Weighing Gender Alignment and Relationships

I wrote before that coming out to friends, family, and in-law family was terrifying, and I guess I mean that it’s terrifying in the anxious, stabbing feeling in the gut sort of way. Thinking about it gives me a sort of feeling like “no, wait, I didn’t mean it, I’ll dress girly again,” but it’s temporary. Once my train of thought moves on to some other trans-related track, I’m back to where I was.

I decided that really the most frightening bit is losing my relationship with my fiance (pseudonym Fergus). Fergus is straight, definitely straight, and uncomfortable with other straight-ish labels like heteroflexible, and he’s made some comments (meant to be consolation in a particular context) that almost all men are ugly. Insofar as relationships survive transition, it’s usually relationships with women rather than men that survive. Apparently there is a generalizable thing with men staying with a partner less often than women staying through big life events and negative situations (although I got this though haphazard googling, so more reading is needed). There’s also the orientation thing that cis women’s orientation is more likely to be fluid or bisexual compared to cis men’s orientation (Lisa Diamond’s “Sexual Fluidity” is my main source on this, but I’ve seen/heard of it elsewhere as well). Out of the possible orientation/trans combinations there are queer transman with straight cisman seems like one of the least likely to work out of survive.

On the other hand, there are some positive things. One of the biggest is that he has a major thing for masculine women (he has many types, and this is a major type of his). Apparently even before all of this gender thinking, I gave off a very androgynous / masculine vibe (I thought  at the time I was figuring out how to fit in with women, but maybe not, haha). Because of that, I had considered being on T just long enough to get the lower voice that would increase my ability to pass significantly (if I’m binding and in a context where people don’t already know me as female, I can usually pass until I say something and my definitely-feminine voice comes out), maybe combined with slimming down to reduce some curves, and those two things would leave a decent chunk of feminine qualities while allowing me to pass and theoretically come out and all of that. My already existing masculine qualities or habits haven’t bothered Fergus: tall height (2 inches shy of 6 foot), hairiness (not so much hairier than the typical genetic female, but I don’t shave legs, underarm, etc), and so on. Fergus and I have also talked for months about me getting top surgery to some degree, maybe to something like an A cup instead of taking the whole thing, and he’s been super ok with that. Fergus has also been very supportive and gender affirming; when I mentioned a few weeks ago that I might go for a teller job, which has strong gender norms and concern with appropriateness, he said I shouldn’t make myself dress girly again just for that. And then there’s the openness of the relationship, since Fergus and I don’t expect each other to meet 100% of our emotional or social or physical needs.

So trying to put it all together doesn’t give me much certainty about how the situation would turn out. This 3 year thing has been amazing, and I dunno, my gender dysphoria is probably just quiet enough to stuff into a mental box in the back of my mind. It’s not like I have to be girly to pass for female. Fortunately, society already has a label for mannish women: butch/dyke/etc, and I took those labels on in the past when they were what seemed to fit the most. The thing I definitely don’t want is to lose this relationship over orientation issues from transition. Fergus and I have said numerous times in the past, as a particular romantic thing “you’re not my soulmate, we’re incredibly happy with each other, but we could absolutely find other people to be happy with as well,” but I want him in particular. I feel like I could handle separation due to normal sort of irreconcilable differences, but a relationship that had worked for orientation and then doesn’t because of some trait of mine that wasn’t apparent from the start, that seems much less like something I would want to face.

I guess I’ll be pondering this over the next while. How can I know if Fergus will be able to handle the maleness? Is there a way to mitigate the impact to Fergus? Do I need to transition, or can I just continue on knowing that my gender presentation isn’t quite right?


Edit: Changed pseudonym to “Fergus”

Fear of Coming Out is Persuasive

I was having a conversation with my fiance the other day about transitioning (which is still a thing to figure out). We were talking in a somewhat hypothetical way about how we as a couple would deal with the changes transition would entail, which was especially important given that he’s straight with some wiggle room for personality. The vibe of the conversation was definitely one of “we’ll make it work,” and he and I were feeling pretty good about things, and I was feeling like transitioning was a thing I should probably plan to move forward with. Then I thought about the task of coming out to his huge family, with 70+ people on just one side of the family and fewer people but more religious and more bound by gender roles on the other side. My first thought was “oh. I don’t want to do this, maybe I’m not really trans.” The only thing that had changed was the prospect of coming out, but that fear was enough to make me question things I had spent months figuring out. That sort of reversal or push-pull of wants versus socially impacted wants has happened before then and since then, but it was interesting how stark it was in that particular example.

The fear of consequences has been a thread throughout the past 9-10 months that my gender has so strongly been on my mind. Fear of losing my child through custody issues with her mostly-absent other parent. Fear of losing my fiance through newly incompatible orientation. Fear of losing the bit of family I still have, who are very very concerned with social appropriateness, including gender appropriateness.

That fear is one reason why I find myself wishing I could be a gender chameleon. Just change my outward gender presentation as needed and pass convincingly either way. It’s not possible to a really significant degree, and I don’t know that it’s what I really want, but it would be a way to live a dual life and maintain the things I have in my life that being a transgender person puts at risk. As is, with the way I present to family/most friends versus the way I present to close friends and strangers, I suppose I have the gender chameleon thing going on to some degree already.

Someday I need to think more about how far I want to go with transition, and how much I want to be somewhere in the middle versus unambiguously masculine, separated from what has the least amount of coming out.

Thoughts on Transitioning at Work

So, I’m not out to anyone except my fiance and my best friend (who I think didn’t take the confession as seriously as I meant it, but then again, it was a little bumbled as I tried to spit it out. Normally she’s great about gender identity stuff). I still don’t know for sure what category fits best, but the longer I present masculine as my daily default, the more right that presentation feels and the less I want to take up my old feminine presentation again. I’m at least masculine of center, but it’s not certain about timing: is this a newly realized/understood static thing, or is this part of a gender fluid cycle/stage/something? Time, introspection, and recordkeeping-as-journaling will tell.

Back to topic, I’m not out but I’m presenting rather masculine, enough to sometimes pass with strangers. My workplace is a private post-secondary institution, and my masculine-of-center presentation has been there, too. So far, I’ve just preemptively mentioned being a tomboy, which is a very incomplete explanation. However, I haven’t had any issues or comments. I was careful to maintain the same formality of dress (jeans and nice button up) when transitioning from women’s clothes to men’s clothes.

So far no problems, and I live in a state and city where both sexual orientation and gender identity are protected, so theoretically it should be fine. I worry though; especially after a conversation with my boss where she confided in me that she had made a discriminatory decision not to hire or even interview a potential teacher because of the foreign-sounding name. “The students will complain about having a non-native English teacher,” she told me (not quite verbatim, but the idea is there). “They don’t come all the way from their home countries to learn English from someone who isn’t American. I wouldn’t appreciate that if I were in their position.”

That conversation is a huge issue in and of itself. It also makes me nervous about my gender presentation decision. What if students start complaining about my way of dressing and presenting? How many student (customer!) complaints would it take?

I know I’ve already been very lucky. I live in a liberal city in a liberal state with good employment protections. My fiance is incredibly supportive and has made it clear that he and his family will continue to accept me. The direction I’m considering transitioning in (ftm) seems to experience fewer stigma issues compared to the other direction (mtf) or agender.

And yet, I worry so much about the consequences. Would it affect my ability to find a job? Would my proper-to-a-fault, proper-to-the-point-of-superficiality parents accept this sort of decision, given the way they warmed up so much in my high school and college years when I gave in and begin to wear girly clothes? Would I lose my kid to my domestically-violent-but-never-enough-to-prove ex? I have a lot of worries about this, and the choice seems to come down to, simplistically, do I shove myself back in the box that didn’t fit or do I present my gender in a way that the world inevitably will find uncomfortable?

Dots and boxes

I feel kind of weird about my gender, more in phases and bursts than continuously. Occasionally I would think about it, but not in a way that would change my overall box for myself, and I usually kept the internal label of cis woman as a default. My weirdness about gender was indirect, and it never felt like loathing my body or an explicit message of “being a woman is not right, I must be a man.” I have a friend who’s trans, and she recommended that I read “Nevada” by Imogen Binnie. My friend told me that in her experience, the book had never clicked for cis friends she had recommended it to. One of the themes was dots that finally connect to spell out being trans. As trans-aware as I had been (trans-ness has always and had always been an interesting topic to me), this was a new idea. Indirect signs of gender noncomformity or trans identity? I thought about things in my life relating to gender, and I want to lay them out here. Some of them fit the idea of me being trans, and some of them fit the idea of me being gender noncomforming, and a few don’t fit neatly into boxes. I may expound on these later, but for now, getting them out is of more importance.

  1. Women have always felt other to me. When I was young, I usually had friendships with boys (or girls who fell outside the normal gender schema), and girls seemed foreign.
  2. A lot (but not all) of feminine things were an act. I remember adolescence as difficult for this reason, and I always thought it was because I never properly learned how to do the things women do, like care for long hair, wear makeup and dresses. I taught myself to do those things, but many times wearing a dress felt like crossdressing, and I usually (but not always) disliked how I looked in makeup. My family has a very strong sense of propriety, so I guess I had to learn. On the other hand, I know that as a very small child, I had a princess/pink/barbie phase. (What does this mean, and how can I incorporate this is what I feel now and have felt at other times?)
  3. I never hated my body’s femininity. I have the curves of a woman, and a voice that would give me away if I tried to pass (right now I’m so closeted, except to my partner). I don’t hate my breasts or feel distress at my genitals, although I do have some yearning to have certain parts of a male body.
  4. Left to my own devices, without concerning myself about social perception, my style of clothing and my way of presenting myself is at least androgenous. I like short hair, like either androgenous or masculine clothes (casual or business casual are both fine by me).

One thing about me is that I enjoy categories. In much of my life, I think about things in terms of categories and labels. I can handle ambiguity, and in fact I love subtlety, if I can attach variables to things in order to understand the patterns and to analyze them. With many things, this works and is successful. But for any gender identity that isn’t out and out cis, it seems to fall apart. I would feel fine leaving my gender at default/unthought of (like my partner, who is blissfully unquestioning of his gender and who is clearly male inside and out), but that doesn’t seem to be a privilege I have, so here I am, puzzling out what picture these dots make.


Edited 2/16/2016 to take some particularly personal info out. Original post 12/14/2015.

Thinking about gender

Hey all, I’m Jonathan, and as far as labels go, I haven’t figured it out yet. Male feels pretty right, but that’s a big step, yeah? Especially the social aspect of it (how often do trans men lose friends and family from transitioning? I’m not sure). So maybe I’m masculine gender fluid, maybe I’m trans masculine, maybe I’m complacent because of the consequences of being something other than a gender conforming person. Untangling socialization and internal needs is tricky.

Other stuff about me: I’m interested in tech and coding, as well as other intellectual pursuits I can take apart, analyze, and put together or present in new ways. Language is cool, I like stats and math, and reading both fiction and nonfiction is nifty.

In the future, I’m hoping to ponder more about gender and the world and what boxes I fit into, but for now, good night.