Friday, November 2, 2018

Garbage: You Should Always Meet Your Heroes

Me in the lower right - utterly enraptured. 
Whoever said "you should never meet your heroes" clearly never met Shirley Manson. Or Butch Vig, Steve Marker, and Duke Erikson (aka the band Garbage). In the past I've written about how important an example Shirley Manson was for me. This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go to a soundcheck, to attend a Q&A, and to get a photo with the band. It was an absolutely amazing experience. 

During the Q&A, the first question was a question someone asked about how Garbage feels about their large number of queer fans. It's true, they really do. And I was reminded of the last Diet Cig concert that I went to. I was in the crowd, rocking out, and looking around at the other attendees. "Why does every band I like always seem to have a huge queer following?" I thought to myself. Then it hit me. "Oh, oh. It's because I've always been queer!" Garbage has been an amazing ally for the LGBTQ+ community and has always been outspoken in their support. Heck, Shirley once even said that her favorite fans were the transgender fans


At that point I was bursting at the seams. I raised my hand and instead of asking a question, I simply gushed about how amazing the band was, and how their music had got me through so many tough spots, and how I would have never found the courage to explore my femininity or transition without Garbage. I said this whole thing through a stream of tears. Shirley and the band were so encouraging and wonderful in their response. "You accomplished this yourself. That was you."

"I had a good soundtrack," I interjected. I did have a damn good soundtrack growing up. And songs like "Queer," "Cherry Lips (Go Baby Go)," "Candy Says," and "Bleed Like Me" helped me find my way through gender dysphoria, self doubt, bullying, shame, and fear.  


I've felt transgender my whole life. But there was something about Shirley Manson that made me feel bold and powerful enough to get out and explore my female side. Suddenly I wasn't ashamed of these feelings any more, they didn't need to be buried. I could express them. Shirley was bold, powerful, fearless and still incredibly feminine. She gave me the strength to come out a little bit, to embrace my own femininity and let me understand that femininity didn't mean weakness or submission. Being a woman could be awesome and empowering and you also got to rock some seriously cool clothes.



After the Q&A Shirley came right over to me. Everyone else was shuffling over to the photos, but Shirley came by to see me (well, me and the two people right next to me who had cried through their own similar comments - Shirley affectionately called us "the weepy corner"). She knew who I was from a letter and copy of American Transgirl (with all the Garbage references tagged) I had sent her, and also from Instagram. She told me she loved my skirt. You told me that I was strong and amazing. It was all I could to stop myself crying as I thanked her profusely for everything, for just being her. Shirley gave me a warm hug and I nearly cried again.

I was in high school in the 90s when I discovered Garbage. Back there, in the Georgia suburbs, I was stuck in an evangelical Christian school, a conservative town, and a family that was Republican and military. It was not a good place for a young queer transgirl to be. Most of the music I listened to was grunge, metal, or industrial. It was loud, angry, and masculine. I was frustrated by life, deeply lonely, and worried I was going to hell for being queer. But then I found Garbage's music.


That first pink, feathered album cover seemed so different. I absorbed every song of that album like the little baby queer sponge I was. I listened to it on repeat so many time. I would tape Garbage's music videos when they were shown on MTV. I clipped every Garbage article or picture from every magazine I could find.

And because of Shirley Manson I started to see that femininity wasn't weak. There was power and strength in femininity. If someone as cool as Shirley could be feminine than maybe I could start to accept my own feminine side. The first women's I every purchased for myself was a pink feather boa. The next was fishnets and eyeliner. I first started letting myself come out to other people. I first started presenting female and going out. I started to become slightly more comfortable with myself and my queerness for the first time in my life.



After the Q&A we went to get our pictures taken. When I came up Shirley said to me "We're gonna have to do a glam pose." She mentioned my skirt again, quite emphatically telling me how much she liked it. And grabbed onto me for the picture. I don't think my pose was too glam. I was nervous and I only had one chance. I would have loved to have taken a few more, a few hundred more. But I think it came okay all things considered. Truth is no matter what I'd probably find something about myself in the picture that I didn't like. That's just how I am.


For me Garbage is the more than a favorite band. Shirley Manson is more than just my favorite singer. She was someone who empowered me in a way I didn't even think was possible, and she empowered me when I needed it the absolute most. And for her and the band to still be awesome and to understand it and to get it. It's just so immeasurably valuable. 

In fact, two days after the concert I was sitting at my desk at work and listening to Garbage. I just kept thinking about how amazing it was to go from this place of utter shame and doubt and fear and loneliness. In that place I was in high school I thought that my transgender thoughts meant that I was a terrible person, that no one would ever love me, that I was unworthy of love, unworthy of friendship, and a horrible person. Being able to have Shirley Manson and the other members of Garbage accept me as no different from anyone, accept me as a person with value, and to be so awesome in their support for trans people means the world to me. 

I broke down crying at my desk. And the whole time I was crying I had a smile on my face. They were tears of joy. I hurried to the bathroom to cry and sob in a stall. Then came out and fixed my makeup. And in that moment I realized that the validation from Garbage had allowed me to let go of something that I had been holding onto for twenty years or more, something I didn't even realize I was carrying with me. I was able to let go of a lot of the pain and fear and shame that sixteen year old me had to endure.

And so I printed out my picture with a little Version 2.0 style graphic. "Not Your Kind of People" is Garbage's anthem for their fans. Garbage fans tend to be the misfits, the weirdos, and the freaks. But the band gets that because that's who they are too. So I put this up at my desk. When I'm feeling like the only weirdo or freak at my normie-centric office, I can look at that picture and know that, while I might not fit in at work, I do fit in with heroes.


And now I can't wait to see Garbage again! But then again I always want to see Garbage play live. 

Gender Rebels Podcast: Are You Intimidated By Cis People?

Friday, October 26, 2018

First Electrolysis Appointment


After my previous attempt to start electrolysis failed, I reached out on r/MtF about it. You see, for electrolysis to work you have to grow your hair out for three days. Now imagine trying to present female with three days of beard growth. My gender dysphoria was through the roof. At noon I broke down, went home from work, and shaved. So, on Reddit a few people recommended leaving only a postage stamp sized area unshaved. That way you could still get electrolysis but you wouldn't feel like a lumberjack* at the same time.

So that is what I did. The eight sessions of laser that I got definitely thinned out my hair quite a bit. There are still two dark patches on either side of my mouth but otherwise it's not too bad. I picked one of those chin to mouth triangles of thick hair and left it unshaved for three days. Honestly it wasn't that bad doing just a tiny section. Makeup mostly covered it up and since it wasn't my whole face I didn't feel too dysphoric.

In choosing an electrologist, I also went out to some other local transgirls for advice. I found one that was local, that was a transgender woman herself, and who had decent yelp reviews and recommendations. I wasn't thrilled about the idea that they were working out of their apartment (that didn't seem too professional to me) but they had come highly recommended so I decided to just go with them. The other place I was considering was a fancier place in Midtown that cost at least three times as much. Now, sometimes you do get what you pay for, but other times you get ripped off by people trying to sell luxury when really you just need a service.

With a little patch of three days of beard growth, I headed out for my post-work appointment. I was a tab bit perturbed when I sat down. This is because the woman was talking to me and she had the electric wand/applicator in her hand. I feared that she was about to start and I hadn't yet mentally prepared myself. So I asked her to pause and go over what she was going to do.

It turns out that I was wrong - she wasn't near starting yet. But, she still took a few minutes to go over the process as well as both short and long term effects. She even had handy illustrated charts. Mostly I knew this but didn't mind the primer again. In electrolysis a probe is inserted in the hair follicle. In this method is uses radio waves to heat up the water molecules in the follicle and kills it. It's kind of like a miniature microwave oven. Then it gets plucked out. There are apparently other methods but my practitioner said those could cause injury. The radio version was safer. Well that's good.

We started on my facial patch. This was to be my introductory fifteen minutes. It hurt. Yes, it hurt. It wasn't fun. But I think each kill hurt less than laser, there were more kills overall. So it's like would you rather have 50 hits at pain level 20 or 20 hits at pain level 50? Still it wasn't as bad as threading. Nothing is as bad as threading. The pain level was probably comparable with plucking.

She kept talking as she did the procedure. It was tricky because I didn't want to talk and potentially ruin something. So I mostly responded with hmmms and uhmmms. After what only felt like about four minutes, she paused and I took the opportunity to ask how far along we were. We were in fact ten minutes along. That was good. It wasn't fun but it also wasn't that bad. I'm not sure I would want to do an hour of it. But fifteen minutes wasn't that bad.

Afterward she had me put an icepack on it for about five minutes. Then she put on some special post-electrolysis cream. I was told to not put anything on it for at least a week; no lotions or soaps. Instead she said that one had to use witch hazel as it's an astringent. Electrolysis can leave the former hair follicles open and if there is too much moisture bacteria will move in. That's why she also recommended a triple antibiotic ointment. So I'm doing both those four times a day.

Now I have a quarter sized hairless patch on my face. It's good to know that, while those hairs hurt, they are done. They never need to be removed again! Now, because hairs go through a dormancy cycle, you have to do each area twice. And then often you need to go back one more time to get any stray stragglers. So fifteen minutes down. Fifteen hundred minutes to go. My next appointment will be for twenty minutes. Wish me luck.


*Lumberjack might be a bad example.

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 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