Tuesday, 29 July 2014

I'm a Ms.

I received a generic form letter the other day. It began "Dear Mr./Ms. [last name]". I took my thumb and covered up the "Mr." I looked at this amended version, and it made me smile. Dear Ms. [last name]. It was just... right.

I'm a Ms.

I find this surprisingly reassuring. Every now and then I'll get these sudden doubts about my identity. I'll think, What if I'm actually just a feminine man? What if this is all just about the clothes? What if I'm just trying to delude myself into thinking I'm female to avoid the stigma that society puts on men who like skirts? What if I medically transition only to figure out I'm not a woman after all and spend the rest of my life dealing with transition regret?? Aaaaaaahh!!!

But the difference between Mr. and Ms. has nothing to do with masculine or feminine. And it has nothing to do with clothes. It only has to do with male or female.

It's just another sign that I'm headed in the right direction. Even if I still don't know where I'm going to end up. :)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

One year (and a bit)

I missed it at the time but a couple weeks ago was the one year anniversary of this blog. Looking back I can honestly say I didn't really expect to still be writing this thing a year later. Also looking back, I can't help but notice that I started off my inaugral post with the word "ahoy." What the hell was I thinking??

(Probably the same thing I was thinking when I came up with the name Fjärilar och Zebror...)

Since starting this blog I've learned a lot about myself, and a lot about gender in general. I've gone from identifying as an ambiguously gendered boy, to an ambiguously gendered non-binary person, to an ambiguously gendered girl. (Though in retrospect those first two identities were more hopeful than honest.) I've also accomplished some pretty scary things, like coming out to my brother and sister-in-law, leaving the house for the first time, and coming out to my parents.

Many of the posts I've written have helped me deal with depression, or to face some of the confusion and doubts I've had about who I am. In some ways writing a blog is like therapy. Only cheaper. :)

And I want to thank everyone who takes the time to read this thing. (And to be honest, I'm still a little amazed that anyone does.) When I started it I expected to chronicle how I was feeling about the various trans milestones I would pass, hoping that putting my thoughts down would help me process them. And that has indeed happened. But what I did not expect is that I would find an actual blogging community, nor how much I would come to appreciate it.

Thanks! ♥

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Sexism, shoes, and apologizing for femininity

Yesterday evening I picked up the book Whipping Girl by Julia Serano, and by two in the morning I was already nearly 200 pages into it. Time flies when you're examining systemic cissexism! :)

One point she makes is that our culture has a (often unconscious) tendency to see expressions of femininity as artificial and impractical, whereas expressions of masculinity are seen as natural and practical. She argues that this negatively impacts all feminine people, including men and women, both trans and cis; but that it is especially harmful to feminine trans women. After all, why would anyone go to such great lengths to choose artificiality and impracticality over more sensible options?

And reading about this I realized that I sometimes see femininity and masculinity in those terms as well.

Like when it comes to shoes.

Back in this post, for example, I was a describing an outfit of mine and wrote: "I had decided to femme it up a bit with a tunic, tights and silly high heels."

Now, why would I feel the need to describe my heels as "silly"? They weren't particularly silly, after all: just plain black shoes with a tall heel. I think it was a way of apologizing for being feminine. I was trying to say: yes, I know that heels are impractical and that I wore them anyway, but it's okay because at least I recognize that it was silly of me to do so.

But, as I see it now, there is a big problem with deciding that a certain style of footwear is impractical. Namely, that whether or not something is practical depends entirely on the goal of the person using it. If your goal is to hike up a mountain, then yes, high heels are very impractical. But if your goal is to feel sexy, you might find high heels to be very practical indeed— (depending, of course, on how you express your gender and sexuality). I certainly do.

Both of these items are in my closet. I own them for different reasons.
(And really, it's not like a suit and tie is good for much else besides feeling sexy, either. But when was the last time you heard someone call such masculine clothing silly or impractical?)

It just goes to show that there are lots of subtle messages I've picked up from my culture which are still influencing how I think about gender expression. In the future I'll be a little more careful to remain as unapologetic about my femininity as I am about my masculinity.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Fishes and mermaids

This didn't hurt as bad when I was in denial about it.

It's strange to think about that, but it's true. Up until least year I'd spent my whole life trying very hard to be a boy. And even though I knew that something was amiss, and that it was gender-related, I had never experienced anything but life as a male. And just like a fish doesn't know it's wet, I never knew how crushed I could feel by living in the wrong gender.

Things have changed now, of course. I've seen, and more importantly been seen as, the real me. And going back to the pretend after experiencing life as myself can be fucking hard. I'm not an oblivious fish anymore: I'm more like a mermaid, cast back to sea after knowing what it's like to live on land.

Like this chick
And so there is this paradox, that accepting my trans-ness has given me the chance to do something about it, (for which I am very glad), but it's also brought into focus a whole lot of pain that was once vague and ill-defined. And today especially, for whatever reason, I'm having a really hard time with it.

One thing is clear though: the only way through it is to move forward— going back now to the denial that once numbed this pain is no longer possible, nor is it desirable, and honestly, I think it might even kill me if I tried. So... forward it is.

By the way, I actually had a dream the other night that I was turning into a mermaid. It was more like a nightmare, actually. Perhaps it means I spend too much time thinking about gendery stuff!

Monday, 7 July 2014

A hairy situation

[EDIT: In the time since writing this post I've come to recognize that some of the terminology I used is problematic and culturally appropriative. However, I've decided not to change the wording of the post, because it reflects the understanding I had at the time.]

"What the fuck is that?!" enquired a customer at my workplace last week.

I looked up startled, then looked around, completely baffled as to what he might be referring to. He was clearly staring right at me. Had I been doing something odd? Did I have something on me? Was there a slimy space monster bursting out of my chest like that horrible scene from Alien?
'Cause that would definitely warrant his question.
One of my co-workers, we'll call him Stan, saw that I was confused. Stan works in sales and apparently knows this customer well enough to make a little joke at his expense. He smiled and said, "Don't worry, Tyler. He's just jealous he 'cause doesn't have any!"

Ohhhhh, it's my hair!!

I gave a half-hearted, awkward laugh. Most of my time at work is spent in the warehouse, but occasionally I have stuff to do up front. This means I occasionally interact with customers. And this particular one was a little cantankerous.

"That shit looks like it's flammable," he continued, "I think you should cover that up."

I shrugged and went back to what I was doing. Stan asked the customer what he needed and the two of them went off to find some product. I heard the customer add, "I've never understood why someone would fuck up their hair like that."

Stan, clearly adept at using humour to defuse awkward situations, responded, "Ah, you never know— maybe some day I'll head off to Vegas and come back with a head full of dreadlocks!"

"Ugh," said the customer with obvious disgust, as I tried and failed to picture Stan with dreads.

Next week it'll be four years since I started my dreads. Back then I reminded myself that different people see the world differently, and to some people dreadlocks might look stupid, and I can be okay with that. So this fellow's comments didn't really bother me. Mostly I'm just amazed that anyone takes the time to say mean things at all. It's hard to imagine what the point is.

I'm glad my co-workers have got my back though. I mentioned in my previous post they didn't seem to mind my pretty nails. They don't seem to mind my goofy hairstyle, either. :)