12 things this gender-non-conforming child wanted you to know

This article was clearly well-intentioned, but it really rubbed me the wrong way. I was a gender-non-conforming child, and overall I agree with most of those, but I would never have put them that way.

I most definitely do not sign onto Duron’s #1, and I wouldn’t have when I was a child. If you asked me whether my sex and my gender aligned (by that definition) I would’ve said yes. That did not make me gender conforming.

I also didn’t subscribe to her #3. I was trying to make some people uncomfortable. I was much more into genderfuck rebellion in elementary school than I’ve ever been since.

I was more like four years old here.
I was more like four years old here.

Here is my best attempt to reach back through time and channel my eight-year-old self. In the spirit of my #1, and in the grand tradition of Epimenides, take it with a huge grain of salt.

  1. Kids can speak for themselves. Listen to us. Don’t listen to some grownup who says they know what we want. Don’t ever pretend to be one of us, cause you’re not.
  2. Definitely don’t listen to women who say they know what we want. What’s with all these women taking care of us? Can I talk to a man?
  3. Why do women always Peter Pan in plays and movies, anyway? It’s not fair. Peter Pan should be played by a boy!
  4. It’s all right to cry. Boys cry too.
  5. It’s not fair that girls and women get to wear pants or skirts, but boys can’t wear skirts. No, I don’t want a kilt. Yes, I know my name is Angus, I still don’t want a kilt.
  6. It’s not fair that girls can have long or short hair, but people make fun of me for having long hair. I just have long hair because my mom won’t cut it short enough.
  7. Sports are unfair.
  8. People shouldn’t watch horror movies because they’re scary and not real. They should watch happy movies, and Star Wars.
  9. Girl chase is unfair to the girls. I refuse to chase girls.
  10. I won’t go inside the nursery school. Stephanie, my teacher, wore tights yesterday.
  11. Boys can dance too. They can’t be ballerinas, but they can be ballet dancers. They can dance modern dance too, like my mom’s friend Dennis. I want to dance, but I don’t want to be the only boy in the class.
  12. Miss Mary Mack and Miss Lucy and jump rope and jacks look like fun. They should let boys play too.

And yes, I’m aware that I sounded like a child. I was one.

What’s keeping me awake at night

I have real reasons to be happy about my excursion on Saturday. I have a great friend. My co-workers are super cool. But that’s not how gender fog works with me. Instead, it keeps me up all night thinking about things like this:

I'm so hot.
I’m so hot. Don’t you think I’m hot? I’m in soft focus.
  • I’ve lost so much weight! I wonder if I’m a 38C or a 36D.
  • That guy who held the door for me totally didn’t read me. I bet nobody did!
  • I definitely fit in with all those cute tourist women. I was prettier than a lot of them.
  • I could rock the dress that woman was wearing on the subway yesterday.
  • Would the brown skirt I bought go better with a black top or a white one?
  • I so want to go out in that green dress. Maybe this weekend. Can I get the time off?
  • Makeup is such a pain. I wonder how much laser costs.
  • Can I really wear a strappy sundress? I’d definitely need to get rid of my T-shirt tan lines first.
  • I could have gone to work in a dress yesterday. No, maybe that wouldn’t be a good idea. Well, at least I could’ve gone to the coffee shop in a dress. Who cares what my neighbors think?
  • Is my video camera good enough to make a haul video?

Gender fog

You may have heard about “gender fog.” Also known as “pink fog,” “pink cloud” or “gender euphoria,” it’s an intense emotion that many transgender people experience around a significant event. I used to get it when I tried on a new outfit, particularly a kind that I had fantasized about (when I was a teenager, that involved short skirts and nylons). Now it mostly happens when I go out in public presenting as a woman.
This excitement is relative, and it depends on how much I’m used to the activity. If I haven’t cross-dressed at all in months, I may feel some gender fog just at cross-dressing. The same thing for shaving or haircuts, or new outfits. If I’ve been cross-dressing a lot, and shaving and maybe even getting new outfits on a regular basis, I don’t get as excited. Since I haven’t been going out cross-dressed very much lately, just going out can bring on very intense euphoria.

For me, gender fog generally starts as soon as I make plans to go out. I get insomnia, where instead of sleeping I lie in bed thinking about what I’m going to wear, where I’m going to change, whether I’m going to meet up with anyone, when I’m going to leave, where I’m going to shop and what I’m going to buy, whether I’ll have a meal, and so forth. I dwell on potential problems, mostly around passing: is my makeup technique good enough to cover my beard? Is my belly too big? Are my shoulders too broad? Will it be too hot to wear a dress that flatters my figure? Have I been practicing my voice enough? Will my sinuses be clear enough?

When I finish changing and actually go out in public, I usually get very excited. Then, since whatever activity I do in public lasts several hours (otherwise it’s not really worth putting on all the makeup), at some point in the day or evening I’ll feel kind of tired or bored, and think, “I could be doing this in guy clothes, and it’d be a lot easier.” But then there will usually be something else interesting or fun that happens. I’m typically tired at the end of the trip, and sometimes I sleep very well for several nights afterwards.

The post-event gender fog usually involves some experience that made me happy, usually because it confirms my role as a woman. Because of this, many of these involve passing or acceptance. I got a cute outfit. I used my female voice for the first time. A guard directed me to the women’s room in Rockefeller Center. A waiter flirted with me. A transitioned trans woman briefly thought I was a non-trans woman. A woman complimented my look. I went to an interesting part of the city or event that I’d never been to as a woman. Or maybe it was just the experience of walking through the city, being accepted as one of the women.

After the experience, I find myself dwelling on it, thinking about how I could repeat or extend it. If I got a cute outfit, I think about wearing it at home, or on a future outing. Maybe I think about future outfits. If it’s an interaction, I think about other interactions. If it’s a place, I think about going back to that place, or to other places. I also may think about things that were time-consuming or inconvenient, and about ways that I could make them easier.

If I had a really good time or if I did something really new for me, I may be high for days, thinking about nothing but my experience. My wife and friends get really tired of hearing about it. I have trouble concentrating at work. I may plan to go out again, sooner than I had originally thought. I may think about more “soft body mods,” like ear piercing, growing my hair or permanent leg or facial hair removal.

The gender fog always lasts for several days after the event. Usually I use ten days as a rule of thumb, although if I ever go out more than once in a ten-day period the excitement is compounded.

Yesterday I went out in public, and I’m definitely feeling the gender fog. It’s not as intense as it has been at some times. I had trouble sleeping the night before, and I was expecting to sleep better last night, but I had similar difficulties. On the other hand, my difficulty sleeping may be unrelated to this experience. I’ve been having insomnia lately anyway, and the heat doesn’t help.

Some of you may be scoffing at this. If you transitioned years ago and have been living a quiet life as your target gender, then yes you probably don’t have experiences like this. Similarly if you’ve got a stable genderqueer or genderfluid existence. If you’re transitioning then your outings are probably more extensive, frequent and social than my shopping trips. But I’ve seen transitioners have similar reactions to other milestones, particularly relating to hormonal body modifications and legal and social acceptance. I’m guessing that you’ve all had some feeling like this.

Living in the highlight reel

Steven Furtick, a Christian cleric who has publicly condemned homosexuality, has nevertheless come up with a great metaphor to help us understand insecurity.

Building on Furtick’s metaphor, it occurred to me recently that glamour, as described by Virginia Postrel, is the desire to escape from our behind-the-scenes into someone else’s highlight reel.


After taking this picture of myself last week, I’m thinking that narcissism is the desire to escape from our behind-the-scenes into our own highlight reel.

I will die a man

Back in 2004 I lost my father, who had been there for me since I was born. In May I unexpectedly lost Ed Kossoy, the man who joined my mother in raising me from when I was twelve. If you think saying goodbye to one father makes you think about your own mortality, you can imagine what it’s like with two.

There have been other deaths near me recently as well: a thirty-year-old neighbor dropped dead of a heart attack; another acquaintance died of a freak (i.e. non-car-related) accident. Friends have told me about losing loved ones in painful ways. Even pets: two years ago one of our cats died after a long illness.

I’m not a kid anymore, and sometimes I have weird health issues and I wonder, could this be it? Of course I hope I’ll be around for many years to come, but my time will come eventually. And I know several transgender people who have decided to transition when they were confronted with the fact that some day they will die. As I understand it, they realized that they really didn’t want to live as men their entire lives, and that if they didn’t transition they might just die as men. That was their choice for themselves.

For myself, I’ve seen two men I love die, and I think it’s okay. When the time comes for me to go, I’ll be a man like them.

Does this mean that I no longer feel any desire to be a woman? Far from it. I feel it every day, as much as many who have transitioned. But I also feel a desire to be a man. Not some caricature of manliness, but a thoughtful, problem-solving man like my dad and Ed both were. A strong and loving man. Long ago I realized that I can’t be both, and chose to be a man.

I still plan on cross-dressing on a regular basis for as long as I can. You may some day see an elegant old lady walking down the street, and it’ll be me. But then in a few hours I’ll go home and change back. I hope that I don’t die in the dressing room at Macy’s, but there are certainly more embarrassing ways to die. And of course the most embarrassing way of all is to die after a lifetime of hiding yourself in fear. Whatever happens, it won’t be that for me.

Be careful, you’ll put an eye out!

I just looked at this package in my cosmetics collection. It says,

Jean-Pierre Cosmetics
Eye & Make Up Remover
Cleansing Towelettes

It’s not a short-term glitch; that’s the official name of the product.

I had already used it when I noticed this, but I double-checked, and it didn’t remove any of my eyes. Whew! I guess it must actually be “face & eye make-up remover.”

Of course, I bought this stuff months ago. I knew exactly what it was when I bought it, and didn’t even notice the superficially-inaccurate description until a few minutes ago. Just goes to show that language communicates well even when it doesn’t follow the rules of logic.

Incidentally, it seems to be very effective at removing eye make-up without causing too much discomfort or drying my skin.  I’m satisfied.

Banned, huh?

Apparently I’ve been banned from the My Husband Betty message boards.  As far as I can tell, I didn’t violate any rules, and I haven’t received any explanation other than the mention of a particular comment that I made.  Well, I’m angry about it, but I know that things said in anger can come back to haunt people, so all I’ll say is that I expected a lot more maturity.  And that I haven’t felt like I was treated fairly there for a while, so I’d rather be banned than be a second-class citizen.

What a pain in the ass.  Oh well, life goes on.

Coming Out at American Express

(Originally posted January 24, 2004)

From the moment I first slipped on a pair of my sister’s nylons when I was eleven years old, I knew that my cross-dressing was a shameful, dangerous practice, and that people would rather that I kept it secret. When I was twenty-four, I decided that I was tired of hiding, and I just wanted to be able to be who I was. I wanted to be able to join in the conversation when I heard women talking about clothes, not turn away. Mostly, I just wanted to stop feeling ashamed.

In the winter of 1995-96, I was living in New York in an apartment I shared with an old friend. In the previous two years, I had come out to two gay male friends, two girlfriends, my father, my apartmentmate, one bisexual friend, and one straight male friend. Everyone had been relatively accepting and supportive, so I decided to come out to the rest of the world. I had decided to post to transgender newsgroups under my real name, and I knew that it was impossible to hide that. I had started carrying a picture of myself cross-dressed in my wallet. I knew that at some point I would have to come out at work.

My work then consisted of temping for Vanstar, an outsourcing company at the offices of American Express. We were working for American Express, but we were twice removed from most of the benefits of being actual American Express employees. The American Express employees resented us for taking their jobs, and the Vanstar employees looked down on us for being temps. But the money was decent, and it was good experience. Continue reading “Coming Out at American Express”

Some good work-related trans news

There are a couple of good trans-related things that have happened to me in the past month. They both relate to my business; in case you don’t know, I’m a computer consultant. I’ve been hesitant about being out to my customers for a number of reasons. The main reason is that it’s just not relevant to most of my business. But sometimes things come up, and it makes sense to mention something trans-related. The second problem is that I’ve built a lot of my business in my local neighborhood, and it’s a bit more conservative than Manhattan. Even in Manhattan, though, I worry that transness (especially transvestism) may not be as accepted as homosexuality.

There are signs that being out isn’t as difficult as I thought, however. I know that one of my biggest customers was aware of my cross-dressing before she hired me, and I’ve come out to some of my other cutomers (who I knew were either some flavor of queer, or at least open-minded) with no adverse consequences. And now, recently, two more things.

The first is that I’ve recently become involved in LGBT business networking. In June I joined the organization Out Professionals, and I was a little apprehensive at first, because all their materials just say “lesbian and gay.” But I asked if it was okay to join because I was trans, and the seminar organizer said, “you could even be straight, and you’d be welcome.”

A few weeks later I got an announcement from Out Professionals that one of their members is organizing a breakfast networking group here in Queens. I went to the first meeting last month, and it was a really nice experience. The other attendees were very friendly, and I got some promising business leads. The next meeting is going to be on Wednesday, September 13 in Jackson Heights. It’s still at an informal stage, so if anyone reading this is interested in attending, send me an email and I’ll send you the organizer’s email address.

The other positive development recently is that I met another computer consultant who’s trans. This woman is transsexual, around fifteen years post-transition, and has built a successful computer consulting business with several employees. She tells me she doesn’t pass with everyone and she’s out to anyone who wants to know, but if any of her customers know she’s trans, it doesn’t seem to faze them. They seem much more interested in getting their computers working.

It’s reassuring to see this, as a counterpoint to all those studies that use questionable methods and claim to show that almost all transpeople are drug-addicted prostitutes or underpaid social workers. It shows that there’s a middle way between the closet and poverty.