Archive for February, 2009

Evaluating my Status as a Black Transman

Posted in about me, life, queer, transition on 02.27.09 by Maalik

Let me preface this by saying that I’m not exactly sure where this will go. Several events of the past few days have caused me to reconsider how I relate to society as an African American. I’m not even sure how being transgendered will tie into this, but it seems relevant.

I am constantly aware of how internalized transphobia affects my life. I feel it when I consider why I am reluctant to come out to others and when I describe my trans status as something else rather than be associated with transpeople. I recognize it and I try to remedy it because I realize it is self-destructive. Racism, though, is so ingrained in my psyche that before this week, it never occurred to me that I may harbor some internalized racism.

When I think of my identity, “black” comes last if at all. Transgendered, female-bodied, queer, Atheist… these are things that I will disclose in progressive circles because I recognize that they make up a huge part of who I am. But being black? I’ve disassociated myself with my race so much, that I struggled to think of a way in which it plays a role in my life.

What I finally realized is that because of my internalized racism, for me race acts as a restriction on my actions rather than a means to draw identity. When reflecting on this I feel ashamed, but I treat my black identity only as something that I must distance myself from. I spend far more energy distancing myself from “those blacks” than I do appreciating the history and culture that is shared by all blacks. I can parallel this behavior to how I feel the need to say “I’m transgendered, but” as a way to separate myself from “those transpeople.” The only difference is that I recognize that distancing myself from my gender was wrong while before now I felt pride in distancing myself from other blacks.

Without much effort I can think of numerous examples of this behavior. I never listen to rap or hip-hop in public, I boast that I’m “really white, I was just in the sun too long,” I intentionally act disinterested about discussions on black history and I even refused to back Obama in the primaries for fear that I would be thought to back him only because he’s black. Reflecting on it now I’m ashamed, my behavior was racist and inexcusable. And what strikes me is that I have never been called out on it, rather, it was encouraged. It took me over seventeen years to realize how disgustingly offensive my behavior was. Given the circles I socialize with, if I were of any other race my behavior would have been questioned. But I feel as if because I’m black I got a pass because, even if it was racist, my behavior was consistent with the “right” way to behave so it was allowed. Or maybe I’m just betraying even more of my prejudice there.

I’ve been trying to understand where this comes from. Internalized transphobia comes about because most transpeople don’t knowingly meet other transpeople until after society has spent years telling them that being transgendered is wrong. Even though my family is black, that is about the extent of my close contact with other blacks. I live in a predominately white neighborhood, I go to a predominately white school, and even in high school my classes were predominately white.

As I was growing up, and especially in high school, I felt pressure to prove that I was just like the upper-class whites I grew up with, to prove that I wasn’t one of the “uneducated, poor blacks” that I felt I would be grouped into because of my skin. Because I lived in this bubble where the only representation of blacks I got was from conservative whites, I never got the chance to learn that the black community, like any other community, was composed of people of all classes, educations, and backgrounds. I became convinced that I wasn’t really black because I didn’t fit the narrative and that the only way to prove to others that I was “really white” was to completely distance myself from any association with “blackness.”

Aside from the abhorrent racism that I’ve carried for all this time, it’s important for me to address this problem because I am a black American. Regardless of how desperately I’ve tried to disassociate myself with my race, in the eyes of those with whom my race determines my worth, no amount of rock music or polo shirts will change their opinion of me. It doesn’t make me any more competent in their eyes, it will only deprive me of being myself.

So I guess that’s the big tie-in. My point of transitioning is to no longer have to play into this uncomfortable role that was forced upon me because of my sex. Transitioning is my big “fuck you” to the world, proof that I can be female without being a girl. And more than that, it’s so that I can be comfortable being myself; a strong confident transguy who loves to lift furniture and move boxes, but also likes interior design and looking stylish. Unfortunately, my whole life I’ve been blindly conforming to the idea that the only way to be black is to be the stereotype. Not wanting to be seen as one of “those blacks,” I’ve become something that isn’t who I truly am; an African American who likes Tupac and U2.

Just as I gladly go against the expectations of my sex, I can go against the expectations of my race and still be that race. I’ve claimed the “trans” part of my identity because being female is something that will always be a part of me. The same is true about my race. Whether I recognize it or not the way I am treated in society is influenced by my race. I can be female without being “that female” and I can be black without being “those blacks,” but I can also embrace stereotypical female and black elements of my personality because they are a part of me. If someone wants to use my sex or race to make assumptions about my competence then fault lies with them. Whether they follow the stereotype or not, there is nothing wrong with a person being black or female or transgendered. I feel like I need to do some searching to figure out who¬†Maalik truly is beneath all of the self-hatred and repression.

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On Top Surgery

Posted in transition on 02.26.09 by Maalik

Recently I’ve been questioning whether I really need testosterone to feel comfortable in my body or if top surgery would be enough. When I look in the mirror at my shirtless body, if I overlook my breasts I see a guy. Not just a guy, but the person I feel inside. I’ve mentioned before that I’m pretty masculine to begin with– male distribution of fat, deep voice– and when I see myself with a bulge under my jeans and a trail of hair on my stomach, I see Maalik. I see the transguy who’s definitely not female, but not quite male either. If that were the person I were able to present to the world, I think I would be happy with that.

Given all of this I feel like it might be in my best interest to get top surgery and then evaluate after a few months whether testosterone is even necessary. As much as I want the facial hair and other changes that come with testosterone, if I don’t need it to be comfortable with myself then there’s really no point to it. What’s more, if I start testosterone and become too masculine, that will only serve to push me into another uncomfortable gender box that would be hard to undo. If top surgery alone could get me into the “mostly masculine, but slightly androgynous” range then I would be thrilled.

A Note to Friends In Real Life

Posted in friends, reference on 02.18.09 by Maalik
So based on the little poll-thingy on the side, I can see that some people have actually started reading this blog. I’ve plugged the hell out of it, linking it to Facebook and The Men’s Room and everywhere else, so there’s a decent shot that there are some people I know in real life who are reading this. Which is kind of weird given I haven’t actually come out to anyone other than my close friends.

I have no interest to do the whole sit-down-with-everyone-I-know-I-have-something-to-tell-you thing so if you find out through here, great. That said, fucking let me know you’re reading this instead of just creeping around on my blog. Well, you can creep around on my blog too, but tell me that you know I’m trans so that I can scratch you off of my list of people to worry about. Or don’t, whatever, I haven’t written anything of substance in a few days and I wanted you to know that I’m alive.

T Discussion

Posted in about me, life, reference, transition, videos on 02.18.09 by Maalik

I’ll edit this later to add my own commentary, but here’s a video I found that really resonates with me.

Quicky

Posted in about me, family, history on 02.15.09 by Maalik
I was looking at one of my old journals and found something really interesting. I didn’t start identifying as trans until this past summer, but this comes from 2006.
Dear Mom and Dad,

You have two sons

Love,
Leek

Regarding Relationships

Posted in about me, life, queer on 02.15.09 by Maalik

It’s Valentine’s Day and I basically had my heart broken this week so I’m going to post about those annoying relationship thingies…

Dating is really difficult in trans-limbo. I’m at that stage where I have to work so hard for a masculine identity that dating a lesbian would be hard for me. Even if she was great with pronouns and “boyfriend” and everything, I would always have doubts about whether she truly saw me as a guy. Not to mention, it’s difficult to find a lesbian who is comfortable with having a boyfriend. Straight women would definitely be better for my dysphoria, but because I appear female most heterosexual women overlook me. That’s not to say that there’s no one out there that would date a pre-everything transguy, but they are few and far between and I’m certainly not going to find them at my pseudo-Catholic school.

Even on the offhand chance that I do find someone who respects my gender, socially I just don’t have it. My high school years were spent as a dyke in an extremely heterosexual environment so I never got the relationship 101 that most teenage guys do. Even though I know that part of the gift of being queer is being able to make your own rules, there are still some things that transcend sexuality: flirting, gauging if someone likes you, asking someone out… I missed out on those lessons and it shows. I have social anxiety and I’m bad with people to begin with so if I’m made to interact with someone I’m interested in I flounder. I’m working on it, but I don’t see myself feeling truly confident in relationships until I feel confident about my body.

Protected: College Update

Posted in about me, life on 02.13.09 by Maalik

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