The Transsexual Flaneur

Love the body you have.

The Forever Internet and Our Digital Identities

Posted on Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Then the internet was new. In the blush of coming out, I’m sure I posted regrettable material back in 1996 when I got my AOL account.  And I had no idea about the waybackmachine. Facial recognition software was material for sci-fi novels. Now Facebook makes all but our birthdays and contact information available on the internet.

Now I’ve come to the realization the internet is forever. What I post in an instant may very well live long after my mortal body returns to the earth and air. Academic Juan Enriquez believes Andy Warhol had it wrong: In the future, everyone will have only 15 minutes of anonymity.

I recently wrote an article for Gentleman’s Gazette about digital etiquette. There I made the point that since we will probably achieve a kind of digital immortality, however tiny our slice of notoriety may be, it is best to behave like a responsible digital citizen. I stand by those words.

THe future

In the process of writing the article I became fascinated by the forever internet and my online life as a transsexual man. In 1996 I could not have known that everything on the internet will last long into my future. Now I post carefully and write only about myself.

This potential for internet immortality has specific implications for trans people. More than once in my capacity has a publisher I have been asked to remove photos, names, etc., from people who no longer want their images, names, etc., online. Happily I obliged them.

B/W Photo on division

But the reality is this: What is searchable is saveable, and what is saveable is retrievable. It may be retrieved for free or to people willing to pay. Just because I removed the photos and names doesn’t mean it’s gone from the internet. Facial recognition software can now scan photos online and store them in a proprietary database. Once there, it will be probably stay there forever. Even if I’ve removed it here on my website (or Homofactus Press), it is still there in a company’s database.

There are no takebacksies on the internet.

What this means for trans people (and anyone, really, for that matter): Be very sure you want to post your own image and your own name. If you believe you may wish to live a different life in the future, a life where you had a gender congruent past, then don’t post your photo or real name. Also don’t post images of friends, family, and especially children, without their explicit consent. Too many of us get tossed to the wilderness by once loving friends and families. Better a strategically conservative online persona than one fraught with hateful comments from now evil relatives wanting photos removed, names changed and so on.

We don’t have the luxury of an uninterrupted, blissfully peaceful future. We are no different than anyone else. Except we are, because we know our very safety can be compromised at any moment. They don’t yet know that every future is a contingent one. Stay safe and plan ahead for your own online future and safety.

Be well.

Limits and Having a Thing for the Blue Suit

Posted on Monday, September 23, 2013

Having a Thing for the Blue Suit

I have been obsessed with men’s clothing for as long as I can remember. The snazzy men’s clothing in the now defunct Montgomery Ward’s catalogues made my heart race. I recently purchased a catalogue from 1968. What with the DACRON(™) and other types of manufactured textiles combined with the horrible art direction, I should have left those memories in their nostalgic (for what, you might legitimately ask) memory holes.

But I digress.

My obsession has caused me to buy thousands upon thousands of dollars worth of clothing over the last twenty or so years. It doesn’t help that my body shape and muscle and fat distribution seemingly change faster than Michigan weather; but really, I could have held on to some things and put them in a pile for the months when I was thinner/heavier/skinnier/fatter. I did not, however, do this. While I believe I’ve pared my wardrobe down to something resembling reasonable, I have been, nonetheless, revisiting it as the weather changes from warm to cool.

I realized the other day I spend a tremendous amount of time thinking about what I will wear. This is a peculiar kind of fever, and it never occured to me start a blog about my obsession. Apparently I’ve lost my window of opportunity in which to make large sums of money taking selfies in my outfits posted with the hashtag dressedbytheinternet.

It all just seems to much. And so does dressing, particularly in the fall, when birds depart and squirrels bury their treasured cache, and soon the deciduous trees will be tall and stark, shorn of all their leaves. Much of my current wardrobe doesn’t fit. Last year I tweaked my hormone dosage and expanded outward rather like a balloon slowly being filled with air. I’m overwhelmed as to what to do next. I don’t have the energy for a complete new wardrobe nor the desire to lower my sartorial standards.

Bill Nighy

Thank god for Bill Nighy.

Where are Your Fairy Doors?

Posted on Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Who Knew Whimsy Could Arrive in Middle Age?

I’ve never been one for whimsy. So you can imagine what I might think about fairy doors, which are quite the rage here in Ann Arbor: tiny little doors placed in unexpected places representing too much indulgent sentimentality when the work is still far from over.

My town of Ypsilanti, never interested in looking like they missed an Ann Arbor trend, has begun building fairy doorsamong the mature trees of Normal Park. On a whim I decided to photograph as many of the doors as I could last week. But, and this a very important, this would be a photography exercise only.

As I wandered through the well-manicured streets of Normal Park, trying to find the right light in the dying sun, the tiny doors and tables and chairs and trinkets – so reminiscent of childhood and magic – touched me.

I realized whimsy isn’t about sentimentality but about making a place of welcome for all the vulnerable and small parts of myself, parts I prefer to forget or bury or deny.

Fairy doors are about the tiny things that bring me joy, about a hard won re/connection to playfulness and to humor.

Fairy doors, I now see, help me to welcome more of myself into this delicious life of mine.

Where are the fairy doors of your life?

What is Underneath Shame

Posted on Tuesday, September 3, 2013

More Joy

I had asked Ms. H., after reading the latest draft of my memoir, what more she might want. “I think you need more joy.”

Right. More joy.

Even as I asked her, I knew what she would say. I, too, want to write about the joys of transitioning and living as a transsexual man. But when I imagine how the words will fit on the page, how I can best describe this joy, a part of me wants to say, “Just don’t fucking transition! It’s too hard.”

Up close, there isn’t much joy. I seem to have constructed a transsexual narrative in which the whole thing is very hard and difficult and not anything I would ever recommend to anyone. Why did you do this then? is the next question. Because I needed and wanted to. I still want to, every day I rub the testosterone into my skin, I still want to.

black and white photo of leaves close up

Internalized Transphobia = Shame

This wanting, though, doesn’t have joy. I realized after much deliberation – having a mood, actually – I possess a pervasive and all-consuming sense of internalized transphobia.

That’s just a fancy way of saying I am ashamed of my body. If shame says there is something wrong with me, then I have been a lifelong devotee of self-remorse and personal contempt. I was ashamed of my body as a female, despised menstruation and could not wait to become a man. As a man, and let’s be honest, I’m ashamed I don’t have a penis. (Quiet as it’s kept, I’d sign up for a penis in a do-over type situation, as I long as I could retain my current consciousness.

Memoirist as Archeologist and What is Underneath

The words I’ve written to date I’ve carried around with me for years. Now they are out, on the page, free. The excavation begins.

I’ve avoided stating in public I’m ashamed of my body. Those stupid, stupid live and internet trolls will say, “well then why did you transition?” As if body shame is somehow reserved for transsexuals; as if  transsexuals must never express fear or confusion or regret even as we become who we’ve always wanted to be. I did not transition to continue to live in isolation, living a lie.

The shame, even as I write these words, feels shallower than what is underneath (funny that!). As a self-respecting, angry and politically aware transsexual, I struggle to hammer through the shame to find the vein of joy.

Joy is for hippie losers! If I express my joy, what will happen to my shame? If I let go of my shame, will I have to live in the present, now and here, in this body?

This body. This body has worked so very hard to protect me, to heal me, to save me from myself. This body  has done everything I’ve asked it and more. This body – my body – loves me.

Perhaps I can return the feeling and accept the joy underneath the shame.

Perhaps I can share this joy. Surely doing so will be the most terrifying and rewarding work of my life.