Autumn Interview #6, January 2017

“I am doing well, wrapping up school and going on with another phase of my life. Now I have time to start voice training and therapy. I regret putting it off because the more you can project your gender identity, the less stressful life is and the more comfortable you are. You are just in synch. For most people their sex aligns with their gender in every way, but if you have gender dysphoria life doesn’t make sense and you feel like a square peg in a round hole.

I also want to get going more with electrolysis. I want to do something different with my hair; I am in the mood for a change. I am trying to refine my look. I have also lost weight so I feel like I am getting a more feminine appearance.

I had an interview yesterday for an internship. It was going great until they introduced me to the president of the company, who said, ‘well, we don’t have any positions now, but we are growing.’ That was difficult. But we have a career services person at school and the faculty is helpful. I have really connected with a couple of the faculty members so it has definitely been a positive climate at our school, not competitive. In the meantime, I am still doing research for a professor at my school, so I can keep things status quo during the summer after I graduate.

I am looking for non-profit positions in urban planning or research, and consulting jobs related to housing, but I am trying to keep an open mind. I am looking in Philadelphia, Boston, and Chicago.

In terms of dating, I have been casually dating but not really seeing anyone regularly. I use OkCupid or Tinder but make sure people are aware that I am transgender. It is definitely dangerous though, Craigslist especially. There have been cases in the news where a partner learns after the fact that they are with someone who is transgender and they get really pissed and it can result in murder. My online dating has mostly been a positive experience. It is a process of exploring myself and getting to know myself better. I feel like there is a spectrum in terms of whom I would like to date, and I am trying to find out where I am on that spectrum.

I am pretty happy with my physical changes, but I still internalize transphobia. Feeling like you are weird and strange. Internal voices saying you are a freak, and that you are not who you say you are. That is definitely common to the LGBT community. I still struggle sometimes. Sometimes I will feel very insecure if I am just out, like when I am shopping for clothes or getting coffee. I feel insecure that anyone attending to me will find me distasteful or repugnant. Occasionally I do have trouble finding female body language.

Is there anything I miss about being male? There is the male privilege, such as higher income. There are definitely advantages to being male. Subconscious, ingrained practices that favor men. I don’t miss my old identity but I do feel more frustrated with society. I don’t have any personal regrets about decisions I have made; I don’t think I am trading one set of burdens for another. I feel that on the whole I have made a huge gain and have benefitted immensely. I no longer feel like I have to adhere to male sexual stereotypes, but the burden of sexism has come to the fore.

My biggest struggle living as a woman has been in the area of romance. There are men who want to hit on you or take advantage of you. I think I am harassed both because I am a woman and transgender. I’ll be walking around and there will be a group of guys and they’ll say, ‘nice dress’ or ‘what’s your name’ and they know I am obviously transgender. There is a power dynamic that I don’t think would be there if I was a transgender male. On the whole I think it is easier for transgender men. They get facial hair; it is much easier to pass. But I think there is more under-the-clothes struggle for transgender men. I think there is a built-in sexual injustice.

You ask what changes could be made to traditional society that could make it more accepting of the trans community. Well, there is the public role and then there is the social role. We need to get more and more role models. Not just in media but in local communities too. Whether it’s neighborhood associations, clergy, or business owners, we need to get more representation on a local level. I think when you see people face to face and are in the same room it makes a huge difference. And we need more positive allies and support and understanding and validation. Because even in the LGBT community, a lot of people don’t recognize the ‘T’ in that. I had a gay faculty member say to me, ‘this trans community is nothing but a burden to us.’ He’s older, in his fifties I’d say, so its generational. I think the biggest difference I’ve seen is generational or religious aspects. I have heard older people say things like, ‘yeah, its great that you can be who you are, but why do you need to make an issue of the bathrooms?’

I hate the term, ‘microaggression,’ but it exists. There is general cluelessness, just holes in people’s understanding. Up to a certain point its understandable considering where we have been as a society, but I feel like people have blind spots too. Everyone wants to think they are a great person, an understanding person. Nobody wants to be called a bigot. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who thinks they are a bigot.

A lot of people are still extremely in the closet. They don’t even go out. Even when there is a support group for example, there are few people who are my age. A lot of people, when they get to the point where they can pass, no longer participate in the support groups. A lot of times people don’t want to think of themselves as transgender, they want to think of themselves as just like everybody else.

How do I handle it when people ask inappropriate questions? It depends on my mood that day. It’s always uncomfortable. It’s always frustrating. If I am in a good mood it will just wack me out of nowhere and I will be so surprised I don’t really have a reaction, but if I am in a bad mood, then I am more assertive and I speak my mind.

Has my relationship with my family improved? Not really. But my dad is coming to my graduation. I feel closer to my dad than to the rest of my family. I haven’t spoken to my mom in 2 ½ years. It’s not just how she’s treating me since I came out. She is very mentally ill. Not a healthy influence in my life. I don’t really talk to my siblings. I never had a good relationship with them. I don’t want to pin anything on being transgender. But the relationships I have formed since I came out have been much healthier. I feel like having people accept me since I came out makes me feel like an equal, a peer of them.”