Sunday, 26 July 2015

Coming out more (and female Tylers?)

Good news! I came out to a bunch of folks on Facebook recently, and it went very well. (Well actually, this happened like three weeks ago, I'm just really slow at blogging stuff apparently). I'm now out to most of the people I'd be likely to see on a typical day, except for at work. I'm also out to most of the friends I really care about. I wrote the following status update, changing the privacy settings so that only the ones I wanted to come out to could see it:
Hi friends! Okay, first of all, only a few people can see this post. Some of you I've specifically talked to about this, while others of you I'm not sure how much you may know or have guessed. But regardless, I wanted to put this out there so that we're all on the same page, and more importantly because I want you all to know me as the person I actually am. :)

So yeah, I'm transsexual. The very short description of what that means is that I'm actually a girl on the inside. I'm guessing that's probably not a huge surprise for most of you, but if it is, well, there you go. :P Anyways, I've started the process of changing my body to better match who I am. So far that just means getting electrolysis for my facial hair, but I do hope to be on female hormones some time in the not-too-distant future, and eventually living full time as a woman.

In the meantime I do intend to start presenting myself as female more often than I have been, simply because I find it profoundly distressing pretending to be a boy all the time. In light of that I do have a request to make from all of you. Within the transgender community I've been going by the name Ashley for the past couple years now, and it seems to have stuck. So, when I'm in girl mode, if you could try to call me by that name instead of my boy name, it would be seriously deeply appreciated. Likewise if you could use feminine pronouns (ie, "she" and "her") to refer to me instead of masculine ones, that'd really be super. (When I'm in boy mode you can use my old name and pronouns if you prefer, I don't really care that much).

Now, I know it's pretty weird to just change which name and pronouns you use for someone, so please take whatever time you need to get comfortable with it, and don't worry if you screw it up. If you're ever not sure what to say, just ask, I promise I won't be offended or anything.

And please, if you have any questions about trans stuff in general or about my own experience with it, feel free to ask. I know sometimes people have trouble understanding this stuff (even I did, and I've had to live with it my whole life), so I'm definitely willing to explain things in more detail if it'll help.

Making a transition of this sort is kind of a big deal in some ways, so I hope I can count on you all for support. :)
And the response has been very positive. One guy sent me a message saying he was checking to see if I could have kept my old name when he found this. It's the Urban Dictionary entry for Female Tyler, as in, a girl named Tyler. "Female Tylers are very rare and if you come across one you are a very lucky person," it reads. That and apparently they're also "extremely skilled in the sheets and so wild they'll make your head spin." Ha! That gave me a pretty good laugh. And to be honest, It actually made me feel a little better about my birth name. I've never liked the name Tyler, even before I knew I was trans. But just knowing that someone out there thinks it's a "cool" name for a girl, somehow that kinda helps. (I'm definitely still sticking with Ashley, though. My old name represents too much for me to not change it.)

Of course I also got all the more usual responses of "I'm so happy for you" and "I'm so proud of you" and "you're so brave," all of which were certainly appreciated. I do feel a liiiitle weird being called brave because I don't really think bravery is what drives someone to transition— often it's more like suicide prevention— but I think I knew what she was trying to get at so I accepted the compliment.

One friend commented on the post asking if she could call me Ash and I just about died with elation. A nickname based on my girl name? That's like the best thing ever!!! ^-^ It took a great deal of effort to respond with a calm "Yeah for sure! :)" instead of "Oh my gosh yes please call me that!! :D"

The best parts of all this are that I'm now getting to hear my real name outside of the internet, and that even when I'm presenting as a male there are a bunch of people who know that's not who I really am. Together that makes all the gender issues so much easier to deal with. I feel like, overall, I've been doing pretty good lately, but that doesn't mean the dysphoria isn't still an issue. Last Thursday I felt totally kicked in the gut by it and ended up spending basically the entire evening just lying in bed watching transition slideshow videos on Youtube. That was instead of going out to an event with friends, one of whom I haven't seen in a long time. So that was pretty shitty.

But that just means I need to keep moving forward. So let's see... I've been getting electrolysis for almost four months now, I'm currently in the process of socially transitioning... what's next? It's time to start thinking about hormones. It's time to talk to a doctor and get this girl some estradiol.

Friday, 10 July 2015

Teaching and sisterhood

This story starts off on kind of a sour note, but it has a good ending so figured I wanted to share it with you guys. Remember about a month ago when the whole internet was abuzz with Caitlyn Jenner and that magazine cover photo of her?

Oh God, there's Jenner everywhere!!

Yeah I'm glad that's over too. But anyways, right around the peak of that, a cousin of mine wrote a very unpleasant anti-trans rant about the whole thing on Facebook, stating among other things that "Bruce" would never be a "real lady." This particular cousin happens to be someone I generally like so I resisted the urge to simply comment "Fuck you, [name]" and unfriend her. Even so I figured I should still address it somehow.

By the time I got around to commenting, several others had called her out on it and she had already apologized for the tone of her post, if not exactly it's content. I responded the only way I really know how to respond to these sorts of things: by making a joke. "Well that's a shame," I wrote, "I'm sure when Jenner began this transition her fondest hope was that some random ass person on the internet would think she was a reel wummin."

After that I made a few brief comments addressing some specific things that had come up in the massive thread which had by then been spawned. I didn't explicitly say I was trans but I did use the word we to refer to trans community so it couldn't have been too hard to figure out. And then I left the thread, because it's not my job to educate people and I had more important things to do with my time than write an essay on why trans identities are legitimate.

But then something interesting happened: my brother started commenting on the post. Now you need to understand, Carson almost never does anything on Facebook. The most recent item on his wall is from... *checks* ... January of 2014. So it was pretty unusual.

His first comments seemed to be more along the lines of "Being a decent person and respecting someone's pronouns is more important than whether someone's really a man or woman." (Which is nice but like, I dunno, maybe a little patronizing??) Carson's always been totally supportive of me and has always accepted the fact that trans-ness is a thing, but I feel like up until this happened he'd never really made a huge effort to actually understand it. But now he was trying to explain it to someone, and he needed to know what he was talking about, so he started texting me questions. And I did my best to answer them.

He and I ended up having a long texting conversation over the course of a couple days, going over a lot of the details of what being trans is and why it makes sense to consider trans people as the genders they say they are rather then what they were assigned at birth. I think he gained a much better understanding of the whole thing, and this understanding was reflected in his continuing comments on the ever-growing Facebook thread. He ended up quoting one of my texts (saying it was from "an actual transwoman" he knew), as well as linking to this academic paper which I'd sent him.

And he got through to her.

The next day there was a PM in my Facebook inbox from the cousin who'd started the whole thing in first place. I won't quote all of it, but to condense it somewhat, she wrote:
I feel I owe you an incredibley earnest apology. I spoke from my emotions when I posted that status and didn't give it nearly enough thought with respect to how it would come across and how it would disrespect you and many others. [...] When I realized just how much my comments had the potential to hurt, I felt, and still feel, so wretched. You are so gracious to even respond, honestly. [...] I would love to hear your thoughts on this stuff. To hear it from someone who lives it is really, I think, would give a clearer picture to someone like myself.
That's nice, eh? I thanked her and accepted the apology, (while being careful not to downplay how hurtful the original post had been). She specifically mentioned in her apology that Carson's replies had helped her understand things better. I think it's really cool how I had the opportunity to teach my bro and he in turn was able to teach our cousin, not to mention anyone else who may have been following the thread. It was also nice for me to not be the one on the front lines, so to speak.

But the perhaps the best part of the whole thing, as far as I'm concerned, is that during the course of Carson asking me questions, this happened:

(And yes, I took this photo with my camera 'cause I couldn't figure out how to just take a screenshot with my phone. Don't judge me.)
I've been thinking for some time now that at some point I would have to address with him the issue of whether I was his brother or his sister. I was kind of hoping it would just come up naturally, and it did! Definitely glad about that. :)