Miscellaneous

Well Hello Cruel World

‘Cause what the world needs now is another folk singer…. or another blog by a tedious transitioner — here’s my four-volume set and the boxed DVD set — but enough of my Facebook friends have found my posts and essays useful that they been bugging me to  have a blog they could reference, so here goes…

It’ll be a combination of essays about Teh Tranz, and “public journal” entries about my transition (I socially transitioned at the beginning of the 2017), which I was pretty transparent about. For the latter, it’s going to take awhile to retroactively post stuff from the past two years. So I’ll be filling that in as I get a chance.

I Am Still A Dyke…

To all the TERFs from other states and other countries who’ve descended like flying monkeys on the 25th SF Dyke March – Calling All Dykes: Take Up Your Space page to tell the locals how we’re doing it wrong:

I am a trans woman. I am still a dyke.
I am a late-life transitioner. I am still a dyke.
I still have my original factory-installed equipment. I am still a dyke.
I am a pansexual woman. I am still a dyke.
I’m not a gold star lesbian. I am still a dyke.
I am a late-life entrant to lesbian spaces. I am still a dyke.
I am a burlesque performer (not sex work per se, but still “sexy work,” of which I’m sure you also disapprove). I am still a dyke.
I perform as a drag queen. I am still a dyke.
I am a femme. I am still a dyke.
I am all the things you hate. I am still a dyke.

You’re the ones who are doing it wrong: your cult-like gender essentialism, your rabid hatred of anyone who’s not exactly like you, your outing and doxing my trans sisters.

The SF Dyke March is — and always has been from day one — inclusive of all women who identify as dykes. As their official 2017 statement says: “It’s a political identity. It stands for community. It stands for solidarity. It stands for radical fight. It stands for trans*, black, brown, queer, bisexual, lesbian, disabled, chronically ill, fat, femme, butch, indigenous, gender expansive love. It does not stand by erasure. By displacement. By appropriation.”

Today I will don my rainbow-colored dress and take my rightful place among my dyke sisters. I will be taking up space with them. You can crawl back into the holes you slithered out of. We will be busy being fierce and fabulous.

Get Out of My Head!

OMG, so many of these were/are me.

Transgender Artist Illustrates Her Gender Transition In 10+ Emotional Comics

Julia Kaye is a 28-year-old cartoonist living in Los Angeles. She’s already famous from her webcomic ‘Up And Out’, but last year a big change came to her life – she became a transgender woman. This was clearly a very hard step to make and Julia went and is still going through many challenges that bring both melancholic and optimistic feelings.

With encouragement from her friends, Julia started to make comics about her transition. The series focuses on her feelings, moments of insecurity or triumph while reaching important personal milestones, such as buying a dress for the first time, learning how to use eyeliner, and talking about her transition to her family and friends.

The artist found this process very therapeutic – “It got me to set aside time at the end of my day to reflect on how I was feeling. And because I was making the comics for myself, I allowed myself to be more honest than I might have been otherwise.” Eventually Kaye decided to share the comics publicly, realizing she could give other trans people content that they could directly relate to, and the feeling that they’re not alone, as well as give others insight into what it’s like to live with gender dysphoria. Check them out!

Keeping Burlesque A World Where Women Feel Safe

I hadn’t spoken up about the Russell Bruner controversy engulfing the burlesque world because I wanted gather my thoughts first.

For those of you outside the burly world, numerous women collectively wrote and yesterday released an open letter saying that a prominent performer and producer had engaged in serial sexually predatory behavior against them, ranging from verbal sexual harassment to criminally punishable sexual assault. Bruner has admitted there have been “incidents,” but claims to have been forgiven by those in involved.

I believe the women. I’ve been sexually assaulted myself, and I know how hard it is to speak up — particularly if it’s a person of prestige and power. Want to know why women don’t report being raped and/or sexually assaulted? Look no further than the Cosby mistrial.

Needless to say there’s no room for sexual predators in the burly world (or the dungeon, or the world at large for that matter). But particularly in the burly world, which today is an art form created by women, where the vast majority of the performers are women, intended primarily for the women in the audience (who make up the majority of our audiences). It’s a space where women can celebrate their sexuality without being slut shamed, without having to worry about Schrodinger’s rapist, without having to constantly watch how we dress and what we say for fear it will result in unwanted sexual attention.

As someone who’s lived on both sides of the gender binary, and who’s had careers in both the burlesque and drag worlds, here’s some thoughts on keeping burlesque a world where women feel safe.

There are men in burlesque — performers, producers and photographers — many of whom I love. That said, Mama’s got some advice.

You are working in a predominately “women’s space.” Much of like bachelorette parties at gay bars, and straight people at Pride, are in someone else’s space. We welcome you, but we also expect you behave with respect and well-learned politesse.

This may take some getting used to. I get it, men — especially white men — are used to going anywhere, saying anything. When I was living as a man, I got that indoctrination too. It’s an example of privilege, which is typically hard to see *precisely* because you don’t have to think about it.

It can also feel unfair to feel like there may be an undercurrent of suspicion until proven otherwise. Yeah it sucks to be prejudged for who you are — welcome to the world of women, of trans people, of people of color. There’s a reason why many women are wary, because we move through the world it is definitely #yesallwomen.

You may think you understand the level of sexual harassment women face. Trust me, you don’t. You just don’t. I had only an intellectual understanding of it myself until I began living as a woman in the world. It’s wondering how quickly it will take for “Come on give me a smile” to turn into “Smile bitch! It’s walking to your car late at night and wondering if you’ll need to use your heels to defend yourself against the guy who’s following you. It’s dealing with the daily messages from collectors who want to friend you so that can save your photos to their personal spank bank. It’s ever-present, it permeates down into your bones.

Obviously not all sexual predators are men — in fact the person who sexually assaulted me was a random women, and sexual abuse within the lesbian community is sadly unreported. But most of them are.

So yeah, you *do* need to be on your best behavior. Think about it. You’re in a space where women are nearly naked on stage, and often fully naked backstage. Watch what you say, watch what you do. Know that, despite your intent, what you say may be taken the wrong way. I know it might feel onerous — welcome to what it’s like being a woman in a man’s world. I’m not saying you need to completely self-censor — I’m a bitch who loves bawdy banter myself. But be mindful of where it’s appropriate and who it’s appropriate with (i.e. best to start with only people you know well).

Some special thoughts for the gay men, who perform as drag queens, who are crossing over into burlesque.

If I hadn’t already made it clear, you’re in a different culture now, with different cultural norms. I’m a lesbian-leaning bisexual, but I’ve spent more than a decade performing in gay bars and other gay spaces as a drag queen (who at the time was thought to be a man), and let me repeat: *it’s different.* Gay culture can at times be a bit sexually… direct… not only cruising but also on the mic, and unfortunately fairly tolerant of people getting handsy with performers. I’ve been groped so many times in gay bars I’ve lost count and people expect to brush it off with a laugh. “It’s not like they’re real” as I ask them to remove their hands from my boobs and my ass. (Yes, they’re my boobs and ass, I paid good money for them.) “What’s the big deal, I’m gay,” they tell my women friends who perform there after groping them. Nope. Just nope. Without consent, it’s still sexual assault.

We drag queens love innuendo and teasing others (and ourselves) about being promiscuous and/or sec workers. But remember women’s sexuality is viewed — and policed very differently. Yes women MCs may make similar comments and jokes on the mic, and the women in the audience go wild. But that’s because burly spaces are one of the exceedingly few places women *can* do that. Those sorts of comments can be heard very differently when coming from a may, gay or not.

Again, I get it, it sucks to feel restricted by problems caused (mostly) by straight men. You want more freedom? Become known for shutting down sexually harassing comments/actions by straight men, and confronting sexually misogynistic comments in gay spaces. In another words, someone known as an ally by deeds not just words.

Actually, that’s good advice for all men.

To all men, it’s not that hard. There’s concrete things you can do every day. If you’re a photographer, before going into a dressing area, ask if you can come in (someone may prefer to get covered by you enter). If you’re a producer make it clear you take sexual harassment (by any gender) extremely seriously. If you’re a performer and see another performer getting a little out of line, pull them aside.

As said before, we welcome you to our house — be good guests.

Drag Erased?

What does it mean for me to be doing drag (in additional to burly*) now that I’m transitioned to living as a woman full-time?

For the record I know of at least half a dozen drag queens here in the SF Bay Area who are/were post-transition trans women. One is a pageant queen, where “hyper-real” femininity (i.e. it’s a really stylized version of “real”), several are costumers who do over-the-top outfits.

Whereas my style was always “woman done up for the stage” rather than “DRAG QUEEN!” My drag mother, who was trans, identified her performing style as a female impersonator (sans the implications of doing specific celebrity), and “female personator” was how I saw my style pre-transition.

But what does it mean artistically now that I’m a woman personifying a “woman on the stage”…. There’s several cisgender women locally who do/have done drag, but their style has been over-the-top (as one of them said, “what’s the point of me looking like a woman on stage”). However, that’s not a style that’s “me.” Kind of a moot point at present since I’m still sidelined with an injury. But something I’m pondering.

That said, given my build (I wasn’t blessed by the androgyny fairy), short of having an outfit where my boobs are hanging out (when I get implants), so realistically I know I’ll still probably get read as a male-bodied drag queen by audience members who don’t know me. (Which is it’s own set of issues…)

* I performed for as a drag queen for a number of years, before moving into burlesque — which is my preferred art form these days, but as I recover from my injury I’ll be doing drag first, since there’s a lot lower risk of re-injuring myself. And I still enjoy doing drag because the venue for our show has a low stage, which means I can get off it and interact with the audience in ways during a song that I can’t while doing more choreographed burly numbers.

To The Pain

I’ve only alluded to it, but I’ve been in some pretty serious pain since November thanks to a pinched nerve in my neck.

It was manageable while I was in Buenos Aries for facial feminization surgery, but right after I got back I then had to fly to SoCal and help then I helped my mother move from the house she’d lived in for 47 years into a retirement community. (Mom is quite happy there and has duplex that’s nicer than my house. It is a bit weird seeing your childhood home for the last time.)

Unfortunately, all the flying — as well as not being able to see my healthcare providers who had been treating it — really worsened the pinched nerve problems and I went through six weeks of excruciating pain that couldn’t be controlled with medication (or medical marijuana). Thankfully the pain has been generally under control for the last week and half after a medical procedure. But I’m on the maximum dosage of a (non-narcotic) pain killer, which isn’t the best thing to be on long-term, and they still don’t fully understand what’s now going on in my shoulder that’s continuing to cause pain. The rehab specialist at my regular medical group ended up referring me to the Stanford Pain Management Clinic to see if they can tame it. Which means another round of waiting to get into see the specialists there. Ugh. In the meantime I’m still working with my PT, chiropractor, two orthopedic massage therapist and acupuncturist.

So all my plans of resting and recharging (and hopefully being able to do some spring cleaning) got shot to hell. Aside from all the health care appointments breaking up my day, chronic pain is just incredibly draining. There was one day where my major achievement was that I took out the trash and washed the sink. I’m still far from 100 percent.

But it’s back to work whether I really want to or not.

Better Living Through Chemistry

Wanna know why trans women are often cranky… it’s because the drug that’s used to block testosterone is actually normally used as a diuretic, but we use it at far higher doses. Meaning you’re constantly needing to pee hella bad, dying of thirst, and craving all the salty snacks (ALL of them) — all at the same damn time.

Trader Joe’s miso soup to the rescue. Some trans women will drink pickle juice straight from the jar, but I hate pickles. Although I have been known to eat salt straight from the shaker.

Facial Feminization Surgery – Day 4

Day 4 post-surgery for round 1 (eye lift, cheek , jaw reshaping, under neck lipo, cheek lipo, neck and face lift — required when one does jaw work).

Swelling is starting to go down, and a lot of it has “fallen” down to my jaw and under jaw. Getting more visible bruising down there now, from the fluids that are collecting there.

Eyes are improving, although I’ll definitely continue to have shiners for awhile.

Getting easier to open my mouth (e.g. to speak or eat) now that the skin isn’t stretched so tight.

Finished up today’s follow up exam. Doctors think I’m healing well. In what I assume is a good sign, they decided to move forward the next follow up — the one where they’ll remove the stitches from my eyelids — from Thursday to Wednesday.

In addition to continuing to use cold packs, they want me to also start massaging the swollen areas to help get out the accumulated fluids. Not looking forward to that.

Round 2 of surgery (brow reduction, brow lift, opening up the orbitals around the eyes, nose reduction and reshaping, and lip lift) is a go for a week from today.

Someone asked again why I went all the way to Argentina for my surgeries. Here’s why:

The tr:dr version is you go where the best surgeons are, especially when it’s your face.

There’s only about half-dozen surgeons in the world who are truly excellent at facial feminization surgery (FFS) — in particular reducing the male brow ridge is a extremely specialized skill. The orbital bones you can grind down, but the bone over the sinuses is only about 1 mm thick. So they actually cut it out and then reset it at a different angle.

There’s also the aesthetic judgement, which is probably equally important. Some of it is just “regular” plastic surgery, e.g. a nose job as far as technical skills, but getting things just right — and it literally can be a case of a millimeter one way or the other — is huge. Most plastic surgeons aren’t familiar with the subtle differences needed when trying to feminize a male face, compared to just doing a nose job on someone who was born female. My surgeon is also a craniofacial surgeon, which most plastic surgeons aren’t, so he’s especially versed in the subtle differences between male/female facial anatomy. (Things like there’s a difference in the average length between the upper lip and the bottom of the nose, male jaws flange outwards more, and have a sharper corner at the back, etc.)

My surgeon also has a reputation for very natural looking results — and you still look like you. There’s another famous surgeon in the field (now retired) who had a reputation for turning out Barbie dolls, i.e. everyone looked kind of alike. Which was good if you wanted to look like Barbie, but not my thing.

I know a friend and someone else who had the same procedures done with the same surgeon. So I had first-hand knowledge of the kind of results were realistic,* what it was like dealing with him, and other stuff to expects.

* Far, far too many plastic surgeons cheat a bit on their before/after photos, with differences in lighting, head positioning, how the hair is placed, etc. Di Maggio says he doesn’t, and I believe him, but shopping for plastic surgeons is really difficult. And especially when it’s your face…

Finally, this wasn’t the deciding factor, but it’s definitely a huge plus that with the differences in the exchange rate, the cost of doing this work is less than half of what it would cost in the States, even with the cost of travel and renting an apartment for a month.

Especially because trans-related surgeries are still rarely covered by insurance — in fact my particular insurance policy explicitly prohibits trans-related coverage for any of the procedures I’m having because they’re consider merely “cosmetic surgery.” Some insurers, like Kaiser, are starting to be more progressive, but I have a nasty feeling we’re going to see things move backwards during the next few years.


Also, ain’t technology grand… Just got off the phone with HR at my company to coordinate details of my medical leave, after calling my healthcare provider to verify some info about the short-term disability application that’s being sent to EDD.

‘Course it costs $10/day whenever I activate cellular service in Argentina, but in this case, it was worth it. Might as well make a few more calls to other folks today, since the day is already paid for.

(And yes, I know about WhatsApp and have it installed, but that wasn’t practical for these calls.)