Archive for November, 2009

Quick Hit: Straight Jacket

Posted in art, media, quick hit, videos on 11.05.09 by Maalik

I discovered this poem today and it really resonates with me. I came to Boston, in part, to find a sense of community; but instead I’ve spent most of my time here in the “closet” of my dorm room. I especially love the lines, “How would I teach a nation to love what it doesn’t understand/ If I wasn’t strong enough to love myself in front of them.” The idea that you have to make peace with yourself before you can seek it with others is something I struggle with. I’ve transcribed it after the break.

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Staying Alive

Posted in about me, life, quick hit, Uncategorized on 11.04.09 by Maalik

My three years in high school were the worst in my life. I was battling dysthymia, coming to terms with being gay (and later trans), and dealing with all of the typical troubles of being a high school kid. My friends were my lifeline during that time. One guy, in particular, would stay up and talk with me whenever I needed him. Sometimes my friends weren’t enough, though. At least once a month I went through a major depressive episode and turned to alcohol to cope; I would sit in my closet and drink until I didn’t care about the pain I was in.

I’ve always been good at stopping a habit before it becomes a problem. In eleventh grade, I realized that monthly drinking as a way to deal would only serve to create more problems. When I moved to college, I stopped drinking and moved towards smoking and sleeping as a coping strategy. It wasn’t as dangerous as drinking, but it wasn’t the smartest way of coping. Fortunately, life got better in college and I rarely smoked more than a pack a month.

When I transferred to college, I resolved to leave my vices behind. I quit smoking in August and don’t keep alcohol or cigarettes in my room (with the exception of my unfinished pack). The problem is that I still have bouts of double depression and now I don’t have any sure-fire coping mechanisms. I blast music, I watch tv, I sleep, I read… but nothing works for long and sometimes nothing works at all.

So I’m turning it over to you. Are there any activities that keep you sane? People to talk to? Words of encouragement? What do you do to stay alive when the world is telling you to not bother?

Embracing my Legal Name

Posted in about me, friends, transition on 11.03.09 by Maalik

I stayed with a friend from home while I was in Vermont last weekend. She isn’t great with using my legal name, and that’s okay with me– I’ve known her since I was ten and I don’t mind being that person around her; most our memories are from when I identified as [birthname] so I am not uncomfortable about it.

As soon as I was introduced to her friends, however, that comfort disappeared. It felt awkward to be associated with that name and to have to use it in conversation. I feel the same way when I have to use my legal name day-to-day; I use my credit card as sparingly as possible and only purchase things that require ID at certain places. The general discomfort I have with using my legal name is interesting when compared with how easily I can use it in some situations– I know that it is possible to feel comfortable accepting that name, but I rarely do. Because I have to use my legal name pretty frequently, I’ve been trying to embrace it.

I am reminded of an article I read about a trans man who kept his birth name, Barbara. I don’t remember why he choose to keep his birth name, but I found his approach almost liberating. The fact that I am male means my body is male despite traditionally accepted notions of maleness. The same can apply to my name; even though it is traditionally a girl’s name, the fact that I am a boy makes it, in my case, a boy’s name. 

This mindset is far more useful in theory than in practice, but it can help. Even though I still get tense whenever I have to use my credit card, I have been successful in explaining away my “girl’s” name by insisting that my parents wanted a daughter (it’s amazing what confidence can do). I’m still planning on changing my legal name, but until I do, I have found it possible to embrace.

The Military

Posted in about me, family, life, political, Uncategorized on 11.03.09 by Maalik

I’ve always been intrigued by the military. Only a few members of even my extended family were in the service, so family had little to do with it. Neither did media– I only started watching war documentaries when I was a teenager and rarely sought out media romanticizing the military. Part my motivation was patriotism, but that didn’t explain everything. Somehow, I have always wanted to serve.

When I started high school, I seriously considered enlisting. I wanted a plan when I graduated and college wasn’t a part of it; I knew I wanted to eventually become a lawyer, but I didn’t feel like I was ready to begin that path. The benefits of enlisting and serving for several years seemed then, and still seem today, like a viable option. I spoke with several recruiters and decided I wanted to go into the Navy. It wasn’t until I attended a recruitment meeting at my school that I realized part of my draw to the armed forces– I was the only female in the room.

Even when I identified as a girl, I did whatever I could to make sure people didn’t see me as one. My pants always sagged a little lower than the guy next to me and I made sure to hold eye contact just a second longer. Serving was my trump card– you have a penis? I was in the military. Serving was how I would show everyone that I was man enough even if I wasn’t man at all.

When I started identifying as transgender, I still had no second thoughts about enlisting because I had no intention of physically transitioning. Living as female for a few years was worth it, and I had no intentions of pursuing a relationship that would get me discharged. The chance to prove myself as a man outweighed all inconveniences.

I did, however, have to consider whether enlisting was truly something I wanted to do. Certainly, serving would help prove my masculinity, but there were easier ways. I eventually decided that I wanted to enlist– other benefits aside, I was not ready to go to college and serving would provide me with opportunities that I could not get by taking a year off and getting a job.

I am not serving today because of my parents and my age. When I decided to enlist, I was seventeen and could not do so without consent. My parents were completely opposed to me serving, so I had to wait a year. Somewhere between seventeen and eighteen, I realized that I could not live for any extended period of time as a woman. I was willing to die for my country, but I would not make myself miserable for it.

Sometimes I still think of enlisting. After I transferred schools, I attended an ROTC meeting and thought about it. But I could never legally serve as Maalik and I could never happily serve under my birth name so I cannot serve. If the policy on trans people serving were changed, I would definitely consider enlisting but I can accept that not happening on a personal level. My masculinity is not contingent on serving (hell, plenty of feminine people serve) and defending Americans legally is just as patriotic as defending them physically.