The theory of sex, gender, life and everything.

If you’ve caught on to the Douglas Adams reference in the title, maybe you’ll be disappointed: it’s not 42. What am I talking about? Well, think of this as an informative post that only relates to me in the sense that I’ve had so many discussions and arguments on the subject that my brain ‘sploded many times over. I’ve taken the time to digest all these interactions with other people I’ve spoken to as well as what I’ve read on the almighty Internet and I’ve decided to contribute to the debate. Poorly, maybe, I dunno, you be the judge of that.

So what am I blabbing on about? Variations on human life. Diversity and individuality. See, part of the problem when we talk to the uninitiated about transsexuality or transgenderism is that most people are happily stuck in their binary view of people, and they sometimes don’t expect, or have no desire, to have their comprehension ripped open. But here I’ll try to do that in a concise, clear manner. Yeah I know, you can laugh about my use of “concise” because I’m always pretty far from that mark 😛 … So in that vein, I need to talk about what people generally see the world as, in terms of sex and gender, and then we’ll build from there, more or less from the point of view of someone that’s being educated (hey, maybe that’s you, right?).

We start in our quest to find the answer with a simple truth: the world is binary. There are men, there are women. Men like women, they act like men, they think like men, they look like men. They’re strong and powerful and all that jazz. Think of the most manly man you can think of, that’s the “left” extreme of the binary scale. Women, on the other hand, like men, they act like women, they think like women, they look like women. They’re somewhat vulnerable, smaller, but they got curves, where men have muscles.

From this binary standpoint (the one so many people want to hold, the one that causes so much discrimination), we add just a single thing: sexual attraction can vary. Because, you know, even if some religious fanatics won’t accept it, some men like men and some women like women. But this means that on top of our “man <-> woman” scale above, we need to add on another layer: Sexual Orientation.

But, you ask, what about bisexual people? They’re not heterosexual, they’re not homosexual…So that means that the sexual orientation scale isn’t binary, it’s not a left or right kind of thing: it’s actually an analog scale where people can place themselves anywhere on it, or, in some cases, not even be on it at all (asexuality is a reality after all).

Some people “act like men” and others “act like women” though, and of both sexes. From metrosexuals to lumbersexuals to the most flamboyant gay you’ve ever met, those are different variations of Gender Expression. A lesbian butch can catcall someone on the street with her legs spread wide and wink at you like an old pervert, well that’s a male gender expression. Gender Expression and Sexual Orientation are two completely separate, individual scales. Because here’s the thing: you can be a man that is 100% attracted to women but also 100% acting like a woman (ok rare are the flamboyant heterosexuals but they do exist). And I’ve met plenty of women that “acted like men”, drinking beer whilst working on their car in the garage, and yet they’re not attracted to women at all. They’re not lesbians, they’re just… manly women.  So our third scale is here. Oh, are we so far from being done my friends.

Now we come into the territory that affects me the most: Gender Identity. While Gender Expression is about the outwardly behavior of a person or how they act, Gender Identity is how they feel; who they are. Saying “I am a woman” is talking about my own gender identity and it has nothing to do, really, with the other scales that I’ve presented above. I mean, a transgender woman could absolutely be a manly butch lesbian transgender. It’s not about orientation, attraction, it’s not about expression (aka “femininity vs masculinity”). It’s purely about how the brain, the self, identifies itself.

So up to now I’ve covered Sexual Orientation, Gender Expression and Gender Identity as “analog” scales that have variations. I probably should have started with Sex, aka the physical attributes of a person, their primary and secondary sexual characteristics. But even sex itself isn’t binary. Intersex people make up those variations in this scale. Sex is definitely the scale that generally doesn’t change, or if it does, it does so only once. Maybe that wouldn’t be true if we had technology to switch sexes every day, but for now, expensive, painful and complex surgeries make it, generally, a one-way trip.

But wait, there’s more! Here’s an added bonus to Sexual Orientation: sometimes, it’s different to Romantic/Affective Attraction. For example: I’m romantically attracted to women only. While one may say, “well you’re a lesbian then”… well not quite: I’ve slept with men before and may do it again – but I don’t have any romantic desires for men. I don’t want to date men, I just occasionally feel like sleeping with one. So what does that make me? Bisexual/homoaffective, basically.

Alright. So we have, what, 5 scales now? Sex, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Sexual Orientation and Romantic Attraction. Now, ignoring the current physical limitations on changing sexes, all of these scales are not only analog in that anyone can be on any point of each of that scale, they’re also completely separate (being transgender doesn’t make you switch sexual or romantic affection for instance), and for some individuals, they actually vary from day to day, from hour to hour. I’ve mentioned Z plenty of times in the past, so here’s another tidbit on her: she’s gender variant. Or genderfluid. Or whatever name you want to give it. One morning she’ll wake up all manly, put on her big black sneakers, cargo jeans and a hoodie, exiting da house with a “fuck y’all, all o y’all”, and the next day she’ll put on her heels, her nicest bra and shirt, some sexy skinny jeans and she’ll be the cutest person I’ve ever met. This true for the other scales – the possibility of switching from one place in the scale to another. In Z’s case (and for most people), gender identity and gender expression go mostly hand in hand. It would simply look weird for her to be all nicely dressed as a woman but act like she’s straight outta the ghetto, know what I mean?

Whew! Alright we’ll almost to the end now. But I started this article stating the “binary” view of the majority of humans on this planet, where does that come in to the above scales? Well, the fact of the matter is, it’s a combination of all of them. In a binary world, all of the different scales line up perfectly, and the manliest of men is just on the male spectrum of all the scales: sexually a man (it’s gots a peeeeeenisssss in its pocketses), knows he’s a man (identity), acts like a man (expression), loves women (attraction) and has sex with them (orientation). And vice versa for women. But that’s so… normal. The one thing that I learned since my realization moment, is that life is not made up of binaries. The above “perfect man” doesn’t exist, nor does the perfect woman. We’re all variations on the same theme, we’re a matrix (or if you want to geek out, a tesseract) of so many different scales, it’s perfectly pointless to try to take anyone and put them in a box: nobody fits in only one. Because beyond the scales of sex and gender, you have 42 hundred others like the color of your hair to whether you love Mozart to your body weight and the tone of your skin.

Humanity is Variety, and anyone who denies that is simply blind to the beauty that is that variety. We are the spice of life.

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Let’s talk about chasers!

One touchy subject when it comes to dating and meeting people in the trans world is individuals generally referred to as “chasers”. A chaser is someone that has a special relationship with trans people : they’re sexually attracted to them specifically (and sometimes exclusively), they are fascinated by them, or they have a weird fetish about them. This last one is probably either a cause or a result of the so called “shemale” or “tranny” porn that can be found on the Internet. Where the fascination lies in a “chick with a dick” is a mystery to me, my main theory being that it may be a hidden gay tendency in men or heterosexual tendency in those who proclaim to be lesbians.

I’ve had both sexes come after me for being trans, in one occasion letting myself be swooned because I wanted to experiment with a man. In talking with new people I’ve realized that I can spot the chasers because they will steer the conversation into subjects where I could either come out or lie to their face, things like kids, previous relationships or even periods.

What saddens me here is that I simply don’t want to be the target of a fantasy or a fetish and I’m not there to help someone figure out their sexuality, hidden or otherwise. I don’t want to be with someone, romantically or sexually, because of who and what I am. I want to be seen, accepted, taken as a woman and a person, simply. I want the fact that I’m trans to be a side note, on the same level that I’m a gamer or my hair is brown.

Maybe I’m delusional in this, and it’s a pipe dream until I at least get my surgery. But I really hope that when I’m ready to date again, I’ll find someone that just accepts me. ME, not my status.

What do you guys think about being the “target” of a chaser? Would that be flattering or disgusting?

The different levels of stealth and why I’m not sure

Keeping in mind that I’m no expert on the subject, I’d like to touch upon what is commonly referred to in the trans universe as “stealth”. Being stealth means not divulging your trans status to at least part of the people you meet. But there are different levels of stealth in life.

First, there’s the ones that are not stealth at all: the out and proud. There can be many reasons to be OaP, from wanting to advance popular acceptance of the trans world, wearing clear identifiers and writing it proudly because you want people to know (think Laverne Cox, who does TV appearances and plays the role of a trans woman on a show), to simply not having the choice because the body or the voice doesn’t leave room for interpretation (think Michelle Blanc). Being OaP serves its purpose in the world, but most trans people will only remain in this state of mind during their transition, moving on to the other stage once they are done.

This second level of stealth is partial. Your family, close friends and partners are people you trust with the information, hoping they won’t tell everyone around them. But at work, with acquaintances, going out shopping, those are times and places where it’s simply not necessary or desired to spew it out at the first occasion. This is where most trans are in their lives especially after their name and genders are changed on official documents (and, in most cases, after surgery). Partial stealth can even extend to sexual partners in some cases, assuming it’s after surgery, though in my opinion that’s going a bit far. It implies some form of hiding the truth or simply lying when talking about one’s past. For example, when I talk about the fact that I’m a parent and there is another mother in the picture, how do I answer questions about who the father is? Saying it’s a donor is simply lying. This is generally where I fail to maintain stealth status with someone.

The other extreme is deep stealth, or full stealth. It means cutting ties with all your current life, moving to a different city, and inventing yourself a past from scratch (based on your actual past, of course). From what I’ve seen, deep stealth is sometimes the only way to escape an abusive or dangerous environment, to start off with a clean slate. Since it often means a complete break from the family, it’s probably often done when there is no support from them at all, or even complete rejection. Of course, even deep stealth still has exceptions: medical professionals and the pharmacy where you get your hormones would have to know at least something of your situation.

So where to I fit in in all of this? I’m not sure yet. At the moment, I’m testing the waters, meeting new people and not coming out to them, being in high level interaction situations and sticking to conversations that don’t involve sensitive subjects. But of course, all my friends and colleagues know who I am, my family is supportive and I have no reason to change any of this. The question remains, would I stay out and proud after my transition? Do I want to spread my knowledge and opinions, help acceptance, or do I just want to stay stealth most of the time except with close friends and relatives? I can’t really know my feelings on the subject until after I’m done. In the meantime, I’ve avoided support groups and trans organizations simply because I don’t belong in them.

The “M” Word

So, this is out to all the MtFs out there that have kids and an SO (or ex-SO) to contend with… How did your struggle with The M Word go? I’m talking about “their” word… Mommy.

As far as I’ve gathered from different forums, books and internet blogs, it’s fairly rare that a trans woman will be “allowed” to take the M word for themselves. My own experience is that my ex-wife utterly refused for me to take that word. I didn’t suffer for 9 months and breastfeed my child, I don’t have the same blood bond, I don’t have a right to be called mommy. At first I told her “fine, I’ll find another word out of respect for you” and used Maddie (mommy+daddy combination). But now, I realize that this has become an issue. From my daughter’s perspective, she’s the only kid who has “a maddie” (mind you it’s not a name, it’s a qualifier. She has her mommy, her daddy and her maddy now that my ex has a boyfriend) and I think that puts confusion in her mind as to what I am exactly.

And from my perspective, it’s hard to deal with the “What’s a Maddie???” question. Or explain why my own 4-year-old says things like “she’s not my mommy she’s my maddy” when everyone else can perfectly see that I’m a woman and there’s no question in THEIR minds that I’m the mother. Who else would I be?

Right now I’m fighting a bit with my ex to try to get her to accept that saying “that’s my word and you can’t take it” is pretty much TERF territory, and I want to know if any of you have had this same issue, this same battle, and how you dealt with it.

T: The Beast

Last week on the radio I was listening to this woman who was talking about her book. I can’t recall the book’s name but it was about gender roles of young women and men, especially at school. There was this indication that within society it was expected of men to behave as they did, to pursue women. That peer pressure could push some men into being agressive and dominant. Perhaps that’s partially true, but no genetic woman or man could ever truly understand the real reason.

In my unique position, from both the perspective of someone who never really had that much pressure to be in a “manly” role, especially not a dominant one, as well as of someone who went from full testosterone levels to none in a week flat, I can tell you that the main reason for men wanting to dominate and fuck woman is mostly biological. It’s The Beast: Testosterone. 

T is a monster, deep within men, that is so powerful it can overpower the smartest of them. When I started taking my hormones (I mention it in my Hormones and Roommates post), I felt a liberation, a complete freedom from the pressure that came deep within me. For the first time in my life, I could look at other women, however attractive they were, and not feel the horrifying need to want to throw them in a bed and fuck them. You may think I’m exagerating, but I think one of the reasons our society has not remained a male-driven primal anarchy is probably because men have the ability within them to contain this beast. Most men, that is.

Of course, this isn’t to say that Estrogen isn’t a powerful hormone and that I’m now devoid of any desires – far from it. Most MtF transsexuals will tell you that hormones have changed the way the feel desire, and I’ll do the same. From this beast of a pressure that pushed me towards wanting other women, came a deep desire to be wanted – the obvious and natural oposite, which I guess explains a lot. It’s probably a sign of evolution, a sign that male and female are really oposites sometimes. No wonder we barely understand each other.

Doing the switch was an eye-opener, and it gave me a perspective that I never expected as a side-effect of my transition. So, my readers and friends, what do you think about all this? Do you have an opinion on the subject?

So, where are my sir’s at?

So I don’t have any definitive “date” where I stopped being “Sir”‘ed completely. I didn’t really realize when it stopped – but it did. I think it’s been at least 3, maybe even 5 months that I haven’t had anyone call me “sir”.

Perhaps it’s not the greatest new in the world, but it feels good to realize that even if I haven’t worn makeup or even had my eyebrows threaded in a couple of months, I still get gendered as female at every store and restaurant I walk into. That leaves only a few minor places where getting misgendered (or called by my old name) is still an issue: with a few family members and with my boss at work.

Does it change anything? No, not really, Does it feel good to realize it? Yes, yes it does.

Tips & Tricks for Dr. Brassard’s GRS Patients

So, let’s take a short break from drama and personal thoughts, and make an informative, useful post. These are just the tips & tricks that I’ve accumulated over the course of the last 3 days since I brought Z home. Yes, in 3 days I’ve figured out all of these!

I don’t know what’s really useful or not, it’s all in bulk. Note that this is specifically for Dr. Brassard’s aftercare, and your mileage may vary.

The papers you get will give you some items to buy, but doesn’t really give quantities… Z ended up buying a small number of some items but I’ve already had to restock them (and she came home 3 days ago!). So here are some things that you will need, and approximate quantities we’ve been using (this only applies for “at first”, I’m assuming a lot of these supplies are necessary in less quantities as time goes by):

  • We already used a full pack and a half (about 30) of the blue UnderPads. Changing them in the middle of the night if you don’t like to go back to sleep on blood & various liquids after going to pee is likely, and Z has already used multiple pads for sitting on the couch and her computer chair. Half a dozen packs of 20 for the first couple of weeks is probably not an exageration.
  • Dexidin-4 (the red soap) is necessary in lots of quantities. You need it for cleaning stuff, sitz baths, doing the dilator soaking mix… Some pharmacies sell small 175ml bottles, those are useless. Look for 450ml bottles with pumps and buy 3 of those, you’re going to need that and maybe more.
  • When you buy pads (the ones for the underwear), make at least one box is the overnight ones, not just regular daytime pads. We used “incognito overnight”, and that’s fine. Though, if you have the chance of being able to walk around the house without any pants and underwear on, that’s much better.
  • We realized the amount of water (demineralized or sterile) that is necessary for vaginal douches and the dilator soaking mix was pretty extensive. Of course, my fault for buying a container that was way too big, turns out I need a liter of water to cover the dilators… so I bought 2x 8l of the water, and that’ll last for 2 weeks at most. However, I believe a 2l of water+vinegar solution for the vaginal douche is probably enough for quite a while.
  • Z made a mistake when getting the antibacterial soap, what she bought was actually face soap with antibacterial inside of it – the bottle says “TRISAN Antibacterial skin cleanser” but it’s not what you need. Just keep to Purell (regular, not the aloes+ one) or something like that and that should be great. 2 pumps are a must, one for the bedroom and one for around the bathroom.
  • In the same lines, make sure you buy the Original Ointment version of Polysporin. Don’t buy the cream, but realize that there is Vitamin E in the ointment, that’s fine and normal. A clean, unopened box of q-tips is also required (if possible, buy the real q-tip brand). Remember also that 1 sterile gauze is necessary twice a day to apply polysporin, so buy enough for the 10 days where this is required (so, say, a box of 25, right?). I don’t think that either of those 3 things mentionned on the paper. Oops.

Some other tips:

  • The clinic provides a doughnut for sitting, the transfer to the recovery home and the return trip home… it’s a rubber thing that stinks and isn’t very effective. Buy a fancier one (actually, one girl had a u-shaped dollorama neck pillow taped onto the rubber one and that seemed to work fine!).
  • Pillows, pillows, pillows. After spending a week on a fancy bed with her head held higher (y’know, hospital beds), Z found that it was really hard to sleep perfectly horizontal. So we had to stack a body pillow, 3 regular pillows and 2 cushions in total to make her a nice reclined position including 2 “armrests”. Ok, Z is a little princess-y but still, she sleeps really well with that setup.
  • I have my own room of course, which is a blessing because there’s not a lot of leeway for sleeping in the same bed as a post-op. Forget it until the complex setup of cushions and underpads isn’t necessary and when it’s no longer a danger to get up urgently in the middle of the night.
  • Towels, towels, towels. A clean towel for each sitz bath (and for the regular shower) is required, and it’s better for them to be white – first because you don’t want any colors touching, and second because it’s easier to bleach them (there will be bloody pussy footprints on them. ugh). Don’t forget to stock up on detergent, you’re gonna need it! 😉 
  • Doing all of this alone, I’m going to assume, would be near impossible. I’ve been assisting Z with taking her pills, disinfecting her bath and filling it for sitz baths, refilling her solutions and bottles, and going out for quick pharmacy and grocery runs, on top of moral support… I really don’t know how anyone could survive this without assistance. I know I probably wouldn’t.
  • For SOs and nurses such as me… Make sure you are not grossed out by gore & blood. I mean, seriously, the day I brought Z back from the recovery home I was eating a Big Mac, sitting at the foot of her bed while she was naked and “aerating” her crotch. It’s absolutely not pretty, so if your reaction to this would tend to be running to the bathroom to throw up, you’re in for a rough ride. And (sorry about TMI here) I’ve already had, twice, to go in with a pair of disinfected scissors and hands to cut off small bits of fibrin that was growing way too long and threatened to be a problem when wiping and dilating. It’s kinda disgusting, but you’ve got to do it (advice from a real nurse is invaluable here to make sure you’re doing it right). Also, the number of times I’ve had to wipe off drops of blood (and a small pool of pee, once) from the floor… well, you get the picture, right?
  • Still for SOs, be comprehensive of mood swings and disagreable moods. And that’s an understatement. I really, really hope you love your woman.
  • Visiting hours for the hospital (first 3 days) is 9am-8pm and room visits are fine… But once you’re in the recovery home, the hours are 2pm-8pm and rules have changed since January 1st: SOs and visitors are not allowed in the rooms, only in the dining & rest area downstairs. This sucks, but they are a little lenient (I went to the room 3 times in total), you just gotta ask nicely. Having something to bring up (like flowers) helps. 😛

I’ll add some if I think of them (and tag them as new). Whew!