Showing posts with label Matt Kailey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matt Kailey. Show all posts

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Tranifesto: Trans Etiquette for Non-Trans People

By Matt Kailey

Working with, befriending, or otherwise interacting with trans people is not scary or difficult. We are pretty much like everyone else, and we are not a monolithic community. We are men, women, Democrat, Republican, Independent, liberal, moderate, conservative, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Pagan, atheist, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, interesting, boring — just about everything.

We have various occupations, from doctor to ditch-digger. You can run into us at parties, at the mall, at the grocery store, or at your local PTA meeting. In many cases, you might not even recognize us as trans. But if you do, or if you are the friend or co-worker of someone who is transitioning, there are some basic points of etiquette that you can keep in mind to help you interact respectfully with a trans person.

1. Treat trans people as you would treat anyone else.

Don’t do things to call attention to a trans person, even if your goal is to let that person know that you accept him or her – no winking, smiling, little innuendos. If you wink at a person, he or she might think you want a date. If you do, then go for it.

2. Use the correct name and pronoun.

The correct name is whatever the person has given you. The correct pronoun is whatever gender the person is presenting. Most cultures have clothing or other appearance markers that designate gender for that culture – that are considered masculine or feminine.

Names also give off clues, because most cultures have names that are considered masculine or feminine. If you ask the person’s name and he or she says “Pat,” then the joke’s on you.

If you are unsure of which pronoun to use, and you really need to know, just ask – most trans people won’t be offended and see this as a sign of respect. But don’t ask if the person is obviously expressing a female or male gender.

3. If you make a mistake with a pronoun or name, move on.

Don’t make a big deal out of it. If you are alone with the person, apologize and drop it. If you are in a crowd, just move on. Don’t draw attention to your slip-up by making a face or groaning, falling all over yourself to apologize, or making excuses to others around you. It will just make things uncomfortable for everyone.

Let it go and make sure that you use the correct name and pronoun the next chance you get. But don’t stick in some hokey, off-topic phrase just so you can use the right name or pronoun – we are wise to that, and other people will just think you’re having a ’60s flashback.

(Keep in mind that, in some work settings where there are laws covering gender identity, intentionally using an incorrect name or pronoun because you don’t “approve” of the trans person or because you want to shame or out that person could be considered harassment and grounds for disciplinary action. Trans people know the difference between an accidental slip-up and intentional misuse.)

4. Don’t say, “I’ll never get that pronoun (or name) right.”

When you say this, you are saying, “I don’t care enough to try.” One thing that helps is to see the person as an entirely new and different individual instead of a man who you now have to call “she” or a woman who you now have to call “he.” Try it – it really works.

5. Don’t say, “You will always be a man (or woman) to me.”

Again, you are saying, “I don’t care enough or respect you enough to see who you really are,” “My feelings are more important than yours,” or “I don’t recognize you as a person.” This isn’t about you. It is about the person with whom you want to stay friends.

6. Don’t touch the person inappropriately or ask personal questions unless you are invited to do so.

Trans people are not public property. Touching something on a person to see if it is “real” or asking personal questions about a person’s body or sex life is inappropriate – unless the person has invited you to “ask me anything.” Otherwise, do not do or say anything that you would not do or say to anyone else.

7. Don’t “out” a trans person.

If you see a person on the street that you know to be trans, it is a private matter and not appropriate to tell your friends that the person is trans. It is also not appropriate to mention anything that would “out” a trans person if you are with that person in a public setting – unless you want that person to tell everyone what you did at the office party last year.

8. Don’t make assumptions.

Don’t assume that the trans person you are talking to is politically liberal (or conservative), straight (or gay), happy (or unhappy), poor (or rich), and so on. We are all very different.

And don’t assume that this person wants to educate you about trans issues or even discuss them. If the person wants to talk about trans issues, he or she will bring them up. For some of us, talking about trans stuff is like being at work all the time. If you’re stuck for conversation, the weather is always a good fallback position. Trans people get hot and cold, too.

Use common sense and respect and you will be fine. 

This post originally appeared on Matt Kailey's award-winning website Republished with permission.  

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tranifesto: The Books of Matt Kailey

Teeny Weenies and Other Short Subjects
Teeny Weenies and Other Short Subjects takes a long, hard look at getting the short end of the stick, both before and after transition from female to male. This collection of humorous essays explores identity, sexuality, and growing up female in a world with two sexes, two genders – and no exceptions.

Teeny Weenies and Other Short Subjects is available in paperback, on Kindle, and as an eBook download.

Just Add Hormones (recommended by Chaz Bono)
Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience (Beacon Press) is an exploration of gender, sexuality, body image, and personal identity, as seen through the eyes of one transsexual man.

Just Add Hormones was on the Rocky Mountain News local bestseller list in September 2005 and was a finalist for a Lambda Literary Award. It is available in hardcover, paperback, and on Kindle.

Focus on the Fabulous Focus on the Fabulous: Colorado GLBT Voices (Johnson Books) is a collection of 33 Colorado GLBT authors writing about their lives, their loves, and their state. Don’t miss this first-ever volume of Colorado GLBT short fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and experimental writing. 

Focus on the Fabulous was on the Denver Post local bestseller list in September 2007. It is available in paperback.

Our Day Will Come Our Day Will Come is a novel that explores family relationships, ageism, independence, and authenticity as two gay men struggle to build a relationship in a nursing home. It is available in softcover through online booksellers.

Our Day Will Come is available in paperback and on Kindle.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Tranifesto: A Basic Transgender FAQ

By Matt Kailey

What is the difference between sex and gender?
Sex is strictly biological – the physical body – while gender encompasses biological, cognitive, and social aspects of a human being, including identity, expression, and the expectations of others. Because gender and sex are not the same thing, it is possible for a person’s sex and gender to disagree. When this happens, it can be extremely problematic for the person dealing with this incongruity, and it can often be life-threatening, due to the potential for suicide. This sex/gender incongruity has been determined by many professional organizations and courts to be a medical condition.

What is gender identity?
Gender identity is a primary aspect of gender. It is how a person sees and feels about him- or herself. For most people, gender identity corresponds with physical sex. For some, the two are not in alignment. People whose gender identity and physical sex do not agree are often called transgender (preferred) or transgendered (preferred by me, but considered offensive by some others), although each person has his or her own way of identifying.

Does this have anything to do with sexual orientation?

Gender identity and sexual orientation are different concepts in Western culture. Sexual orientation refers to a person’s attractions. Gender identity refers to who a person believes him- or herself to be. Transgender and transsexual people can have any sexual orientation. It is also possible for sexual attraction to change after transition. It is better not to put too much importance on labels such as gay, lesbian, and straight. In many ways, trans people confound the “simple” expectations of sexual orientation that go with such labels.

What is the binary gender system?

Western culture, and many other cultures, have a two-gender system that corresponds with two identified sexes – male and female. At birth, a person is identified as either male or female, based on the appearance of the body, and is assigned that sex and the cultural gender roles and expectations that go along with that sex. In a binary gender system, there is not much room for crossover or variation from that assigned sex and gender.

What is the difference between a transgender person and a transsexual person?
The term transgender is often used to refer to anyone who deviates from the very strict gender norms of our binary gender system, either intentionally or unintentionally. Those who transgress gender norms often suffer repercussions, in the form of discrimination or even violence. A more narrow and specific definition of transgender would be a person whose gender identity is not in alignment with his or her physical body, either all or part of the time.

The term transsexual is generally used to refer to a person who has undergone medical treatments, such as hormones and/or surgery, to correct the physical body to match the gender identity. It can also refer to a person who lives full-time in the gender that matches his or her identity, whether or not that person has made any physical changes with hormones and/or surgery. Another definition is a person who is born with a medical condition that causes disagreement between the physical body and the gender identity. Like the term transgender, different people define the term transsexual in different ways.

Some transsexual people see themselves as transgender. Others do not. Many transsexual people, after they have undergone medical treatments to correct the body, do not see themselves as transsexual at all, but as men or women who have remedied a medical condition.

What is transition?
Transition is a process that can involve any or all of the following: medical treatments, including hormones and/or surgery, in order to bring the body into alignment with the gender identity; legal procedures, such as name change and gender marker change on legal documents; and social adjustments, including adjusting to living in the gender that matches one’s identity. There are many terms used to describe this transition, including gender transition, gender reassignment, sex reassignment, and sex correction.

The simplest, and most appropriate, term is “transition,” but the most familiar term to many non-trans people is “sex change.” Most people in the transgender and transsexual communities see this term as derogatory. There are also many who do not like the terms “gender transition” or “gender reassignment,” because they have always been the gender that they are – they have always had the same gender identity – so they have not “reassigned” their gender. They have corrected their sex – their physical body – to match that gender.

What is gender diversity?
Gender diversity encompasses all areas of gender. Gender diverse people are often considered those who do not conform to the specific gender norms set out by the culture. Some would consider all gender diverse people to be transgender. Those who use a narrower definition of transgender would not.

Why is it important to learn about gender identity, gender diversity, and transgender and transsexual people?

Gender diverse people are all around us. More and more transgender and transsexual people are going through transition or are expressing their gender in ways that might be confusing to some or that might not conform to the expectations of the binary gender system. In the past, people who transitioned quit their job and moved away to start over again. Now many are remaining in their neighborhood and in their employment situation. Understanding gender diversity can make it easier to interact with the public, to work with a gender diverse boss, employee, or coworker, or to handle a transition in the workplace.

This post originally appeared on Matt Kailey's award-winning website Republished with permission.  

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Tranifesto: Ten Things Not to Say to a Trans Person

By Matt Kailey

Many trans people (including myself) speak and train in a variety of venues, and we do so because it is important to us to educate non-trans people about who we are. We get a lot of comments and a lot of questions in those settings, and unless we have specified that a particular topic is off-limits (I never do), we expect and are happy to answer any and all questions that come our way. In that situation, as the old cliché goes, there are no stupid questions.

But there is a big difference between a training or educational setting and a social or workplace environment. When we speak or train, we make the choice to answer questions, respond to comments, and so on. When we’re eating fast food, shopping at the mall, or just meeting someone for the first time in a social setting, we’re sometimes caught off guard.

So I present “Ten Things Not to Say to a Trans Person” (all of which have been said to me at one time or another) as a cautionary reminder to those non-trans folks outside of a formal educational or training setting.

1. “Have you had ‘the operation'”? (Equally offensive: “Have you had ‘the surgery?'” or “Are you pre-op or post-op?” or “Are you done?”)

There is no one “operation.” Trans people have many surgeries or no surgeries. We know what you’re talking about, but we like to pretend that we don’t just to annoy you. Like you, we consider our private parts private. You show me yours, and I’ll show you mine.

But transition is not all about genitalia – in fact, the social aspects of transition can be far more complicated, complex, and compelling. To ask about surgery is to disregard every other aspect of a person as a human being – not to mention the fact that you would not likely ask anyone else you know about his or her genitalia.

Unless you’re asking me to sleep with you, what’s underneath my clothes should not be of concern. And if you are asking me to sleep with you, then I’d like to see what’s underneath your clothes before I make my final decision.

2. “Which bathroom do you use?”

We use the bathroom that matches the gender that we are presenting (if the law allows). We use the bathroom that is right for us (if we can), just like you use the bathroom that is right for you. And we use the bathroom for the same reason that you do. We have no interest in seeing or hearing anything that you are doing in there, and we would prefer that you not take an undue interest in us. We just want to get in, take care of business, and get out. If you have seen most public restrooms, you will understand why.

3. “If you combed your hair a certain way, walked a certain way, did ______ (fill in the blank) a certain way, you would be more masculine/feminine.”

Thanks for the tip. Now, as for what’s wrong with you …

4. “When did you decide to become transgender/transsexual?”

We didn’t “decide” to “become” this way. We were born this way. When did you “decide” what gender you were – or did you just know? We may have made a “decision” to transition, but most trans people will tell you that transition is not a choice – it is a medical necessity, and any “decision” that was made was simply the decision to continue to live, which necessitated transition.

5. “You pass really well.”

While some trans people may take this as a compliment, especially in the early stages of transition, “passing” implies that a person is not what he or she seems to be – that the person is “passing” for something else. Unless you’re a driving instructor, if you want to give a compliment, just say, “You look nice today” or “That color looks good on you” or whatever you would say to anyone else.

6. “I thought you’d be a monster – but you’re just a normal person!”

Catch me during the next full moon.

7. “How do you have sex?”

Buy me dinner and I’ll show you.

Seriously, there are many ways to have sex, and trans people have sex just like everyone else. Sex is not just the missionary position, although trans people have sex this way as well. But if you’re strictly the “tab A into slot B” type of person, you might be missing out on some things yourself.

(Equally offensive: “How do you go to the bathroom?” Umm, there’s this thing called the urinary tract …)

8. “I can still see the woman (or the man) in you.”

Darn, did I forget to zip up my pants again?

But seriously, most trans people would prefer not to be reminded of their previous incarnation, if you will. While those who say this generally mean no harm and are just being sentimental about a “person” they miss from their past, those who have transitioned usually don’t share the same sentimentality about their pre-transition self, so no matter what you see, it’s best to keep it to yourself.

9. “Are you afraid that people will hate you or want to hurt you?”

Yes. But I try not to think about it unless someone brings it up.

10. “What does being a man (or a woman) mean to you?”

It means not being asked that kind of question, because you would never ask a non-trans man (or a non-trans woman) the same question.

This post originally appeared on Matt Kailey's award-winning website Republished with permission.  

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Tranifesto - Coming Out To A New Date

By Matt Kailey

A reader writes: “I’m a first-year student at a liberal arts college. Most of my friends know I’m a transman, but the school at large does not. I met a woman about a month ago who is also a student here. I really like her and want to date her. I think she might be interested in me, too, but that might just be wishful thinking.

“My problem is that I don’t know when to disclose to her. I don’t know if I should tell her soon to get it out of the way or to hold off to get to know each other better and not scare her off.”

Regular readers know that I am big on coming out as soon as possible. In my opinion, it saves a lot of disappointment and hurt feelings on both sides (and sometimes it’s a safety issue, but I would say that it probably isn’t in this case).

However, I don’t think that a person needs to come out to every casual coffee or movie date. In this situation, I would recommend asking the woman out – for coffee, a movie, dinner, or whatever. See how the first date goes. If it doesn’t go well, or it appears that one or both of you is not all that interested, no harm done. You say goodnight and part ways.

But what if you both have a great time? I don’t know what you should do, but I’m going to tell you what I would do. If I had a fantastic time, and the person I was with had a fantastic time, and if it was obvious that there was an intense mutual attraction, I would say (at the end of the date), “I had a really great time. I find you very attractive. I would love to see you again. There’s also something I would like you to know about me.” And then I would come out to that person and let the chips fall where they may.

If I wasn’t sure after the first date, or didn’t think the other person was sure, I would ask that person out again without coming out. If we had a fabulous time and the sparks flew, then I would come out as above. If it just wasn’t right, we move on and no harm done.

The reason I would do this is because I don’t want to waste my time and energy, or the other person’s time and energy, if my being trans is a deal-breaker. Both of us could move on to other people and save time and heartache.

But there are downsides to this. One downside is that she doesn’t get to know you very well first, which could make a difference with regard to how she accepts or embraces your trans status. The other downside is that she could decide to spread this information around – particularly if she chooses not to date you because she finds it shocking, gross, or gossip-worthy. You have no control over this.

Even if she does decide to date you, this could happen at some point in the future if you break up. She also might be the non-gossipy type who respects the privacy of her suitors, her dates, and her exes. There’s really no way to know. But I always figure that once you’re out to someone, you might as well assume that you will eventually be out to everyone, and that at that point, it’s not always your choice or under your control.

(Editor's Note: Despite the fact that Matt Kailey, one of my closest friends, passed away in 2014 I will continue to republish his writing on - as I did when he was alive - as a resource for the gay community to know more about trans people. This post originally appeared on Matt Kailey's award-winning website  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Tranifesto: The World's Smallest Penis

By Matt Kailey
(an excerpt from his book Teenie Weenies and Other Short Subjects)

One of the benefits of working at a gay newspaper is that you get to surf very unusual Web sites in search of stories about porn stars or celebrities, so I wasn’t really surprised when I looked across the room and saw my coworker watching an online video that appeared to be a parade of naked trans men who had not had genital surgery.

Of course, this necessitated abandoning my own story and getting up to see what was going on. And as I got closer, I saw who these guys actually were – contestants in a Howard Stern contest for the world’s smallest penis. Now, I could win this contest hands down, but none of these guys were trans men. They were all non-trans men with itsy, bitsy, teeny weenies.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tranifesto: Coming Out as Trans after Coming Out as Gay

By Matt Kailey

A reader writes: “I am a 39-year-old gay male. Ever since high school, I have geared being more like a female. It was tough when I came out as being gay. I got teased and made fun of in school. My mother accepted me being gay.

“I have tried to be a full-time male, but just was not happy with it. I drank a lot as well. A year ago I decided to start the process of transitioning. I have already decided that I am not going to have the surgery to be a full female. In other words, I’m going to leave the below parts alone, although I want to grow breasts and desire to take some hormones to obtain more fem features.

“My problem is my mother. She accepts me being gay. Today we went shopping and some people referred to me as a female, which did not bother me at all. In the car while she was driving me home, she stated I make an ugly girl. I understand that given she is my birth mother this is hard for her. She knows I want to be more like a girl but does not realize what I am doing. I am totally happy with who I am and who I will become. Just not so sure of my mother?”

One thing that can be difficult for some trans people is having to come out twice – first as a gay man or lesbian, and later as transgender. The way some people see it is similar to the boy who cried, “Wolf!” – so you said you were gay, now you say you’re trans. What are you going to say next week?

What those people don’t realize is that it is not uncommon for trans people to come out as gay or lesbian before coming out as trans. Here are some reasons that could happen:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Tranifesto: 'No, Really, What Are You?’

By Matt Kailey

...instead of a regular post, I offer you a small selection from my book Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience.

As a lead-in to this piece, I will tell you that, in the book, I was discussing an early part of my transition — feeling genderless, struggling with my identity as a man versus a trans man, and bemoaning the salesclerks at Food ‘R Us who would shake and sweat and appear very disturbed when they couldn’t figure out whether to call me ma’am or sir. And then I met Elyse:

“When I was searching for a birthday present for my sister, I found myself in a very familiar place — the women’s department of the local Foley’s. As I shuffled through the racks of women’s clothing, a salesclerk approached from behind. Perhaps noticing my rounded hips in front of a carousel of blouses, she asked, in some kind of European accent, “Can I help you, ma’am?”

When I turned around, she blinked and said, “Oh, I mean, sir.”

I couldn’t tell where Elyse was from, I only knew that her accent was not of this continent. And neither was her behavior. When I smiled, a dead giveaway of female heritage, she continued unflustered.

“I’m sorry. I mean, ma’am.”

“It’s okay,” I said.

She frowned. “I mean, sir.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tranifesto: Binding Blues and Peeing Problems

By Matt Kailey

A reader writes: “I’m in high school (Junior), but am very open about my gender identity (cross dress, bind, etc). At this point there isn’t a whole lot I can do about hormonal treatment or surgery. So instead I try to do what I can, at my age. I bind, as mentioned, and use a commercially available binder.

“It has been fine, but lately I’ve gotten a lot of pain, difficulty breathing, and nasty bruising on my rib-cage. I wear it too often as it is (about 12 to 14 hours a day, nearly every day), so I know the best thing to do would be to just stop wearing it so much.

“Unfortunately, this is a problem for me as my gender dysphoria has also gotten much more severe as of late (and includes thoughts of self-harm and things we don’t need to get into). It’s a difficult trade-off for me to consider – wear it less and hopefully not end up with a serious injury in the hospital and cause my dysphoria to be that much worse (which, when paired with my depression, anxiety, and raging teenage hormones can be a serious and kind of terrifying problem), or continue doing what I can to suppress (no pun intended) my dysphoria and likely end up in the hospital.

“My mother doesn’t take my depression or dysphoria seriously (it took her witnessing one of my most violent panic attacks to convince her to let me see the school therapist), so advice from her doesn’t help (especially when she doesn’t offer any).

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Tranifesto: Gender Identity/Sexual Orientation Confusion

By Matt Kailey

A reader writes: “I’m dating a trans man now and it’s been amazing. I’m still slightly confused as I have always considered myself as a straight female and have always seen him as male, but at the same time I’ve accepted that for the moment he is still female and am willing to do stuff with him (obviously, haha).

“I know labels are not the best way to go about things, but I’m not sure of how else I can understand what I am feeling? I hope this doesn’t come across as naive or stupid. I’m just a little bit confused.”

It’s not uncommon for those who are dating trans people to become confused about their own sexual orientation. For you, it seems pretty straight-forward – you’re a straight woman dating a trans guy, so you’re a straight woman … because he’s a guy.

I would argue that he is not “still female.” I think what you mean is that he has not had any type of genital surgery. Maybe you even mean that he is not taking hormones. But if he’s living as a man, then he’s not female. And if you see him as male, then he’s not female to you, either.

Just because he has a different body type from what you might be used to doesn’t negate any of that. If you’ve been with several men in your life, you know that their body types vary widely, even though they all might have come closer to the particular prototype or representation that we have of a “standard” male body than your current lover’s body does. No matter. He’s a man, you’re a woman, and the label for that type of relationship in Western culture is “straight.”

Now, you don’t have to call yourself straight if you don’t want to. You can always change labels to suit you. But I would argue that you have not changed sexual orientations. You are attracted to men and you’re dating a man.

So I would say that not a lot has changed for you. I don’t think you should worry about it, really. When you engage in sexual activity, it might be slightly different at first from what you are used to (or it might not be), but just keep the lines of communication open, and you’ll be fine.

This post originally appeared on Matt Kailey's award-winning website Republished with permission.  

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tranifesto: Support for Older Trans Men?

By Matt Kailey

A reader writes: “I am a 59-year-old African American lesbian giving serious consideration to transitioning to a male. Are you aware of any females beginning their transition who are my age?

“I do realize there will be generational, cultural, and racial considerations. My questions largely have to do with being post menopausal and beginning T. Are there challenges that younger trans men don’t have to deal with? Will T be more effective since I am post menopausal? Are there any health considerations or concerns?

“As I begin my transition, I will bind my chest. I’ll see how it goes prior to deciding to (or not) having a double mastectomy. Is there an ‘older’ community of trans men support group? Any other suggestions would greatly be appreciated.”

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tranifesto: Ask Matt

By Matt Kailey
A reader writes: “I am a parent of a teenager who just last year, at the age of 17, shocked me with the announcement that she was transgender and would be starting the transition from FTM as soon as she turned 18.

“Up to that point, my husband and I had no idea her gender identity was in question. She was definitely a ‘tomboy’ (as was I most of my life), and never played with dolls, etc., but we never put two and two together. We did think she was a lesbian, however, but even that we were unsure about, because she had gone from one phase to another over the years (emo chick, athlete, etc.).

“So I am trying to find a place where I can be educated that will help me not only believe this, but accept it, embrace it, and eventually advocate for my child. I am having a very difficult time ‘transitioning’ my own mind to believe that my daughter of 17 years is not a female. I cannot get the word ‘him’ out of my mouth, and I cannot get myself to call her (him) by this new name.

“Does this make me a mean, closed-minded, unaccepting parent? I just tried to call my husband ‘babe’ or ‘honey’ the other day (something I’ve never done), and that felt so incredibly awkward coming out of my mouth. How in the world will I call my child ‘he’?

“I cannot seem to find good information on how to change myself, and my husband and my 12-year-old son’s mindset on the fact that ‘Jane’ is now ‘John.’ Not to mention, my husband is not at all willing to change the name. He does not even believe that this is happening. Knowing nothing at all about transgenderism and totally unwilling to educate himself at this, I am at a loss!”

Let’s get the most important thing out of the way right up front – you are not mean, closed-minded, or unaccepting. You wouldn’t be writing to me if you were. So stop beating yourself up about that, and let that one go.

Next, let’s put your husband on the back burner for a moment, because it’s not your job to make him accept his child. Don’t worry – we’ll come back to him later. Right now, we are going to focus on you, because how you deal with this will likely eventually influence how he does, and how your 12-year-old son does.

This is a big shock. I can’t imagine any parent not being shocked unless they truly saw signs of this for a child’s entire life. But as I’ve said before, not seeing signs really means nothing. Don’t go back looking for signs that might or might not have been there. This is what’s happening right now, so you have to deal with it in real time.

So let’s look at your questions. First, you want to know how you can you get to a place where you can believe this. Ask yourself, given that there were few to no indications of this, “What would make me believe it?” Would it help you to have a professional opinion? Is your child willing to see a therapist?

Most doctors, even in these changing times, still require a letter from a therapist in order to prescribe hormones. When your child says that he will be “starting transition,” it’s quite possible that he means he will be taking hormones. If this is the case, he will probably eventually need to see a therapist. If the therapist gives the go ahead for hormones, then you have your professional opinion.

You might even suggest to your child that you are willing to help him find (and pay for) a therapist now. That way, he can start looking at some possible options for his future.

What else might make you believe it? Would having a long conversation (or several) with your child about this help? Is he willing to do that? I don’t know what has taken place in the family since he came out to you, but if he sees your request for dialogue as an attempt to try to get him to change his mind, then he will probably be less willing to talk about it. If he sees your request as a way of attempting to support him, he might be far more open to it.

I think a lot of my readers are going to say, “Believe it because he says it’s so.” And I understand that position and welcome those comments. But I also understand that this isn’t always easy to do. You have to figure out what is going to make you believe it, and then see if that thing can eventually come to pass.

You also want to not only believe it, but to accept it, embrace it, and become an advocate for your child. This is an admirable position that I hope he can realize and appreciate. A lot of parents would not even get this far. The fact that you are already here says that you are accepting it in some ways, even as you are not quite sure that it’s real.

So what I would recommend is that you think this: “Here is what I need to believe this, and that hasn’t happened yet, but I accept the fact that my child believes this, and I accept the fact that he believes that this is what he needs to do. So whether or not I believe it at this moment, I accept what my child believes about himself, and I will support my child and embrace my child and advocate for my child right now because he is my child.” You don’t need another reason.

Now you are accepting your child – just the way he is. And because you accept him, regardless of what you believe, you will do your best to honor his wishes about what he will be called. So you start calling him John and you start using male pronouns. It will be forced. It won’t feel right. It will not come smoothly out of your mouth. It doesn’t matter right now.

Today when he gets home from school, say, “How was your day, John?” Force it. When it’s time to eat, yell up, “John, dinner’s ready.” Force it. Do it not because it’s comfortable for you, but because you accept your child unconditionally. If you have to tell yourself that you’re in a TV show or a movie and you’re playing a role, do that. Do whatever you have to do to make it come out of your mouth.

Not only will it get easier every time you do it, but it will strengthen the relationship between you and your child, so that when you want or need to talk, he will hopefully be more open to it. The name will come naturally before the pronoun does, and you will slip up – probably a lot. Apologize to John, forgive yourself, and move on.

What you might see is John blossoming right in front of you as you acknowledge his name and his pronouns. You might see huge changes in his demeanor and his mood. You might see him “coming alive” as John – and this, in turn, might help you believe it. “Fake it ’til you make it” can work in a lot of different contexts.

Your husband is in denial. There’s nothing you can really do about that except give him time. He might or he might not come around. Perhaps, if John is truly thriving with your recognition of him, your husband will see that and at least start to think about it.

I don’t think you should push him, and I hope that the two of you don’t end up arguing about this. You can just say to him, “I’m going to be using the name that John wants and the pronoun that he wants. It’s going to be difficult, but I think John’s comfort and my relationship with him is more important to me than the minor struggles I will have in doing this. I don’t want us to fight, and you need to do what is right for you. I’m just letting you know what I’m going to do.”

The difficulty is going to be with your 12-year-old, because he is going to get different messages from you and your husband with regard to this. But that’s a big reason why you and your husband should try not to fight over this. You can disagree privately, and your husband can do what he wants, but the two of you should discuss how your disagreements and your different messages will impact your 12-year-old.

It might not hurt for both of you to sit down with him and explain what’s going on and what your plans are. If your husband won’t do it, then you should do it anyway. I don’t know how close he and John are, but if John is also willing to talk to him, that would probably be helpful.

Regardless, you can explain to him why you are going to start using a different name and pronoun for his older sibling. You can explain to him that it’s a matter of respect, and that you know it will be difficult for him, but you hope that he will try it, too. He should not be punished for making mistakes or for saying that he is not going to do this. John can ultimately decide whether or not he is going to respond to anyone who uses an incorrect name and pronoun.

Again, I really can’t stress this enough, and I hope that your husband can see this, too – your 12-year-old should not be put in the middle of this. He should not be afraid that Dad will get mad if he calls his older sibling John, and that you will get mad if he doesn’t. He shouldn’t be made to feel as if he is “taking sides,” and neither one of you should feel that way, either. He shouldn’t be coached one way by you and another way by your husband.

You and your husband are the parents and the adults. No matter what disagreements happen between the two of you, you need to stay “neutral” with your 12-year-old, and you need to explain very calmly to him what is going on, why you are using a certain name and pronouns with John, and why your husband is not.

At 12, he’s old enough to take the information and decide for himself what he’s going to do. He’s not old enough to bear the burden of feeling as if he’s betraying one of his parents with his decision.

You might eventually want to start leaving some books, websites, or other literature out for your husband. Don’t force them on him. Just leave them out. Ask John if he has any favorite books or websites that he wishes his father would look at. Hopefully, your husband will eventually decide that he wants to, or needs to, educate himself.

If things get rough, I would also suggest family therapy. This could be helpful for everyone involved.

If you go to the right sidebar of this blog and click on the Family category in the Categories list, you might find some other posts that will be beneficial. Also, some helpful resources for both you and your husband might be TransYouth Family Allies and PFLAG. I wish you the best of luck.

This post originally appeared on Matt Kailey's award-winning website Republished with permission.  

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tranifesto: Ask Matt Briefs

Here are some short questions and short answers. I (and I’m sure the writers) would love to get reader input on any or all:

A reader writes: “When someone says they are a transsexual man, does that mean that they are a woman contemplating their sex identity or a man contemplating their sex identity? Pardon me if this was offensive, it was purely out of curiosity so I don’t mess up in the future.”

No offense taken. It’s a legitimate question. (Here’s a link to some vocabulary terms that might also help: Trans-lations.)

In most cases, when a person says that he is a transsexual man, what he means is that he has transitioned in some way from female to male. In other words, he was assigned female at birth, and now lives as a man. When someone says that she is a transsexual woman, she means that she was assigned male at birth and has transitioned in some way to female.

This is particularly confusing when the press refers to a “transgender man” when they actually mean a “trans woman,” and vice versa. I could go into a long diatribe about the whole “transgender” and language thing, but I won’t (because nobody wants to hear it again).

Suffice it to say that when people refer to themselves as a man or a woman and any form of “trans” is in front of that, they will generally mean that they are living in a sex and gender that were not assigned to them by the outside world at birth.

A reader writes: “I’ve always felt like I was male from being a young child, and now I feel ready to begin my journey. My question is: I understand there is no guarantee with hormones, but do people who are younger when they begin hormones see results sooner?”

Hmm. That depends on the person. I don’t think there is any research behind this. In my experience, it seems to me that people who are younger when they begin often have “better” results. By that, I mean that I have seen young people masculinize relatively quickly when compared to older people (but “quickly” is just a matter of a few months), and it seems to me that they generally get better facial hair and muscle tone.

But that’s just through my own eyes. Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide says, “It has been hypothesized that the earlier hormone therapy is started in life, the more effective it will be in terms of masculinizing effects. However, many trans men have begun hormone therapy late in life and have been very satisfied with their results.”

You will get the results that you are genetically programmed to get. How rapidly you will get them and how “strong” they will be will also depend on genetics, for the most part. I think Hudson’s Guide, linked to above, has some really good information on all aspects of testosterone use for trans guys, and I would highly recommend reading it.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tranifesto: Did You Have Doubts About Transition?

By Matt Kailey

A reader writes: “I turned 33 and for all my life, I’ve always tended to dress and act in a manly way. I don’t like the traces of femininity on my body but I learned to live with it. The last nine years I identified as a lesbian and was quite content, although I always felt something isn’t right.

“Half a year ago I realized that there is something as ‘transgender’ and it felt like the solution to my discomfort. I went to therapists and got my paper to start testosterone. I told few friends. First they were like, ‘No problem, that’s cool,’ but now when it turns serious, they tell me that they don’t see me as a man and that I’m doing a big mistake, I would mutilate a perfect body now and still not be a real man.

“I had myself a breakdown thinking about a new male name – everything felt ‘ridiculous.’ I know I have to know what is right for me, but some of the points my friend told me are torturing me. I am biologically a woman now. I am perhaps the outsider in look and behavior, but completely accepted among my female friends. In fact, I have only female close friends.

“I feel at ease around men, but they look at me as a woman and so I still don’t belong to them, which discomforts me again. I was socialized for 33 years as a woman and was always trying to fit in as best – I can’t cut out this part and I don’t want to lose my female friends.

“How was this transition for you? As I understand you had the bigger change from ‘girly girl’ to man. Did you never doubt you were on the right track? Did you lose your friends? How did you cope emotionally?”

Friday, January 24, 2014

Matt Kailey on HuffPost Live This Afternoon

Award-winning author, blogger, teacher, and close personal friend Matt Kailey will appear on HuffPost Live: Meet the Gay Men Who Date Transmen this afternoon at 3:30pm (give or take a few minutes due to the live nature of the broadcast).

Joining Matt will be cartoonist Bill Roundy, author Elliot DeLine, and sex and relationship therapist Dr. Joe Kort. They will discuss the ins, outs, and “coming outs” of gay non-trans men dating gay trans men.

Kailey is author of Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience and Teeny Weenies and Other Short Subjects and a frequent contributor to MileHighGayGuy. His award-winning blog, Tranifesto, celebrates five years in 2014.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tranifesto: Can a Gay Man Love a Trans Woman

By Matt Kailey

A reader writes: “I am a gay man and have no doubts really about that. I was late in coming out after being married and having children. However, 15 months ago I started a relationship with a guy who I had met several years earlier and who also was previously married with children.

“After we had been dating for six or seven months, he started to talk about how he really liked dressing as a girl and felt he should have been born a girl. I did know he was always quite fem and liked fem things and that was part of my attraction to him.

“Well, now he is well into transition to her, including name change and hormone treatments, and is fully out to family and work. I have supported this transition because I loved/love him/her and know that it was making her happy and it was what she wanted.

“Now, though, I am having a real problem in my head as to how can it be that a gay guy is still fancying a girl. Is it an identity issue? What is going on in my mind? Can this relationship continue?

“We have talked about surgery and I have said I would not like her to have reassignment and she says that she doesn’t want it anyway. However, will that change in a year or two? Just struggling with where I am in this relationship.”

Once again, labels are hanging us up. Remember that “gay” is just a label for your sexual orientation – it is not your sexual orientation. You have the label “gay” because you have a particular type of body and gender identity and you are attracted to people with the same type of body and gender identity.

Your attraction to this person started out in this way. It’s possible that if you had met this person after she had already transitioned, you would not have been attracted to her. But that’s not the case. So you fell in love with a person who a gay man (you) might have fallen in love with, and now she has changed, but you are still in love with her.

In my opinion, that does not mean that you are no longer gay. It just means you are in love with a particular person, and this person no longer meets a specific set of criteria that a gay man might look for when choosing a partner. But you’ve already chosen a partner – this person – and you are in love with her, so those criteria no longer matter.

I believe that you can retain your gay identity and continue to date this person and be very happy with her for the rest of your life. However, you need to understand that you will likely be seen by the world as a straight couple and be treated as such, so you will have to decide whether or not you can handle that.

In addition, she might resent you retaining your gay identity, because it might signal to her that you still see her as a man. This is a discussion that the two of you need to have. At this point, I think you do still see her as a man, at least to some extent, because you are using both male and female pronouns for her, but I’m not sure what she has asked you to do. It is possible that there will come a time when this will not be at all appropriate, and she will not want this, even if she is okay with it now. Again, have this discussion.

With regard to sex correction surgery, you have told her that you don’t want her to have it, and she has told you that she is not going to have it. Will she change her mind? It’s quite possible. She might change her mind about having surgery, and she also might change the ways in which she wants to interact with you sexually, whether or not she has surgery.

If that is a deal-breaker for you, then that is another discussion that you need to have – now and on an ongoing basis. She needs to know where she stands in this regard. Of course, it’s possible that if and when she does decide to have this surgery, it will no longer be a deal-breaker for you, because the relationship will be that important – but there are no guarantees of this, so again, have this discussion.

If a penis is important to you sexually, and at some point, she either no longer has one or no longer wants to use it in the ways that you would like, you can also discuss an open relationship, where you can get particular sexual needs met while remaining in the primary relationship. Be aware that this works both ways, and she can do the same. This arrangement is successful for many people, but you have to both be on board and you have to lay out the expectations and agreements beforehand.

I usually get this type of letter from lesbians who are dating trans men, and even though that is a different situation, I think that many of the same things hold true, so I am linking to a recent post I wrote called Can a Lesbian Date a Trans Man? I would suggest that you read that as well, along with the comments. I think it could be helpful.

The bottom line is that I absolutely think that this relationship can work, but, as always, ongoing communication is essential.

This post originally appeared on Matt Kailey's award-winning website Republished with permission.  

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Tranifesto: Can People Be Allies to Their Own Community?

By Matt Kailey

A reader writes: “Can a person be both a part of the community and an ally? What I mean is, is an ally always an outsider to T/LGB? Is a transgender person necessarily an activist or informer, the way an ally is? What about those who question their gender but are otherwise supportive and politically/socially active?

“The third question applies mostly to myself, but my questioning isn’t at the heart of this email. Whatever I am labeled, I want to move transgender issues forward, giving clarity to others. If I hadn’t set out to find out all the information I know now, I think I would have a very distorted view on gender. It is not difficult to imagine a trans-ignorant/transphobic world beyond myself, especially with all the things I hear in my family and at school.”

To answer your question, I think that we need to look at the differences between an ally, an advocate, and an activist. To do this, we’ll use good old Merriam-Webster:

Ally: a person or group that gives help to another person or group.

Advocate: a person who works for a cause or group.

Activism: a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action, especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue. (Oddly, there was no definition for activist, but based on this, an activist would be a person who does this)

So, when we look at these definitions, we can see that an ally is not a member of the group to which that person belongs. An ally is an “outsider” who gives help to that group. You could be an ally to the transgender community, or you could be a member of the transgender community, but you couldn’t be both.

Now, you could be a member of the LGBT community and be an ally of the trans community – if you were a non-trans lesbian, gay man, or bisexual person. You could be an ally of the LGB community if you were trans and straight-identified or queer-identified. But if you are trans and gay-identified, for example, you would be a member of the gay community and the trans community – not an ally of either.

As a member of a community, you are not “required” to do anything. You are a member of that community by birth or happenstance – or even by intentional joining – but that does not place a certain expectation on you. You can choose to advocate for your group and you can choose to be a private or public activist for your group, but you don’t have to. As an ally, there are certain expectations.

One is advocacy, at the very least, and the other could be activism. As an ally of a group, even if you are not outspoken and in the public eye with regard to your advocacy or your activism, you should at least work behind the scenes to correct misinformation and misconceptions when you come upon them, to help clear a path for the voices of the groups with which you are allied to be heard, and to provide whatever support you can and use whatever influence you might have to help benefit these groups (without paternalism or caretaking).

An ally is really a full-time job in the sense that you have a responsibility to the groups that you claim to be allied with. An ally can (and probably should) be an advocate and hopefully, at least at times, an activist. A member of a group cannot be an ally to that group, but can certainly choose to be an advocate and even an activist.

For those wanting to be an ally to any particular group, there are many good articles on being an ally all over the Internet. I wrote on this recently in a post called “Five Attributes of Trans Allies.” Other posts of interest to allies can be found under the Allies category (see the right sidebar) of this blog.

A couple of my favorite “ally-themed” articles on the Internet are “The Role of Allies in 2010,” which is a keynote speech by Dr. Omi Osun Joni L. Jones, and “No More ‘Allies’” by Mia McKenzie. There are tons more, so do a search for “being an ally” and you can find them.

Thanks to all the allies out there who are doing the work. 

This post originally appeared on Matt Kailey's award-winning website Republished with permission.  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Tranifesto: My Mother Doesn't Believe I'm Trans

By Matt Kailey

A reader writes: “I’m an FTM, 18, and I came out to my mum about two years ago. She didn’t take it very well.

“She told me that she didn’t believe that I was transgender because I feel uncomfortable talking to her about sex (I’ve tried telling her multiple times this is normal and that my friends feel the same way with their parents, to no avail), and that I’m stuck in a phase that I just haven’t grown out of.

“Since I came out to her in 2011, thing have slowly gotten better and I’ve put in a lot of effort so that we could reach common ground. She is a lot less hostile about it, she’s fine with me wearing a binder, she tries to use gender neutral pronouns when she can, and I had a talk with her earlier on in the year about changing my name when I finished high school later in the year and she seemed all right with it.

“A few days ago, however, I was talking to her about my name change again, and she told me she thought changing my name would be a mistake, but that I’m an adult and she won’t try to stop me. As we continued talking I also discovered that she still thinks that I’m not transgender, and for the same reasons she told me when I first came out to her.

“While I do appreciate that she won’t try to stop me, my relationship with my mum is very important to me. I love her very much, and I just wish she would be supportive. I don’t want to try to move out, and when we’re not arguing about me being transgender, we get on very well. But I’m not coping well with the realisation that she still doesn’t think I’m transgender.

“I have a psychiatrist (so I can start medical transition) who is willing to approve me for testosterone. I asked my mum if she would be interested in meeting my psych, and she refused and was very negative about the whole thing. Not having her on board makes everything so much harder for me. There aren’t many things that I want more in my life at the moment than for my mum to see me as her son.

“So essentially, what I’m asking is do you know what else I can do to try to make my mum realise that I am transgender, and that the emotions and feelings I have because I’m transgender are real?”

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Tranifesto: It's Okay to Be 'Questioning'

By Matt Kailey

A reader writes: “So I’m FAAB (female assigned at birth), I was a tomboy for some but not all of my childhood, and now that I’m in high school, I came out as genderqueer to my family and some friends a few months ago.

“I have dysphoria about my breasts but mostly not about my genitals (though I’ve always hated periods so much that I just tried to ignore them), and the chest dysphoria is actually somewhat recent. I’ve gotten some people to call me by ‘they’ pronouns, but increasingly now I’m not so sure that I am actually trans.

“I’m so confused about this and I feel like I’m in a constant state of questioning. I know that sometimes I like to be feminine and sometimes I like to be masculine, and when I came out as genderqueer that helped explain to my family why I wanted a binder, but now I kind of miss who I was before I decided to use trans* labels for myself.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tranifesto: Keeping Up with LGBTQ Lingo

By Matt Kailey
A reader writes: “This is my second year going to TDOR (Transgender Day of Remembrance). I am still having difficulty understanding a lot of the terms used by the transgender community.

“MTF and FTM I can understand, while others are not so easy. Also, I would like the understand more GLBTQ words and definitions as well. I’m a lesbian who barely understands the community lingo. I thought I was butch, then I understand that I’m seen as a soft butch. Now I think I’m gender queer. I’m 34 – all these new words are making me feel old and unsure.

“Is there a book or dictionary (with pictures) that can better explain to me the different terms and views?

Welcome to the world of ever-evolving language. Just when you thought you knew what a word meant, its meaning starts to shift. This is normal for language in general, but when you have a community that has been put in the position of having to create its own terms on its own terms, you tend to get multiple, and sometimes misunderstood, meanings.

I don’t know of one specific book or dictionary that explains all of the terms used in the LGBTQ community. It would be massive and ever-changing. But I think there are some things that can at least help out. I did a search for “LGBT dictionary” online, and there are a lot of websites that have many definitions.

The problem with books and websites is that, as I said, words and meanings change over time. Also, usage can vary from group to group and from region to region. Age factors in, as does race, ethnicity, class, and culture. So no matter what you do, you will probably be wrong, or at least a little off, at some time. However, if you have a base to start from, then you can learn to shift and adapt.

For trans terms, I have a really short Trans-lations page that deals with some terms. It probably needs some updating and additions, but it gives you a basic idea. There are also some 101-type books that explain vocabulary, including Nick Teich’s Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue.

A couple other books that I plan to check out over the holiday break are The Social Justice Advocate’s Handbook: A Guide to Gender by Sam Killermann and The Gender Book by Mel Reiff Hill, Jay Mays, and Robin Mack, which is a finished book that is fundraising on Indiegogo right now for publication funds (check it out and consider a donation).

Readers probably have other resources to suggest. But the topic is so broad, diverse, and mutable that I don’t think there will ever be one definitive source that is agreed upon by everyone.

And pictures probably wouldn’t help. For example, I know some genderqueer people who lean toward traditionally masculine presentations, other who lean toward traditionally feminine presentations, and still others who are completely androgynous. I don’t know a lot about the lesbian community, but I would think that a soft butch in one community might be seen as butch in another and even femme in another.

Honestly, I would not take anyone’s definitions as the last word on the subject. Just hang out with different people, see how they identify, and ask questions. I have been in this community for sixteen years and I’m still asking questions. It’s not stupid. It’s the only way to keep up.

And you might always feel unsure about certain definitions, but you don’t have to feel unsure about your own identity (although it’s okay to feel that way). You can either choose a label that feels comfortable to you, regardless of how other people see you, or you can go with the flow and let yourself develop and change over time. The most important thing is that whatever label or labels you choose, they’re yours and not ones that someone else has imposed on you.

This post originally appeared on Matt Kailey's award-winning website Republished with permission.