Frugal Bagel Is Trans!
Ed. note: this is another personal, non frugality related post, but I want to share my experience in case it helps anyone. I wrote this a few months ago, not too long after my last gender-related post, but I held off on posting until I'd personally come out to my folks and all.
Yeeeeeah, so, I'm trans.
I haven't been in the closet all this time; I literally just didn't know. I feel very silly to be coming to this conclusion now, at 31, after watching my transfeminine non-binary spouse's entire transition from the sidelines like "You go girl. I'll be over here." After years of statements like:
"Oh, I wanted to be a boy when I was a teenager, but I grew out of it, but it's okay if you call me 'he' I don't mind."
"I only play video games where I can be a gay male elf."
"Of course I'll be your best man, no no, no need to say best woman, let's stick with best man."
"You don't have to say 'gentlemen and lady' just because I'm here. I'm no lady. I'm a cactus."
"I can't sing songs by women singers. My voice doesn't go that high. Yeah, I know, it's weird. Let's do 'Black Hole Sun' again."
"Yeah, Elvira's a good idea, but I only do male Halloween costumes. Come on, it's the one night I get to crossdress. I have to play a woman the rest of the time, ha ha."
"If my boobs get any bigger I'm getting them removed. I might anyway! I wonder if I have that gene that predisposes you to breast cancer where you have to get them removed. Ha ha! No, I don't want breast cancer, but wouldn't it be cool to have to get the removed?"
"I wish I looked more like Hugh Jackman only in a way where I wouldn't be unattractive to people."
"Too bad I'm not trans, right???"
"You're cherry picking," my denial tells me. "Think about times when you felt preferred to play a female role or be described with feminine language."
There are many reasons that I didn't make the leap between "I love being mistaken for a man" and "I am a man." Here are four of the bigger myths, lies, or excuses that my brain has constructed over the years.
Excuse #1: "I am too happy to be trans"
Probably my deepest misunderstanding is the assumption that gender dysphoria is a qualifying condition for being transgender. I knew several trans people who all described long and profound periods of depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphia prior to transition. This includes my spouse. I saw firsthand how unhappy it made them. I saw how they shrank a little each time someone called them "him" or by their masculine birth name.
In fact, I related in a very personal way - it reminded me of how I felt in my teen years when I recoiled at being called "she." This did not, however, seem relevant to me now. I figured that my own gender dysphoria was all in the past because I didn't feel it on a daily basis anymore. I claimed, "it went away."
"That doesn't happen. That's not a thing," my spouse said skeptically. "It doesn't just go away. Plenty of people wait and wish and hope it will go away, but it doesn't."
"Well, it did for me," I insisted.
Being seen and treated as female was normal to me, and typically it didn't cause distress, nothing I'd recognize as gender dysphoria. But I have the opposite feeling about being seen and treated as male: gender euphoria. It makes me really happy when I'm called by a male name and "he/him" pronouns; when I'm described with masculine words, whether positive or negative ("handsome", "bastard", "handsome bastard"); when I look more masculine than usual in certain lights/clothes/makeup/Halloween costumes; when I come up as male in a some dumb internet quiz that guesses your gender based on your whiskey preferences or whatever; when I belt out lyrics like "I am a man of constant sorrow." (Well, the first part of that sentiment makes me really happy.)
If I'd been more willing to pay attention over the years, I'd have to admit that I did occasionally get vague, negative gender feelings. Getting called "ma'am" in a store; ticking off "F" on a form; going to gender-segregated events like baby showers; coming up as female on a dumb internet quiz that guesses your gender based on your wall sconce preference.
But these moments were fleeting and situational, and they seemed unimportant. I'm pretty happy most of the time, so why go through all the hassle of transition for what I described in my (in retrospect, deeply trans) post as "minor optimization"? The thing that I now realize is that cis people fundamentally don't think of a genderswapped life as an optimization.
I have also come to realize that "Should I transition?" is a different question from "Am I trans?" (Or, to be more to the point, "Am I a man, a woman, a nonbinary person, or what?") But I conflated these issues in my mind. I didn't want to transition, therefore, I must not be trans. I must be a cis woman, I guess???? But it was easier not to dwell on that part.
Excuse #2: "I am not masculine enough to be a man"
I'm stereotypically femmey in a lot of ways. I love Jane Austen. I hate sports. Most of my friends are women. I can describe any specific color shade with an extremely precise, somewhat obscure name. I feel pretty in a flouncy skirt. I write fan fiction. I'm a giant coward about insects (you might have overheard me announce in the park, "This butterfly is bothering me!"). And, of course, I'm way into "lifestyle blogs" about using fashion and home decor to live your best self.
Intellectually, I know it's simplistic and inaccurate to confuse gender identity with gender presentation and with whether a person conforms to gender stereotypes. If I met a man who was stereotypically feminine in all the ways listed above, I wouldn't doubt he was really a man. (I know men who exhibit each one of these qualities). But in my own case, I took wearing dresses and liking girly shit to be confirmation that I must be a woman.
I never could figure out how to describe myself on the butch-femme spectrum. Now, there are plenty of lesbians who don't feel they fit into either category - maybe they prefer Ellen's term "chapstick lesbian" - but for me, it wasn't a sense that I was in the middle, but that I wasn't on the scale at all.
When I think about whether I'm more masc or fem as a queer man, I don't have to hesitate. I have no hesitations at all about being a sissy, dandy fancyboy.
Excuse #3: "I am an ally"
For lots of people who transition later in life (which, in this context, means as an adult rather than a kid/teen), their stories include, "I didn't even know transgender was a thing until [college/middle age/last year]…"
But I did know! I knew really well!
A family friend came out as trans when I was ten. When I was twelve, I came out as a lesbian and got involved in a local LGBT youth group, where I met a bunch more trans and non-gender-conforming people. Five of my romantic partners have come out as trans (which I used to consider a humorous coincidence but might in retrospect be more of a "like seeking like" thing). This includes the most important romantic partner in my life, my spouse of three years. I had a front-row seat to their entire transition. Yet none of this made me question my own gender.
There were signs, of course. In some trans-inclusive spaces, it's common practice to introduce yourself with your name and pronouns. Cis people sometimes whine about this: "Shouldn't it be obvious?" I did not have that objection - I certainly don't think it's necessarily obvious - but I hated having to give mine. Introducing myself with just my name was fine; my birth name is feminine, but it doesn't bother me, because I feel like it's an arbitrary sequence of sounds and I can make it mean whatever I want. But "she/her" pronouns do bother me. I certainly could have asked for other pronouns and had that honored, but I didn't feel it was my place. My role was as an outsider, an ally, a partner. I didn't want to be "that cis person" who asked for different pronouns on a whim, or to be a wiseass. This was a trans space, i.e. not my space, and it was incumbent on me to be a polite visitor.
Still, every time I said, "My pronouns are she/her," I couldn't help reflexively adding, "I guess."
Excuse #4: "Men are the worst"
I mean, they are. This isn't a lie I told myself so much as a thing that I believe but that has kept me from admitting my gender to myself. A common transphobic comment hurled at trans men is that "wanting to be a man" is just internalized misogyny. But I think I have the opposite: externalized misandry.
I don't think men are inherently bad, no original sin or anything like that, and I know a bunch of great men. But it's certainly easy to find anecdotal evidence that being raised as a man in a patriarchal culture, being told you're "better than" in a million tiny ways, is a good way to become selfish, lazy, amoral, condescending, and just a complete doink.
I don't want to be that. I don't want to be (stereotypically, culturally, patriarchally) male. I don't want male privilege. I don't want my accomplishments to be seen as confirmation of male superiority. I want to be the underdog breaking the glass ceiling from beneath, not the Cobra Kai dojo dickhead lounging on top.
But… it's not about what I want. I'm not choosing to be trans, despite what my denial would have me believe ("You're just doing this because you're bored, you're copying your spouse, you just wish you were trans, you're being ridiculous, why bother.") I'm not choosing to be a man. I'm acknowledging it.
Further ed. note: Stay tuned to learn along with me how to have a frugal transition!