It's been awhile and I keep meaning to post things like how I went in the ocean shirtless in Mexico and how I feel about Albert Nobbs and how I feel about other gender variant media right now. I only have time for a quick drive-by and it's to point your attention to these artists:
Heather Cassils gained 24 pounds in muscle over six months for the sake of art. Zackary Drucker asked audience members to tweeze the hairs from her bare body.
These LA artists use their bodies as canvases to defy gender norms.
Video by Mae Ryan
Music: Rotation by Blindfold
Instead of cuts, we have curves, hips, and waists. This is a hard reality friends, but having delivered this dose of realism, here's the upshot: you have beautiful, resilient bodies, and they are waiting - practically begging and pleading - for you to love them just the way they are.
- Josh Klipp, on Original Plumbing.
I have memories of being a little girl, probably six or seven, and thinking that my stomach was too big. Saying to myself, "It's ok because it's just baby fat." When I was eight I began to hate my thighs. In high school I started to resent my arms. By the time I hit college, my body was alien to me. I steadily gained weight, not really thinking about the consequences or the reasons. Looking back, I see that I wanted to hide my breasts and my curves. My stomach getting larger helped make the front of my torso uniform. I didn't wear sweats all the time, but my clothes were baggier. I hated my rolls and was disgusted with myself, which only led me to put on more weight. All in all, a pretty familiar story in America right now.
Then after college I began to pay attention to clothes for the first time. I found myself drooling over men's fashion. It was the Tom Ford S/S 2009 collection that did it (which would have been shown in Fall 2008). That took my breath away and made me feel in the pit of my stomach that fashion might be more than I gave it credit for. Sporadically over the next year or so, I'd begin noticing looks I liked and seeking out resources to learn more about this new world. I found different blogs that I still go back to. I found the tips and tricks from GQ helpful (though the editorial is some of the most misogynistic and demoralizing writing I have ever read). I began to specify what pieces, exactly, worked for me and what didn't. What looks I wanted to emulate and why. I began to have a language. I began to see a point of view and I began to cultivate my own story through my wardrobe.
The video below is literally all I've seen of this movie, so I can't say anything for certainty or even really trust that it's not gross, but from these 30 seconds I can say that this was me.
There's something I've been wanting to broach on this blog ever since I started it. But never really knew how to bring up or talk about: cissexism. Which may be a new word for you.
To not really do the phenomenon justice, maybe the easiest way to break it down is to first say that someone who is cissexual is someone whose gender identity matches the body they were assigned at birth. I, as a transgender/transsexual male, am not cissexual. Cissexism, then, is marginalization which comes from the privilege granted to cissexuals based on their gender normative identities. (For one thing, I find it funny that "cissexual"/"cissexism" makes my auto-speller mad.)
I should also say, now, that while there are people who are blatantly cissexist - who would outright say derogatory comments and perpetuate violence against trans* individuals/communities - there is also the institutionalized form of cissexism (as there is for any oppression). Which is the form I would probably encounter more in my life.
Maybe the internet isn't the best way to mediate this conversation. But like I said, I never really know how to broach it. Because humans experience different forms of oppression differently, an exchange between what privileges they do and do not enjoy, what marginalized identities they do or do not have, and then how they react to each scenario. So I know that I experience cissexism differently than a lot of trans* individuals. I tend to right now be pretty blase about it and more forgiving when I encounter it. Which makes me feel complicated and makes me spend a lot of time considering my own privilege, my own responsibilities, my own comfort levels, etc etc. Which is usually why it's not a conversation I have with people.
In college, one of my favorite professors started the quarter by saying she refused to let us (and herself) refer to our classmates as "you guys". Not because it was too informal, but because it was sexist language that erased the women in the room. This kind of blew my mind. I used the example in another class, one about ethical communication, about gender and communication. That hour also blew my mind: a lot of the men in the room getting riled up and defensive, while a lot of the women in the room getting riled up and offering their own examples of when commonly used language has made them feel less dismissed/belittled, without having been explicitly told that they're worth less. A direct result of these two classes means I say the word "folks" a lot more.
Anyway. My point is that language has, since then and specifically informal language, been the most accessible way for me to talk about gender and sexual privilege. Because language is something most people take for granted, but it's something that we can easily take apart and examine to recognize its absurdity. I also think it lets someone examine how they might perpetuate oppression in small ways, without meaning to or thinking about it, in an abstract way; so hopefully they will be less defensive and will be able to process it more.
All of this is to offer up this link. If I've piqued your interest at all about cissexsim and language, this is a very short list of common questions/comments that a cis person might ask/make - but could be said better. Like I said: I'm not great at calling people out about this myself and I'm not eloquent when it comes to talking about privilege. But these are all scenarios I've experienced. I've seen lists like these before and even with this one, I'm not claiming it's the absolute most accurate. I'm not throwing all my weight - whatever weight there might be - behind this one list. I do think it's a good place to start thinking about ways language perpetuates institutional oppression. Maybe as I examine more of myself and try to learn more, I'll have more to say. In the meantime, I thought it was worth bringing out into the open.
I'm not sure I have a lot to wax poetic about re: post-op lifestyle. I did do some videos that I plan on uploading, because there is a dearth of material out there for Dr. Mangubat and given that I was comfortable with it, I thought it might be helpful for future dudes looking for information. So when those go up eventually, I'll link to them if you're curious about the results.
Surgery did go well though and there have been no complications (knock on wood). Healing nicely and still a little sore. Really, the most awe-inspiring moment for me was the morning of and I was sitting in the preparation room with my mom and sister. We had been talking about the level of support I've received from literally everyone I know. When Dr. Mangubat was marking my chest for the incision lines, my sister teared up with the hugeness of what was happening. And that was probably the moment that I felt the weight of everyone's support. The near-to-literal army I had behind me, rooting for me and encouraging me. It was hard to be scared when I knew no matter what happened in the next few hours, that many people would be there to help me get back up. As it happened, everything went off without a hitch and my sister was the best nurse I could ask for and I have some of the best friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and family who all chipped in their emotional and physical support. I was honestly humbled.
Sometimes, in a queer community, "coming out" is framed as a never-ending process. Because it really doesn't ever end - there are always new people who I'll meet who may or may not need to be told that I'm trans. The video below only scratches that surface, but for me at least was heartening. I've been taking a lot of comfort lately from seeing pictures and videos and reading interviews/stories from trans men who are farther into their transition by years. I can't necessarily expect my path to be the same, but to see what it might even resemble is helpful.
Check the archives for earlier entries.