evolving these days where before I had the luxury of it being stagnant. Ignorance of so much of the world was a part of my life before and now while I may be ignorant of some things, I am not nearly so on so many other topics and this is a very very good thing. It lets me do things like this and try to help other people understand.

I can see now how bad society has gotten. I can see now how good it is getting in many respects. It’s a long road ahead and I am happy to be able to help steer from time to time.

Along those same lines, what has been the most helpful from friends and others for you as you’ve gone through this?

I want to call people out by initials here, I won’t use full names, but I want them to know I am specifically talking about them. I suppose someone could look at my friends list and figure it out and if these individuals want me to omit their initials I will.

SU: Providing me clothes when I first started being Jess at work. Money is daunting and so much of what I am going through isn’t covered by insurance. Aside from the physical, she’s been supportive and someone who while we may not have been friends when I first started this we certainly are now. SU is important to me and her support was one of the first and has always been there.

SH: Being inquisitive and prodding me when all I was doing was being Jason in women’s clothes. You asked. You pushed. You pushed me out of my comfort zone. Between you and SU I don’t think I’d be where I am today if it weren’t for you both specifically.

CJ,E, A: Being some of the oldest, and lets face it only, non work friends in my local life. No judging. Enduring shopping trips. Enduring my freaking out over the fact I cannot find shoes (13EE/13W – we don’t get pretty shoes) or clothes or anything that I am comfortable in. Being there when I have had some truly deep and dark days where I thought being Tucson would be like coming back to a prison and a life I hated. Still not a fan of Tucson, but my life is better for them in it.

All of the people at work, managers, coffee addicts, barista, teammates, former team mates and so many others I really cannot name them all. There’ve been some pronoun and name slips even recently, but people try. People care. Walking in the first day as Jess with an “its a girl balloon” on my desk. Walking back in after the surgery to find an Elsa/Anna Tiara. All the people asking how I am doing. All the people who go “we’re all girls here” when I am standing with them. A certain person (typhoid) ready to beat someone’s ass down at PV when he thought he saw a sideline look and a comment. All of the incredible support and love I feel. The old clothes donations to me, the fact that I am a thought at all.

Being invited to girls night. Hell being invited out at all. All of these things have been helpful.

The way so many people online and in real life just go with it. It isn’t a thing to you , it just is.

I know so many of you call me Brave. I don’t feel it really, but I do feel safe around you and that has a value you can’t touch.

Seems to me the general consensus is “You can ask me anything you want. Just please do it with the same courtesy you’d like in kind with respect to privacy and dignity. I feel I made the right decision for me, but don’t think for one instant that it was an easy one. Be cool, not cruel.” Sound about right?

Pretty much. I have been open to questions since day 1 of the transition when I walked into a training class of returning members of my team. So few were asked and I’ve been surprised. I don’t think its bad, but surprised. It’s why I did something like this. Of course, if someone were cruel to me – my words can eviscerate just as easily.

What can your friends do to continue to support you?

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. I do need the friends. I do need the support.

…and let me tell you it is appreciated.

You have made it so far in your journey and I know how brave you have been to get this far. Do you have any fears about continuing? What do you do to combat those fears?

I still don’t consider myself brave. I don’t consider myself strong. I just survive. I endure. I suppose with so many saying I am I might be. I just need to say I don’t see it.

I have fears every day. I wake up afraid of what happens if my wig falls off at work. I wake up and am afraid of what might happen if I take a walk at night as the hormones I am on are quite literally making me physically weaker. I am worried about this new surgery and if something goes wrong having to go through it again to fix it. I am worried when its all said and done it won’t look natural. I am worried that I won’t be able to afford the Genital surgery (when I am ready for it). I am worried of what happens if it goes wrong. I am worried about being a trans woman trying to get a date and being single the rest of my years. I am worried about the polarization of politics and that some numb nuts will pass a law that makes my life even harder.

When I was in Maryland a few months back, my friend told me her church was passing a petition around to stop a law from passing. This law would provide gender equality to Trans individuals and allow us to use the rest room we identify as. She was uncomfortable with it, but had concerns. We had a very long conversation on the topic too. Things are changing for the positive for people like me, but it doesn’t take too much for them to swing the other way if ignorance is allowed to have too much of a voice and people who don’t know better listen. Fear mongering in the media terrifies me because of what it could mean.

what do I do to combat it? Write posts like this. Talk to people. Be open and try to be informative. Otherwise though? The fear is always there. I just have the pleasant blessing of a job that keeps me so busy I don’t have time to worry. So I guess I distract myself from it, but its there. I try to not let it control me. I hold my head high and try to shrug things off when I do hear them. I don’t always succeed as I mentioned before but I will survive.

I endure. I move on to the next day and the one after. I don’t always believe it will get better for me, but I also refuse to be beaten.

….and yes, I listen to Let It Go on repeat on the particularly bad days.

What is the best experience you have had throughout your transition? Wil you share you worst experience?

The first day of work as Jess was one of the best. Seeing the excitement in some peoples eyes when I told them things I was doing as part of it. The smile on my best friends face when I tell her about things I will write in this vein. Waking up with boobs last Wednesday. …ok waking up is a strong word for what I did. The day I went to court and got my gender changed from M to F though? Probably the best. I cried in joy leaving the Social Security administration building.

Worst? Losing a relationship of 15 years. Hands down. No contest. Most painful experience of my life transition or no.

How should I reference pre-transition Jessica? Pronouns, names, etc.

If you’ve known me since I left Maryland? Jess/Jessica/Jessie/Queen Elsa/Vampire Princess/She/Her…etc

Thats been my persona for the better part from 97 on when online. I try to refer to myself the same, “When I was a little girl”..etc.

Do you think it’s been easier to be yourself online?

Yes. Yes. Yes. I was laughing the other day as I realized one of my oldest AIM names could be used at work now since it legally IS my name. There’s no more hiding. I am female. I am Jessica.

Have you been concerned about “coming out” (for want of a better phrase) to those you’ve only known online?

Honestly ? No. Nearly everyone I knew in City of Heroes or before that knew me as Jess or Plas. I was treated as female by so many there is not much of a change. I suppose the biggest concern is surprising people that didn’t know I wasn’t a genetic or cis-gender female. Online communities tend to be more accepting based on how you were than who you are in life…with only a few exceptions. Another concern is people who may not realize that the person they knew as Jason is now Jessica. I ran into that with a few folks I reached out to from Maryland. Since everything online for me has been Jess for years, it was weird and uncomfortable to try to let them know who I was.

Some I tried to reconnect with and no reply. I like to think its because they didn’t know who I was rather than they knew who I was and ignored me anyway.

Has it been more or less difficult with your online friends as opposed to your “real life” friends and family?

As I said before, online is so much easier. RL friends, have all been relatively easy. I’ve had to block a few on Facebook when I see them supporting some of the hate mongering ignorance I’ve talked about. Some say one thing, but believe another. I try to talk to them, but…its difficult. It’s confusing to hear “I accept you and don’t have a problem with you” then see the same person supporting groups and people that would see me in a padded room, jail cell, or otherwise outlawed in some way shape or form. This goes back to what I said earlier about not being silent and standing up.

So many of you do accept me and practice what you preach and that means a lot. I’ve said it  few times already, but I want it to be clear the support is appreciated and taken to my black frozen little heart.

With family? It’s not really that hard. I have never been close to my family. Most of them when I was growing up would only talk to me when they were drunk. Yes I am airing dirty laundry, but I want this to be 100% open and honest. The ones I was worried about telling are having trouble still. They go through the usual stuff “what did we do wrong?” “was it something we did raising you?” “was it your parents divorce?”. The answer here is No. There is nothing my family did raising me that made me THIS way. There’s plenty of other issues from that raising, but those have nothing to do with being trans. I was afraid of their reaction when I told them. I was afraid they wouldn’t talk to me anymore, the ones I talked to anyway. The reality is though, it wouldn’t have changed my life much. Most of them were content to ignore me when I was there, now that I am 2000 miles away I am even more out of mind.

The exceptions, those I care about, it was nice to see they cared. It meant more than I might have lead on when I visited. Plus I got to find out an estranged cousin is totally awesome, not a surprise considering my aunt though.

 

Is there anything you feel you’re “giving up” and will miss as you complete your transition?

Aside from a penis and the ability to walk around topless in my house comfortably? I still don’t have a good answer here. I want to get back to this. I will let you know when I edit it.

 

What is the most exciting thing you feel you’ll gain from it?

I’ve been so long-winded with other answers, so let me try to be short with this one.

Sense of Self. Completeness. Being who I am supposed to be inside and out. They say bring your whole self to work. I am almost there. I am almost the me in my head, my heart, and soul. Yes, the body is just a shell, but its a shell I put value on.

…and in a semi humorous vein – looking fine in a bikini or tank top.

I know you from way back in the day, and many of our exploits come up in conversation with mutual friends from that era. When referring to things that occurred pre transition is it appropriate to refer to you in the masculine sense, as you were in the occasion being discussed, or the feminine sense, add you are now and prefer?

this one is weird. I said for people who know me after Maryland it’s always Jess. For you though, and those from that time in my life when recounting our various and sundry exploits. I think… it’s ok and natural to start with the former name and pronouns. I would ask, and I hope it is not unreasonable to do so, that as conversations happen the name and pronouns transition as much as I have from past to current state. If I am talking to you, or the few others (ok one other right now) that I talk to from then, I will talk about myself in the feminine and would ask that you respond in kind when we talk. I hope that is reasonable?

Every group has a segment that embarrasses them. For whites, its Honey Boo Boo; for blacks its anytime Bill Cosby opens his mouth nowadays. Is there any behavior that makes transgenders shake their heads and say, “ugh, you are embarrassing us”?

RuPaul. RuPaul is not a transgender or transsexual. He uses us as a punchline. We are a joke. When I see “trannys” used as jokes in movies, comedy, or TV its upsetting. It is upsetting when I see people laughing and sharing it. Some do it infrequently (even Colbert does it) and it’s not good. But RuPaul is hands down the worst and most problematic.

I also want to bring up Laverne Cox. Not as an embarrassment, but setting false expectations in the physical department. SHE IS INCREDIBLE. She is a powerful voice and spokesperson for trans-rights and I am glad we have her. I also see a cover of TIME magazine and she is just much photoshopped to modern beauty aesthetics there it makes it more mentally difficult for people like me who don’t pass as well. This is an internal thing vs. external, but I have had this feeling for a while. Again I am glad the trans community has her, maybe I just wish she was more like me?

 

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.

 

What is someone considered(gay, straight, bi) if they decide to change their gender and now they are the same-sex they are attracted to?

I suppose by the strictest definition, they would be considered homosexual. This one, like I said, is weird as there’s a spectrum we could talk about. Gender expression and sexuality are different animals and can bake the brain without careful explanation.

 

Is there anything about the process you are scared of? (I am not sure how far you are in your process)

I think I covered this above, but I am also scared of the fact I am pretty much on hormones the rest of my life. Self injecting sucks. I’ve been on HRT for over a year now.  I am scared that even after the breasts, the vaginoplasty, and even what hair replacement I get, I still won’t pass as female.

What has been the hardest decision you have had to make?

  • Deciding to continue on this path even though it cost me the fiancée of 15 years.
  • Deciding to actually take the first step and become Jessica at work.
  • Making the decision to never turn back no matter how hard it got or is going to get.
  • Writing posts like this knowing that I am asking it to be shared and how cruel the internet can be to women (not my friends. I mean the trolls that live in the comments of Youtube…they are scary)

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.

What resources are available for people who may want to learn more about the medical aspects of changing their gender?

Let me get back to you on that. I have done so little research it’s not funny. I’ve been flying blind on a rocket cycle with the occasional google search. For the longest time I wasn’t getting results because I searched Transsexual rather than Transgender (or vice versa..). I used a few links from the Southern Arizona LGBTQ community site: Wingspan.org

I Will let you know when I edit this post.

How does a person go about starting the process?

  • I started small. Clothing changes, make up, earrings, nails, hair.
  • Then after some talks with coworkers, I talked to my boss. We talked to HR together.
  • Then I told the others I work with, which surprised the frak out of HR. They weren’t used to someone being so forward about it I guess?
  • I knew from some reading that a Psychologist has to say you are sound of mind, so I Saw one for a single visit and he said “Yep the patient is cognizant and aware and has gender dysphoria…they can start treatment if they want”
  • Saw my primary care physician. ..ok I found a PCP, then saw them. Said this is what I want to do. I need an endocrinologist (I didn’t do research there, I know hormones = endocrine system.)
  • She recommended one, they had a six month waiting list.
  • I called around and found one that saw me in a month.
  • Started HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) then.
  • During 1 year check up, I asked the Dr. if it would be ok to get the Breast Augmentation. Dr said yeah I don’t see any issue.
  • Called a few Plastic SUrgeons, when I found out insurance doesn’t cover this – WHICH SUCKS – found one on a recommendation from some folks
  • Met him
  • One month later I woke up with boobs.
  • Where I am year from now…no clue…I will look into that bridge when I am ready for it.

Do you have any words of wisdom for others doing the same

I am  no Yoda. I don’t do platitudes, but:

  • You cannot do this alone. Find people who will support you and embrace them. Trust them. Let them know what that trust means.
  • You WILL be afraid, but don’t let your fear stop you.
  • You will be asked questions, you have no obligation to answer any of them.
  • You will be judged by society. If you like the judgement FANTASTIC. If you don’t – it WILL get to you, but muscle through it.
  • Transition is a dream…one that can be a reality. Don’t turn your back on your dreams if you want them.

It does get better. 

 

So this post ended up a lot longer than I thought it was going to. If you read to the end – thank you!. If you have additional questions. ask them in the comments, facebook me,  or shoot me an email to AmusedintheDarke@gmail.com.

 

 

ElsaCosplayPhxCC

The Experiences of a Transgender Cosplayer

My name is Jessica Darke. Five weeks ago was Phoenix Comicon and in my 6th year going, I decided to Cosplay every day of the con. This is my first time doing serious cosplay at a con. This is also my first Cosplay since I began my Male to Female (MtF) transition. On my best days I barely pass as a natural or cisgender female. So with those facts in mind, I want to take a moment to talk to the other trans individuals out there who might be considering such an event.

This is also a guide for those who encounter trans individuals who are in cosplay.

1. What You Wear
Let me start off with this. There is no right or wrong way to do Cosplay. Want to be Batman or Batwoman and wear a spandex suit with a painted symbol? Do it. Want to spend weeks sewing your first dress and go as Elsa? Do it! Want to wear a bikini and go as a sexy Dead Pool? Do it!

While this statement is not specifically for trans folks, it is an important one. Be proud of yourself, your fandom, and be confident in who you are. If you love some obscure character from an anime only ten people have seen but really want to do play as them for a Con? Don’t be afraid.
When I did Cosplay before I started my transition, I only did it twice, dipping my toes into interesting and unfamiliar water. Each time I was afraid of being judged for being in costume; that my costume wouldn’t be good enough for the legions of folks out there with more time, money, talent, and effort than I had to put in to mine.

As a transwoman I am always in fear of how other people will react. How I will be treated. Now, I am going to a convention with over 70,000 people dressed as a character who is not the gender I was born as, and in two cases where I swapped the gender of the character to be the gender I am. All my day to day fears were compounded by an order of magnitude.
What I can tell you is, be comfortable in yourself and be comfortable in your costume but if you love it. Do it. Once I got amongst the throngs of people I had a blast! The fear vanished (mostly, but more on that later) and it was a great time.

It’s worth repeating, be comfortable in all ways you can. It will see you through.

2. Gender Swap Yes or No?
So as someone born a male and expressing female, I have some interesting decisions to make. When I pick my characters to play, what if they are opposite of my preferred gender? For example, I can play a male Jack Frost or Malcolm Reynolds any day of the week and pass. I could then play Elsa as a male and do a gender swapped version of her. Alternatively, I can go as Jackie Frost and Mallory Reynolds and express my favorite characters as my gender vs. theirs.

I won’t lie, each decision comes with its own pitfalls. When I was Elsa, I was “accused” of being gender swapped at least five times. This made me uncomfortable to say the least. I made the character mine regardless. The number of small children who looked up to me and said “Elsa!” all wide eyed made it worth it. The parents that didn’t scurry them away and didn’t even react make it worth it.

Don’t let it psyche you out. It’s Cosplay. You are who you want to be. No one can take it away from you. If you choose to gender swap, it’s because you want to. You cannot let some one else not getting it affect you. This is harder than it sounds. Much like I said before about wearing the costume, be comfortable. I was Mallory Reynolds. I was Jackie Frost. Most people got it, as always some don’t. This is no different than some one not knowing who the character is.

Don’t let it get to you. Many cosplayers go through it, regardless of gender.

3. Bathrooms
While I can’t speak for everyone, I can say for myself bathrooms hold a special sense of dread. We often hear about the conflict of “If I go into one bathroom I will get beaten. If I go into the other, I will get ridiculed.”. That’s a very good argument and one I have made before too. Its perfectly valid and honestly, it hasn’t happened to me yet, but that’s because I almost always refuse to go to the bathroom in a public place if I can help it at all.

The other fear is being thrown out. I think I would rather take the ridicule or the beating (at least there I can fight back), than be thrown out. I am talking full on having restaurant staff escort you from the premises, or even the police. The public shame that would come from that is near debilitating to think about. Again it hasn’t happened yet, but when I do use the ladies room in a public place, such as the movie theatre, I don’t make eye contact and move quickly; praying the entire time no one says anything.

Oh I still have heard the whispers, I’ve seen the stares.

So what about a convention? Cosplay isn’t always easy to get out of and honestly, if you are walking the floor or from panel to panel for hours you are going to have to go at some point. DO NOT DO WHAT I DID. I am stupid in this case. I all but refuse to drink (mostly because it’s difficult in some of the looks I’ve done) and start to suffer from borderline dehydration issues. This is a *very* dangerous practice. It’s one I deal with day to day as well, but a convention this is amplified by the amount of moving you do. In many Cosplay outfits there are weight and “material breathing issues” as well. These will cause you to sweat more and dehydrate faster. If you are on HRT like me, this is amplified as well.

However, this year I had to use the facilities to adjust my costume a few times. Unlike other venues it was head up, walk with confidence and do what I need to do. There was a moment where this totally awesome author I ran into, who leans to the masculine in her look (but is not trans) had a moment where we both were wondering if we were each in the wrong place. Then we got over our own internal BS and went about our business.

It turns out the convention has rules about such things and I would have been protected. Most conventions actually do. You don’t have to worry. I didn’t know that. What I do know is, I was born a male but I am a woman in my own eyes, mind, heart, and what passes for my soul. I will go where I belong. We still carry our own fears, insecurities, and judgments. I can’t tell you its easy to get over them, but we have to try.

And please, don’t do what I did. Drink fluids!

4. Other People
This is one of the hardest ones to deal with. You brace for impact whenever you walk out the door. I can’t speak to your neighborhoods, homes, or cities; but I can speak to your conventions. As a trans cosplayer I found myself surprisingly at home. Everyone else is expressing their passions and their enjoyment in something – just like you!

Sure, I had ONE person who was rude and kept yelling “No” when he saw me. I have personally taken it to be, regardless of the truth, that I had more courage than he did and his own little world refused to accept that.

One person in 70,000. Not bad odds. Every single other person I actually dealt with was kind. I had more compliments on my Elsa than I ever
anticipated. Every little girl who whispered to their mother “Look its Elsa” and asked for a photo was a joy.

Then there are other LGBTQ people. Aside from children, these people ended up being my biggest photo ops and my biggest fans. I got more “Way to Go’s”, “You look awesome”, and “Great job” than I ever conceived of being possible. I ran into one other Trans cosplayer. She was also part of a local group of cosplayers. The fact that she was there and doing her thing strengthened my own resolve.

As an added bonus, you may give someone else the inspiration and spark the fire of inner resolve to cosplay themselves. You can potentially help someone get over their fear through getting over your own. How is that for awesome?

Yes, you are going to run into the very rare jerk at one of these conventions, but by far and large you will run into exceedingly awesome and supportive people. At a convention other people are a support structure unlike many of us get rather than something to fear.

5. You!
The support structure I have is comprised of coworkers and friends online, most of whom I have never met in person. Whenever I have moments of doubt, I am regularly told I am beautiful, strong, and more courageous than anyone they know. I admit, I don’t often believe them, but its good to hear.

So let me tell you something. Something you need to hear.

If you want to be a trans cosplayer – It DOES take courage. It DOES take strength.

You’ve got it in you. You’ve already made one of the hardest decisions anyone can make. You decided to be who you are in being trans. This isn’t about trans being a choice, but instead making the choice to admit it and own it. THAT is the choice in being a Trans person. You are who you are inside (and maybe outside). If you have the courage to say I am a female. I am a male. I am neither. That takes power. That takes real strength of will. You’ve already done it. You’ve already done the hard part.

The cosplay is easy by comparison.