Jul 212011

To be honest, I’m conflicted about posting this blog. It doesn’t seem to me that I should have to say anything in a semi-public forum, but… it’s bound to come up eventually, and I’d rather forestall any rumors. Not that I think this would merit any rumors, but still. Here goes.

No more for me! (well, beyond what my body already produces, at least)

I quit testosterone about six months ago. Before the identity police come in, please note: quitting T does not make me any less trans, just like being on T did not make me any less butch. I’ve identified with both of those labels ever since I was a wee queer tadpole, and my use (or non-use) of hormones doesn’t change that.

A lot of factors went into this decision. First of all, I never intended to be a lifer with T. There were a few specific things I wanted from it– a lower voice and smaller hips were at the top of the list. I started taking T to further queer my gender presentation– not to normalize it. Once it got to the point that I was being read as a man in just about all contexts– and not even necessarily being read as trans in queer contexts– I knew it was time to stop. I’m butch, and I’m trans, but I’m certainly not a man.

My testosterone use was always conflicted. My first solo show, XY(T), wrestled with it, and reached a point of vague comfort by the end of the performance. I’m not sure how different that piece would look if I performed it now. I would probably have to add an epilogue. Someone should book the show, and we can find out what happens.

I’ll admit it– and I want to be clear here, I am just speaking for my own experience, and not making prescriptive statements for anyone else– it feels great. Since I quit, I have felt more energetic, more confident, more present in my own body. This may be a coincidence, and it may be psychosomatic. I’m reluctant to declare this as a causal relationship, however compelling the evidence seems to me. This does not mean that I regret the 6 years that I used the hormone– it was right for me then, and it isn’t right for me now.

I don’t think of this as “detransitioning.” There are a couple of reasons for that. First of all, I’ve always chafed under the “transitioning” terminology– I was not “pre-transition” before I started taking T, I was not “mid-transition” while I was on it, and I never envisioned myself arriving at some elusive “post-transition” point. “Transition,” with its implied origin and destination, simply didn’t work for me.

What hasn’t changed is how I present myself or identify myself socially. What is changing, now, is how I’m perceived in the world. It’s strange, I don’t feel as if my appearance or mannerisms have changed at all, but already I’m getting the “sir—ma’ams” and the skeptical looks in bathrooms. And while, yes, sometimes it feels awkward or slightly unsafe, it also feels like I am being more wholly seen than I have been in years.

I’ll be teaching a workshop about testosterone– going on it, and going off it, for masculine-of-center folks– at the Butch Voices conference in Oakland in August. I’m looking forward to bringing more people into this conversation. There is lots of dialogue in transmasculine and masculine-of-center communities about going on T… but very little about going off. Hopefully, this blog, and my upcoming workshop, will create a little more space for anyone else out there who is re-examining their relationship to testosterone. Or if nothing else… maybe it will start a few good rumors.

Jul 142011
This weekend, I participated in a ‘Butch Burlesque’ workshop taught by Victoria Libertore.  I knew several folks who had attended a longer version of the workshop last summer, and the juxtaposition of the words ‘butch’ and ‘burlesque’ piqued my curiosity.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I went into the workshop hoping to push my boundaries, discover new ways of using my body on stage and more ideas for engaging my audience. And I knew that, for better or for worse, I was going to have to take some clothes off.

It’s not that I’ve never used nudity in performance before. XY(T) is, among other things, a prolonged striptease (with plot and characters, of course). Burlesque felt different though; this time, the striptease was the whole point.  Stripped (pardon the pun) of the long-form narratives that I normally work with, I had to decide how naked I was willing to get, and how I was going to get there.

As a whole, the workshop was challenging, liberating, and fun. The environment was supportive, and conducive to the development of new work. The students ranged from experienced performers to people with very little stage time under their belt. Victoria put us through our paces with a range of exercises that helped loosen us up, build confidence, and explore archetypes. The rest of the time was devoted to workshopping each student’s individual piece. By the end of the weekend, each student had the general shape of their piece, with ideas of how to further refine and develop it. You’ll be able to see what we all came up with at Butch Burlesque: An Evening of Swagger, coming up on August 5th at Dixon Place.

I don’t know that burlesque will become a frequent part of my performance repertoire, but it was good to step out of my comfort zone and push my own boundaries.  Who knew? Sometimes to build yourself up, it helps to take a thing or two off.
 Posted by at 11:33 am  Comments Off on Butchlesque
Jul 022011

I’m going to be reading at Sideshow on Tuesday, July 12th!

I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to read yet– maybe something old, maybe something new, maybe a teeny-tiny bit from the new show I’m working on about Radclyffe Hall.  I hope that you’ll come check it out!

Here are all the details:

Join us at Sideshow on Tuesday, July 12th. Featured readers include Ellis Avery, Samantha Barrow, E Charles Crandall, Kestryl Cael Lowrey, Morgan W., Renair Amin, & Ashley Young.

Sideshow: The Queer Literary Carnival
Hosted by Sinclair Sexsmith
Tuesday, July 12th
at The Phoenix
447 East 13th Street at Avenue A
Doors, 7:30pm. Reading, 8pm
Free! (We’ll pass the hat for the readers)
Details on QueerLiteraryCarnival.com
Details & RSVP on Facebook

 Posted by at 5:12 pm  Comments Off on Sideshow – Tuesday, July 12th
Jun 212011

Photo by Syd London

It may be summer, but I’m certainly not on vacation.  This is a busy summer for me, and I’m thrilled to officially announce the new show that I’m working on, RADCLYFFE: The Completely Honest and Mostly True Story of Victorian England’s Second Most Notorious Invert.

Radclyffe Hall was a butch who swaggered her way through the early 20th century and wrote the censored lesbian classic, ‘The Well of Loneliness.’ In this pseudo-historical solo performance, she confronts the important questions of queer life today: “what happened to ‘romantic friendships’? What the hell is a ‘genderqueer’?! And where can a butch get a good haircut in this town?!?”

The opening party for the HOT Festival at Dixon Place is this Friday, June 24th, and I’ll be performing a short excerpt from RADCLYFFE.  This will be the FIRST public performance of any material for this show, so you don’t want to miss this!  Doors open at 6pm, and the performances start at 9:00pm.  I’ll be there with 20(!!!) other HOT! artists to give you a taste of the festival.

Your next chance to see RADCLYFFE will be on July 27th, as part of the HOT Festival at Dixon Place.  I’m performing on a shared bill with Corinne Donly.  It should be a great night.  Tickets are $15 in advance, and you can buy them here!

Don’t despair if you’re not in NYC, because later this summer, RADCLYFFE will be heading west.  I’ll be performing as part of the Butch Voices conference in Oakland, August 18th-21st.  Stay tuned for more details about exactly when and where Radclyffe will saunter across the stage.

Back in NYC at the end of August, RADCLYFFE will appear at the Pop-Up Museum of Queer History at the Leslie/Lohman Gallery in SoHo.  I’ll be posting more details about the date and time soon!

I hope to see you at one of my summer performances– I can’t wait to introduce RADCLYFFE to you!

 Posted by at 7:26 pm  Comments Off on Who said it was summer break?
May 202011

The eels inside my hovercraft.

Do you know how to say ‘my hovercraft is full of eels’ in Dutch? I do: mijn luchtkussenboot zit vol paling. This helpful phrase was included in one of the guides I was looking at so that I could at least pretend to not be a stupid American without any knowledge of the local language when I go to the Netherlands next week. I’m not sure if I will actually need to inform anyone that my hovercraft is full of eels, but it’s good to be prepared.

This will be my first trip to Europe, and I am excited (so excited!) and nervous (possibly more than I am willing to admit). My international travels have been limited to Canada and Mexico. Staying on the same continent didn’t feel like traveling to another country the way that crossing the Atlantic does.

My trip is relatively short–just 5 days.  I am going to Utrecht (a short train ride outside of Amsterdam) to participate in the Performance Studies International conference. I’m not sure if I have any regular readers in the Netherlands (my google analytics report says I might), so if you’re out there… Come say hello at the conference! I will be speaking on Thursday afternoon about queer melancholia. You can check out the entire conference schedule here.

I’m less nervous about anything I might encounter in Utrecht than I am about the experience of getting there. As a trans queer, borders and customs agents are a bit of a minefield. There’s always the question of what the officials will see when they look at me, and whether or not that will match what my documents say. Several years ago, I switched my identity documents over to list my sex as ‘M.’ It’s not how I identify, but after several unpleasant run-ins with cops who took issue with the friction between the ‘F’ on my license and the way I inhabit my body, I decided it would be safer to switch it. Mostly, this has been true, but my gender is slippery (like all the eels in my hovercraft), and lately more strangers have been perceiving me as someone they could call ‘she.’ I don’t know what the customs agents will see when they meet me next week.

I just received my first full value passport since I was 16. For the past several years, US state department policy was to only issue ‘limited’ passports to trans individuals with mismatched documents.  The limited passport was clearly labelled as such, and it expired after one year. To even receive this limited passport, you would have to submit a doctor’s letter verifying that you were a ‘transsexual in the process of sexual reassignment who would be undergoing surgical reassignment in the next year,’ jump through a few more hoops, and pay the full passport fee–and go through it all again the next year.  I have countless expired 1-year limited passports in my files.

Thanks to the advocacy work of countless activists and policy workers, last year the Department of State changed their policy for issuing passports to trans people. The National Center for Transgender Equality has a very helpful guide that I recommend any internationally-traveling trans folks check out. Under the new guidelines, trans people with mismatched documents still have to submit a doctor’s note, but it only has to say that the doctor has treated you for gender transition, and does not have to describe what that treatment entailed. With the new policy, trans people are issued fully valid passports, with a ten-year expiration date. Now I have a full passport for ten years, with an ‘M’ on it. We’ll see what the border patrol thinks– with luck, my hovercraft of eels and I will slip right through.
 Posted by at 9:13 am  Comments Off on Europe and borders and passports, oh my!
May 082011

I’m conflicted about the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).  I understand the need for shared diagnostic criteria across the mental health professions, but I’m extremely critical of the pathologization and medicalization of many of the “conditions” and “disorders” that the manual describes.  In some cases, a diagnosis can allow individuals who are privileged enough to have health insurance the ability to get their mental health care covered by their insurance provider.  That is one of the main arguments I have heard in favor of retaining the diagnosis of “Gender Dysphoria” in the DSM.  In other cases, diagnoses can justify declaring a person unfit to consent or refuse treatment.  The DSM does not just name and describe “disorders.”  It also regulates the hazy border between “normal” and “abnormal,” between “sane” and “crazy.”

Currently, the DSM is undergoing a revision, with the newest version–DSM-5— to be released in May, 2013.  As part of the far-reaching revision, the American Psychiatric Association has opened the DSM-5 up for reader comments on the structure and criteria changes.  Anyone can create an account, log in, and submit comments on the proposed revisions to the criteria and structure of the manual.  In general, the text from the current manual (DSM-IV) for reference with the proposed DSM-5 descriptions and criteria. The current comment period is open until June 15, 2011.

Unfortunately, it probably won’t be too effective to just log on and leave the comment, “This is not a psychiatric disorder.  Take it out of the manual!!!”…. which is my first inclination with things like the “Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.”  However, maybe if enough folks offer thoughtful comments, we can shift the ways that the psych industry defines and thinks about our identities, brains, and bodies.

 Posted by at 10:24 pm  Comments Off on DSM-5 Structure and Criteria Changes Open for Public Comment
May 052011

I don’t think that it’s a coincidence that May is both Mental Health Month and National Masturbation Month. If you think about it, they’re both about taking care of yourself and your needs… and they can certainly go hand in hand (or, hand in… um. I’ll stop there).

I’m a little skeptical of some of the language around “Mental Health Month.”  I understand the importance of educational campaigns, but the reliance on the talking point that “one in four adults struggles with a treatable mental health condition” makes me a bit uncomfortable because of it’s emphasis on ‘treatment.’ I’m in favor of people seeking treatment if they personally desire it, but our current mental health industry is so focused on pathology and profit that the available “treatments” often don’t support the overall well-being of the individual seeking care. At worst, an individual may enter treatment and lose their right to consent or to leave.

As such, I am cautious about a Mental Health Month that advocates ‘treatment’ without some significant caveats.  As I see it, Mental Health Month should be more about addressing the failures of the psych industry, focusing on self-care (there’s where the connection to National Masturbation Month comes in!) and community wellness… and for that matter, we shouldn’t limit it to the month of May!

May 032011

Here’s the second batch of my favorite shots from my promo photo shoot in an abandoned institution with Syd London.  I posted the first batch a few days ago, but there were too many good shots to fit into a single post!  If you’re hungry for more, you can view the entire set from the shoot (over 100 photos!) on Flickr.

And no, we don’t know why there was an old coffin in the middle of that last room either.

 Posted by at 8:22 pm  Comments Off on Abandoned Hospital Photos, Part 2
May 022011

The US Department of Labor has added gender identity to the protected classes listed on equal opportunity policies for federal employees.  Along with pregnancy, gender identity is now listed under sex discrimination as a protected category.  It’s unclear whether these protections include gender expression as well.

The new protections do not impact local or state government employees, or employees working in the private sector.

You can view the statement from the Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis, here.

 Posted by at 5:12 pm  Comments Off on Gender Identity Protections for Federal Employees
Apr 292011

Last week, I wrote about my photo shoot in an abandoned hospital with Syd London. The shoot was amazing, triggering, inspiring, and liberating… and it resulted in some awesome photos.  As promised, I’m sharing some of my favorite shots here.  In today’s release, I’ve included photos from two rooms within the hospital. I’ll be posting my favorites from the other rooms over the next week.

All photos by the spectacular Syd London.  And now, for your viewing pleasure:

Want to see more?  Check out the full set on Flickr.

 Posted by at 11:43 pm  Comments Off on Abandoned hospital photos, part 1