Great Life Lessons Taught To Me By My Transgender Girlfriend

Everybody deserves to be happy with who they are and in the skin they want.
Source: Huffington Post

Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter will know that, on Tuesday, I publicly announced the official first date between me and Marie – a beautiful and talented anthro artist (check her out on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and commission her if you get the notion) and out-and-proud transgender woman. We’ve been chatting for some time now without ever being face-to-face due to several states worth of distance between us. But, an overnight trip to Connecticut allowed us to meet and I was introduced to her circle of friends. It was a great time and I feel we got to know each other a lot better – an impressive feat since this appears to be one of those rare relationships where both parties seem to know each other before they even meet.

But, more pertinent to this essay is the fact that she, knowing that I recently came out as gender fluid, helped me rediscover and feel more confident in my newly freed identity. And because I know she wants little more than to see her fellow trans men and women be happy and confident, I’d like to share the teachings she passed on to me during those magical two days together.

‘Transgender’ means more than you may think

This is less something Marie taught me than it is something I always knew, but I was reminded of it several times over the course of our trip. So I feel the need to establish it here.

But yes; even though I identify specifically as “gender fluid,” you’d be TECHNICALLY correct to call me “transgender.” You see, transgender is a rather large umbrella term that goes far beyond transgender man or transgender woman. It’s meant to be a sort of catch-all term for anyone whose gender identity differs from the standard identity that’s prescribed to someone’s biological sex.

Of course, while it may be TECHNICALLY correct to call a non-binary, gender fluid, etc. person transgender, it’s worth it to go the extra distance to refer to someone as the gender they identify as. It’s similar to how you should respect a person’s preferred gender pronouns if they have any; not only will you get a better understanding of them as a person, but you demonstrate that you care enough about them to get it right – thus strengthening the friendship.

Trans-people are just like cis-people

Again, something I already knew. But meeting with Marie and her friends (a few of whom were also transgender) and talking about life experiences re-confirmed it and it’s something worth noting to the public.

Talking to trans-people since college has taught me that there’s actually very little (if anything) different personality and lifestyle wise between a transgender person and a cisgender person. We both have shared experiences, feelings, and insights. We fall in and out of love the same way, work similar crappy jobs, enjoy watching the same movies and rocking out to the same music. Hell, we even have the same sweetheart-to-scumbag ratio between the two of us.

The only thing that separates the two is that incredibly minor difference in how we identify ourselves. And let’s be brutally honest; if you’re going to let something as minor as a personal identity separate you from an entire swath of humanity, you are missing out on a lot of potential good times. Yes, you’re likely to meet some duds here and there, but you were going to get that with the crowd you were with anyway. So why not broaden the friend search?

You don’t need hormones to feel sexy

One of the many exciting moments I shared with Marie was when she, knowing I had a limited wardrobe to choose from, donated some old hand-me-downs she was planning on getting rid of. Miraculously, almost all of them fit. And when I first put them on, I couldn’t stop striking poses in the mirror for how much I loved the way I looked.

For most trans-people, Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is one of, if not the most, crucial choices in their lives. However, seeing me strut about in pants that ACTUALLY made my butt look cute for a change reminded me that you shouldn’t feel pressured into jumping into it ASAP. Much like the initial process of coming out, you get to decide when, how, and even if you decide to start HRT.

Don’t get me wrong, I’M still probably going to do it. In fact, I’m going to try talking with an endocrinologist on my next day off to set up the initial meeting and go through health risk, planning, etc. But the point is that only I, not anyone or anything else, gets to dictate that.

Having trusted friends makes all the difference

I had only been out in public twice in feminine attire before this trip and always in smaller settings. This trip was a big deal; I was in crowded restaurants and malls where anyone could raise a fuss. But having Marie by my side really did make it all seem like less of a problem. In fact, both she and I were stunned by how casually I strutted about without a single f*** to give out like business cards.

This bit of advice goes out to friends of trans-people as much as trans-people themselves; If you care about the well-being of your friends, be there for them. The little things like helping them shop for clothes or escorting them to the bathroom may seem like small potatoes to you, but they give them all the confidence in the world.

And speaking of confidence…

As in all things, confidence is key

I was pleasantly surprised with just how many people seemed unbothered by the six-foot-four, 250-pound Scots-Irish amazon idly traipsing through the food court in a pair of hip-hugging stretch jeans as I downed an energy drink and nibbled on my bland but passable sweet and sour pork from the Chinese food place. That’s when Marie dropped the biggest truth bomb of the entire trip on me; no one cared because I didn’t care.

In the back of my head, I knew this for some time. My years as a stage performer in college taught me that the slightest weakness in your ego will give everyone something to criticize. But when you step off the stage and into the public eye, it’s surprisingly easy to forget that truth. Whatever you do, trans-related or otherwise, you need to go into it without hesitation and confident that you have this locked down tight.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go shopping for a new purse because woman’s pants pockets are even more bulls*** than I gave them credit for and I am NOT going to carry my phone around in my adorable new bralette.

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What I Learned From Coming Out As Androgynous

For those of you that follow my antics on Twitter, you may be very well aware that I recently came out as androgynous. And honestly, it’s been a long time coming.

I’ve always known that this was a critical part of myself since I was roughly five years old; I recognized parts of myself that were equally masculine and feminine. I questioned why boys and girls weren’t allowed to dress or act in certain ways and didn’t buy into the excuses they gave. I envied androgynous celebrities like David Bowie, Prince, and Joan Jett for allowing themselves the freedom to be whatever they wanted. In fiction, I naturally gravitated to characters that danced between or outright rejected the gender binary.

Part of me is still fluid in terms of gender identity; I just feel more girly or more macho on some days than I do others. But the case remains that whether I look like a host(ess) at a swanky club, …

… your oddly hip-and-with-it aunt, …

… or like someone spliced the genetic material of Daria Morgandorfer and Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, …

I feel the most ‘in-my-element’ when I can play and toy with gender roles.

And, like any person exploring their identity freely for the first time, I’ve been quick to take notes on what things feel like and how to get the most enjoyment out of myself as I come into my own. So today, I’ll be sharing my experiences and what I’ve learned about myself over the last few weeks as I continue to explore myself.

But, before I start, I realize that my experience may not match your own. You could do all of the things I do and get a completely different result. But that’s what identity exploration is all about. It’s about finding out where the best you lies and expressing it. So, I hope that sharing my personal reflections will encourage others to begin exploring and find their ideal self.

So, let’s start with the most obvious realization I’ve had since coming out…

I feel WAY more confident in social settings

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Of course you’d feel better and act more confidently when you like who you are. But what took me off guard was just how much of a confidence boost I got from being open.

I’ve been smiling a lot more often, my stride is taller and more powerful, and I have almost no problems confronting people with problems. It’s as if those few brushes of eyeshadow and lipstick are the much-needed war paint to give me the physical presence I need to march on to the social battlefield with pride.

Of course, confidence CAN be a double-edged sword, because…

I’m more tempted to tell people what I ACTUALLY think of them

With an untempered boost in confidence comes a feeling of indestructibility. And with my new found confidence, I’ve had to work much harder to keep my attitude in check.

This isn’t a wholly bad thing; my freshly unchained savage self has done a good job of removing many of the more toxic elements of my social life that have been plaguing me for years. However, I realize that there are still some bridges that need to go unburnt (at least for now) and I find myself straining at my self-imposed leash wanting nothing more than to verbally destroy the poor unfortunate soul by telling them all the ways they’ve been screwing the pooch for as long as I’ve known them.

It’s almost as if my ego was a puppy whose owners – negative influences in my life if we’re continuing this metaphor – beat and abused me trying to make me act like the dog THEY wanted. Now, I’ve come out as a 120-pound Rottweiler that just wants to stop the abuse. Of course I bit you as soon as my kennel was opened; YOU WOULDN’T STOP HITTING ME WITH THE GODDAMN NEWSPAPER.

But let’s be real, those people are thankfully few and far between. Because much to my surprise…

People actually ADORE the “new” me

I’m thankful to live in a time where androgynes and androgynous people – androgynous women, in particular – are seeing a level of acceptance in media not seen since the 80’s (seriously, have you noticed how many women in film and television are rocking shaved/buzzed heads, minimal makeup, and plain clothes in the last decade or so?). As a result, not only have most people accepted me for what I am, they’ve ENCOURAGED me to keep exploring myself.

They love seeing me in full makeup, they tell me that they appreciate how tastefully I dress and carry myself, and they even share styling tips – offering to give me makeovers.

Even the people that weren’t accepting at first often come around when I confront them and force them to ask me questions rather than make assumptions and/or gossip with others behind my back (I’m actually quite open as long as you’re respectful; ask me anything).

Of course, one of the biggest questions I’ve been getting is the old stand-by, “are you a boy or a girl?” And in reflecting on that question, I’ve discovered that…

I really don’t put much stock in gender pronouns

I’ve never really seen myself in terms of gender. I’m far more likely to label myself as ‘human’ before I do the same with ‘man’ or ‘woman.’

Plus, there’s the aforementioned fluidity issue. There are some days where my masculinity takes dominance and others where it steps aside to let my feminitiy shine. So settling on a black-and-white man or woman label just feels disingenuous.

So, while I do respect that some non-binary people have preferred pronouns and I try to avoid misgendering wherever and whenever possible, I personally don’t get hung up on them. If you see me as a dude who just happens to be good with makeup, you’re correct. If you see me as a six-foot-four, 250-pound amazon of a woman, you’re correct. If you see me as a very pretty Lego brick, YOU. ARE. CORRECT.

Basically, I’m the closest you’ll likely ever get to seeing NiGHTS in real life (Yes, NiGHTS was meant to be gender fluid).

And seeing as how I’ve been rambling for longer than I think I ever have here on The Archive, I now turn the floor over to you. Share your coming out stories and the realizations you made as you explored your own identity so we can encourage and inspire more in the future.

The Agent on Trans-Visability, Drag, and a Horrible Misunderstanding

In the words of the photographer, my home state is primarily, “…covered bridges and drag queens.” (Side note: the model’s name is Porcia J. Chanel and she is gorgeous)
Source: American Society of Picture Professionals

So, you want to know something that’s been eating me alive for the past week or so?

I have a lot of very close friends in the transgender community. Like, A LOT of very close friends. They made up some of my most trusted confidants in college, one of them is an amazing teacher/writer, and I still try to keep them close even after graduation made us part ways. I would break myself to do anything for them if they asked me personally.

I also have close ties with the drag scene. I got started in early college doing drag for charity for the American Cancer Society (you speak to a two-time Mz. Relay winner, for the record). It then carried over into a later college acting career where my role in the dinner theatre mystery Murder at Rutherford House as the bubbly maidservant Ruby Pinkbottom was widely regarded as my best work ever. It allowed me to acknowledge the fluidity of my identity as well as a repressed feminine side of myself that, if I can be honest with you all, I feel I’ve been neglecting the last few years and really want to get back into the show.

So, considering my undying affection for these two factions of people, you can imagine how hurt I was to be told that drag shows hurt trans-visibility by delegitimizing transgender issues.

I won’t lie; when I first heard that, I had an existential crisis. I broke down crying because I cared so much about both of these aspects of myself that seemed to be at odds with each other in the eyes of those I cared for.

But, after a few days of rest and a daily regiment of herbal stress relievers and vitamin D supplements, I was able to sort out the information and I think (keyword: THINK) I understand where the confusion lies.

On a quick glance, I will grant you that the average drag show does look like a bunch of straight cis-gender dudes imitating and, by extension, mocking the trans community to someone viewing the action with no context. But thinking like this disregards the hefty number of transgender women that comprise a large section of the drag community. To demonize drag in this way is to throw many of the very same transgender folks you’re defending under the bus.

And even if there were absolutely no overlap between drag and trans, you still have to consider the number of non-binary and gender fluid people that use drag as a means of truly free self-expression – non-binary performers like the incomparable Jinkx Monsoon and gender fluid people like, you know, ME.

Drag should always be about inclusiveness regardless of how you identify yourself. To me at least, it’s about separating femininity/masculinity from gender identity and viewing it as something wholly beautiful and even artistic. That’s why there’s a big hullabaloo about whether or not cis-gender women should be allowed to perform in drag shows (I’m personally for it, even though I feel it’s a bit redundant).

And before anyone says anything, yes; I’m well aware that the queen of queens RuPaul said some rather dishearting things about transgender people claiming that the only thing that separates them from drag is, “about twenty-five thousand dollars and a good surgeon,” – a statement that totally insults the trans folks that can’t afford hormone replacement and gender reassignment surgery. But let’s be brutally honest with ourselves here; Ru is NOT a good role model for either community. She’s a shock jock that says horrible things and throws shade at everyone because she knows it will keep her in the spotlight for a little while longer and stave off the effects of being an outdated antique in the drag world. You hear me, Ru – you are the Daniel ‘Keemstar’ Keem of drag queens and you’re making the rest of us look bad by association.

So, in closing, no – drag is not, nor was it ever meant to be, a slanderous statement against trans-people and if something should happen in the future to change its meaning for the worse, I will burn my dresses, throw away my makeup, and flush my nail polish down the drain never to return. Until then, let us all take pride – not in who we are – but in who our brothers and sisters are. For we are all works of art that we have spent years crafting through the torturous trials that life uses to impede the creation of our magnum masterpiece and we need to take the time to appreciate each other’s amazing artistry.

Be proud, be fabulous, and #GodBlessTheFreaks.