Q: What can my LGBT organization do to better include trans people?
SEBASTIAN: Actually, there are some great resources about this!
•Where’s the “Twp_postsin GSA? Making Your Club Trans-Inclusive
•And another from the GSA Network
In one of the questions about this, the asker said they have men’s and women’s events throughout the year and that while they specify that the events are for people who identify as male or female, it is possible that they are still alienating people. My suggestion to this would be if you and your organization believe that it is beneficial to have events like this (which hey it might be!) to name them something less binary like “Bois Nightwp_postsand “Grrrls Nightwp_postsand specify that they are intended for masculine-identified people or feminine-identified people. A trans* night might be nice as well, but not as a comparable thing to boys or grrrls night, because then it presents trans people as necessarily having an “otherwp_postsgender.
Q: I have a friend who is trans and still living as female (her assigned gender) and wants to be referred to with female pronouns while she is figuring things out. She’s having a really rough time with it and I’m worried that it hurts her when I use female pronouns, even though it’s what she’s asked me to do.
SEBASTIAN: Ask your friend directly if she’d prefer you use gender neutral or male pronouns with her in private. Be honest with her that you want to refer to her exactly how she would prefer and that it doesn’t matter to you if her preferences change or evolve in the future. When I first came out, I told people to use the pronouns that they felt comfortable with – I was really really worried about making others uncomfortable, about putting them out. My roommate stopped me and said, “listen – just tell me what you would actually prefer because that is what I want to use.wp_postsI needed someone to tell me that it was putting them out, basically.
ANNIKA: Good communication is the key here. Make it explicitly clear to her that you want to be as supportive as possible, and ask her to be honest about her needs, even if those change from day to day. Give her as much time as she needs to figure things out; this is no doubt very scary and confusing for her. When I first came out, I told my friends that pronouns weren’t all that important to me (they are). Like Sebastian, I was worried about alienating my friends and making them uncomfortable- it was almost as if I didn’t feel worthy of being called she/her for some reason. I felt like it would be asking too much. But I can’t describe how wonderful it felt when people did use pronouns that affirmed my identity, and I soon realized that it was something that I couldn’t live without. A few weeks after coming out, I told my friends to only use feminine pronouns, and by that point most of them had gotten over their initial shock and were more than willing to do so.
Q: During MTF (sorry if you don’t like this term – I don’t really know the correct terms) transition, what happens to a person’s ‘Adam’s Apple’ does it just become less prominent like a cis-female’s due to the taking of estrogen? Or is there surgery involved?
ANNIKA: Two words: tracheal shave. The laryngeal prominence, or Adam’s Apple, is the result of increased thyroid cartilage protruding from a person’s voice box. It is a common secondary male sex characteristic, but not everyone who has gone through male puberty has one- and I am so thankful that I don’t! Taking estrogen will not help with decreasing the size of an Adam’s Apple and the only real option is surgery. It’s actually one of the most common operations performed on trans* women, because a visible Adam’s Apple will almost always ruin your chances of passing as female (although it should be noted that a small percentage of cisgender women have them as well).
As for the correct terms, I know that an increasing number of trans* people are abandoning MTF and FTM in favor of MAAB (male assigned at birth) and FAAB (female assigned at birth). MTF and FTM can be seen as reinforcing the binary system and don’t account for those trans* people who don’t identify as either male or female. For me and Sebastian and others that do, trans man and trans woman are perfectly acceptable. I’m certainly not offended if someone describes me as MTF, but it’s not really accurate when you think about it. Yes, the gender marker on my driver’s license will literally change from ‘M’ to ‘F’- but I have never identified as male. I am and have always been a girl, even when my external appearance didn’t show this.
Q: My boyfriend is shorter than me and feels less masculine because of it. Is there any way to show him that it’s okay for men to be shorter than their partners?
SEBASTIAN: Oh man, I don’t know if your boyfriend is trans or not, because you didn’t specify, but it honestly doesn’t matter, because this shit affects all guys. Height is associated with power, and in our society, men are supposed to have more power than their counterparts. That’s the gist of it. Straight men are supposed to be bigger so they can be the big spoon, physically and metaphorically. They gotta protect their ladies you know – cause how are these ladies can do it themselves? And if you’re short, you can’t protect your lady, and if you can’t protect your lady, then you are just failing at manhood, right?
God there are so many fallacies there. And I know that logically, but shit if I still (at a strong 5’6”) feel immasculated with taller women. On OKCupid (yeah I’ve got one) I usually hang my head when I see that a girl I like is taller than 5’8”. So logic, feminism, and fist-shaking can’t necessarily solve our problems.
The best thing for me is to see men, trans and cisgender, who are shorter than average. And it’s even more helpful to see straight couples in which the woman is the same height or taller than her male companion. There are a few blogs celebrating awesome dudes (mostly celebs) that are 5’7wp_postsand shorter, and I also kinda look for it around town. There is rarely a space in which I’m the shortest dude. And about once a week I spot a happy couple with a taller woman. Check out these blogs:
Q: What about lesbians dating trans men?!
SEBASTIAN: OKAY, I got so many questions about this (which makes sense – it’s confusing and also I heard a lot of lesbians use this site or something). I think I’ll write a whole post. I hope you all can hold on til then!
Q: I’ve heard that transition changes your sexual orientation. Did your transition mark any change in your attraction to girls or guys?
SEBASTIAN: This is such a silly rumor. Don’t feel bad for hearing it or even believing it (if you did). It’s like very widespread, even within trans communities. Transition, hormones, etc. don’t directly affect whom you are attracted to. Sexual and romantic attraction are such silly things for human beings. There are so many nuances that go into our attractions and our sexual identities, and these factors evolve as we go through life, so our attractions and sexual orientations do, too. A lot of people find that relating to people sexually or romantically is very different in their “newwp_postsgender. I know trans men who were not attracted to men when they were living as women, but love being with men as men. I think it actually solidified my attraction to women. I loved being a man with women even more than I’d loved being a woman with women. So yes, sexuality shifts SOMETIMES with transition, but not because hormones throw up some sort of switch in your brain. And most of the time, our preferences stay pretty much the same.
ANNIKA: I’ve heard this a lot too, especially within trans girl circles. I’ve been told that estrogen might alter my sexuality, and after nearly four months of HRT, I’m still waiting for that moment where ‘poof!’ I’m suddenly attracted to guys. It hasn’t happened yet, but if it does I’m not certain that it will be because of the hormones I’m taking. I think that part of the reason why I’m not attracted to men is rooted in my own repulsion of experiencing male puberty. Maybe after I’m more comfortable with my female body this will change. At this point, I’m not going to rule anything out.
Basically it comes down to this: gender identity and sexual orientation are two separate things, but they inform each other in complex ways that we can’t fully comprehend. Both are spectrums- hardly anyone is 100% masculine or 100% feminine, or 100% gay or 100% straight. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. And our identities are fluid to a certain extent, meaning that where we fall on these respective spectrums can change. There is a lot of societal pressure (both outside and within the mainstream gay communities) to place oneself in either of the binary categories of gender and sexuality and stay there. So I think that the reason why some trans* people exhibit a more flexible sexuality is because they have already made a conscious decision to transgress the binary. I think we’d all be a lot happier if we didn’t limit ourselves to rigid identity categories. That’s why I love the word queer- it’s not nearly as restrictive!