Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Bathroom is Like a Superhero's Phonebooth, but I'm Not a Superhero

I spend more time in the bathroom now that I’m trying to be a man than I ever did before. It’s weird because my utterly pragmatic approach to appearance, not even to mention home decorating, is one of the strongest suits in my masculine credentials.

The shot itself takes time. I don’t want any infections, so I’m careful. On a paper towel on the counter, I lay out the syringe, cotton ball and two needles — large to load up the oily testosterone, and small to inject it. (I tried to use the big syringe to inject once and I couldn’t even get the thing in. A doctor said, "Yeah, you have to harpoon it in.") I have to feel around to make sure I'm injecting in the magic safe triangle on the side of my derriere. Wipe off vial lid and injection site. And hold a cotton ball on the spot for a second afterward.

There’s a cleanup process, too (note: It’s tacky to leave your needles and vials around for housemates to see). The needles go in their special sharps container. Of course one recycles the vials. On a good night, I might even compost the (100% recycled) paper towel.

All in all, this takes about 15 minutes once every two weeks, significantly nosing upward my average-time-in-the-bathroom stats. Don’t be fooled: These stats are a more important measure of masculinity than any sports data ever was.

Have I mentioned that shaving your face is hard? My femme friend assures me that “electric razors are where it’s at,” and I know that if shaving ever becomes a real necessity I will succumb to the utter unsexiness that is the electric razor.

I may in the not-too-distant future also find myself obliged to groom body hair. There’s an electric razor designed for that, the femme — who's Jewish — tells me, which I imagine is a hot-seller in the Walgreen’s on Castro. It’s got some boring name with the word “Norelco” in it, which reminds me of my weird father, so I’ve already decided I will call it The Manscaper.

Thanks to the testosterone, I’ve also become a regular user of antibiotic gel to keep the pimples at bay. The gel has changed my life by eliminating — yes, eliminating — a long-standing skin problem which shall remain nameless but that really wore on my self esteem while naked. For years, I suffered in silence believing it was pure vanity to ask a doctor about something so minor, but now I’ve learned there’s nothing too small to ask a doctor about. And now that I’m on testosterone — and the magic gel — I feel much more comfortable changing in the women’s locker room at the gym.

The gel is delightfully easy to put on my face. But since I’ve been taking T, I’ve developed some minor but vanity-dampening folliculitis/acne on my chest, which means I have to apply the gel after bathing and before putting on my binder. Incidentally, the binder is another life-changing purchase, but it’s tight and made from thick-ish material, so the gel really has to go on first. I’m down to one tube at present and it always manages to be in my bedroom when I need it in the bathroom, creating the perfect scenario in which to walk from one room to another with no shirt on — which I can’t do because I have a housemate, but even on the incredibly rare occasion that she leaves the house, walking from room to room with my tiny breasts exposed just begs the question of how utterly satisfying and erotic it will be to walk about freshly showered and shirtless with my future man chest.

Assuming the man chest happens before I've hardened my contours and furred up my exterior (if I ever suck up the humiliation of being furry like an animal), I may find myself acquiring yet another bizarre girlish bathroom ritual: changing in the toilet stall of whichever locker room I decide to use at the gym.

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Photo Fundraising: Urban Landscapes

I'm selling 12" x 18" limited-edition prints of some photographs of mine to raise money for surgery. Each costs $45 plus shipping and handling. If you're interested, leave a comment with your name and which image you want. Then buy the photo using the PayPal button.

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Monkey on Your Back That Defines You

I could list a hundred reasons why I like working out enough to make it to the gym pretty nearly everyday, but let's be honest: The most pressing thing that gets me there day after day is vanity. Just a few extra pounds and my ass goes from that high-up defined arch that I like to a jiggly mass of womanliness — or so it seems to me. And if I neglect my muscles long enough I cease to look like a powerful block of bulldagger and start to look like a wee wisp of baby butch.

The other thing that spurs my gym addiction is a sense of accomplishment: Every day, I set goals that I can meet without depending on anyone but myself. If only the rest of life were so easy and gave such immediate satisfaction! The overarching goals of lean, mean fitness and big, defined muscles in my upper body — bulking where no woman dares to bulk — have given me purpose for the last decade.

Then I started injecting myself with testosterone, and the trapeziums that I haven't been able to work out much thanks to a nagging shoulder injury are piling up like snow drifts on my shoulders. The abs I never bothered to work too hard — knowing they'd always be hidden behind a soft belly that I'd have to become a full-time aerobics instructor to pare off — are peaking out in two faint but thrilling lines.

This is good news. But I find myself wondering: What will I do if vanity doesn't drive me to the gym everyday? Will I still work out? And who would I be without my fitness addiction?

In my own mind at least, I'm someone who has to work and work and work to make any progress at all toward my life goals, so I've begun to see the work itself as progress. I'm not one for inspirational aphorisms, but one that struck a chord with me went something like: Success is getting knocked down 18 times and getting up 19.

Testosterone is like instant goal attainment when it comes to physique. Or at least it seems that way initially: I imagine that if I ever get to a point where I'm passing as a man, I will start thinking about how short a man I am, and how my hands are too small and I wish I didn't have to limit myself to European-cut shirts and a shoe size small enough not to be available everywhere. Who knows, maybe I'll become a meathead with a Napoleon complex to compensate. Right now, I know I should just enjoy the goal-in-a-syringe thing that I've got going on.

But it's this kind of seemingly unimportant, and maybe even a little wonderful, shifts that signal just how much rests on the gender identity each of us queers has built — and that, in my case, I feel like I've built with no small amount of elbow grease. Who are we, after all, if not our habits and the familiar tracks of self-criticism playing in our heads?

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Friday, February 4, 2011

About a Whisker

Hair on your face is creepy, if you think about it. Born men don't think about it much, I imagine, since they have no choice in the matter, anyway. But given precisely the choice to grow hair out of my perfectly nice face or to leave it be — well, with the amount of straggly facial hair I see on trans men, this has been serious barrier to committing to a regular regimen of testosterone.

But here I am taking the stuff again, partly because I've decided that it could be workable to be a clean-shaven transman and partly because I looked at my brother and my father and realized it's pretty unlikely I'll become anything remotely resembling a yeti anytime soon.

I have a whisker. It's smack in the middle of my chin. Alright, I tell myself — it's just one whisker. It doesn't lock me in to a full transition — even though lots of facial hair probably would: it's got to be better to be a transman than to be a chick with a beard, right?

I decide the whisker provides a good opportunity to practice shaving, which is one of those erotic ritual behaviors of masculinity. Except it's really hard. How can I explain? If you have experience shaving your legs, imagine that every part of your leg is the most difficult curve in your ankle and that missing a patch is not an option because it will show. And cutting yourself will also show. Maybe it's because my skin is the most delicate ladyskin ever, but shaving also gives me itchy, painful razor burn that lasts for two days. Fortunately, at this point, I really don't need to shave, certainly not every day.

But once you start shaving, you notice the hairs on your face growing in — not even to mention the single stiff whisker in the middle of your chin, which drives you absolutely insane. Even the soft blond hairs grow in all stubbly, and I find myself stroking my chin feeling them stand up against my hand. (Is this masculine, or just weird and gross?)

At one point, I see something that looks like it could be a second whisker just beneath the surface of my skin. Here I will pause to say that just as straight/gay and male/female are important binaries that give structure to our social interactions, so, too, is picker/grown-up. And, alas, if it's not already all too obvious, I am a picker. Give me a pimple and I will double its size daily until I have a disfiguring scab across half of my face. Give me an ingrown hair and I will confront it with bigger and more sophisticated tools until I've forced it to unravel and reveal itself, even if it brings a stream of blood with it. At that point I will say something like, Ha ha, I got you, you fucker.

And so it was with the potential second whisker, which turned out (I think) not to be a whisker at all, just the suggestion of something dark under the skin. Of course, once I was picking, I decided to try to pluck whisker #1. This did not work, because it wasn't long enough to grab with tweezers. End result: two small scabs on my chin that looked much worse than two whiskers, or probably even three, would have.

But until the scabs heal, I can't shave again because I will just nick them off.

They are, fortunately, small scabs. I sure as hell don't plan on telling anybody I was trying to dig out whiskers (or potential whiskers), so I head out with a poker face about the whole thing to meet my friend E. for a movie.

E. is a good friend, and therefore obviously also a picker. She has a big scab on her chin. I don't mention it.