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Trans 101 (for Trans People)

  1. You are a person. You are worthy of respect. You deserve to be treated with the same dignity as anyone else. There is nothing inherently wrong with your gender. You are not broken, you are not disgusting, you do not deserve to be hurt.
  2. You’ve been brought up and live in a world that’s designed to erase and demonize your existence, you’ve probably internalized a lot of that- and that’s not your fault. But it can be hard to deal with. But you aren’t alone in dealing with it. And sometimes you have to buy into it to be able to handle it (trigger warning: transphobic violence). And that’s okay.
  3. Your gender is no more or less than anyone else’s. Your history doesn’t make you “not really” or “less” your gender than someone with a cis history, it just makes you a person of your gender with a different history.
  4. You do not deserve to be held to higher standards than cis people. You do not have to “prove” your gender by forcing yourself into societal roles that may not fit. You are not “failing” anyone by fitting into societal roles that are comfortable. It is not your job to break down the binary/patriarchy/or anything else. If you want to, go for it, but you have no obligation to do anything for cis people just because you are trans.
  5. Being yourself does not hurt trans rights (so long as you aren’t trying to do so while stopping others from being who they are) and is not a reason why people don’t have to treat you with respect. There is nothing wrong with being a feminine man or masculine woman, or being a person who’s comfortable in their body, or being a person who doesn’t transition all the way, or being out about having a non-binary or genderqueer gender. You have not “failed” anyone by doing this, you are not “less” of your gender than someone else. Being who you are is not a valid argument for why people can’t treat you as who you truly are.
  6. No one else has the right to say your body needs to be changed. It only does if you need to change it. Or if you want to change it, that’s valid, too. Your body does not make you “less” your gender. It doesn’t make you “not really” your gender. It doesn’t mean you’re trapped in someone else’s body. You do not have to fix your body to “become” your gender- you already are your gender. All you need to do is what you need to do to be comfortable in your body. And if that includes reclaiming your right to label your own body, you are allowed to do that.
  7. You have just as much of a right to privacy as anyone else. You do not need to tell anyone about your body, your medical history, or anything else. Whether or not your body needs to be changed for you to be comfortable, you do not have to change it to deserve to be treated as who you are. You do not owe anyone intimate details about your personal life before you can be treated as who you are.
  8. You have no obligation to educate anyone. This includes trans people, but is most important with cis people. You are not a walking encyclopedia of transgender and/or transsexual information, you are a person. You do not have to answer every question any cis person comes up with, you do not have to represent trans people as a whole, (see 7) you do not have to bare the most personal and vulnerable parts of your soul to other people on demand.
  9. Not educating people does not “hurt” trans rights. NEVER let anyone try to guilt you into educating people or doing something you don’t want to do by insisting that doing otherwise will “destroy trans rights/acceptance/whatever”. Trying to force trans people to become walking information desks or to put themselves in dangerous situations regardless of whether or not you’re even up for dealing with this destroys trans rights and shows a great deal of intolerance. Asserting that you don’t have to tell anyone anything you don’t want to? That really doesn’t.
  10. If you do want to educate people, you are allowed to set limits and boundaries. You are allowed to say that you won’t talk about certain issues, or that you will only talk about them on your terms. You are allowed to decide which people you will talk to about which issues. You are allowed to change these boundaries if you become uncomfortable educating people you were previously willing to educate. You are not obligated to educate anyone just because you educated someone else.
  11. You deserve to take care of yourself- whatever that means. You deserve to be comfortable and safe. You deserve not to be in dangerous situations. If you can’t handle something alone, you deserve to ask for- and get- help or, if you can, take a break from it until you can handle it. Or just stop doing it all together, that’s okay. Taking care of yourself does not make you weak, it does not make you an attention-grabber or overdramatic, it does not make you “less” your gender, it does not mean you betray other trans people by not being a full-time (or even part-time) activist. You’re human, you have limits, and that’s okay.
  12. You deserve to have your boundaries respected. Any boundaries- how and where people can touch you, what information you give to who and when, what places you feel comfortable going or who you feel comfortable going with, what people can tell others about you.
  13. You deserve to have the words you are and aren’t comfortable being referred to as respected. You deserve to have the proper pronouns used (and, if there are times when it’s unsafe for that to happen, you deserve to have your safety maintained by those around you), you deserve to be called the proper name, you deserve to have the words you want used to describe your body used, you deserve not to be called by any label, pronoun, word, or name that you don’t want to be called.
  14. If you’re asking for something that you need to feel respected, comfortable, and safe- you are not asking for too much. Your identity is not “too complicated”. Your needs are not less important than anyone elses’.
  15. You are a person. You are worthy of respect. You deserve to be treated with the same dignity as anyone else. There is nothing inherently wrong with your gender. You are not broken, you are not disgusting, you do not deserve to be hurt.

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How To Be Happily Trans – Part 1

The transgender community is not known as a joyful one. Most discussions about us talk about depression and suicide attempts, about violence against us and how crappy it is to be transgender.

Happiness is seen as something you manage to achieve despite being trans. A sign of great strength against immeasurable struggle.

Being Happily Trans is one of the most radical things you can do.

What I’m going to share with you are techniques that have worked for me, and that I know have worked for countless other people.  They’re completely free and most people can do them. I’ll write more on this in the future, but this is the basics to start out with.

This is a guide for people, like me, who felt totally hopeless- to show how to find joy in life.

Also, I want to make this really really clear: these tools? They are not about being perfect or being happy 100% of the time.  Everyone feels sad and angry and afraid.  Those emotions are natural, human, and have a purpose.  This is about maximizing the amount of time you feel happy, and reducing the impact of negative experiences.

The first step is the most radical and, in my experience, the most difficult one for many people.  It goes against what most of us have been taught and it can shine a light on old wounds.  It took me over a year to come to terms with this first step, so be patient with yourself if you struggle with it as well

Reclaim Your Power Over Your Own Life

If you’re anything like me, you spend time feeling like a victim of circumstance. This is especially true for us trans folk, because we have so much power taken away from us.  I can’t go a single day without a reminder that I don’t fit into this world– it’s easy to feel powerless.  I’ve personally had people who tried to make me feel that way, too.

For most of my life, I felt trapped and hopeless. Some days I wondered if I was cursed! I know exactly how hard this step is.

I’ve seen many people resist this step, and as I said I had a lot of trouble with it as well. There is so much inequality and injustice in the world- what do you mean “reclaim my power”? Isn’t this just victim blaming? Just a bunch of privileged mumbo-jumbo from out of touch bigots?

Reclaiming your power is about radical respect- and taking responsibility.

One of the biggest parts of reclaiming your power is realizing that you can’t control anyone else. You can’t force them to do or not do anything.  It also means taking responsibility on a major level, realizing that you can find ways to change your situation- no matter how dire it seems.

I’m a survivor of abuse and I’ve helped people to escape situations where their abuser literally would not allow them to have money and threatened to kill them. I am deeply aware of some of the most powerless situations a person can be in.

It won’t be easy, but you have the power to make your life better.

Realize It Isn’t Your Business What Others Think Of You

This step is one of the hardest ones for transgender people.  Our entire community focuses heavily on what other people think of us!

This is also where I remind you that these tools aren’t about being perfect 100% of the time.  It’s the one that is the most difficult, especially for a non-binary person.

Reacting every time someone misgendered me was devastating.

It made it difficult for me to leave the house, I couldn’t live like that- and there was no solution.  Despite my every effort, most people are conditioned to assign a gender no matter how androgynous you are.

There are very few, if any, parts of this world that I can walk into a room and have everyone know that my pronouns are they/them and my kids call me daddy and I’m not a woman and I’m not a man.  Maybe, if I took testosterone, I could pass as a man- but that wouldn’t be any better.

I spent years trying desperately to change my appearance. Different hairstyles, different outfits, makeup, and more. I did exercises specifically to alter my body shape. It was unhealthy both mentally and physically, I couldn’t survive like that.

Learning not to be bothered by strangers’ misgendering me had a tremendous impact on my well-being.

As we covered in step 1: You can’t control anyone else. Not everyone is ever able to truly pass. You shouldn’t have to contort yourself into society’s boxes just to have peace of mind!

It isn’t easy to stop caring what other people think, but it is possible.

You can’t make anyone like you. You also deserve to be happy and respected.

An important note about safety!

Obviously, not everyone lives in a safe area. It’s still dangerous to be openly trans in too many places.  As I’ve said: this isn’t about changing every moment of your life, it’s about giving you the tools to use whenever possible.

Find Role Models and Support

While some people are able to stand alone, most of us need others around us.  Having a place that you can be accepted as who you are and be supported is very important.  Even if the only place you can have that is an anonymous web forum, it’s certainly better than nothing.

Role models are also really important.

It’s so much easier to believe that it’s possible to make a better life when you have an example of someone who has done so. We now live in an age where Wikipedia has lists of people who identify as Transgender and Non-Binary.

Don’t limit yourself, either. There’s nothing wrong with having cisgender role models.  Reading the biographies of people you admire and seeing the challenges they’ve overcome can help inspire you and bring you strength when you reach roadblocks.

It’s absolutely possible for you to find happiness.

I’ll be continuing this series next month to help you find out how!

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Transgender Day of Remembrance: Then & Now

Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  The day that we remember and honor the too many lives lost to transphobic violence.

Officially, this day remembers those who were murdered, but in my heart I include those who lost their lives to suicide.

The list on the official Transgender Day of Remembrance site now feels endless. They have put together statistics going back to 1970, and it seems like the list just gets longer and longer every single year.

There may be some truth to that. As more people are aware of us, there’s more scrutiny. There are also more of us coming out. While I can’t find documented evidence of it, many of the support workers I know reported that after same sex marriage became legalized, there was a spike in LGBT homelessness.

Bigoted parents were enraged by the ruling, and their poor, naive children felt safe to come out.

Progress is too often met with backlash.

The reality, though, is that we’re also shining a light on it now.  So many people who’ve lost their lives and were ignored, buried in graves with their dead name, we’re now able to recognize and honor for who they truly were.

I want to talk, for a moment, about one of my first TDORs.  It wasn’t the first, I’d come out years before, but it was the one that sticks in my memory.  I was a Freshman in college.  I spent TDOR single-handedly hanging up flyers informing people about it, because our LGB”T” center refused to acknowledge it.

The school was “Vigiled out”. That was their exact words, burnt into my skull.

TDOR happens every year. You can plan around it. They could have held space for it, ensured that the school would be ready to honor us.

One of my friends there was a transgender woman who the center was aware of, but who didn’t feel safe to be out. Instead of seeing that and being horrified at how badly they failed, the center seemed happy not to have another uppity trans person to deal with.

One of the people on the list, at the time, was a toddler. A 17 month year old who was beaten to death for “acting like a girl”.

This was a large part of my motivation behind writing the Trans 101 for Trans People, which has touched tens of thousands of lives.  While I’m grateful that I wrote it, it tastes like ashes in my mouth that I ever had to.

It breaks my heart that, 8 years later, it is as necessary as ever.

To my fellow trans people:  I love you.

You are so wonderful, and I’m so happy to be in a community with you.

We can create a world that’s safe for us, it’s what we deserve.  We can do this.  We are doing this. So many people care about you and are working to make your life better, one that you deserve.

It isn’t enough.  It’s the best we can do, though, and we’ll keep working until it is enough.

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Banging on Death’s Door [content warning: suicide/self harm]

Important: This post discusses suicide and suicidal thoughts.  While I’d love to have you read it, your health comes first. If you aren’t in a safe place to read this, please do not proceed.

Take care of yourself.

Trans LifeLine:

International Suicide Resources:

Continue reading Banging on Death’s Door [content warning: suicide/self harm]

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A Casual Reminder That I Don’t Really Exist

I fill out a ridiculous number of surveys and quizzes. I find them fun, some are educational, sometimes for friends or acquaintances that I want to help succeed. Too often, I come across that horrible choice:

Are you Male or Female? (pick one)

The one that non-binary people everywhere know too well. That casual, every day reminder that we don’t really exist. Our opinions are not welcome. That you can include dozens of options for job and income level and country but adding a measly little “other/prefer not to say” to gender is just too much.

I try not to dwell on it. I have too much I want to do with my life to let other peoples’ ignorance hold me back. I wasted too much time drowning in social dysphoria.

The world doesn’t truly have a place for me. I have to carve it out.

Continue reading A Casual Reminder That I Don’t Really Exist

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A Dream of an All-Trans Figure Drawing Class

In the past, I’ve taken figure drawing classes. Basically, we draw nude models. It should come as no surprise that the models I’ve seen have always been cisgender. I imagine some trans people have been figure drawing models, but it isn’t common.

I really want to have a trans figure drawing class.

Trans people exclusively. Trans models of all genders and any stage of medical treatment and non-treatment. For each model, give all the artists a paper with what kind of body the model has (self determined), what pronouns to use, what gender the model is, and (if the model’s okay with it) any medical transition information. Try my best to pay the models more than is usual for this, try to make sure that any who really need the money are definitely comfortable with doing it, even if that means having parts covered up.

Major sliding scale, hopefully also getting donations so that for people who can’t afford anything and want to be there anyways I can give them all the materials. Do my best to make sure it’s in a place that’s completely accessible and to make sure that anyone who has issues with standing up for long periods of time (model or student) or whatever else is accommodated.

I don’t know if it’ll ever happen. But I would really like to have a place for trans art students to be able to learn to draw the body without having to deal with cissexism. And I would also really, really, really like to have a place where ideas about the body are thrown out the door to help with detangling every lie we’ve been fed about the body.

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Pagans: Stop Treating Trans People as ~Mythical~

I first wrote about this 7 years ago, and unfortunately it is just as relevant as ever.

I have seen too many pagans fetishize transgender people as some ultra spiritual unicorns. While it’s less common, too many refer to us as a “sacred third gender”. Now, I am not talking about indigenous cultures’ beliefs and their descriptions of other genders in those cultures.

No, I’m talking about Westerners in predominantly Christian cultures. I’m talking about reconstructionist religions, which attempt to piece together pre-Christian beliefs and worship. Something that, you know, Christians generally went to great lengths to destroy & distort all evidence of. A lot of the writings are outsider’s versions of events.

Most of the US, Canada & Europe aren’t incredibly trans friendly. Some are better than others, definitely, but they aren’t all super great harbors of trans awareness. So within a culture that already demonizes, objectifies, fetishizes, and otherwise dehumanizes trans people- seeing people treat us as some super special mystical ultra-intune-with-the-divine people is pretty disconcerting.

Putting people who aren’t even seen as people onto a pedestal is not a step in the right direction. It’s just a fluffier version of saying “you aren’t a person, you aren’t real”.

One problem with this is that, simply put, most trans people aren’t pagan. Plenty of trans people are atheist or Christian or Jewish or Muslim or Buddhist or any other religion. It is really screwed up to say that trans people are just deeply in-tuned with a religion they aren’t even part of and may actively reject.

Then there’s the issue that paganism is very cis-centric. Not all of it, but quite a bit is based on the binary- God and Goddess, masculine and feminine, etc- in a very cisnormative way. All queer people can struggle to find their place here, transgender people even moreso.  To claim that Transgender people are “more divine” when your divinity actively excludes us? That’s a problem.

If this is something you want to read further about, I strongly advise you read Sophia Burns’s post on the subject.

Is this something that you’ve come across? How have you handled it?

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In Defense of “Phases”

“It’s just a phase” is a common way to deny queer identities, and many queer people are quick to shut it down by pointing out that it is not just a phase. This is who we are, who we always have been, who we always will be.

Which is great!

…until it isn’t.

Identity is complicated and our understanding of ourselves can change over time. I have seen at least as many queer and trans people whose identity has evolved over the years as people whose identity has stayed rigid. There are many people whose current identity is a “phase” in the self-discovery process, who will realize that something else is a more fitting label after a few years.

It’s not always obvious whether this will happen. Often, in the moment, they use the label because it feels so right. In that moment, that is who they are and they will defend it as strongly as anyone else.

Continue reading In Defense of “Phases”

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Is This Okay?

One thing that you’ll see a lot of in trans groups and forums is, unsurprisingly, questioning. “Who am I? What am I? What do I like?”.

Most trans people spend the first part of their lives wearing a mask, trying to be something they aren’t, that when they finally start realizing who they are– it means questioning every single part of themselves.  Do they honestly like sewing, or were they forced to like sewing? Do they honestly dislike jazz, or were they never allowed to like it?

It’s an exhilarating, scary, overwhelming, and above all vulnerable time for most people.

Continue reading Is This Okay?

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My Fellow Trans People: I Love You.

I love you.

Yes, you.

You, who are hiding in the closet and have never breathed the word “transgender” for fear of being outted.

You, who are still questioning and have no idea what gender even is anymore much less who you are.

You, who wears rainbows in your hair and transgender pins and struts through the streets daring people to say something.

You, who transitioned long ago and just want to have a quiet life.

You, who grimaces every time a white trans person says something racist.

You, who feel outcast by all communities.

You, who thought you were one thing and have realized you’re something else and are terrified of having to come out again.

You, who feel unloveable, who feel worthless, who feel disgusting, who feel ugly.

Continue reading My Fellow Trans People: I Love You.

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Where Have You Been?

Heya, why don’t you pull up a chair, grab a drink, let’s have a chat.

It’s been awhile, hasn’t it? The long defunct Non-Op site came down back in ’13, and Binary Subverter hadn’t been updated since ’14. I haven’t spent as much time in the community as I used to. I have my friends, I had a few groups (particularly seahorse dad groups), but was much more insular compared to how involved I used to be.

You may be wondering what happened. I dropped off the grid a few times.

Continue reading Where Have You Been?