A Great Apology.

I have been thinking about Socrates a lot lately, and his great apology.  You can either denounce your beliefs or drink your poison.  I think I would have drank the poison, too.  I’m at a stage right now where things are hard.  I’m leaving in 13 months.  I’m 21 weeks on T, which is 5 months and 1 week.  I’m changing my name as soon as my paperwork comes through and I’ve posted it to the county for 10 days.

And yet, I have the reminder that I’m giving things up.  My little sister, granddad, and uncle are visiting this week.  My sister leaves tomorrow because she starts school again next week, back in Minnesota.  Part of me wishes I was going back, too.  But I’m beyond thrilled to study at MMU next year.

Anyway, I told my Dad I’m legally changing my name.  I tried to make him feel a little better about it, that I’m adding in Patrick as a middle name.  No such luck.

My relatives are calling me my birth name and keep calling me a girl.  I’m trying not to let it bother me.  My sister makes fun of the way I dress, and the way my hair is, and it’s getting under my skin.  I’m also out of hormones until Saturday when I drive 3 hours.  I keep saying that she is my sister and I won’t see her much when I leave.  It’s mostly just reminders that I don’t fit in here.  It’s another case of take my poison and die or give up who you are.  Because it is clear that she is not accepting of me.  And even my uncle, a gay man, is saying, well, I don’t know what to call you, or whatever.

How about you call me my name?

My Mom has been here but left until tomorrow.  I came home from my night class on Tuesday night, and right away the misgendering started.  She mouthed an apology, and kept calling me Blake.  If she slipped up, she said, sorry, Blake, and moved on.

So it’s not that they don’t know.

I can’t apologise.  I have nothing to apologise for. 

Either way you end up dead in one way or another.  But I’d rather live my life on my terms than drink your poison.  That’s why I started transitioning anyways.

New School Year.

I haven’t been able to write for a few days because I started classes, and I’m a very busy person right now.  Now that I’ve finished Pride and Prejudice for one of my lit courses, I’ve got some breathing room to update.

Monday I started classes again.  At 9AM I went to my first of two lit courses, Major British Writers.  We started with Pride and Prejudice, and we are reading 6 books out of England spread apart the last 200 years.  I enjoy this class, but when we got to the point where we take role, I started feeling the anxiety when my professor was going to use my birth name.   I had an English course with a few of the guys last spring, and my professor had me for the fall as well, so she already knew my situation, and I didn’t have to tell her again, so these guys knew me as Blake, and knew I was a guy.  So I was thinking, ah crap, I’m going to be outed.  So I said my name is Blake after she called me Patricia, and the guys looked at me, and then you can visibly see them figuring it out.  I went to court after class and started the process for legally changing my name.

I went to Art Appreciation and I met a friend, and he asked me about my gender.  I said I’m male.  We’ve been talking and hanging out and we have a lot in common.

Tuesday I did something some might consider stupid.  I came up to the college an hour before I was supposed to start public speaking, and I started hanging out with some friends, when I said I really didn’t want to do public speaking, because I’m going to be so swamped this term and I don’t need the course for going to England. I  technically don’t need this entire year, but my parents refuse to let me sit at home and play Animal Crossing all day. And no one is hiring someone who is just going to move to a foreign country in 13 months.

So my friend Elizabeth says, Blake, take choir with me.  You used to sing.  I was like, I haven’t sung in about 5 years.  But it counts as an elective, and it’s only one credit, and I can just go to class and have fun for an hour twice a week instead of doing public speaking, which I don’t need.  So I dropped it.

I went to the adivsing center and the lady I’ve had every time I’ve gone in, says, Oh, that will put you at part time because you’ll only be in 11 credits, and I said, I’m going to England next year, and I don’t need the course, so please, just change it for me, and so she did, and she congratulated me on getting in.  We’ve talked about it a few times. 

I went to choir and explained to my professor that I was 5 months on T.  I had started out as a soprano one.  I mean, I could sing opera notes.  And I said I was probably an alto, but I wasn’t sure.  So she said to sit on the edge between the men and the women and to just find my voice.  So I tried singing alto, and I couldn’t even get sound to come out.  So I tried singing tenor, and my voice cracked majorly.  So I learned that after 5 months on T, I can sing bass.  

Thursday I went back to choir, and I was getting frustrated, because I did choir for 6 years, but like I said, as a soprano.  It is very different singing bass verses singing soprano.  Plus the classroom was set up differently the second day, so I couldn’t sit on the edge between the men and the women.  I felt like some of the guys were questioning whether or not I should have been there.  I left class feeling kind of bummed, when my professor stopped me in the parking lot, and said that she had been listening to me singing all day and that my voice is really coming in nicely.  So to keep going and I left after feeling okay.

This should be something I am used to.  I’ve had to change a lot of things since I started transitioning.  I’ve had to learn how to bind, and how to cut my hair, and how to shave my face.  Now I’m navigating singing, and it’s interesting.  It’s hard.  I hear the sopranos singing and my brain thinks, remember when you used to do that, and it was easy?  But one of the reasons I left choir was because I always felt like I should have been singing with the guys, and I would leave classes with such a headache, because I felt so uncomfortable in my skin about it.  I have to learn how to sing like a guy now, but I don’t leave with a headache.  I get kind of frustrated sometimes, especially when I think people are policing me, but I don’t think I am living a lie anymore. 

Big Brother.

Well, we’ve all talked, and I’m holding off on England for one more year.  I had 2 tumors in the last year.  Even though I’m good now, I want to make sure I’m still good.  Plus, they want me to change my name and be further on T before I can move.  I’m a little upset about it, but I know this is the right step.

They also want to make sure my liver is doing fine, because I still sometimes have problems with it.  I know I’m going to get there, it will just be a year from now.

This last week I became a big brother for the second time, not including my actual sister.  But last year when one of my friends came out, he said I was like his big brother, and I started helping him transition.  Then when I started running FTM Problems this summer, I started emailing a guy who was just starting, and he had never bought a binder.  I’ve bought two of them now.  So I helped him pick one out, and I told him very important things that most people don’t know, like do not wear your binder for more than 8 hours a day, and to make sure you wash it without detergent, and don’t dry it in the dryer, but just let it air dry.  And he said you’re like my brother.

Then I had another guy this week ask me a question that I thought I would share.

Sometimes, I want to bind my chest and wear ‘boy’ clothes. Sometimes I want to wear corsets that press up my chest and look pretty. But I /always/ identify as male. I don’t know what to do.

You might just like dressing in drag.  I’ve performed as both genders, and it can be a lot of fun.  And that’s perfectly fine.  I would say just keep playing around with your gender expression and know that it’s all okay.  Don’t let anyone tell you that you are less of a man for it.  I know so many queens that are cis men and identify as male, but they like dressing and performing in drag.  And drag can be a lot of fun, and therapeutic.  You don’t even have to perform.  Like, one time, last year, I painted my nails for the fun of it.  Some of my friends were like, omg, what are you doing?  That’s feminine.  And I’m like no, it’s not.  I know guys that paint their nails.

My point is, keep doing what makes YOU happy, and don’t let anyone else tell you that you are less of a man for it. 

Then I had someone ask me if it was okay to be a lesbian.  I don’t know who it was, it was an anonymous message.  I don’t know how old they are, or anything, but the fact that they asked me, it hit me pretty hard for a minute.  Because I remember being a teenager and questioning my gender and my sexuality, and wondering if it would be okay. I remember being 20 and saying I can’t keep going this way much longer, and I didn’t know if it would be okay.  I told them that of course it is okay.  Don’t let anyone else tell you differently.

I also am starting the paperwork to legally change my name on Monday.  I have to submit a court order and then pay my fee, which is probably around 200$.  But I have to start it, and that means going to submit it, and let it be there for at least 10 days.

I start classes on Monday.  My Dad is upset I’m changing my name, but my Mom is on board.  He knows I’m doing it, he’s not going to stop me, but he’s upset, because he’s “losing his little girl.”  I try not to let those statements get under my skin.

 

5 Months.

Today was 5 months on T for me.  I’m still feeling pretty awesome.  My hormone doctor called me today to set up a game plan for England, and so I have to make a drive to Raleigh to see her again before I leave.   Also, my cholesterol was higher.  It’s not in a dangerous place or anything, but she wants me to watch it.  It’s a side effect of testosterone.  Other than that, my labs were good.  My liver is doing fine.  I still have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, but testosterone has not made it worse.  So she thinks health wise, I’m cleared to go.  She’ll also explain to immigration why I have my needles and all of that when I have to go through immigration.

I also found out that I qualify to use NHS as an international student because I’ll be there for at least 3 years.  Meaning, my top surgery is going to be paid for.  I talked to my mother about it, and she said, if you just are going to school to have surgery, I will kick your butt.  But I told her that it wasn’t the case at all, I genuinely want to study there, it’s just an added bonus. 

So if things all work out and I get everything taken care of, I leave around the 20th of September and come back on the 20th of December for 3 weeks.  Then I’ll come home again most likely in July.  But I might not.  I could probably do surgery next summer, but we’ll see.  Then I can just take my surgery records to the state of North Carolina and they change my gender and my name.

My financial aid was approved today, so that’s one less thing I have to worry about.  I have to stay up until about 3 or 4am today to call my university to go over things for my visa, like confirming that I paid my deposit on my tuition.

I am supposed to start classes here next week, so I’m probably going to go the classes and explain what’s going on.  I also have to read 3 books for England but I have a month to do that, and I haven’t received them yet.

My younger sister is visiting in two weeks along with my granddad and my uncle.  I haven’t seen them since I started hormones, so it will be interesting.

A boy who wanted to fly.

Some of you may already know, but on Monday, I was accepted into my dream university.  I am beyond thrilled.  I’m moving to Manchester mid September assuming my visa comes through, but they don’t believe I should have any problems.  My hormone doctor is currently on vacation, but is calling me on Monday to set up a game plan for me to continue hormones whilst I’m studying.

I couldn’t believe it at first.  I worked incredibly hard this last year and I had the grades to go, but I applied very late in the year, and I wasn’t sure if they still had a spot.  When it was confirmed and I had an unconditional offer, I was thrilled.  I was also the only one home and at first just stared at the email in complete shock.  I have wanted to go to England since I was seven.  So I called my mother and she was excited but then I called my Dad and he said okay well you probably aren’t going. So calm down.

Then I thought, oh dear.  My name.  My passport.  My picture.  I got it at sixteen.  I look like a girl. I’m starting to look more masculine.  I called up the university and they said that I get a visa picture and to bring a picture and a letter from a doctor explaining it.  I’ve been advised to grow my hair a little bit.

I also got to put down that I want to live in All Gender Housing.  They should honour my request.  Another thing I am thrilled about is that I have every assignment for the next year.  Each professor provided their email, so I can email them and say please call me Blake and use pronouns.  I also discovered that they have a transgender law professor and so the university is very good with dealing with boys like me.  I don’t have to go to class as the awkward American kid and the trans* kid.  I can start my classes without having to out myself.

I’m so excited to start.  I filled out my housing App today.  I’m starting on my summer readings.  I also started filling out my visa and tonight my mother and I are finishing my FASFA so I can get the funds I need.

When I was three I told my mother that I was a lost boy and that I wanted to fly to Neverland.  That should have been her first hint that I was trans*.  When I was seven, I told my grandmother I wanted to go to England.

I was a boy who wanted to fly.  I feel like I grew my wings.

Queer Baiting.

Let’s talk about queer baiting and how it is harmful.  It is very harmful, and I don’t think many people realise that.  Especially if you aren’t really involved in the queer community (I’m saying queer throughout this, and when I say queer, I mean LGBT*QIA) or familiar with queer theory.  Queer theory is something I’m just now really starting to study, on my own time, but that’s a story for another day.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to be represented in literature, films, TV shows.  This is healthy.  We all have stories, and we want to see ourselves there on the big screen, or in our favourite books.  This is where queer baiting comes in.  A lack of representation in the media is a serious problem for us.  We are often completely left out, or show up to make little appearances, often just to teach the main character a lesson about diversity, or something similar.  Or, we are the butt of every joke.  Or we are completely stereotyped.  And when we are portrayed, it is often cis gay males.  There is nothing wrong with being cis gay male.  I’m saying that look at that acronym.  And that doesn’t even include all the umbrellas within that acronym.  There is a lot of room for diversity in our community, and in our TV shows, or films, or books.  But by often leaving us to minor appearances, or not at all, or as the comedy, we are told we are not worthy of being the main character, or even being invited to the table.  Or just laugh at us, because we can’t really be taken seriously anyway.

So queer baiting comes in.  We are denied many characters so we latch on to any character we can find that might be queer.  The media knows this.  So what happens is, they put a bunch of subtext in between characters, and you can read them as queer.  Often this happens for several seasons, if you are watching a TV show, and then the character is given a love interest, usually just when other people are starting to catch on. Oh, this person could be considered queer. I need to stop watching.  Not every person is like that, but there are people like that.  John Barrowman, who plays Captain Jack Harkness on Doctor Who, and on Torchwood, has said that people were more upset there were two men kissing over him being killed multiple times.  People are more okay with violence than two adults in love.

So the character is given a love interest, usually making them appear as canonically straight.  Canon, for those of you not familiar with literary terms, is basically whatever the TV show/Film/Book says happen.  So, an example of this is that canonically, Harry Potter has green eyes.  What this also does is tell the queer community, oh, you were just making it all up, or reading too much into it.

Let’s talk about that for a minute.  I consider myself a writer.  I’m working on novels and I write poetry.  I have never once thought, I really hope people just take this at face value, and don’t interact and interpret my literature.  That is what you are supposed to do with literature.  People, if you ever read one of my books someday, for Pete’s sake, please interact with my words and think about it and read for all the subtext and subtlety there is, and I promise, there will be queer characters, and you won’t have to just read for subtext there.

This is a harmful thing though, telling people, oh, you made it all up. Oh, they’re not canonically queer.  This erases us, but also tells others that our stories don’t really matter, and it’s okay to lead us on.  It isn’t. But the media does it again and again.  Or, when queers are portrayed, it’s not in a nice light.  But some say, at least we are being shown. 

Is it so wrong for me to want to have a trans* person portrayed, and in a healthy way?  Is it so wrong of me to want a bisexual character? Or a non-binary person?  Or a lesbian or a gay man without stereotypes? Is it wrong of me to want to see myself in my favourite books?  No.  And not just on a LOGO channel, either.  I love LOGO. But I think that just giving us one little channel doesn’t erase the massive amount of us missing from every day culture.  I can’t remember who said, it, but someone said, how do you know you are a minority?  If you have a shelf just for you at Barnes and Noble. I’m paraphrasing a little bit, but that’s generally what was said.

Some people have asked me why I’m so upset about this.  Oh, that author isn’t homophobic, they just didn’t see him as queer.  That might be the case.  Again, I’m working on novels, and I don’t see every character as queer.  But when there is a blatant lack of representation, it hurts.  Let’s look at Harry Potter.  Someone did the numbers, and this is what they found.  There were about 120 recurring characters throughout the books.  There were about 8 POCs, and only 1 queer character, Dumbledore, and even Dumbledore, was technically canonically queer because he was outed in an interview.  This is Harry Potter.  This is a huge book that shaped my childhood.  I will read it probably until the day I die.  There were huge chances for representation there.  Plus, there is a lot of subtext between characters, and recently JKR came out on Pottermore and said, oh, I never intended these characters to be queer, here’s a heteronormative narrative and sorry I queer baited you for at least 2 books.

I’m allowed to be upset about this.  This doesn’t make me a bad fan. This makes me a person that doesn’t just blindly accept things as gospel, but thinks for themselves.  This is important.  This makes you a better reader and a better person.

Does this mean I love Harry Potter any less?  No.  Does this mean I hate JKR? Of course not.  I don’t think she’s homophobic.  I think that she created childrens books, and a lot of times, if you want to be published, you cut out the queer characters, or put them in the background.  I read the Casual Vacancy, and it is a very adult book.  There is a lesbian couple in it.  I don’t think she is homophobic, but I can be a little bit let down in the way that she revealed authorial intent six years  after the books ended, and how she slapped us over the head with it.

I can find faults in her works.  Just as if I’m ever published, you can find fault in mine.  But queer erasure and queer baiting isn’t cool. It is harmful, and damaging.  I was 9 when Prisoner of Azakaban came out and I will admit, I read Remus and Sirius as queer, and I thought, look at all this subtext.  Especially when I got older, and understood things a lot more.  I could count on one hand the amount of childrens books I had read that showed a queer character.  0.

That is my point.  Don’t give people false hope in representation.  Don’t just give us subtext. If you are cis and straight, you are lucky because you are represented every day.  But don’t take that away from us.

Also, check out this really well done video.  It’s about 5 minutes long, about queer relationships in books and why they are important.