Friday, October 11, 2013

Sophie's vacation

Dear readers,

Today I have something to share with you. It's something you've probably been able to guess at with the way I've talked about myself in my previous couple of posts, and I don't expect it's something many of you will be happy with. Hopefully, you'll at least understand why I'm doing what I'm doing by the time you finish reading, and even if you don't agree, you'll respect my choice.

Starting next week, I won't be living as Sophie for awhile.

Now, the first thing I want to say is that this isn't because of something someone said on the Internet or even in real life. It's true that those things have happened, and they damaged my perception of self, but that's actually the bigger issue. While thinking about this decision, I had to ask myself:

1) If the comments of strangers and acquaintances could make me feel like I was less of a woman, was I sure enough about who I was that I should continue transition?

2) If I was to continue transition, was I doing it for the right reasons?

I feel like it's clear what conclusion I came to regarding the former, but let me explain the latter: To put it simply, I don't think I make a very good transgender person.

For one, it's no secret that quite a few of the more passionate transgender activists don't really like my stance on people who express what's labeled "transphobia." My stance, for the record, is "meh." Why? One, because "transphobic" is a silly term, just like "homophobic" is a silly term; people who get labeled "homophobic" and "transphobic" aren't often scared of LGBTQ folk, they're downright antagonistic toward them.

A more accurate labeling would be "misolazzogeny" for trans folk, and "misohomorosy" for people who are gay. But we're not Greek (also, I'm not sure that's exactly how you'd translate that, in fact I'm 99% sure it's not) and words are hard, so people tend to label those who disagree with trans or gay people as being "-phobic." In reality, the people who get assigned this label might just not understand, they may be ignorant, they may be uninformed. And yes, sometimes even when they understand, they still disagree or don't like trans people. And in my opinion, that's fine.

I don't really want to be around those people, I don't want to be friends with those people, and I wish they didn't think the way they do, but I can't and I won't advocate penalizing someone for their belief (so long as that belief isn't something like "I get to deny you housing/employment/marriage/life/etc because I don't like you"). Becoming judge and jury on who's right and wrong in regard to their opinions is not something I want to be a part of, ever.

This view, however, has earned me no shortage of angry messages from the social justice movement. The sad part is, although I have certainly had my share of misolazzogeny directed toward me, during my entire existence as Sophie, the most hateful messages I've ever received were from other transgender people telling me I was hurting "the cause" or some such. I don't like causes. I don't endorse them. I appreciate individuality, and that's all I've ever wanted to be.

(Also, while I personally don't get behind the social justice movements I've experienced, I realize they have their benefits, and I'm not saying they should go away or shut up. If you have something you believe is worth fighting for, by all means fight for it. It's just not my fight.)

That being said, I have to wonder if those trans folk who've been peeved at me have a point. I've wondered for some time if I was doing this transition for the right reasons. Readers, I have to tell you, I have to confess: I am an attention whore.

Seriously. I love attention. I liked being called pretty when I was in college or out at parties. No, more than that, I wanted to be called pretty. I wanted to be flirted with. I wanted to be picked up at the bar. (Note: Before anyone gets this confused, no, I did NOT want to be called out for my looks or flirted with while on the job as a journalist. I did not want to be harassed while at Comic-Con [which happened] or groped while at E3 [happened] or talked down to like I, as a girl, couldn't possibly understand these VEEDJA GARMEZ)

So yes, I admit I love people seeing me. I love putting myself in the public's eye. I don't think I'd be a writer if I didn't. And while I admit I'm an attention whore, I wish I wasn't.

Wanting to be seen and wanting to be pretty made me wonder if the heart of my transition was in the right place (if that makes sense). In other words: while I felt like I wanted to be a girl, why was that not enough? Why did I feel the need to be a pretty girl?

I champion feminism and the rights of every woman to not feel like she has to hold herself up to some bullshit societal standards of beauty. If I ever have a daughter, you can damn well bet I'll tell her when she sees a makeup commercial that it's probably not her being born with it OR it being Maybelline, it's probably some fucked up chemicals and a whole lot of Photoshop.

So why couldn't I hold those standards to myself? Why, more than genital surgery, did I (do I) desire facial feminization surgery to lower my hairline, raise my cheeks, point my nose, and reduce the overhang of my brow?

I feel like a mom who tells her kids they better not ever start smoking because o lord, the things it will do their lungs, but sneaks behind the garage for a puff once the school bus comes to remove any witnesses from the home. Do as I say, not as I do, kids.

SO TO SUM UP, no, I don't feel like I do a good "job" of being a transgender person. I don't feel like I fit into the community, and maybe I shouldn't. I also don't feel confident in my ability to present as a woman. And lastly, I question the validity of my identity when I feel constant pressure and concerns that it's not superficially, aesthetically in line with what society wants from a woman, and that makes me feel like a hypocrite.

I need time to process these feelings and see what lies at the root of them. I need time to re-discover myself, and to give myself another chance. I was frequently picked on/teased as a male, and as I've written before, I lacked positive male role models growing up. I want to see if I can be the type of guy I wish there was more of in the world.

I don't know how long I'll be taking a hiatus from living as Sophie, but until further notice, that's still my name. I kinda... really don't like my old, original name, and this test run of manhood is so new that I don't think I've found a suitable replacement. (I like and have been trying out "Sam," and the other day I met a guy named "Luka," which I thought was pretty badass, but I digress)

Also, this doesn't mean I'm taking a break from anything else right now. I'll still be on Twitter, I'm still writing for Joystiq, and once I can figure out a decent regular schedule for it, I'll still be on Twitch. (P.S. Thanks to all of you who checked out my streams, much appreciated)

Oh, and I'll still be here, on this Earth. Don't worry your heads about that. This adventure of male existence isn't one I'm particularly excited about going on, but then, look how Bilbo's unexpected journey turned out.



  1. Honestly, i don't view facial reconstruction for trans feminine people as being about improving our ability blend as cis or conforming to (cis)/normative beauty standards. It's more about undoing the disfiguring effects of androgenic puberty.

    Very few people would criticize someone for feeling the need to have reconstructive surgery to correct disfiguring facial damage done by, for example, a car accident, so why should it be any different for us?

    That isn't to say you shouldn't be exploring presenting as male again if you think that is something you need to do (i mean, i find it kind of baffling from my perspective, but that's me, and given your previously stated concerns that you "gave up" on being male/a man or whatever too easily, it seems like something that might bother you until you "tried it on", so to speak). I just think that you might want to think about why you consider your desire for facial reconstruction to be inherently hypocritical.

    I'm not really feeling like getting into the other aspects too much, at least not right now, beyond saying that my views are closer to your idea of a "passionate transgender activist" than they are to yours; homophobia/transphobia/transmisogyny are the terms that are in common use to express certain ideas, regardless of how well they follow the exact meanings of their root words (and some of them absolutely follow the meanings of their root words better than others xD); and disagreeing with some of the views we tend to hold doesn't mean you are a "bad trans(ish?) person", it just means you disagree with us.

  2. Thanks Devon. I'd never thought of FFS that way. Also, I hope I didn't come across as "The social justice movement is BAD, and I HATE them, because that wasn't my intention. =(

    I also appreciate that you're open to what I've said about exploring male life. I got so many messages from people in the trans community that really chewed me out (some in a pretty hurtful way) for even considering that, and the message it would send. But I gotta do what's healthy for me, you know? That's what I meant when I said I didn't want my actions to be part of a cause.

    Anyways, thanks again. Appreciate it. =)

    1. For the record, i do think most of your stated reasoning for presenting as male is little (possibly even nothing) more than a direct internalization of some of the more toxic anti-trans ideas that are floating around in our culture at large.
      Ideas like "being trans is the result of being teased for gender variance"; that "being trans is a result of a lack of a positive male role model"; that it's just because we want attention; that feeling the need to correct our bodies (at all or beyond an arbitrary threshold) is body-negative/anti-feminist/whatever; and so on, and so on.

      But again, that doesn't mean presenting as male for a while isn't what you personally need to do to get past those ideas and get to a point where you are okay with who you are, whoever that may end up being.
      (I do however suggest you really ask yourself whether you are going to start doing it "full time" or however you want to put it because doing it some of the time was a positive experience, or if it's because doing it some of the time was a so-so experience and you think the problem is your lack of commitment to the idea or something like that. Because that sort of escalation only gets more extreme and it can go to bad places for trans-folk from what i've seen)

      Just don't start being all anti-trans or consorting with the ex-gay/ex-trans types or TERFs or whatever, *that* would be where the line between you doing you and harming the rest of us lies in my opinion :p

      PS: Oh, I forgot the “be the type of guy I wish there was more of in the world” thing.
      I tried that in my late teens/early twenties. I found it didn’t work so well and I just felt like I was faking it (which, I mean, I *was* faking it, so that makes sense) while sleepwalking through life. After that I switched to just being me and i think that has gone much better personally xD

      But yeah, one way or another, i hope you figure things out with a minimum of problems (:

  3. I guess the benefit to going full repression early on is that you never have these doubts once you finally get over yourself and transition, but you're also permanently and hopelessly disfigured. That's the price of certainty. Even detransitioning as an adult there's liable to be a bit of that. Just bear in mind. I'm 100% certain that there are people who transition without actually being transsexual, but they also seem to be psychotic narcissists to the point they're incapable of feeling doubt or guilt in the manner you're describing here.

    If I had to take a random guess I'd say you're probably just going through some manner of existential crisis after realizing that being female isn't in-and-of-itself significant. That's equally true of masculinity. If you're searching for authenticity in gender you've already failed, but that doesn't make transition wrong for you, necessarily. I would seriously offer up as advice that you might consider doing a lot of reading before you strike out to discover things for yourself at possible huge and permanent expense, but ultimately it's your life.

  4. Figuring stuff out is great, and I wish you well. You seem pretty independent, and I'm surprised to see you letting pushy people get under your skin a little. I'm a bit of an activist myself, but I wouldn't berate someone because I feel they have a responsibility to be on the same side. And don't read too much into liking attention, or wanting to look superficially pretty. You aren't the first to want those things, male or female. Be who you want to be, be who makes you happy. And if you feel a need to rack up karma points to offset any shortcomings, pick some people, or a person, to be excellent to, and try to make them a little happier. Stay strong.


  6. Hey Pikachu, it took me a while to be here, but I am here now, listening. Taking my shoes off, I am staying here for a while.