Friday, October 19, 2018

I am Rather Terrified of SRS



My first sex reassignment surgery consultation is scheduled for December. It's just under two months away. I've gotten the five (five!) letters I needed. I've talked to therapists and spilled my guts. And now I have the appointment. It's both exciting and terrifying. So in that sense it's a lot like a roller coaster, only with way more blood. 

For years I've thought about this surgery. I've imagined what it would be like to be complete, to be normal, to "finish" my transition. Since I first got the internet I've researched SRS and learned all I could about it. The lyric from the Velvet Undergound's "Candy Says" resonates in my head; "I've come to hate my body / And all that it requires in this world." And now, I stand at the precipice. This can totally happen. This can happen within a year. This could be my 2019.

And I'm both excited and terrified by the prospect of that. I've never had surgery before. Sure, I had minor surgery when I was about three but I don't remember it. I've never stayed overnight at a hospital. Heck I've never even been in a hospital other than an emergency room. And this isn't a minor surgery. This is slicing up genitals and rearranging them. It scares me.

What if the surgery gets botched? What it it doesn't heal properly? How bad is the recovery going to be? I hate the idea of changing bandages and having a catheter. I hate the idea of being cooped up, unable to walk or go out. I hate not being able to shower. How much pain will there be? What it it's so painful that I get addicted to opiates? Will I really need to get electrolysis down there before hand?
Will my new parts work right? Will all the nerves connect right? Will it change things in my relationship? What if I don't dilate properly? What if I'm a slacker about following the doctor's orders? Will I wreck it and ruin everything? What if it doesn't look right?

So needless to say, I'm frightened by this. But also excited. Luckily this is a feeling that I've become well acquainted with during my transition. Guess we'll see how it goes. December is just a consult. I don't have to make a decision.

Well, I should probably make an electrolysis appointment.


Also what's the best term to use? For years it was sex reassignment surgery (SRS). And then a couple years ago gender reassignment surgery (GRS) started popping up. And now I've started to hear gender confirmation surgery (GCS). Not sure if any of those names really get it right, but I tend to use SRS for a couple reasons. For one it's the first term I ever heard. Secondly I grew up near a nuclear plant called the Savannah River Site, which every called SRS. So it's a fun subversion of that.

Gender Rebels Podcast: Does Transition Change Your Hogwarts House?



Listener Vanessa is asking the hard questions!  What if you used to be Gryffindor but now come up Ravenclaw? Are all transpeople automatically Gryffindor? What is the Sorting Hat's actual methodology of personality assessment? Is the Sorting Hat clairvoyant? And the name "Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry" is so binary. What do enbies do?

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Gender Rebels News


We are so exciting to announce that we are going back to weekly episodes! Now you'll get a heapin' helpin' of Gender Rebels goodness (with all the fixins) each and every Thursday! Check it out at genderrebels.com


Also we are introducing a new podcast! It's a limited run podcast where Faith, a huge fan of the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer rewatches key episodes with newbie Kath who's never seen it. Faith loves BtVS so much that she chose took her name from one the characters (try and guess which one!).

The first block of episodes that we'll release will explore the main arc of the second season.  If you want to enjoy Faith & Kath: Vampire Slayers, support us on patreon by going to patreon.com/genderrebels

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Colette: A Transgender Girl's Thoughts


There's a moment in Colette when our protagonist, the toast of fin de siècle Parisian society, returns home to her rural town and the embrace of her mother. Exciting though life in Paris may seem, she lives under the thumb of a controlling and lecherous husband. Colette laments "I must get used to marriage," only to have her mother respond "Better to make marriage get used to you." We follow Colette as she does indeed make marriage, her husband, and Paris get used to her.

Colette tells the story of the Nobel prize nominated French novelist of the same name. She was a young farm girl when she married writer and literary critic Henry Gauthier-Villars, better known by his nom de plume of Willy, who was fourteen years her senior. He takes her to Paris where he introduces her to the salon set; the intellectuals, writers, artists, and performers. Unashamed as she is by her farm girl roots, Colette struggles to fit in and suffers through the boring parties. She quickly discovers that her husband has chosen to ignore their marriage vows, openly flirting with and having affairs with young women. When she confronts him about this, he shrugs her off and tells her that such behavior is expected of men in his station.


Willy's opinion of extramarital affairs is much more traditional when he sees Colette seated with a couple at a party, happily having her palm read by the husband. Hypocritically enraged, Willy demands that Colette leave the party with him. On their ride home he chastises her for flirting with another man. It's then that Colette surprises him. It wasn't the husband that Willy should be jealous of. It was the wife that had caught Colette's eye. Unsurprisingly Willy isn't bothered by the idea of Colette having lesbian affairs. And so Colette finds her first taste of the freedom she has been longing for.

As the perpetually broke Willy is unable to pay more ghost writers, he enlists Colette to begin writing a novel for him. She pens Claudine à l'école, a semi-autobiographical novel about her school days. Due to its honesty and feminine style it begins flying off shelves, becoming especially popular with the young women of Paris. Frustrated as she is forced to watch Willy take credit for her novel's success, Colette begins an affair with the young Southern belle Georgie Raoul-Duval. Ultimately Willy discovers this affair and, in a selfishly sadistic turn, begins his own affair with Georgie. Upon discovering her husband's actions, Colette is enraged and heartbroken.


Throughout the film we see Colette's need for personal agency, be it romantic or professional, repeatedly denied by her husband Willy. This is a struggle that LGBTQ+ people often face in their lives. Those who say that they love us, or who have promised to love unconditionally, are often the same ones seeking to control our behaviors and to deny us the freedom to be ourselves.

Colette's own coming out is represented realistically. The path is almost never clear for LGBTQ+ people and we see that Colette's path is winding, hesitant, and exciting. We see how absolutely delighted and satisfied she is to seethingly tell her husband that she is attracted to women. This is perhaps the first time she has ever admitted this to anyone in her life. We see her nervousness as she calls on Georgie for the first time, timidly walking up to the door unsure is she is really going to do this. We see her excitement at finally finding another woman to share herself with. And most importantly we see how her confidence grows as she begins to really find herself. 


There is one other important aspect of coming out that the film portrays accurately; the importance of meeting like minded people who can help guide you as you discover your true self.  Colette find this in Mathilde de Morny who his better known by her nickname Missy. An artist and aristocrat, Missy flouts convention by dressing in masculine garb and being an open lesbian.

Colette is immediately drawn to Missy and the two begin a serious romance. One afternoon at Colette's country house, Missy opens up to her about her gender dysphoria. She explains how one day as a child she tried on her brother's school uniform and felt right for the first time in her life. This a moment that many transgender people go through as they discover themselves. The film portrays Missy as a real, complex character who is capable of loving and being loved. It's a wonderful portrait of a transgender person.

Later Colette even corrects Willy when he refers to Missy with female pronouns. Colette insists that Willy use he/him and gender Missy correctly. In the film this presented within the greater context of Colette's rebellion against Willy's manipulative and controlling nature. But it was wonderful to see a film stress the importance of correctly gendering trans people. Willy also states that in the world everything is either feminine or masculine (perhaps using the French language as a basis). So if that is the case what to make of Willy? 


Despite Willy's insistence, Colette rejects the idea that everything must be either masculine or feminine. Like Missy, she begins to crossdress, wickedly flaunting a man's suit while Willy rolls his eyes. Colette even goes out on the town while wearing the suit, risking arrest for crossdressing. We see her beginning to find the power that comes with blurring gender lines and taking control her own presentation. She'll now longer acquiesce to being Willy's little farm girl or school girl.

Throughout the film, Colette journey to discover and accept her true self sexually and gender-wise is fully intertwined with her own rebellion against her husband's authority over her. Colette finds herself suffocated by the legal situation she's in. As a woman she has no rights; over her work, over her household, over her finances, over where she goes and who she sees. She has to depend on her spendthrift gambler of a husband for financial support, even as he makes all his money off her writing and refuses to give her credit. As she begins to accept herself as a queer woman she becomes more confident, bold, and rebellious.

In a satisfying turn of events, Colette finds the strength to divorce Willy and leave him for good. She and Missy go on tour with a dramatic performance of their own creation. The play is openly queer, so much so that it causes a riot on its opening night (caused by some agitators who came specifically to cause trouble).  Queerness and agency go hand in hand in Colette. Ultimately her story is one of finding her true self, a journey which also gives her the courage to break free of her controlling husband. In the end Colette owns her work, her presentation, her gender, and her sexuality. 


It should be stated though that the film looks only at the rich and upper class of Parisian society. While there are maids or clerks in the background, we don't learn their stories or follow their journeys. The characters we meet are all members of the upper class. While the salon society of fin de siècle Paris was more or less accepting of queer people, entry to this society was provided only to the upper classes, and the wealthy. They accepted queerness only within certain class limits. We see Missy, a transgender woman as well, and male characters who are coded gay (although it's not explicitly stated). But these characters are all wealthy and white. Missy's unconventional gender presentation is only accepted because they are titled and descended from royalty. Colette, the child of rural farmers, is only able to be openly queer by marrying into this society.


Colette is an exquisitely shot film chock full with beautiful scenery, elegant costumes, and fantastic performances. I personally love the idea fin de siècle society; all salons and creative people at parties with a simmering queer undertone. Like Weimar Berlin in the 1920s, I think that I am naturally drawn to periods of time and places where people were creative and queerness was open and accepted.

While I think that Colette presents a realistic portrait of queerness and coming out, I am unsure of exactly how realistically it did present the the actual people's lives, unfamiliar as I am with the real people the film is based on. I sympathized with Colette. There were times when I found myself infuriated by Willy. I wish there we saw more of Missy as that would have been a really interesting character to explore.

Still, I enjoyed the movie and its depiction of LGBTQ+ characters. I loved that the film portrays not a strict "queer" role but rather that messy smear of a rainbow that LGBTQ+ people often exist in. Is Missy a transgender man? Gender queer? Non-binary? It's left somewhat open and it is the same with Colette's queerness. Often as LGBTQ+ people find themselves they try on various roles or blend the roles as needed to find their own place. And the film shows that coming out is, ultimately, about agency.

My only real issue with the movie (and it's a tiny one) is that it almost felt like a little bit like superhero origin story. We follow a young and naive farm girl as she discovers her queerness and agency. I wish we would have spent more time on the older, more confident, more daring Colette. Because she was amazing. Here's hoping for the sequel.

Colette with Missy. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

So I Went to the Philadelphia Transgender Wellness Conference


Recently I attended the Philadelphia Trans Wellness Conference for the first time. And spoiler alert but I had an absolutely fantastic time. It was truly a wonderful time and I can't wait to go back.


When I had first heard of the conference I was a bit apprehensive. My history with transgender groups and people has often been one of denial and self-segregation. That might sound weird, but I think I tended to shy away from other transgender women except online. Online I could develop friendships but actually hanging out with other trans people? That made things feel too real for me. Better to keep things at a healthy distance right?

Well, when I finally did end up finding a local transgender women's group, I went and found that I didn't really feel like I fit in. Most of the people were much younger than me. Many were still in college. So the group felt permeated by some aggressive far left thought and dominated by a handful of strong personality individuals. It was a safe space, but I didn't feel that comfortable. It wasn't quite my scene.


Politically I'm pretty fair left (at least farther left than most) and consider myself a progressive or even a democratic socialist. And yet, I occasionally find myself annoyed by the far left. So, when I thought about travelling to Philadelphia for a transgender wellness conference I wasn't super excited. In my mind I pictured a large group of people walking on eggshells, afraid to speak for fear of being jumped upon but a tiny minority of loud spoken holier than thou trans activists.

Another reason that I felt a little apprehensive is that I'm usually the only the only transgender person in the room. It kinda makes me special. Around my friends being transgender is my thing! Being at a conference full of other transgender people? Suddenly I'm no longer special. I'm ordinary.


I was totally wrong to be apprehensive. In fact, the conference was welcoming and accepting. There were no loud mouth activists trying to assert holier-than-thou dominance. Everyone was relaxed, cool, and having a great time. From the moment we walked in to the moment we left I felt amazing. I didn't feel like a freak, didn't feel like an outsider. I felt welcomed and accepted and it was awesome. There was such an upbeat positivity to the whole event. The organizers really did a fantastic job.

Each day there were tons of different classroom sessions all all different aspects of transgender life; everything from surgery to insurance to religion, voice, criminal justice, political activism, and more. Kath and I did a whole episode about the conference so I won't go into detail on each particular session suffice to say that they were (for the most part) highly interesting and informative.




In general these were fun and informative. Once I heard our first speaker (in the silicone injection talk) swear and joke around I knew we wouldn't be walking on eggshells. The Gender Minorities in the Bible was super fun for me, even as an atheist. Until we were talking about queerness in the Bible, I hadn't realized how I kind of missed good discussions on the Bible. The voice talks were quite helpful and gave me some good tips and tricks, including on how to cough in a feminine manner. The humor was great but the witchcraft one was a bust as was the non-theistic perspectives talk. But the Biological Studies was fantastic. It was about the science behind gender dysphoria and it was a standing room only crowd. Spoiler alert - there's lots of science but nothing conclusive. And getting FFS covered by insurance was a great boon as I had never even realized it was possible!

Plus Kath and I got recognized about ten or twelve times. So my fears of being ordinary in a room full of other transgender people turned out to be false! It really does make one feel pretty special to be recognized. Of course we weren't anywhere near as famous as some attendees. One YouTube channel was there and had a long line of people waiting to meet them. So I can feel special but without it going to my head too much.



Beyond the talks, there were social events scheduled each evening. Kath and I tend to be introverted, but thankfully some cool people introduced themselves and we had a blast making new friends. The first event on Thursday night was a party (with open bar) at a nearby museum. I'd always wanted to attend a party at a museum. Kath and I even dressed up. Though sadly, no super villains showed up to steal the museum's prized collection of jewels. You can't have everything right?

There was another party on Friday night. At this point I should say that the convention center doesn't seem to be in the best part of Philadelphia. There were a lot of homeless people around. And our hotel, which we picked for its close proximity to the convention center, was next door to a half-way house. There was a long underpass (maybe a hundred yards long) between our hotel and the convention center. As Kath didn't want to attend Friday's party due to tiredness, I decided to go by myself. That meant walking a hundred yards by myself through a poorly lit underpass past about twenty homeless people. I did not feel safe. Thankfully I wasn't harassed or anything and there were other convention attendees also walking along so it wasn't that unsafe. But I didn't quite feel safe. That party turned out to be more of a drag show than a real party. As I don't personally care for drag I didn't stick around for too long.


Now, as I had never been to Philly, we had to try out the local delicacies (I apologize right now for the food pictures in this post. Delicious though they are, these are not photogenic foodstuffs). The convention center was across the street from the Reading Terminal Market, which is a gigantic open area with various shops and restaurants. Apparently it features some of Philly's most famous foodstuffs (or at least the ones that tourists love because they were on Food Network). 

We had the famous roast pork and broccoli rabe sandwich that people told us about, but it was mostly just bland. Kath didn't even finish it and gave the other half of it to a homeless person. There were a lot of Amish stalls including one that did amazing barbeque and another that made equally amazing (and equally greasy) breakfast sandwiches. We finally got to try pork roll/Taylor ham, which is apparently a New Jersey specialty food. It's basically saltier, fancier baloney. 


We also had to make sure we tried Philadelphia's most important culinary export; the cheesesteak. For this we walked to Pat's, which is apparently one of the two most famous cheesesteak places in Philly. The other is racist, so we didn't go there. 



And we discovered that the cheesesteak is best when covered with Cheeze Whiz and grilled onions is the best option. Who wouldn've thunk that Cheeze Whiz would be good? We were seriously surprised and ended up eating two more cheesesteaks (at different places) with those same fixins. Tough later we would discover that hot peppers make it even better.


On Sunday, since the conference was over, we decided to go see Eastern State Penitentiary. It's the first penitentiary in the United States. Plus one of my ancestors did time there back in the 1800s for some sort of insurance fraud.


Yes, I got selfies in a place that was known for its human suffering! See, there were no photos allowed at the conference except for certain designated areas. And those areas did not have the best lighting so I ended up with only a handful of photos from conference. And the other spot we visited on this trip, the Mutter Museum, also has a no photos policy. So I  had to get my photos somewhere!



For those who don't know, the Mutter Museum is a large collection of biological oddities and specimens. They have some sections of Einstein's brain, the liver of Cheng and Eng (the original "Siamese" twins), a whole ton of skulls, pickled punks, and other human specimens. It's fascinating but we had planned it for before lunch and it kinda killed our appetite for food.


Eastern State was fascinating however and they made sure that the entire tour was quite education. Though there were also plenty of nice and spooky still abandoned parts of the prison. 





On the whole we had a lot of fun in Philadelphia. The conference was the really fun part though. Fun though Mutter and cheesesteaks and prisons are, it was amazing to find myself in a friendly and supportive environment where I could learn so much about transgender issues and topics. It was fascinating and I learned so much and had so much fun!


It's funny but when we got back home, I literally felt a little bit deflated. Like I was on such a high being able to just fit in with people like me. When we got home it was kind of a let down. I wanted that high to continue! I wanted to see more and talk to more people and learn and share so much more.


We'll have to come back next year! And hopefully have a table in the vendor section. If you see us stop by and say hi.