Entering Transmasculinity: The Inevitability of Discourse 1783205687, 9781783205684

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Entering Transmasculinity: The Inevitability of Discourse
 1783205687, 9781783205684

Table of contents :
Cover
Half Title
Title
Copyright
Contents
TRANSformation: Damian Siqueiros
Foreword
Preface
Introduction
Chapter 1: The Transmasculine Patient
Chapter 2: Norming Abnormality
Chapter 3: Finding One’s (Male) Self
Chapter 4: A Man’s Man
Conclusion
References
Index
Back Cover

Citation preview

matthew heinz

ENTERING TRANSMASCULINITY the inevitability of discourse

Entering Transmasculinity

Entering Transmasculinity the inevitability of discourse

matthew [bettina] heinz

intellect Bristol, UK / Chicago, USA

First published in the UK in 2016 by Intellect, The Mill, Parnall Road, Fishponds, Bristol, BS16 3JG, UK First published in the USA in 2016 by Intellect, The University of Chicago Press, 1427 E. 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637, USA Copyright © 2016 Intellect Ltd All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. Copy-editor: MPS Technologies Cover designer: Holly Rose Cover image: TRANSformation © Damian Siqueiros  (www.damiansiqueiros.com) Production managers: Claire Organ and Matthew Floyd Typesetting: Contentra Technologies Print ISBN: 978-1-78320-568-4 ePDF ISBN: 978-1-78320-569-1 ePUB ISBN: 978-1-78320-570-7 Printed and bound by Hobbs, UK

Contents TRANSformation: Damian Siqueiros

ix

Forewordxi Prefacexiii Introduction1 Chapter 1: The Transmasculine Patient

29

Chapter 2: Norming Abnormality

75

Chapter 3: Finding One’s (Male) Self

119

Chapter 4: A Man’s Man

169

Conclusion217 References235 Index283

Permissions Granted The author gratefully acknowledges permission for citation of online contributions granted by Tim Chevalier, Sunny Drake, FTM Australia, Davy Knittle, Thomas McBee, Stefan de Villiers and Max Zachs. The author gratefully acknowledges permission for citation from Morty Diamond’s (ed.) 2004 From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond, San Francisco, CA: Manic D Press. The author gratefully acknowledges permission for citation from Nicholas Teich’s 2012 Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue, New York: Columbia University Press. The author gratefully acknowledges permission for citation from translation of Franz Kafka’s works granted by Ian Johnston, Vancouver Island University.

TRANSformation: Damian Siqueiros The cover photo is part of my new photo series, TRANSformation. The series does not deal directly with transgenderism but with the intriguing questions that arise from it. It raises questions about what sex and gender mean, questions that would be unimaginable without the existence of trans bodies. Trans bodies are vessels for asking larger questions about the social need to superimpose the myths of gender unto the body according to its sex. The process occurs almost seamlessly as long as sex and gender align in a heteronormative and binary way. Destabilization, conscious or unconscious, arises from discrepancies within the anatomy itself and of course from its relationship with social gender norms. TRANSformation challenges the idea of the seemingly natural concordance between sex and gender in which female equals woman and male equals man, contesting the historical paradigm of biology as destiny. TRANSformation archives a beautiful aesthetic resolution through the appropriation of the language of figurative painting, referencing painters such as Michelangelo and the Mannerists. Using an aesthetic that belongs to the past to speak about contemporary topics, it invites us to look at the latter from a historical perspective, and to look in retrospect at art history for signs of non-conforming depictions of the body (as it is the case of women in the Sistine Chapel). Exploring the topic through dancers in movement, the images shift from being descriptive to being narrative. We are obliged to see these transgender bodies in social and historical context. Superposing the bodies against the backdrops of Renaissance and Baroque period churches completes this exercise. The technical process by which the images are created and the use of churches (a public space, religion) become a metaphor for the constructed character of gender. This project strives to suspend the rules and question the myths that oblige us to believe that gender and sex are natural and fixed traits. The purpose of this confrontation with the spectator is to produce conversations that lead to an understanding of gender diversity, as well as a way of achieving equality for the sexes that goes beyond a narrow binary notion or beyond narrow binary notions of gender. Damian Siqueiros (www.damiansiqueiros.com) is a Montreal-based photographer and visual artist.

Foreword I remember the exact moment in which I consciously decided to move forward with medical transition. It was a sweaty summer in the bay area, and like the previous mornings that season, I had spent it sitting at my desk for hours watching video after video on YouTube of testimonials from young transmen. At the time, I identified as ‘transcurious’ – an identity I felt reflected my deep interest but fear of transition – and was enamoured with the way that so many of the young men candidly expressed their journeys to anonymous audiences. I was in love with their audacity to be free. That particular day I watched a video of a very popular vlogger who reminded me of myself: talkative, philosophical and cocky. Like most of his videos, this one was shot in black and white and had an experimental arthouse feel to it. But unlike the other daily tellings of facial hair growth, or how his voice has dropped, he shared a poem he had written about self-acceptance and its possibility of creating a new type of masculinity. A masculinity that doesn’t harm but loves. One that is liberating instead of restrictive. This person years younger than me understood my fears and I allowed myself to listen. It was then that my soul shifted and it was then that I knew that I would be ok. And I’ve been ok. I remain grateful to the stories of the young men who have inspired me to live openly, honestly and without shame – many of who line the pages of this book. This text is a wonderful theoretical inquiry into the lives of a community of people that have created ourselves in images that sometimes challenge and other times are complicit with gender norms. matthew, thank you for providing men like me a document of our agency. Kortney Ziegler, PhD

Preface One of the key pieces of literature that has shaped my understanding of the world, from the time that I was a young, idealistic, and politically driven ‘alternative’ girl in a German high school to now, a pragmatic, politically worn male-identified Canadian university dean in my late forties, is Franz Kafka’s (1919/2003) Auf der Galerie (Up on the Gallery). Interpretations of the piece, which consists essentially of two long sentences offering contrasting versions of a circus moment in time, abound. My own understanding is perhaps closest to that of Bianca Theisen, whose interpretation maintains the centrality of the text’s ambivalence and its success in not just juxtaposing but maintaining parallel realities. This, in essence, is what this book is about – the inevitability of being oriented and orienting others by competing discourses about transmasculinity. Theisen (2002, p. 178) argues that ‘Kafka’s circus turns doubly transgress the reality of cultural codes already transformed in the circus, a mass medium still very popular in Kafka’s time’. Whether we are surrounded by scholarly critical cultural studies texts, television portrayals, medical diagnoses, sociopolitical analyses or informational counseling pamphlets, what remains is the irrefutability of living in a world that forces us to physically respond, much as Kafka’s circus spectator does, to manifestations of gendered lives, be it in our sensory perceptions, everyday conversations, processing of mediated information or intellectual understandings. It does not seem to matter so much whether the mass medium is the circus, reality television or Web content – all offer culturally mediated constructions of identities that are, at least partially, grounded in our physical properties. ‘The ambivalence of the text’s final gesture offers no clear exegesis to the incongruities and contrasts set up by the two paragraphs’, Theisen (2002, p. 175) suggests in regard to Kafka’s text. Being doomed to, or privileged by, such permanent double vision could lead to an existential paralysis of sorts were it not for the basic human needs that inevitably drive us to make choices. This inevitability of entering discourses, in this case, discourses of transmasculinity, can also be meaningfully illuminated by the perspective of Jean-Paul Sartre’s (1966) philosophy of being. His central tenet – that existence precedes essence – forces us to take a critical look at the ontological assumptions of transmasculine articulations of being. As this analysis will demonstrate, a fundamental belief in an essential, innate identity that lies at the core of transmasculine lives provides a compass for many in the contested terrain of transmasculine representations. At the same time, however, manifestations of transmasculinity that focus

Entering Transmasculinity

on the self-reflexivity revealed by human consciousness populate this discursive landscape. Sartre’s notion of ‘nothingness’, with its emphasis on the necessity of negation, sheds light on rhetorical strategies and discursive approaches to understanding one’s own transmasculinity as that which it is not, one’s consciousness always being consciousness of something. His philosophical approach acknowledges the impossibility of escaping discourse, perhaps most effectively in his play No Exit (1944), which stages the futility and inevitability of human freedom to make choices, capsulized in the famous exclamation ‘L’enfer, c’est les autres’. The spirit of this utterance appears mirrored in the query ‘Does it matter what your gender is when you never leave the house?’ posted online by a frustrated female-to-male transgender individual (Captain Awkward 2013). Transmasculine people, like other trans-identified people, are acutely aware of the conundrum that, according to Sartre, characterizes the human condition. Our visibility to others ruptures our selfunderstanding, necessitating incessant symbolic acts that give rise to constructions of transmasculinity we may or may not desire to inhabit but which, regardless, shape our everyday being. The simple acts of purchasing this book, ordering it online, or reading it in a coffee house scatter into meaning constellations, depending on whether we construct our interest as scholarly, personal or scholarly and personal, whom we perceive to be watching us, how or which company is digitally tracking our consumer choices. It is in intellectual affinity to Kafka and Sartre, then, that I am approaching this topic. While technology and our biological–cultural understandings of sex and gender have changed – and will continue to change in unpredictable ways – the human condition has not. It anchors all of us in the sum of mundane communicative acts we engage in all day long, from checking in at the doctor’s office to presenting at a meet-the-teacher night to describing ourselves on online dating sites to posting transition selfies to determining which set of clothes to pull out of the closet in the morning. While I have no hope of successfully unravelling the myriads of meaning-making systems involved in all of these communicative acts, I hope that my examination illustrates the complexity of arriving at transmasculine self-understandings and representations leaving some of us, at times, simply speechless or, as Kafka might have it, ‘sinking into the final march as if into a difficult dream’, weeping, ‘without realizing it’ (trans. Johnston 2003).

xiv

Preface

Up in the Gallery (Franz Kafka) If some frail tubercular lady circus rider were to be driven in circles around and around the arena for months and months without interruption in front of a tireless public on a swaying horse by a merciless whip-wielding master of ceremonies, spinning on the horse, throwing kisses and swaying at the waist, and if this performance, amid the incessant roar of the orchestra and the ventilators, were to continue into the ever-expanding, gray future, accompanied by applause, which died down and then swelled up again, from hands which were really steam hammers, perhaps then a young visitor to the gallery might rush down the long staircase through all the levels, burst into the ring, and cry ‘Stop!’ through the fanfares of the constantly adjusting orchestra. But since things are not like that – since a beautiful woman, in white and red, flies in through curtains which proud men in livery open in front of her, since the director, devotedly seeking her eyes, breathes in her direction, behaving like an animal, and, as a precaution, lifts her up on the dapple-gray horse, as if she were his granddaughter, the one he loved more than anything else, as she starts a dangerous journey, but he cannot decide to give the signal with his whip and finally, controlling himself, gives it a crack, runs right beside the horse with his mouth open, follows the rider’s leaps with a sharp gaze, hardly capable of comprehending her skill, tries to warn her by calling out in English, furiously castigating the grooms holding hoops, telling them to pay the most scrupulous attention, and begs the orchestra, with upraised arms, to be quiet before the great jump, finally lifts the small woman down from the trembling horse, kisses her on both cheeks, considers no public tribute adequate, while she herself, leaning on him, high on the tips of her toes, with dust swirling around her, arms outstretched and head thrown back, wants to share her luck with the entire circus – since this is how things are, the visitor to the gallery puts his face on the railing and, sinking into the final march as if into a difficult dream, weeps, without realizing it.

xv

Introduction

Female-to-male (FTM) transsexual people are the least studied group of all when it comes to masculinity. – Jamison Green (2005) This book seeks to immerse the reader in a nuanced and context-rich consideration of the discourses shaping transmasculine consciousness and communication, allowing not just ‘a story of emergence from a set of representations’ (Halberstam 2005, p. 20) but stories of emergence from sets of representations. It offers an examination of mediated and experienced transmasculine subjectivities and aims to capture the ostensible contradictions that structure transmasculine experience, perception and identification. By analysing competing discourses about transmasculinity, it illustrates some of the ways in which people arrive at transmasculine self-understandings. By placing specific instances of blog posts, YouTube narratives, media portrayals, anecdotal scholarship and counselling literature from the United States, English-speaking Canada and the United Kingdom in context, it explores the negotiation of the meta-discourses of innate transmasculinity and discursive masculinity. I begin by contextualizing the topic, introducing the reader to the scope of the analysis, and providing a snapshot survey of current transmasculine articulations. In four chapters, the book describes the motif of the transmasculine patient, the rhetorical continuance of underlying abnormality, cultural constructions of selfhood, and visions of masculinity. The conclusion provides a holistic reading of the discursive realities constructed, expressed, challenged or omitted in transmasculine discourses. My text uses the term ‘transmasculine’ to loosely describe people who were assigned to the female sex at birth, who do not perceive this sex designation to be an appropriate representation of their gender or sex, and who may identify as AFAB (assigned female at birth), affirmed male, bi-gender, boi, boy, FAAB (female assigned at birth), f2m, F2M, female-bodied man, femaleto-male (FTM), guy, M2M, male, male-identified, male of centre, man, man of transgendered experience, man with transsexual history, new man, non-binary guy, trannyboi, transboy, transfag, transguy, transmale, transman, transmasculine, or transmasculine-leaning. This is not meant to be an exclusive list of the identity labels transmasculine individuals may create or select to describe themselves, which vary greatly in meaning and usage (Bhanji 2012; Diamond & Butterworth 2008; Norwood 2012; Spencer 2014). Indeed, networks such as FTM Australia, which is composed of men who have transitioned, are transitioning or considering their options for transition, advise avoiding identity labels altogether and instead focusing on the ‘tools of transition’: ‘Your true self will emerge as you develop in transition’

Entering Transmasculinity

(FTM Australia 2011). However, two markers vitally identify the subject of this book: original assignment to the female sex at birth and self-identification towards maleness, manhood or masculinity. While some might argue that none of these nouns, and their accompanying adjectives (male, manly, masculine) are interchangeable, popular language use appears less discerning. Definitions of masculinity emerged, primarily in sociology, in the 1980s (i.e. Carrigan et al. 1985; Franklin 1982; Gilmore 1990; Kimmel 1987; Morgan 1981) and today are dispersed in the academic literature, including concepts such as hegemonic masculinity, hybrid masculinity and female masculinity. Nick Trujillo’s (1991) definition of American hegemonic masculinity as identified by five characteristics (physical force and control, occupational achievement, familial patriarchy, frontiersmanship and heterosexuality) is often cited in critical communication studies, and recent reincarnations appear in popular media, as when Mitch Kellaway defines the concept as ‘the “mainstream” vision of an “ideal” masculinity within patriarchal, white-dominant societies, such as those in the Western world’ (Kellaway 2014, 2 December) for readers of The Advocate. Jack Halberstam (1998, p. 77) introduces the notion of female masculinity, which she separates from imitations of maleness and defines as a ‘specific gender with its own cultural history’. Anna Cornelia Fahey’s discourse analysis (2007, p. 142) stresses that hegemonic masculinity ‘is defined both by and against the concept of femininity’ and positioned as superior to femininity. Gary Dowsett et al. (2008) summarize masculinity as a generally understood way of organizing maleness. Tristan Bridges and C.J. Pascoe (2014, p. 246) refine the notion of hybrid masculinity as ‘selective incorporation of elements of identity typically associated with various marginalized and subordinated masculinities and – at times – femininities into privileged men’s gender performances and identities’. R.W. Connell and James Messerschmidt (2005) offer the perhaps broadest and deepest review of research and scholarship on masculinity in a comprehensive yet concise manner. Although their assessment does not include the significant developments of the last ten years, they succinctly elaborate on the evolution of the concept, its varied applications, and critiques related to these applications and extensions. They illustrate the continued relevance of masculinity, and in particular, hegemonic masculinity, as a conceptual tool but also demonstrate that the intellectual value of the concept derives from its flexibility, rejecting ‘those usages that imply a fixed character type, or an assemblage of toxic traits’ as an oversimplification that is incompatible with the original understanding of hegemony in Antonio Gramsci’s work as much as with ‘the present moment of gender politics’ (p. 854). Connell and Messerschmidt further observe that the literature on masculinities reveals ‘a great deal of conceptual confusion as well as a great deal of essentializing’ (p. 836), detracting from the value of masculinities as ‘configurations of practice that are accomplished in social action and, therefore, can differ according to the gender relations in a particular social setting’ (p. 836). It is no surprise, therefore, that language use pertaining to masculinity in online and mediated transmasculine discourse is inconsistent, reflects culturally specific understandings, and sometimes adopts essentialized or oversimplified understandings of concepts introduced in research and scholarly literature. Online dictionaries consider ‘masculinity’ synonymous with manliness, maleness and machismo (Masculinity 2014), and 4

Introduction

as examples of naturally occurring online discourse will show, some go to great lengths to differentiate, for example, male and masculine, while others treat these terms as synonyms or use them in slightly different contexts only. The acronym FAAB (sometimes also presented as AFAB), adopted on Stanford University Vaden Health Center’s website (Vaden Health Center 2014) as ‘FAAB transgender-identified people’, is interesting in this context because its need was foreshadowed years ago in one of the earlier texts on transmasculine identities, Jason Cromwell’s (1999) Transmen & FTMs: Identities, Bodies, Genders & Sexualities. In his epilogue, Cromwell wrote about a Seattlebased support group reaching out to a variety of transmasculine-identified people noting that the support and discussion group was for any person who was ‘assigned female at birth but has masculine gender expression (we keep trying to come up with an acronym that will encompass this statement but so far to no avail)’ (1999, p. 147). While both ‘transmasculine individuals’ and ‘FAAB transgender-identified people’ contain a certain amount of political and cultural appeal at the time of this writing, neither is likely to stay en vogue for the duration, and neither allow for ease of writing or reading. I have chosen, therefore, in instances to shorthand, essentially, to ‘transman’, ‘transmale’, ‘FTM’ or similar referents as appropriate to the context. Although identity labels by their very nature constitute unstable, conflicted zones of cultural contests (Adams et al. 2014; Pultar 2014; Ridanpää 2014), the use of the word ‘transmasculine’ as a linguistic container denoting those who were assigned to the female sex at birth but are identifying on a male spectrum is consistent with current social scientific research and humanistic scholarship in this area (e.g. Factor & Rothblum 2007; Hansbury 2005; Iantaffi & Bockting 2011). Colloquial use by individuals and groups also reflects this practice, as evidenced by the ‘transmasculine genderqueery’ name of the Gendercast site (Gendercast 2014), the ‘transmasculine people of color photo project’, (Transmasculine POC 2012) or the ‘Transmasculine Program’ of the Southern Comfort Conference (Southern Comfort Conference 2014). That said, a growing number of transgender individuals identifies as genderqueer, non-binary, trans*, trans or transgender only (Waszkiewicz 2006); some of these individuals were assigned to the female sex at birth and present as transmasculine but prefer an identity category that does not reinforce the binaries of male and female. There is no consensus on what it means ‘to be trans’, an identity cluster whose complexity is increasing as visibility of transpeople expands (Pardo 2008) across ages, classes, cultures and countries (Ekins & King 2006; Salamon 2010; Stryker & Aizura 2013); the most recent need to reflect such diversity is embodied in the move to adopt ‘trans*’ as a symbolic representation (Killerman 2014). The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014, p. 9) survey of LGBT respondents used the term ‘trans person’ to ‘avoid confusion with one of the possible identity groups from which the respondents could choose (‘transgender’)’. Of the 6579 trans participants, 631 identified as ‘transman’ as opposed to ‘trans woman’, ‘transgender’, ‘gender variant’, ‘queer/other’ or ‘cross dresser’. The search for inclusive umbrella labels derives from several trends: the proliferation of identity labels generated by individuals and communities across the globe, which prohibits a 5

Entering Transmasculinity

complete listing of all potential identifiers in even just one majority language; the impossibility of arriving at culturally appropriate translations or aligning culturally specific understandings of gender variance across languages or time; the emergence of a knowledge field that rests on a set of keywords, hyperlinks and metadata; the need for a shared human rights vocabulary (Bender-Baird 2011; Valentine 2007); and a political awareness that greater numbers translate into greater political power (i.e. Gayatri Spivak’s (1988) notion of strategic essentialism). An intriguing, interwoven and complicated set of narratives pertaining to gender variance is a by-product of these trends, and author after author prefaces writing, whether intended for academic researchers or popular audiences, by meta-communication about the linguistic choices made. Pagan Kennedy (2007) offers the following rationale for her language use in the biography of Michael Laurence Dillon, explaining in her author’s note why she uses the word transsexual rather than transgendered, attributing this both to language use prevalent in the 1950s and to differentiation of surgical and hormonal treatment choices. ‘My use of the word transsexual is not intended to strike any particular political tone, but rather to avoid confusion’, she writes. Kennedy also comments on her use of pronouns, stating that for clarity’s sake, the pronouns she used to describe pre-transition individuals ‘did not match Dillon’s or Cowell’s internal sense of themselves before they transformed their bodies’, adding that she tried as much as possible to use the pronouns that would have been preferred by the individuals. Her note reflects the awkwardness of telling transmasculine life stories choosing language that satisfies current preferred language use, remains intelligible to diverse audiences, approximates the biographical subject’s personal preference and remains aligned with the historical–cultural frame for that narrative. Measured against such complicated expectations, subject to localized understandings of gender and sex, and unable to provide lengthy articulations in truncated news spaces, mass media coverage often falls short. Seventeen years after the killing of Brandon Teena in Nebraska, that state’s largest daily newspaper, the Omaha World-Herald, referred to Brandon as ‘a woman’ and used female pronouns to refer to Brandon, who presented as male (Bass 2011). In response to critique by members of the public and advocacy groups, including GLAAD, the Omaha WorldHerald adjusted its online version of the article by eliminating all gender-specific pronouns. GLAAD, and others, objected to the paper’s refusal to use male pronouns in reference to Brandon, a practice which the editor justified by arguing that use of the male pronoun would be confusing to readers. In an 30 April 2011 letter to the editor of the Omaha WorldHerald, Diane Amdor, President of Allies and Advocates for GLBT Equality at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Law, argues that criminal prosecution of Brandon’s killers does not suffice to make young transgender people feel ‘safe and respected in Nebraska now’ because the ‘World-Herald can’t even bring itself to write the word “he”’ (Bass 2011). As John Sloop’s (2000, p. 181) analysis shows, most of the public discourses surrounding Brandon ultimately functioned to ‘discipline the transgendered’: Whether positing himself as a hermaphrodite or as a preoperative transsexual, Brandon Teena, and reports about Brandon Teena, work within the same gender constraints that 6

Introduction

we all are faced with. To be male demands the presence of a penis, and Brandon was metaphorically adding one with either rhetorical strategy. Arguably, though, the rhetorical battle for pronouns in the Brandon Teena case served as a site of more complex argumentation. Coverage of this news story was challenging, as perhaps best illustrated in Shu Lea Cheang’s ‘BRANDON’, a 1998 multi-artist multimedia art project commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum for a World Wide Web project ‘exploring issues of gender fusion and techno-body in both public and cyberspace’ (Cheang 1998). The website describes Cheang’s work in the following words: ‘BRANDON derives its title from Brandon/Teena Brandon of Nebraska, USA, a gender-crossing individual who was raped and murdered in 1993 after his female anatomy was revealed’. The language in this statement is carefully crafted (‘Brandon/Teena Brandon’; ‘gender-crossing individual’; ‘his female anatomy’) to allow for external intelligibility as much as to leave room for whatever Brandon’s self-identification might have been. The discourse surrounding the Brandon Teena case has been examined by academics, advocates, activists, critics and educators and given rise to the ‘Brandon industry’ (Halberstam 2005, p. 16); it is referenced here to illustrate the intricacies of writing about transmasculine representations. As the discussion to follow will show, Brandon Teena appears in many locations in transmasculine discourses and in discourses about transmasculinity, and representations of Brandon Teena’s gender identity continue to conflict with each other. The labels individuals choose to describe or understand themselves often change over time; the labels others choose to describe or understand us may or may not match the labels we choose for ourselves; and others may understand the labels we choose for ourselves differently from us. Efforts to resist labels often result in either invisibility of transmasculinespecific consciousness (Teich 2012) or inadvertent creation of a new label. Wherever possible, I have tried to maintain the language individuals have chosen as self-referents in samples and excerpts of discourse. I have tried to apply the same principle where other identity markers, such as skin colour, ethnicity, sexuality or religion, are concerned. For example, excerpts from discourse generated by self-identified black transmen is identified as such, but YouTube contributions in which the ethnicity of the presenter is not referenced by the individual himself are not designated as being generated by a member of a particular ethnic group. Racial and ethnic identifications are constructed in highly different ways in the national and cultural contexts from which this analysis draws (see, for example, the difference between ‘people of colour’ and ‘racialized people’ in US and Canadian contexts) and also are subject to political and generational self-understandings. In other words, I have tried to draw from diverse cultural co-locations but in respect of self-representational choices have tried to provide such identifications only when they were foregrounded by the individual, and only in the language chosen by the individual. It is illustrative that the referents individuals choose to describe themselves are not necessarily consistent in time or place, subject to rapidly evolving linguistic practices as much as to rapidly changing senses of identity. In a UK context, for example, preference for the label ‘non-binary’ over ‘transmasculine’ or ‘FTM’ 7

Entering Transmasculinity

appears to be evolving. In keeping with current English-language trends, I am using the terms cisgender, cismen and ciswomen (the Latin prefix cis denotes ‘on the same side’ and has come to be understood as an antonym to trans) to denote individuals whose assigned birth sex matches the gender with which they identify. It is relevant to keep in mind, however, that the longevity of the concept ‘cis’ is inextricably tied to the success or failure of trans discourses to overhaul entrenched conceptualizations of gender and sex. Its existence is predicated on the social practice of assigning sex at birth, a practice that may become to be understood as non-scientific or non-empirical as assigning racial categories at birth, as sociologist Aaron Devor offers in a recent Canadian documentary (Transforming Gender 2015). While at first glance, most trans discourses appear to naturally overlap in their integration of gender variance or gender nonconformity as a key component, the nature of such gender variance or nonconformity often remains embedded in these individual discourses, which ultimately conflates contradictory and even exclusionary understandings of gender and sex. This arguably compromises the reformatory and perhaps revolutionary potential of some of these approaches to thinking about and thinking in gender and sex, as their individual contributions remain politically untapped, subsumed in a sea of gender variance consensus. The very notions of ‘gender variance’ and ‘gender nonconformity’, tacitly assumed in much trans discourse, invoke a discourse of gender order that likely constrains our ability to experience the range of our gendered beings. The binary distinction between transsexual and transgender discourses no longer stands the test of contemporary language usage as some of those who identify primarily as transsexual see transsexualism as part of a range of gendered identities and some of those who identify primarily as transgender orient their selfunderstanding and external representation along discrete binaries. Contemporary use of the label ‘transsexual man’ could signify an individual who orients himself along a binary gender system as much as it could signify an individual who does not. Such rhetorical flexibility increases the significance of contextualized understanding. This organically occurring language use defies efforts at classification, even if broadened to present a tri-partite scheme, such as Alain Giami and Emmanuelle Beaubatie’s (2015) notion of essentialist, trans-identified, and non-binary identities presented at the first European Professional Association for Transgender Health conference in Ghent, Belgium. This discursive shift is arguably bigger than a mere expansion of the range of transmasculine identities that manifest themselves in society or that are theoretically postulated by scholars (Rubin 2003), but because transmasculine people themselves are a living part of this discourse as much as the scholars who seek to examine these trends (and of whom a considerable portion identifies as transmasculine themselves), this larger shift may not be visible to those living in this particular moment of trans consciousness. Although we are generally aware that our specific cultural, historic, temporal and linguistic context shapes our understanding of ourselves and that of others, our analyses often focus on the manifestation of specific instances, or articulations of consciousness, rather than the contextual frames (van Dijk 2008, p. 217). Both, however, would appear inextricably linked, and the contextual frame likely of more importance in regard to social change at a national or global level. 8

Introduction

Scholars from a range of fields of study have examined the portrayal of transmasculine characters in music, visual and literary media (e.g. Ballard 2014; Krell 2013; Love 2001; Prosser 1998). Such analyses by default offer singular perspectives, the lens of a particular scholar’s epistemology and ontology focused on a particular media moment, whether that is Brandon Teena’s representation in Boys Don’t Cry (Halberstam 2001) or The Brandon Teena Story (Cooper 2002), the character of Stephen Gordon in Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness (Love 2001), Jackie Kay’s black Scottish trans novel Trumpet (Richardson 2012) or the performative aspects of the music of Lucas Silveira (Krell 2013). At the same time – and the emphasis here literally lies on the coincidental nature of such work – researchers study isolated aspects of transmasculine lives such as vocal quality in FTM transition (e.g. Constansis 2008); psychoanalysts, psychologists and sociologists organize transmasculine identifications (e.g. Hansbury 2005; Levitt & Ippolito 2014; Suchet 2011); health scholars investigate transmale demographic characteristics, social support and experiences of violence from a sibling-comparative perspective (e.g. Factor & Rothblum 2007) or adaptation of perinatal nursing practice for pregnant transgender men (e.g. Adams 2010); and medical scholars inquire into hysterectomy and oophorectomy experiences (e.g. Rachlin et al. 2010) or testosterone regimens of FTM individuals (e.g. Molo et al. 2015; Steinle 2011). Within the field of communication studies, trans communication scholarship is slowly emerging as a distinct area (e.g. Spencer & Capuzza 2015) but draws, as is customary in emerging fields, from widely diverging theoretical frameworks and sites of study, whether in the form of sexual communication research (Kosenko 2010, 2011), family communication (Norwood 2012), or queer studies approaches to the body (Yep 2013). This growing body of research meets a well-established body of work in media studies that addresses transgender representations (e.g. Fink & Miller 2014; Mocarski et al. 2013; Shaw 2012; Willox 2003) and, in instances, proposes a distinct transgender perspective. Leland Spencer (2014), for example, extends queer rhetorical criticism by proposing transgender rhetorical criticism as a new approach and offers a transgender reading of performative gender identity in ‘The Little Mermaid’. In the last century, much research and scholarship has emphasized specialization and deep fields of study, so it is not surprising that much scholarship orients itself within a fairly circumscribed set of referents, despite the growing awareness that disciplinarily siloed scholarship cannot satisfactorily address today’s global problems. Film scholars will orient themselves primarily in a landscape of other film scholars; literary critics focus on the work generated by other literary critics; social scientists primarily cite other social scientists. Although some transmasculine-specific scholarship offers a departure from traditional disciplinary approaches and reflects a broader, rather than deeper, examination of topics, much knowledge available to transmasculine people remains segregated by seemingly irreconcilable epistemologies. Even professional bodies that acknowledge the relevance of multiple epistemological perspectives invariably segregate knowledge as a function of time and space by offering conference streams, prohibiting communication where it is most needed if the ultimate goal is to facilitate social change and improve practices. Deep and 9

Entering Transmasculinity

focused research is essential; it constitutes the building blocks of scholarship and thereby knowledge, knowledge that exists beyond our selves and with which we find ourselves in constant dialogue, whether directly or indirectly. However, these worlds of knowledge, and their applications, collide in our daily lives. An endocrinologist may prescribe particular dosages of testosterone based on biomedical research involving transmasculine ‘subjects’ or ‘patients’; a community-based support group may invite us to meetings in genderneutral, gender-free, or genderqueer zones; a transmen resource website may promote Chaz Bono’s autobiographical account as a narrative familiar or relevant to our lives; a YouTube video may chronicle an individual’s decision to start and then abandon testosterone therapy. Advocacy groups solicit our participation in anti-discrimination efforts, locally and globally, positioning us in victimized or at least structurally marginalized locations manifested in Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter hashtags. Throughout all this, we file words, symbols, gestures, photos and videos away, retrace our steps in digital tracks that quickly trap us in unintelligible circuits, and form webs of understanding through associations we may only be partially aware of and that manifest themselves in sudden product placement on our browsers. Out of this, a level of transmasculine awareness is forged that has the potential to keep us paralyzed in permanent self-reflexivity. The question arises as to how to study, how to reach and articulate an understanding, however tentative, of transmasculine discourses given the ubiquity and transience of their elements. I will consider some of the social meanings in images, texts and language individuals use to communicate their (trans)masculinity. My analysis will show particular core symbolic alignments that exist across texts, and although such a discourse analysis cannot seek to generate generalizable claims, I can confidently suggest that the discourse analysed here reflects at least part of the contemporary reality of transmen, similar to the ways in which my earlier work examined the discourse of meat consumption (Heinz & Lee 1998), environmental discourse (Heinz et al. 2007) or global constructions of gay and lesbian identities (Heinz et al. 2002). In line with this earlier work, my analysis draws, in part, on the analytical tools offered by Kenneth Burke (1973), such as associational clusters and symbolic alignments, and those offered by critical discourse analytic scholars such as Teun van Dijk (2008). I arrive at the themes, narrative structures and tropes identified in this book by using a variety of rhetorical-critical and discourse analytic tools. These tools can be traced back to highly divergent research traditions, including critical cultural studies, Marxism, the Frankfurt School, semiotics, applied linguistics, speech act theory, postcolonialism, feminist studies, pragmatics, and rhetorical criticism. van Dijk cogently expresses the Janian nature of discourse by defining its position ‘at the interface of the social and the cognitive: It is itself a social practice, but at the same time it is the major way we acquire ideologies’ (van Dijk n.d.); as such, it manifests how ideologies are enacted, reproduced and resisted. Avi Marciano (2014) presents discourse analysis, in the context of Israeli online trans spaces, as focusing primarily on the ways in which individuals produce reality while also addressing what reality means for individuals. Both discourse analysis and critical discourse analysis are concerned with what is present but also need to address what is absent (Gee 2011). In this vein, I explore how 10

Introduction

rhetorical devices, visual representations and other manifestations of symbolicity work together to privilege certain understandings of transmasculinity over others and to cocreate transmasculinity as a current cultural practice. Finally, I examine the political and cultural implications of such symbolic constructions of transmasculinity. The discourses of transmasculinity are intertwined with the discourses of masculinity, but scholarship and research in both areas do not necessarily reference each other. Transmasculine articulations of transmasculinity often are dominantly informed by lesbian-feminist writing, queer theory and activism or men’s studies perspectives; less frequently they aim to (or are able to) integrate aspects of these perspectives into a meta-discourse of masculinity. As Lee Monaghan and Michael Atkinson (2014, p. 3) review, masculinity itself is in a state of upheaval. While ‘boys and men are the subjects of intense academic, governmental, private sector, public and media scrutiny’, their voices remain muted: Young and older men report the lowest levels of life satisfaction and security in more than a half-century, and stress how their voices, concerns and identities often fall outside of popular discourses about gender equality in society. Other boys and men exist quite happily, but routinely suggest their identities or styles of living are neither understood nor appreciated as normative. In as far as discourses of transmasculinity are informed by discourses of masculinity, the opposite should also apply, but this would require a rhetorical saturation of masculinity discourses with concepts generated within transmasculine discourses. The new and divergent manifestations of transmasculinity evident in the articulations of transmasculine experiences play off changes in understandings of masculinity and both reinforce and challenge social and cultural understandings of what it means to be a man. E. Tristan Booth (2011) analyses the representation of Miles Goff, who identifies as transsexual and bisexual, in a 2006 episode of the US reality show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Booth finds that the Queer Eye team interacts differently with Goff than it does with other participants, ‘betraying an underlying awkwardness concerning Goff ’s liminal social status as a man’ (p. 192). Richard Mocarski et al. (2013) examine both Bono’s chosen self-representation and the ways in which the US show Dancing with the Stars framed his participation, which was one of the first primetime network appearances of a post-operative transgender person. Their analysis suggests that Bono is presented as ‘a different kind of man’ – a presentation that marks progress in terms of transgender (and, in particular, transmasculine) inclusion and visibility, but one that also uses a subtly transphobic lens by framing Bono as unsexed. The authors also engage with the concept of transnormativity, noting that Bono offers a ‘safe subjectivity’ by virtue of being a white, upper-class, post-operative heterosexual man. The recent genesis of transgender studies (Stryker & Aizura 2013), formalized in the publication of the first non-medical academic journal on transgender issues (Transgender Studies Quarterly), not only offers a way of bringing together a wide range of disciplinary perspectives, but also invariably frames our understanding of what it means to be 11

Entering Transmasculinity

transmasculine by approaching the experience through a proposed new disciplinary lens. Yet, transmasculine people do not experience their lives within specific, contained moments any more than anyone else; our lives segue seamlessly in between overlapping, sequential, fragmented and disparate images and portrayals, much as we pass through different rooms or sections of our living quarters, browse websites or talk to a variety of people during a given day. As C. Jacob Hale (2003) has shown, the degree of gender identity constellations during a single social encounter is difficult to predict and even harder to trace. Therefore, this book attempts to integrate examples of scholarly, performative, activist, educational and everyday discourses as they relate to transmasculinity to offer a glimpse into a mirror of refracted impressions. Eloquent works on transmasculine identities have been created by critical scholars, but often these works remain inaccessible to readers not steeped in critical theory and cultural studies. These works certainly inform this discursive analysis, but they are backgrounded rather than foregrounded, and the emphasis lies on surfacing everyday discourses. While each transmasculine individual’s life experience will be a unique phenomenon (physically, psychologically, socially and culturally), the composite of our transmasculine lives will be affected in tangible and intangible ways by popular discourse as much as by scientific discourse, by news links popping up on our google-chuted browsers as much as by the cover of a magazine we peruse while standing in line at the grocery store, anticipating or dreading the grocery clerk’s gendered courtesy salutation. While I have selected a wide range of media as the canvas for this portrait of transmasculine discourses, I make no claims to representativeness or comprehensiveness. Human symbol-making shifts shapes but lingers in permutations throughout languages, images and cultures, which makes it impossible to definitively circumscribe a particular discourse in a point of time and place. In broad strokes, this book examines some of the portrayals of transmasculinity present in scholarly texts, fiction, autobiographies, educational pamphlets, activist campaigns, professional health discourse, photos, popular movies, documentaries, YouTube videos, websites and blogs. Despite an attempt to link divergent discourses, this landscape does not capture all – the discursive fields of dance, song lyrics, music videos, poetry, cartoons, anime, graphic novels or virtual gaming are excluded. My analysis holds no claims to being exhaustive or comprehensive – a goal that likely is no longer a feasible one for any field of study given the rapid pace of knowledge generation, documentation and dissemination. Indeed, one could spend a lifetime immersing oneself solely in tracking, reading, viewing and analysing transmasculine-specific material in an English language context. The texts I have selected are generally limited to those available in English, and the national cultural context is primarily English-speaking Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Overall, I have read over the last few years, dozens of books, chapters and journal articles specific to the experiences of transmasculine people, viewed more than 20 films and television shows as well as more than 100 YouTube videos featuring transmasculine narratives, participated in community-based education efforts on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada, interviewed 50 transmasculineidentified individuals, attended trans-specific conferences in Canada, the United States, 12

Introduction

and Europe, and visited hundreds of websites. Such extensive immersion in discourse is neither rare nor the prerogative of an intellectual; a self-conscious and strategic effort to place oneself within transmasculine discourse seems to characterize many transmasculine lives. Confronted with ‘the look’ (Nakamura 1998) and subject to public gaze (Sloop 2000), we still lack representations beyond stereotypical portrayals and the occasional credible manifestation of actual lives. Michel Boucher (2011, p. 197) observes that ‘trans bodies have been concentrated sites for discursive production and contested power relations’, suggesting that transmasculine bodies are moving into the spotlight. While trans visibility appears to be at an all-time high (Bauer et al. 2013; Posadzki 2014; Wente 2014) transmasculine experiences have been identified as less present, less visible and less familiar in popular consciousness than transfeminine experiences. Rhonda Factor and Esther Rothblum (2008, p. 244) report that by 2008, the ‘overwhelming focus in both published research and visibility in mainstream media has been on MTFs’. In 2014, for example, Time Magazine (21 Transgender People 2014) published a photo gallery of ‘notable trans people who have left a mark on popular culture’. Of the 21 individuals included in the gallery, only three represented the transmasculine spectrum, and two of these (Brandon Teena and Billy Tipton) did not label themselves as transgender. Each of these three, Kye Allums, Brandon Teena and Billy Tipton, presented as heterosexual men. Transmasculine media visibility, however, is rapidly increasing, and in a sign of new competitive positioning, online transmasculine resource sites such as The Transitional Male (2014) are now establishing claims to credibility and longevity by calling attention to their histories. The Transitional Male describes itself as ‘one of the oldest existing sites for Transmen’ and mentions that it was established in 1998. Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide (n.d.) states that the site was launched in 2004 and has since been viewed more than ten million times in 180 countries. Despite this recent surge in online presence, it is not astonishing, given the often acknowledged longstanding absence of transmasculine visibility (Cromwell 1999; Green 2004; Riggs & Patterson 2009), that transmasculine people actively seek out representations of what their lives (and bodies) could look like. Comedian Ian Harvie, who also starred on the US television series Transparent, says he would like to see ‘healthy, funny, sexy, productive, life-loving transguys’ because trans-identified men have been ‘starving for those characters that we can personally relate to’ (Kellaway 2014, 4 November). In the absence of a widely understood, inclusive and accessible discourse about transmasculine identities and experiences, transmasculine people have traditionally immersed themselves in the few readings and movies widely circulated, as much as their resources and educational background allowed. Bono (2012, p. 141) writes that he began reading everything he ‘could find about transgender people and transitioning’, a Los Angeles Times book review characterizes the young adult novel I am J as ‘a wonderful addition to the few novels that have dared to tackle a subject that has long lived in the cultural margins’ (Amazon n.d.), and teen Skylar, who was interviewed for The New Yorker (Talbot 2013, 18 March) recalls reading Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger and recognizing himself in the character of the trans boy Grady. Trans writer and educator Matt Kailey suggests in relation 13

Entering Transmasculinity

to the original publication of Megan Rohrer and Zander Keig’s anthology Letters For My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect, that even at a time of high online presence, transmen still need books. His autographed copy of Loren Cameron’s (1996) Body Alchemy retains a prominent place on his bookshelf, he observes. Memoir after memoir pays homage to the texts that have emerged as key to understanding our experiences over the past 30 years. Professionals who increasingly find themselves called upon to work with transidentified clients also often reference this foundational set of autobiographical writings and trans narratives. Melanie Suchet (2011), a psychoanalyst, reflects on her work with her first transmasculine client, who introduced her to the books he was reading to better understand his own emerging identity – notably Jay Prosser’s (1998) Second Skins. Suchet then immersed herself not just in Prosser’s work, but also in the works of Kate Bornstein, Patrick Califia, Devor, Leslie Feinberg and Judith Halberstam. Sandra Samons (2005, p. 190), a clinical social worker and family therapist, recommends Jamison Green’s (2004) Becoming a Visible Man as a ‘must read’ for sex educators and mental health professionals who might be working with transmen. Until about a decade ago, transmasculine discourse appeared almost surprisingly self-referential, as a fairly limited number of highly visible transmasculine-identified individuals – most of them North American or British, white, able-bodied, and college-educated – organized conferences, published books, created websites, posted videos, made films and led trans education. This is not to say that non-white transmasculine discourses did not exist until very recently; it is to say that these discourses were often absent from what one might conceive of as a majority white transman discourse and that they did not appear to significantly shift hegemonic discursive representations. They remained ‘other’ ‘others’. Of interest is the fact that Thomas Beatie, who received international mass media coverage due to his pregnancy, is not white; his mother is of English/Irish/Scottish and Welsh descent and his father is of Korean and Filipino descent. Asian and Eurasian online sites appear quick to distance themselves from association by referring to Beatie’s ‘alleged’ Asian descent (Eurasian Nation 2008), and it seems that Beatie’s pregnancy overrode other aspects of his identity in media coverage. The increasingly visible heterogeneity in what has been loosely called ‘the transmasculine community’ (Hansbury 2005, p. 242) has been surfacing within transmasculine discourse, as writers, film-makers, bloggers, conference organizers and educators from previously under-represented groups have told their stories; assumed organizational leadership positions; published essays, articles, and books; and created a formidable online presence. This heterogeneity stems from different religious, ethnic, linguistic, ability and national backgrounds as much as professions, sexual orientation, age and type of transmasculine identification. However, this heterogeneity has not surfaced into majority mass-mediated representations and discourses about transmasculinity; transnormative, and often heteronormative, narratives dominate. Quinn Miller (Fink & Miller 2014, p. 615) concludes that mainstream ‘media productions focus on middle-class, professional trans people, compelling them to provide personal stories of anatomy and physical transformation’. The materiality of trans lives is often backgrounded, and while 14

Introduction

intersectionalities of class, religion, income, ethnicity, language, ability or nationality are acknowledged, they rarely appear as a primary lens in dominant transmasculine representations. They are, however, increasingly being surfaced in non-traditional, independent, or self-publishing outlets (e.g. Jacks McNamara’s 2013 collection of poems). The wide availability of online resources has drastically expanded the discourse available to trans-identified people, and this has changed, over the past decade, the manifestation of online transmasculine presence, allowing for a much more heterogeneous pool of images, words and sounds. The mere ability to order or view texts and films online created greater accessibility for those not living in areas with book stores or libraries that might carry such texts – or simply offered greater anonymity. Most recent transmasculine discourses almost by default include a description of the relevance of online resources. This reflects the unprecedented effect the availability of the Internet has had on trans people’s lives (Fink & Miller 2014; heinz 2012; Horvath et al. 2012; Marciano 2014; Shapiro 2004). For example, J, the protagonist in Cris Beam’s young adult novel, hits ‘the Google icon at the top of his screen and typed women who want to be men in the search line’ (Beam 2011, p. 52). More significant than the use of a particular search engine or access of the Internet are the search terms because they reflect the challenge of locating a discourse one can only imagine to exist. ‘Women who want to be men’ then likely quite accurately reflects the terms in which a young person with an emerging transmasculine consciousness would project the self, although a progressive identification as transmasculine would just as likely critique the starting position of ‘woman’; the desire, rather than needdriven implications of ‘want’; and the change imperative implied in wanting to be something one is currently not. While much has been written on the evolution of a pictorial, visually driven society (Dikovitskaya 2006), the impact of seeing others like oneself in various stages of transition for those contemplating physical transition can hardly be overstated. Beam’s (2011, p. 55) protagonist J locates websites on transmen on testosterone: ‘Suddenly, there was Mike, there was Ty, there was Tate, there were Flip and Mac and two dozen others, who all (well, except for Ty, really) looked like men’. An individual named Shannon created the website TransManhood.com. An entry on the site credits another transman, Dade, with Shannon’s decision to openly transition: Dade is an inspiration to me and a big factor in my decision to be open with my transition. I know I am not alone in saying this, either, judging by the thousands of views his YouTube videos  get. Watching him step out of his shell to make incredibly honest and helpful videos about what it’s like to be a trans man encouraged me that I too could be proud of who I was. (Transmanhood 2013) Shannon then interviews Dade, an Oregon transman who transitioned when he was 29. Dade and his wife chronicled his transition and her adjustment to his transition on YouTube. Dade expresses that he could not find much information pertaining to transition from 15

Entering Transmasculinity

female to male, but that the resource he ‘found through the YouTube trans community was invaluable’ to him. Dade states that YouTube was the only place where you could literally see someone transition: ‘I owe my life to this community and I wanted to give back. So despite my introverted nature, I was compelled to make videos of my own in hopes that I could help others the way I was helped’ (Transmanhood 2013). Taylor Brookes of England describes his decision to launch a YouTube channel in the following words, which echo those of many other FTM channels: ‘After over a year of growing as a person, changing my life and being taught and inspired by many trans* you tubers, I decided to make a channel myself, and show you my personal journey. These videos are for myself, to view my own progress, and for you, to watch me grow, learn, and understand a little better as I experience the changes I go through in the future!’ (Some days, I hate my body. FTM. 2014). Transmasculine cartoonist Morgan Boecher (2010) writes that ‘just listening to transguys on YouTube talk about their lives’ was most helpful to him and prompted him to give back to the online trans community by drawing a trans comic. A column (Alpert Reyes 2014) in the Los Angeles Times, which labels YouTube a ‘lifeline for transgender young people’, characterizes the relevance of online videos in the following words: Thousands of teens and twentysomethings who are transgender – identifying with a gender that is different than their sex at birth – have turned to YouTube as a kind of public diary. As they start taking hormones or using new names, many are documenting their journeys on video, baring their souls and revealing their changing faces to strangers online. The column is illustrated with a number of photos; the photo of a young transman uploading a video of his transition on his girlfriend’s laptop has the most prominent placement. The story quotes Los Angeles activist Jake Finney on changes in online representation since the last decade, at which time only a few websites existed and ‘[m]ovies and television gave a grim picture of trans life’, referring specifically to the murder of Brandon Teena and the death of Robert Eads, who had been refused timely medical attention. Today, young transgender men can arrive at the conclusion that they can lead a happy, healthy life, Finney states. The article also quotes Asher Zickert from North Carolina, who says he documents his transition online because he wants to help young transmen: ‘If there was no Internet, I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at right now’. The number and types of narratives has expanded, over time allowing underrepresented trans discourses to emerge and giving voice to the experiences of transmasculine people affected differently by age, culture, ethnicity, education, physical ability, religion, class, sexual orientation or geographical location. Margaret Talbot (2013, 11 March) describes the YouTube scene as a ‘mash-up of youthful identity struggles, self-promoting confessionals, and thoughtful explorations of gender and its discontents’. A confirmation of a wider range of transmasculine presences, particularly online, however, should not be understood to imply the disappearance of hegemonic discourses, about and within transmasculine 16

Introduction

communities. While an out transman, Ian Harvie, played an out transmale character (Dale) on the US television show Transparent (2014), the portrayal of Dale reinforced white heteronormative and transnormative narratives as much as stereotypes about masculinity and transmasculinity. Appearing in episodes six and seven of the first season, the character is cast as a heterosexual, flannel-wearing, beer-drinking, pick-up driving, sexist gender studies instructor whose attempts to use a dildo during a bathroom encounter fail miserably. At the end of episode seven, it is revealed that this portrayal was (at least to some degree) a cisfemale character’s fantasy and thus designed to critique stereotypical portrayals of transmen. Overall, given the dearth of transmasculine representations on television and the significant positive media exposure the show received in regard to the portrayal of the transfeminine lead character, this transmasculine media moment fails to deliver and reinforces rather than challenges stereotypes. Cael Keegan (2014) writes, ‘[o]bjectification, fetishization, and obsession with genitals that all feed transphobia are still present in Transparent – but they are directed away from trans women and towards transmen. Certainly, this is not the kind of representation that most transmen are hoping for’. In a similar vein, it is important to keep in mind that transmasculine youth will also invariably encounter some hostile and threatening content on the Internet. The diversity of contemporary transmasculine discourses forces us to acknowledge the structural inequalities institutionalized in political and social practice (Spade 2011) but also requires us to differentiate between individual subjectivities and access to material resources. One needs to be aware of oversimplified implicit equations; just like binary thinking about gender, conceptualizing marginalization along ‘simple’ denominators, be they national origin, skin colour, culture, religion or sexual orientation would be fallacious. van Dijk (2006, p. 162) problematizes traditional contextualism in the following words, ‘[I]f these would operate ‘objectively’ or even ‘deterministically’ on discourse, all speakers in the ‘same situation would say the same things and in the same way. We know they don’t, and hence what I shall call ‘naïve contextualism’ is theoretically misguided’. This observation appears relevant in regard to victimizing meta-narratives about transgender people as much as in regard to substrate narratives about ethnicity, religion, geographical location or other assumedly ‘fixed’ contextual constraints. In order to frame my discourse analysis against a sample of fairly spontaneously occurring articulations of transmasculinity, I released an online survey in March 2014, using FluidSurvey software to take a quick pulse of current ideas about transmasculinity. I disseminated the five-question survey link via e-mail and online posts, originating from Victoria, British Columbia, but reaching transmasculine-identified people in a wide range of locations. Within twenty days, I had received 188 responses. I closed the survey at that time. In total, I eliminated thirteen responses that were incomplete or invalid because the respondents indicated that they were either transfeminine or cisgender, yielding a total of 175 complete and valid survey responses. The survey asked two basic demographic questions and three questions specific to one’s understanding of (trans)masculinity. I am presenting a summary of the responses here to guide the reader into the complicated world 17

Entering Transmasculinity

Response

Chart

Under 18 years 18 to 29 years 30 to 49 years 50 to 69 years 70 years or older

Percentage

Count

 4.0% 49.1% 36.0%  8.0%  2.9%

  7  86  63  14   5

Total Responses

175

of transmasculine self-understandings from a more accessible entry point. I will return to these survey responses throughout the text and reframe these responses in light of the larger discourse analysis. The first question simply aimed to capture the age of respondents, which ranged from under 18 years (7 respondents) to 70 years or older (5 respondents). About half of the respondents fell into the age group of 18- to 29-year olds and about one third of the respondents reported being between 30 and 49 years old, meaning that the vast majority of respondents (85.1 per cent) were between 18 and 49. The second question asked respondents to indicate which continent they were from. Most (69.7 per cent) respondents were from North American locations, and 14.3 per cent were from Europe. All of the continents other than Antarctica were represented; in addition, four respondents identified their locations as ‘other’, specifically providing Middle East (2), Oceania (1) and New Zealand (1) as locations. Although a convenience, snowball sample cannot claim to speak to the representativeness of a particular group, it is relevant to understand that the self-reported transmasculine perspectives captured in this snapshot reflect largely North American responses from individuals who are between 18 and 49 years old.

Response

Chart

Percentage

Africa Antarctica Asia Australia Europe North America South America Other, please specify...

18

Count

 0.6%  0.0%  6.9%  5.7% 14.3% 69.7%  0.6%  2.2%

  1   0  12  10  25 122   1   4

Total Responses

175

Introduction

The third question asked respondents to select labels they ‘normally use to describe’ themselves from a list of gender identity identifiers based on scholarly literature, social practice, professional/practitioner guidelines and community conventions. The majority of the respondents selected more than one label. This finding is consistent with recent studies involving transmasculine participants (e.g. Factor & Rothblum 2008; Raj 2002; Waszkiewicz 2006) and contemporary online discourse (e.g. Genderqueer + Testosterone 2014). FTM Australia (2011) for example, offers the following perspective on identity labels, noting that its site ‘tries hard’ to not use identity labels: Identity labels (like transgender, ftm, transman etc.) continually evolve in the social environment and different people interpret them in different ways at different times. The meanings of these identity-labels also change over time. If you depend on a label (or a set-of-labels) to describe yourself, it can result in feeling like a bit of a trap. Four labels were closely tied in the top four spots: trans (57.7 per cent), male (56 per cent), man (54.3 per cent), and transgender (54.3 per cent). The survey responses were complex. Of the 124 respondents who selected any one or any combination of the cisgender descriptors man, male and guy as labels, 106 respondents (85.5 per cent) also selected trans-specific labels, while 18 respondents (14.5 per cent) chose no other labels, reflecting the practice of not referencing one’s trans history in one’s self-understanding and self-representation. Of the 134 respondents who chose a label expressing non-cisorigin (i.e. trans, trans*, transgender, transsexual, transman, transguy, FTM, F2M, female-to-male, transboy, transmasculine, transperson), 106 respondents (79.1 per cent) also included any one or any combination of man, male and guy labels, while 28 respondents (20.9 per cent) chose no labels referencing being male, a man or a guy. Thirteen respondents (7.4 per cent) overall selected only labels that reflect non-binary gender identity (i.e. genderqueer, trans*, trans, gender nonconforming, transperson, transgender, transsexual). The majority of participants in this survey, therefore, self-selected a combination of labels that reveal trans-identification and those that do not. This practice could be interpreted in several ways: (1) respondents experience their identity as larger than ‘trans’ or ‘male’ and opt for a phenomenological positioning of ‘both/ and’; (2) respondents derive portions of their self-identifications from discrete notions of being ‘trans’ and being ‘male’; (3) respondents sometimes describe themselves as trans and sometimes as male, depending on the context; (4) respondents experience themselves as male in an understanding of maleness that is inclusive of transgenderness; (5) respondents experience themselves as trans in an understanding of transgenderness that is inclusive of a male identification. While these may appear tedious, if not artificial, interpretations, their differences account for significant nuances of understanding. The fourth question asked respondents to define what ‘being male’ means to them. I examined the responses to this question based on categories emerging from the responses in repeated readings before identifying discursive assumptions, equations and contradictions. For 53 (30.3 per cent) of the respondents, ‘being male’ seems a fundamental statement about 19

Entering Transmasculinity

Response

Chart

trans trans* transgender transsexual transman transguy ftm (F2M) female-to-male guy transboy male man transmasculine genderqueer gender non-conforming transperson affirmed male none of the above

Percentage

Count

57.7% 30.9% 54.3% 23.4% 44.0% 38.9% 44.6% 23.4% 49.1%  8.0% 56.0% 54.3% 21.7% 21.7% 14.3% 24.6%  4.0%  4.0%

101  54  95  41  77  68  78  41  86  14  98  95  38  38  25  43   7   7

Total Responses

1006

the self. These respondents’ answers invoked a sense of affirmation, a theme of authenticity and a claim to an individual identity that mirror the essentialist narratives about gender identity Henry Rubin (2003) identifies in phenomenological interviews with 22 transgender men. Representative answers in this category included ‘I just am who I am’, ‘Who I really am’, ‘being honest to my inner self ’, ‘just being me’ and ‘being a male means that I feel, perceive, act like, and consider myself a man, regardless of how others perceive me’. This sense of self was most closely linked, by explicit and implicit association, to ‘truth’ and ‘comfort’. Some of the answers connect the sense of self to sensory, physical processes. These answers are self-referential, in that they equate ‘being male’ with ‘being me’, in other words, being male is experienced as both being-in-itself and being-for-itself by these respondents. These respondents provided answers such as ‘just being me’, ‘who I really am’, and ‘being true to myself ’. On one hand, such responses are not surprising given the US prevalence of identity culture and, especially, identity claims in regard to gender identity and sexual orientation. On the other hand, the clarity, frequency and consistency of such understandings of ‘being male’ can be considered surprising in their present tense assertion and omission of references to change processes. Being male, for these respondents, appears to not be about transformation, change or becoming. It appears to be about being. The fundamental equation of being and being male is striking in its dominance, its unconditional nature and 20

Introduction

its radical summation. The responses of 15 participants spoke to the desire and need for external validation, to the importance of being seen and recognized as a male. Such answers affirmed the value of ‘passing’, of being ‘seen in the world’ as a man, of appearing like a man, ‘being read as a man’, ‘to be seen as a guy’, and of ‘being recognized as male’. Forty-three (24.6 per cent) respondents characterized being male as a specific set of characteristics or behaviours which align with traditional gender portrayals of men: ‘being more concerned about dominating people than cooperating with and helping people’, ‘I feel manly nobleminded, positively insolent, high spirited revolutionary, lone wolf ’, ‘being protective’ or ‘I am expected to wear specific clothes, be able to take charge in almost any situation, […], and that I belong to a specific group with specific characteristics’. Gender-specific social roles were also identified in these responses, such as ‘being a loving, supportive, compassionate and honest husband, son, brother and advocate for others’, ‘provider, father’, ‘a set of cultural expectations, a set of roles’, ‘being the head of my family and a father to my children’ or ‘protector, taking care of loved ones’. However, for fifteen of these 43 participants (34.9 per cent), being male amounted to the burden of male privilege and the desire to provide alternative representations of masculinity. Such responses included ‘I guess I’m a quite nerdy feminine (and feminist, I hope) guy’; ‘trying to be an ally to women and transfeminine people; owing up to the responsibility of male privilege’, ‘not into machismo. I’m a sensitive man’; or ‘while I identify with some stereotypical ‘male’ characteristics I am also pushing against those stereotypes as I define my own masculinity within my transmasculine and feminist experience’. Physical appearance, especially as related to physical strength, was emphasized in 25 (14.3 per cent) of all responses, such as ‘being able to be strong mentally and physically, being able to protect my loved ones’, ‘use my strength when necessary’, ‘strength, certainty, primal’, ‘strength, penis, pectoral muscles, handsome, rugged’, ‘strong, courageous’. These respondents included referents to specific aspects of physical transition, such as ‘hairy butt’, ‘flat chest’, ‘fur’, ‘deep voice’, ‘beard’, ‘muscles’, ‘hair’, ‘loss of hair’ and reflected on their experience in statements such as ‘my maleness is very physical’ or ‘I now associate it with testosterone! I’ve become a hormone essentialist!’ For nineteen respondents (10.8 per cent), being male had ambiguous or little meaning. Such responses expressed that ‘being male’, much like being female, constituted a social expectation of identification on a binary, an identification that felt artificial to the respondents, and one that was engaged essentially to make it easier for others to process these participants’ very existence. Such answers included ‘people understand me as someone who fits into society. I can get on with my life without having to spend all of my time making sure no one around me freaks out about my gender’; ‘I don’t really care about being male or female. I do recognise that I integrate into cis-normative society easier as assumed male by others though’; and ‘I only call myself “male” to help other people relate to me. It gives me the ability to go about my life without having to educate others and constantly explain myself for not identifying as male or female’. Based on their answers, many of these respondents would be labelled or understood as ‘genderqueer’ by others; however, it is important to note that this genderqueerness was experienced as a priori, strategic not to unsettle the gender binary but 21

Entering Transmasculinity

strategic to avoid the conflict and consequences from the gender binary: ‘I don’t understand gender, hence I don’t have any’. Thirteen (7.4 per cent) of the respondents expressed that ‘being male’ to them is defined by negation of what they are not. Such answers included ‘not being female’, ‘not having breasts is very important’, ‘being free from a non-fitting category (female/woman,)’ ‘fucking – not being fucked’, ‘being free of expectations to act female’, ‘a configuration of energy in which yang is dominant over yin’, or ‘ultimately to be extremely uncomfortable in women’s spaces because one feels that is not where they belong (because they don’t)’. Words that were quantitatively dominant in this set of responses were ‘body’, ‘feel/feeling’ and ‘physical’. The final question provided a broad definition of masculinity ‘as a set of qualities or characteristics generally considered typical of a man’ and asked participants whether they thought that their masculinity was ‘different from that of non-transmen (also called genetic men, bio-men, cisgender men, i.e., men who were assigned to the male sex at birth)’. The definition was intentionally drawn from the current Wikipedia definition to assure a fairly common, popular, shared referent. For 70 respondents (40 per cent), transmasculinity is unequivocally and qualitatively different from cismasculinity. For the majority of these respondents, this difference stems primarily from initial socialization into the female gender. One respondent noted, ‘I don’t often relate to cis-men well although I identify as a straight man. The differences come in how we were taught to discuss women and our emotions. I relate better to women, feeling more free to express a wide range of emotions beyond socially acceptable anger’. Another respondent offered, ‘Yeah, I’m fairly effeminate and tend to get along well with women. Probably partially naturally and partially as I was brought up being encouraged to interact with females and take part in feminine activities’, while a third respondent who lived as a female for 21 years said he had been ‘socialised differently to non-transguys’, leading to him being ‘less authoritative and more inclined to show emotion than my non-trans male friends and colleagues’. Those who attributed a qualitative difference to the socialization experience generally characterized the result of this as a positive development, a cultural advantage over cisgender men, as the following responses reveal: ‘I think not having been harassed for being feminine growing up does give me some advantage in self-acceptance’; ‘being socialized as “straight female” I didn’t have to deal with internalized homophobia, which seems fundamental to many cismen’s masculinity (regardless of orientation’; ‘I feel my masculinity is more mature because I am aware how fragile the true masculinity structure is, and choose to show my manhood in other ways. I do not need to be misogynist to prove myself as a man’. Specifically, an awareness of sexism and male privilege, and the ability to portray less misogynist manifestations of masculinity, were noted, ‘Yes! I don’t want to dominate, compete, patronize’; ‘I am more aware of male privilege’; ‘my ability to use my privilege to stand up for misogyny and trans misogyny’; or ‘I know how men sometimes treat women. I don’t want to be put in the same box as those males’. Only a few of these respondents cast the results of initial socialization in a negative light, as in this response: ‘Yes, my masculinity is different from cismen in general. Given patriarchy, women are disadvantaged socially, which may translate into less confidence, so I would say I 22

Introduction

am less confident than your typical cisman’. A total of 42 respondents (24 per cent) answered this question by identifying similarities and dissimilarities between their experience of masculinity and their perception of cismasculinity. Their responses typically started with the words ‘yes and no’. These respondents identified the following dissimilarities: the need to prove their masculinity and live up to society’s perceptions of masculinity, a gender awareness that requires a feminist stance, a greater level of comfort with ‘feminine’ activities and behaviourisms, physical differences and higher levels of empathy and nurturing. For example, one respondent wrote that he tries to not be a typical male, ‘I feel I have a greater responsibility to be ‘a better man’ than cis men’. Forty participants (22.8 per cent) answered that their masculinity was not essentially different from that of non-transmen. Within these 40 responses, 24 (13.7 per cent of 175) state in fairly absolute terms that their masculinity is not different from that of cisgender men. Representative responses include statements that point to timing being the only difference (i.e. expressing masculinity later in life) or express that a respondent perceives himself to be ‘just like’ all of his male friends: ‘My masculinity is not different from a non-trans man. Just because I wasn’t born in a male body doesn’t mean I’m any less of a man. All men are men no matter what. Some men are lucky enough to have a penis, others are not. Simple as that’. Another offered, ‘Strong, assertive, a leader, respectful, thoughtful, and hairy. I feel my masculinity is not different than any man’s’. Within these 40 responses, 16 responses (9.1 per cent of 175 responses) also equate transmasculinity with cismasculinity but do so by explicitly referring to the range of masculinities that exists among cismen. Representative responses of this nature speak of male friends ‘who are not as masculine as me’, cismen who ‘are also effete and faggy like me’ or ‘a spectrum of masculinity’. Several respondents elaborated on the range of masculinities, as evidenced in the following responses: ‘I have observed enough variation in the personality, mannerisms, and behaviour of cismen to feel relatively secure that there is a place in the spectrum of variation where I can place myself ’ and ‘I think every man experiences masculinity differently, and many cismen aren’t particularly hypermasculine. I behave like my dad does, and like other feminine men do. I think everyone defines their masculinity differently’. The remaining 23 responses (13.2 per cent) questioned the construct of ‘masculinity’ and related notions of gender normativity. For example, one respondent provided, ‘I’m pretty certain that gender doesn’t exist at all […] most people are naturally non-binary, whether or not they identify as it’, while another said masculinity as a construct ‘means very little to a person’s behaviour or attitudes or characteristics’. One respondent said he is his ‘own person and there’s no reason to compare my qualities or characteristics with other people regardless of gender’. Most of these responses pointed to the wide, and rapidly increasing, range of variations in men’s behaviours, activities, roles and characteristics: ‘There are many different types of men and I am just one of them’, ‘I guess I am as typical or untypical male as other men (doesn’t matter if trans or cis) are’, ‘Men of both categories (trans or cis) run the spectrum of what, or is not, masculine’ and ‘Some are typical and some are not, we are all unique’. Another respondent questioned how he could know the masculinity of cismen. ‘I thought I had to learn a lot about behaving like a ‘man’, but I really don’t know very much about masculinity. 23

Entering Transmasculinity

Does it exist?’ Three respondents pointed out that race and ethnicity are intertwined in their experience and perception of masculinity. One respondent wrote that he therefore prefers to not use a lens of masculinity: ‘As a Chinese-descent person in Canada these forms of masculinity are extremely racialized. My relationship with gender includes ideas of body and community that build connections without limiting people to traits considered authentic through association with strict gender binaries’. It appears noteworthy that of all 175 responses to this question, only seven referred to the physical body, including the following four responses: ‘I did not have the same hormonal influences as non-transmen’, ‘due to the body parts I do not have’, ‘with surgery and hormone therapy, anyone can become their target gender; thus correcting the birth defect’ and ‘shorter, less muscly, less body hair’. The remaining three responses also mentioned the physical body but did so arguing that all men have physical differences and that transmen’s bodies’ differences should simply be considered part of this spectrum of differences. Words that were quantitatively dominant in this set of responses were ‘yes’, ‘female’, ‘cis’ and ‘feel/feeling’. The survey leaves us with three temporary impressions: a positive identification with masculinity and/or transmasculinity; an emphasis on socialization rather than biology; and a manifestation of a wide range of masculinities, trans or not. The quantitative emphasis on feeling supports the relevance of phenomenology in the scholarly pursuit of trans experience. In 2002, Green (2005) asked twelve transmen and four cismen a similar set of questions in an anecdotal approach. His respondents differentiated between masculinity and having a male body; the transmen emphasized external recognition of being masculine over an internal awareness and articulated masculinity as behaviours or qualities typically associated with male bodies. Green emphasizes (2005, p. 296) ‘that the respondents seemed very clear that masculinity is judged based on cultural understandings of maleness ascribed to male bodied, but the expression of masculinity is not solely the province of made bodies’. Like the respondents to the snapshot survey, the participants in Green’s conversations illustrated expressions of masculinity with stereotypical notions such as ‘body language, behavior, occupation, speech, vocalization, inflection, content, and cultural stereotypes of appropriate actions’. The diversity of responses to this snapshot survey offers a peek into the massive panorama of transmasculine discourses, a wide view of individual identity truths and collective understandings of sexed and gendered beings. In the following chapters, I will take a closer look at the ways in which discursive representations constitute contemporary transmasculine discourses mostly in English-speaking Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States. As a transmasculine discourse within transmasculine discourses, this book’s structure creates a specific representation. In the first chapter, I collate images, words and voices from transmasculine discourses that work together to establish a sense of the transmasculine patient and thereby maintain a medicalizing and often pathologizing discourse. By positioning this discussion as the first chapter, the book invariably upholds the dominance of this construction although it argues that other constructions (explored in the remaining chapters) need to be surfaced. I reconsidered the chapter organization at length but ultimately arrived at the conclusion that the initial discursive immersion many transmasculine 24

Introduction

individuals experience remains in medicalized and pathologized concepts and that this organization was therefore consistent with the overall analysis. In the second chapter, I examine mediated constructions of abnormality to discuss the underlying assumption of difference. Abnormality, approached from this perspective, can be understood as a negative or a positive construction; while its rhetorical manifestations vary greatly, abnormality as an underlying theme is confirmed. This chapter follows in second place because it is conceptually linked to pathologizing discourses. The third chapter explores constructions of the search for self and identity that tap into larger cultural constructions of authenticity, spiritual and inner truths, and shame and pride. These constructions often place transmasculine consciousness or identification into larger identity discourses and represent a more recent shift. The fourth chapter analyses constructions of the nature of masculinity, malehood and manhood, considering traditional masculine portrayals, politicised and culturally modified expressions of masculinity. The conclusion seeks to offer a temporary assessment of these competing narratives and performances from which we must choose, no choice unmarked. However, as a disclaimer, for the analysis I present here as much as the works on which I have drawn, I would like to share the words of interdisciplinary artist and film-maker Jules Rosskam (2010), who ponders whether the system of representation itself precludes an ‘ideal’ trans representation in the media: Perhaps we can agree that we will not expect one person, one film, one story to represent the vastly different, extremely complex and beautiful variety of our lives. And, that no matter how much we disagree or dis-identify with the version of trans being represented, we must not engage in practices that attempt to silence certain voices, in order that ours be heard. I have chosen to punctuate chapters by allowing the reader entry into performative identity articulations presented, over the years, at communication conferences and spoken word events. While these pieces constitute just one more example of transmasculine discourses, I hope to signal that none of my articulations or analyses could claim to step entirely outside of my own gender entrapment. I employ the occasional use of the first person with the same rhetorical intent – to disclose my subjectivity of being part of a collective consciousness that at times organizes itself under the label ‘trans’. As Susan Stryker (2009, p. 131) posits in her interpretation of Judith Butler’s (1990) concept of gender performativity: ‘Gender is like a language we use to communicate ourselves to others and to understand ourselves’. In this vein, my performative pieces try to capture moments of discursive empowerment and entrapment, tracing how a single word or gesture reverberates popular narratives of gender and identity as much as felt bodily perceptions.

25

Entering Transmasculinity

Island Ultrasound Clinic true to my profession, i am one hell of a polite, interpersonal communication-oriented transguy i accept in a serenity not felt but worth pretending that it’s my damn duty to educate others as to the sources of my embarrassment so follow me to the check-in counter of the Island Ultrasound Clinic on this dark October day gender dysphoria drizzling from the skies my physiology feuding, propelling me, pulling me back Excuse me. I just wanted you to know that I’m transitioning and this is the name I go by now. tension exhales this statement stopping short of churning out a proclamation Well, I can’t change that. I have to go by what it says on the care card. tension inhales her immediate refusal stopping short of choking on resignation Oh, I understand. I’m not asking you to change the name on the card or the medical file. I just wanted you to know that this is my preferred first name. at safe distance behind the Plexiglas: eye-roll, audible sigh gaze firmly directed at computer screen My doctor’s offices use my preferred name. They can’t do that. Your doctor has to use the name on your care card. They have to. We can’t change your name until your name has changed on your care card. clearly informed of the impossibilities of reality i take my seat next to the pregnant woman moving closer to her boyfriend 26

Introduction

30 minutes later, the anticipated dreaded public proclamation of my female designation takes place burning every bit as much as my seemingly inappropriate ovaries which brought me here my birth name bounces off the male physician’s lips with unbecoming ease my trepidation follows him down the hallway first room to the left whether the slight adjustment of his glasses or the involuntary swoosh of his white coat, he seems approachable You know, I’m transitioning, and I use a different first name now. my uncertainty skips words off my lips When I came in and asked the receptionist if she could use my preferred name, she said she could not. Disbelief shakes nice physician’s head. Really? Hm. No, we do that all the time. People have all kinds of preferred names. Yes. i say. No. He says. That’s not a problem here. twice educated about the impossibilities of my sense and sensibilities i lay down and close my eyes a streak of ultrasound jelly cries quietly across my skin [Invited Reading, Pride is the Word, Victoria, British Columbia, July 2012]

27

Chapter 1 The Transmasculine Patient

D

rawing from images, words and voices from transmasculine discourses emerging from print, digital and visual media, this chapter examines how symbolic equations and discursive framing work together to establish a sense of the transmasculine patient and thereby maintain a medicalizing and often pathologizing discourse. The chapter begins with an encounter of the transmasculine individual as suffering from a condition requiring help and accommodation and addresses the significance of expert diagnosis and gatekeeping. The chapter next leads into a discussion of the dominance of a defective physical body in such narratives and the rhetorical divergence of transmasculine narratives where the physical body is concerned. Finally, it concludes with a consideration of the role of consumption and commodification in the pursuit of normative health and being. Transmasculine Suffering I did have a self-mutilation problem which was like a drug to me. I hurt myself any way I could just as long as I could because I hated my body. (A.J., FtM, in Girshick 2009, p. 166) While the discourses of trans pathology and trans medicalization have been identified, examined, critiqued and challenged on personal (Kailey 2005; Valerio 2006), political (Bahreini 2008; Halberstam 1998), activist (Lysenko 2009), medical (Burke 2011; Park 2007), social scientific (Schilt & Westbrook 2009), natural scientific (Fausto-Sterling 2000, 2012) and cultural (Bettcher 2007) grounds, they nevertheless presents themselves as an initial, self-evident thematic portal through which to access transmasculine portrayals. Why? From autobiographical narratives to media coverage, from video logs to websites offering trans support and advocacy, and from self-help to medical literature, inherent pathology and medicalized conditions live in the web of representations transmasculine people access. While the concept of medicalization denotes the process by which a condition is constructed as a medical condition (which may or may not be abnormal), and while the concept of pathologization denotes the process by which a condition is constructed as abnormal and deviant (which may or may not require medical treatment), pathologization and medicalization are frequently used as a synonyms in popular discourse, and sometimes in scholarly discussions as well. Sara L. Muhr and Katie Rose Sullivan (2013, p. 420) summarize that being transgender is ‘[o]ften coded as a pathology’ and ‘most often seen as a disordered embodiment’ that can be

Entering Transmasculinity

cured via treatment. This web of pathological representations orients transmasculine people along key medicalizing images such as that of the patient – an individual seeking treatment, therapy, or help – in other words, an individual suffering from a diagnosable condition. A transman often enters a doctor–patient relationship with the physician prescribing and monitoring hormones, assessing a patient’s fit for gender confirmation surgery, or obtaining surgery. Identifying as transgender thereby creates a formal condition a trans person has. A 2013 Canadian Press story describes the opening of a clinic for transgender youth at the Sick Kids hospital in Toronto, citing administrators that the clinic ‘will help fill an important gap in care for teens with gender dysphoria’. The story continues with the hospital’s perspective that without proper care, transgender teens can experience negative consequences such as mental health issues and risky behaviour (Canadian Press 2013). Transgender-identified Jonah likens his body dysphoria to the phantom pain that amputees may experience (FtM Transgender: Why I Quit Testosterone 2014). Some trans people compare using hormonal injections to diabetes patients receiving insulin shots (e.g. B. Smith 2013), an analogy also employed by some medical doctors who identify as FTM themselves. A guide for providers compares transmen on non-prescription testosterone to patients ‘with diabetes mellitus [who] would not be denied appropriate prevention, screening, and treatment despite non-adherence to an ADA diet’ (Gorton et al. 2005, p. 27). Fictional young transguy Finn attends a health clinic with a friend who asks why the clinic only displays information about diabetics, not transsexualism; Finn responds he thinks there are more diabetics than transsexuals (Edwards & Kennedy 2010, p. 190), a brief exchange that again parallels diabetes and male transsexualism. The Winnipeg Free Press quotes a physician who works with the trans community on the lack of basic medical training on trans people’s needs: ‘Managing diabetes is probably more complicated than offering people trans health care’, Whetter says. ‘This treatment is not cosmetic. It’s life-affirming and in some cases, life-saving’ (Vesely 2012, p. 9). Comparisons to diabetes construct both being diabetic and being trans as medical, non-curable conditions that need to be managed under endocrinological care. While research on the long-term effects of hormone use for gender transition is scarce (Becker & Griffing 2011), some transsexual men describe themselves as having a ‘neuroendocrinological condition commonly known as transsexualism’ (de Villiers 2011). The term ‘patient’ has been attributed to the Latin root patior (to suffer or bear) (Hudak et al. 2003, p. 105), and the notion of suffering or bearing the pain of being trans-identified remains a steady theme in transmasculine discourse, which often constructs transmasculine people as needing help. For example, Jerusalem-born transgender photographer Nitzan Krimsky invited transmen to submit photos to his FTM binder portrait gallery with the following text: ‘I’m working on a photo project, trying to prevail the suffering that is involved with wearing a binder, and the relief of removing it (and the breasts) through portraits and close shots of damage is causes (to posture, rib cage, self-confidence, skin, etc.)’ (FTM Binder Awareness Portrait Project 2011). Some transmasculine discourse directly equates being transmasculine with being in pain. ‘It was his body that had gotten him into all this trouble. And his idiot brain. […] It wasn’t just the Ace bandages that hurt his chest. The 32

The Transmasculine Patient

pain from inside, deep and deadly’ reflects fictional young transmale protagonist J (Beam 2011, p. 143). ‘Suffering’ emerges as a strong component of the transmasculine patient’s construction and is a verb often used to describe pre-transition being by transmen: ‘Many suffer in similar ways as I did’ (‘I’ve known I was transgender since age 2’, 2013). A traditional, medical understanding of patients has been that of ‘passive persons who subject their bodies to treatments by experts’ (Hudak et al. 2003, p. 104). A 2009 story in The Guardian colours the experience of a 16-year-old transmale teen in the context of suffering and health care access; its sub-headline reads, ‘He suffered years of depression and bullying. Now, as he begins the process of becoming a man, Jon wants to help other transgender teenagers’ (Groskop 2009). The verbs ‘suffer’ and ‘help’, linked with the nouns ‘depression’ and ‘bullying’, establish Jon as a subject needing help, care and support. The story further quotes Jon, ‘All trans people suffer with their bodies to some extent’. The need for physical treatment is emphasized throughout the story, which talks about gender dysphoria ‘affecting’ about 100 British children a year: ‘The only place in the UK where children with gender identity issues can be treated on the NHS (National Health Service) is the Tavistock Clinic in London’. The story explains gender dysphoria as a ‘condition’ and references the existence of ‘evidence’ that this condition ‘may be biologically determined’. An 8-year-old trans boy’s coming out rap, which was widely circulated on the Internet, contained the lines ‘I’ve always felt this way and it hasn’t been fun’ (Scott 2014). A sample coming out letter to one’s parents by a FTM transsexual contains the sentences ‘At one time, I came close to committing suicide, but I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to die. I just wanted out of this body!’ (Brown & Rounsley 2003, p. 171) and ‘They’re used to seeing me with a smile on my face all the time. If they only knew the pain and torture I’m going through’ (Brown & Rounsley 2003, p. 172). A series of videos on the YouTube Channel Transguys Ireland captures young FTM perspectives on how one can manage gender dysphoria. Oli (Oli – Managing Dysphoria 2012) discusses that he suffers from both gender discomfort and gender dysphoria as well as general body dysphoria but stresses that ‘if you don’t hate your body you can still be trans’. Oli says that he tries to push away consciousness about his mismatching body parts. He does not have a binder yet and had to stop binding the way he did due to back pain. M.L. Brown and Chloe Ann Rounsley (2003, p. 11), in their handbook for families, friends, coworkers and health care providers, specify that FTM transsexuals ‘are usually very uncomfortable with their breasts, their curves, and the soft appearance of their body’ and link severe gender dysphoria to self-mutilation and suicide. Reudookan (Jin) Lepsungwan of Thailand raised funds for his top surgery in Bangkok via an Indiegogo campaign (Help FTM surgery. mastectomy, 2013). On the fund-raising site, he provides a basic appeal: ‘Please make it happen I need to be having top surgery as soon as possible. Help me stop this pain’. Jin states that coming out as transgender was ‘messy and complicated for everyone around me, including myself. There were lots of tears, heart ache and hurtful words surrounding me’. The photos Jin uses to illustrate his fund-raising appeal include a photo of him with his chest bare; nipples crossed out, and the word ‘painfull’ [sic] blacking out his facial features. Often, discourse generated by transmasculine individuals as much as discourse generated about 33

Entering Transmasculinity

transmasculine individuals rhetorically equates gender dysphoria with being transgender, an equation that is increasingly being challenged. Traditional transmasculine discourse that equates gender dysphoria with body dysphoria with being trans upholds the experience of menstruation as physically and psychologically painful. Posts such as “How do I deal with my periods (FTM)” (MyNameisAdam 2013) highlight that menstruation is often not raised in transmasculine discourse despite its psychological effect on many transmasculine individuals. MyNameisAdam posted the following comment on a public GLBTQ discussion board: ‘I know this is an awkward question, but menstruating always means dysphoria for me and I’m lost on how to deal with it. It’s worse because I’m irregular, so I never know when it’s coming and it leads to a lot of self-loathing and, sometimes, suicidal ideation. […] I mean, what kind of guy would be comfortable with bleeding out of their genitals for a week?’ A Reddit discussion (Dysphoria and the menstrual cycle 2014) began with an FTM post asking whether others also experience heightened dysphoria the week before their period. The question drew 18 responses, all of which affirmed links between menstrual cycles and dysphoria, although in different patterns. Responses such as ‘No kidding, someone fetch me a knife’ and ‘crippling depression the week before and during’ affirmed the pattern. One respondent observed that since considering the possibility of being trans, ‘dysphoria has been on the rise’ and ‘practically unmanageable the last week or so, which perfectly corresponds to the start of shark week’. A genderqueer transmasculine blogger in Canada writes that the ability to stop menstruating is a major factor in his consideration of testosterone because menstruation forces him to encounter his most dysphoric body part (Dowd 2014). The figure of the ‘patient’ is visually reinforced by the sheer quantity of patient-like transmale images on the web – pre-op, post-op or injecting testosterone, such as B. Smith’s (2013) blog illustration of a syringe and a vial of testosterone, Daniel Brosh’s (FTM bottom surgery (phalloplasty) post-op 2013) account of a series of bottom surgeries in which he shows his surgery scars, or Leo Green’s video recording of his first testosterone shot (First T-shot 2013). Presenting as patient may arise to a lesser degree from intentional choice and to a larger degree from the banal, unavoidable necessity of functioning within societies whose linguistic registers link everyday transmasculine being to being a patient, in need of care, and in need of accommodation. Given the dominance of medicalizing images, it is not surprising that coming out as trans often translates into coming out as a patient. Young adult fictional character Finn reflects on calling a doctor’s office to make an appointment for a medical assessment in the following words, ‘It was simple, just like when I had a sore throat or busted knee’ (Edwards & Kennedy 2010, p. 37). Earlier medical and social scientific literature approached transmen as a comparatively small and rare marginalized patient population (Whittle 2000), estimating transmasculine populations to be significantly smaller than transfeminine populations and equating FTM expression with an (often undiagnosed and/or untreated) medical condition. In the last two decades, international research has documented the rising visibility of transmasculine-identified people and conjectured about eventual equal rates for the occurrence of identification on the transmasculine and 34

The Transmasculine Patient

transfeminine spectrum, respectively (DeCuypere et al. 2007). Thomas D. Steensma (2015) observed such a change in the Dutch context, noting that before 2006, more natal men and since 2006, more natal women (transmasculine individuals) have presented for care. It has therefore become more common to encounter transmasculine individuals seeking assistance with social and physical transitions. Now, transmasculine individuals often think of themselves as suffering from a recognized medical condition and seek assistance in physical transition from the health care system: While transsexuality has a higher incidence than Wegener’s Granulomatosis, SCID, and Ewing Sarcoma, patients with those diseases could reasonably expect a physician has received at least some minimal formal education about their illness and would be able to refresh her memory relatively easily by consulting common medical texts. (Gorton et al. 2005, p. 71) The previously traditionally strong associations of transmasculine identities with mental illness are weakening. While some governments and some medical professional bodies have taken steps to uncouple trans identification from mental health illness, which discursively hovers near the borderlands of madness and insanity, medical system coverage in practice still requires identification as a patient and a documented mental health need to warrant care in most nation-states. The debate over the inclusion, exclusion or modification of what emerged as Gender Dysphoria, from the previous Gender Identity Disorder, was at the core of the political struggle (Knudson et al. 2010) over the most recent version (fifth edition) of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Beredjick 2012). Gender dysphoria was renamed and, after much discussion, moved out of the sexual disorders category and into a category of its own. Within a European context, recent political trends have supported depathologization of transsexualism and transgenderism, including a 2003 British government policy declaring that transsexualism is not a mental illness (‘Government Policy concerning Transsexual People’ 2003), the French government’s 2009 declassification of transsexualism as a psychiatric condition, and the European Parliament’s 2011 call upon the European Union Commission and the World Health Organization to depathologize trans identities (Transgender Europe 2011). The World Professional Association for Transgender Health 2012 Standards of Care urged de-psychopathologization of gender nonconformity worldwide (Coleman et al. 2012). The metaphor of the patient is no longer as pervasive or naturalized as it has been in the past, and even within transmasculine discourse that invokes it (for example by soliciting recommendations for sensitive health care providers in an online discussion forum), it is often contextualized. Photos that show a bare-chested post-op transman playing outside with his children may emphasize the temporality of patient suffering; text that notes that seeking a trans sensitive psychiatrist is motivated by the need of navigating access to medically covered services rather than a mental illness reframes the patient–doctor relationship. Debates about the ethics involved in requiring trans-identified individuals to 35

Entering Transmasculinity

document both sound mental health and an ‘authentic’ trans identification have begun in medical and public discourse. The Atlantic, for example, pointed out that A non-trans man who suffers from chronic pain of the scrotum, for example, can elect to have an orchidectomy—a procedure to remove both testicles—without a mental-health referral. Nor would a non-trans woman seeking a hysterectomy be asked to see two mental-health professionals. (Eveleth 2014) Accommodating the Transman However, I asked my boss whether I should reveal the secret to everyone. He was more than comfortable with it. I sent the e-mail, with a copy marked to my CEO, and his reply was nothing less than a gift for me (Siddhant Singh 2014) Associational clusters reflect the company words keep (Burke 1973); they contain cultural values that link images, words, and concepts. Transmen who reject pathologizing and medicalizing identifications and do not seek any form of medical intervention may still end up engaging the discourses of accommodation and accessibility by requesting employer or governmental recognition of new names, gender markers, gender identity expressions and access to bathroom facilities. Guidebooks and resource books, whether aimed at transmasculine individuals or their family members, and whether written by transidentified individuals (e.g. Kailey’s [2012] My Child is Transgender) or not, maintain the cultural construction that transpeople need help, that their very existence poses problems that can be handled, challenges that need to be managed, and that they (or their family members) need resources. Book reviews for Stephanie Brill and Rachel Pepper’s (2008) The Transgender Child: A Handbook for Families and Professionals – which are overwhelmingly positive – reflect this perspective in language such as ‘a series of chapters dealing with all aspects of how to deal with the child’ (Parker 2008), ‘a “must have” guide for anyone who interacts with transgender kids’ (Garza 2008), or ‘if you are a parent of a TG child or you are dealing with a TG child’ (Dunn 2009). Accommodation and accessibility, however, are predicated on having been identified/ marked/diagnosed with a condition worth accommodating. Even for those seeking social transition only, it is difficult to evade the discourse of pathology because inevitably, choices such as changes in pronouns, clothing or name require justification. This justification often is traced back to a ‘need’ felt by the individual, and that need is often understood to be the result of a physical and/or mental condition. Transmasculine discourse allows for two different but easily conflated interpretations here: the ‘need’ to receive treatment or access therapy can be understood as a biological response to a physiological need caused by a ‘defect’, 36

The Transmasculine Patient

or the ‘need’ to receive treatment or access therapy can be understood as a psychological or physiological condition onto itself. The latter interpretation opens itself up to three-fold perspectives: being transmasculine means being mentally ill, being transmasculine means being ill or being transmasculine means being mentally and physically ill. Authors, whether trans-identified writers, health professionals or community supporters, offer templates designed to help transmen announce their transitions; these templates typically employ the vocabularies of disability accommodation and/or medicine as do manuals designed to help employers with employees’ transition. The Canadian Labour Congress (2010), for example, makes available an online guide titled ‘Workers in Transition: A Practical Guide about Gender Transition for Union Representatives’. This guide includes anecdotes and illustration from members who identify as trans or have transitioned. It provides an excerpt (p. 5) from an article by Jesse Invik (2006–2007), a self-identified female-to-male transsexual, in which he reflects on the problematic of discussing his medical need with his employer: Every time I have to ask for time off for yet another doctor’s appointment I worry that he thinks I’m just trying to skip work. I wonder if I should tell him I’m seeing a psychiatrist so he’ll accept my need for medical appointments as often as every three weeks. […] When I ask for two days off to go to Toronto for some minor revision surgery, I am truly concerned that he thinks I am pulling one over on him. The guide affirms the medical model of transitioning by noting that ‘Just like any other worker’s personal medical situation, nobody in the workplace is entitled to any information about the transitioning worker’s medical issues’ (p. 10). It continues to characterize trans workers’ health care needs as those that ‘should be treated in exactly the same way as any other medical requirement. Transition-related health care needs are not cosmetic’ (p. 14). The discourse of accommodation goes beyond legal contexts; it offers one way of approaching cisgender people’s communication with trans people. A wikiHow entry aimed at cisgender friends of trans people advises how to be ‘a good friend to someone with Gender Dysphoria’ (wikiHow n.d.). The article, which had been read 8,384 times as of 20 June 2014, recommends: Compliment your friend. […] Transguys like this too! If they seem especially ‘manly’ or handsome that day, they'd probably love to hear it, even if they grumble and try to act like they don't care. If they don't look good, mental qualities are very safe ground for true compliments. She's got an eye for fashion. He's great for remembering all the sports scores. Things that they are genuinely strong in. Don't always keep it to appearance or they may start to feel even more self-conscious about how they look. The mere existence of this entry establishes gender dysphoria as a condition and transpeople as individuals who, by virtue of being trans, require special care and attention in social interactions. It presumes that transmen are self-conscious about their appearance and appreciate comments that compliment stereotypically masculine looks or performance. As 37

Entering Transmasculinity

Dean Spade (2011, p. 11) observes in reflections on his work for a non-profit law collective: ‘gender is an organizing principle of both the economy and the seemingly banal administrative systems that govern everyone’s daily life, but have an especially strong presence in the lives of poor people’. Like the rest of the population, transmasculine individuals must navigate their ways through such ‘seemingly banal administrative systems’ using seemingly banal everyday language that, however, holds the power to enact entirely non-trivial societal scripts. These scripts enact and inscribe power dynamics that affect how we articulate our needs and desires. The ways in which transmen describe themselves and their location in regard to medicine and health care is significant because self-representation offers a third vantage point in the triangulated portrayal of transmen along with the applied, professional discourse of health practitioners and media portrayals at large. Christopher Shelley (2008, p. 133) argues that ‘popular culture has often portrayed the trans body in both sensationalistic and exploitative forms’ and that such portrayals influence and affect common attitudes towards transpeople. But, it is not only sensationalistic and exploitative representations that affect understanding and self-understanding of transmen – it is also in the seemingly ordinary presentations of transmen’s experiences, generated by both transmen and others alike, that fundamental assumptions about transmasculinity are contained, expressed and passed on. Many websites and publications specifically speak to FTMs and health care, such as the health care site of FTM International (FTM International 2014). FTM International, founded by Louis G. Sullivan in California, grew into ‘the largest FTM organization in the United States and perhaps the world’ (Meyerowitz 2002, p. 276) under the leadership of Green. The current president of FTM International is Levi Alter, who directs a health care corporation and often speaks on transgender health care topics in medical settings. FTM International offers its members prescription discount cards as well as access to a Los Angeles–based community health care clinic and co-sponsors health conferences for the trans community, such as the well-known Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. The conference, which met for the 13th time in June 2014, is considered the world’s largest trans health conference and attracts more than 3000 participants per year. With the number of trans health conferences steadily increasing, the primacy of the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference has come under challenge by events such as the 2015 National Transgender Health Summit organized by the University of California San Francisco, which billed the event as a ‘landmark program’ that will serve as the ‘premiere [sic] national conference in transgender health’ (Center of Excellence for Transgender Health 2015). The FTM health care webpage presents a collage of famous transmale medical practitioners, biographical sketches and links to health care–related information for transmen. In particular, photos or sketches of the following transmen are provided: Steve Dain, a chiropractor whose transition was featured in a 1984 HBO documentary and who has since died from breast cancer; Nick Gorton, FTM International member and co-author of the American College of Emergency Physicians Resolution preventing discrimination on real or perceived gender identity; Kevin Maxey, Southern Arizona Gender Alliance and Dezert Boyz founder and 38

The Transmasculine Patient

co-author of the American College of Emergency Physicians Resolution; Richard Curtis, physician for the British National Health Service, and Dillon, reportedly the first FTM to undergo gender affirmation phalloplasty. All of these transmen are or were professionals in the medical field; the only exception in this listing is Eads, whose life and death to ovarian cancer in 1999 were chronicled in the film Southern Comfort; he is listed along with the medical doctors but without a photo. Transmasculine individuals may also find themselves directly spoken to at US university health centers (e.g. Brown University, University of Colorado Boulder, University of Massachusetts, University of California, University of Nebraska), which advertise services for transmasculine students. The Vaden Health Center at Stanford University offers a website (Vaden Health Center 2014) on health concerns for transmen. It sections health concerns into three areas: gynecological and breast health, hormones and their side effects, and surgery. The text seems to seek to establish itself as an authoritative, reliable medical resource without privileging or universalizing particular transmasculine subject positions. Throughout the site, qualifiers and verbs expressing possibility and conditional tense are used to indicate that a given desire or choice should not be read as representative of all transmen. For example, the text states that ‘Sometimes, transmen (or FAAB transgender-identified people) may feel disconnected’, ‘you may find it is difficult’, ‘Some transmen choose to bind their chests’, ‘if you have had a mastectomy’, ‘unless you have had a hysterectomy’, ‘If you decide to have surgery as part of transitioning from female to male’, etc. Although the significance of consulting medical providers is emphasized, transmen are understood to be decision-making agents who elect to make choices as opposed to patients or clients receiving expert treatment. The words ‘patient’, ‘client’ or ‘treatment’ are not mentioned at all; the word ‘therapy’ is used in reference to hormone usage. While the website links being a transman to a process that occurs in phases: ‘[A]t all phases of your transition process’, and thereby engages traditional stage models of transitioning, it also stresses the relevance of individually tailored health care. In a section on use of testosterone, the site states, ‘For some, this choice is made easily, while others struggle with the idea and may go on and off testosterone at different points in their lives. […] Various personal and family health factors will influence how each person will react to use’. At first glance, this text may not seem particularly intriguing or surprising. But, embedded in these two innocuous sentences are assumptions that have only fairly recently entered transmasculine discourses. First, this passage introduces the normality of struggling with health-related decisions such as hormone regimes and surgeries. It is clearly not presumed that all transmen want physical modification, even if it is available. Likewise, gender dysphoria pertaining to ‘female body parts, such as breasts and female genitalia’ is acknowledged as being part of some transmen’s experiences, but not all. In other words, the text creates the opportunity for transmen who do not feel entirely disconnected from female body parts, or who seek to think of these body parts as transmale body parts, to still place themselves rightfully in transmen discourse. This runs counter to a strong theme in transmasculine discourse that privileges physical or emotional discomfort or disconnection from one’s female body or considers such discomfort essential to transmasculine identity 39

Entering Transmasculinity

claims. Bono (2012, p. 34), for example, writes that he believes he suffered from problems with his female reproductive organs because his body demonstrated that ‘those parts had never really belonged in my body in the first place. My female reproductive parts caused me as much physical pain as being trapped in a female shell caused me emotional and spiritual pain’. Second, this Stanford language normalizes, by mere fact of inclusion, the wish or experience to go on and off testosterone. While self-reported actual practices of transmen depict such a range of experiences, much of traditional transmale discourse focuses on the adoption of testosterone as a turning point and often, a point from which one would not want or should not want to return. Sometimes, the beginning of testosterone treatment resets a transman’s birthday, as illustrated in Electric Dade’s (2011) video ‘FTM Transition: One Year on Testosterone Timeline;’ sometimes it becomes an occasion to be celebrated as one’s ‘tversary’ (The Self Made Men 2014). On one hand, one can read this frame as sensitivity to the increasingly visible variation of transmasculine cultural identifications. This is not a dynamic particular to transmen; the US version of Facebook now offers 56 gender options (Weber 2014), and decades ago, scholars such as Holly Boswell (1998, p. 54) remarked that ‘there are probably as many genders as there are people. Gender may be nothing more than a personal matrix of personality traits’. On the other hand, it also fits into the increasingly emerging natural scientific discourses of personalized (Hamburg & Collins 2010) or individualized (Shastry 2006) medicine, evidenced in statements such as ‘Be prepared to work with your doctor on calibrating the right amount for you’. Such individualized approaches to medical care are being articulated more frequently in contemporary transmasculine discourse, as opposed to the ‘standard guidelines’ sought in traditional transmale discourse. The site compares transgender men to ‘cisgender men’(Vaden Health Center 2014), covering both under the umbrella of ‘man’. The site also addresses another topic that is often absent from provider discourse – fertility – by stating that it ‘is still possible to become pregnant while on testosterone’ and that one can also ‘get pregnant later in life despite using T for years’. The text continues, ‘[s]ome maleidentified transgender people choose to have their eggs frozen before starting testosterone, to have the option of using them later, either by giving birth themselves or by using a surrogate’. Again, the remarkable unremarkability of inclusion needs to be noted here as this short discussion allows room for transmen to wish to become pregnant or preserve their eggs, a language of reproductive choices and rights that de-genders reproduction by decoupling it from gender identification. The medical notion of comorbidity appears in not just medical literature about transmen but also in transmasculine discourse generated by transmen and providers of support services and care for transmen. The term itself again anchors trans identification as a disease or condition along which other diseases or conditions may occur and implies that transmen commonly are afflicted by other conditions or abnormalities. Recently, the notion of trans comorbidity has come under scrutiny within the medical community as much as it has within popular transmasculine discourse. A psychiatric study involving Japanese individuals diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder (of which 349 (or 60.3 per cent) individuals 40

The Transmasculine Patient

identified as female to male) found that the majority of participants had no psychiatric comorbidity, leading the authors to conclude that ‘GID is a diagnostic entity in its own right, not necessarily associated with severe comorbid psychological findings’ (Hoshiai et al. 2010). A recent pilot study (Barišić et al. 2014) including eight transmen who transitioned in adulthood in Serbia found that the study participants demonstrated adequate self-esteem but also increased introspection, which led the authors to conclude that comorbid conditions such as depression or suicidal behaviour were likely the result of delayed transition rather than intrinsically linked to being trans. As the authors suggest, previous associations of trans identification with personality psychopathology and psychiatric disorders have ‘not been confirmed in recent studies’. On the other hand, current research also finds a high rate of non-suicidal self-injury among FTMs and suggests that such self-injury exercises different functions for transgender and cisgender people (dickey 2011). A recent study by a Cambridge psychopathologist, which was reported in popular media, found that FTM trans people displayed more autistic traits than cismen, ciswomen or male-to-female trans people (Szalavitz 2011). One of two online comments accompanying this article questions the underlying theme of pathology. Site visitor dgdoesstuff (Szalavitz 2011) posts: This article could have been titled: Dear DG, why you are the way you are, love Time Magazine. I have no idea what I ‘am’ Aspie? HF Autistic? Transgender? There are things I am ‘allowed’ to do, or can ‘get away with’ as a biological female that I wouldn’t be allowed to do as a biological male. There are cultural things that I’d have to figure out that I don’t want to put the time and effort into (Football, I’m talking to you.) that would make gender surgery more of a chore than I’d like. Not surprisingly, transmasculine stories walk a fine line between linking other medical conditions with being trans and simply acknowledging the intersectionalities of medical conditions and being transgender. In the documentary Still Black (2008), Ethan Thomas Young from Toledo, Ohio, talks about his cerebral palsy. Prior to his transition, Young had 27 surgeries to try to straighten out his legs and back. He recounts spending much of his childhood in hospitals and not having the opportunity to learn how to make friends. Another contributor to the documentary, Jay Welch, talks about his struggle with polycystic ovarian syndrome, and contributor Louis Mitchell talks about reaching sobriety. Despite the explicit discussion of medical conditions, Still Black does not approach its topic through a frame of comorbidity. The participants’ medical conditions are not presented as a consequence or correlate of being trans; they are simply presented as conditions affecting the participants. One of the perhaps most famous indictments of a discriminatory medical system in which a transman is denied timely treatment for ovarian cancer is Southern Comfort (2000), a docudrama that follows the dying days of Eads. While the film is about a transman as a patient, it manages to portray Eads not as a sick individual needing help because he is trans but as an ordinary citizen who is refused medical care because he is trans. In other words, the film succeeds in pathologizing the US medical system and its care providers rather than 41

Entering Transmasculinity

the patient. The documentary, which received more than 20 different awards, subsequently aired on HBO. Heather McKinnon (2012, p. 71) attributes the success of the film to its ability to create Eads, ‘and his life, as a human story’ rather than that of a single-attribute individual. Attempts to escape or circumscribe the narrative field of comorbidity are fraught with real risks to members of the trans community. Whether the root cause is understood to be a stigmatizing, discriminatory societal response to naturally occurring transgenderism or an inevitable individual risk occurring from the mismatch between assigned and experienced gender (or both), statistical evidence points to disproportionate occurrences of depression, HIV infection, suicidal ideation and suicidal behaviour among transmen. Studies continue to show consistent histories of suicidal ideation, suicidal attempts and self-mutilation – in the Japanese study, for example, the FTM participants had a 71.9 per cent rate of lifetime suicidal ideation and a 32.7 per cent rate of self-mutilation. The US-based National Transgender Discrimination Survey (Grant et al. 2011) conducted by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and National Center for Transgender Equality reported an overall trans suicide attempt rate of 41 per cent, ‘which vastly exceeds the 4.6 per cent of the overall US population who report a lifetime suicide attempt’ (Haas et al. 2014). The US survey found that 20 per cent of FTM respondents reported that general practitioners refused to accept them as a patient, that 42 per cent of the FTM respondents reported postponing needed medical care and 48 per cent postponing preventive medical care. The Canadian Trans PULSE project reported in its analysis of 433 participants that 36 per cent of trans Ontarians had engaged in suicidal ideation over the past year and that ten per cent attempted suicide during that time (Bauer et al. 2013). Recent studies point to the significance of timing, suggesting that individuals may be more likely to engage in suicidal ideation, show depressive behaviour or harm themselves before reaching a point of positive self-identification as trans or before physically transitioning (Bauer et al. 2013; DeCuypere et al. 2006; Transgender Equality Network Ireland 2012; Whittle et al. 2007). The photo of a depressed teenage transboy in a black hoodie, leaning against a brick wall in a defensive body posture, illustrates a story about mental health issues in transgender people. The accompanying story (Pappas 2012) reports on the release of a study conducted at the Endocrine Division at Children’s Hospital Boston. The story quotes Scott Leibowitz, a psychiatrist at Children’s Hospital Boston, on the high incidence of mental health histories among the division’s patients. Between 1998 and 2014, the division treated 97 patients for gender identity disorder; of these 20 per cent had self-mutilated, 9.3 per cent had attempted suicide, and 37 per cent were taking psychiatric medication. Leibowitz states that in addition to discrimination and stigma, ‘the mismatch between mind and body alone can be a major source of psychological pain’ and stresses the need for early recognition and therapy. MJ Eckhouse, a feminist transguy, writes, ‘Today I live as a guy as much as possible. I’m out to my family, friends, and I’m known as male at work. In a month I have an  appointment with an endocrinologist to hopefully start taking  testosterone. My “mental health” is more stable than when I was living  as female, and although it is a daily struggle, I feel much more comfortable with myself ’ (Eckhouse 2014). Bo, a Danish man who was assigned to the female sex at birth, recalls a history of 42

The Transmasculine Patient

severe panic attacks, which led to hospitalization, before he recognized his gender identity (Lyseggen 2012). This is a pattern pointed to repeatedly by transmen who have transitioned, and trans-identified writers such as Kailey (2005) or transgender health researchers such as Greta Bauer (2012) frequently surmise that trans suicide rates would likely drop with increased rates in social and physical transition. Increasingly, transmen reject the notion that they need medical ‘help’, as evidenced in a recent European survey in which one third (33 per cent) of self-identified transmen said they do not want or need psychological or medical help for being trans (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights 2014). Diagnosing the Transman I still don’t have my name but the diagnosis will be ready for sure on May 15th! (Gaio 2014) Access to health care is predicated on the establishment of a diagnosis, the identification of the nature of a problem or illness, which continues to raise the very real threat of compromised medical care should one’s desire to physically transition no longer be understood as a medical need (Corneil et al. 2010). Regardless of whether transmasculine-identified people see themselves as suffering from a particular medical condition (contemporarily conceptualized by the medical profession as Gender Dysphoria or Gender Identity Disorder) or not, for those seeking physical transitions requiring either prescriptions and monitoring of hormone therapy and/or surgery, the only way of obtaining the required care is to enter the discourses of medicalization and pathology. Gender Identity Disorder is the medical diagnosis employed by the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD10 CM); Gender Dysphoria is the medical diagnosis employed by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5). By virtue of accessing a physician’s services, one declares oneself to be a patient seeking treatment for a condition. Physicians treat medical conditions, whether these are classified as mental or physical health conditions. In other words, there is no way in which a transman can safely obtain hormones without essentially declaring himself to be sick and in need of treatment, and for many transmen, access to a physician who can prescribe hormones is predicated on declaring oneself in need of psychological assessment. Even for transmasculine individuals who have no desire to undergo surgery or are not able, for medical, financial, legal, religious or other reasons to pursue surgery, the patient construction is upheld as long as testosterone is used to arrive at a masculinized appearance. The Wikipedia entry on ‘testosterone’ makes explicit reference to transmen with the following sentence: To take advantage of its virilizing effects, testosterone is often administered to transsexual men as part of the hormone replacement therapy, with a ‘target level’ of the normal male testosterone level. 43

Entering Transmasculinity

Like other anabolic steroids, testosterone is a regulated as a ‘controlled substance’ in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States and many other nations. This means that individuals purchasing testosterone must do so from a pharmacy. A pharmacist may inquire why an individual is purchasing testosterone (whether they are legally allowed to do so or not). Personal information is required, which is customarily tied to governmental record keeping if provincial, state or national health care coverage is involved. A member of Transguys Ireland shares notes about his first appointment at the endocrinology clinic in Loughinstown on Tumblr (justanotherblueeyed boy 2012). He says the physicians he met with ‘gave him a breakdown’ of his ‘case’ and told him he ‘had a straightforward case’. As a result of this appointment, Daniel decided to start hormone blockers before T and happily reports that he is now ‘one happy fucker’ with a ‘T date set’. Clusters of medical terminology can be found in resource literature geared at trans people, their families and social support providers for transmasculine children. Nicholas Teich introduces several real-life scenarios involving transmasculine-identified people in his Trans 101 primer to illustrate the implications of considering trans identification a mental health issue, a medical issue, or both. He profiles a transman named Steve who accessed health services for a hormone assessment. In his childhood, Steve had been harassed for his gender identity, which had led to depression. For that reason, it was important for Steve that he would be entirely stealth. ‘He simply wanted to live as Steve, the person he was always meant to be, without any stigma. This is quite common, but can get tricky’, Teich (2012, p. 90) writes. ‘When he came in for therapy, he simply stated that he could not have GID on his records at all’. Teich continues to narrate that the therapist settled on depression as the most relevant diagnosis, but then Steve had to find a doctor who would prescribe him hormones in absence of a GID diagnosis. In this vignette, the health care system is portrayed as a tricky field to navigate and the establishment of a formal diagnosis as counterproductive. Teich also introduces the story of Derek, a ten-year-old transboy, who ‘was being ostracized at school by peers as well as teachers because of his gender identity’. It was only after being formally diagnosed with GID as a legitimate condition by a child psychiatrist, Teich notes, that the child was protected from being harassed at the school, where teachers and students believed he was simply seeking attention. While transgender health professionals clearly articulate that not all trans people are gender dysphoric, popular discourse overlooks this distinction. In a story on the US musical comedy-drama television series Glee’s football coach’s female-to-male transition, the GayStarNews describes gender dysphoria as ‘the formal diagnosis used by psychologists and physicians to describe people who identify as transgender’ (Hernandez 2015). While not focused exclusively on transmasculine children, Brill and Pepper’s (2008) handbook on transgender children speaks to families of all gender variant children. The foreword by Norman Spack, an endocrinologist of the Harvard Medical School, grounds the approach of the book, and with it, the phenomenon of transgenderism, firmly in a medical context by referring to the wide autobiographical and scholarly evidence on transgenderism that did not receive ‘proper evaluation, counseling, or support’ and lacked ‘early medical intervention’ (Brill & Pepper 2008, p. IX). Spack co-founded the Gender Management 44

The Transmasculine Patient

Service clinic at Boston Children’s Hospital in 2007 and is internationally known for his approach to hormone replacement therapy for youth. He compares transgenderism to ‘other relatively rare diseases and conditions’ (Brill & Pepper 2008, p. IX) in a narrative that assumes that intervention is needed and that it should be medical in nature. While it may appear self-evident, it is relevant to explore the associations between medical care and experts. It is commonly understood that doctors are experts but it is relevant to call attention to the rhetorical need for an expert in diagnosis because there are such significant differences in the manifestation of expertise when it comes to transmasculine identification and, for example, cancer or heart disease. The locus of expertise for cancer and heart disease is the knowledge of the medical diagnostician. The locus of expertise for transmasculine identification ultimately circles back to the transmasculine individual himself, passing essentially through a diagnostic assessment by external experts. Cromwell (1999, p. 25) observes, ‘Being trans-anything is a self-diagnosis’. While the cancer or heart disease patient presents to a diagnostician with symptoms she or he has observed, much as a transman might present to a diagnostician with ‘symptoms’ of consciousness or self-knowledge, in the former the final diagnosis rests on the physician’s trained ability to identify a pathological pattern. In the latter example, the final ‘diagnosis’ rests on the physician’s trained ability to believe the ‘patient’s’ self-diagnosis. The Canadian Labour Congress’s (2010) guide about gender transition for union representatives speaks to the range of gender expressions among transidentified people in its introduction, but the manual operationalizes a medical understanding of transitioning, and one that explicitly acknowledges the role of the diagnosing expert: ‘Transsexuals are first diagnosed (‘gender dysphoria’) by a specialist, usually a psychiatrist. Of course, trans people usually have their own pretty good handle on their situation, but the credit for the diagnosis always goes to the specialist!’ (Canadian Labour Congress 2010, p. 3). Kelley Winters, founder of GID Reform Advocates and a guest blogger on The Bilerico Project, calls into question the underlying sense of ‘gender order’ driving the trans burden of proof in the context of the update of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Winters (2008) writes, ‘[…] a doctrine of “disordered” gender identity and expression in American psychiatry and psychology […] imposes an unreasonable burden of proof upon gender variant people who defy this stereotype, upon researchers and scholars who present opposing data, and upon change to the status quo in the DSM’. Linguistic and social practice, however, do not clearly differentiate these dynamics. Individuals who are considering whether they might identify as transmale, transmasculine, FTM or related gender identity categories often do not know where to go for advice, consultation or treatment. Jake (2011, 8 March) posts on the American Trans Man blog that he identifies as a transman, is approaching his 40th birthday, and also is a mother of four children. Jake writes that he has been second-guessing himself a lot: ‘Am I *really* this way?’ or ‘How can I really be a man if I have lived as a mom and wife for so long’. I still have difficulty answering these questions. Are there many other transmen out there that didn’t start off as lesbian? 45

Entering Transmasculinity

A teen help online forum hosts a short conversational thread that began with a post titled ‘I think I’m a FTM Transsexual’ (Teenhelp 2011). A 21-year old posts a call for advice on whether he might be a transsexual man. ‘I see a lot of people talking about knowing they wanted to be a male since childhood, but the realization never really struck me until I hit puberty … which makes me worry that maybe this is some kinda phase’. The writer describes that he assumes male personae in online communication and is frustrated by the guilt of pretending to be something others would deny if they saw him. ‘I just want to be treated like a guy, not a “girl pretending to be a guy” … Every day I go to sleep hoping some kinda miracle happens and I turn into a male. I get depressed even thinking about it’. Three individuals responded to his post. An 18-year-old FTM assures him that it is not necessary to identify as male in early childhood to qualify as FTM. ‘I’m an FTM who has known his boyness since … um… last year? […] it’s even possible to not figure it out until late adulthood! (saw that in the case of an MtF that was on a documentary I watched)’. A post by user ‘Chasers’ (tagline dual-spirit, gender: other) reminds the poster that he should trust his instinct. Chaser recommends to ‘find a gender therapist that can help you with your transition and you could even start T, hormones to help you transition in [sic] to a guy’. An anonymous query on the Human Relations forum of Ask MetaFilter.com (Help me get hormones 2010) starts with the appeal ‘Help me get hormones’. The individual posting the query identifies as a transsexual man unable to locate a doctor willing to prescribe testosterone. The post concludes with the following question: Should I keep pushing the first doctor, or let it go? […] There are plenty of arguments I could use, but I don’t know how to deliver them, or if they would just end up making me look stubborn. User Oakling on everything2.com (How to get hormones 2003) advises transmen desiring access to a prescription for hormones that they need to first convince a doctor that they are sufficiently mentally healthy to give informed consent and that their gender is ‘heterobinary in nature’. ‘Basically, if the doctor or therapist you’re talking to thinks you’re too crazy or too weird, you lose the right to make decisions about your own body […] as far as trans issues go, the bar for ‘too crazy’ or ‘too weird’ is easy to trip over’. While critical scholars and activists have pinpointed and called attention to the pathologization of transmasculine (and trans at large) identities to the degree that a critique of institutionalized pathologization no longer constitutes a novel argument but more of a political given, it seems that the weight of everyday discourse is often underestimated, as is the degree to which transmen themselves are linguistically driven to uphold pathologizing narratives even as they critique the notion of pathologization. In what I identified as a ‘traditional transmale discourse’ (heinz 2012, pp. 326–343), transmasculine people understand themselves as suffering from a medical condition that can be treated. Bono, who underwent a high-profile physical transition, writes that he suffered from the clinical condition of gender dysphoria and suggests that ‘the only treatment is some form of transition’ (Bono 2012, p. 5). The consequences of untreated 46

The Transmasculine Patient

gender dysphoria are dire, Bono writes (p. 161), citing the risk of unfulfilled lives, suicide and self-destructive behaviour: I remember thinking of my desire to transition almost as a disease, wanting it to lie dormant, hoping it wouldn’t come out of remission and wreak havoc on my life. Like the comic book character Bruce Banner, my being transgender felt like having the Incredible Hulk ready to explode from within me and ruin my life. Like many transmen receiving treatment under the diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (DSM-4) or Gender Dysphoria (DSM-5), Bono (2012, p. 6) is aware of the weight of the GID diagnosis, which ‘carries with it a certain degree of pathology, not to mention negative connotations’. It is not that traditional transmasculine discourse lacks awareness of pathologizing dynamics, but even when framed by a critical attitude, it often upholds the essential notion that there is something physically wrong with transmen, something that can and should be fixed by medicine. The discourse of medicine still lays the foundation for much of contemporary transmale discourse. Since transmen themselves are not recognized, by the medico-legal system, as experts onto themselves (even though access to care is predicated on their ability to ‘accurately’ identify as trans), they must convince an officially designated expert of their transmasculine identity and thereby gain access to care. A few nations, however, have extended gender self-determination rights to their populations. In 2012, Argentina reportedly became the first country (Warren 2012) to allow citizens to change names and sex markers on official documents without prior medical or legal assessments. In 2014, Denmark followed suit by allowing citizens over the age of 18 to self-determine gender identification on passports, birth certificates and similar documents after a six-month reflection period (Saner 2014). However, for the remaining nations, medico-legal assessments and requirements remain in place, enshrining the role of gatekeepers. Much has been written about the role of ‘gatekeepers’, such as nurses, physicians, psychologists, counselors or pharmacists; and portrayals of gatekeepers vary strongly (McKinnon 2013). Transmasculine discourse on gatekeepers often takes the form of pragmatic acknowledgement of gatekeepers’ existence and function in a system, typically accompanied by advice on how to best navigate gatekeeping. A discussion thread on Susan’s Place Transgender Resources (Susan’s Place 2012) began with a post titled ‘Top Surgery Options without the Gatekeepers’. Seven individuals engaged in this public conversation, in which an individual inquired about ways of obtaining access to top surgery (also known as chest reconstruction, chest wall reconstruction surgery or male chest contouring) outside of his home province of Alberta, Canada, due to waitlists and difficulties obtaining the required letter. Responses prompt for clarification (the original post also makes reference to other medical conditions) and offer names and endorsements of physicians and surgeons in the United States and Canada who may not require letters prior testosterone therapy. Participants in FTM trans health focus groups spoke of the need to have access to providers who are knowledgeable and of the importance of trained frontline staff. A 47

Entering Transmasculinity

participant in an FTM adult group said, ‘I think it is … important for the support staff to be comfortable, because they are the gatekeepers’ (Sperber et al. 2005, p. 83). The literatures of applied health and medical science largely, but not exclusively, reflect an instrumental approach to gatekeeping. Physician guidelines on surgery assessments usually engage in instrumental discourse that takes for granted the function and role of gatekeepers and that focuses on assessing and revising guidelines for updated praxis. Such instrumental discourse typically refers to transmasculine people as ‘patients’ or ‘clients’ and approaches gatekeeping as a technical, diagnostic procedure (Martin 2007). Recent nursing and mental health practitioner literature reflects not just growing awareness of the power imbalance in gatekeeping but of the necessity to mitigate these imbalances (e.g. Griffin 2011; Malpas 2006). The Medical Therapy & Health Maintenance for Transgender Men guide addresses how gatekeeping dynamics especially affected gay transgender men: […] it is not surprising that many homosexual transgender men resorted to fabrication and deception in order to bypass the medical gatekeepers that hindered their access to treatment that was for some, the only perceived alternative to suicide. As a result, it remains the (unfortunately in some cases still accurate) perception by some in the transgender community that if they stray from presenting the 'typical transgender historical narrative' that they will be denied care. (Gorton et al. 2005, p. 15) The authors comment that this ‘adversarial’ and ‘unhealthy’ approach to health care delivery for transgender people has changed and provide anecdotal reference to participation in a transgender support group in which one member suggested to another that he might need to present a stereotypical portrayal of gender to obtain care, a suggestion that was rejected by other group members, who suggested finding a better suited trans therapist rather than lying. The authors suggest that it is ‘ludicrous and unproductive’ to retroactively characterize all self-reported patient histories as invalid, but also argue that it is important to not lose sight of the documented historical systemic artefact of stereotypical binary selfrepresentations, which continue to cast their shadows. Fictional character Finn, a young trans-identified teen, is portrayed in his effort to navigate the system across standards of care and gatekeepers. During a hormone assessment appointment, Finn reflects that his assumption that the hospital was there to help him was fast disappearing (Edwards & Kennedy 2010, p. 187). In reference to the politics of earlier generations of transpeople who had learned the expected discourse leading to access to hormones and surgery, Finn reflects, ‘Every question felt like a trap. I could be sitting here saying these things just to get on hormones. Were there really people who did that?’ (Edwards & Kennedy 2010, p. 150). Finn’s character thus articulates the artificiality of systems discourse that follows a scripted path to the dispensation of hormones and access to surgery, but also reveals that the relevance of this discourse in contemporary hormone assessments is questioned by transmen today. Practitioner literature, medical research, social scientific scholarship and 48

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critical trans writing have established the inadvertent complicity of transmen upholding stereotypical portrayals of masculinity in order to gain access to care (Cromwell, 1999), but, as Gorton et al. (2005), Marcus Greatheart (2010) and Elroi Waszkiewicz (2006) find, trans health providers have become more sensitive to the range of transmasculine expressions and transmasculine individuals have become more assertive in demanding recognition of their experiences. Transman Sebastian posted an entry titled, ‘Transgender People, Transitioning, and those darn standards of care’ on Autostraddle (Sebastian 2011). Using his own experience in transitioning gender as an entry point, he describes the evolution of standards of care. ‘Before I sought gender transition, I had never heard of the Standards of Care (SOC), so I’m going to guess that most of you are in the same boat I was in’, Sebastian writes. He describes the original standards of care in the following terms: It literally positioned counselors, psychologists, doctors, and surgeons as ‘gatekeepers’. It required a certain amount of psychotherapy and/or full-time living in your desired gender role before you could undergo hormone therapy. Patients’ ‘eligibility’ for medical interventions (hormones or surgery) was ‘assessed’ by their clinicians based on whether they met required criteria. Fictional transmale protagonist J starts binding and presenting as male and sees a counselor at a youth trans clinic: ‘But I don’t’ need a shrink!’ J protested. ‘I just need T!’ (Beam 2011, p. 129). Current vlogs and blog entries strongly encourage transmasculine others to assert control and to trust their own assessment. The Dec. 13, 2010 vlog of Kaden Elias, for example, is titled ‘On the Gatekeepers (don’t trust anyone but yourself ’ (Elias 2010). Transman Satya Rai Nagpaul, founder of the Indian Trans Group Sampoorna, writes that he became complicit to obtain access to top surgery and agreed to pathologize his gender identity: ‘I agreed to let the psychiatrist issue me a certificate for Gender Identity Disorder [GID]. If I was to lose my breasts, I needed those gatekeepers to let me in. […] I let them say, I am mentally ill. I let them say it on paper’ (Nagpaul 2013). Scholars have studied the ways in which transmen negotiate gatekeeper expectations (Levitt & Ippolito 2014; Waszkiewicz 2006) but less has been said about the role of gatekeepers within the transmasculine community, which could be conceptualized as a community policing process by which certain narratives are privileged and sanctioned and others not. An anonymous post on a blog pronounces that an FTM, post-transition, transgender individual did not hate his breasts. ‘Didn’t really care to be honest. If other guys had them I’d have left them there’, the writer states. The writer continues that he wanted to get into extreme sports and binding was becoming too problematic. ‘Why not go without a binder? Because men are not supposed to have breasts, and it told everyone I was transgender, which put me in very real danger […]. It’s not about hating my body, it’s about not wanting to look abnormal when compared to other guys’ (The dirt from Dirt 2014). ’ London photographer and visual artist Sara Davidmann (2010) presents the case of Robert, who was assigned female at birth and identifies as non-binary trans. Robert had top surgery, is on testosterone and appears predominantly male. According 49

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to Davidmann, Robert thought he was not transsexual because he did not want to have a penis. Now, Robert sees his body, with its masculine chest and female genitalia, as complete. In response to transfeminine writer Zinnia Jones’s blog entry on gender dysphoria (Zones 2013), reader Ellian thanks Jones for her entry, noting that he has struggled much with understanding whether gender dysphoria exists and how it manifests itself, ‘simply because I don’t experience dysphoria in a way that so many trans* people do’. Ellian writes that he experienced much pain ‘wondering why I wasn’t like a ‘real’ trans* person’. A response by a different reader pointed out that hormones are not a magic bullet: Some trans people will see no improvement in their emotional state. Some trans people will be unable to take hormones at all for medical reasons. It doesn’t make you less trans, just as a poor trans*man who can’t afford top surgery isn’t less trans than Buck Angel. Activist and critical scholarly discourse challenges systemic gatekeeping. Transmasculine ingroup conversations, such as FAQs, discussion groups, resource sites, comments in online fora, and conversation threads on YouTube frequently refer to gatekeeping in quotation marks, a symbolic move that calls into question the unchallenged power of health care providers, insurance companies, and governments to allow access to hormones and surgery. An exchange on the FtM Canadians microblogging platform Tumblr (FtM Canadians 2014) had one individual respond to a question about locating a top surgeon in Alberta with the following comment: ‘From what I’ve read about Alberta and top surgery is that you can only go through ‘the gatekeepers’ to get a covered top surgery’. Waszkiewicz (2006) draws on interview data with twenty transsexual men to illuminate the nature of the pathologizing discourses of transsexuality. His findings about transmen’s interactions within the health care system facilitate ‘understanding how psychomedical institutions regulate and reinforce socially constructed understandings of gender and the body’ (p. 192). He finds that the participants entered the health care system as ‘informed consumers’ and describes how their interactions within psychomedical institutions pathologize their experiences and ‘consequently impose different gatekeeping measures that transmen must negotiate in order to gain access to hormones and surgeries’ (p. 192). He writes that when he first started his research, he ‘expected to unearth a variety of inequalities transmen encountered in accessing and receiving health care’ (p. 194). While his research did document instances of barriers to quality health care and insensitive providers, he also encountered transmen who ‘experienced very little trouble within health care’ (p. 194). Waszkiewicz documents how the participants in his study ‘must invoke narratives that reify binary gender’ to gain access to medical transition. He considers the Standards of Care as posing ‘insurmountable’ obstacles for individuals who experience ‘non-dichotomous gendered desires’, such as ‘a female-assigned genderqueer-identified person’ who may want to ‘retain and display hir breasts while enjoying the masculinizing effects of testosterone’ (p. 190). Max Zachs, a self-identified gender-fluid writer, musician and wandering Jew from New Zealand, was one of seven cast members in the UK-based Channel 4’s series My Transsexual 50

The Transmasculine Patient

Summer (2011). Channel 4 is a publicly owned, commercially funded public service broadcaster. The series followed seven people ‘undertaking a range of gender affirmation procedures as they make the journey to realise their true identities’. The first episode, which is marked with the warning ‘strong language and graphic scenes of surgery’, introduces Zachs as an individual who ‘has already undergone “top surgery”: a double mastectomy and male chest sculpting’. Zachs, who had private top surgery in Thailand in 2010, maintains a website (Zachs 2013) in which the top banner offers links to sections with the following titles ‘Home, Just Max, Features, Ukulele, Surgery Assistance, My Book’ and ‘Music Releases’. The prominent inclusion of a referent to surgery validates the significance of this topic to Zachs. When one clicks on the ‘Surgery Assistance’ tab, a page loads that features a photo of Zachs, pre-surgery, surrounded by medical staff in the hospital in Thailand. The text strongly endorses obtaining gender reassignment surgery in Thailand and explains that Zachs chose to seek surgery in Thailand because the country is world-renowned for its expertise in gender reassignment surgery, because the local waiting list in his area was too long, because private surgeons in his country were too expensive, and because he wanted the best, most respectful hospital care possible. He further offers assistance to others who are contemplating accessing gender reassignment surgery in Thailand. In a more detailed entry on his surgery in Thailand, Zachs provides the following narrative under the headline ‘How I ended up getting surgery in Thailand:’ I know first hand how hard it is for trans people to access the surgical procedures they want and need. Some trans people are lucky enough to live in places where *some* of the surgeries they need are funded by the government but for a lot of us we’re left out in the cold to fend for ourselves. Even the lucky ones will usually only get access to the surgeries their local health authority deems ‘totally necessary’- or will dictate when, how and what you’re allowed to have. Often the restrictions imposed on us are so oppressive and counter-intuitive that we decide to simply go without. This narrative reflects the traditional understanding that transmen want and need surgeries and that excessive gatekeeping and limitation of resources keep them from necessary access to the surgeries. However, in a later blog entry, provided on the WordPress site of British musician, writer and artist CN Lester (Lester 2014), Zachs reframes his approach to gaining access to surgery: All I can say to this is the truth, I never identified as a man’s man, or even a man at all but I knew accessing transitional therapies would be problematic if I presented my true self. So I read the DSM and bought some plaid shirts and lied to the gate keepers. I had a name change, hormones, surgery, and legal documentation within 13 months of coming out which is pretty incredible. It wasn’t without an emotional cost but I think it was the best option for me and now I can run around being as Queer as I like. I wish it didn’t have to be like that but I wasn’t going to sacrifice my life to make a point about refusing to cooperate with a crap system. 51

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Dr. A, a self-identified medical/mental health professional, explores the difficult dynamics experienced by professionals on Tumblr in ‘Gatekeepers versus Safeguards’ (Have a Seat Children n.d.), an entry that was reposted on several FTM sites (e.g. Nico n.d.). Dr. A, who identifies as transsexual, attempts to reframe ‘gatekeeping’, with its negative undertones, to ‘safeguarding’ by emphasizing that exercising care requires inquiry. In particular, Dr. A takes issue with trans people who present for care without engaging medical discourse: I have seen the clear distinction between the trans folk online who view gender identity as a medical condition versus those who view it as an identity marker. […] Frankly, both sides of the argument are too inflexible and dogmatic about the issue, as if one person’s truth and experiences makes the other’s illegitimate. I do know, however, that if you ARE seeking MEDICAL intervention, I need to see SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF SOMETHING I CAN DIAGNOSE. We have rules by which we must abide. HRT and GRS/ SRS are not cosmetic. […] The medical community and trans activists have worked hard to ensure that these services have some form of insurance coverage. Medical insurance coverage. Why? Because they have been deemed medically necessary to patients. Dr. A’s Tumblr post thus reflects back to the reader the existence of two distinct discourses (medical condition versus social identity) and suggests that a medical (physical) transition should be limited to those conceiving of themselves as suffering from a diagnosable condition. While Dr. A characterizes these two positions as polar opposites, Dr. A also characterizes these two sides of the trans argument as too inflexible and questions mutually exclusive truth claims embedded in such argumentation. However, Dr. A’s push for increased argumentative flexibility is limited as it does not allow for trans discourse that links physical modification with social trans identity outside of a medicalized framework. Certainly, such polarized and entrenched positions manifest themselves in online transmasculine discourse. But, a more careful reading of online transmasculine discourse, particularly the discourse that lives in YouTube videos and online comments on such videos, shows a considerable degree of rhetorical movement – efforts by transmasculine individuals on both of these polarizing ends of the spectrum to be inclusive and respectful of other identities. Increasingly, FTM discourse generated by individuals who identify as either transsexual or FTM and who see medical transition as a necessary intervention acknowledges that other transmasculine identities may be equally valid. At the same time, transmasculine discourse by those who identify primarily as trans*, trans, or genderqueer also seeks to explicitly respect the voices and experiences of transmen who experience themselves as suffering from a medical condition (whether physical or mental or both) that requires treatment. This is not to say that counter examples, that is, texts that seek to curtail and differentiate authentic transmasculinity, do not exist, just that they appear to be less common at this moment in time. ‘The stereotype of transition is that we are desperate for surgery, consequences be damned. In reality, everyone’s transition is different and every surgery carries serious risks’, writes Fred McConnell (2014), who credits the UK’s National Health Service with slow but 52

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‘fantastic’ support (although he chose to obtain top surgery in Florida). McConnell had worn a compression vest for four years by the time he obtained surgery that promised him ‘freedom from sweat, friction and breathlessness’ and other forms of ‘physical discomfort’. ‘By the time I booked top surgery I was worn down by this constant effort to be partially hidden, from myself as much as other people’. The Defective Body Before I transitioned, my physical self was such a burden to me. […] I tried to kill myself seven or eight times’. – Jim Howley (The Naked Truth 2008) Visual transmasculine discourse is dominated by physical transition stories and emphasizes the body, and although this visual emphasis does not exclusively manifest itself in the context of medicine or pathology, the strong and immediate presence of images related to surgery bolsters the ubiquity of the transmasculine patient. While other types of images exist, and are increasingly being circulated by transmasculine people and adopted by mainstream media, transmasculine individuals surfing the Internet will likely encounter more visual prompts to consider modifications to their bodies than to their political values, philosophical orientations or psychological needs. Within pathologizing discourse, the body retains central status as the source of pain and suffering, the manifestation of a defect, as well as the site of medical treatment, therapy and correction. The Medical Therapy & Health Maintenance for Transgender Men guide (Gorton et al. 2005, p. 28) for health care providers states, ‘For a transman, a female body is neither normal nor healthy and failure to address this may have disastrous consequences for the patient’. Later on (p. 29), however, the same guide reminds FTM transgender patients that chromosomes, genitals, hormones and surgeries do not define their gender identity and that ‘[d]eciding not to take testosterone, to delay taking testosterone, or to take a lower dose than others does not make you “less trans”’. An FTM guide issued by Vancouver Coastal Health in Canada advises that some transitioning men will hope to ‘be validated as “real” men, or feel more accepted by the trans community. But the idea that trans people aren’t “real” unless they’ve changed their bodies is transphobic […]’ (Vancouver Coastal Health 2006, p. 32). A US youth advocacy organization maintains a website that offers answers for youth wondering whether they are transgender. Examples provided on such forums often speak to specific feelings about one’s body parts, such as ‘you may have breasts and prefer not to have them’ (Advocates for Youth 2008). Statements expressing dislike, disgust or rejection of female-bodiedness are common on transmasculine websites. The following statement was reblogged several times on Tumblr sites maintained by transmasculine-identified individuals: ‘i hate my breasts and i hate my hips and i hate my high pitched vocal range and i hate my round face and i hate my big ass and i hate my curves and i hate this prison 53

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i hate this prison i hate this prison’ (August 2014). In contrast, Cromwell suggests it is because breasts are culturally constructed as exclusively female that transmen respond with dysphoria. He writes (1999, p. 106 ), ‘if breasts were defined as male, transmen and FTMs would not be dysphoric about them or have them removed. Because breasts are a sign of femininity, however, chest reconstructions are requested’. Jim Howley, participant in the documentary American Transgender (2012) remarks that trans people ‘are not just the sum of our surgeries’. A multitude of blogs chronicles the administration of testosterone and the execution of top and bottom surgeries; these sites usually offer pictures of pre- and post-chest reconstruction surgeries. Fewer sites offer pictures of transmen going into surgery or recovering from surgery for hysterectomies or bottom surgeries, which reflects the fact that bottom surgeries are less frequently pursued due to their cost, their availability and the level of results achieved. The US National Transgender Discrimination Survey (Grant et al. 2011) found that the majority of female-to-male respondents wanted to have (50 per cent) or had had (43 per cent) chest surgery; the majority of female-to-male respondents also wanted to have (58 per cent) or had had (21 per cent) hysterectomies. These rates were quite different where genital surgeries were concerned. Four per cent of the female-to-male respondents reported having undergone metoidioplasty (creation of testes); 53 per cent indicated they would like to undergo the surgery some day. Two per cent of the femaleto-male respondents reported having undergone phalloplasty; 27 per cent indicated that they would like to undergo the surgery someday. A US survey conducted by Factor and Rothblum (2008) found that of the 64 FTMs who participated in the study, 76.5 per cent were taking hormones, 0 per cent had had genital surgery, 62.7 per cent had had chest surgery and 16 per cent had had a hysterectomy. If they had the funds available, an additional 11.8 per cent would take hormones, 23.5 per cent would have genital surgery, 27.5 per cent would have chest surgery, and 22 per cent would have a hysterectomy. YouTube videos that provide a narrative of physical transitioning – often starting with infant footage or baby photos, leading up to the beginning of testosterone and typically culminating in top surgery, abound. These videos tend to conclude with a symbolic indication that the individual has arrived at his destination point; the beginning of testosterone therapy and surgery dates are often presented as milestones. The blog ‘Chestless and Beyond. A Blog of constant changes’ (Shine on 2012) is one such blog chronicling physical transitions. FTM discourse, in such blogs, is linked to the language of health care and medicine and contains references to scars, chest healing, surgery, keloids, pre-op and post-op, doctors, pain, and incisions. The blog is maintained by a ‘20-something year old transman (FTM) who has been transitioning since November of 2010’. The blogger lives in the Midwestern United States and created the site to document his recent transformation and recovery with top surgery. By the blog’s counter, it had been visited 9000 times as of June 2014. The blog contains images, words and concepts projecting a transmale patient. ‘I realize I’ll have aches and pains throughout my life and with my chest so fresh from surgery, it’s bound to happen more as it heals’, the blogger writes. The blog offers five categories: Chicago (the author’s place of residence), FTM Top 54

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surgery, Graduate School, Transition Milestones and Uncategorized. The Wordle on the blog’s site emphasizes four terms: FTM, surgery, top surgery, and the name of the surgeon. Within the Transition Milestones section, a blog entry titled ‘doctor appointment follow up’ recounts, with much detail, an appointment with a gynecologist, noting the inclusive paperwork (i.e. gender identity options on the check-in form), the medical staff ’s courtesy and professionalism, the doctor’s lack of experience with trans patients, and her willingness to learn. The blogger writes that he asked the doctor to not refer to his genitals ‘with any terminology’ and to instead explain the steps in the exam. The physician agreed and later on requested feedback on her approach. ‘She was very nice, although a little misinformed, but I would go back to her. I enjoyed providing a learning opportunity for her, overall, and receiving the care I needed. She seemed happy to learn from me, as well, and I hope she will take what I said and suggested seriously. So, I suppose, the experience over all was way better than I anticipated’, the blogger writes. Bono’s documentary (Becoming Chaz 2011) adopts a traditional storyline chronicling testosterone treatment and gender affirmation surgery. The writer of the blog ‘My Metoidioplasty Experience: A ‘FTM Bottom Surgery Blog’ (2011) describes himself as a ‘man who was born female-bodied’ and notes that ‘in most circles this makes me a transsexual, FTM, F2M, or a trans-guy. Ask me, I’m just a guy with a physical birth defect’. Brookes from England recorded his frustration with his female body on YouTube. ‘I feel like shit. I feel sick. I hate my body’, says Brookes who said he realised a year ago that he ‘could be transgender’ (Some days, I hate my body. FTM. 2014). ‘Sometimes I hate having a shower because I have to see myself ’, Brookes states. Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide (2010) states that most (but not all) transmen will have at least one surgical procedure in their lifetime related to gender transition. While the guide next emphasizes that many transmen do not seek surgery ‘due to cost considerations, health reasons, or personal reasons’, cost is constructed as the most significant barrier. Transman Khalid titles his blog ‘Masculinity: A Surgical Exploration’ (Khalid 2014). He states that he hopes his blog will ‘spread a more positive surgical light amongst the POC (people of color) transgender community. As apart [sic] of trans visibility in our society the main aspects of transition (medical, surgical, and societal transition) should be available in an in-depth, medically, emotionally and trans-affirmed dialogue’. The blog chronicles his transition and includes multiple images of his body before and after chest surgery. It further references his metoidioplasty in Serbia but limits pictures and more detailed accounts to closed online user groups for transmen also undergoing bottom surgeries. His site also contains photos and videos of surgeons as well as much peripheral visual documentation (e.g. sample surgery letter, consent forms, medical ID bracelet, etc.). Several transmanoriented sites offer guides to planning for surgeries. Transguys.Com (Riverdale 2013) offers a comprehensive guide to surgery fund-raising and labels top surgery, hysterectomy and bottom surgery medically necessary procedures. Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide (n.d.) offers detailed information on FTM Chest Reconstruction; Transbucket.Com contains a database of images of FTM gender reassignment surgery results (Transbucket 2013); The Transitional Male offers surgical photo galleries, listings of therapists, endocrinologists and 55

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surgeons (The Transitional Male 2014), and Internet-based groups such as the Yahoo FTM Surgery Info Group (n.d.) provide extensive FTM surgery material. This group, like others of a similar nature, is age-restricted and requires a membership application and review for access. Gorton et al.’s (2005) guide for health care providers of transgender men is organized into nine chapters that cover endocrinology and metabolism, hormone therapy, informed consent, surgery, health maintenance, testosterone effects, emergency medical care issues and medical documentation for legal name and gender changes. As expected, the text constructs transgender men as ‘patients’ seeking care or therapy as a way of dealing with gender dysphoria, which is understood to be a medical condition. The text endorses a progressive harm reduction model of medical care in which transmen require diagnosis and assessment. Medical research on physically transitioning transmen is recent and historically lacked access to an identifiable population to generate generalizable data. In acknowledgement of the absence of generalizable, longitudinal medical research, transmen who blog and vlog essentially engage in a form of crowdsourcing and co-create a global database of treatment narratives. A non-virtual version of this resource community occurs in surgery centers. McConnell (2014), who flew from the United Kingdom to Florida to obtain top surgery, describes the retreat an FTM and his wife operate to assist transmen from all over the world while they undergo top surgery as a microcosm of trans community: ‘it’s places and people like these that constitute the global trans community; not a homogenous, membership-based network, but an infinite collection of ideas, encounters and shared experiences existing in real life and online’. As more trans-identified physicians enter practice, and as more trans-identified researchers undertake studies, more reliable medical information is generated and circulated. For example, Curtis of the London Gender Clinic asks whether transmen should have a hysterectomy, noting that ‘there is little written on this topic and no research’ (Curtis 2015). Curtis concludes that there is no conclusive evidence that a transman should undergo a hysterectomy/oophorectomy after years of testosterone treatment (or not) and offers his own experience: ‘From a personal perspective I know I did not want to undergo smears, have to worry about contraception, breakthrough bleeding, was happy to reduce my risks of cancer in organs that were of no use to me and am extremely glad to have not needed to take testosterone in high dosage because my body does not tolerate it’. Fund-raising appeals for individuals seeking top surgery often follow the traditional rhetorical structures and argumentation applied in fund-raisers for surgeries, transplants and treatments not covered by health insurance. The American Cancer Society offers concrete suggestions on how to raise funds for uncovered cancer treatments (American Cancer Society 2014); organizations such as GiveForward (GiveForward Inc. 2015) specialize in medical fund-raising, and hundreds of individuals have created online fund-raising appeals to raise funds for their own medical expenses or those of friends and family. Consistent with these approaches, Brothers of A Boston Fraternity raised funds for an Emerson College student’s top surgery (Brothers of A Boston fraternity 2013), reaching a total of $21,308 56

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USD via 1026 funders (with an original goal of raising USD $2,000). Excess funds raised were given to the Jim Collins Foundation, whose mission is to ‘provide financial assistance to transgender people for gender-confirming surgeries’ (The Jim Collins Foundation 2014). The Jim Collins Foundation, however, attempts to step outside of a universalizing medical paradigm by recognizing ‘that not every transgender person needs or wants surgery to achieve a healthy transition’ (The Jim Collins Foundation 2014). Dylan, a transguy from Boston, Massachusetts, successfully raised funds for his top surgery online. His narrative (Dylan 2014) explains the medical necessity for surgery in the following words: ‘For me, top surgery is medically necessary and will help me to feel comfortable in my own body. […] As I become more secure in my masculinity, I am finding it harder to reconcile with my chest’. This basic narrative is constructed by many other FTM-identified individuals seeking to raise funds for surgery online, such as Brittany Beard (Bee’s FTM Top Surgery Fund 2014), Harvie (2014) or Liam Cutler from Toronto, Canada, who underwent surgery in early 2014 and who had raised funds with the following summary appeal: I have been binding my chest for the past 3 years as a way to deal with the dysphoria that it causes me which has resulted in some not so healthy physical effects (chest pain, difficulty breathing, etc.). Binding has been a temporary remedy to a permanent problem, top surgery is a solution and my number one priority in regards to transition. (GoFundMe 2014) The video FTM Transition 1 Year on Testosterone Timeline (2011) was uploaded by ‘fateofmind05’ to a channel specifically created to track a transition ‘and hopefully have an impact on other people who are also trying to find themselves’. Such transition vlogs are frequently characterized by a desire to serve as a role model or to help others who are contemplating or beginning transition, and by a desire to thank all of those who have been supportive during their transition. On 8 June 2013, viewer ‘transnerdboy’ posted that he has been following fateofmind05’s channel for a while. He posts that he has also started making vlogs about his transition: ‘Guys who have been doing this for a long time are such an inspiration. your vids really help the rest of us’. This particular video provides the exact date of testosterone start (‘T-Day’) and top surgery and concludes with the one-year anniversary. Links to a two- and three-year video are embedded. The three-year video (Just over 3 years on T [2013]) features this transman providing a check-in, essentially, on three years on testosterone. The vlog begins with him talking about recently moving and changes in his employment, then leads into the resulting concerns about insurance coverage for testosterone and endocrinological care. He removes his shirt and shows his chest, talking about the need to start working out to address some of the surgery results, but states that he is quite satisfied with his surgery results overall. Concluding the video, he flexes his muscles and points to his belly hair. In his two-year video, he talks about his initial expectation that he would want to disappear ‘into the woodwork’, a phrase used to denote FTMs whose identities shift from FTM to man/male and who do not openly identify as transgender or 57

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transsexual (Cromwell 1999, p. 28) after transitioning. He states that to his surprise, this is no longer true. He says that he feels duplicitous when passing, ‘I feel like I’m lying to people when I don’t tell them – about myself – honestly’; it is about ‘not feeling right’, or ‘I just don’t feel like I’m me’. He says that he has spent two years making himself more comfortable, and that in the end, not only did the physical transition make him happier, it also made his family happier. He recounts spending some time with a friend he had not seen in three years and how this friend commented how happy and relieved she was that he had not changed, as a person, that he was still himself. That she did not think he was different made him extremely happy, he said. This particular narrative both supports and challenges the normative consequences of physical transition. A number of surgeons specializing in FTM surgeries have risen to prominence and promote the availability of their services online and via other media. Individual and organizationally sponsored websites offer information and resources pertaining to surgeries for transmen. The ‘Top Surgery’ website (FTM Surgery Network 2014) offered by the FTM Surgery Network displays a small image of a male person wearing jeans and a green t-shirt, looking upward to the sky with outstretched arms. The site explains top surgery as ‘one of the most commonly performed gender reassignment surgeries available for FTM transsexuals’. It continues to describe that top surgery ‘allows a trans man to live more comfortably, improving psychological and social functioning, and it may be the only surgical step that he takes in his transition’. This text positions gender reassignment surgery as a common action for transmen but uses the referent ‘FTM transsexuals’, which prevents a universalizing assumption that all transmasculine individuals desire or require surgical modifications. The text also normalizes top surgery as the only surgery an FTM transsexual may desire. The description of top surgery as allowing a trans man to ‘live more comfortably, improving psychological and social functioning’ omits any reference to medical treatment. The page on surgeons provides short biographical profiles for five surgeons, a Google world map that pinpoints locations for surgeons, and names, addresses and contact information for 123 surgeons who perform top surgery. Transmasculine discourses diverge greatly where the significance of genital surgery is concerned. ‘The bottom line with “bottom surgery” is that no surgeon can give a transman the penis that he should have had at birth’, writes Green (2004, p. 107). Rico Adrian Paris appeared on US national television the same year (2004) ‘so that the voice of men who choose not to have [phalloplasty] could be heard as the other guest speaker had in fact chosen to and followed through with phalloplasty’ (Paris 2006, p. 46). ‘I would however be lying if I said I didn’t long to feel real connection with my love, the way it should be naturally between a man and a woman’ (p. 47). Both Green and Paris use the verb auxiliary verb ‘shall’, which implies a natural order has been violated or a common expectation not met. Some confirm the desire or need for a penis as fundamental and establish corrective surgeries as vital priorities. Others confirm the desire for a penis but downplay its significance, acknowledge the lack of practical feasibility or question the notion of absence in its entirety. Rhetorically, the first three approaches maintain a discourse of abnormality or pathology. 58

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The most traditional understanding of a transman’s ‘defective body’ identifies the absence of the penis as a defect. Ryan Sallans (2013, p. 71) reflects on undergoing metoidioplasty in Serbia and having the doctor remove the medical tape covering his new penis and scrotum: ‘It was swollen, red, stitched up, and bloody, but it was mine. Even though it was only about two inches in length, I was happy to see something that looked more male’. The ‘absence’ of a penis ties into the discourse of pathology when it is constructed as such, a defect from the way one’s body should have manifested itself, a physical characteristic that is absent when it would normally be present. The use of the noun ‘prosthesis’ or the adjective ‘prosthetic’ within transmasculine discourse, which implies, in its etymological roots, the addition of a missing part to an injured body, furthers medicalized understandings. A prosthesis is commonly understood to be a ‘device, either external or implanted, that substitutes for or supplements a missing or defective part of the body’ (Dictionary.Com). Commercial websites offer ‘FTM Penis Prosthetics’ for sale, whether held on by straps, harnesses or silicone medical adhesives. In his one-year post-bottom surgery blog entry (My Trans FTM Lower Surgery Experience 2014), a transguy says he still loves seeing himself naked and recounts showing his penis to other transguys during a lower bottom surgery workshop at the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. He reflects ‘while I am still trans and don’t have a cis penis, my penis greatly improves my life by freeing me from a lot of the worrying and discomfort I used to live with!’ (My Trans FTM Lower Surgery Experience 2014). The Trans Health website offers a doctor-reviewed ‘total guide to penile implants for transsexual men’ (Trans-Health.com 2013); a urologic and plastic surgeon explains why he prefers the semi-rigid penile implant to the inflatable penile implant in the following words: ‘In transsexual men, inflatable penile implants do not have the benefit of increasing penile length and girth as much as in the natal male’ (Crane 2013). The construction of this sentence establishes ‘men’ as a conceptual category including both transsexual and natal (cis) men as differentiated by particular physical characteristics, much as one might differentiate between older and younger men, or men with high blood pressure and men with low pressure. This is the same construction employed by the author of the FTM postsurgery blog, which distinguishes but parallels a cis penis and a trans penis. The surgeon continues, ‘… semi-rigid implants offer more rigidity and a longer lifespan than inflatable penile implants, plus lower costs and reduced complication rates’. By framing the topic in terms of product quality and cost, this sentence places the procedure in the narrative of consumption rather than pathology, linking penile implants by association with dental, breast and hair implants. Since penile implants are understood, in common discourse, to be ‘devices placed inside the penis to allow men with erectile dysfunction (ED) to get an erection’ (Mayo Clinic 2013), the concept ‘penile implant’ taps into an existing, normative narrative and seeks to broaden the common understanding of penile implants to also be devices that can be implanted on female-bodied men to achieve gender confirmation. While websites designed for transmasculine audiences may offer comparisons between penile implants for cismen and penile implants for transmen, websites designed for cismale audiences do not make the same rhetorical accommodation. The ‘Why It’s Done’ section on 59

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penile implants on the Mayo Clinic’s website, for example, makes no mention of transmen and presumes that its readers are cismen; elsewhere, a private urological surgeon describes penile implants as ‘truly advanced medical devices, offering a safe and efficacious option for men to resume a normal, spontaneous sex life’ (Perito Urology 2014). In Mississauga, Ontario, a surgeon advertises his service as that of a ‘top surgeon’ providing ‘top surgery’. His website (McLean Clinic n.d.a) shows photos of flat-chested men, starting with a banner photo quite similar in character to that of the FTM Surgery Network site; it shows a man with outstretched arms, eyes closed, a visual representation of an individual who is at peace against a tranquil background of sky and trees. These representations of nature work on two levels. On an immediate level, they tap into cultural constructions of tranquility and relaxation. On a less immediate level, they place themselves in a context of natural being, normalizing one’s transitioned state as natural. The site offers social media buttons, an online request for more information form, a toll-free number, and a selection of headers somewhat typical in this subject matter, including before and after photo galleries and videos, information about the procedures available, and fees and financing. However, more so than some of the other surgeons’ sites available online, this site offers a variety of patient narratives and seeks to create a community setting, for example by announcing the clinic’s participation in the Pride Week Street Fair in Toronto, by offering a ‘typical’ patient experience narrative, and by including videos documenting transitions. The ‘virtual patient’ narrative (McLean Clinic n.d.b) features ‘Adam’, a 23-year-old transman from Nova Scotia. His story is framed as ‘a typical surgical experience at the McLean Clinic’. The narrative itself is unremarkable in that it matches the stories of hundreds of transmen undergoing top surgery in private clinics. It points out that the clinic relies on informed consent and does not require psychiatric assessments or referrals. Top surgery is presented as the ‘next step’ following the start of testosterone therapy; Adam’s story attests to the support of his girlfriend and mother and to superior care he received at the clinic. The narrative speaks of Adam’s anticipation, nervousness and excitement and contains many exclamation marks. It concludes with the words, ‘It’s amazing to finally have the chest I’ve always wanted and to be able to wear T-shirts without binding!’ It is significant to note that this sentence draws on the language of wanting (as opposed to medically needing) and what might be read as fashion comfort. Prompts to book a consultation appear on all pages. A video (McLean Clinic n.d.a) posted by ‘ftmsurgery’ on the clinic’s website tells ‘one man’s’ ‘inspirational transgender journey’, invoking motifs (inspiration and journey) that draw on non-medical themes. The surgeon describes his philosophy as defining ‘plastic surgery as a creative science requiring an understanding of people’s concerns in order to deal with their physical imperfections’, and states that surgical results are more than superficial, in that they are ‘felt psychologically and have lasting impact on a person’s lifestyle and well-being’. This language invokes a deficit model of transmasculine bodies (‘physical imperfections’) and links FTM surgeries with good mental health and lifestyle choices, a theme that is portrayed in transmasculine discourse elsewhere (Irving 2014). A Denver surgeon specializes exclusively in FTM top surgery and offers a ‘chest masculinization’ gallery of 30 patients’ before and after photos 60

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(The Center for Cosmetic Surgery 2015). The surgeon recounts how his ‘professional life as a plastic and reconstructive surgeon’ was fortuitously changed when he met his first FTM patient in 2002. His bio offers that he has ‘been truly amazed and inspired by the courageous nature and positive attitude of his transmen patients, and their empowerment and gratitude’. His website draws on the vocabulary of gender affirmation, chest masculinization, one’s journey and chest recontouring as a ‘sophisticated cosmetic procedure’. While his practice recommends counseling for gender dysphoria prior to surgery, it does not require a counselor’s letter prior to surgery, especially in cases of ‘mature, stable patients who have already made the lifestyle commitment by publically “identifying male” via binding and/ or the use of testosterone’. The sliders on the Center for Cosmetic Surgery website rotate three images. First, a female-bodied individual covering their breasts by crossing their arms with the question ‘Am I a candidate’ is presented in a photo cropped to only show the chest and arms. The second slider shows a portrait photo of a fairly androgynous, young, attractive female-bodied person with the caption ‘I have Questions’. The individual looks straight at the camera, smiles and has an overall relaxed facial expression. The final image is a portrait shot of a bare-chested (trans)male model (head and torso); the shot accentuates physical attractiveness, sex appeal and happiness. Together, this panel of images confirms the physical transformation storyline, but more significantly, it establishes a discourse of professional care, rational consumer decision making, and consumption of medical services, much as one might find on websites advertising ‘medical vacations’ for cosmetic dentistry (e.g. Interior Hospital Americano 2013) or supplemental injections for osteoarthritis (e.g. Synvisc-One 2013). Such current professional practice poses a stark contrast to the story of Dillon, whose life story was narrated in Kennedy’s (2007) biography. In 1938, Dillon may have been the first documented transman obtaining testosterone to transition. Born into an aristocratic English family, Dillon later became a medical doctor and convinced Sir Harold Gillies, a New Zealand- born British plastic surgeon, to perform a series of surgeries in the 1940s, with the goal creating and maintain a penis. Dillon’s phalloplasty is reported to have constituted the world’s first successful sex reassignment (Peterson 2011). As Kennedy details, plastic surgery in general, and surgery for trans people specifically, was not an accepted practice at the time. In the United States, doctors and surgeons established trans-care-related clinics and research programs by the mid-1970s (Meyerowitz 2002). US surgeon Michael Brownstein, who has performed top surgery since the 1970s, says in an interview with LGBT rights activist Syd Peterson that top surgery was not popular among his surgeon colleagues. ‘They didn’t understand transgenderism’, he says. ‘‘Why are you dealing with these people?’ (Peterson 2011). It is important to keep in mind that mere institutional availability or endorsement of gender reassignment surgeries does not necessarily imply an understanding or tolerance of gender variance. Much depends on the national political context. As Raha Bahreini (2008) points out for the Iranian context, granting access to gender reassignment surgeries does not necessarily constitute a progressive stance on gender identification; in fact, it may further pathologization of non-binary gender identities in ‘deeply brutal and coercive’ ways when a 61

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‘discourse imposes unwanted surgeries as a ‘cure’ when they are in fact an alternative way of policing and eliminating non-dimorphic desires and forms of self-identification’. The widely covered pregnancies of US transman Beatie not just affected public discourse on the binaries of sex and gender ranging from The New York Times (e.g. Trebay 2008) to US primetime television (Goldberg & Thomson 2008) to German and British tabloids (e.g. Quigley 2012; Schwangerer Mann 2012) to radio call-in shows and websites across the globe; their coverage also contributed to fissures in transmasculine discourse about transmen, their bodies and the role of medicine. Coverage of Beatie’s pregnancies has been analysed by scholars from a range of disciplines, mostly focusing on the construction of male-ness versus female-ness (i.e. Currah 2008; Halberstam 2010; Landau 2012; Murphy 2010; Riggs 2014; Rosskam 2010); what is significant about Beatie’s media portrayal in relation to the rhetorical construction of the transmasculine patient and his relationship to his body is the shift from assigning no functionality or counter-functionality to female reproductive organs to assigning functionality or enhanced functionality to female reproductive organs in transmen’s bodies. As Rosskam, who in 2005 released a film called transparent featuring 19 U.S. female-to-male transsexual men from different ages, racial, ethnic and class backgrounds, writes ‘[m]en have been having babies for years’ (2010, p. 335). Arguably, the mere visibility of a pregnant transmasculine individual enabled previously muted transmasculine perspectives to emerge. Traditional transmale discourse (heinz 2012) constructs removal of all female-bodied characteristics, especially breasts, uterus and ovaries, as a given desire; it further constructs such desire as an authentic identity screening tool for ‘true’ transmale identification. More recently, competing discourses have emerged, recasting hysterectomies as forced sterilization. Sallans (2013) recalls organizing good-bye parties for his breasts and uterus. His nightmares about the return of menstrual periods stopped after the hysterectomy. Sallans learned that he had had multiple cysts in his ovaries and fallopian tubes as well as dysplasia of the cervix: ‘I took the news as a sign that my body was rejecting the organs that weren’t meant to be a part of me. I felt validated by the news’ (p. 117). Cayden-Carter, who describes himself as ‘just your average 24 year old man’ posts a pre-op photo in a hospital gown on Tumblr with the caption ‘Up in this bitch waiting for my hysto like GET THESE DAMN EGGIES OUT’ (Hysterectomy 2015). In Australia, FTM Spencer and his partner Mel talk about that nation’s requirement to undergo chest surgery and sterilization by hysterectomy (Tmates FTM-Week 46 2011). Mel acknowledges that some FTMs feel dysphoric about their reproductive organs but Spencer clarifies that his dysphoria was ‘about the parts that face the world’. Once his period stopped, he was not considering a hysterectomy. While he does not want to biologically procreate, he does not want to undergo the required surgery because of the medical risks associated with surgery. In the comment section, other Australian transmen note that they have been able to transition legally and medically without undergoing a hysterectomy. A Reddit FTM conversation exchange began when a Norwegian citizen posted that his country requires sterilization ‘and i really hate that. Personally, I wouldn’t want to have to go through several risky surgeries to be able to feel good in my own body’ (Forced Sterilization 2014). 62

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Another user responded that even though he does not ‘care about spawning’, he finds ‘forced sterilization despicable’. But sterilization is also constructed as desirable, as in a post on a discussion board (Getting Sterilization 2013): ‘Are there any FTMs that managed to get sterilized under the age of 25? I have come to the conclusion that I want to get sterilized. Never wanted biological kids, never will’. The FTM Medical Consumer If you are willing to settle, this product is not for you.

– (The Ultimate Prosthetic 2014)

With increased visibility of transmasculine demand and the availability of an online marketplace, consumption and commodification have entered into medicalized transmasculine discourse in unprecedented ways. In a sign of increased competition for FTM marketshare, sites advertise for surgical services as much as for penis prostheses. Prosthesis vendors seek to differentiate their product lines in terms of comfort, quality, size, length, endurance, realism, cost and shipping time. Recognizing that transmen exist across ethnic groups and skin colours, one company offers a choice of Caucasian, African American, or Asian skin colours (REEL MAGIK 2014), another offers selection from a palette of 16 skin shades (Emisil 2014), and a third offers its cyberskin cock prosthesis in ‘Caucasian’ and ‘Brown’ (Mango Products 2015). One site promotes the realism of its product by stating that its prosthetic ‘passes the grab test with flying colours’ (REEL MAGIK 2014), another considers its penis prostheses ‘hand-made pieces of art’ (Emisil 2014) that are ‘made with love’ and notes that it takes art and science ‘to create a human body part using artificial means’. One site notes, ‘Designed to complete every FTM’s transition, all penile prostheses are made by a Professional Prosthetist’, a statement followed by the assertion, ‘This is the ONLY site that can make this claim (FTM Prosthetics 2014). The same company emphasizes the fact that it has been providing ‘true to life’ penile prostheses to the FTM community online for more than ten years. Another site promotes its product with the words ‘the world’s 1st and only fully functioning Penile Prosthetic. If you are willing to settle, this product is not for you’ (The Ultimate Prosthetic 2014)’. Such sites for penile prosthetics embed philosophical assumptions about transmasculinity. One commercial vendor’s website states, ‘modern times have finally done justice to these folks who certainly deserve the rights to choose their allegiance to their preferred sides of the gender field’ (Peecock Products 2014). This particular company is FTM-owned and notes that its products are designed for ‘pre-op & post-meta-op transmen, butches & drag kings etc’ and aim to make their wearers ‘feel good all around’ (Peecock Products 2014). While engaging medical discourses by virtue of using the term ‘prosthesis’, the text mostly emphasizes the discourse of self-actualization and invokes the concepts of justice, choice, and preference. Sites speak of ‘enhanced feelings of manhood’ (The Ultimate Prosthetic 2014) or successful ‘journeys to manhood’ (Peecock 63

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Products 2014). Figurative language that encourages thinking of penile prostheses as devices restoring, in essence, a missing body part, takes a slightly different path than language that encourages thinking of packers or implants as enhancements or language that counters a perceived need for substitution or enhancement. The Sydney Morning Herald headline for a story on Buck Angel consists of a direct quotation: ‘I don’t need a penis to feel like a dude’ (Ross 2014). The story describes his physical and social transformation, noting: ‘The one male characteristic he lacks is a penis, but this doesn’t make Buck feel any less of a man. As one of the first trans men to make mainstream porn, his tagline is “The Man with a Pussy”’. Trystan Cotten’s (2012) Hung Jury offers the first collection of testimonies on FTM genital surgery, framing such surgery as a possible stop on an FTM’s ‘transformative journey’. Some texts maintain that those who do not feel dysphoria about their female body parts cannot claim a transmasculine identity. Other texts maintain that being frustrated and disgusted by one’s female body parts is a common part of the transmasculine experience, but acknowledge that not all transmasculine individuals may desire or be able to obtain surgery. Some transmasculine portrayals emphasize top surgery as more significant given the visibility of a female chest and its role in gender designation and recognition. Recent transmasculine articulations maintain the designation of breasts in a maleidentified body as misplaced but approach top surgery as an amicable parting of ways. Forty-seven-year-old Pete, who lives in New Zealand, has breast cancer and was scheduled for a mastectomy. He posts a good-bye letter to his breasts online (Pete 2014) noting that he is parting from his breasts ‘with both joy & sadness’. He admits ambivalence, pointing to particular qualities of his breasts that he has enjoyed. ‘Alas though we are parting company. You don’t belong to this body; never did. The universe has joined forces to bring that fact to the forefront with Cancer being its tool’. Pete signs this letter with ‘with love’, a notion counter to common constructions of gender dysphoria and hating one’s breasts. Australianborn, Canada-based queer transgender artist Sunny Drake (Drake 2014, 16 October) offers the ‘Boy Tit Summer Finale Collection’ preceding his top surgery, juxtaposing self-portraits with text. Drake also parts from his breasts ‘with love’ and notes: I know it’s not your fault that this gender confused world has mis-read me as a woman because of you. There’s actually nothing about you that means girl or boy or anything in particular. It’s just that I feel like I’m wearing someone else’s chest, and even though it’s a gorgeous chest, it doesn’t feel like mine. Canadian writer and performer Ivan E. Coyote, who had been acknowledged as an ‘oldschool butch who was not transitioning’ on a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation primetime segment called ‘The Disappearing Butch?’ just a week before top surgery (The Disappearing Butch? 2013), subsequently wrote about the surgery assessment experience in British Columbia. Coyote had been binding for 19 years but does not intend to go on testosterone, identify as male, or transition. In the assessment interview, it was not until Coyote confirmed packing for more than ten years that the psychologist felt comfortable 64

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with the endorsement for top surgery. ‘It is not enough to feel that you are not a woman or a man’, Coyote writes. ‘There is no box for not wanting a box at all. No one knows how to fix that’ (Spoon & Coyote 2015, p. 70). A range of transmasculine needs and desires for medical intervention and aesthetic modifications was explored early on in the 1999 film Gendernauts: A Journey Through Shifting Identities, in which film-maker Monika Treut explores gender diversity as naturally occurring biological diversity by portraying a community of gender variant artists in San Francisco. Max Wolf Valerio, who identifies as a transsexual straight man in the film, narrates his transition story, including testosterone injections (‘I think I started feeling it right away’.), chest surgery and plans for bottom surgery. ‘We are the furthest, most extreme expression of manipulation of the body’, Valerio says about transsexual bodies. He takes off his shirt and shows his bare chest, commending his doctor on his good work. The film validates, by virtue of inclusion, medical narratives of identifying as transmasculine, whether by having Valerio show off his chest, interviewing doctors at a San Francisco community trans clinic, or showing transman Jordy Jones getting a testosterone injection. However, the film purposefully casts a much wider net of images and transmasculine representations, whether by quoting a doctor at the trans clinic stating that she has patients coming in for hormone injections who identify as ‘bi-gender’ and seek a more androgynous appearance or by featuring individuals such as Texas Tomboy, Jones and Stafford, who refuse to be unidimensionally defined in terms of gender. Texas Tomboy, a visual artist, is referred to by male pronouns, identifies as guy or transguy, and has a light stubble beard but insists that he does not want to be defined (restrained) by definitions of gender. Jones, described as a gender variant artist, also shows beard stubble in the film, but the film includes pictures of Jones as a girl as well as in a suit and tie. Jones says that he finds himself mostly attracted to men, boys and FTMs post-transition, a change from having been attracted to women. He says he is looking forward to having chest surgery because lack of top surgery restricts homosocial normativity. Stafford says that he has female genitalia but not a female body. While he was on testosterone for some time, he stopped taking it because it stopped making sense for him, and he says that he does not really concern himself with gender anymore. These four transmasculine perspectives included in Gendernauts are significant because they validate medical narratives while also validating alternative narratives. Such alternative narratives include those abandoning the need for any medical narrative on the basis that it is the pathological genderizing of society that poses a problem, not the trans-identified person, and those endorsing physical modification as a means of political transgression and personal actualization. This theme is continued in current articulations such as the work of Canadian singer songwriter Rae Spoon, who was assigned female at birth, transitioned to male, and subsequently ‘retired from gender’ because Spoon had ‘come to the realization that the gender binary was what had been failing me all along’ (Spoon & Coyote 2015, pp. 17–18). As diversity of transmasculine representations online and in the media increases, more transmen are likely to bracket their narratives by acknowledging that they are speaking from individual positionality, not on behalf of all transmen or on behalf of the transmasculine 65

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experience. Such hedging tactics are reflected in common place disclaimers, as in ‘just one man’s story’, ‘just speaking for myself ’ or ‘may not be true for all’. Such pluralistic transmasculine discourse opens up a wide range of identifications and creates symbolic uncertainty. As Dr. A’s entry infers, a medical procedure that is not medically warranted is by default understood to be optional and cosmetic. By extension, this would mean that a transman who has top surgery but does not see himself as a patient or as suffering from a physical or mental discourse is pursuing cosmetic surgery. For transmen who may have transitioned out of lesbian feminist or feminist positionalities, and who might have protested the objectification of women undergoing cosmetic surgeries, this may create a political dilemma. In the context of the associational clusters of pathology, health and medicine, this dilemma plays out sometimes in the context of transmen’s top surgery vis a vis cancer-related mastectomies. For example, the founder of the Indian Trans Group Sampoorna published an open letter to Angelina Jolie in The Times of India (Nagpaul 2013). Cinematographer Satya Rai Nagpaul wrote in response to Jolie’s The New York Times’ column ‘My Medical Choice’ in which she explains why she underwent preventive bilateral mastectomy. Nagpaul critically compares his experience in obtaining access to top surgery with the media coverage of Jolie’s high-profile procedure. ‘I spent several years trying to convince doctors that I needed a mastectomy for preventive reasons too. Years of forced living in a gender identity that wasn’t my own, began to immobilize me. In a society that understands only two genders, and in a medical system that sees abnormality in everything outside of it, going on is eventually impossible. But your risk of celebrity cancer turned out to be higher than my risk of commoner suicide’. Nagpaul’s piece further raises the question as to why media coverage focused to a larger degree on Jolie’s decision to have her breasts removed and to a lesser degree on her desire to have them reconstructed. Jolie’s doctors, Nagpaul argues, became ‘facilitators’ of Jolie’s self-perception as a woman with breasts: ‘Why is it that cosmetic surgeries for women skip the pathologisation that is mandatory for trans people all over the world?’ Nagpaul’s column about Jolie’s mastectomy moves between different lines of argumentation. The first few paragraphs symbolically equate mastectomies designed to prevent breast cancer with mastectomies designed to prevent gender dysphoria, depression and suicide. In this equation, identifying as male but being female-bodied qualifies as a medical condition that requires equal treatment. However, Nagpaul then moves on to present a different equation when he classifies Jolie’s breast reconstruction as ‘cosmetic’ and argues that removal of a transman’s breasts should also be seen as cosmetic and therefore made available without gatekeeping: ‘In a world with greater understanding, removing my breasts should have been seen as my ‘aesthetic choice’; a choice exercised in the severely limited societal understanding of gender, as being either only male or only female’ (Nagpaul 2013). This understanding mirrors the discourse presented on websites advertising plastic surgery services, which emphasize the legitimacy of physical modification upon demand. Kathy Davis (2003, p. 84) argues that all recipients of cosmetic surgery should be regarded as negotiating their identities in a context where ‘differences in embodiment can evoke unbearable suffering’, whether ethnic cosmetic surgery, cosmetic surgery for enhancing 66

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femininity or eliminating signs of ageing are concerned. Such a need is reflected in selfnarratives as those of Rico Adrian Paris, who lives in rural England. Paris reports that he is often asked whether he would have felt the need to transition at all if he could have lived as a man without surgery in a less judgmental society, a question to which he responds in the following words: […] whether society accepted me or not living as a man, my female body became an abhorrence to me and it had to go. The future may bring a time when society is more accepting of people who have variant gender identities but this does not mean we would not want to take hormones and surgically alter our bodies. (2006, p. 96) However, technical medical discourse often seeks to delineate the differences between top surgery for transmen and mastectomies for breast cancer patients. The Center for Cosmetic Surgery website, for example, explicitly distinguishes the procedures by offering a technical differentiation – that chest masculinization does not equal mastectomy because chest masculinization preserves about 10 to 20 per cent of normal breast tissue in most patients. What does that make out of the transguy? Is he seeking treatment for an illness that will be cured or managed by virtue of hormone therapy and/or surgery? What constitutes successful treatment? How is surgery for trans people different from cosmetic surgery? Is it similar to cosmetic surgery that is medically warranted as in the case of burn victims or individuals born with birth defects such as a cleft palate? Is being trans a condition one should disclose when checking into the next emergency room? A handicap? A disability? If trans individuals choose to not pursue body modification, or only limited modifications, does that mean they are less trans? Less well-treated? These are not rhetorical questions in the terrain of transmasculine discourses because our texts house answers to these questions, and highly divergent, definitive answers at that. Sometimes, our texts seek to shelter all possible answers under a benevolent umbrella of flexible inclusivity. But everyday interactions between transmasculine people and others are governed by the answers to these questions because the conversational scripts we employ differ when we conceptualize ourselves as patients, as sexual political minorities, as human rights activists or as simple believers in inner truths. Kai Green (2013, 19 December) writes: It’s frustrating to have to explain 1) yes, I’m a man; 2) yes, I need a gynecology appointment; 3) no, I’m not crazy (even though I have a letter from my surgeon declaring the exact opposite. – Gender Identity Disorder While transmasculine discourse varies in regard to the degree of physical dysphoria it constructs as a defining element of a transmasculine identity, bodily modification has increasingly become subject to commodification. Talbot (2013, 18 March) offers that 67

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comfort with body modification, in general, has increased, as evidenced by plastic surgery, tattoos and piercings. ‘In such a context, gender surgery in late childhood may no longer seem extreme’, she writes, calling hormone treatment and surgery in teens and young adults a ‘radical social experiment’. Halberstam (2005, p. 18) argues that ‘bodily flexibility has become both a commodity (in the case of cosmetic surgeries for example) and a form of commodification’, and that ‘it is not enough in this ‘age of flexibility’ to celebrate gender flexibility as simply another sign of progress and liberation’. For some, top and bottom surgeries are symptomatic of what Atkinson (2014, p. 51) calls ‘the scientific McDonaldization of the body through surgery’. Atkinson, in his analysis of cismen undergoing cosmetic surgery, sees their cosmetically altered bodies as ‘an extended metaphor of late modern, and neoliberal boundary crossing’ and argues that ‘the man-nequin body fabricated by surgeons is far more real and desirable than a “naturally” male body or the body of a “man”’ (p. 51). Atkinson’s analysis, however, focuses on cismen erasing differentiated gendered bodies through surgery, while transmen seek surgery precisely to establish a body differentiated from a female-designated body. But both transmen and cismen operate in the overall discourse of masculinity, a dynamic which Atkinson only partially addresses. Drawing from ethnographic data collected among Canadian men, Atkinson writes that some of these men surgically sculpt metrosexual, gender-erasing bodies and ‘actively distance themselves, for instance, from the forms and images of masculinity’ of bodybuilders; he places this desire into the context of self-perceived gender crises of middle-class, white, well-educated men. Transmen with access to surgeries, at least those who have been most visible, often also belong to this demographic, but despite their starting location (which often leads them to identify as feminist post-transition), they frequently seek surgery and visual representation that embodies traditional, stereotypical masculine appearance, such as muscles, abs, strong jaw lines and facial hair. Any exploration of contemporary masculinity must reconcile transmale and cismale negotiations of masculinity, an exploration that is beyond the scope of this text. Atkinson (2014, p. 53) concludes that the Canadian cismen he interacted with ‘derive degrees of personal satisfaction from displays of gender indifference rather than overt political resistance through cosmetic surgery’. Monaghan and Atkinson (2014, p. 2) further argue that research on masculinity could ‘sensitize us to the doings of gender in radically different settings, such as the locker room in Canada where we might also witness hierarchically ordered masculinities that are physically (dis)credited’. One only needs a fleeting familiarity with the everyday issues transmen may encounter in change and locker rooms to realize that the physical (dis)creditation of masculinities is exemplified in responses to many transmen’s bodies. Like Halberstam (1998), but from a different perspective, Eric R. Maisel (2011) points to the material investment of billion-dollar industries that are ‘built on the words ‘normal’ and ‘abnormal’ and on the ideas of ‘well’ and ‘disordered’.’ Maisel illustrates why ‘normal’ cannot be equated with ‘most common’, ‘healthy’ or ‘lacking distress’. Narratives of transmen often construct the ‘beginning’ of trans consciousness as knowing that ‘something wasn’t right’, implying a deviation from the norm seemingly governing the lives of others. Verbal 68

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acknowledgements of living outside of gender norms tie such ‘abnormality’ to either deliberate political tactics or to gender dysphoria as a transitory form of an untreated condition. By and large, transmen do not talk about themselves as crazy, insane, mentally unstable or mentally ill; when they do talk about mental illness, they take care to explicitly differentiate between pre-existing or concurrent mental illness as separate and different from gender dysphoria and between mental health challenges resulting from undiagnosed, untreated or nonactualized transmasculinity. Most often, non-institutionalized transmasculine discourse talks about mental health needs in the context of dealing with the pressures and microstressors of living in a cisnormative society. Medical discourse sees therapy or treatment as the answer to a diagnosed problem. This is another instance where fissures appear within the cluster of associations with pathology. Therapy or treatments have different outcomes, depending on the nature of the condition. When transmasculinity is conceptualized as a righted or corrected state of being, and this correction is achieved by medical procedures, then the individual is essentially cured, and the transman reintegrates into a natural order. Statements that speak to feelings of ‘rightedness’ in response to testosterone regimens or top surgery support this understanding. For some transmen, the end of physical treatment also signals, in essence, an end to the underlying condition. Binary understanding of sex is upheld; pathology is sanitized; abnormality is normalized. Kennedy (2007, p. 5) writes about Dillon’s transitional goals: ‘As soon as Dillon could look entirely male, he became invisible. […] He became bland-looking, unremarkable, ordinary – which was what he’d always wanted’. For individuals who do not experience such a correction of their self-perception, the question arises whether they really are trans, given that much transmasculine discourse suggests that one should feel righted. For mental health professionals, the difficulty of reconciling nonpathological perspectives with the need to generate updated treatment guides for clinicians has become the topic of much professional discussion and scholar-practitioner literature (Barrow 2008). Cromwell (1999, p. 11) notes that women and gay people are no longer ‘allowed to be pathologized by medical or popular discourses and practices because doing so constitutes discriminatory treatment’. This is not the case for transgender people, as Cromwell argues: ‘The politics of definition perpetuate the claims of pathology although doing so contradicts commonsensical knowledge’. Although, as this chapter has shown, images and ideas of a transmale patient permeate transmasculine discourse, the mere discussion of transmen’s medical needs does not necessarily equate pathologization. Transmasculine discourse challenging the discourse of pathologization at times takes an analytical shortcut by rejecting all medicalized rhetorical constructions. This overlooks the fact that discourse on the health and medical needs of cismen and ciswomen also exists. While this is hardly a revelation, it begs the question why pathologizing discourse of cismen and ciswomen’s conditions can exist without leading to pathologization of manhood or womanhood. Cismen also undergo testosterone treatment, as do some ciswomen who do not identify as anything other than ciswomen; ciswomen undergo a variety of hormonal treatments over their lifespan. Indeed, there are hundreds of videos online that document cismen’s testosterone replacement therapies – and while the 69

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discourse constituted by the videos and their comments is distinct from that of transitioning men’s videos (particularly in regard to homophobic content), there are some similarities. Like transmen’s testosterone vlogs, they document start dates of therapies and physical muscle gains, show muscular chests and tattoos, and archive online comments congratulating them on acquired bulk or sculpted physique. Similarly, one can easily find videos of ciswomen documenting or debating hormone replacement therapies in the context of menopause. Transmen who object to the discourse and the actual institutionalization of pathologized identities are often reminded of the material reality of transmasculine lives within societies that require pathologization to obtain access to services. In other words, a rhetorical move to depathologize transmasculinity, if adopted widely, also runs risk of eliminating financial coverage of medical assessments, procedures and monitoring for transmen in many nations. Although ‘access to services’ and ‘access to care’ are often used interchangeably in transmasculine discourse, the political implications of positioning top surgery, for example, as service versus medical care are significant. Access to care signals an alignment, whether voluntary or involuntary, intentional or unintentional, with the symbolic cluster of the transmasculine patient. Access to care links availability of hormones, mental health services and surgeries to the world of medicine and health care, which, in turn, connects with the discourse of human rights. Access to services links availability of hormones and surgeries to consumption, control of material goods and the marketplace. Patient discourse also overlaps with the relatively recent consumer rights approaches to health care, in which medical care for transmasculine people is simultaneously, but not identically, understood to be a scarce social resource to be allocated in an equitable manner and a capitalist good that should be freely available in the marketplace. In this way, it bridges into discourses of self-actualization through material goods, which, in turn, leads to considerations of consumer culture and commodification. Health care professionals are debating the merits of metaphorically conceptualizing patients as ‘consumers’ or ‘customers’, noting that this linguistic move may have advantages when it comes to patient agency and satisfaction with health care outcomes, but may also be problematic because ‘the human body is not like a broken machine’ and because ‘the outcome of a treatment is not a commodity independent of the patient, nor isolated to a particular body part’ (Hudak et al. 2013, p. 104). The weight of transmen’s medical discourse seems to arise, in part, from its dominant position within transmasculine discourse itself. When Duke University announced the release of a new journal, the Transgender Studies Quarterly, in May 2014, the academic journal was framed as ‘the first non-medical academic journal devoted to transgender issues’ (Kellaway 2014, 27 May). The journal is co-edited by transgender scholars Stryker and Paisley Currah, who liken the emergence of transgender studies and theory to the emergence of queer studies and theory in the 1990s. While the explicit positioning of the journal as ‘non-medical’ inadvertently reifies the dominance of a medical paradigm, it of course also signals an overdue departure from traditional academic approaches. This departure, however, coincides in time with the counter trend of increased demand and access to medical procedures as evidenced in broadening insurance coverage, availability of 70

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surgery, and early medical intervention that are presented in popular media and executed in socio-medical practice (Brill & Pepper 2008). The degree to which certain transmasculine motifs are privileged over others, recirculated through various media, and become selfreferential across media and discourse is significant. Talbot (2013, 18 March) describes attending a trans teen support group with trans teen Skylar. At the beginning of the meetings, Talbot recounts, members clap and cheer when someone announces that they have started taking hormones or are scheduled for surgery. Such communicative acts are as significant as encounters with the heroes of young adult fiction or watching Glee or Degrassi. From Pathology to Abnormality The discourse of the transmasculine patient consists of visual and textual associations linking health care, medicine, therapy, treatment, disease, condition, wellness, patient and doctor. On the surface, it maintains the theme of pathology and abnormality. Visual discourse stresses the physicality of transition, whether in the form of presenting as male by virtue of testosterone’s virilising effects, baring one’s (post-surgery) chest or obtaining bottom surgeries to construct testes and a penis. Traditional pathologizing discourse establishes the expert diagnostician as the subject and the transmasculine patient as the object. However, increasingly transmasculine discourse shows deliberate, strategic and tactical efforts to align non-pathologizing and pathologizing portrayals, to tease apart medicalization and pathologization, and to allow for a broadened understanding of transmasculinity that supports both embracing and rejecting medical intervention. As homogenizing as medical transmasculine discourse might appear to be, it is actually emerging as a highly complex discursive field, full of contradictions and tensions. Aspects of transmasculine discourse that maintain the metaphorical context of a transmasculine-identified individual as a patient bring visions of illness and cures, experts and diagnoses, treatments and recovery to the collective imagination. Transmasculine accounts of interactions with providers that emphasize what providers said to them or asked them to do continue this pattern. But, transmasculine accounts of such interactions, as evidenced in online testimony, which emphasize what transmasculine people said to providers, expected of providers, or asked of providers, flip this power dynamic. This empowers transmen by stressing their level of control and their agency in such interactions. But, to project a trajectory of a liberating trans discourse would also constitute an oversimplification. Patient activist discourse that establishes a transmasculine individual as, in effect, the authority on his gender identity, works well for transmen who feel strongly and assuredly about their gender identity and who have access to resources. But, at a time when transmasculine discourse is stretching itself to accommodate a wide range of gender identities and sexual orientations (Rubin 2003) and in which social and physical transitioning is extended to children (Talbot 2013, 11 March), this is not always a given. In order to safely explore which kinds of transitioning behaviours or practices might work best for them, some transmasculine individuals will 71

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want to discuss options without jeopardizing potential access to hormones or surgery – and without being pressured into a normative hormone/top surgery sequence. By calling into question the underlying assumptions of institutionalized medical discourse, transmasculine medical discourse seeks to redirect the focus of pathology onto the systemic, simplistic conceptualization of binary genders that would only allow for normative manifestations of transmasculinity.

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one-time psychotherapy session the effort of appearing relaxed and comfortable twisted the psychologist into an origami-like shape he had been duly informed of my transgender nature in preceding email correspondence in fairness to psychologists everywhere: he had no experience with trans patients but had offered that he was willing to learn $130 later, i wished i had approached the entire session as an experiment in poetry from the start my shoes dutifully removed i was not at liberty to simply jump up and run tightly pressed into the patient role i bit the inside of my cheeks to summon patience before i had nested my uncertainties into the couch, the psychologist had already betrayed himself once, offering me a glass of water then proceeding to pour it and drink from it with slightly fixated eyes. Catching his stare, he interrupted and commented that he must have been thirsty to drink the water he had meant to offer me. my resignation sighed my body into the couch with a slight sense of betrayal i noticed the interaction already writing itself into spoken words when he misspoke pronouncing enunciating announcing my old name once, twice, too many, too many, letting its ethnic flavor bounce of his pursed lips, apparently intrigued, he rolls it on his tongue while soundwaves pierce my comfort perhaps i should charge you for Trans 101 i think back at him too subtle a defensive weapon the thought bounces off the origami folds circles into the spiraling painting intended to calm soothen focus troubled minds i feel an urgent need to curse superseded only by my even more urgent need to talk about the excessive self-monitoring which i monitor while i’m engaging in this conversation

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with the same amount of enthusiasm as one who has paid too much for a movie ticket to walk out in the middle of the film no matter how predictable the ending [Western States Communication Association Conference, Selected Spotlight Performance, Performance Studies Interest Group, Reno, NV, 17 February 2013]

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Chapter 2 Norming Abnormality

T

  his chapter examines the thematic dominance of transmasculine deviation from a norm that presumes that those assigned to the female sex at birth will identify with a female gender identity in life. While this is the philosophical, cultural, and scientific foundation of medically oriented pathologizing discourse, notions of abnormality are much more pervasive; they are embraced, substantiated, validated, questioned, challenged, and opposed in countless transmasculine accounts. The chapter begins by examining mediated constructions of abnormality at a time of heightened media visibility, including the trapped-in-the-wrong-body metaphor, the trope of the monster, and the theme of uniqueness. It then leads into a discussion of the underlying assumption of difference, often the starting point of social scientific stage models that guide contemporary understandings of transmasculine identities, and extends from there into an examination of normativities. A More Common Abnormality Since coming out and being visible, the burden of secrecy is gone and I have the space to be the man I want to be. […] I can be a leader in the community, share my story with no apprehension and be comfortable in my skin. – Tiq Milan (2013, 27 June)

The abnormal is newsworthy. At one point, media coverage of transmasculine people was rare, and the emergence of an out trans man news in and of itself. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, US talk shows and news magazines became intrigued with stories of transsexualism, and for some female-to-male transsexual men, these outlets provided the first exposure to the notion of transitioning (Devor 1999). Participants in Devor’s study, for example, specifically referenced transmale participants on the Phil Donahue and Geraldo shows as turning points (Jude Patton appeared on Donahue in 1976; Steve Dain appeared on the Geraldo show in 1977). Green suggests that Dain ‘was probably the first widely visible FTM in America’ (1998, p. 147). Dain, a high school physical education teacher in San Francisco, transitioned in the mid-1970s and won a legal battle to keep his job. Dain was the topic of much US newspaper coverage and appeared on many US television talk shows. Valerio (2006, p. 79) recalls from the late 1980s that other than ‘the scratchy newspaper photo of the gym teacher Steve Dain, I have never met or seen a female to male transsexual in my

Entering Transmasculinity

life. Not even on television’. Sullivan, an openly gay transsexual man whose request for phalloplasty was rejected by the Stanford Gender Dysphoria Program in 1980, reportedly pursued surgery only after having read about Dain and then contacting Dain personally (Meyerowitz 2002). Media coverage was beginning to adjust from sensationalism to human interest stories (maintaining a theme of abnormality) and was bolstered by the public appearances and education efforts of visible transmen, such  as Cromwell, Green and Cameron in the United States; Rupert Raj in Canada; and Stephen Whittle in the United Kingdom. However, as Heather McIntosh (2012, p. 67) notes, mainstream fiction representations of transgender characters, particularly on US television dramas such as CSI and Law and Order: SVU, tend to ‘exaggerate the extremes of personality’ while cinematic portrayals tend to ‘span both comedy and horror’ (p. 68). As early as 15 years ago, Whittle, who was featured in the 2002 BBC documentary Make Me A Man, called ‘trans’ a ‘cultural obsession’ (Whittle 2000, p. 1), the trans community ‘a concept of the 1990s’ (Whittle 2000 p. 43) and noted that in everyday life, ‘we cannot escape being reminded that there are now many people in our society who have undergone this drastic life-changing process’. Jacob Bernstein (2014, 13 March) speaks of the ‘increasing presence of trans people at the center of popular culture’ in the context of the work of US transmasculine artist Rhys Ernst. Kortney Ryan Ziegler (2013, 13 July), a leading black trans American intellectual, notes that in the last ten years, trans people have taken on visible roles across the world showing the brilliance, complexity and humanity that is the trans community. We’ve written ourselves into books. Shot ourselves into films. And spoken ourselves into a global conversation of trans resistance and justice. And we have done so without shame. In the US context, the visibility of Tiq Milan, senior media strategist of news at GLAAD, has enabled non-white representations of (trans)masculinity to obtain greater exposure, although they are still underrepresented in the national majority media landscape. Milan, who was included in the documentaries U People (2009) and Realness (2009), has discussed transgender rights on CNN’s Reliable Resources, BlackEnterprise.com, Al Jazeera America, MTV, The Katie (Couric) Show, and MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow Daily. He has contributed to Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Huffington Post and been recognized by multiple awards (including recognition by Ebony Magazine and BET) as an outstanding young leader in the LGBT community. Today, in an English-language context, transmen appear in film specials and TV talk shows; tour conference circuits; publish books, articles and essays; maintain current online presence; and make themselves available as motivational or educational speakers. The First FTM Fitness World Conference (FTM Fitness World 2014) in Atlanta, Georgia, illustrates this trend. This new transmasculine-oriented conference is just one of many conferences that have emerged over the years; in 2015, more than 20 conferences on transgender topics were scheduled worldwide, each of them offering programming specific to transmasculine individuals. The FTM Fitness World Conference 78

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features six prominent transmen (including Milan) as keynote speakers, representing a variety of cultural perspectives. Neo L. Sandja is the president and founder of FTM Fitness World and working on his first book, ‘Right Mind, Wrong Body – The ultimate TRANS guide to be complete and live a fulfilled life’. Sandja (2014) describes himself as an author, speaker, life coach and entrepreneur; he immigrated into the United States from the Democratic Republic of the Congo when he was 19. Buck Angel, who entered the entertainment industry as a female fashion model in the 1980s, overcame eventual drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness and suicide attempts later in life. Exposure to a documentary about a female-to-male transsexual ‘changed the course of his life forever’, and he began hormone treatment and underwent breast-removal surgery (FTM Fitness World 2014). The first creator of FTM adult entertainment, he describes himself as an inspirational speaker, filmmaker and educator (Buck Angel 2014), is the subject of the documentary Mr. Angel (Mr. Angel 2013) and has appeared on The Howard Stern Show, Spike TV, Much Music, OUT TV and The Tyra Banks Show. Beatie, a public speaker, author and advocate, gained global media exposure when he gave birth to three children, ‘defending the validity of his marriage and identity in an unprecedented court battle’ (FTM Fitness World 2014). Mitchell, featured in the documentary Still Black, serves as the Engagement Coordinator for TransFaith and as the Minister of Family and Congregational Life for South Congregational Church in Springfield. He gave the 2012 keynotes for the first Black Transmen, Inc. Conference and the Philadelphia Trans Health Conference. Finally, Jody Rose Helfand is an author, speaker and professor with more than 50 publications in poetry and prose. Like these speakers, many other prominent transmen spend much of their lives as motivational or educational speakers, advocates, trainers and consultants. Transition memoirs have become a searchable category on online publishing outlets and the transgender authorial voice a subject of studies in writing (Langley 2010). Kennedy observes that ‘in the last forty years, the sex-change autobiography has become a genre unto itself. Dozens of transsexuals have written up their stories, and many of these bildungsromans, with their before-and-after story lines, have become classics’ (Kennedy 2007, p. 140). The number of transmasculine autobiographies is remarkable, given the dearth of material available until recently and considering that Mario Martino’s (also known as Angelo Tornabene) Emergence became the first full-length FTM autobiography published in the United States in 1977 (Stryker 2008). Transmasculine autobiographies or works based, in part, on autobiographical material available in English include Arin Andrews’s Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen (2014), Beatie’s Labor of Love: The Story of One Man’s Extraordinary Pregnancy (2009), Bono’s Transition: Becoming Who I Was Always Meant to Be (2012), Nina Bouraoui’s Tomboy (2007), Cameron’s Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits (1996), T Cooper’s Real Man Adventures (2013), Mark Angelo Cummings’s The Mirror Makes No Sense (2006), Elliott DeLine’s Refuse (2011), I Know Very Well How I Got My Name (2013), and Show Trans (2014), Green’s Becoming a Visible Man (2004), Kailey’s Just Add Hormones: An Insider’s Guide to the Transsexual Experience (2005) and Teeny Weenies and Other Short Subjects (2012), Dhillon Khosla’s Both Sides Now: One Man’s Journey Through Womanhood (2006), 79

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Dean Kotula’s The Phallus Palace: Female to Male Transsexuals (2002), Nick Krieger’s Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender (2011), Mario Martino (a pseudonym)’s Emergence – A Transsexual Autobiography (1979), Thomas Page McBee’s Man Alive: A True Story of Violence, Forgiveness and Becoming a Man (2014), Rico Adrian Paris’s Transman – Bitesize: The Story of a Woman Who Became a Man (2006), Mark Nicholas Alban Rees’s Dear Sir or Madam: The Autobiography of a Female-to-Male Transsexual (1996), Sallans’ Second Son: Transitioning Toward my Destiny, Love and Life (2013), Scott Turner Schofield’s Two Truths and a Lie (2008), Daphne [Dylan] Scholinski’s The Last Time I Wore a Dress (1998), Raymond Thompson’s What Took You So Long? A Girl’s Journey to Manhood (1995), Rizi Xavier Timane’s An Unspoken Compromise (2013), and Valerio’s The Testosterone Files (2006). Many more have written essays and chapters in anthologies or contributed to works such as Manning Up: Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family, and Themselves (Keig & Kellaway 2014), Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out (Kuklin 2014), Letters for My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect (Rohrer & Keig 2011), Balancing on the Mechitza: Transgender in Jewish Community (Dzmura 2010), Self-Organizing Men: Conscious Masculinities in Time and Space (Sennett 2006) or From the Inside Out: Radical Gender Transformation, FTM and Beyond (Diamond 2004). Young adult transmasculine fiction is emerging quickly, with the perhaps most visible examples of Beam’s I am J (2011), Hazel Edwards and Ryan Kennedy’s f2m: the boy within (2010), C.C. Saint-Clair’s (2004) Morgan in the Mirror, Ellen Wittlinger’s Parrotfish (2007), and books geared at younger children such as Jennie Wood’s A Boy Like Me (2014) and Wallace Wong’s When Kathy is Keith (2011). Reviews for Morgan in the Mirror on Amazon.Com contain narratives of young trans-identified readers such as Nicole C. Burton (2004) who writes that from the perspective of a young FTM, the novel succeeds in bringing ‘to light some of the things and feelings young FTM’s do in fact have to deal with’. Austin (2004) writes that like himself, the character ‘makes careful choices of who he “reveals” himself to and just how much information he wants to divulge’. Autobiographical accounts of transmen’s partners and family members are emerging in the publication market, whether it is Marsha and Aiden Aizumi’s Two Spirits, One Heart (2012), Betsie and Luca Harvie’s My Daughter, My Son: An Adolescent’s Gender Transition Experienced by Mother & Child (2013), E. Kelly and Elizabeth Webster’s The Little Boy: A Special Story About Daddy by Grandma & Mummy (2003); Sunshine Mugrabi’s When My Boyfriend Was A Girl: A Memoir (2013), or Aaron Raz Link and Hilda Raz’s (2007) What Becomes You. Biographies of transmasculine people include Fern Hill’s (2008) biography of Charley Parkhurst, Kennedy’s account of Dillon’s life story, Diane Wood Middlebrook’s (1999) Suits Me: The Double Life of Billy Tipton, and Sullivan’s (1990) From Female to Male: The Life of Jack Bee Garland. Perhaps more difficult to track, but relevant because of the ease of circulation and low cost, the number of electronic FTM-themed books available via online booksellers has been proliferating. Many of these publications are self-published or only available in digital form for specific digital readers, and they include transmasculine fiction and non-fiction, such as Red Jordan Arobateau’s I Am A Soul (2013), Sol Crafter’s Sweet Desire (n.d.), Rachel Eliason’s 80

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The Best Boy Ever Made (2014), DC Juris’s On Solid Ground (2011), KT-SO-REAL’s How To Transition from Female to Male (2014), Lilly and Sage Mossiano’s My New Daddy (2013), R.O.C. Tree’s Discovering My Identity: Five Fictional Stories of FTMs (n.d.), Darwin Ward’s Becoming Alec (2007), and LoneWolf ’s My Story: The Autobiography of a Transgender FTM (2013). Online magazines, often also available in print form, which are geared at different segments of the newly emerged transmasculine target demographic, include DUDE Magazine, FTM Magazine, Original Plumbing, and TransGuys.Com. Original Plumbing bills itself as ‘the ultimate go-to for the latest and most pertinent info on trans* culture and experience’, FTM Magazine describes itself as ‘dedicated to the lives and culture of the FTM and Transmasculine community’, DUDE states that it offers a ‘not for profit creative resource designed to celebrate positive representation of trans guys and to share skills and knowledge within our wider community’, and proclaims that it ‘recognizes and relishes that masculinity is nebulous, and that our relationships to it can be divergent, contradictory and ambiguous’ (DUDE Magazine 2012). TransGuys.Com notes that its ‘focus on providing practical information has helped make it one of the top online destinations for transmen from around the world’. Original Plumbing, which was founded in 2009 in San Francisco by Amos Mac and Rocco Kayiatos is dedicated to: documenting diversity within the trans male community through photographic portraits and essays, personal narratives, and interviews. We feel that there is no single way to sum up what it means to be a trans* man because we each have different beliefs, life experiences, and relationships to our own bodies. Original Plumbing gives the trans male community the opportunity to speak for and about themselves, taking the focus away from bodies and medical transition, and transferring it to a greater experience of their lives. (Majda 2013) Transmasculine poetry and spoken word (e.g. Bendorf 2014; Clare 2007; Glenn & Cracker 2011; Helfand 2010), erotica, fine art, music and dance are increasingly available. Examples include a forthcoming multi-genre anthology from a Brooklyn-based collective focusing on the voices of masculine-of-center and transmasculine people of colour (Nichols 2014); the work of spoken word artist Lex Beatty, who identifies as a multiracial, queer transgender artist; and Joshua Bastian Cole’s master’s thesis ‘When Transmen Dance: On the Hermeneutics of Transmasculine Dance’ (Cole 2012). Singer/songwriter StormMiguel Florez, musician/ comedian Kamari aka Lyrikal, and writer/director D’Lo were among important trans artists of colour recognized in 2013 (Ziegler 2013, 25 January). New types of publications, such as FTM cartoons and graphic novels, have appeared on the media landscape as well. In 2011, the Wandering Son, the English version of a Japanese manga series by Takako Shimura, was released in North America. The series, which was adopted for television, depicts Yoshino Takatsuki, described as a girl who wants to be a boy, and her friend, a boy who wants to be a girl. Cristopher Bautista is working on T-Square: An FTM Memoir/Graphic Novel 81

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(Bautista 2011) inviting readers to follow his progress online via his Tumblr site; Dylan Edwards based his 2012 graphic novel Transposes on interviews with seven queer-identified FTMs. Sam Orchard draws ‘Rooster Tails’, a weekly autobiographic comic, featuring the life of ‘a simple transguy transitioning in New Zealand’, often accompanied by his ‘gentleman companion Joe’ (Orchard 2014); Boecher creates ‘What’s Normal Anyway?’ (Boecher 2014), a web comic about being transmale. Although photography has been a powerful force in the articulation of transmasculine representations for many years (Koch-Rein 2006), the artistic intent has likely transitioned along with the number of individuals affirming transmasculine consciousness, from inscribing passing, presence and promise to reinscribing humanity and articulating new transmasculine aesthetics. Mariette Pathy Allen’s (2003) The Gender Frontier captures complex stories of the evolution of transgender consciousness, political history and personal identity expressions in a series of photos, which includes several well-known trans men such as Maxwell Anderson, Eads and Tony Baretto-Neto. Baretto-Neto, a Florida sheriff and trans activist, is shown in a collection of photographs that show him in his professional role, naked outside before his surgery day, in the operating room for top surgery and phalloplasty, and naked outside after top and bottom surgery. Baretto-Neto was terminated by the Vermont Town of Hardwick’s police department in 2002 when the town manager learned that he identified as transsexual. In a subsequent lawsuit supported by GLAAD (Barreto-Neto v. Town of Hardwick Police Department), the town settled, including a monetary payment to Barreto-Neto and adoption of a formal non-discrimination policy. Anson Koch-Rein (2006, p. 175) argues, based on the works of Cameron, Kotula and Del LaGrace Volcano, that FTM photographic representations can be serious, playful and ironic, but considers such work, as the communities from which it stems, ‘subcultural, in the sense that they are not majoritarian, dominant or mainstream’. Davidmann, who has been collaborating with members of queer, trans* and non-binary communities in the United Kingdom for more than 15 years, worked with two transmasculine participants in a photo project. The project sought to document the experience of transsexual people who identify beyond the gender binary. Aaron, a 28-year-old participant who was awaiting hormone treatment and top surgery at the time of participation, selected a self-portrait that reminded him of his pre-gender consciousness. He states that the photo reminds him of the fact that he was a child before he was gendered and that both his dominant masculinity and his partial femininity appear. ‘As a whole that presents my personality’, Davidmann quotes Aaron (2014, p. 112). Participant Lee, whose body appears predominantly masculine with feminine genitalia, comments on his invisibility. ‘I’m perceived as male and that’s what’s seen on the street and people don’t really look. They don’t really see me at all’, Davidmann quotes Lee (2014, p. 118). The photo Lee selects allows him to reveal his ‘otherwise unseen self ’ (2014, p. 119). The increasing popularity of PhotoVoice as both an action research methodology and a political tool (Wang & Burris 1997) has led to a wide range of transmasculine photo projects but the spontaneous manifestation of photographic transmasculine representations is most easily observed in exhibits, calendars and online slide shows. For example, the photography series Visible Bodies: Transgender Narratives Retold features 31 trans and genderqueer people 82

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from the San Diego area, allowing them to express their identities by providing captions to the photographic captures. The project began as a student project at the University of California and is conceptualized as a ‘grassroots transgender community photo project whose goal is empowerment and education’ (Visible Bodies 2015). Plans for bringing the project to Portland and Minneapolis are under way. San Diego transmasculine participant BJ provided the caption ‘… Am I man enough? I feel comfortable and connected to myself this way, but other people don’t always react well to a man who looks like me…’ (Visible Bodies 2015). Producer Scott Duane says the basic idea behind the project is quite simple: ‘We just want to create a place where transgender people can tell their own stories’. It was important to the organizers to arrive at a collection that went beyond stereotypical portrayals of transmen who bare their chests, Duane said at a conference in Victoria, British Columbia (Duane 2014). The San Diego exhibit drew about 200 people to its opening night and received positive reviews for its inclusivity and diversity (Carson 2013). It included pieces such as a photo of Lyn, a 62-year-old blind trans male with his seeing eye dog. Lyn volunteers to provide pet-assisted therapy to others through the San Diego Humane Society. Lyn’s caption states that he encountered discrimination much of his life but continues to live life to the fullest. ‘I have no way to know what I was being discriminated against for: my blindness, my gender identity or both. […] To everyone, I say be yourself no matter what’ (Visible Bodies: Transgender Narratives Retold 5 August 2013). Skylar Kergil’s (2013) photo book project Rehumanizing the Transmasculine Community, in which transmasculine participants mailed disposable cameras with handwritten journal entries about the most important parts of their everyday lives, to him reflects a similar approach. Canadian artist Wynne Neilly documents his transition in an exhibit titled ‘Female to “Male”’ at the Ryerson Image Centre in Toronto in (Wynne Neilly 2014). Ernst, who transitioned from female to male, and his partner Zackary Drucker, who transitioned from male to female, chronicle the development of their relationship in the 2014 photo exhibit ‘Relationships’ at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Biennial in New York. Lorenzo Triburgo displays heroic portraits of transgender men in his exhibit Transportraits, which was included in a list of 30 ‘must-see’ photo shows of 2014 (Sportiello 2014). Photojournalist Kristin Schreier Lyseggen’s The Boy Who Was Not A Lesbian and Other True Stories (2012) includes the autobiographical statements and photographic portraits of four women and seven men from Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain, England, Cuba and the United States. Jess T. Dugan and Vanessa Fabbre (2015) began their photo/interview project ‘To Survive On This Shore’ in 2013. The project seeks to document the experiences of transgender and gender variant people over 50 years old and currently contains photos and biographical statements of more than 20 people from various US locations, including several transmasculine-identified participants. Other photo projects include the calendars of transmasculine people, designed to raise funds and visibility, such as the 2013 YouTube FTM* Calendar, which raised funds for trans* men’s transition-related expenses in the United States and Canada, the 2012 Transmen Calendar (‘get a hot, new, sexy transguy with every turn of the page in 2012’), Vancouver’s T-Bodies Manamorphosis calendar, or the Transguys of Berlin 2011 Calendar. 83

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An increasing number of screen portrayals constitutes a visual tapestry, a backdrop against which transmasculine individuals compare their morning mirror apparitions to, a scenery in which they try to place themselves as they shift in line or uncross their legs. Transmasculine characters have appeared in English language (or subtitled) television and film in the characters of Adam on the television series Degrassi (2010–2013, Canada), Adam in Two 4 One (2014, Canada), Aggie in Itty Bitty Titty Committee (2007, United States), Albert in Albert Nobbs (2011, United Kingdom/Ireland), Bill on the sitcom Two and a Half Men (2004, United States, Season 1, Episode 18), Black on Black is Blue (2014), Brandon in Boys Don’t Cry (1999, United States), Sam on the television series Cold Case (2007, United States, Season 5, Episode 9), Eddie in Facing Mirrors (2011, Iran), Blake on Law & Order: SVU (2009), Miguel in My Friend from Faro (2008, Germany), Lior and Yuval in Mom, I Didn’t Kill Your Daughter (2007, Israel), Juan in My Dearest Señorita (1972, Spain), James in 52 Tuesdays (2013, Australia), Jason on the soap opera Hollyoaks (UK), Lauren in the sitcom Whitney (2013, United States, Season 2, Episode 12), Lukas in Romeos (2011, Germany), Manju in Flying with One Wing (2002, Sri Lanka), Sid in Open (2010, United States), Max on the series The L Word, (2006-2009, United States), Mikäel in Tomboy (2011, France), Sheldon on Glee (2015, United States, Season 6, Episode 3), Tony in the science-fiction television series Orphan Black (2014, Canada, Season 2), and Daniel in the television series The Listener (2009, United States, Season 1, Episode 5). Cole in the US series The Fosters may be the first transmasculineidentified actor portraying a transmasculine character in a non-documentary film role, while Dale in the US series Transparent appears to have been the first post-operative transman to portray a transmasculine character (Kellaway 2014, 4  November), and the web series BROTHERS follows the fictional lives of transmasculine men played by transmasculine men (BROTHERS 2014). FTM Magazine (Top FTM Characters 2014,) notes the ‘spotty histories’ of transmen in TV shows and movies and identifies its top five FTM Characters as Cole (played by trans* identified Tom Phelan) in The Fosters at the top, followed by Brandon Teena (played by Hilary Swank, cisfemale) in Boys Don’t Cry, then Lukas (played by Rick Okon, cismale) in Romeos (2011), Adam Torres (played by Jordan Todosey, cisfemale) on Degrassi, and Max Sweeney (played by Daniela Sea, cisfemale) on The L-Word. Documentaries on (or including) transmasculine people include American Transgender (2012, United States), A Boy Named Sue (2001, United States), against a trans narrative (2008, United States), Becoming Chaz (2011, United States), Boy I Am (2006, United States), Brothers (2012, China), Call Me Malcolm (2005, United States), Changing Sexes: Female to Male (2003, United States), Diagnosing Difference (2009, United States), Enough Man (2006, United States), Funny Kinda Guy (2005, Australia), Gendernauts (1999, United States), Gender Rebel (2006, United States), Gender Redesigner (2007, United States), Just Call Me Kade (2002, United Kingdom), Make Me a Man (2002, United Kingdom), Middle Sexes: Redefining He and She (2005, United States/United Kingdom), Mr. Angel (2013, United States), My Transsexual Summer (2011, United Kingdom), Pick Up the Mic (2006, United States), Pregnant Man (2008, United States), Sex Change Hospital (2007, United States), Shinjuku Boys (1995, United Kingdom), Sexing the Transman (2011, United States), Sir: Just a Normal Guy (2002, United States), The Boy 84

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Who Was Born a Girl (2009, United Kingdom), The Brandon Teena Story (1998, United States), Southern Comfort (1981, United States), Still Black (2008, United States), Taboo: Changing Gender (2012, United States, Season 9 Episode 12), Trans (2012, United States), Transforming Gender (2015, Canada), Transgender Revolution (1998, United States), Transgeneration (2005, United States), transparent (2006, United States), Trappings of Transhood: A Documentary About Gender Identity (1997, United States), U People (2009, United States), Venus Boyz (2002, Germany), What Sex am I (1984, United States), Wildness (2012, United States), and You Don’t Know Dick: Courageous Hearts of Transsexual Men (1997, Finland). In the realm of reality television, Jim Howley, who was later featured in National Geographic’s (2012, United States) American Transgender, participated in Logo TV’s Transamerican Love Story (2008, United States), a reality dating show; Bono appeared in Dancing with the Stars (2011, United States); Dennis Croft from Georgia participated in AMC’s Small Town Security (2014, United States), and Milan was part of MTV’s I am from Rolling Stone (2007, United States). Transmasculine characters have also appeared in pornographic films such as Alley of the Tranny Boys (1998, United States) and a series of films released by Trannywood Pictures in San Francisco. Clearly, the media landscape of transmasculine characters has changed significantly in recent years. While feared as exploitative, harmful and sensationalist in the 1970s and 1980s, media exposure became a tool to educate, familiarize and make political gains in the years to follow. Across the board, media coverage of trans people has become more positive (Alegria 2011; Labossiere 2007; Talbot 2013, 18 March). The author of ‘Not Another Aiden: Life of a Non-Standard Gay (trans) Guy’, who is from San Francisco, is one of many transmasculine bloggers who allude to change of times and popular consciousness. ‘The world has changed a lot in recent years’, he writes (Notaiden 2012). ‘There’s more knowledge of transguys, including gay ones, than ever before. We’ve been on the news, in TV shows, and gay men’s publications’. Despite increased visibility and increased positivity, transphobic coverage persists in subtle ways. Damien Riggs and Amy Patterson (2009, p. 185) suggest that recent manifestations of transphobia in popular media ‘appear more complex and subtle in their enactment’ but are ‘no less violent in their effects’. Specifically, Riggs and Patterson examine two media moments in which celebrities (Blake Lively and Megan Fox, respectively) used the word ‘tranny’ in inappropriate self-reference and in ways that ultimately reinforce transphobia. They conclude that a less blatant form of transphobia continues ‘via the rendering of transpeople as either unintelligible or only intelligible in highly norm-privileging ways’ (p. 189). Earlier accounts of transmasculine awareness often emphasize the sheer absence of any referents. It was after watching Boys Don’t Cry that Bono began to consider that he might be transgender and began asking others if he might be transgender (Bono 2012). This is significant in that transmen often look for external validation and media representations, of any kind, may be important, supporting Peter Ringo’s (2002) finding that mass media can play a role in surfacing transmasculine identities. Although it may seem less likely today, literally seeing Brandon Teena on the screen allowed a number of transmasculine individuals to recognize a part of their being they had not visualized before. A visitor of Kailey’s blog wrote that many transguys of his generation ‘and a bit younger (I’m 29) first 85

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recognized themselves in the media while watching Boys Don’t Cry. I can count myself among those guys’ (Kailey 2011). Maureen Bradley (2013) characterizes Boys Don’t Cry as a ‘game changer’, noting that although it was a ‘rather traumatic film’, it allowed the viewer ‘permissible pity’. Gayle Salamon (2010, p. 110) critiques FTM transgenderism origin stories dating to Boys Don’t Cry because they locate ‘the birth of the movement in the moment of a transman’s death and the ‘emotions raised’ by that death’. Bradley, who wrote and directed the Canadian movie Two 4 One (2014), set out to make a film starring a transmasculine character that was not about coming out or transitioning. In the dramatic comedy, FTM Adam helps his ex-girlfriend Miriam artificially inseminate, an encounter that turns into a one-night stand and leaves both of them pregnant. Bradley’s goal was to create a screen portrayal that shows ‘transgendered people as three-dimensional people with lives’ (Reid 2013, p. C-13). Complete absence of exposure to any trans representation is less likely today, particularly for those who have access to the digital world, but exposure to transmasculine representations that appear relevant to one’s ordinary life still occurs infrequently. While exposure can be obtained as long as one has access to the Internet or mass media, such exposure is selective. The dominant image of a transman is that of a white, middle-class, educated, able-bodied, young man, either baring his chest or presenting in a Gentleman’s Quarterly pose. While self-representations and representations of other transmasculinities appear online and in community media, they have not surfaced to the same degree of visibility. A black transmasculine blogger writes (Toi 2012) that ‘the white trans experience has trumped trans people of colour’s experience. […] We go online and do research on transfolks and only get the white trans experience, which isn’t ours – so there’s no way that we could be trans, right?’ Mitchell (Still Black 2008) reflects on his early life and meeting drag queens who were taking hormones. He said he fantasized that one day, he, too, could take hormones and be a man, something he did not think was possible. Mitchell eventually met two transguys in the San Francisco Bay Area who were transitioning, and it was then that he realized his dreams could be more than a fantasy. Transmasculine narratives establish that ignorance of other transmen’s experiences and of the aspects of transition processes often continue after self-identifying as trans, a theme that is echoed by health researchers in Europe, Canada, and the United States finding a pervasive lack of general physician training for trans-related care. Ignorance and uncertainty can create anxiety and fear, emotions that are often identified as part of transmasculine experience. Finn reflects, ‘To say I was nervous would be the understatement of the year. I’d read everything I could find online and still had no idea what to say or what would happen’ (Edwards & Kennedy 2010, p. 175). Later on, he reflects upon meeting the transfeminine partner of a transguy: ‘I’d never met an MTF before, that I knew of. The opposite of me. I had a million questions, all of them personal. Hormones? Surgery? People’s attitudes? Everything I thought of centred around her being transgender. I couldn’t ask. There was more to her than that. This must be what people thought when they found out about me’ (Edwards & Kennedy 2010, p. 201). More researchers have conducted in-depth interviews with transmasculine people and their family members, such as Rubin’s (2003) interviews with 22 transmen, which led to the portrayal of a diverse group 86

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of FTM-identified people, including or excluding pre-transition identification as lesbian and current identifications as heterosexual men, queer-identified heterosexual men, gay men, or bisexual men. Other qualitative studies relying on interviews with participants identifying on the transmasculine spectrum were conducted by Greatheart (2010) and Waszkiewicz (2006); Sarah Pearlman (2012) executed interviews with mothers of 12 female-to-male transgender children. In as far as sheer public exposure and presence on the media landscape matter in terms of setting public and governmental agendas, as media scholars (e.g. McNulty et al. 2014) continue to demonstrate, the mere inclusion in news media signals that increasingly, it is ‘normal’ to encounter media coverage of transmasculine people. Talbot (2013, 18 March), who writes for The New Yorker, characterizes current US coverage as a ‘flurry of mostly positive media attention’. Being a transman in itself no longer constitutes news value, unless the individual happens to be a public person of interest or the trans identification occurs in a culturally and politically significant context. Children of celebrities, such as Stephen, the son of actors Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, who socially transitioned at 14, and Jay Kelly, the son of R&B singer R. Kelly and reality TV star Andrea Kelly, who publicly identified as transguy at age 13, both attracted media coverage following their online coming out. This, of course, is not to imply that media coverage accurately reflects the range of transmasculine experience – or that media coverage accurately reflects a particular individual’s sense of identity; the implications of transnormative portrayals in mainstream media will be discussed shortly. The narratives put forth by high-profile transmen such as Bono or Beatie have come under scrutiny by other trans-identified men, shifting the focus of abnormality and raising the question of what a representative transmasculine identity could be or should be. Sovej Schou (2014) critiques media coverage of rapper R. Kelly’s son’s transition by stating that identifying as transgender is ‘not an ailment or a choice’. ‘Jay Kelly is like any other teenager. He smiles broadly in selfies posted on Instagram; he plays the ukulele, loves indie music and science, and wears cool sweatshirts’, Schou writes. But by discursively moving from invisibility to visibility, and by increasing the range of the media formats covering transmasculine people, ‘normalization’ and ‘humanization’ take place incrementally. Larry Gross (1996) emphasizes the role of mass media as dominant storytellers in US society, and these stories are told to all audiences. Laurel Westbrook (2010, p. 57) analyses US mainstream and alternative media coverage and concludes that ‘transgender becomes a legible gender practice within those realms’. Deborah Hanan (2004) examines third gender character constructions in The Crying Game, Orlando and Hedwig and the Angry Inch and sees these characters as introducing, or re-introducing, non-binary characters into mainstream consciousness. For transmasculine people themselves, mass media of course also will play a relevant role in self-understanding. Raz Link (Link & Raz 2007, p. 85), recalls that he only learned that transsexual men existed because he had the flu and found himself watching an episode of Geraldo: What I a saw was a woman in a three-piece suit and a plastic Men’s Haircut, shielding her crotch with her hands as she trembled with tension and spoke in a high squeaky voice about how nobody took her manhood seriously. This was my worst nightmare. It was like 87

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driving past a car accident and watching the paramedics pull a mangled body from the wreckage that once looked just like you. As Ringo, an FTM-identified communication researcher, explains, a systematic, comprehensive body of scholarship on media effects concerning trans identities does not exist yet. In an initial study, he conducted interviews via e-mail with 19 transmasculineidentified people and asked them about the role of mass media in their identification processes (Ringo 2002). He concludes that mass media helped his participants express, but not form, their identities because his participants perceived their masculine-oriented identities as innate. Ringo (2002, p. 16) suggests that ‘media may be understood as more than a ‘socializing’ mechanism: it can be a powerful culturally positioned actualizer of innate biological potential’. Such sentiments are echoed by trans population in the European Union, where 92 per cent of trans respondents said visible support of trans people by ‘public figures in politics, business and sports’ would help combat discrimination (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights 2014, p. 11). Figures of speech exercise symbolic power in guiding normal and abnormal narratives within transmasculine discourse, whether it is the idea of a man trapped in a woman’s body, that of a freakish monster lurking beneath a female-bodied appearance, or that of a unique transman equipped with special purpose such as a transgender warrior or a gender outlaw. All of these figurative ways of seeing and projecting transmasculine identity are imbued with abnormality, albeit of different types. As Burke (1973) elaborates in The Philosophy of Literary Form, all discourse contains implicit equations, which are constructed by associational clusters, or, as Burke simplifies, ‘what goes with what’ (p. 20). As discussed earlier, the question is not to which degree transmasculine discourses purposively or strategically cluster concepts but the effect of these implicit equations on our understanding of transmasculinity. While other themes embodying abnormality exist within transmasculine discourse, it becomes apparent that even these three basic symbolic representations constitute very different approaches to ‘normality’. If once conceives of normality as a positive force, then abnormality obtains a negative value. Figures of speech that equate transmasculine-identified people with monsters and freaks, or portray them as sick, insane, or trapped in the wrong body all assemble abnormality as non-desirable. But, if one conceives of normality as a negative force, then abnormality obtains a positive value. Figures of speech that equate transmasculine-identified people with warriors, rebels, or outlaws, and rhetorical devices that describe transmasculine people as not-average, not-normal and therefore special construct abnormality as desirable. Trapped in a Female Body I feel completely trapped in my own body and it’s driving me crazy. – Joseph James (2011) 88

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While much trans discourse in the last 20 years has taken issue with the metaphor of a trans person as ‘being trapped in the wrong body’, this particular way of thinking about one’s transmasculine identity remains present. Danny, an English FTM, titles his transition documentary Escaping my female body (2012). Spartacus, a 22-year-old deaf student at Gallaudet University, writes, ‘Young Man Trapped In Female Body’:  Whole of my life, I knew I am boy since I am five year old or born that way. Yes I have biological female body and which it very frustrated for me to have those. Every time I look at mirror and unable recognized myself or feel right in body. I don’t feel fitting in anywhere’ (Spartacus 2011). Valerio (2006, p. 2) writes that he ‘lived inside a woman’s body’ for 32 years. A Yahoo! user from Great Britain asks advice about access to top surgery outside of the National Health Service and writes, ‘First of all, i wanna get my story straight. Yes, ive got (undiagnosed) gender dysphoria i.e. i am a man trapped inside a woman’s body’ (FTM: Top Surgery Without Hormone Therapy 2012). ‘Puberty really fucking sucks when you’re in the wrong body’, says Benjamin Ryder on his YouTube video (Ryder 2014). A web user from Pakistan asks advice on the All Experts forum and begins his question with ‘Hi. I am a man trapped in a woman’s body. I am 21 at present but dont remember a time when i accepted myself as a woman’ (I am a man 2012). Danny from the United Kingdom documents his transition in a series of videos on YouTube (Escaping my female body 2012). The narrator begins the mini-documentary, which shows Danny driving a fast car, lifting weights, drinking shots and dancing with girls, with the words, ‘On the surface Danny is your average 22 year old bloke. He loves fast cars, pretty girls and hard partying’. The narrator continues stating that ‘Danny is trapped in a female body which he is desperate to escape’. The sound track to the first 15-minute episode is ‘Boys will be Boys’ by the British rock band The Ordinary Boys, a song that was part of the soundtrack of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. FtM Alex, a participant in Lori B. Girshick’s (2009, p. 154) interviews, says, ‘And it’s not a choice. Not many people feel like they are in the wrong body for the fun of it’. Kai Clancy, a member of the Wakka Wakka and Wulli Wulli nations, said his Elders understood his transition and that he is ‘a boy trapped inside a girl’s body, as simple as that’ (Brotherboys Yarnin’ Up 2014). This notion of experiencing one’s self as a man trapped in a female body remains what one might consider a legacy metaphor. Jay Prosser contended in 1998 (p. 69) that the ‘proliferation of the wrong-body figure’ is not solely attributable to its discursive power but that […] transsexuals continue to deploy the image of wrong embodiment because being trapped in the wrong body is simply what transsexuality feels like. If the goal of transsexual transition is to align the feeling of gendered embodiment with material body, body image […] clearly already has a material force for transsexuals. The image of being trapped in the wrong body conveys this force. Sixteen years later, the trapped-in-the-wrong-body metaphor remains in circulation and is still often used by mass media to explain FTM transgenderism to cis audiences, a discursive 89

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tendency that can turn trans discourse into a moral discourse of abnormality (Cromwell 1999). A Yahoo! News story, for example, uses the headline ‘Born in the wrong body: The transgender struggle’ and illustrates it with mug shots of Bono pre- and post-transition (Born in the wrong body 2013). But among trans people, the trapped-in-the-wrong-body metaphor has come increasingly under critique. In response to the post by an FTM from Pakistan, Mike Hernandez, an FTM writer, activist, and educator, offers the following comment, which reflects the desire to validate the poster’s experience while being careful to not generalize it to all transmasculine people: There is nothing wrong with you. There are many of us who have felt the way you feel. Some people feel trapped in their bodies while others are for the most part comfortable, but uncomfortable in their gender roles. It gets complicated going through the various philosophies and theories because culture plays a huge role as do personal beliefs. (I am a man 2012) A contemporary example of pragmatic acceptance of the metaphor can be found in a guestpost by ‘Transman’ on the Offbeat Families: Redefining Family website. The post, titled ‘I’ve Known I was Transgender Since Age 2’ (2013) contains a photo of a young, boyishappearing child, which was taken when the author was two years old. He writes, ‘Even then I knew that I was supposed to be a boy. I couldn’t express complex ideas about gender identity, but I knew looking at my parents that I was supposed to be like my father, not like my mother’. While the author characterizes the trapped-in-the-wrong body narrative as not ‘totally accurate’, he conceives of it as ‘the closest short-hand explanation’ for explaining being trans to cisgender people: When people ask how a child in first grade could possibly know they are transgender and speculate that the parents have done something to make the child feel this way, I boil inside. Not every trans* person knew early on, but the majority do. Transfeminist Katherine Cross characterizes the use of the metaphor, which she says she used herself early in the transition process, in the following words: ‘My body was never “wrong” in any cosmic sense. To say that it was is to reify a gender binary that could never accommodate me in the first place, save through a very troublesome metaphor that represents a gasping attempt to make the ignorant understand’ (Moongazer 2010). The metaphor, and its continued manifestation, is noteworthy because it upholds the theme of abnormality. As Cromwell (1999) has shown, if one is trapped in the ‘wrong’ body, then one’s condition needs to be ‘righted’, and if it is normal to be in the right body, then it is abnormal to be in the wrong body. Increasingly, contemporary transmale testimonies ignore the trappedin-the-wrong-body narrative entirely, reference it but do not apply the metaphor to their experience, or outright critique and dismiss it. Video narratives such as those produced by Jamison Curtis (2013), a graduate student at the University of California-Santa Barbara, who 90

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identifies as an FTM transmale, are now commonplace. His video ‘FTM: Not Born in the wrong Body’ begins with the following words: ‘Hi, my name is Jamison, I am transgender, and I was not born in the wrong body. I was born in the wrong culture’. A post on the Tumblr site FTM Transboy proclaims: ‘I hate when people say “You’re transgender? So you’re a boy in a girl’s body?” No. I am a boy. This is my body. It may not look exactly how I want but it’s mine. This is not a girl’s body’ (mylifeisbasciallynetflix 2015). Curtis explains that he was born in a culture that does not recognize his variation and that he made a personal choice to transition. McBee, who frequently writes on masculinity, challenges ‘the media’s obsession’ with the dominant trans narrative in his essay ‘Not All Trans People Feel ‘Trapped In the Wrong Body’’ (McBee 2013). He writes: Here’s the story you may have heard about my body: I was tragically trapped in my female form, desperate to be a regular guy, and now that I’m a real man, I no longer want to die. Pretty compelling stuff – and no doubt for some folks, an accurate depiction. But in the two years since I began injecting testosterone, I’ve grown increasingly suspect of the fascination with the ‘trapped’ narrative. From talk shows to The New York Times, trans children to celebrities, the idea that trans folks are tragic or even heroic saddens me, because within the pity and pithy hope they generate lies a darker reality: The sensational portrayals dehumanize trans folks by making us strange. If I’ve learned anything by living in this body, it’s that when anyone’s dehumanized, we all are. We’re more alike than not. Of Monsters and Freaks It broke my heart when I held him as he sobbed that he doesn’t understand why God has done this to him and that he feels like a freak and monster, when he tells me he is afraid he won’t find a partner or friends that will accept or love him. – Mother of a transgender son (Anonymous 2013) A particular type of abnormality that transmasculine narratives reference equates FTM identification with being a circus-like freak character or monster. Allums, reportedly the first openly trans NCAA athlete to play Division I sports, says schools were supportive and other players focused on the sport, but fans responded with difference: `Whenever I walked onto the court, people would just stare at me. They would stare at me and point, as if they were expecting me to be a ten-foot monster’ (Steinmetz 2014). Fictional character J in I am J encounters teenagers on the subway who ask if he is a boy or a girl. ‘I don’t think it’s human’, one of the characters yells, a theme that is continued in Edwards and Kennedy’s novel whose transmasculine protagonist Finn is also called ‘it’ (Edwards & Kennedy 2010, p. 256). Brown and Rounsley (1996, p. 51) quote a transmasculine teen patient on feeling like a ‘freak of nature’. Kailey has spoken to hundreds of college and university students about being trans-identified and reflects that these students often ‘thought that I would be a freak or a 91

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monster. Instead, they were surprised and relieved to find out that I’m ‘normal’’(2005, p. 15). Noah Alvarez (2012), founder of WeHappyTrans.Com, writes he should not have to ‘watch friends commit suicide because society considers them to be a disgusting abomination and a “freak”’. Alvarez argues that one needs to challenge the notion that an individual is depressed because they are different since it is more likely that an individual is depressed because their difference is stigmatized by society. Among other discursive implications, the wrong body narrative enables one to think of transmasculine identification as strange, an easy first step towards dehumanizing discourse. Ryan Otto Cassata (2012) says his participation in an interview and taping for The Tyra Banks Show was a humiliating experience, concluding that Banks ‘dehumanized’ him. ‘The main problem with the show was that it seemed like Tyra Banks wanted to portray me as a freak because of my gender expression and transgender identity’, Cassata recalls. Transgender gay comic Jeffrey Jay, who also works as an educator and trainer in Texas, told The Advocate that he hopes when people watch him perform, ‘they leave thinking, Wow, I just saw a trans person for the first time and he was normal and funny’ (Anderson-Minshall 2013). Eli Strong was one of three transgender people featured in National Geographic Channel’s film American Transgender. In an interview with Alison Walsh, Strong notes that hate crimes against transgender people are on the rise. ‘Many people don’t even see us as human, which they think gives them the excuse, right, or authority to beat, stab, shoot, rape or otherwise hurt and kill us’ (Walsh 2012). Kergil’s art project (2013) documents more than 30 different transmasculine perspectives, testimony to his intent to ‘show how the trans-masculine community interacts and intersects with many other communities and identities’ (Deshane 2013). In addition, his project reflects a newer rhetorical objective: to normalize transmasculine identities by de-prioritizing trans* identity. Kergil says (Deshane 2013) that he asked participants to take pictures of their everyday lives (homes, families, communities) and to reflect on their life ‘with the added note that talking about one’s trans* identity is entirely optional. In many ways, this project focuses on the transmasculine experience, but does not only focus on that aspect’. Bernstein (2014, 13 March) assesses Ernst and Drucker’s photo exhibit Relationships as one that ‘most couples can relate to: celebrating anniversaries, lounging around the house while one fights off a cold, sitting poolside on a sunny day’. However, the exhibit also includes images pertaining to hormone injections. Drucker says the exhibit aims to show that all relationships are ordinary as much as it aims to show that gender non-conforming people need to learn to love themselves and ‘deflect the distortions’ in popular culture (Bernstein 2014, 13 March). A submission to the Captain Awkward online advice site titled ‘I’m tired of being trans’ (Captain Awkward 2013) invokes the rhetorical landscape of monsters and freaks and seeks help in dealing with internalized transphobia. The writer, a self-identified transgender FTM, notes that he has become increasingly isolated due to professional, personal (finances) and health (mental illness) reasons. He writes, ‘I feel like a monster. […] My family has been pretty good (and by good I mean awful) about reinforcing that trope’. The writer continues: ‘I don’t know how to stop hating myself, and how to stop thinking of myself as unlovable when everything in this world seems to tell me that my name and my body and any discrepancies 92

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between them make me a freak who can’t function in the system’. It is noteworthy to point out that the blog post acknowledges the writer’s familiarity with ‘positive, feminist FTM’ writing but that this familiarity mostly causes him to experience anger because he cannot understand ‘how they can all seem so happy’. His post is answered by writer A. Raymond Jonson (who also identifies himself as Lt. Trans on this site). Jonson does not dismiss the writer’s struggle of dealing with the monster trope but tries to contextualize the selfperception: I totally get feeling like a monster. It’s hard not to feel like a total weirdo freak when you’re pretty much the only trans person in a room, in a store, on a bus, in town, and then you turn on the TV or internet and there are a million stupid jokes where being trans is the punchline or the ‘surprise!’ or just general ick oozing from the voices of people, or perhaps the worst, trying to smile politely while they shake their head with pity. Excuse me for a moment, FUCK THEM. Fictional character Finn attends his high school reunion where people question his gender identification, call him ‘a freak’ (Edwards & Kennedy 2010, p. 252), ask him how he has sex or goes to the toilet, and whether he has a penis. Fictional character J recounts that his friend Melissa thinks of him ‘as a monster’ and that he’ll become a ‘real freak. Gen-u-ine freak’ (Beam 2011, p. 51). In her semi-autobiographical novel Tomboy, Nina Bouraoui (2007, p. 7) recalls childhood memories in which only her best friend Amine ‘knows my games, my mimicry. Only Amine knows my secret desires, my childhood monsters’. These fictional representations, which are often loosely based on authors’ firstor second-hand experiences, reinforce actual transmen’s autobiographical accounts (e.g. Transforming Gender 2015). However, such fictional representations also raise expectations of encountering such responses among transmasculine youth. An ‘FTM Transgender’ posts the following query on Yahoo! Answers: ‘So, this girl wanted to hook up with me. I then told her that I am transgender. She got into a hissy fit and called me a freak. […] What do I do now? I feel like killing myself ’ (FTM Transgender 2014). This particular post has since been removed from Yahoo! Answers. Elsewhere online, a 22-year-old deaf FTM writes: ‘All of my life, I always feel something missing from inside of me even my soul. I always think, I am monster?’ (Spartacus 2011). In 2013, 44-year-old Belgian transman Nathan Verhelst chose to end his life via legal euthanasia, on the grounds of ‘unbearable psychological suffering’ (Mendelsohn 2013) because he considered the results of his top and bottom surgeries a failure. Verhelst was quoted: ‘I was ready to celebrate my new birth. But when I looked in the mirror, I was disgusted with myself. My new breasts did not match my expectations and my new penis had symptoms of rejection. I do not want to be a monster’. The repeated failure of efforts to amend the Canadian Human Rights Act (Bill C-279) to include gender identity as a prohibited ground of discrimination has been attributed to the reframing of the bill as ‘the bathroom bill’ and a bill ‘that would give transgendered men access to women’s public washroom facilities’ (Anders 2013). Public discourse about the bill, particularly in 93

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conservative ridings, often activated the trope of a freakish monster lurking beneath an individual’s gender expression, although this image was predominantly engaged in reference to trans women’s access to women’s bathrooms. A photo campaign initiated by Brae Carnes of Victoria, British Columbia, in March 2015 quickly gained momentum online. After posting bathroom selfies online to illustrate the dangers of being forced to use bathrooms aligned with birth assigned at sex, a trans man in Minnesota began posting bathroom selfies with female friends in the background. Michael Hughes, described as a ‘burly, tattooed and bearded Texas native’, reports being bullied in school and targeted in the bathroom to the degree that he refused to drink liquids before and during school (Smart 2015). A website dedicated to foster allyship for transpeople suggests that ‘some people, individually, will choose to embrace a freak identity. But that has to do with their individual journeys, rather than encompassing all of what trans means to everyone else’ (Transwhat? n.d.). However, transmasculine discourse shows that the inherent subversiveness of the trope of the ‘monster’ assumes a powerful, positive force for some. Boots Potential (2004, p. 38) writes, in an essay titled ‘Monster Trans’ about always identifying with movie monsters: ‘[…] I came to identify as trans in and through my gender-as-monster ideas’. While Potential’s transness is bigger than ‘monstrosity’, there is a relationship at play, a way of explaining being trans ‘outside of the medical model’. ‘For me, thinking about rule-breakers like B-movie monsters laid out a neat framework of what I want and expect out of transness’, Potential writes. While figures of speech relating to monsters and freaks are no longer prevalent in contemporary US and Canadian English transmasculine discourse, they are not extinct and continue to constitute what Koch-Rein (2014) proposes to consider dysphoric knowledge within transgender rhetorics. Occasional examples of dehumanizing discourse, whether it is David Letterman calling pregnant transman Beatie an ‘androgynous freak show’ (Towle 2008), the US-based conservative WorldNetDaily.Com website describing Masen Davis (Executive Director of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco, CA) as ‘Transgender freaks out when called lady’, or a US Republican politician calling trans people ‘disgusting freaks’ who should be put in ‘camps’ (Morgan 2013), uphold the abnormality of transmasculine identification, often by invoking freak tropes. However, these examples are not representative of a mainstream discourse; they mostly appear in discourse by individuals trying to determine for themselves if they should identify as transmasculine and/or pursue social and/or physical transition, in the rhetoric of those who consider transgenderism ‘wrong’ on ideological or religious grounds, and in the retrospectives of individuals who have since reached a place of positive transmasculine gender identification. They remain, however, embedded in recent sociocultural consciousness and can therefore easily be activated, as the Canadian discourse about Bill C-279 demonstrates. In January 2015, Pope Francis reportedly embraced Spanish trans man Diego Neria Lejarraga in response to his question whether there was a ‘corner in the house of God’ for someone like him (McCoy 2015). The meeting, which reportedly took place at the Vatican, was neither confirmed nor denied by the Vatican. However, also in January 2015, English translations of Francis’s interview with Italian journalists Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi surfaced online. 94

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In this interview, Francis characterizes gender theory as a form of ideological colonization, likens application of gender theory to nuclear weapon use, and states that notions of social constructions of gender do not recognize ‘the order of creation’ (McElwee 2015). He reportedly refers to ‘Herods’ who appear in every historical period and ‘plot designs of death, that disfigure the face of man and woman, destroying creation’ (McElwee 2015). Such ideological opposition to the notion of the social construction of gender is not dominant in Canadian and US media coverage. As Westbrook’s (2010, p. 57) analysis of US media coverage shows, ‘mainstream journalists writing about transgender people clearly portray them as human’, rendering preceding assessments of the mediated portrayal of transgender people as ‘abject’ (Butler 1993) as no longer necessarily representative. However, Dan Irving (2014, p. 107) argues images of racialized FTMs tap into larger discourses of monstrosity, which are informed by the visual, cultural construction of racialized bodies as criminal, pathological, and threatening to national security. Ali Cannon’s poem ‘A Trilogy of Horror and Transmutation’ (Cannon 2004) moves from a Frankensteinian self (‘Frankenstein is gentle and fragile/even while prone to rages/that being a symptom of his abnormal brain’, p. 41) to that of a Creature from the Black Lagoon (‘I’m oozing into my manhood/it’s like the Creature/from the Black Lagoon’, p. 43) to that of the Wolf Man (‘Not only inspired by my recent facial hair growth/In the lexicon of horror archetypes/the Wolf Man is a being who changes/and then returns to a homeostatic state/a state of normalcy’, p. 46). The image of the wolf, particularly the lone wolf, is sometimes enacted in transmasculine discourse, although it does not appear to be a dominant motif at this time. A respondent in the snapshot survey wrote that he feels like a ‘noble-minded, positively insolent, high spirited revolutionary, lone wolf ’. Griffin Hansbury (2004, p. 17) describes his response to starting testosterone in the following words: […] I lived within the body of a teenage boy, balancing on the cusp between wolf and man. Like the werewolf (that symbol of pubertal anxiety), I began to sprout hair all over my body. Mostly, the wolf appears in self-referential language, as in individuals’ screen names, first or middle names (e.g. Max Wolf Valerio), pen names (e.g. LoneWolf 2013), blog titles and the like. FTM International seeks to recruit transmen to start new chapters by ‘calling all FTMs who are lone wolves’. ‘If you want the benefits that come with running with the pack to watch your back, then team up with other lone wolves in your area’, the website invites (FTMI 2014). The Unicorn Transman Please do not tell me how to be a man. Let me discover my own balance for myself! Not all men are masculine. Let me be my own flaming unicorn ok?! – Post on Dear Cis People (2012) 95

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As in the adoption of the image of the wolf, commonly interpreted as a symbol of natural instinct, solitude and survival, transmasculine discourse at times actively engages symbols that set apart the transmasculine experience from that of other humans. The unicorn is another symbol encountered in online transmasculine discourse in a wide range of settings. A Tumblr post (from a now deactivated account) reads, ‘I’m a unicorn (otherwise called ‘transman’) with no wish to get any kind of surgery. […] I don’t remember when I started loving myself, and getting along with my body. But I can’t recall a time where I specifically hated my body. I like me, you don’t have to. BE BRAVE! JOIN THE REVOLUTION!’ (Stop Hating Your Body 2014). Tim Chevalier (2010) writes that he understands ‘that some trans men are not content to just be regular guys, but rather, want to be magical unicorn cupcakes who get lots of attention’. It is not difficult to find online transmen’s handles and user ids such as ‘Unicorn Booty’, Unicorn Boyz’ or ‘Unicorn Boy’. American Trans Man (Anderson 2014) illustrates a column about his childhood bedroom with a picture of a white ceramic unicorn. An FTM expectant father announces his partner’s pregnancy on Tumblr in a post titled ‘It’s a Baby Unicorn’ and posts a picture of a sonogram that has been graphically enhanced with a unicorn horn on top of the embryo, sitting on top of a rainbow wave (It’s a Baby Unicorn 2014). Adonis Laurent (Chronicles of a Unicorn 2014) posts transition updates and logs on his YouTube Channel ‘Chronicles of a Unicorn: FTM Fitness’; The Good Men Project illustrates ‘Queer History 101: Transmen’ with a cartoon unicorn (Tobias 2014). As these examples show, engagement of the unicorn symbol in these contexts can range from self-representation as pure/endearing/innocent to unusual/unique/mysterious to queer/ radically different/provocative to mythical and being blessed with special powers. This range of meanings is consistent with the meanings ascribed to unicorns over time. As Roger Caillois shows, even medieval Christian portrayals of unicorns varied considerably: Not everyone is in agreement with the identification of the unicorn with Christ or with the Church or even, on a more modest plane, with using it as a symbol of purity and sweetness. It continues to be seen at the same time as sly, cruel, or to the contrary as timorous and easily duped, sometimes overtly vulnerable and even diabolical. (Caillois & Walker 1982, p. 11) Adoption of this image comes with rhetorical risks. Dori Mooneyham, a trans student at Texas Woman’s University, posts a commentary titled ‘Transgender Unicorn’ on her blog ‘Trans and Godless’ (Mooneyham 2013). The commentary, illustrated by a cartoon drawing of an angry unicorn with a rainbow-coloured mane, takes issue with the ways in which gender variant identities were discussed in several of her university courses. Mooneyham challenges the othering approach evident in readings and discussions that assume cisgenderism as the obvious lens. ‘One thing I know for sure is I am sick and tired of feeling like a mythical creature in my own classroom. […] trans students should not feel like unicorns or ambassadors just because they are members of a smaller demographic’. Unicorns have appeared in mythology of many civilizations, and references to unicorns and 96

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unicorn-like creatures appear in Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, the Bible, and the Talmud, to name a few (Caillois & Walker 1982). In contrast to other mythical animals, the unicorn is in a class of its own; it is neither a composite of human and animal nor an anatomical monster nor an animal composition, but as Caillois argues, ‘an imaginary but nevertheless plausible animal’ (p. 3). Unicorn images establish a motif of uniqueness, of not being ordinary, of being rare, which is upheld, in different interpretations, in transmasculine discourse that conceives of transmen as rebels against gendered systems as much as in discourse that privileges transmen as having special insights or perspectives not available to cismen. In such constructions, abnormality is a desired state of challenging norms. Self-avowed gender warriors, rebels, and outlaws have held the collective imagination, particularly in the areas of literature, art, performance, film, and academe, for many years. Images and words linking transmasculinity with being a ‘warrior’ or ‘outlaw’, within US transmasculine history, are often framed in the context of the work of Feinberg, whose book Transgender Warriors: Making History from Joan of Arc to Dennis Rodman (1997) argued for a global history of transgressive gender expression, across time and cultures, and in reference to the work of Kate Bornstein, who wrote Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us (1994). Feinberg’s political and activist work revolves around trans liberation, which Feinberg placed in the context of global liberation movements for worker’s rights. Feinberg, who used the pronouns ‘ze’ and ‘hir’, has self-described as ‘a revolutionary journalist’ (Feinberg 2014) and a ‘white, working class, secular Jewish, transgender lesbian’ (Wikipedia 2014). Hir work intersects with transmasculine discourse but claims a different positioning. More recent manifestations of the cluster of purposive social change embodied in the lives of transmasculine people appear in related but distinct terminology. Joshua Riverdale (Riverdale 2014), for example, titles his long-standing WordPress blog ‘Gender Outlaw’ although he distances himself of Feinberg’s militant vocabulary (Riverdale 2008). The word ‘outlaw’ can be defined as fugitive from the law, a person excluded from legal protection, and a rebel, non-conformist, or social outlaw (The Free Dictionary) and has been famously applied to Feinberg hirself, as in a 1993 interview and cover story for TransSisters (The Life and Times of a Gender Outlaw: An Interview with Leslie Feinberg 1993). Visual artist Volcano (2005) self-describes as ‘a part time gender terrorist’. It is the notion of ‘rebellion’ that at times carries through current transmasculine discourse. Trans man Sallans appeared on the Logo TV’s Gender Rebel documentary in 2006; the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s trans* guide (University of Nebraska-Lincoln n.d.) announces a transmasculine support group for individuals who ‘identify with a non-traditional masculine sense of self. This may include but is not limited to genderqueer, gender nonconforming, gender rebel, two-spirit and female to male (FTM) individuals’. Transmasculine discourse marked by positively valuing the idea of abnormality sometimes employs the language of being ‘special’. However, the nature of being special varies. For some transmen who have transitioned later in life, after having been socialized 97

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as women, the resulting dual knowledge of two socialization processes renders their perspective special. Justin Adkins (2012a, 27 January), a self-identified radical trans* activist in Massachusetts, posts in The Huffington Post that he is proud of having been raised as a woman: ‘I think that my experience of being perceived as female made me a better person. […] I am more aware of the sexism and inequality that exist in our world than I would be if I had been socialized as a middle class white man’. Sometimes, such approaches tie into a third gender paradigm. In a Tumblr photo and caption, a poster writes that he identifies as ‘a third gender FTM’ because he is ‘FAAB, and transitioning physically and socially to male’ but does not fit ‘into a binary gender assignment’ (GenderQueer Problems 2013). At other times, associational chains tie being special to being uniquely gifted, which Allen (2003, p. 8) describes as ‘gender-gifted’ and ‘leading the way out of suffocating gender roles’. Alvarez, co-founder of WeHappyTrans.Com, says, ‘As an Afro-Latino transman, and a man of faith, I count it a privilege and a unique gift to be able to see all human beings for who they are and not what they are’ (Alvarez 2012). Finally, transmasculine representations of being special can be interpreted as special in a transgressive, transpolitical sense, in which being transmasculine allows the embodiment of a special way of being that supersedes gender. This particular interpretation of being special can be employed to support a traditional gender binary or flexed to push against gender socializations at large, as the two following examples demonstrate. Green (Green 2013, 5 April) writes of his gratitude that his body ‘carries both masculinity and femininity at its core, because at the end of the day, what we should all be striving towards is balance’. Eckhouse (2014), a transman and self-identified psychiatric survivor, writes that the experience of being a feminist and trans offers him ‘some unique perspectives’ which he seeks to ‘share with (and perhaps startle) mainstream society’. ‘Mainstream society will have to accept the idea which trans* people and feminists already understand: We aren’t men and women. We are people’ (Eckhouse 2014). The notion of abnormality is maintained in transmasculine childhood narratives, whether contemporary ones of trans children and young adults or retrospective accounts of adults transitioning later in life, that identify an internal realization of difference as the beginning of an emerging transmasculine awareness. Kylar Broadus starts his narrative in the documentary Still Black with the observation that as a child, he always played Perry Mason. ‘I was a weird kid’, he states. In the same documentary, Nicholas Rashad recounts that his mother never forced him to wear girls’ clothing. ‘I know my mom knew that I was different’, he says. His mother allowed him to be different, to be who he was, he said. A post on GenderFork, a supportive community for the expression of identities across the gender spectrum, states: For me, it was more the sudden, growing realization that the gendered way people saw me–the box they put me into as a female-bodied person–didn’t match how I felt. I was always kind of a weird kid, but I don’t think it ever manifested as “trans-ness” because I didn’t realize that what I felt was outside of the gendered lines that others drew. (When do trans people realize it 2010) 98

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Brill and Pepper (2008, p. 16) quote a parent of a transgender boy, ‘He was a little baby of about 18 months and his first formed sentence was ‘Me a boy mama’. I gave him a bottle because I assumed he said ‘Me baba mama’, but he threw the baba down and repeated himself. I thought it was cute, how he was always confused, but I knew something was up. […] I had a feeling he was different from my older three daughters’. Andrew, a 17-yearold transguy in California, expresses a similar sentiment on his YouTube video: ‘Ever since I was a little kid I knew that there was something different about me’ (FTM: How I Knew I was Trans/Coming Out Story 2014). In addition to perceiving oneself as weird or different, a latent association of trans people at large as being weird or abnormal is often identified by transmen. ‘I didn’t tell them my desires’, Sallans (2013, p. 13) recalls of his childhood interactions with his parents, ‘but they knew I would cross the lines from what they had believed little girls and boys to be like from the time I was age three’. Reid Vanderburgh (2004, pp. 104–105) writes that he had a negative reaction to the idea of being trans because he had accepted the ‘mainstream belief that being trans was weird, sick, and perverted. Whenever I did see someone obviously trans, I felt uneasy and off-balance, as if I was in the presence of someone who was psychotic or not fully human’. Teich links depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation among trans people to internalized attitudes that trans people ‘are freaks, sick, perverted, ungodly, and crazy’ (Teich 2012, p. xv). Bono writes that he thought that trans people were not normal and that he ‘thought it was weird to be transgender’ (2012, p. 5). Whether such ‘difference’ is understood to be difference from the assigned sex or difference from a system of binary gender constructions, transmasculine discourse that does not emphasize an innate sense of difference appears rare. The danger of reifying difference as resulting from fixed identity categories, Yep (2003, p. 24) argues, is that it colours visibility in particular ways: ‘Marking some individuals as outside the norm can work to identify them as ‘freaks, perverts, misfits, and public spectacles’. While this may seem obvious, it is often in such discursive absences and silences that potential for change awaits. The increase of child and young adult literature that encourages gender exploration and slow thematic shifts in online discourse foreshadow the possibility of a larger cultural shift towards nurturing both cross-sex assignment and non-binary gender identities as not innately different. But for now, particularly in mainstream media and majority public discourse, the voices of transmasculine individuals who attest to a traditional childhood awakening of incorrectly having been assigned to the female rather than male gender, are foregrounded. Chris2Jonathan from Amsterdam, who transitioned at age 52, posted an ‘FTM timeline: When I grow up I will be a real boy’ (2012) video narrative on YouTube. The video, which is accompanied by Pink’s ‘F**kin’ Perfect’ song, presents a ‘birth to pre-T’ timeline, which was made on the day before the first testosterone shot. He narrates cutting his hair short at age 3 because it felt right, playing with boys’ toys only, dressing in his father’s clothes, hating dolls, not wanting to wear dresses because he thought they were for girls and expecting to grow into a boy eventually. The video consists of a chronological series of portraits and informal photos, documenting a brief phase between 14 and 18 when Chris 99

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was binding and accentuating facial hair, then portraying increasingly feminine clothes, a heterosexual partnership and the birth of two daughters. A text slide then notes that he left his partner of 23 years in 2008 and obtained his first tattoo as a ‘symbol of freedom’ in 2009, along with identifying as trans and starting his own YouTube channel. The video concludes with pictures of Chris smiling and an upbeat note about finally becoming a boy. Tyler publishes a YouTube video titled ‘FTM: How I Knew I was Trans*’ (2014) which has him talking about the third grade and how he knew that he ‘wasn’t like the other girls’, including his preference for toys such as Pokémon or BeybladesTM (which he characterizes as toys for boys) and telling his mother that he wanted to be a boy. With a happy, relaxed, smiling, laughing video presence, Tyler recalls crying at his eighth grade graduation because his mother forced him to wear a dress. He says he looks back at his childhood now and finds it funny because it is so ‘blatantly obvious’ to him now but neither he nor anyone in his family ‘knew what transgender was’ at the time. Sixteenyear-old Jon, who reportedly became the first transgender teen to appear with his family on British television, said he ‘always identified as one of the lads. I liked playing rough and tumble games. I didn’t like sitting with the girls in the playground’ (Groskop 2009). Eads, subject of the documentary Southern Comfort, looks at pictures of himself as a child with his favourite toys – a bicycle and a bow-and-arrow set. Teich, who created a summer camp program for transgender youth, writes that as a young child, he ‘constantly told people’ that he wanted to be a boy and ‘often blended in as one’ (Teich 2012, p. xiv). An Australian transman’s mother and grandmother published the children’s book The Little Boy: A Special Story about Daddy by Grandma & Mummy (Kelly & Webster 2003), which they illustrated with childhood photos of the father and husband. They co-wrote the book because they wanted to ensure that their children and grandchildren would be aware of their father’s transsexualism early on. The book casts transsexualism as a treatable physical condition and taps into narratives that portray an early self-awareness of ‘being a boy’. This approach reflects the father’s ‘consistent male sense of self ’ dating back to early childhood, Webster writes (Kelly & Webster 2003). These narratives function to construct two sexes as normal, an awareness of not fitting within that paradigm at an early age, and transitioning, to whatever degree, as a way of restoring or reaching normalcy. An Australian couple decided to support their transgender son by posting a ‘birth announcement correction’ 19 years later (Sinnerton 2014). The birth announcement, posted in the 1 December 2014 issue of Australia’s The Courier-Mail, read ‘A retraction – Bogert – In 1995 we announced the arrival of our sprogget, Elizabeth Anne, as a daughter. He informs us that we were mistaken. Oops! Our bad. We would now like to present our wonderful son Kai Bogert. Loving you is the easiest thing in the world. Tidy your room’ (Sinnerton 2014). The parents’ announcement privileges Kai’s place as their child, rather than their son or daughter. The use of the word ‘retraction’, which can imply both a withdrawal of a previous statement and the withdrawal of a previously held belief, reframes gender assignment at birth as a practice that can be flawed and corrected; the use of the exclamation ‘Oops! Our bad’ unapologetically and matter of factly downplays the significance of gender assignment 100

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at birth and again centers Kai’s personhood rather than his gender identity. By placing an ad in the classifieds section, analogous to death notices, marriage and birth announcements, the parents normalize gender transition as a remarkable (i.e. worth notice) but not out-ofthe-ordinary event. This announcement calls attention to the role of bureaucracy, calling the initial sex assignment a mistake and placing the locus of control about this assignment with their child (‘Kai informed us’). Gender assignment here is presented as an administrative process. By using humour, the parents signal that they are not traumatized or experiencing negative emotions about their son’s trans identity; at the same time, by the very act of taking out the ad and publicly stating how easy it is to love their child, they emphasize the need for public support. The announcement, which was filed in Kalinauskas’s ‘Good News’ section on Yahoo! News, was circulated on social media and often praised for its tone of unconditional acceptance and humour. Kalinauskas’s lead sentence was ‘File this under ‘parenting done right’ (Kalinauskas 2014). The Courier-Mail story emphasizes, in its headline, the intent of parental support and legitimizes the characterization of Kai as the couple’s son. The paper ran a story on the birth announcement itself with the inclusion of three photos: the top photo shows Kai with his parents, the second photo shows a smiling Kai in a portrait shot and a third small photo at the bottom of the article shows a much younger Kai in a girl’s dress (Sinnerton 2014). In the story, Kai expresses his happiness at his parents’ decision: ‘I am still me but I am more me than I was a few days ago and feel free’ (Sinnerton 2014). The newspaper story was reposted numerous times throughout the day – with many stories offering a reframing of the event. Twitter and Facebook commentary was highly complimentary of the mother’s statements and the parents’ decision to place the birth announcement correction. In contrast, the New York Daily News (Alba 2014) published the story under the headline: ‘Australian parents publish quirky birth announcement ad after transgender son’s sex change’. Immediately below the lead-in paragraph, a file photo of an individual waving a large rainbow flag places the story in the context of LGBT liberation/human rights discourse. The story states that Kai ‘made his sex change last week’ while later on mentioning that Kai is not on hormone therapy and has not ‘made any big decisions about gender reassignment’. The news copy describes the ad as ‘quirky yet heartwarming;’ the use of the word ‘quirky’ accentuates the ‘unusual’ nature of the classified ad. Freelance writer Amy Hatch’s blog entry (2014) constructs the occurrence of a transmasculine child in her daughter’s second-grade class as a problem that was successfully solved by understanding classroom intervention. She explains that the teachers explained to the class that the child had changed his name and ‘decided he was really a boy’. She notes she was impressed with the class response: ‘The class issued a collective shrug and accepted Scott into the fold. No more girls’ teams, no more using a feminine name to identify a person who looked, spoke, dressed and behaved like a male. Boom! Problem solved’ (Hatch 2014). Stage models of FTM transitions also exercise norming effects, whether in the realm of social scientific understandings of transmale identification, health care providers’ assessments of clients or patients ‘presenting’ as transmasculine, or in the self-assessments of those 101

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assigned to the female sex at birth but questioning the appropriateness of that assignment. Devor’s (1999) foundational interviews with 46 self-identified FTM transsexuals present an early broad-based approach to FTM identity formation, similar to the ways in which earlier scholars had created models of gay and lesbian (e.g. Vivienne Cass’s Homosexual Identity Formation model, Cass 1979) and male-to-female transsexual identity formations. Devor summarizes several early identity formation stage models, including 1980s psychological models proposed by Robert Stoller (1985) and Leslie Martin Lothstein (1983) (both of whom focused on family causation dynamics and resulting psychological disorders) and Jeremy Baumbach and Louisa A. Turner’s (1992) model of FTM transsexual identity formation, which essentially projected three stages of identity development: gender and sex dysphoria, followed by a determination of greater comfort with a male gender and sex identity, and finally gender and sex reassignment. Lothstein reportedly wrote the first scholarly book on FTM transsexuals based on his work at Case Western Reserve University’s Gender Identity Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio (Meyerowitz 2002). In 2004, Devor introduced a 14-stage model of transsexual identity, intended to be applicable to transsexed people at large but building mostly on his work with transsexual and transgender men. He qualifies the introduction of the model by stating that it could not possibly apply to all individuals and that some FTM transsexual people may never experience some of the stages or move through them at different speeds, repeat stages or move through them in different order. He offers his model ‘to provide some insights into a commonly followed path’ and concludes that ‘[i]t is by no means the only path, nor will all who appear to be following it come to the same conclusions’ (p. 44). Since then, the number of GLBTQ identity models in general (e.g. Alessi et al. 2011) and that of transmasculine identity models in particular has been steadily increasing. Nicole Saltzburg (2010) proposes a structural model of transmasculine identity development arguing that transmasculine identity can be conceptualized as a continuum, ranging from essentialist binarism to constructionist non-binarism. Sarah Schulz (2012) suggests, based on interviews with 28 transmasculine identified and 15 genderqueer identified individuals, that the quality of interactions with health care providers affects transmasculine gender identity development. Kellen Bennett (2012) develops a preliminary psychoanalytic model of FTM identity development based on the participation of eight FTM men, which proposes phases of preliminary development, intermediate transitional development, and resolution. Mel Whalen (2013) explores the identity development of deaf female-to-male individuals based on interviews with 17 participants. While scholarly and professional preferences for particular phase or stage models of FTM transitioning vary, and while an increasing amount of academic literature explores FTM identity development, the underlying logic of a predictable, common development of transmasculine consciousness and identity manifests itself in much popular discourse. For example, the ‘Transgender Culture: Transition and Rites of Passage’ website (Transgender Culture n.d.) describes transition as a ‘series of stages’. Although it acknowledges that not every FTM will move through all of these stages, the site states that transition is a ‘period’, that ‘generally contains rites of passage which are common to all transgendered people’. The most important stages, according to this site, are 102

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self-identification, deciding to transition, name change and the decision to use testosterone or obtain surgery. Timelines posted by those who have undergone physical transitions are often built on an implicit model of linear progression, which is articulated in the language of ‘steps’ individuals take towards transition. Many transmasculine vlogs adopt developmental and stage models and express these in the narrative of the video (i.e. a timeline), the selection of images (usually chronological and usually beginning with early childhood images that are highly gendered), the vlog titles, and the music selection. Jamie, a 20-year-old transguy from the United Kingdom, lists the following dates below his profile: ‘Started T 15.1.12 Had top surgery 25.8.12’ (FTM how I knew I was transgender 2014). Common vlog titles include the words ‘timeline’, ‘transition’, ‘comparison’ and ‘before and after’ or provide milestones such as ’10 months on T’ or ‘2 Years Transition’. FTM transition vlogs sometimes discursively mark a turning point by changing the music accompanying the video. Traditional transmasculine narratives often stress a desire to arrive at cisnormativity, the wish to blend in, to become ordinary, to live an undifferentiated life among other men and women. The FTM participants in Devor’s study ‘recalled feeling lonely and out of place among their peers’ (Devor 1999, p. 175). Brill and Pepper (2008, p. 66) quote a 17-year-old transboy on puberty changes who said he increasingly felt that ‘something was wrong’ with him but that he ‘didn’t know what it was. It seemed to get much worse whenever I was in the locker room changing for gym. Somehow being around all those girls made me feel horrible about myself ’. His dread of the locker room led him to avoid all sports activities even though he had been an honor roll athlete. That led to therapy, in which he first explored whether he might be a lesbian. When therapy began to explore his gender, he was ‘completely freaked out. I totally felt like a guy. […] But there was no way I was going to be one of those weird transgender people’. He said he simply had not encountered the notion that being transgender was a ‘normal possibility’ (p. 67). The threat of being ‘one of those weird transgender people’ fits into cultural metanarratives that feed normative portrayals of bodies in general. In an interview with About. Com (Silverberg 2015), trans activist and poet Eli Clare, who has cerebral palsy and identifies as a genderqueer trans man, offers the following thoughts on normative portrayals of bodies: We’re not good at all at imagining bodily experience that’s not our own. Partly I blame the media for this: how they inundate us with images of bodily experience that they define as “normal” but are really unattainable. Images of how bodies should look, sound, smell and move, images that define shape and size, good and bad, health and illness. Traci B. Abbott (2009) writes that she approached teaching transgender literature by placing ‘notions of difference within a larger social schema’ of majority and minority discourses to prevent her students from seeing transpersons ‘as exotic abnormalities separate for their own experiences’ (p. 158). Whittle (Arnot 2007), a prominent British law professor and trans activist, reflects in an interview with The Guardian that a victory for trans bodies could be the springboard for a victory for other body battlegrounds such as weight, ability, or skin colour. 103

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Transnormative Abnormality As trans people become more visible, our stories have narrowed into a neat narrative arc. – Thomas McBee (2012) The traditional transmasculine narrative emerging in these texts, whether they are social scientific models, YouTube videos, counseling literature anecdotes or Tumblr posts, appears characterized by the following structural elements: (1) childhood emergence of trans consciousness, manifested in verbal assurances of being in the wrong body, being ‘the opposite’ gender, and engaging in behaviours that are stereotypically associated with the ‘other’ gender; (2) severe distress, including depression, suicidal ideation and/or attempts, self-abusive behaviour, eventually diagnosed as gender dysphoria; (3) treatment of the condition, including outward self-representation as the ‘other’ gender, hormone therapy, surgery, engagement in gender-conforming activities; and (4) resolution of original distress and dislocation; successful integration into normative society. The impending transition of Glee’s football coach is introduced in such a way in a conversation between Coach Beiste’s principal and a football player. Indeed, this narrative has become so prominent that it has been recognized and labelled as a normative narrative within transmasculine discourse, which has begun to question this meta-narrative. Majority media have begun to integrate this narrative, sometimes in ways that resuscitate the shock value of monstrous abnormality while stressing the special status of transmen bringing to life inner truths. A video story in The Telegraph starts with the sentence ‘Benton Sorensen shocks and inspires fellow students with a presentation about his past as a girl’ (Siciliano 2015). The story consists of a video of Sorensen, a university student who chose to out himself as a transgender man during a presentation on inspiration. He presents photos of himself four years ago prior to transition. ‘While I was growing up I felt this disconnect with my body’, Sorensen says, noting that he experienced depression and anxiety until he ‘got help’ (Siciliano 2015). McBee (2012) writes that while for him, much of this basic FTM narrative holds true, it is only part of the story: ‘I don’t think I was born in the wrong body. I am not ‘finally myself ’. I’ve never spent a day being anyone else. Mine is another story, a real and complex story, and one, by definition, that’s not as easy to tell’. The story McBee unfolds for the readers of Salon is a more complicated story of gender, of starting and returning to a sense of self that is constant. McBee argues that trans people should not try to dumb down, in essence, their stories to easily digestible scripts. Similar challenges to common transmasculine narratives are emerging elsewhere: ‘How can I ever fit into trans masculine circles if I don’t have a deep desire for male pronouns or experience the same giddiness as most normative transguys do when they are gendered male?’ asks a transmasculine leaning genderqueer writer on a blog (Kulak 2013). For some, the entry point to critiques of transnormativity lies in trans, critical, or queer scholarship. For others, it is everyday life experience. Kale, a 24-year-old, self-identified ‘queer, white, genderqueer, sex-toy salesperson extraordinaire’, maintains a 104

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Tumblr site (Mason 2011) titled ‘Ecstasis in Excelsis’. Kale explains transnormativity as a ‘politics of assimilation where in [sic] trans people seek to be assimilated into normativity, rather than destroying the idea all together [sic]’. Transnormative narratives create a twofold ‘standard of normalcy’, according to Kale: First, it creates a sense of who is transgender. (AKA people with class and racial privilege, allegiance to the state, gender normativity, etc.)   Second, it creates a sense of what is the right and only way to be transgender. This is produced through the telling and retelling of what I call a trans-normative narrative. We see this dominant narrative EVERYWHERE. Sometimes it is framed by cis people and sometimes it is framed by us. Kale specifically addresses transmasculinity by suggesting that transnormativity declares one’s trans-ness as suspect if one does not identify as ‘a heterosexual man* with class and racial privilege who is gender normative, slender, neurotypical, able-bodied, etc’. Kale adds, via asterisk, that he specifies man because he believes that ‘transmisogyny plays out in such a way that trans women are almost always considered “suspect”’. He is one of many transidentified individuals who are co-creating an online discourse critical of transnormativity. In a response to Adkins’s (2012a, 27 January) The Huffington Post entry ‘Hot Trans Guys’, reader Azim_S_Khan writes about the paradoxes inherent in transmale discourse: We fight to be recognized as looking normal and so we show transmen who look like the general perception of what a man looks like […] Then we put a big disclaimer and say this isn’t what we all look like. Visually, the perhaps most normative symbolic representation of transmasculinity consists of a transman baring his post-top surgery chest, an image that appears on literally hundreds of transmen’s social media pages, blogs, vlogs and posts. Such iconic imagery emphasizes the physicality of transition and the normative desire to look ‘like other men’. One could argue that heteronormativity still significantly colours contemporary understandings of trans identifications – that is, the notion that a transman ‘by definition’ would be exclusively attracted to women and identify as heterosexual. However, the increased visibility of transmen who identify on a range of sexual orientations has perhaps begun to undermine this heteronormative trend, at least within transmasculine communities and among those who provide support services to transmasculine-identified people. A The New York Times story quotes Eugene Potchen-Webb, who transitioned at age 50 after having lived as a lesbian for many years, on his surprise at the discovery that he was attracted to men post-transition (Bernstein 2015, 6 March). Since increasingly, surveys of transmasculine populations are documenting a plethora of sexual orientations, social scientific portrayals have also shifted. In US, Canadian, and European social scientific surveys, transmasculine-identified people label their sexual orientations as lesbian, gay, bisexual, heterosexual, straight, pansexual, 105

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asexual, other and unknown. When Beiste, the football coach on Glee, announced his decision to transition, his motivation was outlined according to the traditional transnarrative (feeling non-aligned between his body and mind since childhood, increasing distress, diagnosis with gender dysphoria, pursuit of top surgery and testosterone therapy) but he predicted that his attraction to men would not change and that he was expecting to transition into a gay man. As a number of activists and scholars have pointed out, transnormative narratives often also align themselves with hegemonic skin colour privilege and socio-economic class, generating a narrative structure in a white, middle-class setting. Talbot’s (2013, 18 March) feature story on gender transitions in childhood and young adulthood is built around the story of Skylar, an FTM high-school senior near New Haven. Talbot acknowledges that the subject of her story lives in ‘a liberal enclave where nobody seriously challenged his decision to change gender’ and Talbot references the disparate statistics about trans teen bullying, rejection, stigmatization, depression and suicide risk. But, she notes, ‘Skylar’s more seamless story is becoming increasingly common’. The story is illustrated by a closely cropped small portrait shot of Skylar, who appears to be caught in a pensive pose. In one of the perhaps most widely circulated US examples of family support for a young transboy, the parents of a five-year-old were recognized with the Inspiration Award at the Sixth Annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast in San Diego in May 2014. The New York Daily News website posted a story, images and links to You Tube videos on the award presentation. The photos show pictures of Ryland at birth, dressed in pink and pictures of him as a five-year-old in boy clothing; family portraits of smiling parents and siblings with Ryan are also included. The YouTube video published by the family is titled ‘The Whittington Family: Ryland’s Story’ (2014) and has been watched more than 7 million times as of December 2014. The sevenminute video, which is accompanied by Jeff Buckley’s Hallelujah and then One Republic’s Good Life, begins in 2007 with Hillary Whittington’s pregnancy and subsequent birth of the couple’s first child. Assigned to the female sex at birth, Ryland was raised as a girl. Diagnosed as deaf at age one, Ryland learned to speak and hear via cochlear implants and soon articulated that he was a boy, not a girl. The Whittington video features a sequence of family pictures, most of them featuring Ryland. The video narrates their initial acceptance of Ryland as being a tomboy and, then, with his increasing display of shame and assertions of being his younger sister’s brother, their seeking help from psychologists and doctors. At age 5, they facilitated Ryland’s social transition. They characterize Ryland as ‘still healthy, handsome, and extremely happy’, and a six-year-old Ryland stated at the Harvey Milk award ceremony that he was happier than he had ever been in his life. Like the video, the news story does not privilege the discourse of a daughter becoming a son but rather privileges the discourse of a child finding a way to express his gender identity. While the difference is subtle, it reframes the reader’s understanding. Like the video, the story recounts Ryland’s early preference for masculine toys and activities, increasing rejection of all things feminine, and telling his parents that he was a boy. The story continues to characterize his parents’ approach in the following words: ‘Terrified to learn about the high suicide rate associated with transgender people who feel socially unaccepted, they decided to properly embrace 106

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Ryland’s identity’. The theme of this story thus becomes one of parents ‘properly’ embracing their child’s identity – as opposed to ‘losing a daughter/gaining a son’, which is a frequent construction in the discourse of parents of transmasculine children. If transition is primarily viewed as a transition from daughter to son (as opposed, perhaps to a transition from an unhappy individual to a happy one), then the interactions between family members are approached via this lens. Overall, the Whittington family video upholds transnormative narratives. While transnormative narratives appear dominant in mass media discourse on transmasculinity when mass media are defined as those geared at ‘mainstream’ or ‘majority’ audiences, this does not hold true when one peruses the hundreds of online videos and blogs posted by transmen, the vibrant landscape of so-called ‘minority’ media outlets or transmasculine portrayals in the arts. In these media lives what I have previously described as ‘a global transmale youth discourse’ (heinz 2012, p. 339), a discourse characterized by the tension between consumer identities and cultural activism and subject to both commodification and counterhegemonic expression. Younger transmen’s videos, in particular, often do not identify on grounds of ethnicity or national origin and viewers would have to guess at their background. Others explicitly speak to cultural aspects in the context of normativity. While white transmen’s discourse often universalizes what it means ‘to become a man’ by playing off a white, able-bodied, middle-class concept of masculinity, the US discourse of black, Latino or Middle Eastern transmen often speaks to the dynamic of not just becoming ‘a man’ but becoming a ‘black man’, a ‘Middle Eastern man’, or a ‘Latino man’. The Brown Boi Project (2014), a ‘community of masculine of center womyn, men, two-spirit people, transmen’ and allies focuses on shifting gendered balances of power in communities of colour. On its website, the organization notes that its members talk about their responsibilities and privilege as masculine people: ‘We are striving for the day when all brown bois can embody non-oppressive masculinities rooted in honor, community, and empowerment of others’. While English and Anglo cultures loosely provide a cultural net for these articulations of transmasculinity, self-understanding varies significantly between the national cultural contexts of English-speaking Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom as much as it does among co-cultural contexts, meaning that transmasculineidentified people organize themselves (or are organized by external structures) in co-cultural groups in different ways in different locations. An anonymous post on ‘The Art of Transliness’ (2013) portal asks, ‘Any general advice for an asian FTM? I live in North America, but aesthetically, it’s hard to find ‘examples’ about how things might turn out for me. Also, hair cut ideas for Asian trans men (like ones that hide the female hairline)?’ Responses encourage the individual to search YouTube with the keyword ‘Asian FTM’. In August 2014, that search yielded 4,500 results; a search for ‘Black FTM’ yielded 37,600 results; and ‘Latino FTM’ 2,890 results. Australian FTM yielded 8,300 hits, British FTM 3,200 results, and Canadian FTM 2,460 results. While not every one of the videos retrieved in such YouTube searches actually speaks to FTM transitioning, the vast majority do. But challenges to gender normativity are not limited to the real world. In June 2014, the Canadian science fiction television 107

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series Orphan Black (2013) introduced a new transmale character, a clone named Tony (Karlan 2014). Viewers of the show who are part of the BuzzFeed LGBT online community responded with enthusiasm, evidenced in commentary such as ‘TRANS* CLONE. THE NEW CLONE IS TRANS*. I AM LOSING MY FUCKING SHIT. THIS IS PERFECT’, or ‘I’m never gonna get over a trans clone im never gonna get over this I’m gonna be 100 years old on my deathbed like ‘REMEMBER TONY’. BuzzFeed coverage highlighted the episode’s treatment of gender pronoun usage, when one character states ‘She’s a trans clone’ to be corrected by another character with the words ‘He’s trans’ (Karlan 2014). Posts reposted to BuzzFeed LGBT expressed appreciation for the show’s handling of the character: ‘PUNCH ME RIGHT IN THE FACE. […] NOT QUESTIONING TONY. NOT MAKING A BIG DEAL. JUST IMMEDIATELY LIKE YEP. THIS IS MY BROTHER. THE NEW GUY. THE BROCLONE. SUP DUDE. I LOVE THIS DAMN SHOW’. Another viewer commented on the educational aspect of the character by describing watching the episode with a 15-yearold brother: ‘he didn’t once ask the common question ‘if he likes dudes, why didn’t he stay a girl?’ in fact he didn’t act confused at all, by tony’s gender identity, or his sexuality. orphan black has shown our youth representation and taught a teen boy that everyone’s sexuality is different’. Within days, fans of the new character had already created artwork depicting Tony’s physical appearance, or commented on the character’s physical appeal. A Tumblr site called ‘things drawn on orphan black’ (Things Drawn 2014) features a screenshot of Tony adorned by drawings of hearts and the utterances ‘daaaaaa’ and ‘aaaaaaamn’ while online discussions elsewhere were less satisfied with the ‘soulpatch and mullet’ look. However, discussions in other online fora turned out to draw more complicated reactions from cis and trans-normative perspectives. On the forum TVLine, some posters took issue with the inclusion of a transmale character period: I thought this was the worst episode. They have two main gay characters. Now a trans. I guess we will need to have a male to female soon. Every show had gay characters & now every show will soon have trans. How many people are trans out there? And how many of those that are have some other major issues, like regretting the change, uncertainty of their sexual preference, etc. Will we have a transvestite next? Stop trying to make it like all of this is normal by shoving it in our faces (Gelman 2014). This poster opposes the introduction of a male-to-female character because of a perceived effort to normalize trans identities or expressions. Other posters critique the fact that Tony sports a mullet (or has long hair, depending on one’s description of his hairstyle). Lynx2231 writes, ‘I love the show. But they overdid it with Tony. Why did he have long hair??? They could have veeeery easily at least given him short man hair. I found that ridiculous, it killed it for me’ (Gelman 2014). This sentiment was echoed by Lainiejay who says: ‘I also didn’t care much for Tony & was also put off by his long hair. To me it just screamed laziness on the part of the people in the show who create the looks of the various clones. Did they really think just giving him a beard was enough. I think the ‘real’ Tony would have 108

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gone for super-short hair when transitioning’ (Gelman 2014). Such comments exemplify acceptance of transmale characters only when they conform to stereotypical portrayals of masculinity, a move that would be understood to reduce their ‘abnormality’ and thereby increase the viewer’s comfort with the portrayal. A poster named Rose attributes Tony’s hairstyle to costuming challenges and suggests that if the character returns, ‘he needs some work and fine tuning including the speech’ (Gelman 2014). Cate53 posts: ‘Why long hair? Surely a short haircut would have been Tony’s choice?’ (Gelman 2014). While such posts reflect awareness that hair length is a ‘man’s choice’ (i.e. longer hair is not ‘wrong’ in itself), they also reflect the expectation of desires of stereotypical appearance by transmasculine individuals. In contrast, fan art reproduced on BuzzFeed LGBT accentuates Tony’s blend of feminine and masculine characteristics. Many transmen’s transition sites documenting the process are quite detailed and organized to not just chronicle one’s transition but also to provide a model for others contemplating transition. However, if scholarly discourse exists in a symbiotic relationship with spontaneously occurring discourse, then it is worth noting that developmental models on transmasculine identity may need to be reassessed to capture discursive trends that perhaps call into question the assumption of a transnormative transformative model or the notion of a common path towards transmasculinity. Kingston Farady, who discusses the making of the short film Black is Blue (2014) with director Cheryl Dunye (Lopez 2014), says the point of the film was to address life post-transition, to examine how one’s history keeps coming back up. Life post-transition is ‘a brand new road’ and transmen ‘don’t have any maps to follow’, Faraday states (Lopez 2014). Hershel Russell, a Canadian transman, says trans people often get pressured into a simple story of having always known one’s gender identity although reality is more complicated than that. People can realize their gender identities at any point in their life, and desires to socially and/or physically transition vary, he says (Transforming Gender 2015). In tandem with greater internal acceptance of diverging transmasculine manifestations, transmen’s stories about their dialogue with masculinity and manhood deviate from linear trajectories. This occurs in two forms, which serve drastically different political goals. Kailey (2005, p. 43) says he passed through several ‘internal gender identity’ phases, such as ‘real manhood’, ‘redefining manhood’ and ‘incorporating the feminine into manhood’. Such descriptions indicate a cycle of identifications in which an individual does not merely pass through different stages at different times but in which he repositions his sense of gender identity in new or revisited constellations. Abner Brown explains in a YouTube video that he chose to stop hormone replacement therapy after three years on testosterone ‘because life just gave me an opportunity to stop T and it seemed liked the right thing to do’ (Why I stopped T 2011). Brown, who had moved from Toronto to a small town in Alberta, Canada, says he had no medical reasons to stop taking testosterone. On a pragmatic level, Brown says, he chose to stop taking testosterone because the relocation would have meant seeking a new health care provider and potentially educating providers not familiar with transmen’s needs. However, he says, the moment was right for him. Brown, who had top surgery, says he always knew that he would want to stop testosterone at some 109

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point. While he is happy with the masculinization that has occurred due to testosterone, and while he ‘loved the time’ he was on testosterone, he says he was ‘still feeling lost inside’. Going off testosterone was ‘probably the best decision I made. I’m really happy I’m off T. I just feel so much better. I don’t think I would ever go back on it’, he says. A viewer posts that he has watched this video three times and that it pleases him to see posts from guys who stop testosterone. ‘Please keep us updated every 6 months or so. I really want to follow your story. It may be mine one day’, he posts. Another viewer questions whether Brown is ‘really trans’ when he is not willing to travel four hours to obtain hormone treatment. UppercaseCHASE1 says on his YouTube video (why I stopped t. 2011) that he never wanted to be on testosterone for more than a year because he didn’t want to lose more of his hair, he likes his face and his voice as they are, he doesn’t want to lose his gay visibility, he wants to claim his fluid sexuality, and passing is not as important to him anymore as it was in the beginning. Chase identifies as trans and lesbian. ‘Just because I’m a transguy doesn’t mean I can’t refer to myself as a lesbian’, he says. ‘I feel like I feel more comfortable and embrace more of my female socialization than many transguys’. Others have suggested to him that he should identify as genderqueer, but he is not comfortable with that label, he says. These are not stories of transitional regret or detransitioning; these are stories of purposefully using the tools and techniques of transition (testosterone, top surgery, pronoun usage, masculine presentation) to achieve a personal gender space that is most comfortable to the individual. In contrast to video logs of individuals documenting a linear trajectory of transitioning, which often receive a strong majority of positive (thumbs up) reviews, video logs of this nature tend to attract some support but also a vocal contingent of negative comments. Detransition, or retransition, two fairly recent neologisms, describe an individual’s decision to slow down, stop, or reverse social or physical transitions. These phenomena are discussed online in YouTube videos, Tumblr posts, personal blogs, and on Facebook, but they are rarely referenced in transmasculine videos, books, or films. Traditional transmasculine discourse rejects the notion of detransition as unlikely and introduction of the concept as essentially transphobic. Although currently quite a few of video logs and blogs on this entry are thematically archived or retrievable under ‘detransition’ or ‘retransition’, the actual testimony varies sharply and ranges from the perspectives of those who set out to transition and then decided to stop or reverse the process (the ‘mistake’ narrative) to those who were intentionally experimenting to see what the changes would bring (the ‘gender fluidity’ narrative) to those who decided from the start that they would only transition to a certain point (the ‘individualized gender’ narrative). Chase (Cg Jones) titles his video ‘transitional regrets’ and speaks of the pain and stress his transition caused his loved ones, the career implications of his transition, and the fact that he cannot ever be ‘totally male’ (Jones 2012). Even though he was completely miserable living as female for 40 years, he reflects that he ultimately did find a way of coping and likely could have continued on. ‘Regret is a real bitch to live with’, he says’. Towards the end of the video, he concludes that he does not regret his transition most of the time, but he wants others to know that moments of regret are real, likely a regular part of transition, and something one should be prepared for. Such 110

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videos argue for a less idealizing portrayal of transition to better prepare transmen for the consequences of transition. In responses to comments from viewers, he later on stresses that he is ‘a man’ and ‘happier now than I have ever been’. He writes that he made the video to help people understand that ‘regret can be a temporary thing’ and that ‘we shouldn’t be quick to decide the entire endeavour was a mistake’. The video posted by Ashton Colby (FTM: Transition Regret 2014) is a counter response to the articulation of transition regret. Colby, who titles his video ‘Transition Regret’, advises his viewers to watch his entire video before commenting. In the five-minute video, he emphasizes that he has not encountered one second of regret in his transition process. A more fundamental form of transitional regret is reflected in the perspectives of those who believe that transitioning was a mistake – and then again those who find that detransitioning was a mistake. In response to Chase’s video on transitional regret, a viewer named DesertForest29 writes that she stopped and reversed the transition process after nine months on testosterone and a name change. ‘I spent a year plus, trying to go back to when things were normal. I’ve learned that doubting myself caused more damage to my life, than transition ever could. In our hearts, the truth lies, and when that truth is compromised, we suffer more than external circumstances could ever affect us’ (Jones 2012). Mason Brockmeier (Brockmeier 2013) announces on YouTube that his transition is complete and that he took his last testosterone shot. ‘I learned everything I needed to know, and I do not feel the need to continue’. Comments to this video, which had been watched 10,000 times in June 2014, ranged from those taking Mason to task for experimenting with testosterone, ‘trans-trending’, and not actually being transgender to those of transguys supporting Mason’s decision to transition/detransition. One visitor states that he went ‘through the same thing never got that far!’ and another points to the lack of detransitioning videos on YouTube. Months later, Meagan Brockmeier (2014) reports she has been off testosterone for 8 months and is still getting requests for updates. Her hair is not growing in as fast anymore, her acne breakouts are receding, her hips and breasts have come back, and she experienced mood swings after quitting testosterone. She reports she is now engaged to her best friend, a cis guy. Brockmeier notes that she received backlash from the trans community for publicly talking about stopping her transition because that narrative reinforces social reproaches that transgenderism ‘is just a phase’, she said. That argument stopped her from making more videos, she said. However, she decided to come out of virtual hiding after receiving supportive comments. She said it is difficult to explain why she felt the need to stop testosterone, but when she looked in the mirror, she no longer recognized herself. ‘Testosterone was helpful, but I needed to stop it’, she said. Models of transitioning illustrate the human desire for order, a core concept in Burke’s system of thought. According to Burke, humans attempt to get the world to be a particular pattern or form parallel to a perfect one existing in their minds (Fiordo 1978). Burke (1964, p. 176) notes the strategic ambiguity ‘whereby the term ‘Order’ may apply both to the realm of nature in general and to the special realm of human sociopolitical organizations ….This 111

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is a kind of logical pun whereby our ideas of the natural order can become secretly infused by our ideas of the sociopolitical order’. The notion of order permeates transmasculine discourses to differing degrees. In some transmasculine discourse, ‘nature’ is understood to consist of a sexed order in which humans and other mammals are male or female. In other transmasculine discourses, ‘nature’ is understood to consist of a wide variety of biological constellations of sex and gender manifestations in the animal kingdom. In feminist transmasculine discourses, ‘nature’ is understood as patriarchal ideology entrenched in human thinking about and doing of gender. Regardless of which transmasculine discourse one accesses, a notion of order typically emerges. Richard Fiordo suggests (1978, p. 56) that according to Burke’s semiotics, humans see physical, but not formal or symbolic changes: ‘The tree in a front yard changes, but trees are still trees. Thus, the verbal reality of ‘tree’ does not change, thereby fostering illusions of permanence in the other than verbal or the natural world of actual trees’. It is this illusion of permanence that trans criticism can undermine so that the visual change of ‘woman’ into ‘not woman’ or ‘man’ can be allowed to shake the foundations of seeing ‘men’ and ‘women’ rather than allowing transmasculine identity to settle in as ‘not woman, therefore man’ discourse. A wikiHow on ‘how to transition from a female to a male (transgender)’ is available online (wikiHow 2014). The mere existence of a ‘how to’ symbolic presence reveals an emphasis on technicality, directionality, and the mechanics of a material process. Notably, the cartoonish artwork of the wikiHow features exclusively characters with brown skin, from the individual considering transition to the doctors assisting with medical care – a welcome change in a discursive field that is dominated by white (trans)men’s images. The article, which is available in six languages, is characterized as a ‘general guide’ and maintains the stage logic as well as (presumably) bottom surgery as the goal of a ‘complete’ transition. However, it allows for the possibility of desiring to de-transition: You do not have to physically transition completely. It’s perfectly fine to stop at whatever stage you are comfortable with. You can always transition further if you later decide that you want to, but most of the time you can’t go back. The wikiHow method puts forth nine steps: Accept Yourself, Come Out, Pass as a Guy, Find a Therapist, Make a Plan, Start Hormone Therapy (optional), Change Your Name, Undergo Surgery, Have your Gender Changed Legally. By virtue of presenting steps and including referents to ‘the first major part of your transitioning’, ‘try it in phases’ or ‘second in your transition steps’, step logic is invoked. While the text equates being transgender with ‘having gender dysphoria’, it allows for a maximum range of expressions of transmasculine gender identities. It includes the following ‘warning:’ Never let anyone pressure you into taking hormones or having surgery because you’re not ‘really trans’ or a ‘real man’ if you don’t. Many transmen live perfectly happy lives without doing one or both of these things. 112

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Metaphors of ‘birth’, ‘rebirth’ and ‘death’ also organize human thoughts in linear timelines and personal chronologies. Omar Yadielle, who moved from Puerto Rico to Massachusetts to get away from discrimination, states, ‘I have been reborn, officially the man that I am’ (2014 Grant Recipient 2014). Developmental discourse manifests itself in texts, and to some degree in the posting of videos and photos of individuals adjusting their clothes, hairstyles, and poses long after surgical modifications. However, newer transmasculine voices acknowledge the likelihood that their perspectives on their gender identity and their approach to communicating about their gender identity will change over their lifespan. This, too, is a fairly recent articulation of transmasculine consciousness. Articulating that one’s experience and perspective on one’s transition, whether social or physical, is temporary, transitional, and presence-bound poses a fundamental challenge to the logic of stage or phase models. This discursive dynamic is significant because transnormative narratives by and large do not unsettle transmasculine identification as subject to shifts once realized. A discursive byproduct of the prominence of developmental models of transmasculine identity is the emphasis it places on life phases and stages as linked to transition, privileging transition phases over other stages and phases humans encounter, such as aging, and the psychological, social and physiological changes that occur with aging. Davy Knittle likens the process of transitioning to a different natural process: This is a blog that considers the process of transitioning as akin to planting a yard full of perennials, in that it requires its own kind of renewable maintenance, despite the fact that the big gesture of planting happens infrequently. I’m focused mainly on the cycles of thought and wonder about living as transguy who is post-bilateral mastectomy but currently and semi-permanently steering clear of T. This is about living with gender in a way that is beautiful and difficult and imperfect, that presents complicated and confusing situations, and that changes, all the time, in ways that are a little smaller and a little less visible then [sic] they are in the experiences of men in their first several years on T, but that are worth their own kind of record (Knittle 2011). The increasing number of challenges to normative stage, phase, and step models may ultimately prove instrumental in forging a foundation for an adjusted understanding of gendered being, one that emphasizes being at large and that moves away, rhetorically, from a focus on becoming. In the meantime, however, many want to know how to tell if they ‘are’ FTM transgender and what is ‘normal’ for a transman. Is it ‘normal’ to not always feel male even though one is a transman – or does that mean that one is not trans? asks Siean, a 16-year-old from the Middle East on the Yahoo Answers! Forum in June 2012. He writes: Im a Transmale soon will be 17. I never actually felt like a female, and always forget that till my period comes and reminds me, I never feel like I will put any make up or wear dresses in my whole life I started seriously thinking about transition a few months ago when I got into it and knew that its not for (Deviants and bad people) as my stupid 113

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middle east said so Im gonna start T out later when I can travel but I dont always feel like a male, sometimes I feel something in between male and female. (Siean 2012) In subsequent updates to his original post, Siean emphasizes that he ‘always wanted to be a male’ and that he does not like his female body but that he doesn’t always feel male. ‘I want to be I want to be a male, be counted as a male! have male look! muscles! I lived my whole life acting as a male much more than a female! I wonna be a male! Five Yahoo users responded with comments. The top-rated response was provided by a user named Jessie, who posts: ‘There’s no One True Way To Be Trans so don’t stress. You’re trans if you say you’re trans; it’s that simple:) You are male, it’s just that your body didn’t get the message’. The next response by headshot questions Siean’s transsexual identification (‘just because you don’t feel female doesn’t mean you’re a man, and it’s absurd to start testosterone just because of that’.) and advises Siean to explore the reasons for the gender dysphoria s/he may be experiencing. Michele affirms that a transman does not always have to feel male, that only Siean can determine whether s/he is trans, and establishes non-binary identification as normal: ‘Is it normal that I dont feel always as a male eventhought Im a Transman?’ YES it’s normal.   ‘or that means Im not a trans?’ Only you can say.   ‘I feel something in between male and female’ Ask me normal. Sliver’s answer sanctions any gender identification and prioritizes an individual’s happiness and personal needs: ‘You be a female and male if you want. A shemale maybe.... Be whatever you want. If you want to be a male, then so be it. If you wanna stay a female, thats okay too!:) Do whatever makes you happy’. A self-identified intersex respondent notes that Siean could choose to be masculine female and that Siean should not feel forced to transition: ‘It’s all up to you’. To feel different, abnormal, or, more colloquially, weird, requires a basic understanding of normality that does either not account for transmasculine experiences at all or references these as outside of the ordinary. In that sense, the meaning of the prefix ‘trans’ has acquired some slippage, from a primary understanding of a directionality on a plane, moving from Point A (female birth assignment) to Point B (male gender assignment), to a secondary understanding of transcending binary representations altogether in a manifestation of a new understanding of gender and sex. As mentioned earlier, the evolution of the term ‘trans*’ signifies the desire to acknowledge and represent a range of transgender experiences, but of course the adoption of any label immediately functions as the introduction of a new identity category. The About.com LGBT Teens site offers a quiz (Quiz ‘Am I Transgender’ 2015) that guides visitors through a series of five self-reflective questions. About.com LGBT Teens states that a common teen question is how one can tell if one is transgender: ‘[w]hile there is no one test that can conclusively answer that, asking yourself some important questions can be a 114

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good way to help figure things out’. When one selects an answer, a dialog box pops up with a response. For example, Question 3 asks, ‘If you are a girl with a male body, do you wish it was female? If you are a guy with a female body, do you wish it was male?’ The answers (and pop-up box responses) are as follows: (1) No (Many, but not all transgender teens wish they had a different body); (2) Yes (no dialogue response); and (3) I don’t know (It can take a long time to figure out a transgender identity. It is no problem if you are unsure of some questions!). This question is built on many assumptions. ‘If you are a guy’ presumes that the respondent has an a priori existence that is either experienced as ‘guy’ or ‘girl’. There are no other options provided; the question also does not allow for not answering the question on the grounds of ‘not being’ something. Second, the question presumes a mind/body split, using essentially the wrong body narrative (you ‘are’ can only be interpreted to refer to one’s mind; ‘body’ can only be inferred to speak to a physicality removed from one’s mind). Third, wishing for a different body is considered a deciding criterion. The fifth question, however, reveals different possibilities. It asks teens to respond with their feelings about the labels male and female and provides four possible answers: (1) Great. I just wish people would start addressing me by the correct one; (2) I don’t think either applies to me; (3) I’m cool with how they apply to me; and finally ‘I wish we didn’t have such limited labels. I don’t feel like either fits me’. Answers to all selections other than (3) yield the response that the teen might be transgender. In personal communication, a site editor noted that gender constructs embedded in the quiz quickly outdated themselves and that the site is undergoing an update. Critiques of cisnormativity do not necessarily engage critiques of gender normativity. Essentially, by arguing that a transguy is just like any other guy, ‘guyness’ is not questioned; its use is simply broadened to include a larger number of ‘guys’. Torres, the transmasculine teen on the popular Canadian teen drama series Degrassi: The Next Generation, says: ‘I’m a guy, like 100 percent dude. But I was born in a girl’s body’. Eli Wadley (2004, p. 99) contributes: I started off my life as a boy at a slight disadvantage. […] You see, despite being a little boy from the very start destined to become the handsome and talented man I am today, I happened to have had the unexpected surprise of being born a girl. In contrast, by arguing that a transguy is not like any other (hence, cis) guy, but still a guy, the nature of ‘guyness’ is questioned and either split into cis-guy and trans-guy ‘guyness’ or constructed to be indefinitely divisible into idiosyncratic manifestations of ‘guyness’ which may include cisguys, transguys or other guys. That line of argumentation seeks to alter conceptualization of ‘guyness’ but maintains and reifies (by affirming the value of its existence) its position as a viable social concept. To pursue that line of thought would mean to adhere to normativity (of guyness) as an ideal, and to elevate marginalized manifestations of gender normality to the rightful, equitable level of other gender normalities. Discourses that challenge the frame of cisnormativity therefore are further fragmented. Some 115

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construct frames of transnormativity, which essentially seeks to place transnormativity alongside cisnormativity; this balancing act seeks to challenge the privileged positioning of cisnormativity and engages a discourse of equity. Drake addresses norming in the context of relational scripts in his multimedia show ‘Transgender Seeking…’ (Transgender Seeking: Sunny Drake 2013) and describes his artistic style as a style ‘which he has been evolving since he was a teenage girl’. During a July 2014 performance in Victoria, British Columbia, Drake (2014), who had announced his intent to undergo top surgery in October 2014, ran his hands over his body, from his ‘boy tits’ to his ‘manhole’ and asked why his gay male date could not see his body – as is – as male. While this performative moment could be understood, analysed, and intellectually archived as one in a long line of genderqueer cultural performances, it can also be seen as evidence of a shift in articulating transmasculinity, in projecting a transmasculine body as an a priori embodiment of masculinity. The photo series Fae: Gender Redesigner by Triburgo (Triburgo 2013) documents the female-to-male transition of fAe Gibson, in particular, the decision to undergo a double mastectomy. Triburgo’s artist statement contends that transgender presence is ‘sporadic but increasing’ in American consciousness and that his photo series ‘contributes to the tacit but ever-present dialogue regarding gender constructs and the limits of a binary gender system’. An approach that maintains the ‘difference’ of transnormativity portrays it as a deliberate challenge to cisnormativity – however, this approach only works if transnormativity has a hegemonic normativity to play off against. Transmasculine identification which reflects this rhetorical goal often equates trans identification with transgressive politics. In this fashion, Drake takes issue with Facebook’s, albeit customized, gender identification, questioning the very act of having one’s identity vetted by ‘Facebook’s gender decision making board’. He continues: And what exactly, do the gender gatekeepers fear about Pansies and Stardust Unicorns? […] [c]hildren,, gender is very very very serious because otherwise white men couldn’t be the bosses of the world […] I’m not saying we should abolish words or concepts like womanhood or manhood – these are beautiful things (well, people, really). It’s about politely asking these identities to stop blocking the telescope for a minute, so that we may peek through and be awestruck by the galaxy that is gender’. For others, however, it is important to engage in intentional normalization of the transmasculine experience to achieve equality and combat discrimination rooted in ignorance and fear of the unknown. Green offers the following context in his foreword to Teich’s Transgender 101: A Simple Guide to a Complex Issue (2012, p. ix): Many transgender people tell their stories, or use their own feelings and descriptions of their connections to others as a vehicle through which to ‘normalize’ their experience, to make an idea of ‘trans-ness’ comprehensible to people who have no idea what it might feel like. […] in the case of transpeople, the primary emotion most writers seek to evoke 116

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is empathy – the sense of shared experience. This book is not that kind of book. This book is an invocation to empathy through reason, not emotion. The Normal Abnormal For some, abnormality is the starting point, the underlying biological or psychological premise of transmasculine identification; for some, it is a socio-political reality, a political strategy or an aspiration; for some, it is the result of converging identities, and for others, it is a faulty cultural assumption, a misconception about human being that needs to be checked and corrected. Given these conflicting discursive tendencies, it is important to be sensitive to the nuances among transmasculine representations and self-presentations. As this chapter has shown, transmasculine discourse continues to carry the rhetorical weight of difference and abnormality and of challenging cisnormative thinking. Medical and social scientific research on transmasculine experiences often rests on the assumption of difference, whether constructed as a deviation from cismale experiences, a gender variant or gender non-conforming minority experience, a political interrogation of gender policing, or a medical condition marked by comorbidities. More recent discourses challenge what has been identified and labelled as a cisnormative frame – the notion that trans identifications are weird, different, abnormal or deviant. However, the act of critiquing cisnormativity for its emphasis on constructing transmasculinity as abnormal inevitably presents the critic with a limited set of alternatives: one could argue that transmasculinity is as normal and regular as cismasculinity, cisfemininity, or transfemininity; one could argue that transmasculine identifications should be understood as identical to cismasculine identification where ‘masculinity’ is concerned, or one could argue that cisnormativity is based on a myopic perspective of gender reality and should be dismantled, in its entirety, along with other gender-normative frameworks. These rhetorical deviations reach into traditional transmale and global transmale youth discourse. Traditional transmale discourse has established itself as a pervasive, increasingly visible and increasingly palatable transmasculine narrative. At the same time, a global transmale youth discourse calls attention to the blind spots of meta-narratives, questions their rhetorical dominance, and debates the political and ideological goals of self-representation at the same time as it encourages consumption and commodification of transmasculine experiences. Narratives of self-actualization play a significant role in transmasculine discourse, which will be explored in detail in the next chapter.

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along the way i expected age to arrive with clarity a smartly packed suitcase for the remainder of the trip instead i find myself standing at the luggage carousel waiting to recognize what’s mine from the selection of travel weary memories oddly tagged bags claim me i expected age to arrive with precision a timetable of passages neatly divided into discrete sections instead i find myself simultaneously held & propelled by seasonal imprints rotating out of sequence in the 30-second morning grab for gloves, images tumble into my closet drawer my grandmother’s back as she plows forward in the chilly autumn wet, her crumpled handkerchief tugging at her coat pocket my mother’s breath shaping winter air as she walks the horses to pasture my little brother’s hand, cold and pink from the snow, thawing in mine or are those my three-year-old son’s frost-teased cheeks I recall his hands now so much larger than mine crisp and clear for now i can almost taste a time at which a bite in the morning air and a flurry or two will blend those images, scents and smells into one visceral recognition: winter i wonder which gender will dress my season i expected age to arrive with rationality a greasy, dog-eared manual of tested decision-making criteria instead i find myself intuitively weaving in and out of places existing only in a fragile mass of neurons one wonders about winters lost in synaptic transmissions, winters whose stage productions can no longer be corroborated, forty-six winters competing for sensory primacy in a setting as fragile as fresh snow [Western States Communication Association Conference, Selected Spotlight Performance, Performance Studies Interest Group, Reno, NV, 17 February 2013] 118

Chapter 3 Finding One’s (Male) Self

T

  he transmasculine protagonist is perhaps most commonly portrayed, in transmasculine discourse as well as increasingly in popular media, as an individual who has successfully reached a higher stage of self-actualization. The long-established trope of the trans journey continues to manifest itself in contemporary discourse as associational clusters link selfactualization as the ultimate human life goal to one’s life journey, and successful navigation of one’s life journey to spiritual and psychological well-being. This chapter starts with the documentation of transmasculine presence and experience, discusses the pursuit of the trans journey in present-day transmasculine testimonies and explores cultural constructions of the search for self and identity that tap into larger cultural constructions of authenticity, knowing spiritual and inner truths, and shame and pride. The Truly Existing Man Many transmen become ‘invisible’ at a certain point in their transition, and thus fly under the radar. As such, most people would never know that they had interacted with a transman or not. –T_Bodies Calendar Project (2010), Vancouver

It was a transwoman who was among the first to launch a reputed online presence of transmasculine lives, to ‘show’ what kinds of transmen exist. In 2001, Lynn Conway, an ‘influential computer scientist and engineer’ (21 Transgender People 2014) as well as a post-op transsexual woman, posted a website containing stories and photos of successful transsexual women, along with resource links (Conway 2014a). The site proved very popular and continues to attract a steadily increasing following today. As a result, Conway received queries about a similar page for transmen. Although ‘at first hesitant’ because she does not share the transmale experience, Conway (2014b) agreed and created an equally popular site on successful transmen, which is available in English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, German, French, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Magyar, Dutch, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian and Swedish, among other languages. In her introduction, she acknowledges that the number of FTMs is much larger than previously thought. Her opening passage reflects a traditional view of the female-to-male transition experience:

Entering Transmasculinity

These men quietly struggle with many difficult medical, physical, family, social, legal, employment and relationship issues in order to transition and build their new lives. After those transitional difficulties, most transmen live in ‘stealth’ and leave their pasts behind. They ‘hide in plain sight’ in order to avoid social stigmatization and get on with their new lives. Their personal successes insure that they assimilate and blend right into society. As a result they are then almost totally ‘invisible’ as having had transsexual pasts. However, in the next paragraph, Conway’s narrative shifts, reflecting that visibility of transmen has much increased in recent years ‘as a number of transmen have begun creating websites to tell their stories and help others’. She offers links to some of the more popular transmen’s online sites, noting the importance of the ‘hope, encouragement and role models’ that transmen’s stories can provide. Her page, which has been visited more than 1 million times, offers links to the websites of FTM International, The Transitional Male, Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide, FTM Passing Tips, FTM Alliance, FTM Network UK and FtM Resources & Links. The ‘TransMen’s Photo Gallery’ provides 50 profile photos of transmen and 11 profile photos of transmen who have died (including some whose retroactive labelling as ‘FtM’ is disputed since they did not identify as such during their lifetimes). The 50 profiles consist of transmen from Australia, Canada, Chile, Cuba, Germany, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. Their professions are diverse, including professor, research scientist, writer, educator, activist, therapist, pole vaulting coach, rabbi, minister, musician, film producer, attorney, singer/songwriter, actor/ comedian, journalist, web designer, steel worker and steel safety expert, advocate, speed boat racer, entrepreneur, consultant, physician’s associate, leather craftsman, student, police officer and photographer. While several of the links no longer work, there is sufficient information on the page to allow someone to find the individual elsewhere online. Conway’s site is historically relevant in the development of transmasculine discourse, in an embodied fashion, in that it was created by a transsexual woman, and of cultural significance, in that it sought to document sheer existence, success and diversity of transmen. Much has changed since Conway’s site was launched, but it was instrumental in establishing transmasculine visibility online. According to Joanne Meyerowitz (2002, p. 274), ‘FTMs emerged from the shadows of transsexuality’ in the 1970s when activists such as Patton spoke to medical professionals and students. Patton started the Renaissance Newsletter and co-founded an advocacy and community education programme of the same name in Santa Ana, California. He also served as the first and only transsexual member of the Harry Benjamin International Gender Dysphoria Association board. In Canada, Raj, a transsexual man and activist, started the Foundation for the Advancement of Canadian Transsexuals in 1978 and began publishing its newsletter, Gender Review: A FACTual Journal. In the early 1980s, Raj decided to focus his energy entirely on transmen’s concerns and founded the Metamorphosis Medical Research Foundation and Metamorphosis Magazine. FTM activists and educators in Canada, New York and San Francisco were in frequent contact at that time. Chase (2013, p. 305) summarizes the emergence of an energetic transgender 122

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movement in San Francisco in the 1990s, and the new political visibility of transmasculine experiences, in the following passage: Female-to-male [FTM] issues had achieved a new level of visibility due in large part to efforts made by Lou Sullivan, a gay FTM activist who had died an untimely death from HIV-related illnesses in 1991. And in the wake of her underground best-selling novel, Stone Butch Blues, Leslie Feinberg’s manifesto Transgender Liberation: A Movement Whose Time Has Come was finding a substantial audience, linking transgender social justice to a broader progressive political agenda for the first time. Today, documented transmasculine experience is easily accessible to those with uncensored access to the Internet, countering the degree of social isolation once considered ubiquitous in transmasculine lives and likely fostering greater self-esteem (Drentea et al. 2008). The Wikipedia page on ‘Transman’ lists 37 ‘notable transmen’ in February 2015. Ten of the 37 are deceased and include individuals who may or may not have identified as transmen. These ten are Willmer ‘Little Ax’ Broadnax, Dillon, Eads, Reed Erickson, Garland, Alexander John Goodrum, Alan Hart, Sullivan, Brandon Teena, and Tipton. Of the 37, sixteen are artists, including singers, songwriters, film-makers, playwrights, photographers, poets and writers; ten are identified as activists/educators. All of these transmen are from Argentina, Australia, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom or the United States. While coverage of transmasculine-identified people has grown, and while increasingly such coverage is generated by transmasculine-identified writers, artists and nonprofessional bloggers in the forms of public video or blog diaries, more research and more public awareness of daily trans lives is still needed (Harcourt 2006). As David Valentine (2007) argues in Imagining Transgender, the notion of ‘transgender’ is predominantly operationalized as a white, middleclass, normative category that excludes people of colour, lower or working-class people, or those living in non-normative genders. Earlier transmasculine discourse focused on supporting the emergence of one’s true male-oriented self; more recent discourse questions the degree of self-orientation fostered in that process and brings to attention the necessity of attending to others’ emotional and communicative needs related to an individual’s trans identification – notably the needs of parents, siblings, children and significant others. Whittle (2000, p. 2) suggests that increased visibility does not directly translate to increased understanding: […] many people still do not know what it means when their co-worker says ‘I’m transsexual and I’m starting gender reassignment treatment’. Even less is understood when a teenage daughter tells her parents that she is going to have hormone treatment in order to live her life as the gay man she feels she is. Transmasculine discourse increasingly takes issue with victimizing characterizations of trans lives and calls for visibility of positive transmen’s stories – stories of familial acceptance, 123

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successful romantic relationships, social and medical support, professional success and personal happiness. Transmasculine participants in a needs assessment on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, expressed high levels of self-esteem and confidence and critiqued victimizing portrayals in the media and in scholarship (heinz & MacFarlane 2013). The need to counter the negative transition narrative is reflected in numerous transmasculine publication outlets, interviews and autobiographical material as well as the creation of a counter-holiday, the International Day of Transgender Visibility, celebrated on March 31. Launched in 2009 in the United States, the day was created specifically to allow for nonvictimizing celebrations of transgender lives. Typically, such discourse does not dismiss the existence of negative transition experiences but seeks to frame these experiences as not representative of the transmale population at large, at times employing apologetic tones for testifying to mostly positive experiences. Such transmasculine discourse bears a significant rhetorical burden: it needs to hammer out a space for positive, confident transmasculine manifestations without undermining the social justice agenda seeking to improve the conditions of those marked by intersectionalities of poverty, skin colour, ethnicity, ability status, immigration status or religion – and without undermining the legitimacy of those transmen for whom full physical transition is literally of vital significance. In his online post ‘No Hard Feelings’ transman Chevalier (2010) argues that he was born neurologically wired as a man, and that his desire to have a penis is part of that wiring. He sees perspectives such as his being marginalized and silenced: Another way in which I sometimes hear trans masculine superiority get expressed is genital superiority. It seems to me like every single article in a publication that doesn’t primarily have a trans audience quotes some transguy – almost invariably, one under the age of 25 – saying how much they don’t want a penis, how happy they are with the set of genitalia they were born with. While he does not question the validity of these self-reported assessments, he questions the dominance of this discourse and suggests the idea that someone who was assigned female at birth wants a penis still is threatening to majority discourses. It is relevant to observe that for Chevalier, it is the discourse that dismisses a desire for physical transformation that has a dominant position. Transmen who are frustrated at their inability to have sex in the way their brain expects them to, transmen who cannot afford surgery, transmen who wish that more research would be dedicated to bottom surgeries are no longer heard in the media, Chevalier suggests. Acknowledging his physical reality should not be incorrectly translated into a default embrace of traditional, oppressive gender roles, he notes, ‘there are myriad ways in which oppressive, gender-based social structures  do  limit my life, but the mental map inside my brain […] isn’t one of those’. He moves on to challenge transpolitically correct discourses that frame satisfaction with one’s female genitalia as an ideal, more evolved form of masculinity: ‘To suggest we’re above that, that we’re some sort of master race of super-masculinity, is insulting to everyone involved in the comparison’. 124

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In response to a Gay Star News story (Patel 2013) on murder and violence against trans people, Svoe posts: Still a very small percentage and considering my country wasn’t listed here I think I’m just fine. Nobody has ever given me trouble over my FTM status and if they did it usually results in charges pressed. I’ve taken down one business for discrimination. I’ll gladly put someone behind bars or in a grave for attempting to intimidate me. Men aren’t easily scared;) certainly not this one. Like I always say ‘most men are just jealous of Transmen. We get better women, better jobs, and we can even have the biggest dick on the block in seconds for the right price! Must suck being an average cismale. Transmale privilege is epic’. Current transmasculine discourse uneasily balances the tension between bringing to life non-essentializing, non-victimizing narratives and fighting the ‘continued erasure of multiply minoritized trans bodies’ (Haritaworn 2012, p. 31). This is where fashion advice to avoid horizontal stripes meets the narrative of a homeless FTM teen engaged in sex work for survival; this is where advocacy against systemic gender-based violence encounters tips for transguys’ father’s day presents. Jin Haritaworn (2012, p. 12) argues that ‘we need to depart from an essentialist notion of trans suffering, which cannot account for race, class and other power divisions between trans people, and sometimes perpetuates rather than contests the problems associated with assimiliationism’. The sheer number of visible transmasculine selves has proliferated in recent years and allowed more diverse manifestations of transmasculinity to rise to consciousness. Triburgo’s photography exhibit Transportraits is one such manifestation. The Huffington Post site includes a link to a sixminute Huff Post Live video, in which Ahmed Shihab-Eldin interviews Triburgo and one of his subjects, trans author and educator Vanderburgh. In this interview, Triburgo emphasizes that he let his subjects come to him rather than inviting specific individuals to participate. He sees gender identity as ‘larger than any one individual story’ and explains part of his motivation in creating the series of portraits as an effort to increase visual representations of transgender men, which he sees as lacking in the art world and popular culture. Shihab-Eldin positively comments on Triburgo’s ‘heroic stance’ and asks him to elaborate on this artistic perspective, linking it to discrimination against transgender people. Triburgo affirms that he wanted to create a series of portraits that reflects ‘a sense of pride’ and that puts the viewer in the position of looking up at the person portrayed. Vanderburgh says he was interested in participating in the art project because he perceives transmen to be largely invisible, ‘even among trans people’. Recent anthologies of transmasculine writing seek to bring to popular attention the vast range of transmasculine experiences. A review of the recently released anthology Manning Up: Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family, and Themselves (Keig & Kellaway 2014) summarizes the 29 stories included in the following words: Each of the writers approaches masculinity from a different perspective. Some grew up doing ‘boy’ activities, others were pushed along traditionally female paths. Some are open 125

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and out, others choose to live with minimal disclosure of the lives they formerly led. Some transitioned early in life, with the full support of their families. One man was 54. These men are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, none of the above, gay, straight, poly, single, married. They are as varied as men anywhere. (Vincent 2014a, 2 February) The review starts by stating that the book ‘is not the first anthology of trans* men’s stories, but it may be the most diverse and wide-ranging’ (Vincent 2014a, 2 February). In the title essay, C. Michael Woodward writes by seeking my truth, I’ve gathered that manning up is not so much about how I’m perceived by others, but how I perceive myself and manifest that self in the world […] Manning up is about having integrity and living with intention. Ziegler endorses the book by commending it for its subtle subversity in including stories of familial acceptance, something that Ziegler suggests is not often acknowledged in trans discourse. On an international level, documenting transmasculine lives and letting them rise to social visibility remains a priority in nation states or cultural contexts in which existence or claims to legitimacy, social and legal recognition are denied or contested and in which violence against trans people is tolerated. C. Tahaoğlu (2014) introduces biographical narratives of four Turkish transmen in an article aimed at documenting Turkish FTM presence. According to the article, a closed Facebook group began with a membership of 30 people and had reached more than 200 members in 2014, with steadily increasing interest. A website for Turkish transmen has been online for more than a year as of 2014. The article quotes the Facebook group’s communication coordinator on the common experience of isolation: ‘There is a feeling of “I think I am the only person like this in the world” that every trans man goes through; it’s a terrible loneliness, one that cannot be understood without living through it’. The four biographical narratives include that of a 37-year-old who lives with his partner in a village in Ankara and openly lives as a transman in activist circles but presents as a cisman to the public. ‘The main problem is the perception of transmen as more female than male. Being a transman is not something that is blessed in the male world’, he said. Another transman, who is on hormones and at the beginning of his transition, notes that despite the privilege typically bestowed on men over women in Turkish society, transmen there encounter a specific set of challenges: […] a man who has not undergone phalloplasty, hormone therapy and has not grown facial hair is viewed as a ‘deficient man’, and even as ‘a masculine woman’ by some […] Particularly during transition, transmen are not recognized as men by men and are therefore excluded from the category and, since they are also excluded from women, they are in a kind of social purgatory. 126

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Berk, the group’s communication coordinator, is out to everyone and began his transition in 2008. Of course, FTM transition is not blessed. First of all, it is shameful in this country to not (be able) to fit the stereotypical gender roles. To put it crudely, you are ‘a lesser man’, ‘a parvenu, an upstart’ as it were. You encounter two basic attitudes: ‘My man, look! There are certain rules to being a man that you need to learn!’ or ‘you are a man, therefore you should know’, or even, ‘let’s size you up to see how much of a man you are’ attitude. What is worse is that both women and men do this. Nevertheless, transmasculine individuals are emerging into visibility worldwide. In 2014, Aiza Seguerra, a singer and child actor in the Philippines, identified as transgender on the popular talk show Aquino & Abunda Tonight, ‘Finally I discovered … I’m not a lesbian’, he said. ‘It answered a lot of questions’. In the interview, which was conducted in English and Tagalog, Seguerra opened up about his personal life and his plans to come to the United States with his fiancé to get married (Miller 2014). In 2013, Matías, a transgender man in Chile, made headlines by giving birth despite having legally transitioned to male documentation (Curiel 2013). When 23-year-old Christopher Khor became Singapore’s first transman to seek legal recognition of this transition in 2014, the story went viral. First published in Singapore’s Sunday Times in December 2014, the story (Koh 2015) talked about Khor obtaining top surgery in Bangkok. The story was picked up by other Singaporean media and went viral from there. Khor said personal responses to his coming out were mostly ‘neutral-supportive’, but he was positively surprised by the transmasculine community building effect the coverage of his transition brought about. ‘Transmen in Singapore are largely invisible and isolated’, he said. Other transguys have been contacting him sharing that they thought they were ‘the only one’, an experience he could relate to because he did not know that ‘transmen was a thing. Sure, I knew about transwomen and all but I felt like a freak for a long time because I didn’t know it worked in reverse’. Khor now plans to build a local support group and is working on the first documentary on Singaporean transmen, titled ‘Some Reassembly Required’. Ugandan trans activist Pepe Julian Onziema has been recognized internationally as the recipient of the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative; Kritipat ‘Jimmy’ Chotidhanitsakul appears on Thai television as Thailand’s ‘hottest transsexual man’ (Coconuts Bangkok 2013), and in New Zealand Orchard is campaigning to participate in Movember (Leach 2012). In China’s Shandong province, Yaoyao, who runs a photo studio for lesbians, documented an FTM transition for the documentary film Brothers, which was first screened in 2013 at The Netherlands Embassy in Beijing, in connection with the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute, Queer Comrades, and other partners. In December 2014, Li Yinhe, recently retired from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, blogged that her partner of 17 years, Zhang Hongxia, is a transgender man. Li wrote that she sees herself as a heterosexual woman who treats her partner ‘as a man’ (Jacobs 2015). According to an article in the International New  York Times, Li encountered mostly positive responses to 127

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her disclosure, finding ordinary people accepting and open. Zhang said Li’s sociological training helped him realize that he is transgender, ‘a concept that was then even alien to most Chinese gay men and lesbians’ (Jacobs 2015). Zhang, a former Beijing taxi driver, identified as a man and was drawn to women early on; his mother did not pressure him to marry. Today, his mother lives ‘across the hall from the couple, preparing meals and helping to take care of their 14-year-old son, who is developmentally disabled’ (Jacobs 2015). These are just a few examples, of course, but the increasing visibility of transmasculine individuals in nations across the globe has been documented by others. A new FTM documentary in the works (I am the T) will tell the stories of transmen in Australia, Canada, Lesotho, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Norway and the Philippines. The documentary will be directed by Tony Zosherafatain, who is half-Greek and half-Iranian and interested in cross-cultural exchanges and connections (Vincent 2014b, 11 September). In a promotional trailer for the planned ‘inspirational documentary’, the narrator states that ‘some men are born into their bodies’ while ‘transmen have to fight for one’ (Vincent 2014b, 11 September). The Travelling Man The insights I’ve gained through this journey are more than I can articulate but the greatest lesson I’ve learned is how integral the suffering was to my journey. –Lex Beatty (Beatty 2014) The trope of the trans journey has been most thoroughly both uncritically employed and critically examined; Prosser’s (1998, p. 5) rich examination of transsexual body narratives as ‘a passage through space, a journey from one location to another’ remains one of the most sophisticated analyses of this particular trope and continues to create ripples in transgender scholarship. In this vein, Aren Aizura is one of many to point to contemporary American transculture as framing gender transition as a journey and maintaining the relevance of travel narratives in this context (Aizura 2011). Today, the trans journey is often considered a cliché within transmasculine discourse but nevertheless enjoys much prominence. The process, the journey, migration, the transition and transformation emerge as key symbolic representations of such self-actualization. Indeed, these symbols are so embedded in transmasculine discourse that their primacy is often taken for granted and not subject to interrogation. Nael Bhanji, an East Indian/Arab immigrant in Canada who has spent most of his life in Kenya, rejects the imperialist consequences of predominantly spatial and temporal metaphors in transgender and transsexual discourse and calls for a phenomenological understanding ‘that firmly situates narratives of (dis)embodied dissonance in specific historical and political frameworks’ (2012, p. 158). Following Sara Ahmed in her desire to interrupt whiteness narratives, Bhanji writes that ‘[t]he journey home for the transsexual may come at the expense of a recognition that others are permanently dislocated from home – that they occupy the inhospitable territories in between . […] the uninhabitable 128

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‘geographies of ambiguity’ (p. 170). While some transmasculine writers point to the lack of historical and political reflexivity in the application of spatial and temporal metaphors, many have applied the metaphor of the transmasculine journey in the past two decades; transmasculine blogs and video logs commonly employ the metaphor of a journey, as reflected in titles such as ‘Journey to Me: My FTM Transition’ (Tracy 2011), ‘My FTM Journey: This is my transition journey from the very beginning’ (My FTM Journey 2013) or ‘FTM Transgender Journey’ (2014). The Youth and Gender Media Project (The Youth & Gender Media Project 2014) produced a series of short films on the ‘Family Journey’ of raising gender-nonconforming children, which casts the journey’s starting point as denial, routes it to acceptance and then finally arrives at celebration. An August 2014 search on YouTube with the keywords ‘FTM journey’ yields more than 17,000 hits, offering video logs with titles such as ‘Mapping My Journey’, ‘Journey to Me’, ‘My Journey so Far’, ‘Life’s Journey and FTM Transition’, ‘FTM  Journey in Pictures’, ‘Journey of Acceptance’ and ‘Journey to Myself ’, ‘Journey to Becoming a Man’. The Winnipeg Free Press carries a headline about the conference of the Canadian Professional Association for Transgender Health that states, ‘For Winnipeg’s transgender community, journey to a new identity is life-affirming’. Howley, featured in National Geographic Channel’s 2012 film American Transgender, offers the following words of advice to people questioning their gender identity in an interview with Walsh (Walsh 2012): ‘love yourself and remember that life and your transition are about the journey, not the destination’. Kyle, 20, is studying to become a nurse in the United Kingdom. He labels himself as ‘ftm pre-everything’ and has started a transition log called ‘Transman and the journey to mankind’ (Transman and the journey n.d.). In his blog ‘Journey Home: My Life as a Transgender Man’, Justin Cascio (2012, 18 May) reports on changes he has experienced since he started testosterone 12 years ago in the following words: Clearly, sex and gender aren’t all reducible to hormones, or there wouldn’t even be people like me, born one way and yet inexplicably driven to be the other way. Yet they are not at all inconsequential to the moods or circumstances we find ourselves in. On my way, what I call my transition, the vehicle for most of my journey was testosterone. Writer and editor Kellaway reflects on the trans* narrative: We’re encouraged to see our journey toward recognizing our gender as a story with an articulable pattern. The truth is, though, that everyone’s gender is a story; it’s just that trans folks are more likely to be – perhaps I could say ‘are given the gift of having to be’ – aware of it. (Kellaway 2014, 5 March) Abbott (2009) and Jody Norton (2000) both reach a similar conclusion in teaching transgender literature, observing that class discussions at times conceptualize trans* journeys as metaphors of any human to a ‘comfortable sense of self ’ (Norton 2000, p. 92). 129

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Transitioning is often constructed as a literal journey – a journey with physical travel destinations, such as the doctor’s office, gender clinic, counsellor or any government agency responsible for changing one’s legal name and gender marker documentation. Poet Oliver Bendorf reflects on his transitioning process on BuzzFeed: ‘All of my preparation had been so clinical: ranges of months in which certain changes would happen; recommended milligrams of doses’ (Bendorf 2014a, 20 January). In interviewing eight transgender men in Vancouver, Greatheart (2010) finds that their post-transition stories highlighted their personal, internal development, ‘a divergence from the healthcare literature and the popular discourse about transition that focuses on the medical and the psychiatric experience’. The trope of the transman’s journey emerges from a visualization of one’s progressive selfactualization, a search for one’s true self that is chronologically oriented, in that it projects a future in which one’s true self is integrated with one’s external representation, a present that is marked by the struggle of integration and a past that will be reassessed from a transcentrist, retrospective perspective. This narrative includes a beginning, a middle and an end. In traditional transmasculine discourse, ‘beginning’ is often understood to be the moment of trans consciousness, the moment at which one realizes that one is male. This moment is typically recalled via anecdotes and documented by childhood photographs. Among transmen who opt for physical transition, it is not uncommon to find a timeline that dates back to the first injection or top surgery. An injection carries more symbolic weight and visual impact than the application of creams or gels, and it is less common to find a visual narrative that dates itself to the beginning of cream or gel application of testosterone. In more recent transmasculine discourse, beginning may be portrayed as one’s actual birth, and the emergence of one’s consciousness at large, a subtle but significant rhetorical change. A journey connotes movement, whether it is an internal, psychological movement, an external, physical movement or a combination thereof. The symbolic value of the prefix ‘trans’, which connotes, in its Latin root, movement – movement across, beyond or through – has been explored and examined by a succession of gender and trans scholars as well as several generations of trans-identified people. Hansbury (2004, p. 17) writes that his ‘journey across the sexes’ turned him ‘kicking and screaming, at first  – towards biological determinism, even though that philosophy seems to stand in direct opposition to transsexuality’. Movement is conceptually linked with directionality, as Ahmed (2006) stresses, as much as with change, whether one approaches the movementchange relationship from the perspectives of physics, biology, economy, psychology, politics or philosophy. However, there is a difference between imagining a stable, fixed start point (be it one’s birth, one’s first moment of transmasculine consciousness, one’s first articulation of transmasculine identification or one’s first testosterone application) as the beginning of movement leading to change (in this case, social or physical transformation into a malepresenting person) and conceptualizing the emergence of transmasculine identification as one in a series of physical and mental changes that continues ad infinitum, defining human consciousness of existence. Conceptualizing continual movement and change as a fundamental characteristic of all life de-emphasizes the perceived abnormality of gender 130

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transition. A recent shift in rhetorical portrayals of transmasculine journeys adopts journeys without destination points. Micah, who was assigned female at birth and identifies as a nonbinary identified or agender transperson, writes ‘my journey is still a work in progress – join me for the ride!’ (Micah 2014). A fairly recent rhetorical tactic to shift usage of the word ‘transition’ to the terms ‘confirmation’ and ‘affirmation’ reveals such tension – the FTM Australia (2011) website, for example, uses the word ‘affirmation’ providing ‘transition’ in parentheses and offers sublinks to social affirmation, medical affirmation and legal affirmation, and Luke, a trans teen, says he ‘slowly started to rediscover’ his gender in eighth grade (Kuklin 2014). This discursive trend manifested itself earlier in the evolution from ‘sex change surgery’ to ‘sex (or gender) reassignment surgery’ and ‘genital reconstruction surgery’ to ‘gender confirmation surgery’ to ‘sex (or gender) gender affirmation surgery’. One of European literature’s most famous explorations of physical transformation and its relationship to stable or shifting internal identities is Kafka’s short story The Metamorphosis (transl. Johnston 2003), which could be read as a story about change as much as it could be read as a story about stasis. Others have raised the relevance of this story to trans identification, such as Jonathan Ames, who suggests that Kafka might have been familiar with Psychopathia Sexualis by Richard von Krafft-Ebing and modelled his story after one of the cases Krafft-Ebing discusses (2005, p. xv), or psychologist Randi Kaufman (2008, p. 331), who offers a reading of protagonist Gregor Samsa’s transformation as describing ‘the predicament of a transgender person’. Thinking about transitioning as a journey directly links western stage models of psychological development with one’s gender identification challenges, and while the idea of thinking about oneself as trans*, transmasculine or male may feel estranging at first, the metaphor of the journey is cross-culturally appealing; it taps into a human meta-narrative of exploration that is fundamentally familiar and thus reduces the strangeness of non-cis identification. In 2013, the reporters of the Victoria (British Columbia) Times Colonist chose a story featuring the FTM transition of Victoria radio broadcaster James Gardner as one of that year’s favourite stories. The feature story (Chamberlain 2013), which was allocated to a two-page spread and illustrated with several photos, focused on Gardner’s transition experience, which was quite positive. The 54-year-old talked about the support he received from his employer, a local radio station, his medical transition (hormones, hysterectomy, scheduled top surgery) and his social transition. In many ways, the article engages the typical themes of the standard transmasculine narrative. Gardner is quoted that he ‘felt male from Day 1’, discloses that he could not recognize himself in the mirror and mentions that ‘he mostly feels he’s setting out on a long-anticipated journey’, which was marked by his first shot of testosterone. The story emphasizes his physical presentation (hair growth, clothing, voice) and medical procedures involved in transitioning; it explores the bathroom question and effects of the transition on his relationship. It quotes a statement by Gardner in which he calls his transition ‘the conclusion of a long and sometimes painful journey to a future of happiness I have never felt before’. As observed earlier in the context of videos, milestones on the FTM journey are typically constructed as concrete, tangible and physical – obtaining 131

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a name change certificate rather than the memory of being called by a male name for the first time; the first testosterone shot rather than the moment at which the decision to begin hormone treatment was embraced; before-and-after top surgery photos rather than a trace of the sensation of touching one’s pre-op or post-op chest. While this tendency is to some degree an artefact of the visual age, it is heightened by the words transmasculine individuals use and markers they select to portray their journeys. The transmasculine journey, in the words and images of those who employ the metaphor, is increasingly portrayed as a journey to the self, rather than a journey from one sex or gender identity to another. Buck Angel differentiates between a transsexual and a transman in an interview: ‘I’m a transsexual man, which is totally different to a transman. I was a woman who wanted to become a man, and that’s what I did, but I did it my own way. […] I’m not about being a trans person – I’m about becoming yourself ’ (Ross 2014). Teich writes that the experience of summer camp was formative for him because ‘[a]t camp my gender seemed to melt away; I was just able to be me’ (2012, p. xiv). A young Catholic FTM writes that he sometimes forgets the fact that he is ‘still a transgender man’: ‘Sometimes it feels like it shouldn’t really matter. It’s not my actual identity. But it still is a part of what makes me who I am’ (I’m a real boy 2013). A Yahoo! Canada news story (Dindar 2013) about Wren Kauffman, a seventh-grade student in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, who began to socially transition at the age of nine, quotes him in an interview with the Canadian Press: ‘If you’re not yourself, then it kind of gets sad and depressing. I’m glad that I told everybody’. The story states that ‘his teacher, friends and family are fully aware of the situation’ and adds that he uses the boys’ bathroom and gym locker room. The discourse of self-actualization identifies an authentic expression of one’s inner self via one’s external self-representation as an ultimate goal and ties transmasculinity into a much larger, extensive cultural context of western self-actualization. The quest to better understand what ‘allows people to progress towards advanced stages of self-fulfilment’ in a society ‘where an individual’s growth is championed and cultivated’ increasingly occupies mental health providers, educators and employers (Ivtzan et al. 2013) as much as individuals seeking the advice of life coaches or therapists. Emerging transmasculine consciousness clearly positions itself as an individualistic undertaking, a process that begins and concludes with an inner sense of self whose origin at times is attributed to one’s brain structure, at times to one’s heart or soul. Bono (2012, p. 5) writes of a ‘searing division within the self ’, continuing ‘I knew that the only way I was ever going to feel happy or complete was if I transitioned’. Toronto psychotherapist Russell (Transforming Gender 2015), who transitioned in his fifties, speaks to the ‘joy’ and ‘comfort’ he derived from the ‘sense of wholeness’. Grady, the transboy protagonist in Wittlinger’s Parrotfish, is described as ‘inside of the body of this strange, never-quite-right girl hid the soul of a typical, average ordinary boy’ (2007, p. 9). In Still Black, Louis Mitchel says he experienced a ‘sigh of relief ’ when he ‘became integrated, my insides and my outsides’. Self-actualization thus appears rhetorically linked to notions of completion and integration, drawing from popular psychological frameworks. Arguing for an individualized notion of gender, Boswell (1997, p. 55) demonstrates that ‘Jung’s process 132

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of individuation, with its reconciliation of animus and anima, leads to “wholeness” – a word that is related to health and holiness’. A participant in Greatheart’s (2010) study said he does not ever want to turn his back on who he was prior to transition: ‘I know there’s guys out there that they don’t acknowledge their history. And they don’t seem to be happy either because they’re always trying to hide something and it’s just like there’s nothing’. Symbolic constructions that link transmasculine identification to self-realization appear to have the strongest resonance with cis audiences because they shift the discourse from the unfamiliar destabilization of gender to the familiar territory of self-fulfilment, a prominent western narrative. When being transmasculine is translated into simply being one’s self, salient notions of identity consciousness and psychological fulfilment are activated and align with a predominant cultural ideology. ‘I still wouldn’t trade being myself, so. At all’, says Broadus in Still Black, who has become an iconic figure for job discrimination against trans people. Micah (2014b, 21 October) blogs about engaging standard trans discourse about finding one’s self during the gender journey, which included testosterone and top surgery, such as being more of an authentic self, being oneself and feeling more comfortable. Micah, who identifies as agender, ponders the difficulty of locating one’s ‘true self ’ when one is searching for the destination: Is my ‘true self ’ something I’m born with, or is it who I choose to become? Should I focus on deep introspection, or should I attempt to construct the best person I can given my circumstances? Is it Nature, or is it Nurture? We’re surrounded by fake binaries […] This is the quintessential human lifelong quest, and it’s not restricted to gender. Jacki from the United States posts the following online comment in a public discussion about statements made by two transmasculine participants in National Geographic’s American Transgender, prefacing it by stating that she does not know what it feels like to be born into a body that does not feel right: We all have the right to be treated as God’s children and appreciated for our talents, our contributions, and our spirits. […] I applaud those who follow their dreams and stand up for what they believe to be right. I admire their courage and their dedication to live their lives in the way they feel passionate about. (Walsh 2012) Such comments place gender transitions into the more familiar context of self-actualization, of pursuing one’s dreams, of standing up for one’s beliefs. These are themes that resonate deeply in US cultural discourse at large, and they are engaged by many transmasculine individuals in the United States. This discourse also enables, within the landscape of transmasculine perspectives, a conciliatory approach to highly different self-understandings of what it means to be transmasculine-identified. However, while the theme of ‘journey to the self ’ might be pervasive, specific understandings of what kind of journey this entails, 133

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and what kind of ‘self ’ one arrives at, differ significantly. In some transmasculine discourse, the journey to the self is the journey (sometimes conceptualized as a journey back or a journey home) to an a priori male consciousness. Kee (2015) recalls leaving the surgeon’s office after his post-surgery follow-up: ‘On the elevator ride down it occurred to me that I couldn’t remember a time I’d been happier. My body finally felt like home’. The journey thus consists of uncovering layers of inappropriate socialization and acquiring appropriate socialization into one’s actual gender. For others, the self also emerges from an a priori male consciousness, but one that was never allowed to fully develop. The journey thereby continues with the nurturing of the development of a fully male sense of self, which is, in essence, new to the traveller. Yet another understanding suggests that due to socialization, first consciousness was not that of being male, but that of being either ‘different’, non-binary or female. In this narrative, the journey to self is one marked by new discoveries of coming to feel at home in transmasculinity, which emerges as a holistic sense of self. More than a decade ago, Sally Munt et al. (2002, p. 127) examined a US website by and for lesbian women and described the typical gay and lesbian coming out narrative in the following terms: In the narrative fragments of ‘coming out’ examined here, the initial equilibrium, or the beginning, is structured as the heterosexual identity. This is disturbed through a questioning of normativity, which creates disequilibrium; thus a series of elements leads to the establishment of a different equilibrium, the creation of a stable, integrated lesbian identity. The concept of a journey is explicit in this narrative structure of selfhood, and deployed as a shared cultural myth. Regardless of these differentiations, it seems that much of transmasculine discourse envisions an authentic or true self that is actualized by social and/or physical transition; this sense of self is innate and waiting to be recognized. Once recognized, confirmed or affirmed, the sense of self is restored and while it may further develop, its essential stability is not questioned. Authenticity of self is discursively constructed as one’s inner truth, and despite a turn away from simple identity truths, the larger theme of a person’s inner truth retains a discursive stronghold. McConnell (2014) writes, ‘I lost touch with the truth about my identity because it was terrifying and, I thought, impossible to fix’. The film Southern Comfort also emphasizes the idea of being transmasculine as being true to oneself. In the film, Eads talks about the process of transition as mostly being about accepting himself, a principle he was taught by his mother, he says. The idea of an authentic male self was reflected in the answers of 30 per cent of the respondents in the snapshot survey discussed in the Introduction. For them, ‘being male’ seems a fundamental statement about an authentic self. Challenges to the symbolic equation of transmasculine-identified people’s authenticity as trans authenticity are becoming more prominent, however. For example, choreographer and dancer devynn emory does ‘not care about making my work trans’ because being gender variant is not the source of emory’s artistic impulse (Cole 2012), a sentiment that is echoed by transmale dancers in Cole’s project, who want to be seen as dancers first. 134

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In popular culture as much as in contemporary mental health practice, the notion of self-actualization is linked to well-being (Yarnell & Neff 2013). The self-actualized person is deemed to be functional, healthy and well-adjusted. Discourses of well-being link personal growth and self-actualization to physical and mental health and the ‘mind-body connection’ (a notion that maintains a fundamental duality of mind and body), and in this sense transmasculine discourse about integrating one’s self is comfortably nestled in a larger cultural context of integrating mind and body, a context, that for example, has seen yoga evolve into a transnational and transcultural community of practice (Hauser 2013; Strauss 2005). The discourse of well-being has changed significantly in the past two decades, as Eeva Sointu’s (2005) discourse analysis of British newspaper reports shows. Sointu notes that well-being was linked to ‘body politic’ in the mid-1980s and has since shifted, in association, to ‘body personal’. Sointu concludes that ‘the well-being of a citizen in a traditional nation state  – produced and conceptualized through institutionalized strategies of national governance – has been eclipsed by an increasing emphasis on wellbeing that is actively produced by the choosing consumer’. She posits that the consumer’s context is now characterized by ‘interconnectedness with the obligation for the care for the self being enmeshed with conceptualizations of the individual self and body as systems in constant interaction with other such systems’ (p. 256). While Sointu does not specifically address gender, her analysis appears relevant in the context of transmasculine discourses that situate themselves in the logic of an inner truth to be actualized. Building on the work of Charles Taylor, Sointu argues that ‘self-reflexivity and the search for authenticity from within, which can be seen as displayed in the personal quests for well-being also today, are thus deeply ingrained within Western subjectivity’ (p. 262). The contemporary western notion of self-actualization was influenced by Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Carl Jung’s notion of a whole self, both of which account for a linear model of personal growth (Otway & Carnelley 2013). Linear movement thus anchors portrayals of self-actualization, which underlie constructions of transmasculine being and becoming. Transgender musician Alex Davis states that he is profoundly grateful and aware of the privilege that has allowed him to transition: […] ‘when I see myself in the mirror I see that I am that guy, that guy I have always known I was born to be’ (Lauren Foster, Transgender Model 2012). The notion of an ‘inner truth’ reveals complex layers of understanding. On a simplistic level, it speaks to the differentiation between others’ perceptions of one’s external self and one’s self-perception. This schism between external and internal self-representation is validated in some transmasculine discourse to the degree that the schism results from not only others’ processing of one’s external representation but also one’s own processing of one’s external self-representation. Cadyn James named his top-surgery fundraising effort ‘Project Pinocchio’, ‘mostly for the reason that I have the unique opportunity to create my body to match my soul much like Pinocchio’ (James 2012b, 1 July). A post-transition FTM responds to the Reddit question ‘How did you know T was right for you’ (How did you know T was right for you 2014) with the answer: ‘I felt like my body did not belong to me and didn’t recognize myself in the mirror. My brain map of my body was male and I 135

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couldn’t stand confronting the reality of my body’. In such discourse, one’s mental image of oneself does not match what one’s brain processes based on visual stimuli. This experience is captured in figurative language when transmen speak about not recognizing themselves in the mirror or avoiding looking at body parts which are typically designated ‘female’, most notably breasts. A vlog offers: ‘its hard having to face everyday life when i see myself in the mirror I just feel like dieing and this is not a faze’ (FTM Transgender Journey 2014). In some transmasculine discourse, this phenomenon is explained by a bio-medical understanding of a mismatch between one’s brain and one’s body. While this explanation places the perceived conflict in the biology of the transman, it also creates a conceptual division between one’s brain and one’s body. When ‘brain’ is used in this manner, it usually stands for ‘mind’. A 19-year-old self-identified transman whose family emigrated from Chile to Canada and who is contemplating physical transition writes: First off let me just say that i am a bit offended by the title ‘girls who want to be boys’ or whatever it is because if it were a matter of choice i obviously would just be a ‘girl’ with no worries. Gender  disorder (the brain and body not being the same) which occurs at birth  is what create trans people. It is biological (not a choice). I know because i have started learning since i am a 19 year old transguy. I have felt the way i feel since forever. (Spanishblood44 2009) Self-actualization in this discursive construction amounts to fulfilling one’s biological destiny. In other transmasculine discourse, this lack of recognition is explained by a mismatch between one’s psyche and one’s outward representation. Self-actualization as portrayed in that discursive construction amounts to fulfilling one’s spiritual destiny and can present itself from religious perspectives or non-denominational spiritual approaches. Beatty (2014) writes, ‘Freedom is the consequence of authenticity. This is what trans bodies can teach us, the unbreakable quality of the human spirit in pursuit of authentic vitality’. Some transmasculine discourse explicitly addresses body and mind dimensions of being transmasculine. In Southern Comfort, Eads mentions that younger transmen often want phalloplasty; he affirms that being a man (or a woman) has nothing to do with one’s genitalia but with what is ‘in your heart and in your mind’. ‘Mind’, in this sentence, functions as a placeholder for brain and neurological processes, whereas ‘heart’ aligns with one’s spirit. Bono (2012, p. 230) writes that post-transition, he is ‘finally myself, body and soul’. Noori Jerrard’s YouTube ‘Chronicles of a Transman’ introduces his project with the words ‘Everything that I’m doing is Heart-Centered’ (Jerrard 2014). A Canadian immigrant transman titles his online post ‘A boy at heart’ (Spanishblood44 2009). The notion of authenticity, with its focus on genuine quality, also activates symbolic linkages to being original, being made by the original craftsman. While ‘society’ ‘makes’ cismen, so transmasculine discourse often argues, transmen make themselves by activating innate or emerging male or masculine-leaning selves, an idea reflected in the title of Dillon’s biography, The First Man-Made Man (Kennedy 136

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2007). Directly borrowing from the deeply American trope of the ‘self-made man’, some transmasculinist discourse engages this ideal specifically in the context of transmasculinity; it occurs in the titles of print and online publications, video commentary and branding. The phrase ‘self-made men’ is often attributed to an 1872 Frederick Douglass lecture by the same name (Douglass 1872). The notion of the self-made man is a key idea in American culture and politics, intricately tied to the pursuit of the American Dream; it capsulizes the figure of a person who was born disadvantaged but, via hard work, reached success. It is also the title of Rubin’s (2003) book about transsexual men’s identity. Kergil (2013, 11 June) reflects that he is ‘perfectly happy being transgender’ and ‘unbelievably content being a self-made man’. The website of The Self Made Men (2012) describes itself as a tool for the transgender male community, with the purposes of educating others about ‘our existence, needs and normalcy’ and supporting other trans-identified people. The Self Made Men is a registered trademark; the company’s logo is a shield. The company publishes FTM Magazine (FTM Magazine n.d.) and offers merchandise in the form of T-shirts (‘Property of FTM Magazine’), buttons and stickers. Featured slogans include: ‘Pretty Fly for a Transguy’, ‘I can’t keep calm because I’m on T’, ‘Started as a female now I’m male’, ‘OMG Karen, you can’t just ask people if they have penises’, the ‘stealth tee em button’ which reads: eff/tee/ em magazine’; and trans pride motifs. The magazine can be ordered in print (via regular mail subscription) or electronic version. The online version of a 2014 issue features stories on ‘top gifts for transmen’ on father’s day, transphobic media coverage, and highlights individuals in features. It describes its target audience as the ‘Trans*male population’. Site visitors can sign up for yearly electronic postcards on their ‘Tversary’, join a trans* pen pal network or volunteer for art/writing/news contributions or joining the speaker’s bureau to represent The Self Made Men. From these media and products, a trans*male cultural identity is forged, one that ties into a current demographic of the ‘selfie’ as well as into deeper currents of individualism, entrepreneurialism and the pursuit of liberty. Twenty years ago, San Francisco Times reporter Jack Fertig wrote, in the context of the ‘world’s first FTM conference’ in San Francisco that FTMs are ‘real men as no other men are’: FTMS have had to construct their masculinity from the ground up, to overcome everything around them just to be men. Our mythos of masculinity tells us that this is what a ‘real man’ is – self-creative, independent, willing to stand up to convention to be himself, to live a life of honest responsibility. (as quoted in Green 2005, p. 298) Spiritual and Inner Truths The story of how I became the first transgender man ordained to the Old Catholic priesthood is a complicated one. – Shay Kearns (n.d.) 137

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Diana Denton (2005) ties metaphors of the heart to studies of the sacred. She grounds her understanding of metaphor in the work of George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1999), who argue that the spiritual is experienced in the physical body. Following Lakoff and Johnson, Denton (2005, p. 756) identifies metaphor as the ‘central cognitive element of this experience’, noting that the heart has been ‘described as the seat of the soul, a place of compassion and love, an embodied awareness of the Infinite – the very core of being’ (p. 758). She explains her phenomenological approach to metaphorical matters of the heart in the following passage (p. 763): The root metaphor that had defined my earlier spiritual experience – moving out of the body, being lifted up to spiritual heights – was now eclipsed by the metaphor of a movement within – the flutter or throb of an embodied Presence. From this root metaphor three subsequent concrete metaphors emerged. Each of these facilitated an understanding of the intimate movement within the heart and between the heart and the experienced phenomenal world. Denton introduces the first of these three heart-related metaphors as ‘self-experience as the beloved. Bringing an intimate attention to my thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and the lived moments of my life, I beheld the beloved in all that I saw’ (p. 763). Such an analysis of the discourse of the sacred leads Denton to conclude, much like Maurice Merleau-Ponty, that ‘this body in this world is the site of knowledge’ (p. 767). Sometimes, transmasculine discourse explicitly links one’s inner truth to faith systems. The FTM Alliance of Los Angeles maintains an online resource list for FTMs who identify as spiritual, Christian, Jewish, Hindu or Muslim (FTM Alliance n.d.). Jack, a devout Catholic FTM, maintains a WordPress blog on his struggle in reconciling his faith with his gender identity (Jack 2013). He titles his blog ‘My Transgendered and Catholic Soul – FTM – I Know I am Not Alone, Nor Are You’. Jack, who has been on testosterone and underwent chest surgery, says honesty is required to affirm one’s trans nature. To stop [taking hormones] I believe would do great harm to my body at this point. I wish however that I’d had the courage to place ALL of my trust in God before the surgery – before the hormones – and lived my life the way I was created – I could have THEN Become what seemed an UNHoly choice at 20, to join a Religious Order. What if I were to fall in love with Sister so-and-so BEYOND My Will (which is how it ALWAYS Happened!) A desired friendship would – despite my OWN DESIRE become the object of my Love. I’d fall in love with ‘her’ as any straight biological male would. And in a Convent? (Jack 2013) Religious transmasculine discourse reflects struggles to reconcile doctrine with transgender identification. The United Church of Christ produced, with Filmworks Inc., a documentary on a member of its church who transitioned. Call Me Malcolm (2014) is available online 138

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and comes with a discussion and a study guide. The film is described as ‘an amazing story of the human spirit and God’s spirit, and the liberating struggle to realize and express with confidence the marvellous gift of one’s truest sense of self ’. The film description continues to link a trans search for one’s true inner gender identity with everyone’s journey towards self-actualization: There are many stories to be told and Malcolm helps us make connections to our own stories […] Viewers cannot help but come to a deeper understanding of faith, love, and gender identity, and by doing so, arrive at a deeper understanding of their own journey. A Catholic transman writes, ‘I feel at my very core and am perceived to be male by those around me’ (I’m a real boy 2013). Awareness of transgender presence in organized religions has been slowly increasing, at times propelled by previously stealth transmen coming out as trans after many years. The Rev. David Weekley, a United Methodist minister in Oregon, came out as trans in his sixties, 27 years after having been ordained. He had transitioned long before being ordained. The Huffington Post quotes Weekley: ‘The room went silent. There was a lot of support, but a lot of push back’ (Kaleem 2013). Attempts to have his ordination revoked failed, but his church continues to not officially allow openly trans people to serve as clergy. FTM visibility in organized religions that are firmly rooted in gender binaries and hierarchies such as Catholicism or Islam is less common, but exists. Catholic doctrine in the United States and Canada in regard to female-to-male transitions often is discussed in the context of policies, such as an Albuquerque Catholic high school’s decision to require Damian Garcia, who transitioned the year before, to wear a female graduation robe (Rudolph 2013) or the removal of Alberta substitute teacher Jan Buterman from the Greater St. Albert Catholic School Board’s list of employees. After informing his school board that he was transitioning female to male on medical grounds in 2008, Buterman received a letter from the School Board that his ‘personal choice to change your gender, which is contrary to Catholic teachings’, led to his removal from the substitute teacher list. The letter continues to affirm that the teaching of the Catholic Church is ‘that persons cannot change their gender. One’s gender is considered what God created us to be’ (Padfield 2009). However, at the same time, a researcher at the University of Alberta’s Institute for Sexual Minority Studies and Services helped a Grade 2 student at a Catholic school in rural Alberta to transition (Purdy 2013). Timane, a Nigerian-born minister and grief recovery specialist, founded The Happy Transgender Center and Rizi Timane Ministries, a non-profit organization based in the United States. As a child, he was subjected to exorcisms and similar reparative approaches by his family and church. Timane identifies the goal of his ministries as seeking ‘to enable any LGBT person who wants to know God but has been turned off by Religion to know that God loves them just as they are and also to help those who are struggling with their spirituality and sexuality to find complete RECONCILIATION and AFFIRMATION’ (Rizi Timane Ministries n.d.). Transmasculine individuals in English-speaking contexts who are Muslim, from Muslim families, or in relationships with Muslim partners are debating 139

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their place in Islam online. A 14-year-old transmasculine-leaning teen discloses she was physically assaulted by her father after calling herself a ‘boyish girl’ on Facebook. ‘We’re MUSLIM and i really love my religion’, the teen wrote online, ‘but when he hit me i thought he was going to KILL me! And now because of that horrifying incident, i’m really scared of coming out to them’ (Levinel 2012). YouTube user therehan252 from Ontario, Canada, is chronicling his transition (FTM Intro 2012). YouTube user that-random-kid posts, in response to therehan252’s video, the following comment: As a Muslim who is questioning their gender identity, the main reason I decided I couldn’t transition was because it’s clearly stated that it’s haraam for ‘women to act like men’, and in Islam ftms are viewed as women mimicking men, how did you decide to transition? I wanna get a bit more educated on the topic because I really wanna transition, but I’m not willing to risk going to Hell for it. Conversion to Islam is sometimes symbolically linked to gender transition in discussion fora, such as ‘19stormz’s post ‘cool im lookin to convert, im ftm too take care’ (FTM Intro 2012), a Tumblr question ‘I’m considering converting is [sic] Islam but I’m unsure how I’ll fit in or things I should do or not do, since I’m trans* (specifically ftm)’ (I am not haraam 2012) or Miro’s post to an Islamic advice site: Hello to all, Salam u alaikum, […] I wanted to get your input/opinion on female to male transition. Which seems to be my case. I am transgendered and I am currently in a relationship with a Muslim woman. I would very much like to understand Islam. I have been gifted a Koran and I have been studying Arabic. I hope to hear god one day and possibly convert. I’ve been asking myself if Allah would want me? If I would be accepted? (Islam and Transgender 2010) The rhetorical alignment of religious conversion with gender transition again engages underlying currents of movement, change and journey, linking the discovery of spiritual truths with discovery of gender truths. In a response to Ashton Colby’s vlog (FTM: Transition Regret 2014), three young viewers relate to each other in regard to their Muslim identities. Viewer Cragon, who is 12 and identifies as transfeminine, writes that her religion does not accept transsexuals: ‘I’m a muslim, but im sorta transitioning to athiest ~ anything can help me out. Thank you. :D.’ In response to Cragon’s post, 15-yearold viewer xVaAs posts, ‘omg im like you muslim and want to transition FTM I didnt want to be a girl I always felt like a boy […] I just dont know what to tell my parents’. Viewer Eduardo Sanchez posts, ‘XD omg I’m muslim too! So weird! I’m ftm and 20, im lucky my husband accepts me and let’s me live as a man but Iv never gotten surgery I hope you find happiness!’ Patrick Aleph, who maintains the online presence PunkTorah, compares Jewish identity to trans identity: 140

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Ask most Jews By Choice (JBCs) about their decision to convert to Judaism and you’ll get the reply, ‘I felt Jewish’. This sense ‘inside’ that a person is Jewish is very close to the feeling that trans people feel when deciding to transition into their life as the opposite sex from which they were born. A trans person does not feel that they are ‘changing’ so much as they feel they are living as who they really are. As with JBCs, there is a belief that the soul has finally realized its true destiny by living Jewishly. (PunkTorah 2010) Chav Doherty (2010, p. 17), a male-identified Jew, recalls meeting an FTM friend in the San Francisco community for whom ‘conversion and transition were analogous and parallel processes. Each confirmed the other’. Aleph suggests that Jewish identities, like trans identities, occur in a large variety, and that no one way of being Jewish or trans is right: ‘If a FTM transsexual has his breasts removed, his face chiseled to be more masculine, grows facial hair, but continues to have a vagina, is this person ‘truly’ male?’ (PunkTorah 2010). Noach Dzmura (2010, p. xxiii), a Jewish male-identified consultant and writer, offers that transgender and gender variant Jews ‘are schooled through transgender experience to hold multiple truths simultaneously within our own bodies’. Jay Pulitano attended the 2014 Philadelphia TransHealth Conference, including a workshop on ‘Interdepending Trans* Buddhist Activism and Experience’. The workshop was organized by a group of Trans Buddhists who seek to make Buddhist spaces more welcoming to trans people. ‘It was really significant for me to be in a space where I could talk to people who found comfort and inspiration as well as tension with Buddhism for similar reasons I did’, Pulitano (2014) writes. Pete, who maintains a blog called ‘Omdanne (which is Danish for transformation) … transformation: Physically & Spiritually Living in Mindfulness’, writes that he has been mentally and spiritually awakened: ‘cliché yes … very much so. Nevertheless, … a truth. Recalling my name given to ME by ME when I was only 4 opened up deeply buried memories’ (Omdanne … transformation 2014). Jessy, a college student from Thailand, transitioned in the United States and expresses that he sees purpose in his trans being: God made me transgender for a reason. Maybe not God, but whoever created me. Whoever created me made me this way for a reason. I enjoy life from a different perspective. I can see the world simultaneously from a male and a female perspective. (Kuklin 2014, p. 25) Bendorf (2014b, 20 January) wonders whether ‘transitioning is more spiritual than any of us has imagined. Is this a sacred rite?’ He observes that, whether in reference to death or not being recognized as trans, ‘passing’ implies ‘a successful transition … of the spirit and body, breaking away from each other, and coming back together again’. Flexx, a 31-year-old chef living in Florida, identifies as an atheist and a transman with a mixed racial background. ‘This forces me to represent equality for all humans and make sure their voices are heard’, Flexx says (Gaudette 2013). While Flexx considers himself a third gender, he uses 141

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the pronoun ‘he’ most often. Flexx’s family is from the West Indies on his father’s side and French, Irish, African, and American on his mother’s side. Both open atheism and open homosexuality are scarce in the black community, Flexx observes. The concept of knowledge enters into a complex relationship to the concept of truth in transmasculine discourse. On one hand, such discourse sometimes symbolically equates knowledge with truth. In this manner, knowing oneself means knowing one’s inner truth. In colloquial English, knowledge is defined as either facts or information that one derives from experience or from education or as awareness of something. Knowing that one is transmasculine begins, in transmasculine discourse, most often with one’s self, one’s inner core. To enact being recognized as transmasculine, however, which is necessary for one’s inner knowledge to emerge as ‘knowledge’, i.e. facts and information that others can be educated on, that internal knowledge has to be translated, in essence, to external knowledge. Frequently, transmasculine discourse portrays self-actualization as the successful discovery of an inner truth, an inner truth that is sometimes feared, and an inner truth that is sometimes associated with shame and guilt. Bono calls his FTM reality ‘a truth about myself that was so frightening’ (2012, p. 2). In these examples of transmasculine discourse, it is internalized shame and guilt, resulting from a cisnormative culture, which needs to be overcome in the quest for self-fulfilment and overall well-being. The Globe and Mail Columnist Sarah Hampson writes about Bono: ‘Here he is, newly famous for his brave honesty, in a world of celebrity that thrives on illusion’ (Hampson 2012). Hampson (2012) characterizes Bono’s transition as ‘an unexpected insight into the nature of identity and the power of truth’. Helfand (2013) testifies that he feels a deep sense of relief and peace after his transition: ‘Speaking my truth, being who I am, not being afraid – that fight was the best fight I’ve ever fought in my life’ (Helfand 2013). Truth, as Michael Glanzberg (2013) reviews for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, is one of the key concepts in philosophy and defies attempts to be summarily defined: ‘[…] a huge variety of issues in philosophy relate to truth, either by relying on theses about truth, or implying theses about truth. It would be impossible to survey all there is to say about truth in any coherent way’. Kennedy (2007, pp. 82–83) describes Dillon’s post-surgery reality in the following words: ‘And those bad dreams sprang from an awful truth, the one drawback of his new and treasured freedom. His status as an ordinary man was conditional. It depended on silence and subterfuge. It could all be destroyed by one stray rumor’. Much transmasculine discourse talks about ‘knowing’ one’s gender, whether in the form of transguy Zack reflecting that he ‘knew I wasn’t a girl’ (How to know you if you are transgender 2013) or Cromwell writing ‘All my young life I knew I was a boy. For years I thought I was a boy just like my brothers. But I was wrong – my penis never did grow’ (Cromwell 1999, p. 4). Kellaway writes that he uses the following explanation to answer the invariable ‘how do you know you’re a man’ question in his Trans 101 youth workshops: ‘When I was born, the doctor looked at my body and declared that I was a person who would grow to become a woman. But I eventually knew in my head and in my heart that I’d grow to become a man’ (Kellaway 2014, 5 March). Finn, who is 39 years old, posted a video log (FTM Vlog 28 How I knew I was Trans* 2013) and 142

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introduces his recollections with observations about language. While he was growing up, he had no exposure to trans people or trans media coverage, and his recollections today are coloured by what he has since learned about trans people. ‘It’s kind of weird, really, because obviously I kind of superimpose what I know now about trans on my experiences as a kid. […]’. Finn said he knew he was different but did not know he was trans. He said he had not heard of the word ‘transgender’, only of ‘transsexual’, had no idea that it was possible to transition female to male and his first impression of transsexualism was that it was a bit ‘freakish’. He could not relate it to his own experiences at that time. The ‘Transitioning FTM in Australia’ website (FTM Australia 2011) describes passing as ‘finally looking like your true self – in this case looking like the boy or man you know yourself to be’. The mother of a transmasculine teen in the United Kingdom affirms in an interview with The Guardian that she has never doubted her child because ‘it was way too big a thing. Jon has incredible selfbelief that this is right and this is how he has to live his life’ (Groskop 2009). Nevertheless, knowing is not always a lasting epiphany or a pre-existing consciousness. Sebastian blogs on Autostraddle that knowing that he was a boy ‘was WAY more roundabout’ for him: I knew I was a boy when I was three years old. Then I forgot. Or learned otherwise. By age four, I knew I was at least supposed to be a boy. Then I forgot that, too. Some years later, I knew I was not a stereotypical girl. At 16, I thought I was a lesbian. At 21, I knew I wasn’t. And it was right around my 22nd birthday that I remembered I was a guy. (Sebastian 2011) A genderqueer/androgyne-identified individual who was assigned female at birth posts that the burden of knowledge can be difficult to bear: Just want to say that the brain weasels that (sometimes) come with being trans* are horrible. I sometimes get a barrage of thoughts that intrusively ask things like ‘am I really trans?’, ‘am I just doing this to be cool’ […] Some trans people have a lot of certainty, and I am happy for them, but I don’t happen to have that. I’ve seen a few other people write from that perspective online, but not many. I know I don’t like to because it seems to invalidate an identity which is already precarious. (Captain Awkward 2013) Benjamin Ryder had been on testosterone for 14 months when he recorded a video on ‘how I knew I was trans’ (Ryder 2014). Like other transguys on YouTube, he states that he is often asked how and when he knew that he was trans. ‘I always knew. When I was a little boy, I was a little boy. There is no question. There was nothing feminine about me’, Ryder states (Ryder 2014). However, like Sebastian, Ryder qualifies this early knowledge by explaining that sure knowledge that he was a boy at nine years of age was followed by confusion at puberty. He first saw a transperson on television when he was 15, and it was a show featuring Buck Angel. ‘I like Buck Angel, I like what does for the trans community’, Ryder says, but Angel’s 143

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portrayal of transmasculinity made him uncomfortable and left him with a bad impression. ‘That really stuck with me as I got older’, he states (Ryder 2014). It was not until ten years later and the advent of social media, specifically, YouTube, that he encountered other real representations of transgender men. Watching such videos made him recognize that he, too, is transgender. ‘Once I knew that I was transgender I did not want to hide it anymore’, he says, adding that once he was on testosterone, it felt so right, ‘it was like a reason to live again’ (Ryder 2014). Jamie, a 20-year-old from the United Kingdom, maintains an online Tumblr and YouTube presence as Pinoccioboy (Pinocchioboy 2014). In one of his YouTube videos (FTM how I knew I was transgender 2014), he explains that his earliest memory of being male dates back to when he was four years old. Toys were fairly unisex at the time; he often played with boys, and he always thought he was a boy. He recalls ‘liking it’ when others assumed he was a boy. Now that he has transitioned, he knew ‘it felt right’ when he started using male pronouns. ‘It’s like this has always been how I have been’, Jamie says. Will, a selfidentified transsexual man and person of colour, posts on Tumblr that he was asked during his first gender therapy appointment whether he thought of himself as a boy when he was young. ‘I sat conflicted’, he writes (Will 2013). ‘Nope. I did not always know I was a boy. In fact, I was always aware of the fact that I was not male’. He continues that he was ashamed of not having felt like a boy from childhood on. ‘I felt as though it made me not trans. […] I never once insisted I was a boy. […] That people would not believe I was actually a man on the inside if I didn’t always think I was one’. It’s important to openly discuss non-normative trans identification stories, he writes, because lack of such discussion ‘can be harmful’ and make people believe that there is only one, true way of being trans. Transman Caiden Fratangelo posted a video after having been on testosterone for five months. He says he has many people asking him how he knew that he was trans and that transitioning was right for him. For him, knowing he was trans refers back to a specific point in time when his girlfriend (at a time when Caiden was identifying as lesbian), pointed out his obvious discomfort with his chest. That was the point in time at which he realized that his ‘mind and body weren’t aligned’ (Fratangelo 2013). Echoing the discourse of difference and abnormality discussed earlier, Caiden said he knew all his life that he was different but could not name that difference until someone pointed it out to him. A butch-identified student interviewed an English professor (Allen), who had newly outed himself as transgender, for her blog (Butch Wonders 2014). The student asks, ‘How long have you “known” that you’re trans? What does it mean to know?’ Allen responds that he has known that he was ‘not quite cisgendered’ for several years and that he has ‘felt trans of and on for several years’. Allen then proceeds to distinguish knowing from feeling, stating that he intentionally uses ‘feel’ rather than ‘know’ because to him, ‘the transition process centers on feeling more than knowledge. For me, it’s not an issue of “knowing” I’m trans, but one of being ready and willing to feel my feelings’ (Butch Wonders 2014). Later in the interview, Allen offers the explanation that his ‘deepest spirit feels male’ and says that if he thought about his gender identity in quantitative terms, he feels that about 80 per cent of him feels male and the other 20 per cent might be genderless. By purposefully choosing 144

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‘feeling’ over ‘knowing’, Allen does not question that he ‘knows’ his gender identity; rather, he attributes the source of this knowledge to a phenomenological, sensory insight rather than an intellectual, abstract insight. This usage mirrors the language chosen by the majority of participants in the snapshot survey, who used the words ‘feel’ and ‘feeling’ to describe their sense of gender identity. Popular media discourse that seeks to capture such felt knowledge (occasionally also used within trans research as the notion of one’s ‘felt gender/ sex’) sometimes abbreviates the complexity of sensory processes to one’s vision, as does The New Yorker in an article on the tensions between radical feminism and transgenderism: The elasticity of the term ‘transgender’ has forced a rethinking of what sex and gender mean; at least in progressive circles, what’s determinative isn’t people’s chromosomes or their genitals or the way that they were brought up but how they see themselves. (Goldberg 2014) The notion of ‘seeing oneself ’ somewhat neatly plugs into older discourses of not recognizing oneself in the mirror, of being surprised at not being recognized as a boy or man by others and the primacy of the body image in the transition process. Certainly, being seen/not seen for what one is or what one sees one self to be is a recurrent theme in transmasculine discourse. A spoken word poet (crazyparrotfish38) from London posted a recording of his poem ‘It’s What’s On The Inside That Counts’ on YouTube (FTM: Spoken word Poem 2013). The poem contains the lines: ‘Told my identity lies between my legs/and not where my heart is …/ But things are not always what they seem/eyes lie sometimes/mirrors do deceive/and this shell does not accurately show what’s inside of me’. Transmasculine discourses, however, often go beyond vision when they describe sensory knowledge of self; they may talk about being surprised at the sound of their (higher pitched) female voices on an answering machine, the unanticipated familiarity of facial hair once it starts coming in after testosterone therapy, the dysphoria of encountering breast tissue or the natural adequacy of one’s ‘small penis’. Truth, a concept fundamental to the discourses of psychoanalysis (Mills 2014), is a key construct in this discourse, and it is typically characterized as an ‘inner truth’. Rubin’s phenomenological study of 22 female-to-male transmen finds essentialist narratives of always identifying and knowing of one’s true male nature. Rubin (2003) invites his readers to meet these narratives as carrying deeper meaning than mere popular narrative construction and ties the notion of inner truth to the process of realigning one’s body with one’s sense of (gendered) self. Jonah’s ‘FtM Transgender: Why I Quit Testosterone’ (2014) video, which had received 17,000 views within two months, was subtitled: ‘Testosterone did not bring me closer to the truth. It just helped to mask the pain’. A participant in the Micah Summer Fellowship Program at the Saint Mary’s College of California reflects on his recent coming out as a ‘transmasculine genderqueer individual’ in an online post titled ‘Unearthing My Truth: The Blossoming of My Transgender Reality’ (Unearthing My Truth 2014). In the near future, he writes, he will ‘undergo hormone replacement therapy in order to outwardly reflect the internal center of masculinity that I have unearthed and feel with deep, resonant truth inside of my being’ 145

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(Unearthing My Truth 2014). Cromwell (1999, p. 149) concludes that his trans journey has taught him that there ‘are multiple truths. We, as transmen and FTMs, are living our truths’. Living a true life means living an authentic life in this discourse, as the San Franciscobased Transgender Law Center’s tag line ‘Making Authentic Lives Possible’ embodies. The law centre’s website contains a section called ‘My Authentic Life’, which is about ‘sharing the real stories of transgender people and our loved ones’ (Transgender Law Center 2014). This particular campaign invites trans-identified people from all over the world to share their stories. The antonyms for truth, of course, are dishonesty, deception or falseness, and since binary opposition remains a strong cultural logic in western discourse, invoking a discourse of truth invariably engages a discourse of deception. Indeed, the discourse of deception (Green 2004) itself still plays a significant and complex role in trans consciousness. Transmasculine discourse often speaks of an individual’s desire to live openly in one’s felt gender, to not deceive others by pretending to be something one is not. Once he arrived at college, basketball player Allums recounts, he no longer needed to ‘hide’ who he was and what he liked, which allowed him to begin identifying as trans* rather than as lesbian (Kye Allums 1 – Journey to becoming transman 2012). Doherty (2010, p. 20), a transgender Jew whose family converted to Judaism when he was a child, refers to himself as a ‘mosaic man’ and describes that transitioning for him has been about ‘the fracturing of identity, or the myth of identity as a self-consistent construct’. Transgender musician Davis links deception to suicidality: ‘Lying to myself and other people about whom I was which hurt me to no end. Of course, I was suicidal, like many in the transgender community today’ (Lauren Foster, Transgender Model 2012). Allen, an English professor, discloses in an interview with a student that he was uncomfortably attending meetings of a lesbian book group because he ‘felt that in portraying myself as a woman, I was not revealing my real self ’ (Butch Wonders 2014). A young Catholic transgender man who struggles to reconcile his faith with his transgender identity quotes Pinocchio’s ‘Am I a real boy?’ dialogue with the Fairy (I’m a real boy 2013). The Fairy responds to Pinocchio’s question with the words: ‘No, Pinocchio. To make Geppetto’s wish come true will be entirely up to you. Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and some day you will be a real boy’. Pinocchio exclaims: ‘A REAL BOY!’ The same individual posts a blog entry describing his experience attending mass close to his university community: I sit towards the back of the church, and avoid opportunities to connect. If I get to know others within the community, they may become aware of the truth that I am transgender, and it may cause a fuss. I suppose it is not something that I necessarily feel the need to hide – I understand that it is simply a reality, and is part of the wonder of how God made me. It is also an integral part of my journey in life. To deny this would be to deny a part of me that has made me who I am today. (Intended and Beautiful 2013) Ostensibly living as a woman is often constructed as living a lie. ‘I couldn’t go on living a life that was essentially a lie’, Bono writes (2012, p. 208). Sloop’s analysis of the mass media 146

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coverage of Brandon Teena’s murder focuses on the metaphor of ‘deception in the heartland’, which allows him to show that the deception narrative, foregrounded in reports, implies that Brandon actively lied to others, hiding what she knew to be her ‘true’ sex, and acts within a traditional iteration of gender norms and desires that ultimately serves to protect and reaffirm the normative heterosexist ways of making sense of gender and of disciplining gender trouble. (2000, p. 171) A recent reading of a temporary exhibit on Brandon Teena at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln, Nebraska, concludes that the notion of deviance is ‘woven together with a problematic discourse of deception’ and that the exhibit thus re-directs ‘any sense of shame affiliated with the state of Nebraska’ to the United States as a whole (Woods et al. 2013). The symbolic cluster of truth and authenticity, in close proximity to deception and falseness, manifests itself in key assertions embedded in transmasculine discourse. The activation of this cluster occurs in multiple ways, leading to similar but divergent frames of understanding. At its most easily accessible level, transmasculine discourse voices the desire to not engage in deception by living in the gender assigned at birth. It articulates the need to live in an authentic manner, true to one’s innate gender identity. In transphobic discourse, that notion is flipped, as John Sloop and others have shown, when the very act of attempting to live in one’s ‘true’ gender is framed as a deceptive act. In the Brandon Teena case, ‘deception’ emerged as a theme in transphobic discourse (i.e. Brandon’s deception of others by ‘pretending’ that he was a man) as well as in transpositive discourse (i.e. Brandon’s attempt to live an authentic life by articulating his masculinity). Both frames construct truth and authenticity as ideals, but they assign the assessment of truth to opposing forces – one’s internal self or one’s external society. In instances where cis- and trans discourses agree (sometimes in somewhat surprising ideological constellations) on the individual as the ultimate judge of one’s truth, ideological consensus on the value of truth and a self-actualized life based on the articulation of that truth emerges. American Transman (Anderson 2014) writes that trans people are important because ‘we represent freedom of authenticity’, linking self-actualization with the symbolic realms of freedom and US national identity. ‘My quest to find my Self, in the limited adult and female archetypes that were available at the time, proved frustrating at best, and terrifying at worst’, says maggid Jhos Singer (2010, p. 26). In recent years, however, what passes for truth has become a more complicated notion in transmasculine discourse. In traditional transmasculine discourse, one’s identification with the male gender is understood to be one’s inner truth and transitioning to live in a male gender role is considered to be an authentic way of living one’s life. In times and places where living stealth is the only viable way of living as a man, the nature of one’s truth changes. Kennedy (2007, pp. 82–83) documents that Dillon suffered from recurring nightmares post-surgery: ‘And those bad dreams sprang from an awful truth, the one drawback of his new and treasured freedom. His status as an ordinary man was conditional. 147

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It depended on silence and subterfuge. It could all be destroyed by one stray rumor’. Dillon’s truth had changed from being a man pretending to live as a woman to that of a man hiding his natal assignment to the female sex. With increasing acceptance and visibility of trans identifications, the nature of understanding what constitutes an authentic life is changing within transmasculine discursive communities. The result is a more recent pressure on those who have transitioned to disclose their trans status, to live openly and (in instances, proudly) as transmen, transguys, FTMs and so forth. Talbot (2013b, 18 March) observes that ‘there’s a lot of pressure to be out these days – to own your identity and declare it, proudly, to the world’. Increasingly, many do, allowing the possibility that transmasculine identifications have always been as common as transfeminine identifications in the global population but simply not been accounted for. Such discourse creates pressure on those who transitioned before visibility and acceptance began to increase, who were often advised to erase their pasts (Bender-Baird 2011) and start life anew, in new communities, under new identities. While the majority of transmasculine discourse acknowledges the material realities requiring some transmen to live stealth for the sheer purpose of physical, economic and social survival, it also recasts stealth lives as non-authentic lives, a stark reversal to discourse dating back less than a generation, which upheld stealth transitioned lives as authentic. This dynamic is evidenced in online discourse in which those who were or are living stealth explain their reasons for doing so, defend the necessity of their social practice, correct myths about trans people living stealth or tease apart the differences between living stealth and living a lie. Transmandad maintains a Tumblr site that contains the ‘musings of a mid twenties father who happens to suffer from transsexualism. Married, Father, Stealth’ (Transmandad n.d.). On the site, he reposts a post from thepolitesir (whose Tumblr site is no longer available) who takes issue with those who insinuate that being stealth means being ashamed of one’s trans identity. Thepolitesir posts a list of five arguments taking issue with the equation of stealth with shame. He states that his identity is bigger than being trans, differentiates being stealth from being closeted or hidden, proposes that he is contributing just as much to education and the trans community as others, and concludes that he is not ashamed of being trans but chooses to live stealth in Texas. ‘I’m not really proud of being trans, but I am proud of myself for coming as far as I have an enduring all of the shit that comes with this condition, as I am similarly proud of myself for overcoming other extremely daunting obstacles in my life’ (Transmandad n.d.). Dylan, who transitioned at the age of 20, is a US military veteran and ‘happily married Army husband’. He maintains the website ‘Dylan Unscripted: The Evolution of a Man’ (Dylan Unscripted 2014a) in which he describes, for example, his decision to come out to his in-laws and the world at large after seven years of living stealth in 2013, a decision he attributes to the successful repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. ‘I don’t feel like being stealth is hiding. I feel as a man I’m finally not hiding who I am and who I’ve always been on the inside’, Dylan says in the first transition-related video he has ever posted. ‘There are so many things about me that have absolutely nothing to do with my gender identity’. Dylan argues that any manifestation of transmasculine identity is acceptable and that one should not let oneself be pressured by 148

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FTM norms any more than by societal norms at large ‘because in the end the most important thing is simply being authentic to yourself ’. The dangers of not living an authentic life are frequently characterized in the terms of documented marginalization and discrimination of trans people. ‘I am a female to male transgender pre-op and everyday of my life is a struggle and one full of endless pain and torment’, Vinnyblade57 posts on The Experience Project (Omagdi 2011). He continues: ‘The stigma and discrimination we face by society is limitless. Our loved ones desert us, we lose our homes, we lose our jobs, we are raped, we are discriminated against, we are beaten, and we are murdered’. Bono writes that ‘without treatment’, lives are not fully lived and the risk of suicide and self-destructive behaviour increases. The documentary Southern Comfort portrays being trans as being true to oneself in the face of discrimination, marginalization and the potential loss of family and friends. Eads, shown in rural Georgia during his last days, is captured in typical Southern male activities – driving a pick-up, smoking a pipe and cleaning his gun. He talks about the process of transition as mostly being about accepting himself and refers to himself in his childhood photos as a ‘poor little boy stuffed in drag’. Greatheart’s (2010, p. 90) participants demonstrated that ‘it is indeed possible to be a contented and happy transman’; he reports that the participants sought trans narratives ‘that might help them find the intrinsic motivation and ways to proceed with transition on their own terms’. Identity Truths I thought I might have to sacrifice my culture just to be happy in my body, but that’s not the case. – Brotherboy Kai Clancy (Brotherboys Yarnin’ Up 2014) Increasingly, interlocking and intersecting identities are being surfaced, challenging normative portrayals of white, middle-class, educated, heterosexual, able-bodied transmen, who remain more visible in majority media (Abbott 2009; Shapiro 2010). Often following in the footsteps of feminist and queer scholarship and activism, transmasculine writers, educators and activists have created a significant body of political and scholarly work calling intersectionalities to attention. Ziegler commented on social and cultural progress in his keynote speech at the San Francisco Trans March 2013 in the following words: […] ‘the most powerful representation of our progress within this time – a mere ten years – is that we’ve begun to understand the urgency of advocating for trans equality across racial lines. In true subversive form, we’ve seen trans people of color take on leadership roles locally and across the country. (Ziegler 2013, 11 July) The challenges of surfacing different positionalities, of avoiding systemic erasure of specific transmasculine identifications and of disrupting normative and hegemonic representations 149

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clash with concurrent cultural trends seeking to avoid oversimplified and deterministic portrayals, to question the social and political consequences of fragmentizing identities and, at times, to foreground needs for activist interventions where they are most sorely needed. Much college-educated white, middle-class transmasculine discourse assumes that the experiences of other transmen are not validated or visible – and also assumes that these experiences are by definition subjugated ones. This oversimplifying rhetorical tendency, in itself, perpetuates rather than disrupts power imbalances because it negates the actual visibility of non-dominant transmasculine lives, dismisses the progress identified by individuals such as Ziegler, fails to question the implicit assumption that all white, educated, middle-class transmen are privileged, and uncritically conflates ethnicity, class, and education alongside other vectors of difference. The US documentary TransGeneration profiles four transgender college students during the 2004–2005 school year. These four students include two transmasculine students, one of which (T.J. Jourian) is a graduate student of LebaneseArmenian descent from Cyprus. The documentary accompanies Jourian on his summer break home as he prepares to encounter his family, which is not aware of his transition plans and not expected to be supportive. Jourian, who now publicly identifies as a pansexual queer Middle Eastern Trans* man, has since participated in the WeHappyTrans project. In his contribution, he expresses gratitude for the support he has received from family and friends throughout his transition and especially thanks his mother and sister, stating that ‘it has been quite a journey for them also’ (Jourian 2012). Gust Yep warns against treating intersectionality in a ‘superficial and roster-like fashion’ (2013, p. 123) in which ‘the individual’s race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality [and other vectors of difference]’ (2010, p. 173) constitute a list of identity categories. Yep embraces the concept of ‘thick intersectionalities’ (2013, p. 123), which takes into account individualized histories, vectors of difference, personal agency, systemic arrangements and structural forces. Attending to thick intersectionalities in this manner means that one ‘should attend to the lived experiences and biographies of the persons occupying a particular intersection, including how they inhabit and make sense of their own bodies’ (2013, p. 123). A transmasculine black blogger writes that attending the 2012 First Annual Black Transmen Advocacy Conference in Dallas changed his life because it allowed him to realize that he has been afraid to express his transmasculinity due to several factors: […] my own perceptions of what it means to be a man (read: black man), the scarcity of positive black male role models in my life […] my issues with reconciling my inherent masculinity and my radical feminist ideals […] others’ perceptions of what it means if I claim my masculinity […] people not ‘letting’ me be male. (Toi S. 2012) Clancy, who lives in Queensland, Australia, experiences transmasculinity as both a cultural and a gender identity. He identifies as a brotherboy in his indigenous culture, and says transitioning posed a cultural conflict to him: 150

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The reason why it was so tough was because, I thought, as an Aboriginal person who has immense pride and connection to their culture and actively participated in a dance troupe, what would the transition mean? I grew up doing women’s dance and culture business, and having to sacrifice that would probably be just as painful as gender dysphoria itself. (Indigenous and transgender 2014) Clare addresses the intersections of trans identity with disability and class in Exile and Pride: Disability, Queerness, and Liberation in 1999, a work that was republished in 2009 by South End Press and is scheduled for third re-publication by Duke University Press in 2015. In this collection of essays, Clare (2015) critiques the ‘supercrip’, which he considers one of the dominant images of disabled people. The supercrip narrative focuses on people ‘overcoming’ disabilities, thereby reinforcing ‘the superiority of the nondisabled body and mind’. Such narratives ‘turn individual disabled people, who are simply leading their lives, into symbols of inspiration’. Logan Gutierrez-Mock (2006) writes that going on testosterone for him meant a ‘reclamation’ (p. 232) of his mixed-race background and a conscious effort to resist the white-skin privilege he is subject to. As a biracial FTM, Gutierrez-Mock describes coming into his mixed heritage as a ‘homecoming’ that was tied to his trans identity: Firmly placed within the borders of both race and gender, I have finally learned to recognize home. Home for me is in my mother, and the idea of my mother, la Madre. I was afraid of going home for years, afraid of owning my identities: mixed, transgender, Chicano, my mother’s son who looks exactly like her white husband. (p. 233) Ziegler, director of the documentary Still Black, says his identity as a queer black transman has influenced his film-making ‘because I want to see people who share a similar life experience as me on the big screen’ (Speaks 2012). Rather than being able to nest oneself within interlocking identities, Nico Dacumos (2006, p. 23) writes, isolation and a sense of deception often win the battle between identities: Sometimes I lie my ass off for even the tiniest taste of community. […] I remain ‘she’ amongst butches of color to hang on to the one community that ever felt kinda good to belong to. I let transmen assume that I am also FTM, that I unequivocally long for top surgery and testosterone. In her semi-autobiographical novel Tomboy, Bouraoui (2007) links transmasculine consciousness with being torn between French and Algerian culture. Born to a French mother and an Algerian father, she spent her childhood in Algeria and then moved to France, not feeling at home in either country, either gender: 151

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I go from Yasmina to Nina. From Nina to Ahmed. From Ahmed to Brio. It’s an assassination, an infanticide, and a suicide. I don’t know who I am. One and multiple. Lying and truthful. Strong and weak. Girl and boy. My body will betray me one day. It will develop into a female body and turn against me. It will resist. (p. 34) For Bouraoui, gender identity transcends physical body consciousness and remains inextricably intertwined with national–cultural location: My life is a secret. I am the only one who knows my desire. Here in Algeria I want to be a man, and I know why. It’s my only certainty. It’s my truth. To be a man in Algeria means becoming invisible. I will leave my body, my face, my voice. I will be on the side of power. Algeria is a man; it is a forest of men. (p. 21) Identity articulations of younger transmasculine people or those who are older but just emerging into transmasculine consciousness now reflect a less static sense of identities, both in regard to one’s trans identity and in regard to the overall concept of identity. Stephen Ira, the 20-year-old trans-identified son of Warren Beatty and Annette Bening, identifies himself ‘as a transman, a faggy queen, a homosexual, a queer, a nerd fighter, a writer, an artist, and a guy who needs a haircut’ (Ira 2012). Ira, who calls himself a transfeminist who plans on having children someday, also says that his ideas about who he is and who he will become ‘will definitely change’ because he is only 20 years old. The notion of identity truth, however, remains prominent, as in the testimony of Tyler Ford (n.d.), who was a contender on the second season of The Glee Project. Ford, who self-describes as half-black, half-white, Jewish and transgender, says he knew he was a boy when he was 3 or 4 years old. While he tried to repress his gender identity, he says he was suicidal, depressed and terrified of his future. ‘I’ve always had a sense of purpose, and I knew that if I found a way to get myself through everything I was dealing with, I’d be able to live an amazing life and change the lives of others’. Physical transition was ‘a life or death choice’ for Tyler. ‘I wasn’t born with the ability to choose my gender. I was born with the ability to choose to live in a way that is open, honest, and true to myself ’. Joe Laurie Crofton Macdonald (2012) of New Zealand argues that (trans)masculinity is a practice, not an identity. Macdonald, who was assigned female at birth and currently identifies as genderqueer transmasculine femme, interviewed four transguys to explore how a ‘politics of incoherence’ can enable coalitions between political movements. As a white/Pakeha New Zealander, Macdonald argues that it is important to actively ‘disrupt the dominance of white/Pakeha norms of masculinity in the postcolonial context of New Zealand’. The four transguys interviewed differed in their perspectives on feminism and its relationship to transmasculinity. Two of the transguys who were in their mid-twenties, as well as Macdonald, identify as feminist. Two of the transguys who were in their thirties and forties, respectively, advocate feminist politics but question whether 152

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transmen could or should identify as feminists. A politics of incoherence, in Macdonald’s view, ‘requires a commitment to social justice that emerges from my particular (dis)location and extends across identity categories to find solidarity with others who are different to me, with whom I share ethical and political values’ (p. 180). Identity may well emerge as the most commonly studied construct of the past 20 years. In the context of global education, Sameena Karim (2012) argues that while a sense of identity is a basic social and psychological need, it ‘may be regarded as a mild form of tribalism’, which needs to be balanced with the diametrically opposed force of globalism. While Karim’s critical literature review mostly focuses on global/local, national/cultural tensions, the tension between thinking of oneself as a member of a ‘transmasculine cultural community’ and thinking of oneself as a member of a global network of individuals manifesting individualized gender truths is evident in transmasculine discourse in an English-speaking context. Identities cannot be claimed in isolation but are validated (or not) by others; they emerge in and are constructed by social interactions. How transmasculine people construct their identities also affects the identities of those around them. This notion has been recognized in discussions of ‘grief ’ and ‘loss’ of one’s previous gendered identity. Bendorf (2014b, 20 January) writes that his transformation also leads to others mourning. ‘There is an inherent loss and I am trying to figure out how that is different from regret; how to make space for both what is lost and what is gained’. Transmasculine people who socially and/or physically transition are increasingly being presented as more multi-dimensional, meaning that they are not ‘selves’ unto themselves but selves partially defined in their social relationships with others. In the last five years, media coverage of transgender men has increasingly focused on resulting shifting gender roles within families, in tandem with surveys identifying parent roles of trans people. About 38 per cent of respondents to the US National Transgender Discrimination Survey reported being parents, and about 18 per cent had at least one dependent child (Grant et al. 2011). The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014) survey found that 16 per cent of its trans respondents were living in a household with at least one child. News coverage of transmen whose roles change from mothers to fathers, daughters to sons, sisters to brothers, or wives to husbands is increasing. The University of La Verne student newspaper profiles Aiden Aizumi’s involvement in campus education and quotes him on family dynamics: ‘[…] my dad needed some time to go through his own process of mourning of losing a daughter and adjusting to that’ (Carranza 2014). An ABC news story on children whose parents have transitioned included the experiences of three transmen (James 2012a). The daughter of a woman who transitioned when her daughter was 13 said she first felt a sense of loss, but eventually appreciated seeing her mother as a much happier person. Mel Wymore, a New York City City Council candidate, is quoted on allowing his children to call him ‘mom’ to make them more comfortable with the process. Hunter Thompson, a 56-year-old acupuncturist from Maryland, recalls that his transition was difficult for several of his four children. The story continues with Thompson’s advice to other parents in transition, an extension of his experience to that of others, which again reframes female-to-male transition from being ‘extraordinary’ to somewhat ordinary. 153

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Thompson advises other parents to be honest with their children and to agree on ground rules. In his case, his children can call him ‘mom’ in private but call him ‘Hunter’ in public. Tam Sanger, who interviewed trans people and their partners in the United Kingdom and Ireland, noted that partners’ views of gender, sexuality and their own identities ‘were shaken by their relationships’ (2010, p. 266). A lesbian whose partner transitions FTM will likely have to renegotiate her own identity. A contribution on About.Com from a ‘formerly lesbian currently queer cis-gender woman’ who is in a relationship with a trans* guy unravels how she avoids pronouns for her partner altogether because she does not want others to assume she is heterosexual: I don’t feel like myself when people talk to me like I’m a straight woman because they know I have a boyfriend and don’t know he’s trans. To be honest it’s causing a bit of an identity crisis for me. (Silverberg n.d.) Such contemporary online articulations echo the thoughts of Minnie Bruce Pratt, partner of Feinberg, who wrote in 1995 about being in a relationship: with a woman so transgendered, with such perceived contradictions between her birth sex and her gender expression, that someone at one end of a city block could call her ‘Ma’am’ and someone at the other end would call her ‘Sir’. I was learning that I was more complicated than I’d had any idea. (1995, p. 14) The process of recognizing and realizing one’s transmasculine identity is fundamentally understood as a search for self. Somewhat paradoxically, that search often leads, discursively, to finding oneself not in idiosyncratic unfolding of one’s potential or unrealized inner self but in the execution of external, stereotyped gender roles. While this is not ostensibly cast as such in the discourse of finding one’s transmasculinity, it nevertheless manifests itself in the discourse by the constant accentuation of male gender roles and the rhetorical weight of becoming or being a man. In other words, much transmasculine discourse elaborates on the difference between having been someone’s wife, daughter, mother, aunt, grandmother and becoming someone’s husband, son, father, uncle or grandfather. Indeed, this appears non-remarkable at first glance, if not obligatory. Critical discourse analysis, however, brings the potential to explore alternate constructions and to identify their absences (Brabham 2012; Cox et al. 2008; Gu 2014). Transmasculine discourse could build an emphasis on constancy of existing interpersonal relationships by de-gendering rather than re-gendering transitioning individuals. Discourse generated by parents or other family members of trans-identified children often pursues precisely this line of argumentation – shifting one’s identification from being the parent of a son or daughter to the parent of a child, shifting one’s identification from being a brother or sister to being a sibling. Pearlman’s conversations with 154

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the mothers of 12 FTM transgender children are cast, from the onset, with a view towards gender roles. The mothers she interviewed in the 1990s were from the United States, Canada, England and Australia. The title of her book, ‘Mother-Talk’, orients the reader towards the relevance of gendered family roles, and while the in-depth conversations she conducted with her participants were complex and touched on many aspects of their children’s gender identities, the theme of grieving the loss of a daughter was strong. The book, which contains conversations with mothers of lesbian daughters as well as mothers of female-tomale transgender children, is organized into the major themes Pearlman identifies in the conversations: devastation, loss, not the only issue, adolescence, keeping the connection and activism. Pearlman writes that most of the mothers of FTM children she interviewed responded to their children’s emerging trans identities with ‘a profound crisis characterized by shock, disorientation, and grief ’ (2012, p. 7), a ‘prolonged period of devastation and shame as well as confusion’ (p. 8) and engagement of the ‘metaphor of death’ (p. 9): However, it was the specific loss of a daughter and the special importance of the motherdaughter relationship that was the most painful aspect of transition – depriving them of companionship, closeness, and activities they had once shared. (p. 10) One participant (Elise) whose story was titled ‘She’s a Guy Now’ talks about ‘losing a child of a particular gender’ (pp. 61–62). She talks about grieving and the difficulty of finding an appropriate birthday card: I was doing quite well and then her birthday came around and I had to buy a birthday card. I spent a lot of time looking for an appropriate card. A daughter card didn’t feel appropriate. A son card didn’t feel appropriate. (p. 61) Elise’s child had socially and physically transitioned but does not identify as male; while he uses a male name, he ‘prefers to be genderless’ and is not sure which pronouns to prefer, according to his mother’s account (p. 60). Elise discusses the difficulty of reconciling the history of gendered family rituals with the new family dynamic: Easter was really hard because I used to make her dresses and now, what do I do with those pictures with all those little dresses? That’s a loss. How do I relate to this child now that she identifies as a different gender? I certainly relate to my son differently than my daughter although I brought him up in a very non-sexist way. (p. 62) In these mothers’ accounts, the degree to which a child had previously conformed to gender representations appeared significant to the degree of loss experienced. Anna, a 55-year-old 155

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Canadian mother of a transgender man, notes that it was easier for her because she had a masculine daughter. As of late, transmasculine discourse is beginning to question the adequacy of the death metaphor. British artist and writer Lester (22 December 2014) offers a blog post titled ‘Transition is not death’ to counter the frequent engagement of the death metaphor in the discourse of parents, mainstream media and naturally occurring conversations. Lester, whose brother died at age 20, differentiates between bereavement and grief caused by dramatic change. ‘This isn’t a pedantic or semantic argument, but something at the core of our misunderstandings about what it is to be trans. Death is the end of possibility  – transition is its opposite’. Social scientific literature has established a discourse of grief, loss and death that is referenced by online discussions among family members of transmasculine individuals. For example, Brian D. Zamboni (2006) argues in Family Journal that [m]any parents feel that they are losing a son or daughter, the stress of which can depend on the meaning that a parent attaches to the gender identity of a child (e.g. a mother of three who has two sons and always wanted a daughter may be particularly upset at the thought of losing her only daughter). Siblings might grapple with the loss of a brother and the idea of having a new sister. Children face the prospect of losing a mother figure or a father figure – or trying to understand the disappearance of an aunt and the identity of a new uncle. (pp. 175–176) Kristen Norwood (2012, 2013) explores the discourses of grieving gender by examining online discourse and interviewing family members of trans-identified people. Her exploratory study of online message board posts created by relational partners (2012) suggests that transition was perceived as a ‘living death’ and therefore could be understood from Pauline Boss’s concept of ‘ambiguous loss’ (Boss 2007). Based on interviews with family members, Norwood (2013) concludes that these family members constructed four different meanings for transition: replacement, revision, evolution or removal. One of the participants (Ava), a mother of a young F2M child, constructed transition as replacement when she talked about a young boy taking the place of her young girl: She’s gone! I mean, I didn’t get to see her become a 4-year-old little girl, or a 5-year-old little girl. She only made it to a 2 ½ or 3 and then all of the sudden it became a boy, the boy kind of grew and grew. The girl never did. So, you grieve over the girl you thought you had. (p. 33) Another participant in Norwood’s study (Gabbie) engages in revision discourse when she recalls how she had corrected her F2M child by explaining to him that he was girl because he had a vagina but now knows that that is not ‘what makes us a boy or a girl’ (2013, p. 35). In what Norwood labels evolution discourse, Lilly, the mother of an F2M trans-identified 156

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teenager, talks about her child as both being the same person and having two discrete stages – his initial presence in her life as her daughter and his current presence in her life as his son. In an example of removal discourse, Roxy, the mother of an F2M teenager recalls her initial grief ‘when she felt her female child as gone’ (2013, p. 38), but eventually moved to a perception of her son to which sex is irrelevant. Norwood concludes that regardless of the understandings family members invoked, they invariably disclosed ‘they still felt some amount of loss related to gender – loss of their loved one’s gender identity’ (2013, p. 38), leading her to conclude that this persistent experience of ambiguous loss ‘can only be due to the fact that our social world is a staunchly gendered one’ (p. 40). Salamon (2010, p. 110) considers the framing of transition as death a rhetorical equation between FTM transition and violence to butch lesbians: ‘[t]ransition is framed as if it were akin to a death or as if the post-transition subject will with hir emergence enact the death of the pretransition subject’. Like birth and death rituals, naming rituals, whether applied to single names or a series of names, play a significant role in identifying individuals in a given community or cultural system. They carry meaning (social, spiritual, religious, familial) and are bestowed, in most cultures, by naming ceremonies and according to cultural rules and traditions. Assumption of a new name, whether chosen or given, usually marks the formal (external) assumption of a new identity and sometimes a spiritual rebirth. Stefan de Villiers (2011), whose family emigrated from South Africa to Canada when he was a child, reflects on changing his first name upon gender transition in the following passage: I had two choices, really. I could decide on a name that was entirely unrelated to the ones I was given at birth, or I could take the names I had and alter them slightly. There are benefits to both approaches. It can be easier for family and loved ones to make the adjustment if the new name is far removed from its point of origin, since there is a clear line between the old identity and the new. On the other hand, a birth name is a gift parents bestow on their child. It carries with it the hopes and expectations they hold for you. You don’t throw that away lightly. But I was changing and my name needed to reflect that. De Villiers ultimately kept his surname, dropped the middle name his mother had given him, and kept his father’s first name. His family did not embrace his transition. His mother disowned him; his father requested that he not sign his emails ‘as my now-masculine version of his name made him wince at his own name. He simply could not bear it. I was hurt but I complied’. De Villiers’ father died before the two had an opportunity to reconcile. ‘Today, I carry with me my father’s name like a faded souvenir, a reminder of the conflict – and the love – that binds us’, de Villiers writes. Ryan, a transman of Lebanese descent who lives in Australia (Ryan 2014, 7 August) reflects on the difficulty of choosing a name because he wanted to retain his Arabic heritage but not connect his name with his family to protect them from gossip: ‘Whether to choose a Lebanese name that has nothing to do with my family or whether to choose a Muslim male name. What would the latter mean in how I navigate the world?’ Ryan writes that his brother, who has a prominent Muslim name, is often subject 157

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to prejudice. Ultimately, he kept his family’s surname and chose a first name (Ryan) that works well in English and Arabic (Ryaan), concluding that ‘for me, a name is more than just a name’. Naming and renaming practices as part of social transitions are widely discussed online, from small group video exchanges such as TransGuys Ireland’s series of videos on naming, wikiHows, Yahoo Answers, counselling advice, support group recommendations and so forth. On the TransGuys Ireland channel, Josh says he does not mind disclosing his birth name (Alana), although it may seem odd that he is comfortable with revealing it. He first chose Alex because of its gender neutral appeal, he recalls, but was constantly asked to identify his gender. Since he identifies as a boy, he decided to choose a different, more gender specific name, and asked a friend to help him. He chose his middle name to honour his greatgrandfather. Josh advises other transguys to ‘spend as much time on it as you possibly can because you can only change so many times before you hit a certain age and your name is like your ID’ (Josh’s topic 5). On the same channel, Kody says that unlike many other transguys, he does not ‘really have a special reason or story behind’ how he chose his name. His new name appealed to him because of the relative ease of switching to it; it is only different from his birth name in one letter (Kody – topic 5 – How you chose your name). Daniel says that his birth name has never been used in reference to him at all and that he has always been called Danny. He chose Daniel because of its easy adaptability to his nickname. Daniel says his new name suits him to the degree that people who used to call him Danny now call him Daniel. Like Kody, he chose a middle name in honour of a grandparent. While he does not plan on living completely stealth, Daniel says, he is envisioning not being out as trans overall and therefore chose a name that would not ‘stand out too much’. On other discussion boards, FTMs characterize the task of finding a new name as challenging, scary, daunting, difficult and fun. Daniel Raymond was looking for a name that would work well in both Spanish and English. He selected his first name, and his mother picked his middle name, which is also his father’s. ‘It sounds nice when you say it in Spanish’, he says. The tone of much online discourse about selecting a name appears fairly pragmatic. Considerations include ease of pronunciation, spelling, currency or datedness of chosen name, proximity to original name, ethnicity, fashion names, familial naming patterns, gendered vs. non-gendered names as well as determining who gets to select the name (oneself, friends, family). In an acknowledgement of the ordinary nature of the task, a transguy signs an online guestbook ‘Cheers Beck or possibly Oliver. Haven’t decided yet’ (Beck/Oliver 2010). Pride and Shame I had left out the part about how, when this happens, there remains a small but powerful voice inside me that insists that this is somehow my fault, that it’s me and not the bigots who are wrong, that somehow my difference invites danger, that I am a burden to my partner and the people who love me. –Hayden, Director of Strategic Relations, Human Rights Campaign (2013) 158

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Transgender shame is a salient concept within transmasculine consciousness, articulated by transmasculine individuals as much as rejected, and often explicitly discussed by health professionals (Brill & Pepper 2008). New York City psychotherapist Ami B. Kaplan (2013) writes that ‘there has been very little in-depth exploration of the role of shame in transgenderism, yet shame as an emotion is listed in nearly every trans-related history’. Clancy reports that the decision to transition was ‘tough, weighty and I was really ashamed about it all’ (Indigenous and transgender 2014). The promotional copy for the documentary Call Me Malcolm (2014) states that sharing one’s transgender story can be ‘daunting in a culture which has done more to heap shame on persons who identify as transgender’. The Canadian Winnipeg Free Press (Vesely 2012) quotes Daniel, an alias for a 33-year-old transgender man from Manitoba who is on testosterone and wears a chest binder, as being out to family and close friends, but not at the university where he studies. The story quotes Daniel as being ‘afraid of being seen as a freak’. The reporter talks about Daniel revealing self-inflicted scars with the quotation: ‘They were all inflicted with the deep pain of knowing I have a long road, if any road, ahead of me’. Daniel is the father of three school-age children, who live with him full-time. ‘But on his bad days, the isolation, alienation and shame get the best of him. Cutting helps numb the pain, but he still feels suicidal at times’, the story states. Daniel states that he feels ashamed in his ‘deepest, darkest place’ but would have committed suicide if he could not have transitioned. A year later, OutWords magazine, a GLBTQ* community magazine published in Winnipeg, reports that the student filed a human rights complaint against the University of Manitoba on the grounds of discrimination (Clousier 2013). Sometimes, transmasculine shame is directly linked to one’s sexuality. Ethan Z. produced a video (FTM: Sex, Sexuality, and Shame 2013) discussing his own sexual feelings because he believes that shame prevents FTM communities from open conversation. He talks about the differences in sex drive between an oestrogen-based system and a testosterone-based system and body dysphoria. Originally, his dysphoria was mostly limited to his chest, Ethan recalls, but he has been experiencing increasing lower body dysphoria. Using a strap-on or penis prosthesis does not appeal to him because he does not like ‘the idea of using something else in place of a body part’ he feels he should have been born with. BecomingMat 101 posts a response that identifies his ‘non bio-dick’ as his current source of shame. Transmasculineidentified ‘Levilikesrain’ talks about the effort to be honest. The video is subtitled: You should never be ashamed to be who you are even if it means changing completely from a life you tried to build. I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact it was impossible for me to live happily as a female because it makes me feel so guilty. (FTM Assesing [sic] Shame & Guilt 2013) Invoking pride and shame, respectively, activates cultural constructions of transmen as heroes or victims, narratives that will be further explored in the next chapter. Man 101: The Brutally Honest FTM Guide gives advice on passing as biologically male as much as possible. The guide, which appears on Tumblr, explicitly states that its goal is not ‘to shame anyone 159

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for how they are’ but identifies its target audience as transmen who are not openly trans and who want to pass as cis. The text raises the spectre of shame in the following excerpt in regard to FTM Tumblr communities that feature ‘topless Tuesdays’: Now there’s no reason to be ashamed of anything you have. Dysphoria or not you are a beautiful human being. But if you want to pass, and not give yourself (or other people!) more discomfort and dysphoria … DON’T FUCKING SHOW OFF YOUR BREASTS IN TOPLESS TUESDAY PHOTOS. Again, it’s not because it’s SHAMEFUL, but because it really unsettles others who are trying to look through it for inspiration. […] It also rubs in the fact that you are physically female and ruins your passing, even amongst other brothers. (Man 101 n.d.) As in other minority discourses, particularly those which originated in an American English linguistic context, transmasculine discourse sometimes asserts itself via the notion of pride – the antonym to shame. Examples of FTM pride symbolism are now common on the Internet, where one can order an ‘FTM Pride Belt Buckle’ (Zazzle 2012) or the XX+Boy=FTM Pride shirt (Spreadshirt 2014); follow posts tagged ‘FTM Pride’ on Twitter, Tumblr or Pinterest; or follow Julius Quinn’s arguments about the notion of ‘transman vagina pride’ on YouTube (Quinn 2014). Jay Kelly posts on the online forum Ask.fm that he is ‘transgender’ and ‘proud of it’ (Schou 2014). In a reblogged post on Tumblr, a transman identified as atransmanunderstands states that he used to be proud and even had a trans symbol tattooed; he now is planning to have this symbol removed. His post lists the many reasons why being a transman disadvantages him across all dimensions of life post-transition. He concludes: I’m not fucking proud of any of this bullshit. You know what I’m proud of? I’m proud of the strength I have as a man to endure all of this. I’m a living deformity and I’m getting through it as much as I can. (Trans & Not Proud n.d.) Kevin McGowan from Liverpool, ‘purveyor of illegal gender magic’, writes in his WordPress blog in a short section ‘On Pride’: For what it’s worth, I’m not proud of being trans, as defined by the unfortunate state of my body. I’m not ashamed, but I’m not proud of it. I am proud of transitioning. Of having pulled the thread of my adolescent gender angst, with no idea where it might lead nor anyone to guide me. (McGowan 2013) A user named Andrew who posts a response on a GenderTrend blog exchange asks people to 160

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stop calling it coming out of the closet! There’s no closet! That just sounds bad! A few months ago I went to this group for transexuals and they had that thing all wrong they say ‘we’re all queers here’ and they represent the rainbow and gay pride. Transmen just want to be a normal guy in first place so do that be a normal guy. No trans pride why would you want this?! It fuckin sucks. (FTM’s in their own words 2011) Luke, a pre-T transguy from West Yorkshire, invites other FTMs via his YouTube channel to be proud of who they are because they are unique (FTM; be proud of yourself! 2013). Michael Scott (n.d.) reviews Buck Angel’s Sexing the Transman with the following commentary: ‘Until Buck, there was no sexually open, masculine, vag-proud trans guys [sic] to watch’. In these, and many other examples of this nature, transmasculine discourses are differentiating between transmasculine pride as a reaction to shame induced by transphobia and structural discrimination, pride as an assertion of a unique identity category and pride as an accomplishment of successfully navigating the challenges of being transgender. Balancing pride and shame, transmasculine discourse negotiates the need to openly and publicly discuss the needs of transmen with the need to reign in essentializing notions of what it means to identify as female-to-male or non-binary. While shame and pride are perpetuated as much as questioned in transmasculine discourse, trans shame and pride take on additional relevance in the context of asexual, bisexual, lesbian, gay or pansexual orientations. Some of the most visible transmasculine portrayals in popular media support a heterosexual paradigm, which, in its application to trans people, upholds the gender binary and heteronormativity. National Geographic’s American Transgender introduces three young American trans people, Clair, Jim and Eli. Jim and Eli both are married, one to a transwoman (Clair), one to a ciswoman (Amanda). The documentary shows all of them receiving (if reluctant) eventual support from their families. Eli, who is constructed as a ‘Southern boy’ from a Catholic Italian American family passionate about Alabama football, and his wife, Amanda, are planning to have children. Eli is worried about having a boy because he was not socialized as one and hopes his brother can help out. After his wedding to Clair, Jim says ‘our life is normal now’ and considers himself ‘the luckiest guy in any universe anywhere’. An unequivocal attraction to women is still often portrayed as evidence of one’s transmasculine nature, particularly in majority media discourse. However, the representative nature of these portrayals is now contested, as more recent portrayals of transidentified men and transmasculine genderqueer or non-binary youth show a range of sexual orientations or agender/asexual identifications. Dunye’s short film Black is Blue (2014) stars queer transgender actor Faraday as a black transman security guard who struggles with his identity after meeting an ex-lover. A performance artist, activist and writer, Faraday reflects, in an interview with Ziegler that the film allowed him to fall in love with the character, Black, which was a very interesting process because it forced me to fall in love, once again, with my own transgender identity. […] as a 161

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black-transman, I found that I had become so used to the daily battle of defending my intersecting identities, and self, even on a subliminal level that I had forgotten to continue exploring and loving my black-trans identity with the intention that it is due. (Transgender Hero #6 2013) In an assessment of the past and future of LGBT studies, media scholar Gross (2005, p. 524) argues that a better understanding of the changes in the concepts of identity and sexuality is needed. Conflicts between theoretical positions on the (im)possibility of stable sexual identities, subjective individual experiences and institutional authorities play out in media texts and self-articulations: When these conflicts are amplified by the acknowledgment of race, ethnicity, and class as conditions that contribute to the shape of identity, as a result of both external attribution and subjective experience, it becomes ever more difficult to slide identity and sexuality under a conceptual microscope. Difficult or not, recognizing and addressing these conflicts is important, Gross argues, because of the political consequences of sexual and gender identity constructions. Hansbury (2005, p. 242) presents three subgroups on the ‘transmasculine continuum’: an essentialist/binary-gendered group, a constructionist, non-binary-gendered group and a group that ‘straddles both the essentialist and the constructionist concept of self ’. Hansbury labels the essentialists ‘woodworkers’, the middle group ‘transmen’ and the constructionists ‘genderqueer’. While acknowledging the theoretical and political dangers of presenting taxonomies of identities, Hansbury nevertheless ascribes particular characteristics, of belief as much as of self-presentation, to each of these groups. He also perceives of transmasculine identities in specific spatial patterns: transmasculine identities are understood to exist on a continuum, and identifying as a transman is thought of as a journey. Hansbury emphasizes the role of self-interpretation and questions identity development models that conclude on a note of trans pride or celebration: The quandary is this: by setting up a system in which the final, triumphant goal is public pride and activism, FTMs who remain at the Integration stage – in the woodwork  – may too easily be seen as developmentally stuck, as poor, misguided victims of the heteropatriarchy, suffering from internalized transphobia. (2005, p. 247) As a consequence of these discursive constructions, being transmasculine is symbolically equated with becoming transmasculine, a notion that likely will come under increased scrutiny in the coming years as the discourses of transmasculinity expand, the ways of becoming transmasculine diversify and the relevance of being transmasculine draws increased attention from society at large. Joe Ippolito (2011) conducted a phenomenological 162

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study exploring the ‘re-socialization’ process of FTMs, noting that most theoretical models suggest a linear process from female to male. Based on his research with 12 adults from diverse backgrounds, all of whom had medically transitioned, Ippolito calls such linear assumptions into question and suggests that the process will differ depending on age, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, skin colour and education. Toronto artist Neilly describes his photographic exhibit as a self-portrait project which presents photos, voice recordings and artefacts ‘that represent a segment or moment in his gender exploration’ (Wynne Neilly 2014). The artist’s statement explains the use of quotation marks in the following words: [Neilly] insists on the use of quotation marks around the word ‘male’ stating that his identity is something fluid that cannot be easily defined by use of a single word. For him, his gender and body are a construction of the ways in which he perceives himself and the queer social experiences he has lived. Neilly maintains that his trans identity is not a shift from one sex or gender to another, but rather a continual evolution. (Wynne Neilly 2014) Bustle.com lifestyle reporter Elizabeth Ballou (Ballou 2014) writes in her review of the exhibit: ‘While many trans* individuals find the cis community’s preoccupation with the transition itself to be belittling (for completely understandable reasons), Neilly embraces his transition’. She characterizes the photos as intense, clinical, open and honest. Ballou’s commentary ascribes preoccupation with the transition process to the cis community, an acknowledged trend identified by transmasculine voices, but discussions within the transmasculine community also address the community’s perceived own preoccupation with the transition. While Ballou appears to respect critiques of the focus on physical transition,  the use of the conjunction ‘while’ creates a juxtaposition between Neilly and other transmen that implies not all ‘embrace their transitions’. Rhetorically, this creates the impression that all transmasculine-identified people transition and simply respond to their transitions with different value judgments rather than acknowledging that physical transitions may or may not be part of a transmasculine person’s life. The characterization of the photos as ‘open’ and ‘honest’ tie back to the associational cluster of truth and authenticity. By emphasizing that his trans identity is ‘a continual evolution’ (Wynne Neilly 2014), Neilly integrates the notion of gender performativity with the goal of becoming, thereby reconciling key queer theoretical concepts with key trans studies assumptions. Faraday says he is typically read as a black man, but he is half Jamaican, half Irish and transgender: ‘I passively pass on both fronts, not because I choose to pass, but simply because that is what it is’ (Transgender Hero #6 2013). Faraday says his trans heroes are everyday transmen and transwomen who take the risk of pursuing an ‘identity to better explain their spirit in an effort to achieve true happiness in this world’ (Transgender Hero #6 2013). Transman Max writes: 163

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Continue on in your quest for inner truth, I hope you all find peace within yourself and amongst your loved ones. After all, isn’t that the whole fucking point? Unify the inner and outer self to the best of your ability if that’s what you desire. (Another rant about our ‘community’ 2011) Transmasculine discourse almost effortlessly converges on the notion of an inner truth, but dissenting understandings of the nature of this inner truth are evident. For some, inner truth is static, and, once uncovered and actualized, a permanent aspect of one’s life. For others, inner truth can mean multiple authentic moments of inner truth, which may locate on diverging paths at different points in time. For some, inner truth can only be truly actualized when it is recognized and validated externally, while for others, inner truth exists within oneself (or between oneself and a higher power) and functions independently of external validation. The scope of one’s inner truth also varies. For some transmasculine people, one’s inner truth is one’s sex or gender truth, a move that collapses the self and one’s sex/gender identity into a compound gendered self. Hansbury (2004, p. 17) reflects that taking testosterone changed him into ‘a biological determinist’ due to the ways in which his body and mind responded to the hormone; however, he also acknowledges that living as a man who was raised as a woman has turned him into ‘a social constructivist’. For others, one’s sex or gender truth is just one (but invariable) aspect of one’s inner truth and authentic self, and for others again, one’s sex or gender truth is in constant metamorphosis, along with other manifestations of a socially constructed self. Christopher Khor (Koh 2015) of Singapore says that being transgender specifically is not the centre of my being … I think it’s become so much a part of me that I would not be who I am without it, but does it define me? I don’t think so. […] We really are just the sum of our life experiences, and being transgender is just one part of mine. Scottish singer-songwriter Simon de Voil, who now lives in Australia, provides a selfintroduction on his website (de Voil n.d.). His gender transition, which was the subject of the documentary Funny Kinda Guy, is referenced in the seventh paragraph, positioning it as one of several life events that influenced his music, but it is not foregrounded. De Voil portrays himself as a ‘songsmith and community boatbuilder’ above all. In a commentary on his song Funny Kinda Guy, de Voil describes the way audiences responded to his songs differently depending on his perceived gender. As a female, standing singing this (in Glasgow of all places!) people were gripped and challenged. Strange though it might seem, I prefer having an uncomfortable audience than a bored one. In 2001 when I was still gigging – but as Simon – with my alto voice and androgynous appearance, audiences responded with a bit of uncertainty and this was my swan song, I suppose. I remember the feeling of being stared at, rather than watched 164

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and I got the impression that the people were listening more intently because they weren’t sure what gender I was. Inclusion of transgender identification as one, and not necessarily the most salient, identity marker restructures hierarchies of difference. An article in The Japan Times (Kittaka 2013) tells the story of a bicultural university student, the son of a Japanese mother and a Canadian father, who was born, raised and educated in Japan. His name, which includes katakana elements because it is composed of Japanese and Western names, flagged him as a potential foreigner when he sought employment in Japan. The story then raises the fact that he was ultimately denied the job because his gender designation did not match his residence certificate. Kittaka quotes the student’s mother: ‘They discriminated against our son twice. […] First for asking him to prove his citizenship, and then by making a huge issue of his gender’. From there, the story focuses on other examples of bicultural adults being discriminated in Japan, a country in which one in every 20 marriages involves a foreign partner. The student’s gender identification (he transitioned in high school) is constructed as less relevant than the national–cultural consequences of naming practices. In this vein, this article devotes a significant amount of content to cultural expectations (and institutional enforcement) that Japanese individuals have naturally black hair. Recent transmasculine discourse, particularly that of younger transmen, often employs what Burke (1984) might have considered a comic frame. For example, Khor’s trailer for a documentary on Singaporean transmen he is producing is light-hearted. He speaks of his journey, and of others like him trying to find their way ‘in the sunny island state of Singapore’. The minute-and-a-half trailer ends with Khor joking about the infomercial tone of the trailer, comparing it to vacuum cleaner sales (Koh 2015). Webcomic author Boecher (2014) asks: How would you define normal? Is it when you wear shoes on your feet at the mall or eat toast for breakfast? Is it when you’re female and feel like a woman? What happens when you go somewhere else and they don’t even have shoes or toast, or when you’re in a group of people who are female and don’t feel at all like women? The Tumblr site sunnidee-is-a-transman (2014) shows a photo of a packer stuck in a sink drain pipe. The caption starts with the following sentences: ‘This is just a funny so prepare to laugh. So being a transman, I own two packers and two binders to help with Dysphoria’. It then tells the story of the sink overflowing and the packer actually being sucked down into the drain. The transman then took a picture because he found it ‘hilarious’. Online, one can find transman jokes posted by transmen, cartoons, funny anecdotes and comedy stand-up routines. Dean, the protagonist in DeLine’s semi-autobiographical novel Refuse, says that ‘to be transgender is to be perpetually offended’ (2011, p. 27). Later in the novel, Dean speaks of self-loathing, shame and guilt: ‘Without my guilt and my hair I’m nothing’, Dean said. ‘That’s 165

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because you have INTERNALIZED YOUR OPPRESSION’, says an imaginary activist. I stab hir with a trans umbrella’ (p. 39). Herbert Simons (2009) explains how Burke’s work can be employed to ‘reconcile the need to give effective expression to moral outrage with the need to contain and channel outrage by way of a self-deconstructive comedic stance’. Burke (1984) used the concept of ‘maximum consciousness’ to describe the end goal of a comic frame that would in essence engage people in self-observation while acting. Some examples of transmasculine discourse today reflect a shift from what Burke might consider a melodramatic frame to a comic frame, a conceptual tool ‘to check and channel’ warranted outrage (Simons 2009). Inscribing Presence Transmasculine discourse examined in this chapter inscribes presence in ‘durable and conspicuous ways’ (heinz 2012, p. 336). Presence, in this context, needs to be understood both in its popular usage as a synonym to a mere, factual existence and in a more complex phenomenological sense, in which ‘presence is an essential but hidden element of experience’ (Heinämaa 2011). This is significant because it is precisely this dualistic understanding of presence that characterizes contemporary transmasculine discourse. For Husserl, ‘scientific objectivity and the exact concepts of the natural sciences rests on the structures of interpersonal practice life’ (Heinämaa 2011, p. 29); transmasculine selfnarratives seek to establish and document presence, affirm innate and developmental understandings of selfhood, allow for cultural constructions of masculinity and vocalize intersectionalities that inform ways of transmasculine being in both predictable, structural, systemic ways and in idiosyncratic expressions of In-der-Welt-sein (Heidegger 2006). In this manner, transmasculine discourses continue the narrative of the femaleto-male journey but also allow for circuitous routes and changes of destination points. One’s transmasculine presence in the world can be expressed as reflective of an inner a priori truth, a spiritually purposive existence, an emergence of lived experience based on identity vectors or a temporarily foregrounded phenomenological awareness. Regardless of the rhetorical alignment manifested, such inscribed presence is always affected by an understanding of malehood and masculinity, which will be explored in the next chapter.

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in passing i’ve always had words they wrote me it was my voice that failed me not until repeated applications of testosterone elongated the pairs of folds of mucous membranes that project into the cavity of the larynx could i feel my words their weight wearing me up wearing me down wearing me out throughout daily interactions until i fatigue of processing

want the words to stop the vision to dim the sounds to fade and the muscles to just relax

so in pursuit of induced relaxation i enter the liquor store on Shelbourne and North Dairy feigning nonchalance just like any other guy getting some beer i walk up to the cashier unable to ascertain the ways i’m being gendered not uncomfortable in that ambiguity i walk out the door the six pack of Tuborg Gold® bottles chiming softly when my cell phone deep in my pocket sets off the alarm time floats in and around the bottles in my grip my performance – suspended awaiting judgment everyone turns to look it is Saturday night and there are many people in this store seeking salvation and absolution in vodka 167

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my body tenses into almost a turn flinches back at sudden eye contact with the cashier my breath curls under my tongue Excuse me, Sir he hollers and relief swivels my neck around surely brings the import beer to a boil as i dig up my cell phone to hold it in plain view It’s just my cell phone i say my voice firmly carries my words [Invited Reading, Pride is the Word, Victoria, British Columbia, July 2010]

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T

   he fundamental question driving transmasculine discourses asks about the nature of masculinity, malehood and manhood – what kind of a man is a transmasculine individual? Infrequently, but often with high visibility, transmasculine articulations find themselves embroiled in territorial skirmishes as claims to ‘male’ and ‘female’, ‘trans’ and ‘genderqueer’ territories are contested. However, these skirmishes erupt in a much broader discourse of thinking and rethinking (trans)masculinity that seeks to reconcile transgender and cisgender manifestations of troubled genders and culturally constructed sexes with natural scientific scholarship. Tapping into cultural reservoirs of traditional masculinity, transmasculinity is linked to heroism, courage, male privilege, male gender roles and normative physical attractiveness. At the same time, transmasculinity is linked to victimization, feminism and challenges to normative gender roles and physical attributes. The Transmasculine Hero Warrior I want a Singaporean trans hero to look up.

– Transman Confessions (2014)

Out of many transmasculine narratives, today’s transmasculine hero emerges, slaying the dragons of shame, guilt and discrimination. The Trans Scribe (Transgender Awareness Week 2013) profiles Dillon, Tipton and Harvie (often considered the first out FTM stand-up comedian) as ‘heroes’ in the context of the 2013 Transgender Awareness Week. GLBTQ media coverage of the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) often employs the vocabulary of heroism. Queerty.com uses the headline ‘Our Transgender Heroes: Remembering Those Who Have Paved the Way’ (Gremore 2013) for its story on the 2013 Transgender Day of Remembrance, which highlights nine transgender individuals. On the transmasculine spectrum, the story includes Bono, Brandon Teena and Eads. The Gay, Lesbian, & Straight Education Network, based in New York, created a poster with six ‘transgender heroes’, which included three transmasculine individuals: Allums, Feinberg and Valerio. The virtual Voices on the Square contains a series called ‘Transgender Heroes’, which was created by town square user Robyn. She introduces the list with the words ‘I will add people to the list as I encounter them and personally judge them to be heroic’ (Transgender Hero #1 2013). The first transgender hero in this series is Jacob Rostovsky, a graduate student at American Jewish University and the founder of Trans United with Family and Friends, a social group

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in Los Angeles. Ashton Lee is ‘Transgender Hero #5’ (Transgender Hero #5 2013). Lee, a trans California high school junior, hand-delivered petitions with nearly 6000 names to the state’s governor in 2013 in support of a bill that would give trans students equal access to school programmes and facilities. He also testified in the state’s legislature. Faraday is Transgender Hero #6 (Transgender Hero #6 2013). Former German pole vaulter Balian Buschbaum, who chose his first name after Balian of Ibelin, hero of the 2005 movie Kingdom of Heaven, is portrayed on Pinterest with the tag ‘FtM hero’ (Balian Buschbaum n.d.). The hero narrative has also been used to gently poke fun at the seriousness of transmasculine being. Harvie, who has vowed to ‘be the first transguy with his own stand-up comedy special on television’, titled his debut comedy special ‘Super Hero: Ian Harvie’s Standup Comedy Special’ (Anderson-Minshall 2013). In a post on The Trans Scribe site titled ‘We need another hero’, UK-based Liberation Publishing (n.d.) announces the introduction of its own new superhero, Transman, with the following words: Wherever there is intolerance, bigotry, and hate towards LGBT people, Transman will be there! Well, at least, he’ll be here, and you can follow his adventures as he, and his friend Ali Gillies, tries to make the world a safer more tolerant place for people who traverse the binary Orchard creates posters featuring transmale versions of superheroes, such as one of a headless ‘hot wolverine’ wearing a strap-on. A spiritual resource site for LGBT youth features a poster on its Tumblr site that proclaims: ‘I’m a TRANSMAN. Yes, I’m a superhero. No, I don’t wear tights’ (Tumbln Spirit 2012). The transition of a radio broadcaster is covered in the press in the context of the associational clusters that include the themes of ‘bravery’ and ‘courage’ (Chamberlain 2013). Samons (2005) describes Green’s Becoming a Visible Man as providing ‘some emotionally intense, heartbreaking and uplifting moments, providing lessons for us all in achieving self-definition while inspiring us with his courage’ (p. 191). In DeLine’s novel Refuse, transman Colin attempts to persuade transman Dean to join his band with these words: ‘Think of the hope we’d give transgender youth. You’d be a real hero, and not just a rebel without cause’ (2011, p. 216). Individuals who challenge cisnormative rules, such as Pennsylvania trans teenager Kasey Caron, who was refused the right to run for Homecoming King, are typically constructed as engaged in heroic battles against a system. In Caron’s case, the fact that he ultimately was allowed to start a gay-straight alliance at his school (the first in the region) and also granted the right to wear the same blue graduation cap and gown as the other male students was constructed as such a victory (Brydum 2013). The figure of the transmasculine hero, whether tongue-in-cheek superhero versions or Greek tragedy archetypes, leads into an examination of the types of men and masculinities transmasculine discourses privilege. The transmasculine hero can be understood as an individual who successfully overcomes an inherently difficult situation with heroic spirit, similar to the ‘supercrip’ narrative (Clare 2015) or as an individual who successfully fights external obstacles, such as an activist battling cisnormativity. Sometimes, the transmasculine 172

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hero is understood to be a hero in a traditional male warrior/soldier context. Omar Yadielle, recipient of a 2014 Jim Collins grant, writes: I’m a warrior in the battle that has been through a lot. […] My family rejected me because of my gender identity, and I’m alone in the world, battling for my life in order to be a great human being. (2014 Grant Recipient 2014) Trans activist Marti Abernathy (2007), in an entry on The TransAdvocate, seeks to reclaim the history of Albert D.J. Cashier, born Jennifer Irene Hodgers, who served in the 95th Illinois Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. Abernathy’s post is titled ‘Transman Civil War Hero’. The warrior metaphor also is maintained, although not in a dominant fashion, in titles of blogs and vlogs, such as that of 21-year-old Californian Atreyu Elfborn (2014), ‘Transition Blog of a Boy Warrior’, a column identifying Feinberg and Jacob Nash as ‘two American transgender warriors who have helped cut a path for trans people today’ (Line 2012) or ceremonies designed to remember ‘our fallen’ (Ng 2014). Faraday describes himself as ‘inclusionist, alchemist, writer, actor & warrior’ (Farady 2014), and Ty Ford labels himself ‘Small Town Warrior’ (Ford 2013). A post that originally appeared on FTM Confessions and that has been reposted on several individuals’ sites reframes the use of tampons: I used to get terribly dysphoric about tampons […] but ever since learning they were originally invented to plug bullet wounds they’re all I can stand to use because it makes me feel really badass that I can bleed for a week and not die and have to use a bullet wound plug to keep my clothes clean. (Cheerful Indignato 2014) The image of the warrior also appears in the realm of spirituality, as when Sandja describes himself as a ‘spiritual warrior’, which he defines ‘as someone who knows themselves and conquers their deep fears and limitations’ (13th Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference 2014). While within transmasculine discourse, the image of the ‘warrior’ enacts manhood mythologies, it is important to keep in mind that the metaphor also appears in transmasculine, transfeminine, non-binary and genderqueer discourse, which is primarily referenced in the context of the work of Feinberg and Bornstein. The Slate coverage of Triburgo’s portraits of transgender men anchors both his artistic approach and the reality of transmasculine lives in the rhetorical fields of heroism, courage and bravery. The URL to Jordan G. Teicher’s (2013) Slate Behold photo blog, which presents a selection of Triburgo’s Transportraits exhibit, explicitly refers to the ‘heroism of transgender men’, and the blog is titled ‘Capturing the Courage of Transgender Men’. The photo blog, which as of 21 May 2014 had been posted to Facebook more than 2000 times and tweeted 194 times, includes ten portraits of transgender men, characterized by close-up portrait photography with painted landscape backdrops, a reconciliation of artistic approaches 173

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designed to capture the social constructedness of nature and gender. Triburgo, a 33-year-old photographer living in Portland, Oregon, began the photo portrait series at the same time as he began his own transition. Teicher quotes Triburgo: ‘Someone is assigned a gender at birth, when I don’t think there’s any truth behind that. I think gender is something that can grow and change and is more subjective than it’s seen at large’. Teicher writes that Triburgo ‘shoots his transgender subjects from a slightly upward-facing angle in order to portray a sense of heroism’. The selection of Triburgo’s portraits on the Slate blog includes transmen of different ages and ethnicities; Triburgo is quoted as saying that he seeks to provide positive representations of transmen. While the social construction of gender and masculinity is called into question, the social construction of heroism is not. A The Huffington Post article (Brooks 2013) on Triburgo’s Transportraits is headlined ‘Transportraits: Lorenzo Triburgo Captures Powerful Images of Transgender Men’. Katherine Brooks (2013) writes, ‘He poses his subjects with their chins held high – a marker of 19th century portraiture, creating heroic depictions that demonstrate just how far-reaching the spectrum of masculinity can be’. Triburgo’s artist statement challenges viewers to ‘question the construct of portraiture (and masculinity) while simultaneously depicting a sincere heroism’. The Brooks selection of ten photos includes a portrait of a transman with long hair and a tattoo who presents with long armpit hair and a female chest (Silent Forest, Kernan). The inclusion of this portrait in The Huffington Post coverage allows the viewer to get a more fluid representation of transgender men’s experiences. Another photo blog, Lensscratch.com (Smithson 2013) reviews Transportraits and includes 14 of the portraits; however, the portrait of Kernan, whose representation conflicts with stereotypical portrayals of masculinity, is not included in this blog. Yahoo! News coverage of Triburgo’s series emphasizes the theme of national pride and heroism with its headline: ‘Out and proud: Heroic portraits of America’s transgender community’ (Hansen 2014). The reader then encounters nine examples of Triburgo’s portraits, including the image of Kernan. Others have commented on the visual power of this particular image. Nyx, in the TheSeattleVine arts blog, writes that to her this portrait ‘is the most heroic of all of these portraits. […] I feel that he could be an epic and gentle woodland god!’ (Nyx 2014). When one compares the online coverage of Triburgo’s series, the visual impact of including or excluding Kernan’s portrait becomes apparent, as does its potential to push the boundaries of transgender masculinity. Heroism is traditionally associated with masculinity, nobility, bravery and courage. Sometimes, transmasculine individuals emerge as heroes by virtue of surviving in the face of mental and physical health challenges and structural discrimination. Sometimes, transmasculine individuals emerge as heroes because of the roles they have assumed within cisnormative society or within the trans movement. At other times, transmasculine individuals are constructed as heroes because they battle, whether individually or in organized fashion, a dominant system of cisnormativity, heteronormativity and gender binarism. Irving (2014, p. 108) argues that visual representations of trans lives, such as Cameron’s photos of transmale heroes in Body Alchemy, while opening up discourse about multiplicity of sex/genders, still reproduce ‘class-based and nationalist logics’ (p. 107), leading him to conclude that non-racialized 174

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transsexual male subjects ‘become palatable’ only because they occupy a privileged position. Cameron’s self-portrait shows him as ‘an attractive young, able-bodied American male. He passes as a white working-class man, a soldier perhaps – a patriot’, Irving writes, suggesting that such visual discourse invokes a sense of hegemonic patriotic masculinity. The prominence of the transmasculine hero trope appears to be fading, but residual language associated with the cluster of heroism remains in place. An interchange on Reddit FTM in July 2014 (You’re so brave 2014) began with the post ‘I shouldn’t have to be brave to be me. I know it probably makes me a dick but I get so angry when someone says that to me. “You’re so brave telling me/us.” What do you guys think?’ The post drew 40 comments, which again tap the themes of heroism, courage and bravery. For the majority, the intent of someone expressing support outweighs potential negative interpretations, illustrated by responses such as: ‘I can’t be irritated at people who are just trying to be supportive’, ‘I think usually it is said with good intentions rather than to patronize’ or ‘it’s patronizing but not in a malicious way. It’s just kind of clueless’. Several state that they find the expression irritating and frustrating, regardless of its intent. The discussion becomes more multifaceted when the nature of the purported bravery is discussed. One individual comments: The very first time I came out on Reddit, some person PM’d me to tell me I was brave. My first thought was ‘holy shit! The cliche is true. People tell transgender people they’re brave!’ Then I thought about it for a second and realized that I did practically nothing. I wrote that while sitting on my ass on my couch with my drink and my cat. I’m not brave for being transgender. I didn’t choose to be trans. How can I be brave for doing something I didn’t choose to do? That particular comment implies that for an act to be considered ‘brave’, the act must have been intentional. That sentiment is echoed by another user who writes that he transitioned because he had to, not because he wanted to. ‘I don’t feel these actions were the actions of someone doing something brave’. Another Reddit user posts that individuals who tell him that he is brave because he is trans are wrong – ‘Coming out makes someone brave, being trans does not’. That line of argumentation supports the assertion that FTMs are brave, but bases that characterization on a trans person’s decision to come out. Others agree that ‘you have to be brave to come out as trans’. Another set of arguments also affirms the notion of bravery but on the basis of ‘doing what you need to do to survive is brave. Choosing to make a better life for yourself is a form of bravery’. A slightly different version of this line of argumentation is reflected in the comments of those who see bravery in challenging social norms, invoking the themes of gender outlaws, e.g. ‘Going against social norms and not giving a fuck is brave’. Others deny the attribution that transmen are brave because they have had positive experiences coming out and therefore did not encounter obstacles it would take courage to overcome. ‘I never experienced the things I do to be happy as brave. I’d say I’m pretty much accepted so I don’t think I’m being brave. […] I’m not brave. I’m just a guy with no dick’. A related version of this argument posits that even when negative experiences 175

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occur, the act of living through them does not qualify as bravery: ‘I’ve done things that are hard and scary and new to me, but it was all selfish. Just living doesn’t make me brave’. This Reddit user points out that he hates it. when people throw around words like brave and courageous. The words lose meaning and gravitas. […] Bravery is doing something selfless in the face of real and imminent danger. Courage is doing something you need to do despite your fear. Living out every day life is neither of these. The Transmasculine Victim Ours is a fractured and marginalized community as it is. The Female-to-Male Path (n.d.) The emergence of a marginalized, disenfranchised and mostly invisible trans population resulted in almost exclusively victimizing early portrayals of trans-identified people, including transmen, much like early scholarship on gay and lesbian populations reflected to society a picture of despair. Devor summarizes the transmasculine state of affairs in 1999 (pp. 604–605) with the words: ‘I suspect those people who survive and find their ways to satisfying lives as transsexual men may be in the minority. Many others are lost along the way to suicide, drugs, alcohol, and myriad other self-destructive behaviors’. Statistics on structural discrimination against female-to-male trans people continue to bear out a need for legal protection, social support and improved medical care. It is therefore understandable that ‘the transmasculine person’ continues to be constructed as a victim, almost by default, in some scholarship, some activism, some testimony and some governmental and professional discourse. Indeed, transmasculine victims exist, and the socio-economic, medical and psychological situation of those transmasculine individuals who are adversely affected by intersections of ethnicity, poverty, ability, religion, culture, social support systems, immigration status, social, structural and legal discrimination should continue to constitute a priority in research, scholarship and activism. Discrimination against trans-identified individuals, including transmasculine individuals, is well documented in the United States, Canada and Europe, as are disturbingly high rates of by-products of discrimination, such as suicidal ideation and behaviour of young trans people (Dyck 2012), bullying and crime against trans people (Reed 2011), or social isolation and higher risks of HIV, alcoholism and substance abuse (Drabble et al. 2003). The European Union LGBT survey, which attracted 6579 trans respondents, identified ‘serious and repetitive victimization in the EU, including discrimination, intolerance, and hate-motivated violence’ (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights 2014, p. 9). Respondents reported higher levels of discrimination and violence than cis lesbian, gay and bisexual respondents (Motmans 2015). The survey quotes a 56-year-old transman from the United Kingdom: ‘The job where I transitioned I was fully out as trans. I was dismissed from my job one week before I had a hysterectomy. […] In 176

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subsequent jobs I have not been out at work because of this experience’ (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights 2014, p. 28). Transmen caught between governing bodies, whether these are provinces or states within a nation or nation-states, often end up in Kafkaesque situations as does Joshua, a transgender man who was born in the United States but now lives in Denmark with his wife and children, is legally male in the United States but registered as female in Denmark because the country requires sterilization. Joshua states in a report released by Transgender Europe (Köhler 2014): I try to avoid people in Denmark, being stuck between two identities is a major obstacle for me. You don’t want to go to your kids’ school and out yourself all the time. I am still listed in the school system as their mum. The other kids in the school ask about it because they can see the [female] name [yet I have a male appearance]. It’s very awkward for me and my kids. The specificity of the impact of legislation and regulations upon a particular transmasculineidentified individual varies greatly, depending on the individual’s needs (e.g. access to retirement benefits, driver’s license for identification purposes). Much online discourse consists of tales of being caught in ‘the system’, which might come to play when one’s place of residence recognizes a legal gender transition but one’s birth locale does not, preventing reissuance of a birth certificate and thereby limiting an individual’s ability to navigate legal processes. In Kafka’s ‘Before the Law’, a ‘man from the country’ asks to gain entry into the law. Unable to convince the gatekeeper to grant him entry over many years, he asks with his last breath why ‘no one except me has requested entry’. The gatekeeper responds, ‘Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you. I’m going now to close it’ (transl. Johnston 2003). This theme, at times, characterizes online transmasculine discourse about navigating legal systems. However, not all transmasculine individuals are victims, and universalizing portrayals are empirically inaccurate, pose risks to the overall health and wellness of transmen, and reinscribe marginalization in cultural understandings of trans lives. Furthermore, by not bringing the specifics of transmasculine conditions into the spotlight, marginalizing discourse essentially band-aids a social sore that is symptomatic of much larger systematic inequities – and thereby masks socio-economic conditions that affect groups of people much larger than a particular gender minority. Victimizing portrayals are upheld by stories presenting a negative transition narrative for those socially or physically transitioning to male gender designation. This ‘problematic dominant narrative’ of a negative transition story, perpetuated by transgender men as much as service providers, has been critiqued for its detrimental effects on transmasculine people’s self-understanding – and does not necessarily match the actual lived experience of transitioned men (Greatheart 2010). This narrative ‘suggests all transgender men struggle with long-term substance abuse issues, depression, suicide, and life-long gender dysphoria’, writes Greatheart (2010, p. ii), whose study involving eight Canadian transgender men documents positive transition experiences, resilience and 177

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self-efficacy. Online reviews of Kennedy’s biography of Dillon reflect how some readers perceive the character as a victim of circumstance, describing him as a ‘poor man’, a ‘troubled person’, a ‘restless, searching spirit […] brave and reviled’ and ‘desperately’ wanting to live ‘a normal life as a man’ (Customer Reviews 2014). A reviewer who identifies himself as a writer and someone who is personally and professionally involved in the trans community generally endorses Kennedy’s account but rejects the ‘“pathetic” flavour, which is commonly projected onto the lives of trans people’, a trend that he labels the ‘“depressing tranny” trap’ (Customer Reviews 2014). As is the case of Dillon, portrayals of female-to-male transsexuals who lived decades ago can be framed, and received, in different ways, all of which have implications for current transmasculine self-understanding. A text can frame a victimizing portrayal as clearly historically and culturally specific, which discourages simple extension to current times. But it also can frame a victimizing portrayal as an archetypal transmasculine story, which encourages an uncomplicated extension of historical victimhood to contemporary transmasculine lives. Krieger, author of the transgender memoir Nina Here Nor There: My Journey Beyond Gender (2011), is one of many transmasculine people who express disdain and frustration about Bono’s self-representation in the media. Krieger, who suggests on his blog (12 May 2011) that trans people are constantly asked to explain themselves, writes that he is not ‘too surprised that Bono plays into another story of overcoming pain and suffering, of transition as the last resort of the suicidal’, a narrative that Krieger characterizes as ‘exhausting and self-victimizing’. In response, a reader identified as 13andcounting pleads to not ‘invalidate those who do struggle with depression and serious body dysphoria’. Orchard, who works in mental health, created Team Fauxstache to join the Movember campaign in New Zealand. Noting that he has suffered from depression in the past, Orchard says he wants to call attention to the fact that transmen’s mental health needs are higher than those of the general population, due to discrimination. ‘I wanted to put a different sort of face to that to say that trans-guys are guys too, and a lot of us suffer from depression due to social exclusion’ (Leach 2012). Reader Emilio Espinosa argues, much like Rosskam (2010), that one should not expect representativeness in the portrayal of transmasculine people: ‘It is the ultimate freedom of diversity to be able to be dull, shallow, and unremarkable without judgment’. A text can also, of course, leave the burden of interpretation with the reader. While the gender identification of Albert Nobbs, portrayed by Glenn Close in the film Albert Nobbs (2011), is subject to divergent interpretations, the movie presents an individual in nineteenth-century Ireland assigned to the female sex at birth, living as a man and seeking to marry a woman. Interpretations of the film vary greatly; the official plot summary characterizes Nobbs as ‘a woman living as a man in order to find work in the harsh environment of 19th-century Ireland’ (Wikipedia 2014). The film is based on a novella of the same name by George Moore (1852–1933). Close, who directed the screenplay, says about the character she portrays that ‘she’s an unfinished person’ (Rooney 2011); director Rodrigo García calls the character ‘a girl so suppressed’ and ‘engaged in self-erasure’ (Rooney 2011). Erica Gleichman (2012) describes the film as ‘a trans-phobic, melodramatic mess that plays on every transgender stereotype out there’, which portrays transgender characters as ‘tragic, downtrodden sources 178

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of pity that suffer unfortunate endings’. Online reviews of the film refer to Albert Nobbs as ‘she’, ‘he’, ‘he/she’, and ‘it’. Viewers read Albert Nobbs as FTM, transmasculine, trans*, butch, lesbian, genderqueer, gender-bending, non-binary, agender and cisgender. However one chooses to process the film, Albert Nobbs dies alone, his body revealed to others upon his death, a victim of circumstance. Transmasculine victims are recognized by events such as TDoR, often organized on November 20, which evolved in response to the murder of African American transwoman Rita Hester in Massachusetts in 1998. Trans victimhood is also constructed in texts such as Wikipedia’s list of ‘unlawfully killed transgender people’, which lists a total of 17 names on 10 January 2015; Brandon Teena is the only transmasculine-identified individual on the list. Brandon Teena remains the most visible US symbol of a transmasculine victim, especially in the context of rape as identity enforcement (Bettcher 2006; Namaste 2000). TDoR, which began as an online project (Remembering Our Dead) and quickly grew into candlelight vigils and memorial ceremonies in the United States (Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014), is now supported by international trans organizations and has been organized in more than 20 countries in North America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceania (Transgender Europe 2014). Current transmasculine discourse often folds itself into the TDoR discourse by ostensibly identifying with the positionality of victimization as the basis for activism. For example, Canadian trans-identified Ro Walker Mills (FTM: Debriefing TDOR 2011), who spoke at the 2011 TDoR ceremony in Winnipeg, Manitoba, notes that attending the ceremony ‘was tough’ and that he does not usually allow himself much ‘head space’ to think about risks to his personal safety. Mills acknowledges that most of the anti-trans violence is directed at transwomen but characterizes the event as one in which the personal risks to him as a transgender male were foregrounded, both for him and for his partner. The 2014 TDoR list of names (Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014) consisted of 81 individuals who had been killed as a result of anti-transgender violence. All of those 81 individuals appear to have identified as transfeminine; the majority (59) are from Brazil. Erica, a queer transwoman of colour in the US state of Washington, posted on her blog the statement that TDoR is about transwomen of colour but organized without them ‘because we are shut out from involvement in the “trans community” in life at every turn, but y’all have no problem claiming us once we’re dead’ (Nihil de nobis, sine nobis 2012). Another transwoman (Caparas 2012) writes that she did not attend 2011 TDoR events because the event has become ‘a queer “holiday” for embracing the narrative of fear; fear of violence, fear of death, self-stigmatization’ and co-opted the experience of lower class people of colour and sex workers. Alyssa Caparas writes I’m sick of seeing transbros at TDoR co-opting the narrative of transwomen’s experiences, internalizing them and feeding those narratives back to everyone, then high-fiving each over how radical and edgey they are. I’m sick of being a transwoman at TDoR and feeling marginalized by all the gender hipsters who’re there to bump up their scene cred. 179

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There is evidence of transmasculine discourse that reflects an awareness of the intersectional nature of systematic oppressions and that seeks to build a rhetorical stance of solidarity rather than self-advocacy, particularly where anti-trans violence is concerned. The same website, Stuff Queer People Need to Know, quotes a white, queer transman on the transmisogyny exhibited by white college-educated transmen organizing and participating in TDoR events. Jack Radish (Radish 2012) writes of his disgust with transmasculine organizers’ ‘sensationalized fantasy that they will be murdered for trying to go to the bathroom’, their ‘smug looks of martyrdom’ and their belief ‘to be some sort of heroes or “voices” of the trans community’. The queer community’s endorsement of the co-optation of the experiences of transwomen of colour, however, is what bothers him most, he writes. Sarah Lamble’s (2008) examination of the interlocking oppressions in TDoR leads her to conclude that ‘deracialized accounts of violence produce seemingly innocent White witnesses’ who essentially become consumers of marginalization while not addressing their complicity (p. 24). In recent years, community activists have begun staging events with the intent to restore what they consider a co-opted version of TDoR events, sometimes in competition, sometimes in collaboration with other TDoR events. At the University of British Columbia, for example, in 2012, two events took place on the same day – an event on the campus of the University of British Columbia and an event in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside (Hui 2012), an area known for its high incidence of poverty, substance abuse, homelessness, sex trade, crime and violence. L’lerrét Jazelle Ailith (2014), a black queer transwoman, both critiques the ‘commodified victim narrative’ forced on trans people, and transwomen of colour in particular, and says participation in TDoR events is not enough and that it is time ‘to acknowledge intersectional identities’. ‘It’s not enough to read the names of my sisters killed off by the normative nature of this capitalistic system’, Ailith writes. Transmen of colour express support for TDoR’s overall goal of achieving higher visibility and memorializing those who have been killed as a result of anti-trans violence but also critique the apparent colourblindness of the event’s framing. Carter Brown, founder of Black Trans men, Inc., in Dallas, Texas, encourages participation in TDoR UNITE’s campaign by submitting photos to the Tumblr site and ‘taking power back this TDOR’. Black Transmen, Inc. describes itself as the first national non-profit organization of African American transmen ‘solely focused on acknowledgement, social advocacy and empowering transmen with resources to aid in a healthy female to male transition’ (Black Transmen, Inc. 2015). Maxwell Ng, an Asian American transman, architect, chair of the Massachusetts Transgender Political Coalition, and member of the Queer Asian Pacific-Islander Alliance Steering Committee, describes TDoR as ‘not a glitter clad parade down Main Street USA’. ‘It is NOT a celebration. It is a somber, solemn event, where the names of murder victims are read from a frighteningly long list […] a time to be with friends and loved ones, and a time to recognize our fallen’ (Ng 2014). It is, of course, the proprietary nature of ‘our’ fallen that TDoR critics point to when one considers the socio-economic and cultural gaps between many transmasculine TDoR organizers and transfeminine victims of anti-trans violence. There are some indications that increasingly, white transmasculine voices are acknowledging that the confluence 180

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of ‘isms’ affects individuals in different ways, and that overlooking these dynamics may constitute an unethical appropriation of victimization for some (but not all) transmen. For example, Archie Dale (2014), a British transman, writes in his blog on the occasion of TDoR 2014 that he is ‘one of the luckier individuals who has managed to avoid much discrimination because of being transgender’. Dale notes that he is thankful for the support of the British National Health Service, in contrast to US trans people who often incur debt for hormone therapies and surgeries. ‘Please spare a thought for those who aren’t lucky enough to be born into a life like mine’, Dale writes. Coverage of TDoR events often sweeps all trans people under the umbrella of trans violence. LGBTQ Nation headlined its 20 November 2014 TDOR story ‘In Memoriam: Remembering lost brothers, sisters, this 16th Day of Transgender Remembrance’ (In Memoriam 2014); Gay San Diego titled its coverage: ‘TDOR Standing Up for our brothers and sisters’ (Vernon 2014), both listing brothers first although no transmasculine victims appeared on the 2014 list. The rhetorical implication for transmasculine individuals is significant. Transmasculine discourse that adopts a victimizing narrative based on the documented violence against transwomen of colour and that lacks the self-reflexivity to come to terms with the intersectionalities of oppressions invites critiques of male privilege, white privilege and white male privilege. Transmasculine discourse that outrightly rejects inclusion in such victimizing narratives runs risk of jeopardizing the political solidarity a sexual minority movement needs to be successful in the political arena. Gwendolyn Ann Smith (2013), founder of the TDoR web project, notes that the day seeks to remember those killed in an act of anti-transgender violence: These are not simply the deaths of transgender men and women, and it is not their own identities as transgender men or women that led to their death. Rather, it is their killers who determined their gender identity. Smith points out that anyone can be affected by anti-transgender violence. In addition to this distinction, which frames the event as one challenging the global acceptance of violence based on violations of gender expectations, Smith’s article also stresses that not all trans people are equally affected by anti-trans violence. In the United States, for example, most victims of anti-trans violence are young transgender women of colour, and a high percentage of those victims are sex workers. A year later, Smith (2014) notes that much has changed since the launch of TDoR: When the Transgender Day of Remembrance first began, trans people were nameless victims in many cases. Our killers would do their best to erase our existence from the world. And law enforcement, the media, and others would continue the job. We would be regularly, consistently misgendered and labeled with names we did not choose – that is, when we weren’t simply reported as ‘unknown man in women’s clothing’ or ‘bearded woman’. 181

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While antitrans violence continues, Smith (2014) notes, and thereby the need for events such as TDoR, it is no longer as easy for the perpetrators to escape consequences, and no longer as common for law enforcement and media to be complicit in the erasure of trans identities. Different segments of the transmale population claim victimization and marginalization within dominant transmasculine discourse. Web discourse reflects that those who want bottom surgery may feel marginalized by the visible and audible perspective of transguys who express preference for transitioning without genital reconstruction surgery (‘vag pride’); those who undergo hysterectomies to satisfy legal requirements for transition at times invoke the discourse of forced sterilization. A burst of online activism occurred in late 2014 after Denmark became the first European country to not just eliminate forced sterilization as a requirement for gender identity change but also to embrace selfdetermination of one’s gender identity (Saner 2014). This change occurred in a regional legal context in which Sweden and Germany had also eliminated their sterilization requirements, and was reported by European media mostly from a human rights angle, by citing United Nations and World Health Organization material, quoting representatives of trans human rights NGOs, and employing headlines such as ‘Europe’s terrible trans rights record’ (Saner 2014). Forced sterilization discourse, however, can be at odds with FTM activist discourse mandating access to hysterectomies covered by health insurance or governments on the basis that being FTM implies the need to have a hysterectomy. The Corporeal Transman It’s my house. I’m going to be living in it for the rest of my life, and I love taking care of it. It gives me a lot of joy. – Carey Gray, Toronto (Gray 2015) Visual representations of transmasculine individuals tend to consist of video logs that chronicle physical transitioning and material aspects of social transitioning, such as clothing and accessories (e.g. ties and baseball caps), and of photos that emphasize physical masculinity, whether in the form of post-surgery bare chests, facial hair or muscular arms. This occurs within a larger societal discourse in which many men, whether trans or not, aspire to be lean, muscular and strong (Pope et al. 2000). An increasing number of photographers and visual artists are documenting and interpreting their female to male transitions, whether for the 2013 YouTube FTM Calendar produced from Toronto (The 2013 YouTube FTM Calendar n.d.), Krimsky’s FTM Binder Awareness Portraits Project or Neilly’s ‘Female to “Male”’ (Ballou 2014) series. Google Image searches yield a multiplicity of images for keywords such as ‘FTM’, ‘transman’ or ‘transmasculine’. The images that appear most prominently in February 2015 are those reflecting a transmale global youth discourse. They reflect a range in ethnicities but not in ability or age, an 182

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absence of images which illustrates what Jacob Bernstein (6 March 2015) calls ‘a largely undiscussed segment of the transgender population’. Bare chests and tattoos are common properties of images yielded in such searches, with ‘FTM’ searches yielding more phallic imagery and ‘transmasculine’ searches generating the greatest variety of ‘style’ (e.g. dress, posture, activity). The body features prominently across categories, a notion that is both maintained and challenged by transmasculine individuals such as Maxwell Anderson, a transman from the Southern United States, who was featured in Allen’s (2003) photography project. Anderson, who transitioned in the 1980s, had not undergone surgery by the time he participated in the project and saw himself as a role model for young transmen who do not wish to have surgery. ‘I’m a man with my clothes on, and without my clothes. And that is what I project’ (Allen 2003, p. 155). Indiana University student Ash Kulak (Kulak 2013) subscribes to the Indy Boyz listerserv, aimed at trans or transmasculine-leaning genderqueer people in Indiana. ‘Almost every email that comes across my laptop echoes the same thing over and over again. Focus: transition’. Kulak expresses his surprise at seeing a particular individual’s list of anticipated transition steps very soon after realizing that he is trans-identified. While respecting the validity of the individual’s experience, Kulak wonders: […] if the transition image of transguys on the internet (which is usually the only accessible image of transguys on the internet) influenced this guy’s immediate decision to act and pursue transition. And if that is the case, why did he so easily conform to this transition image? I believe it’s because genderqueer expression is policed out of normative trans masculine circles. Both Cameron’s book Body Alchemy and Julie Wyman’s documentary film A Boy Named Sue use bodily images to offer visible representations of transmasculinity, portrayals that allow them to ‘call into question the stability of both the photographic image and gender representation, or at least the way in which dominant culture understands gender signs as significations and effects of a particular, stable, and natural bodily sex’ (Boucher 2011, p. 210). The degree to which one’s looks (beyond passing or being read as masculine) assumes a focal point in transmale consciousness can be startling for transitioning individuals who may have dismissed normed notions of physical attractiveness as part of feminist identities. Charliepa (2014) posts the question ‘Has anyone gotten more ‘vain’? on Reddit: So, I was never really a vain before. I’d just stick on whatever and let my hair do whatever. Never really looked in the mirror, and when I did I’d just make funny faces. But now that I’m wearing my binder, I’ll spend maybe 10 or so minutes in front of the mirror examining how flat I am. Respondents express that they, too, share concern about their appearance, but link it to concerns about passing in the earlier stages of physical transition. Anecdotal testimony of 183

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transitioned men supports this finding. Alex Abramovich, a research fellow at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto, says he identified as female as a child and was ‘quite feminine’. Early on, he felt a sense of gender fluidity; he first came out as lesbian in his twenties and then as transgender in his thirties. It was less complicated for him to go on hormones than not, he says. ‘The ability to pass on a daily basis has completely changed the quality of my life’, he says, noting that he cannot imagine not passing although that was all he thought about, day and night, before he transitioned (Transforming Gender 2015). Others note that later on in transition, a greater emphasis on looks in general emerged. ‘Even these days I keep looking at myself in the mirror just to make sure I look just as hot and rad as I think I do (I usually do)’ a respondent offered. A respondent named YoungFolks affirmed that he ‘never particularly cared how I looked day to day’ but that he is, post-transition, ‘more into looking good and put together. And taking way more selfies than I used to’. Yet another respondent states that now that he is getting more comfortable with himself, ‘I am vain as fuck. I spend more time working on my physical appearance than I used to. I actually style my hair. I have taken so many selfies since I started feeling comfortable with my appearance’. While transmale voices online debate whether such increased attention to one’s physical appearance is due to concerns about passing, a newly discovered sense of vanity or a simple restoration of what should be one’s natural level of comfort when seeing one’s self-reflection, being or becoming handsome is presented as a common objective in transmasculine discourse. The handsome hero is a well-established trope in US popular consciousness and maintained by the Disney industry (Davis 2013) and other popular media. But the linkage between heroism and handsomeness presents only one of the symbolic alignments. Being successful in competitions that often centre on physical attractiveness is constructed as news, attesting both to general social acceptance and to public recognition of transmasculine handsomeness. Stereotypical articulations of transmasculine attractiveness were reflected in the snapshot survey responses volunteering the desire to appear strong, handsome, rugged and muscular. In-group competitions, such as the Mr. Transman competition, establish physical male attractiveness as a shared ideal. Intergroup competitions (such as when transmen participate in gay pageants) demonstrate that transmen can be ‘just as’ handsome as cismen. FTM publications, for example, applauded when Silveira, lead singer of the band The Cliks, became the first transman to be voted Canada’s Sexiest Man by readers of Chart magazine. The coverage of Lou Cutler being crowned Mr. Gay Philadelphia in June 2014 illustrates how discussions about the physical attractiveness of transmen feed off rhetorical substrates. Cutler competed in casual wear, swimsuit and interview questions, and notably took the ‘Best Body’ title. On 22 June 2014, G Philly announces in a very traditional, matter-of-fact way the winner of the annual Mr. Gay Competition (Middleton 2014). The headline ‘Lou Cutler Wins Mr. Gay Philadelphia 2014’ simply declares the name of the winner; the photo shows Cutler in jeans and a tank-top proudly displaying his crown and sash. The sash, whether coincidentally or intentionally, covers Cutler’s pelvic area. The lead paragraph of Josh Middleton’s story frames Cutler’s victory in terms of LGBT rights with the following 184

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words: ‘LGBT Philly history was made last night when Lou Cutler, 33, was crowned the very first transgender Mr. Gay Philadelphia’. Middleton asks Cutler about the relevance of his victory, and Cutler responds that his victory was meaningful to him because of the importance of being a visible gay transman: It’s kind of hard to be a gay transman sometimes. … But I’m very proud of who I am, and I’ve worked very hard to become who I am. […] It’s important for me to be out and visible as gay and trans, to show the community that not every trans person is the same. Middleton’s story describes Cutler’s appearance as ‘dapper’ and comments on his ‘positive, fun-loving personality’. The 13 online comments posted touch on his looks and his sexual orientation, but also raise the question of the impact of framing a pageant as a political win when trans people are being physically assaulted in other locations. Middleton’s story was picked up and covered by established mainstream LGBT media outlets such as The Advocate and the Pink News: Europe’s Largest Gay News Service (Duffy 2014). Interviews with Cutler emphasize the level of support Cutler’s victory received from cisgender gay men throughout the competition and upon his victory. These stories place Cutler’s pageant victory in the context of growing trans inclusion and acceptance in the gay community, frame him as a ‘trailblazer’, and describe his victory as an LGBT history making event. In contrast, Middleton’s story (Middleton 2013) about cisgender Thomas Westerfer’s crowning as Mr. Gay Philadelphia 2013 includes a frontal photo of Westerfer in a swimsuit, displaying his crown and sash, which does not cover his pelvic area. The feature on Westerfer includes questions specific to being gay, such as ‘What are you looking for in a guy?’ and ‘I feel gayest when …’ In an interview with The Advocate, Cutler states it is important for him to be out as a visible, gay transman: I am feeling a lot of pride, not only for myself as an individual, but also to represent the trans community, the gay community, and the queer community in general. I am proud to be visible and hope that I can inspire people to be themselves. I believe with all my being that our individuality is what makes us beautiful. In this statement, Cutler links liberation politics with identity politics and aligns gay pride with trans pride with queer pride. A follow-up story in G Philly on June 24 offers a feature deliberately ‘celebrating Lou as a whole person’ (Buttler 2014, 24 June). The follow-up, titled ‘The Other Side to Mr. Gay Philadelphia: Acupuncturist’ is devoted entirely to Cutler’s professional occupation as an acupuncturist. Neither being gay nor being a transgender man is raised beyond a few references to being elected Mr. Gay Philadelphia. While Cutler’s comments as well as interview questions and LGBT media focus all speak to an emphasis on acceptance and inclusiveness, online comments on the coverage (which was rapidly reposted on gay and trans Facebook pages) reflect greater schisms. A short exchange in the online comments begins with a critical comment about Cutler’s ‘disheveled and dirty’ look, 185

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which yielded the response ‘So don’t judge by the looks, brah’, to which the original poster replied ‘Are you kidding me? There was a “casual” and “swimsuit” round and you’re telling me not to judge by the looks?’ Quite a few online comments applauded the selection of Cutler, maintaining the celebratory discourse of trans inclusiveness (e.g. ‘I am transgender too and I’m proud of his victory, even though I’m not gay’) or maintaining his physical attractiveness (e.g. ‘Brilliant. He’s gorgeous’.) In most comment sections, a side conversation on transgender identification and sexual orientation developed, which typically consisted of an initial post along the lines of ‘I don’t understand. He is a transgendered man who loves a man?’ posted by Adrian Vu, which resulted in numerous educational responses about the difference between sexual orientation and gender identity and affirmations that transmen can be gay. It is in these exchanges that discussions about Cutler’s physical anatomy were raised. The LGBT media coverage did not discuss Cutler’s physical transition. Clearly, he had chosen to physically transition by taking testosterone and having top surgery at some point, but the way he arrived at his physical presentation was not raised. Some of the online comments question Cutler’s claims to being a gay man on the basis of anatomy, suggesting, for example, that he could not be eligible to compete, in comments such as ‘anyone these days can claim the title’ or assertions that it would only be acceptable for him to compete if he had undergone bottom surgery. In addition to the online comments, G Philly received emails asking for follow-up stories with Cutler to inquire whether he had a penis. This led Buttler, who had written the feature on Cutler’s profession as an acupuncturist, to write a follow-up story on 30 June 2014, titled ‘Who Gives if Mr. Gay Philadelphia Has a Penis?’ (Buttler 30 June 2014). Buttler quotes from online comments and email queries, characterizes such comments as ‘uneducated and disturbing’ and critiques the ‘gender police’ obsession with trans people’s bodies. Buttler’s commentary concludes: ‘In other words, it is none of our damn business if someone has a penis. But, back to Mr. Gay Philadelphia: Lou Cutler is a gay man, period. And, given the picture below, I might add that he’s a hot gay man at that. End of story’. The text is followed by a photo of Cutler’s participation in the swimsuit competition; the photo shows Cutler showing off his buttocks to the audience. A response by a ‘trans activist elder’ seeks to provide historical context and revision for the ‘seemingly unprecedented account of “trailblazing” stardom’ by pointing out that some of Cutler’s pioneering claims were inaccurate (the poster writes that he was already openly transitioning at Rutgers University in 2004, active in anti-discrimination campaigns and that he offered Cutler advice and support at the time). The post offers itself as an attempt to counter ‘historical erasure’ of the work of earlier generation of transmen who enabled current visibility to take place. The post then engages in a more substantive critique of superficial notions of visibility and victory by pointing out that this particular kind of visibility ‘reinforces a cult-of-body-beautiful’ that privileges ‘normative ideals of what is considered beautiful’. Such normative ideals, the post suggests, ultimately harm rather than help trans individuals who are already struggling ‘against impossible body-norm standards’. While the particular expectations of what makes a man handsome vary by one’s cultural community, and while transmasculine people will invariably be measured against the 186

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standards of their (real or perceived) cultural community as much as by majority normative expectations, certain denominators dominate the discursive field. Carey Gray (Gray 2015) of Toronto comments on his nude self-portrait: My brown skin is hugely important. It was a slap in the face realizing that I was different. People asking where you’re from reinforces the reality of racism, because if you don’t look white you have to be from somewhere else. Gray continues to express that he loves his body now that he has physically transitioned in his fifties. He is on testosterone and underwent top surgery and loves his body ‘because it’s exactly how I want it to look’. It is plausible that some of the rhetorical motivation in surfacing the potential for masculine handsomeness lies in the subtle echoes of the tropes of monsters and freaks, which are commonly understood to be ugly and repulsive. The desire to counter such negative expectations, however, can result in self-defeating acts (Kellaway 2014, 2 December). The Huffington Post (Nichols 2013) announces the ‘Mr. Transman 2013’ third annual ‘FTM Competition’ in New York, noting that five competitors will ‘compete for the title through the categories of Platform, Swimsuit, Interview, Talent and Evening Wear’. Revealing a common pattern in online posts in response to transmale videos or pictures, people comment on the degree of ‘success’ in transitioning, such as ‘This guy was a woman? I would have never guessed, amazing’. Much discourse by transmen and about transmen revolves around physical attractiveness, regardless of the sexual orientations or gender identities involved. Becoming a man is equated with the goal of becoming a handsome man, and transition success is measured by one’s approximation of that goal. A web contribution authored by Beverly Jenkins, which according to the site counter has been accessed over a million times, is titled ‘10 Handsome Men (Who Were Born Female)’ (Jenkins 2012). The site features, via scroll-down, ten transmen in portrait shots, along with a brief bio statement for each: Buschbaum, Buck Angel, Cameron, Harvie, Silveira, Katastrophe, Beatie, Sallans, Andreas Krieger and Bono. A notable variation from more representative transmasculine stories is the story of former East German shot-putter Krieger, summarized as: From his early teens he was given anabolic steroids without his knowledge, which lead him to become more and more masculine in appearance and attitude. Krieger […] has publicly said that he wishes he hadn’t been drugged so that he could have discovered for himself what his gender preference was. (Jenkins 2012) The bio statements are a condensed version of (attributed) Wikipedia entries for the ten men. Most of the transmen pictured here bear tattoos. Eight of the photos emphasize, by virtue of their poses, physical attractiveness and traditional designators of masculinity such as bulging muscles, ripped abs, cigars and bare chests. The two other photos take 187

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a different approach – Beatie is shown in two smaller photos – one portraying him bare-chested and pregnant, the other playing in a pool with a child. Krieger is featured with a pre- and post-transition photo. While the site privileges visual displays, the body and physical transformation in its representation of transmasculinity, it includes a wide range of professional fields (athletes, musicians, educators, adult film producer, photographer, activists and comedians). The emphasis on traditional designators of masculinity is also interrupted by the inclusion of Beatie’s pregnancy photo. Adkins (2012a, 27 January) reposts the entry ‘Hot Transguys’ in The Huffington Post’s Huffpost Gay Voices section. He refers to the ‘10 Handsome Men (Who Were Born Female)’ website, recalling that he reposted it because he was ‘just excited that we, transmales, were being seen as attractive’. On further thought, Adkins concludes, the list was troublesome because of its lack of inclusiveness, reflecting an ‘assimilationist mindset’ that means defining a transmale as ‘good looking’ is to define him as a ‘famous, white, masculine, passing transguy’. Adkins also notes that while his birth certificate designates him as female, he is, and has always been, male, challenging the site’s headline that describes transmen as men who were born female. Adkins advocates for the need of the trans* community to not assimilate. We need to stand up to make sure that no trans person is left behind. We need to make sure that genderqueer people, the effeminate transmales, the trans people who will never have the privilege of going ‘stealth’, are represented, up front. Let’s not do what Gay Inc. did and only put forward the ‘boy next door’. In response to Adkin’s review, reader Crash2Parties notes that mainstream media continually privilege powerful versions of men’s appearance: ‘So, on top of good looks they should be white and if possible, have somewhat that wealthy-playboy-rebel look (cigar, tattoos and 2-day stubble + personal trainer shaped musculature). Why? To sell product, of course’. In a response to Adkins’s (2012a, 27 January) Huffpost Gay Voices entry ‘Hot Transguys’, reader Azim_S_Khan writes that the public perception of trans is not regular people who live regular lives, because that part of the community is practically invisible to the public eye! We see the people who are early in transition, or will never pass completely, or look normal but choose to identify as trans- rather than simply male or female. Kellaway (2014, 2 December), in a commentary on a later version of the list, also takes issue with the hegemonic masculinity embedded in such artefacts: ‘this list wasn’t produced to say, “Let’s celebrate 11 men reaching their beauty and health goals!” It was produced for a cisgender reader to look and think, “Wow, not all transmen are ugly like I’ve been led to believe!”’. Adkins (2012b) created his own website in response to the site he had encountered, calling it ‘Hot Trans Guys – You are Handsome!’ His site was designed to promote self-esteem of trans*men of all body types, races, occupations, class backgrounds, 188

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pre-op or post-op, on hormones or not. In June 2014, the site features nine profile photos of transguys from Canada, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and the United States. Each photo is accompanied by a short bio statement including transmasculine identification (e.g. ‘I’ve been on T for about 8 months and i’m looking to get top surgery but no bottom at this point’; ‘I am pre-op and do not have plans to have surgery in the next few years’ or ‘had keyhole/peri-areolar surgery in 1999, and underwent metoidioplasty in 2001’). In addition to this focus on physical transitioning, the photos are accompanied by a brief listing of one’s hobbies or pursuits (e.g. ‘i’m writing to get back into writing music while I do a bit of volunteer work at the pound’, ‘I make needle felted sculptures inspired by folklore and mythology’ or ‘I love classic literature, si-fi, and gaming’). All but one of the transguys featured are artists, poets or musicians. While transmasculine beauty ideals often appear to emphasize hypermasculinity, they are of course also subject to contemporary masculine beauty ideals at large as much as to localized idealizations of masculinity. In Alberta, Canada, transboy Kauffman told his mother that he wanted to look like Zac Efron from High School Musical when he was five years old (Purdy 2013). Across the world, as a consequence of cultural and economic globalization, beauty ideals for men have not just been changing quickly, they have also assumed a new role in the marketplace. Research in this area suggests, for example, that the ‘ideal’ Swedish man (for marketing and advertising purposes) should be masculine, athletic, natural and intellectual – embodied in an intense gaze (Engtsson 2012). Research with male students at the University of Dhaka in Bangladesh indicates that masculine beauty ideals in Bangladesh may be shifting from an ideal rugged and rough appearance to a ‘sober and polished’ appearance (Sowad n.d., p. 53) while two pivotal signs of masculinity in India are those of the provider and protector (Sluggett 2005). The current western masculine beauty ideal, Rachel Calogero and J. Kevin Thompson (2010, p. 160) argue, is embedded in a twentiethcentury ‘culture of muscularity’, emphasizing a ‘muscular V-shape with a well-developed upper body, flat stomach, and narrow hips’. A story in The New York Times titled ‘From Boys to Men’ suggests that the male fashion ideal of ‘the Dior man’ – ‘the one, that scrawny rocker dude with a chicken chest, a size 36 suit and a face that seems to be sprouting its first crop of peach fuzz’ has been replaced ‘with increasingly hirsute, well-built, mature types – men who certainly look as if they’ve never been waxed or had a manicure’ or the look of a ‘34-year-old man who has washboard abs and who fathered Halle Berry’s kid’ (Trebay 2010). Gabriel, a 27-year-old gay female-to-male transsexual, created The FTM’s Complete Illustrated Guide To Looking Like a Hot Dude (Gabriel 2013) to complement existing FTM passing advice sites, such as the long-established Hudson’s FTM Resource Guide (n.d.), which has been viewed more than ten million times in 180 countries since its 2004 launch, according to the site. Gabriel writes: ‘I’m a vain little beastie; looking good is important to me, more than it is to most cisguys, which I attribute directly to transsexual body image insecurity. What can I say? I’m compensating for a small penis’. The humorous guide, which is full of illustrations (cartoons, photos, diagrams), is written for a young, fashion-conscious FTM audience that seeks to pass among cisguys. While it 189

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reflects an ironic stance, it nevertheless functions to normalize trans body image insecurity and an accentuated interest in one’s appearance. The guide offers sections on masculine body shape, food and fitness, shirts, trousers, face and hair, and suits. The site suggests that the transmasculine ideals of appearance as embodied by female-bodied actors are not attainable to most. It provides photos of women portraying transmasculine characters, specifically, Swank as Brandon Teena and Daniela Sea as Max/Moira on The L Word, with the caption ‘We hates you’ because these female-bodied actors are naturally well suited to passing. Gabriel argues that to pass, one has to feel comfortable with one’s clothes. ‘It doesn’t matter how “masculine” they are, if you don’t like them, then you’re going to be radiating discomfort and people will pick up on that. Your presentation will feel inauthentic, it’ll ping people’s radar as girl-trying-to-be-a-boy’, he writes. The guide unabashedly speaks to the goal of camouflaging female body parts without invoking shame or self-pity, as in this comment on fabrics for shirts: ‘For people with something to hide, weaves are by far the better choice because they won’t cling to your tits’. Despite the contemporary emphasis on consumer choice and individual identity expression via consumption (Hankiss 2006), transmasculine individuals also find that often, their choices are made for them, casting their physical representation choices as reactive rather than proactive. Valerio (2006, p. 301) writes that he had to learn the hard way that his clothes, gestures, tone and hairstyle ‘mean entirely different things than they did when I was female. […] Each encounter with these unpredictable male forces motivates me to sharpen my wits. To question myself, my presentation, to interrogate my body, state of mind, my newly appointed manhood’. In an interdependent fashion, commodity culture driving men’s fashion consumption and transmasculine identity development accentuating recognition are enmeshed in a new cultural fabric. The term ‘transmasculine style’ has entered the American English vocabulary (Tutera 2012), and fashion designers, tailors and clothing retailers have discovered a new market segment. Daniel Friedman, a tailor in New York began designing suits for female bodies after being approached by a butch/transmasculine individual; women and transgender men now make up a quarter of his business (Leland 2013). In Vancouver, a local business woman created her own company after working as a compression garment fitter and scar care specialist with a medical supply company. She expanded her services to assist transmasculine people seeking assistance with properly fitted binders. On her web page, the business owner includes trans testimony, but does not label it as such. Instead, the site offers client testimony in categories according to the service provided (e.g. surgery compression, chest binder, postpartum garments, scar therapy). A satisfied client posts: ‘Thank You sooo much for your sensitivity to transgendered persons and Thank You for giving us a place we can go right in our own community to buy great products’ (Curalux 2015). The owner does not speak specifically to her various client segments but emphasizes the similarities in the service she offers: I absolutely fell in love with the idea of helping people by giving them a  comfortable, positive experience during their time of transformation. Each client is  different,  with 190

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varying goals and needs but they all have one thing in common; they are about to embark on a journey of self-discovery. (Curalux 2015) DapperQ brands itself as ‘GQ for the unconventionally masculine’, ‘transgressing men’s fashion’ and the ‘premier queer style website for masculine presenting women and transidentified individuals’ (dapperQ 2015). While dapperQ primarily targets a genderqueer audience, transmasculine presence is strong. A feature story on The Test Shot, an online visual project on transmasculine style, draws from an interview with the project’s creators, Jamie, a 25-year-old transguy and LGW, who is 24 years old and identifies as genderqueer/ transmasculine-identified (Tutera 2012). Jamie and LGW met at an FTM support group in London and decided they wanted to create ‘a catalog of how transmasculine-identified people in London and elsewhere in the UK live today’ (Tutera 2012) to counter negative media portrayals, such as tabloid coverage of Beatie’s family. Both emphasize the political and cultural significance of fashion. Jamie says: At first, it’s slightly strange, getting to know someone on the basis of their sense of style and their wardrobe. You quickly come to realise how far all clothes are contextualised and connected to so many elements of a person’s life. Fashion and style is so often disparaged as superficial or of the surface, when in fact it is rich with meaning. (Tutera 2012) A particular form of transmasculine fashion style, sometimes called dapper butch or dandy dapper queer, has been critiqued for its emulation of rich, educated white men. Kate (2013), who identifies as a white butch lesbian, writes on Autostraddle: I love how I look in a shirt whose label says men’s because I spent a long time feeling like an impostor in the women’s section, but I also hate that clothing, especially menswear, is so tied up in the complexity of class, race, capitalism, sizeism, ableism, and the limits of the binary. Working in retail, specifically in a place where employees are meant to be fashion-conscious and dress as such, has made me have to constantly examine and re-examine the things I wear and why, and I’ve come to realize the intense limits in the range of ‘desirable’ butch fashion. Vita (2013), managing editor at dapperQ, responds to Kate’s post by articulating that as a form of non-verbal communication, fashion is subject to individual motivations as much as cultural and societal expectations and can be used as a form of political engagement: Some of our contributors and readers of color have been harassed and have had their race, ethnicity, and/or masculinity called into question by members of community, both straight and queer, for dressing ‘too bougie’, claims that only perpetuate normative stereotypes that there is only one right way of dressing if you’re a POC. 191

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Transgender models, such as the 17-year-old FTM Arin Andrews, are included in the 2014 Barneys New York catalogue and magazine campaign, ‘wearing clothes from designers like Ann Demeulemeester, Balenciaga, Lanvin and Manolo Blahnik’ (Bernstein 2014, 29 January). The models were photographed by high-profile fashion photographer Bruce Weber. Valentijn de Hingh, a 23-year-old transgender woman from Amsterdam who also participated as a model, says the project was an important step towards transgender presence and inclusion: ‘In this capitalist consumerist society, things only become acceptable when they become marketable’, she says (Bernstein 2014, 29 January). Transmasculine ‘fashion’ appeal also appears in reference to other trans-identified people. Talbot (2013b, 18 March) describes Skylar, the focus of her trans teen feature, as ‘a kid who was boy-band cute and a little nerdy, in an unapologetic, proto-hipster way’. In his portrayal of artists Ernst and Drucker, Bernstein (2014a, 11 March) describes them as ‘hipsterish transgender types’ and calls them ‘trans superstars’ in an accompanying tweet. For some transmasculine-identified people, appearing attractive, handsome and confident can be experienced as a function of clothing, and qualitative scholarship drawing from female-to-male narratives often documents the psychological affirmation and sense of wellness experienced by transmasculine individuals publicly dressing in demonstratively male clothing. Male-identified Chase Stragio, an American civil rights lawyer, is quoted in The New York Times on trying on his custom suit for the first time: ‘It sounds ridiculous, because it’s just clothes, but I was almost in tears, because it was the first time I was affirmed by an experience like that. It was thrilling’ (Leland 2013). Transmen tend ‘to go overboard’ at first, writes Kailey (2005, p. 42), overcoming insecurities by exhibiting hypermasculinity, which works for some but ‘many eventually gravitate back towards centre’. Kailey, who at one point had increased his breast size with implants because he ‘always felt inadequate as a female’ (p. 54) says he did not realize ‘the insanity of our culture’s insistence on sexualizing the female breast’ (p. 54) until after he had undergone top surgery. He says media portrayals and cismen cannot guide transmen’s ‘sense of an acceptable male body’ because of their insistence (trans or cis) on the ‘perfect body ideal’, leaving transmen no choice but to ‘construct our own male body image from the transsexual bodies that we have’ (p. 70). Kailey points out that everybody is unique and that mass media representations do not reflect that range of bodies, whether trans or not. ‘Do I want a penis, an unscarred chest, small hips, and the perfect butt? I wouldn’t turn it all down if it were offered, but it would also take away a part of me – that part that says I’m unique’ (p. 71). As the obvious marker of masculinity, the presence or absence of a penis is constructed in fundamentally different ways in transmasculine discourse. Adam, a transguy who ends up pregnant in Bradley’s Two 4 One (2014), desires phalloplasty to feel ‘whole’, ‘complete’ and himself. Notably, many articulations on this issue explicitly leave room for alternate expressions of transmasculinity. By and large, transmen who have undergone or are hoping to undergo bottom surgery express that they understand this may not be every transman’s goal; transmasculine-identified people who are satisfied with relabeling or reconceptualizing female anatomy state that this may not work for all FTM-identified people, 192

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and transguys who chose to accept their female bodies while affirming their male identities voice their support for others who deem prostheses or bodily modifications essential. Many transmasculine writers and video bloggers go to great lengths to acknowledge the validity of transmasculine perspectives that are different from their own. ‘It is important to point out that every transperson has his or her own journey; just as a book about African American heritage doesn’t speak to every single African American person’s history, this book does not seek to describe every transperson’s experience’, writes Teich (2012, p. 3). This rhetorical generosity appears to be a fairly recent evolution. Gabriel (2013), the author of The FTM’s Complete Illustrated Guide To Looking Like a Hot Dude, addresses packing: To be honest, I never really bothered with packing. Sure, like any baby FTM, I experimented with stuffing a sock down my boxer-briefs occasionally, but I never tried the products designed specifically for creating a bulge – I was strapped for cash through most of my transition (still am, come to think of it) and I didn’t see the point in spending a hundred bucks on a penis that I couldn’t fuck or pee with. And in general I found that (A) it hardly looked any different, and no one looked there anyway, and (B) I couldn’t keep my mind off sex when I was walking around with something sitting on my junk. In a YouTube video called ‘PACKING: Good or Bad?’, 18-year-old Alex Bertie (Bertie 2013) talks about his ambivalence in regard to packing, noting that he watched lots of videos about packing. Alex describes himself on Tumblr as ‘an 18-year-old guy in Dorset, England, with a passion for graphic design and more support for the LGBT community than your average human’. In the video, he says he does not feel like he ‘needs’ a packer to ‘pass’ because people won’t touch him. He states that he posted the video because he has received many emails from transguys asking him whether not wanting to pack would make them ‘not transgender’. ‘That is just ridiculous. This whole transition is just about being comfortable in your own skin and you know sometimes when I pack, I don’t feel comfortable just because the pack is there’, he states. Reflecting an inclusive rhetoric, he acknowledges that ‘other guys’ might want to pack because they might feel ‘I think I’m lacking something; I think I’m missing something’. For them, packing might restore a sense of completeness that’s necessary, he says. ‘That’s totally cool; whatever floats your boat. If you wanna pack, pack; if you don’t wanna pack, don’t’. He says he owns a packer but does not use it often because it’s not sufficiently secure for him and he thinks ‘it’s just not real enough’. Of the 52 comments, none question the legitimacy of non-packing in a transmasculine context. Rather, the following are representative comments: So I’m not the only one who feels this way about packing =) I also got the same packer just to see what it’s like and it’s like mehhhhhh … When I do pack, constantly feeling a foreign object there only serves to remind me of what I’m ‘lacking’ and it bums me out. RetiredPunchbag 193

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Sanctum Jamie writes that he does not want to have a packer. ‘To others I still look like a little girl, so if anyone where to notice it, I know they wouldn’t be able to look away … o_O I’ll stick to collecting binders for now’. Logan Cardarelli agrees with these posts and adds that packers are not comfortable. ThisDeathNoteFan writes he doesn’t pack because he does not ‘pass at all’. iCharceus posts: Know EXACTLY what you mean! It doesn’t really fit to me either, you know. If it was more real, or if I tried to deform it somehow – like tried to reshape it just a bit, and with a better packing/harness, I might go more often with one. But at the same time – when it’s just packed, it does feel kind of awkward too! The video and the response thread engage notions of passing in regard to external recognition and validation of one’s masculine identification and notions of completeness as in one’s internal validation of one’s masculine identification. The video acknowledges that for some, packing allows a necessary sense of completeness. That theme is addressed in the following response: ‘If packing makes you feel whole, do it. Unless you wear ultratight skinny jeans, I’m not sure most people would ever notice anyway. It’s really more for the wearer’s emotional support’ (ProFriend). Another response from (presumably) a cisguy reconstructs the awkwardness of packing as a normal aspect of malehood: ‘If its awkward and uncomfortable or feels strange then you’re doing it right. i have a dick and feeling self conscious about it comes with the territory! Lol’ (Robert Derek). Menstruation is culturally constructed as a sign of femininity (Cromwell 1999), which would appear to increase transmasculine experiences of gender dysphoria. Indeed, it is easy to find testimony to this effect, as discussed in Chapter 1. A transman (St. James 2015) offers five ways of still feeling like a man during a menstrual period, which include pretending to be wounded, taking pain medication, using a menstrual cup, recognizing that menstruation can dismantle ‘toxic masculinity’ and create feminist masculinity and embracing that menstruation is not limited to women. St. James, whose periods returned after he switched from testosterone injections to cream application, writes that his (female) physician never got how mentally debilitating man-struation is to me. No matter how much I tried to explain it to her. I can handle quite a bit in life –  trans or otherwise  – but I always stumble when I try to handle this. Another transman remarks that he always has problems ‘with that time of the month because that’s the one thing that constantly reminds me that I’m not a bio-guy’ (Period Dysphoria). But alongside a slow revival of contemporary menstrual activism that questions the medicalized and commodified body at large (Bobel 2010), transmasculine understanding of menstruation as a time of physical and psychological pain and self-hate also has been slightly shifting. Bobel references this phenomenon in the context of radical menstruation activists who ‘detach menstruation from the gendered body and refuse to speak of 194

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menstruation as a uniquely women’s experience’ (Walden 2009). One example of this effort is the decision to use the word ‘menstruater’, which allows for the inclusion of transmen and intersex people who menstruate (Walden 2009). An entry titled ‘Transgendered Men & Menstruation’ (2010) on the ‘My Period Blog’ states that menstruation ‘can be a particularly difficult time for some transmen because it is a reminder that their bodies don’t match their true gender identity’. The blog poster provides video clips and Internet quotations reflecting a wide range of views about menstruation by transmen and genderqueer people, including the following statement by a transguy who wonders if he will miss menstruating once on testosterone: ‘I like to think that it’s pretty manly. I mean, it involves blood and it has the word ‘men’ in it. What more could you ask for? I bet Chuck Norris menstruates’. Menstruation pride is rhetorically linked to vagina pride, a relatively recent cultural construction in transmasculine discourse and manifested in FTM character Dale’s selfintroduction as ‘a man with a vagina’ on the US television series Transparent (2014). A YouTube video (GirlfriendsTV 2014) is titled ‘It’s OK to be a Man with a Vagina’. The video, which had been watched more than 83,000 times in March 2015, had received more than 2000 positive (thumbs up) comments and 120 negative (thumbs down) comments at that time. Comments represented both transgender and cisgender viewers and a wide spectrum of transmasculine respondents. Some embraced the notion of vagina pride, articulated as the ability to love oneself even when affected by dysphoria; others dismissed the notion as insensitive or offensive to transmen to the degree that a video on the topic should contain a trigger warning. Positive comments tend to address the significance of raising the topic and discussing it in public, regardless of how the commenter identified or felt about their body parts. A discussion of the video and other response videos generated by FTMs occurred on Susan’s Place Transgender Resources under the heading ‘A response to “vagina pride” (trigger warning)’. Discussion on this thread mostly focused on the general notion of ‘body pride’ and whether one should encourage the notion. A reader named Simon posts that he believes the entire topic is silly: I don’t think I could ever have pride in any body part. I’m not going to have hazel eyes pride, white skin pride, or big feet pride. Pride (to me) is something you have when you have made an accomplishment in your life. I can have pride in my transition and how far I’ve come with it. (A Response to Vagina Pride 2014) Overall, the main theme in such discussions of vagina pride appears to be an ultimate criterion of rhetorical flexibility. Posts, videos, columns and blogs that express a particular attitude on vagina pride are accepted as long as they explicitly acknowledge the poster’s subjectivity and the legitimacy of other viewpoints. The ‘vag pride’ motif not only serves to counter transmasculine shame about the absence of a penis; it can also be understood to offer a bridge between transmasculine and feminist perspectives by refusing to negate aspects of female-bodiedness. 195

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The intent to be read as male is presumed in much discourse, and while this is to be expected in the context of a demographic that is read or recognized as a gender/sex with which it not identifies, and since transsexuality, as Eva Hayward (2011) observes, requires self-disclosure, the discursive terrain shows some fissures and faults when it comes to the expression of masculinity. Although on the surface, discourse may revolve around the appropriateness of a plaid shirt or the wisdom of crossing or not crossing one’s legs while sitting, at a deeper level one might find uneasily coexisting competing narratives of what it means to be (trans)masculine. Jordan Bagley’s ‘Pre-Everything’ passing tips on YouTube include stuffing tissue paper in the toes of the shoes to avoid the awkward situation of appearing to be buying kids’ shoes; he also suggests buying bigger-sized shoes to make one’s feet look bigger (Bagley 2012). He concludes, much like Gabriel, that it is people’s confidence, not a particular set of clothes that allows them to pass. Being read, being recognized or passing as male are constructed as topics of significant concern to transmasculine individuals on electronic bulletin boards and distribution lists, on websites, blogs and video logs, and in FTM-specific publications. Is it important to him to pass as a man, a British FTM teen states in an interview with The Guardian ‘because I am one’ (Groskop 2009). The FTM Australia website recommends that transmen should observe other men, consider what kind of man they want to be after transition, and try to model themselves after men they admire. The site suggests that concerns about passing are temporary and that there will be a time when ‘your physical body has caught up with your mind’. The text states that passing is as much about confidence as it is about physical appearance and reminds readers that cisgender man also worry about ‘manly’ appearances. ‘You’re not so different from the average Aussie bloke’ (FTM Australia 2011). Transmasculine discourse affirms both internal and external validations of one’s maleness by using passing (i.e. being read by others as male) as much as one’s male consciousness as affirmations. While critical transmasculine discourse rejects the notion that passing should be maintained as a validating criterion, the discursive emphasis on passing nevertheless upholds the dominance of passing as a shared common goal, as reflected in the ‘Who Looks The Realest’ transman competition at Atlanta’s Black Gay Pride Weekend (Kohinoor 2014). As social and political pressure to visibly identify as trans increases, one wonders whether ‘passing’ as ‘cismale’ or ‘passing’ as ‘transmale’ will be rhetorically differentiated in the future. In addition to choosing hairstyles and clothing that signal ‘man’, much discussion revolves around enacting masculinity. Spade (2006, p. 65) comments on the ‘obvious disappointment’ in his ‘inadequate masculinity’ that he sometimes encounters, especially when he is expected to represent. ‘People were pissed that I was representing myself in public as trans and was not passing as a non-transman.’ A 2011 post on GenderTrender (a blog site that offers a detransition support forum) titled ‘FTM’s in their own words: How To Behave Male’ still attracts comments in 2014 (FTM’s in their own words 2011). The original post reveals an FTM’s desire to learn more about behaving male. ‘I know I FEEL male inside, but sometimes I act way too girly’, he writes. The initial set of responses include advice such as ‘scratch your package’, ‘spit to the side’, ‘take long strides’ and ‘don’t 196

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swing your hips’. These tips were compiled from various FTM sites. The 79 responses to this initial exchange include radical feminist critiques of transmasculinity (‘You don’t need any T crap either’), fundamental rejection of the possibility of transsexualism (‘Where are the parents? … Your daughter is being programmed by porn …. Walk out the door and drag your daughter with you’), objections to the portrayal of masculinity (‘Why on earth would anyone want to be the person these people are describing? *Feelings*, bad. *Dullard Asshole*, good’), suggestions to look for internal rather than external masculinity (‘I think you’ll find your authentic masculinity is whatever’s left when you strip away your learned feminine behaviours’), blatantly transphobic and transviolent commentary, and a handful of clarifications, explanations and responses by transmasculine people. The bulk of the exchange is dominated by radical feminist/lesbian voices who point to the need to defend trans-exclusive lesbian-feminist spaces such as the Michigan Womyns Music Festival. A visitor with the handle ‘proudFTM’ responds in 2013 that he ‘never had to learn how to act like a stereotypical man. […] Being a girl was acting. Being a man is natural’. ProudFTM continues to point out that some ‘ftms take the masculine/feminine dichotomy a bit too far at first – they mellow with age’. Transman Dylan expresses sadness at the extent of transphobia evident in the thread and notes that not all ftms seek to become the next neanderthal jerk that the ftm sites seem to perpetuate they become. Not all ftms look on the internet and find these guides helpful. I find most of the information in these guides laughable exaggerations of the male persona. […] I am simply being myself. This notion of being ‘oneself ’ can be interpreted in several ways. In this context, it can be reduced to being a self that is unique and that reaches out in idiosyncratic manifestations of masculinity; it can be reduced to being a self that is innately male in predictable ways; and it can be reduced to a combination of these physiological and psychological trends. The innate nature of transmasculinity is both asserted and contested in transmasculine discourse. While the notion of an innate masculinity is a consistent theme in much transmasculine discourse, articulation of what such an innate masculinity might entail differs strongly. The innate nature of one’s masculinity is often taken for granted, and critiques of the phrase ‘born female’ are indicative of the weight of this concept. Kailey (2005, p. 3) writes that it takes years for ‘the “feeling” of maleness that is a necessity for most transmen’ to develop while others experience transitioning as bringing immediate relief from the intolerable pressure of conforming to gender norms that are not natural to one’s self. Bono (2012, p. 218) writes: I didn’t really have to learn how to act like a man because in my head I’d always been one. I already knew how a man stands, dresses, combs his hair, and hails a cab. I was born with this knowledge, and as soon as I stopped trying to pass as a woman, I knew how to live as a man. 197

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The notion of innateness interlaces with rhetorical articulations of self-actualization and integration of body and mind. Beam’s (2011, p. 170) protagonist reflects: How could he explain? It was like explaining the blood moving through his vein. It was constant, definite, nothing he controlled or chose. You could put all kinds of muscle and skin on top, and then add clothes and tattoos and makeup and hats, but nothing would change that blood. A more prominent current approach to the manifestation of one’s innate masculinity articulates a higher level of comfort and relief about being able to express oneself in culturally masculine ways but also a level of discomfort, attributed to the length of socialization as a woman. In Still Black, Young talks about having been ‘socialized as female’. He finds he tends ‘to defer more’, and when someone is talking to him, if it is a woman, he says he is not looking at them as much as when he is looking at men. Young reflects that he does not look people straight into their eyes (as men would) because he has been taught not to as a woman. Transmasculine discourse thus constructs different narratives about one’s innate masculinity, from liberating a pre-existing set of fashion and behavioural preferences to slowly unlearning and learning two gender socializations. The emergence of an ideal of transmasculinity that does not equate directly with cismasculinity is new and driven both by natural selfrepresentation and commodity culture. A third narrative that contains elements of both of these constructions is gaining more exposure beyond fringe representations. In July 2014, Ruby Rose, an Australian model, DJ, and television personality, released a short personal video (‘Break Free’) in which she discloses her gender identity challenges. The video hit a cultural nerve; it was watched almost 5 million times within a week and increased her Facebook followers by 200,000. In an interview with The Guardian (Jarvis 2014) titled ‘I used to pray to God that I wouldn’t get breasts’, Rose talks about having been convinced that she was a guy as a young child. Today, Rose said, she feels like she is neither male nor female: Well, if I had to chose it would be a boy, a guy. I feel like I’m a boy, but I don’t feel like I should’ve been born with different parts of my body or anything like that. I feel like it’s just all in how I dress and how I talk and how I look and feel, and that makes me happy. […] I think at this stage I will stay a woman but … who knows. (Trans)Male Privilege Both of these privileges, not being shouted at in the street and not being treated as less, as childlike, seem relatively small. But they’re the privilege, the experience, of not constantly having your sex or gender used as weapon against you, of not constantly 198

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having to assert your worth just to buy milk. They are elating, and they are privileges. And they shouldn’t be. – Melusin (2010), Coventry, England Some transmen dismiss a desire for male privilege as the starting point for a transition and also question the phenomenon of male privilege, as does Kailey (2005, p. 14) in the following passage: ‘Most transmen will laugh, some quite loudly, at the notion that we transition in order to achieve male privilege. I’ve been transitioned for many years and still don’t know what that is’. Other transmasculine perspectives include an acknowledgement of male privilege, often seen through a feminist consciousness-raising lens, and commitments to bring to visibility how male privilege functions. Ryan Thomas compares his gain of male privilege as a function of transition to his transfeminine partner’s loss of male privilege as part of her transition (Thomas 2013). His column illustrates specific interactions that reflect the gain of male privilege, such as women crossing the street at night to move out of his path, and questions at which point male privilege facilitates abuse: But now I have to ask, at which point does ‘privilege’ become ‘abuse’? Just recently, I confronted a man in public for yelling at his wife, threatening to ‘beat her’ when they got home. His child was listening, learning. The man stepped up to me, close enough for our chests to touch, and then turned away, yanking his wife and child with him. The woman looked over her shoulder at me and mouthed, ‘Thanks’ before they rounded the corner. This is male privilege. Those who have transitioned and pass find themselves at times surprisingly, and in a disorienting manner, included in ‘the boys club’, encouraged or expected to engage in sexist behaviour, or at a minimum to be complicit. Kristen Schilt interviewed 54 transmen in California and Texas between 2003 and 2007. As in many other studies, the majority of these participants was white (86 per cent), and sexual orientations were distributed fairly evenly. In addition, Schilt interviewed 14 co-workers of eight transmen in the study. In a complementary case study, Westbrook analysed media narratives about the killings of transwomen. Based on these data sets, Schilt and Westbrook (2009) found that in open workplace transitions, the experiences of the Texas and California participants were quite similar, in that most were ‘repatriated as men’ into men’s jobs and workplace cultures. However, both groups reported differential treatment from heterosexual men and heterosexual women at the workplace. Specifically, these transmale participants spoke of cis heterosexual men stressing a shared sexual desire for women to normalize interactions, while they observed that cis heterosexual women tended to frame them as gay women. Schilt quotes participant Jack: A lot of my male colleagues started kind of like slapping me on the back [laughs]. But I think it was with more force than they probably slapped each other on the back. … And 199

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it was not that I had gained access to ‘male privilege’ but they were trying to affirm to me that they saw me as a male. … That was the way they were going to be supportive of me as a guy, or something of the sort [laughs]. (Schilt & Westbrook 2009, p. 447) Schilt writes that Jack ‘felt normalized by this incorporation and made frequent references to himself as a transman to disrupt his colleagues’ attempts to naturalize his transition’ (p. 448). Such examples illustrate Schilt and Westbrooks’s assertion that ‘masculinity and femininity are not fixed properties of male and female bodies’ (p. 442) and that in many social interactions, it is the degree of passing, not the degree of physical congruence, that determines whether transmen are treated as men. In a comment posted in response to a column about transmisogyny, transman Ruadhán J McElroy  (McElroy 2014) notes that he has ‘seriously lost count of the vast number of transmen who ARE “obnoxious, toxic, [and] publicly self-absorbed with their transition”’. He argues that many transmen ‘mimic male entitlement’ but get away with it by getting ‘a pass cos ‘LOL, those silly vagbois! so ridiculously hot!!! =^_^=‘. The butch-identified student who interviewed a recently transitioned English professor for her blog ‘Butch Wonders’ also inquires about male privilege, questioning whether the professor perhaps simply did feel better about himself post-transition because he is now able to take advantage of male privilege. Allen responds that his happiness arises from the fact that he is able to express his true self, for example in interactions with his wife and his mother: ‘Male privilege doesn’t come into play with such people, yet I am much happier being male even in such small company’ (Butch Wonders 2014). Jen Dziura examines transmale privilege in a story for The Gloss (Dziura 2013). She invited transmen to share whether they now have ‘access to sexist discussions one would not, as a woman, have access to’. She shares three transmasculine perspectives, all of which speak to the existence of sexist talk in which these transmen are now implicated simply by virtue of presence. One transman says he has now experienced ‘brief moments of sexism’ and recalls being congratulated to have joined the ‘winning team’. Another transman talks about the intense ‘bro talk’ encountered in a locker room and comments on the difficulty of not becoming complicit: ‘Trying to perform a more responsible version of “socially appropriate” masculinity when you already feel at a bit of a disadvantage not having the birthright men get is really challenging’. Most of the article is devoted the transcript of a chat between Dziura and a transmasculine friend of hers, who is working in international development. Her friend affirms that those who have transitioned have ‘assumed male privilege, and so I don’t feel we get to then use the trans card when it suits us’. He illustrates, by providing examples from his work in Kenya and Ghana, how easy it can be to become culpable ‘because misogyny is so fucking systemic and pervasive’. It is now possible for him to get blind-sided by misogyny and sexism in a way that his female colleagues do not, he says. Ben Barres, a neurobiologist at Stanford who transitioned in the 1990s, participated in a telephone interview with The New York Times in 2006 to discuss his perspectives on the place of women in science (Dean 2006). Male 200

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privilege exists in structural, systemic ways in the sciences, Barres notes, stressing that it is more difficult for women to be successful, to get jobs, to get resources and to obtain big grants. By providing child care alone, he suggests, one could ‘explode the number of women scientists’. Barres, who became the first out transgender member to be elected to the US National Academy of Sciences in 2013, has publicly spoken on the differential ways in which his work has been received when presented as that of a male scientist versus that of a female scientist (Begley 2006). On the other side of the spectrum, transmasculine perspectives include those voiced by individuals such as Steven, who writes that his ‘journey led him not to the ideology of gender feminism but to the Men’s Rights Movement’ (Steven 2012). His post ‘From woman to man to red pill’ on ‘Voice for Men: Humanistic CounterTheory’ sparked an online storm of angry protest, particularly on Reddit, leading Steven to post that he was frightened by the backlash. His article outlines the changes in social expectations he encountered upon physical and social transition, such as no longer being subjected to cat calls, being expected to assist with physically challenging jobs (e.g. lifting appliances) and being expected to take action: I was happy, celebrating the fact that I was no longer seen as just a piece of meat – although later I realized that now society either uses me or ignores me, because I’m not attractive enough to be a piece of meat. I’m instead just an ugly, hairy beast with a wallet and a pair of muscular arms. Or, I might say with some measure of irony, a piece of meat that doesn’t even rate a cat call. Male privilege does not extend to all men, Steven argues, calling the notion of universal male privilege ‘bullshit’. While women have been able to make strides in getting access to traditionally male rights, they have not extended female privilege (such as being able to voice a need for support, getting assistance when being weak, homeless, seeking custody or divorcing spouses) to men, he argues, which has led to men being in a disadvantaged position today. A Reddit exchange in the Subreddit (SRSQuestions) explores whether transmen experience male privilege. The participants attempt to distinguish the boundaries of male privilege and cis privilege. A contribution by Neemii (identified as an AFAB trans person) offers that transmen experience ‘conditional male privilege (that is, it is dependent on being read as cis male)’ (HeroOfTheSong 2014). Online discussions of transmale privilege often address intersecting identities and their relationship to privilege or the lack thereof. Ziegler (2014, 15 July) is one of several black transmen who reflect on shifting privileges rather than acquisition of privilege. While transitioning has afforded him male privileges such as the reduction of public sexual assault from men, the assumption of heterosexuality and less employment discrimination, black masculinity comes with other risks, such as ‘becoming a visible target of racist practices designed to police young black manhood’, Ziegler writes. He continues, ‘I am constantly learning new social cues to present myself as less threatening, less aggressive, and less criminal, to challenge the irrational fear of black masculinity that can literally end my life’. Charley, a 53-year-old black man from Richmond, Virginia, who 201

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participated in a photo project (Dugan & Fabbre 2015) says he has been able to receive better employment offers since transitioning because employers are more comfortable with less ambiguous gender representations and because he now appears male. Like other black transmen, he speaks of the realization of what it means to transition in the context of black male identity in the United States. ‘And I realized, I’m a black male now, and so when I step on the elevator, the woman’s going to clutch her pocketbook, or she’s going to move to the other side of the elevator, or I get doors slammed in my face’ (Dugan & Fabbre 2015). Kellaway and Keig, who identify as biracial Latino men, deliberately selected a diverse range of transsexual men’s perspectives for their anthology Manning Up. Kellaway (González 2014) notes that in particular, the inclusion of writing by Rayee Shah, Shaun LaDue, Willy Wilkinson, Cotten and Jack Sito nuance the idea of transitioning into a ‘shared manhood’ (much like feminists of color have complicated the idea of ‘shared womanhood’). Transmen don’t all transition to just become ‘men’, which was one of the projects’ cornerstone concepts. They become black men, white men, queer men, straight men, working class men, affluent men, fatherly men, single men, spiritual men, etc. etc. All of these mean different things when filtered through social and intimate, familial lenses. The notion of ‘transmale privilege’ positions privilege as that of being perceived male while having been socialized female, leading Ziegler to characterize it as ‘a peculiar type of privilege that is both liberating and restrictive’. Challenges to transmasculine normativity often turn out to be challenges of masculine stereotypes. Cadyn James (26 August 2012) provides a list of reasons others have used to question his trans identity on his Wordpress blog. Violations of expectations of transmasculinity occur because he does not like or want violence, STPs, packing, video games, sports or bottom surgery. In addition to these ‘deficiencies’ from a standard transmale identity, he is sexually attracted to men, did not identify as trans until he was 21, respects women, identifies as a feminist, thinks about more than sex and acts ‘more like an effeminate gay male than a heterosexual southern redneck’. Such arguments are not valid, James declares, ‘I am trans enough because I am trans’. The website www.debate.org contains a poll titled ‘Are transmen real men?’ (Amazingfeminist n.d.). On 2 January 2015, 56 per cent answer the question affirmatively, 44 per cent do not. Those who argue that transmen are not real men implicate the absence of a penis (‘Sorry, but if you don’t have a penis in my eyes you are not a real man’), the presence of a mental or behavioural disorder and original birth to a female-assigned body. Those who argue that transmen are real men draw on neuroscience to identify brain gender as one’s true gender, engage birth defect metaphors or stress the performativity of gender. Discussions of transmale privilege occur not just within transmasculine discourses; they also spur vibrant conversations in feminist online spaces, which may or may not include transfeminine and transmasculine participants. For example, a self-identified Generation Z Asian American female college student who works in the sex 202

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trade wrote a Tumblr post titled ‘Male Privilege is Very Simple’ (Freedom In Wickedness 2013). The three-paragraph post, which has been reblogged over the past two years, argued that all men have male privilege, including transmen: Transmen are  not  an exception in any way, shape, or form. Transmen who claim they don’t get male privilege are exactly the same as cis men who claim that there’s no such thing as male privilege. They’re not seeing it because they don’t  want to see it, and they don’t want to see it because it benefits them not to. Her post was reblogged on another Tumblr site called ‘STFU, Transmisogynist Trans Folks!’ Cat posts a comment (STFU, Transmisogynist Trans Folks! 2013) that endorses the original post and places transmale privilege in the context of online discourse: If you’re online and say you’re male and write in a sufficiently masculine manner, there’s a radical difference in how you’re treated. There’s much less dismissal of what you have to say, virtually no ‘tits or GTFO’-type jabs, and cis guys feel comfortable in sharing misogynistic sentiments that they would avoid saying in the presence of women with you. And even if non-passing transguys share pictures of themselves online, the fact is that many of them exhibit such behavior amongst themselves on their online communities and are virtually indistinguishable from cis guys in some respects, except the dismissal of women and femininity is often even stronger because of the horror they have at the thought of being mistaken for women. Any male exhibiting misogyny has male privilege, and when transmen spout anti-woman sentiments in an attempt to make sure they’re never mistaken for one, this is where it becomes cemented. Brynn Tannehill (2013), Director of Advocacy, SPART*A, cautiously explores the notion of male privilege by seeking trans perspectives. SPART*A (Servicemembers, Partners and Allies for Respect and Tolerance for All) is a US-based LGBT military organization. Tannehill, a former US Navy helicopter pilot who left the military when she transitioned in 2010, begins her blog with an affirmation of the reality of male privilege. However, she continues, ‘sometimes it feels taboo to ask how far male privilege goes’. To that end, she sought transfeminine and transmasculine perspectives. Her curiosity was sparked by the blog of black transman, who concluded that being seen as a black man by society carried more disadvantages than being seen as a black female. A white transman friend of Tannehill’s comments that he would be hesitant to label one struggle more significant than another but adds that ‘transmen definitely do have it easier’ (than transwomen). Tannehill references her own experience as a small, somewhat effeminate ‘man’ in the military and concludes that male privilege is not the monolithic power some might assume. It isn’t the be-all and end-all of the male experience, and it also has a flip side that harms some men even as it privileges them as a class. It varies based on race, work environment, cultural setting, and whether someone 203

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is perceived as gender-conforming. Pinning down how much it is actually worth depends on many factors and interactions besides simply sex. These posts provide a glimpse into the online context in which transmasculine perspectives seek to differentiate themselves. The link between misogyny and male privilege is rhetorically maintained in much online discourse. While most online discourse seems to equate misogyny and male privilege, some contributions take a more nuanced approach. A non-binary support blog on Tumblr offers a post with the following introduction: I am wary of the uncritical acceptance of the idea that transmen have male privilege. I’ve seen with my own eyes the way some transmen can benefit sometimes from male privilege, but they have it in a conditional way. Quite the opposite, I’ve seen far more ways transmen are actively harmed by misogyny. I think the question of how transmen can recognize and check their male privilege is not as interesting or as urgent as the question of how transmen are harmed by the male privilege and misogyny displayed by cis men. The list developed by supermattachine consists of seven points (Supermattachine n.d.) and articulates the conditions under which male privilege operates for transmen. Male privilege requires the silence of living stealth; it facilitates dismissal of transmen’s genders by insisting that they are women seeking to escape from a lesser social status; and women’s health issues often are transmen’s health issues as well. Cissexist discourse frames transmen as failed or hysterical women, allows cismen to subject transmen to the male gaze and uses misogynist views of female bodies to police transmen’s bodies. In this list of seven propositions, supermattachine seeks to articulate an argument that affirms the notion that transmen benefit from male privilege, but simultaneously argues that such benefits are outweighed by the negative effects of misogyny and cissexism. Supermattachine writes that ‘the intersection of cissexism and misogyny places trans male bodies in a double bind, that of being declared disgusting and invalid both because they have bodies that are FAAB, and because those bodies are trans FAAB bodies’. Keig, co-editor of Manning Up, says the anthology of transsexual men’s experiences was needed because transmen who transitioned in their thirties or older experienced a form of gender trauma prior to transition: The weight of living in a sexist, oppressive, marginalizing, discriminatory and misogynistic culture is not easily put aside once testosterone hits our bloodstream. As we simultaneously learn to navigate the world of men and recover from our past traumas, we are, too often, accused of wielding ‘male privilege’, which many of us experience as yet one more form of bias being levied against us without our consent. (González 2014) To counter the risk of being complicit with male privilege, a segment of transmasculine discourse outlines the shape of feminist transmasculine consciousness. Koch-Rein (2013) 204

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writes that ‘without feminism, I wouldn’t know how to be a man’. Koch-Rein, who is German and transitioned in the United States, describes his feminist academic identity in the following words: ‘I am a feminist, transgender man. I am a queer-identified transguy, whose lessons in masculinity have come from folks of various genders’ (Koch-Rein 2013). Such self-understandings were foreshadowed in the late 1990s and early 2000s by writers such as Califia (2006, p. 435), who wrote that he wanted to retain lesbian-feminist values and therefore preferred to identify as FTM or transgender rather than ‘man’. Other transmen prefer to fully claim the label ‘man’, as does transgender musician Davis, who credits transgender model Lauren Foster with telling him ‘outright that I’m not just a transman, I’m a man, no two ways around. Not a second-rate man, which is what I feared I would always be seen as’ (Lauren Foster, Transgender Model 2012). The blog ‘Transguy Problems’ is considered ‘a mix of uplifting notes on being trans*masculine as well as serving as an advice blog’ (Transguy Problems 2014). It posts anonymous questions and then provides answers. A reader posted the following question: ‘I was just wondering that when you say you are a transguy, what you really mean is that you identify with the stereotypes that society has placed on men as opposed to women, correct?’ Transguy answers that he is male although he was born with physical characteristics that ‘typically reflect those with a female gender according to society’ and that he does not identify with the majority of stereotypes placed on men, ‘and those I do, it’s not something I’m actively aiming for’. Increasingly, transmasculine discourse not just questions hegemonic masculinity but seeks to position itself as carrying responsibility for articulating a feminist masculinity that is intelligible and accessible to trans- and cis-gender men. Haven (2014), a masculine of centre trans*man, writes on UpRoot: digging up the roots of gender-based violence that his ‘lived experience for the first 30 years of life being identified as a woman certainly informs/influences how I move about in the world. It also influences ways in which I perceive gender and the subsequent violence that is perpetrated by a particularly violent/ brutal construction and enactment of hegemonic masculinity’. Salvador Vidal-Ortiz (2002) was one of the first researchers to illustrate the potential of visible transmasculine lives to challenge hegemonic masculinity. In reference to his 1999 interviews with six self-identified transgender men in the San Francisco area, Vidal-Ortiz notes that the participants referred to themselves as a ‘guy’ rather than ‘man’, a rhetorical strategy that ‘reflects their desire to not engage in hegemonic masculinity constructions’ (2002, p. 221). Vidal-Ortiz rejects the notion that FTM transitioning signifies privilege, pointing to constant gender struggle as a non-privileged situation and calling attention to the personal pre-transition histories of transmen: Although FtMs who are seen and treated in the world as men can benefit from others’ perception of them as men, there is an interplay between the structural ideas of gender expression and inequality, and the individual/interaction issues that FtMs face on an everyday basis. It is possible for transgender men to ascribe to hegemonic masculinities and display a homophobic or sexist gendered self, but these attitudes are not just linked 205

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to the body or the history of the individual, they are as well connected to an unequal gendered system in place. (2002, p. 221) Male Gender Roles When I’m a Dad I feel like it’s easier to be the kind of man that feels authentic to me. It’s easier to be in my body and to feel like a part of this world. – FTM Dad on Tumblr (FTM DAD 2015) The figure of the brother permeates segments of transmasculine discourse, whether in the titles of anthologies (e.g. Letters For My Brothers: Transitional Wisdom in Retrospect or Manning Up: Transsexual Men on Finding Brotherhood, Family, and Themselves), films (Brothers 2012, China) and web series (Ghieth 2014) or fundraisers (Brothers of a Boston fraternity). YouTube channels employ the use of ‘brotherhood’ to designate FTM channels; Tumblr allows organization by the FTM hashtag ‘brotherhood’. W. Dowd (2014) writes in his blog that he was ‘so desperate’ to find his ‘people’ and expresses his gratitude for his ‘bros’. The FTM brotherhood page of the short-form video-sharing service Vine hit 10,000 loops in December 2014. DeLine’s FTM protagonist Colin reflects on the promise of meeting another transguy: […] he felt a bond between two transgender men could be especially strong. They could share coming-out stories, complain about discrimination, support each other through the hard times, compare their surgical scars … They would be like brothers. Or better yet, war buddies. (2011, p. 19) Dowd (2014) writes in his blog that he was ‘so desperate’ to find his ‘people’ and expresses his gratitude for his ‘bros’. Brotherhood discourse occurs as a manifestation of the effort to create what Benedict Anderson (2006) might call an imagined community, a continuance of LGBTQ engagement of chosen family discourse, in instances an acknowledgement of culturally specific ideas about brotherhood, and in instances a reflection of universalizing sexist assumptions. Individuals seek to connect online by offering or accepting little/big brother status. At times, brotherhood discourse is trite and clichéd and manifests itself in language such as ‘Drink it up guys, my lady is on the way home’ (Davyn, BROTHERS, Episode 1); at other times it is nuanced, complex and complicated (for example, as articulated in Manning Up). There also appears to be a marked difference in the ways in which the experience of being a husband/father/brother/son/uncle is constructed for transitioning men when one compares it to the constructions of their earlier experience of growing up as someone’s wife/mother/sister/daughter/aunt. While it is not untypical for an individual to prioritize one, or several of these roles, as pivotal and essential to their understanding of self, 206

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articulated self-understanding of those raised in female gender roles (including transmen) reflects an awareness of a self that transcends these roles, a self that may find solace or home in these roles, a self that may reject or resent such roles, or a self that is only peripherally touched by such roles. For transmen, however, the new or emerging identification in a male gender role often is constructed as fundamental and essential. In an interview with Harvard University’s Office of BGLTQ Student Life (2014), Kellaway says he intends for Manning Up to illustrate the complexity of trans* lives, ‘exploring what it means to live in familial and community roles like father, son, brother, husband, mentor’. A quarter (24.6 per cent) of the respondents in the snapshot survey tied being male to gender-specific social roles, such as ‘being a loving, supportive, compassionate and honest husband, son, brother and advocate for others’, ‘provider, father’, ‘a set of cultural expectations, a set of roles’, ‘being the head of my family and a father to my children’ or ‘protector, taking care of loved ones’. Discursively, the weight of identifying as another sibling’s brother, for example, is much stronger than the weight of having grown up as a sibling’s sister. In other words, the role of being a gendered sibling suddenly assumes greater relevance, pushing into the background other aspects of sibling relationships that might have loomed larger originally (e.g. being the younger/older sibling). What is remarkable about this phenomenon is the fact that adoption of stereotypical gender roles here occurs by individuals who often have overcome significant stress and duress in fighting stereotypical gender assumptions of the gender roles assigned to them with the sex designated at birth. While the texts and images of transmasculinity are not necessarily blind to this paradox, they often arrive at a somewhat forced compromise of ‘live and let live’, a gender role magnanimity that would have been irreconcilable with previous socio-political identifications for some. This paradox, and the tensions that surround it, appear prominently in the new discourses about transmasculine-identified students at women’s colleges. For example, the documentary TransGeneration, which features four transgender college students, includes Lucas Cheadle, a transmale college student in the allfemale Smith College in Massachusetts. Individual women’s colleges in the United States have taken divergent approaches to this phenomenon, which became the subject of an The New York Times feature headlined ‘When Women Become Men at Wellesley’ (Padawer 2014). The story is accompanied by a photo showing five Wellesley students, including Timothy Boatwright, a transman. The in-depth feature focuses on women’s colleges’ administration and policies in the light of increasing transmasculine student presence. Boatwright, who uses male pronouns and understands himself to be ‘masculine-of-center genderqueer’, was elected to Wellesley’s Student Government with a two-thirds majority vote and an 85-per cent voter turnout following an online campaign encouraging students to abstain from voting to block male representation on student government. The story quotes Boatwright on being conflicted about running for the seat, caught between his conviction that as a representative of a minority, he should be on student government and his desire to not perpetuate patriarchy. As Ruth Padawer notes, different women’s colleges have taken radically different approaches. Some encourage, or request, gender-neutral language; some admit transmasculine applicants as long as their legal sex on application 207

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materials classifies them as female; some confer diplomas to women only; a few admit transmasculine applicants who openly identify as transmen. Padawer’s feature also introduces a Wellesley student who came to identify as gender dysphoric during the first year and who learned at the institution that contemporary approaches to transmasculinity meant that ‘transmen aren’t necessarily determined to hide the fact that they were raised as girls, or that they once attended a women’s college’. The student began social, then physical transition on campus, and offered the first support group for students who were grappling with male gender identification, a group initially called ‘Brothers’ as ‘a counterweight to the otherwise ubiquitous message of sisterhood’. A group open to all on the gender spectrum other than those identifying as women came into being later – this one labelling itself ‘Siblings’. The article offers a variety of Wellesley perspectives on the use of gender-specific vs. gender-neutral language, especially in the context of ‘sisterhood’, ‘brotherhood’ and ‘siblinghood’. Complex, and diverging, attitudes towards these labels emerge from the description of the Wellesley context. A transmasculine student posted an anonymous blog entry arguing that transmasculine students do not belong at Wellesley because they take spaces from women. According to Padawer, the ensuing public debate about ‘Wellesley’s deeply conflicted identity’ again saw the articulation of a wide range of perspectives, from arguing that the blogger executed a patronizing attitude by empowering himself to speak on behalf of women to arguing that he was jeopardizing the emotional safety of transmasculine students on campus to applauding him for the courage to initiate public discussion. The president of Mount Holyoke College, Lynn Pasquerella, who supported Mount Holyoke’s decision to change its admission criteria to anyone born biologically female or anyone identifying as female or other on the basis of civil rights, is quoted on the use of ‘the language of sisterhood’ in the following words: ‘When I use the term “sisterhood”, I’m using it in any way that acknowledges the fact that not everybody here identifies as a woman. It is a rhetorical device’. Padawer concludes her feature with a description of Wellesley’s commencement ceremony, which includes the singing of ‘America, the Beautiful’. The lyrics, which include the phrase ‘And crown thy good, with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea!’ were written by Katharine Lee Bates, an 1880 Wellesley graduate. A traditional moment in the commencement ceremony occurs when the graduates replace the word ‘brotherhood’ with ‘sisterhood’, a move that has now come under scrutiny by a minority of students who replace ‘sisterhood’ with ‘siblinghood’ and a few transmen who seek to reclaim the term ‘brotherhood’, ‘not as a sexist stand-in for all humankind, but as an appeal from a tiny minority struggling to be acknowledged’. Each of these rhetorical strategies is fraught with challenges. ‘Sisterhood’ can be argued to exclude an acknowledgement of students who do not identify as female; ‘siblinghood’ can be argued to de-gender an institution that was founded on the very principle of affirming gender; ‘brotherhood’ can be argued to revive patriarchal discourses. These rhetorical tensions are not specific to the emergence of transmasculine presence at women’s colleges; rather, they appear just one of the more recent illustrations of the ways in which trans visibility is pushing the boundaries of gendersegregated territories. The Padawer feature attracted more than 800 comments by the time 208

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the International New York Times closed the online comment section. The majority of comments (many of which were submitted by current and former Wellesley students) voice a strong defence of Wellesley’s identity as a women’s college and suggest that such institutions should not adjust their mission to accommodate male-identified students. One of the comments most recommended by readers, authored by a current Wellesley student, takes a strong stance: ‘Wellesley is a space for women to flourish, be challenged, and share a community. I wish we would stop pretending Wellesley is meant to include everyone, when we are explicitly a women’s college for women (gender-selectivity is in our name)’. Another top-rated comment from a Wellesley alumna suggests that while gender exploration should be supported, ‘demanding that the language used in the classroom and in the dorms no longer focus on the female experience is erasure of the generations of Wellesley women who have fought for recognition in a male centered world’. A self-identified transman, Louis Golden, suggests that those ‘who identify as male should feel uncomfortable in what has been designated as an all female space’. A few readers voice empathy with transmasculine students’ needs for an emotionally and physically safe university community (which some of the transmale students interviewed cite as the main reason for their application to women’s colleges); a few readers suggest that gender exploration, inclusivity and deconstruction of gender boundaries are fundamental to the logic of women’s colleges and should be encouraged. While the feature does not foreground transmasculine self-understanding of gender, the contested nature of transmasculine self-understandings weaves through the narratives. The coverage by The New York Times, and the discussion it engenders, is particularly relevant when compared to earlier coverage. In 2006, as examined by Salamon, The New York Times ran a series on transmen that positioned lesbian and trans communities as deeply entrenched in conflict, also including references to the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. The 2006 coverage, Salamon proposes, perpetuates ‘the baseless but pervasive suspicion that trans people are dangerous, and dangerous in a way that violates women in particular’ (p. 107). Salamon suggests that the 2006 coverage, which includes a photo of a bare-chested post-op transman and labels the photo as one of scars rather than pects, ‘offers his chest as “the horror of nothing to see”’ (p. 112). Recent critical discourse analyses of immigration offer an interesting parallel. Eneli Andreouli and Parisa Dashtipour (2013) examine interviews with citizenship officers who were tasked to organize and conduct naturalization ceremonies in London. As the authors note, citizenship applicants are required to pass a test about life in the United Kingdom and to attend a citizenship ceremony in which they must swear allegiance to the Queen and pledge their loyalty to the United Kingdom. This process exists in stark contrast to the unmarked ways in which non-naturalized UK citizens make sense of their national identity (Andreouli & Dashtipour 2013; Billig 1995), particularly at a time when English national identity is downplayed by most white nationals (Andreouli & Dashtipour 2013; Condor 2000). The parallels to assuming a new gender role are striking, particularly at a time when many governments require transitioning individuals to pass a ‘Real Life Test’ in the ‘other’ gender and to disavow physical properties of the sex they were first assigned to (e.g. forced 209

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sterilization). Andreouli and Dashtipour document ambivalence in the British officers’ interview contributions: The grateful migrant, who is committed and contributes to society, symbolises the ideal new British citizen. This is in conflict with the image of the immigrant who puts a strain on the British welfare system and is driven by opportunistic motives such as obtaining a European Union passport. (p. 107) Andreouli and Dashtipour conclude that their interviews with British citizenship officers suggest ambivalence, and that such ambivalence between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ migrants (p. 108) also exists in policy discussions on citizenship. Attention should be paid to such discourses characterized by ambivalence, they suggest, because it is precisely such ambivalence that ‘opens up the possibility for resisting exclusionary discourses and advancing more inclusive ones’ (p. 109). In an unrelated study, Zembylas (2012) identifies emotional ambivalence in host (Greek-Cypriot) children and youth discourses about migrants in Cyprus. The presence of such emotional ambivalence, Zembylas argues, suggests that simply seeking to change discourses and offering alternative discourses may not be effective. Zembylas shows how child and youth discourses about migrant youth contain contradictory positions, evidence of fear and empathy: ‘fear coexists with empathy, and contempt with respect’ (p. 205). A similar ambivalence manifests in the public commentary posted on the International New York Times’ online comments section in response to the Wellesley story. Many of the comments construe the idea of a transmasculine student at women’s colleges as opportunistic, i.e., seeking the safety of a women’s only institution while accessing and executing male privilege. The majority vote for a transmasculine representative on Wellesley’s student government, the inclusion of trans sensitivity in these colleges’ diversity training and administrative policies such as those of Mount Holyoke reflect a greater ambivalence, though, one that is not necessarily captured in the top-rated online comments accompanying the article. The headline, ‘When Women Become Men at Wellesley’ takes a female positionality as the starting point and thereby orients the reader to focus on the complex unravelling of gender identifications (as opposed to, for example, framing the feature to focus on whether transmen should be allowed to study at women’s colleges) or whether colleges should be sex-segregated at all. Strategic discourse tends to polarize perspectives in ways that may not represent an empirical distribution of perspectives but in ways that reframe and misalign perception of public opinion. As a year-long Pew research journalism project found in 2014, in a US political context, those at the conservative and liberal ends of the spectrum (an estimated 20 per cent of the overall public), ‘have a greater impact on the political process than do those with more mixed ideological views’ (Mitchell et al. 2014). The tensions, and at times outright confrontations, between radical feminists and transmasculine people have garnered the attention of mainstream media, which in turn facilitate a discussion of the 210

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complex stakeholder relations involved in such news coverage. A cover story in The New Yorker by Michelle Goldberg asks ‘What is a woman? The dispute between radical feminism and transgenderism’ (Goldberg 2014). The story, which focuses on the tensions between radical feminists and transgender/transsexual women, prompted significant accusations of one-sided reporting, including an open letter to The New Yorker by Julia Serano, a transgender writer, performer, activist and lecturer, who has authored two books on the intersections of feminism and trans activism, and a piece in the Columbia Journalism Review that characterizes Goldberg’s piece as ‘a case study for other publishers on how to avoid The New Yorker’s mistake’ (Truitt 2014). While this public exchange focused almost entirely on the relationships between radical feminists, radical feminists who exclude transgender women, feminists, transgender women, feminist transgender women, and trans activists, a short portion of the original article by Goldberg references the female-to-male experience with the following description of the closing talk delivered by Heath Atom Russell at a RadFems Respond event in May 2014 in Portland, Oregon: A stocky woman, with curly turquoise hair and a bluish stubble shadow on her cheeks, she wore a T-shirt that read ‘I Survived Testosterone Poisoning’. At twenty-five, she is a ‘detransitioner’, a person who once identified as transgender but no longer does. (Expert estimates of the number of transitioners who abandon their new gender range from fewer than one per cent to as many as five per cent.) Russell, a lesbian who grew up in a conservative Baptist family in Southern California, began transitioning to male as a student at Humboldt State University, and was embraced by gender-rights groups on campus. She started taking hormones and changed her name. Then, in her senior year, she discovered ‘Unpacking Queer Politics’ (2003), by Sheila Jeffreys, which critiques female-to-male transsexualism as capitulation to misogyny. (Goldberg 2014) Goldberg’s article proceeds to describe Jeffreys’ work, which asserts that those who decide to detransition are ‘survivors’, that gender reassignment surgery is equivalent to genital mutilation and that those who transition from female to male are motivated by the gain of male privilege in a sexist system. Twenty years ago, Zachary Nataf (1996) described the tensions between lesbians, MTFs and FTMs, identifying openings for dialogue in newer expressions of lesbian feminism and transgenderism. While trans exclusionary radical feminist accusations of betrayal largely tend to be dismissed or ignored by transmasculine discourse today, and appear to represent a vocal but small group, less radicalized positions that question the motivations of those assigned to the female sex at birth to transition to a male assignment are typically encountered with sadness, grief, discomfort and lack of understanding. If online social media discourse is any indication, the next generation of transmasculine news stories, autobiographies and film documentaries will likely address 211

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detransitioning, or the perspectives of individuals who decided to only socially transition, or the perspectives of those who took some steps towards physical transition but stopped, or those who began transitioning, stopped and resumed transitioning. These are the stories that have not received much popular media coverage, and of course they will push the boundaries of transnormative discourses and test their ability to accommodate the range of transmasculine identifications that exist and are increasingly becoming visible. Since such narratives easily lend themselves to the propagation and defence of transphobic campaigns and arguments, the challenge for transmasculine discourse is significant. However, more transmasculine individuals who have chosen to pause or altogether stop their transitions, ‘retransition’ or ‘detransition’ are blogging, video logging or participating in media interviews. Crashchaoscats (2013) maintains a blog on her ‘thoughts about living as different genders, taking t and stopping, how gender seems to function in this society and other related ideas that churn around in my brain’. In her essay ‘Socialized “Trans”’, she suggests that she was socialized into transmasculinity because her ‘choice of name, clothing, physical features, interests, mannerisms and overall qualities were judged male by many people’: These people decided that these qualities meant I was a boy with a female body rather than a girl with characteristics usually associated with boys and so it was therefore appropriate to use male pronouns without consulting me about my preferences. People used male pronouns to refer to me not only because they thought I preferred them but also because they seemed more comfortable using them to describe me. The writer suggests that women whose innate gender expression does not align with conventional femininity are likely to see themselves as trans/male or genderqueer before considering that they might be comfortable being female but expressing non-stereotypical gender traits. Although other women seem to have experimented with transitioning and decided that it was not the right path for them, there seems to be no community for them to exchange ideas and experiences outside of the radical feminist movement, the writer argues. In a Man’s Image ‘Early on in my transition I was trying to find definition for myself as a man’, Howley recalls on American Transgender (2012). The quest for defining or redefining one’s self ‘as a man’ occupies centre stage in current considerations of transmasculinity. Transmasculinity, for Salamon, is located in ‘the territory of relation, difference, and engagement with the other’ (2010, p. 127), and transmasculine discourse engages with, or is engaged by, its separations from ‘others’, whether they define as ciswomen, butch lesbians, cismen, genderqueer people, feminists, mothers, daughters or wives. As this chapter has shown, traditional ideations of masculinity appear throughout transmasculine discourse, but many of these have come under 212

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recent critique, particularly by younger transmasculine voices. Continued documentation of actual victimization and marginalization is increasingly met by demands to specify who exactly is affected by structural discrimination and marginalization – and who is not. Becoming or being a man is tied to consumption practices, commodity culture and identity politics specific not just to transmasculinity but also to masculinity at large. Transmasculine discourse affirms and denies the granting of male privilege; it differentiates transmale from cisgender male privilege and qualifies male privilege by recognizing intersectionalities. Although gendered family roles are accentuated, this is not an ubiquitous tendency, and feminist conceptualizations of transmasculinity confront gender role bias while attempting to dislocate cisgender essentialism from political platforms.

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on exhibit @ Landesmuseum Trier my smart phone teleports images of skeletal male only slightly delayed by transcontinental passage simultaneously maintaining & refuting dimensions of time and space intellectually disputed but persistently ruling our rhythms: the museum will close in 15 minutes but my smart phone still requires my agency to disturb the neatly reassembled bones, weapons, fabric fragmented into such curated order his remains found close to the village I grew up in no descendants to claim an ancestor the groups of semi-bored visiting French high-school students as likely to qualify as my own tired genes as instructed by artefacts and interpretations although he could have just as easily been a transwoman i contemplate the fate of being on display mislabeled for eternity but find eternity no more damning than presence

i think him male

i feel skeletal the sudden lack of flesh and fervor strikes me, then coddles me like the traces of sand and soil once blanketing this human years ago, museum visits catapulted me into cultural tension, warped my tongue, twisted my ears sound vibrating with taste teased me with possibilities of locating self in too many rooms, too many interpretations now still standing the weight of centuries as light or heavy as the weight of today 214

i am boiled down to bones

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the incongruencies of being follow me from room to room echoing the stifled giggles of the touring teenagers still safely cloaked in pretend distinction between self and century-old skeletons clothed only in time my index finger presses lightly on the glass box containing her remains connecting in vibrant mortality comfortably suited for a new year [Western States Communication Association Conference, Selected Spotlight Performance, Performance Studies Interest Group, Anaheim, CA, 14–18 February 2014]

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Conclusion Nothing is created or destroyed, it only changes form. So I’m here but in a different way. – Oliver Bendorf (2014, 20 January) Online utterances, testimonies and visual or textual self-narratives clearly reflect transmasculine refusal to be categorized. This may appear paradoxical for a body of text generated by individuals seeking to inscribe (heinz 2012) their gendered presence. While transmasculine individuals often (but not always) stake out specific subjectivities, language use consistently allows for alternate subjectivities, whether extended to hypothetical others, real others or one’s own past or future self. This is a significant discursive shift from earlier discourse, perhaps most easily captured in the proliferation of identity labels transmasculine individuals select to describe themselves to others, in the increasingly common rejection of selecting a particular label and in the growing stress on de-emphasizing gender identity while claiming the validity of transmasculinity. At least three newer dynamics contribute to this trend. First, more visible transmen who have physically or socially transitioned articulate that their lives cannot be reduced to their gender identity. Second, transmasculine people whose lives are ‘othered’ by more than their gender identity vocalize the complexity of their lives, the subjectivity of specific class, ethnic, religious, ability, sexual orientation and skin colour experiences and reject a transnormative narrative. Third, transmasculine discourse reflects an unprecedented diversity of experiences, whether it comes to the gender identities of potential partners one might be attracted to, one’s un- or re-gendered family roles, the age of arriving at transmasculine consciousness, consideration of medical interventions and the intersections of one’s gender identity development with other life span developments. This discourse questions the validity of the normative trans metanarrative that has arisen, particularly in majority media. These three trends contribute to a slow philosophical shift away from understanding transmasculinity as either a constant act of becoming or a state of being to conceptualizing it as both. Approached from this perspective, transmasculine orientation becomes one, but not the, defining element of one’s life experience. From an existentialist perspective,

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the instant is neither the passing moment nor an abstract point by which to measure time. The instant is the ever-present threat that no choice of Being is final or supported by anything save the consciousness which continues to choose it. (Barnes 1973, p. 64) Arriving at transmasculine identification can thus be conceptualized as constant and (potentially) passing gender consciousness, and by understanding transmasculine in this vein, gender consciousness is aligned with other forms of human consciousness. For example, Mel Goodwin, who co-organized the 2013 Trans Pride Week in Las Vegas, says in an interview with the McClatchy – Tribune Business News that the most important issue to understand about trans pride is that ‘gender is a human experience’ (Domanick 2013). Trans Pride Week offers all of the Las Vegas community a chance to ‘come together and reflect on how gender interacts with the entirety of lives’, he says. By casting gender as experience, rather than identity, Goodwin allows for multiple entrances to the discourses of (trans)masculinity. These entrances are sometimes exit strategies for gender hegemony. Francis DeBernardo of the US-based Catholic New Ways Ministry examines the case of a male transgender high school student at a Catholic high school in Albuquerque. Damian Garcia had successfully transitioned at the school with the support of his parents, peers and teachers. However, the fact that his birth certificate designated him as female led the school to require him to wear a girl’s graduation robe at commencement. DeBernardo questions the primacy of gender institutionalized in this process: This situation highlights another important issue: why are graduation robes ‘gendered’ in the first place? Why must boys wear one color and girls another color? A simple solution would be to eliminate the color distinction, since it serves no meaningful purpose anyway. (DeBernardo 2013) Smaller articulations, whether evidenced in ‘gender-incongruent’ clothing or a preference for gender-neutral pronouns, have the potential to more easily permeate the membranes of majority understandings of sex, gender and identity. Although it may appear a paradox, the public sphere of transmasculinity in this way can be considered a forum for de-centring gender and sex. De-centring of discourses occurs in reaction to overstated or exclusionary positions. Therefore, transmasculine discourses need articulations of biological gender essentialism as much as they need calls to a critical trans politics or genderqueer transmasculine dance; they require the words of d/Deaf transmen as much as of hearing ones; they require manifestations of and challenges to white, black, brown, Asian and otherwise racialized masculinities; they require thought about implicit linkages between masculinity, patriotism and nationalism (Sinnott 2004). Conceptualizing arriving at and expressing transmasculine consciousness as being rather than becoming gently pushes against the symbolic weight bestowed upon physical acts of transition and radical de- and reconstructions of one’s relationships to others, freeing 218

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space for smaller articulations of changing consciousness. Such rhetorical constructions are evident in texts that affirm an innate, essential sense of being male in a gender-positivist understanding and texts that affirm an innate, essential sense of self that is understood to be male in a gender-constructionist sense. What audiences encounter, more often than not, is the transitioning male (Lang 2014), rather than individuals who happen to be a particular stage of gender expression, much like they might find themselves at a particular stage of age or bodily ability expression. McIntosh (2012) uses Southern Comfort to teach students about transgender experiences because the film offers a more complex portrayal of a transman. She identifies four themes in the film: the importance and complexity of family, the significance of acceptance by others, attitudes towards the medical establishment and identity intersections. ‘While I set these themes up as different sections, they are not discrete categories. In many cases they overlap, connect, and blur’, she writes (2012, p. 71). Bradley (2013) notes that most trans films are documentaries or dramas that have a preoccupation with transitioning; others observe the same in regard to online images and self-narratives. In this vein, much transmasculine discourse offers transition discourse. It takes the element of movement contained in the transmasculine ‘journey’ and equates movement with physical or social transition – notably emphasizing physical transition. Tempted by the visual flashiness of transition images, such discourse reduces journey to gender identity and movement to transition. Conceptualizing arriving at and expressing transmasculine consciousness as becoming rather than being gently pushes against the symbolic weight bestowed upon a priori essential authentic selves waiting to be unveiled or recognized, freeing space for envisioning one’s human existence as a constant process of change and re-orientation. Such rhetorical constructions are evident in texts that affirm gender journeys as one of many other human journeys and texts that foreground the influence of culture and society on one’s gender representation. The transmasculine journey of self-discovery or self-actualization can also be understood as a metaphor for the development of human consciousness and experience over the life span. In this frame, gender identity is only one part of the luggage, movement’s directionality is subject to assessment and reassessment, and transition just one of the potential road stops. A 50-year-old FTM facilitator of a support group for trans teens in Connecticut states that he often reminds teenagers to not get focused entirely on their gender identity. ‘Nobody walks around saying, “Hi, I’m a man”’, he tells a reporter (Talbot 2013, 18 March). It is precisely in these inherent philosophical contradictions and political articulations that transmasculine discourses thrive and, at times, outcompete each other. Kergil writes that definitions of manhood vary so strongly that no one person could actually meet ‘the definition of being a man’ (2013 June 11). ‘Real or not, I became a man when I consciously decided it was time to become one’, Kergil writes, as well as ‘If no concrete definition exists for being a man, which is beautiful and freeing in many ways, I cannot imagine how to think of becoming a man’. Our vision of transmasculinity has to be able to accommodate not just a wide range of visions but it has to accommodate a simultaneous reconciliation of positions we have previously held as irreconcilable. These positions are reconcilable because 219

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they arise both from the human condition and from our perception thereof. In other words, as producers and consumers of transmasculine discourses, we need to be able to zoom in (on political particulars) as much as to zoom out (on sociocultural patterns) to avoid what one might consider trans myopia. For example, transmasculine discourses need to accommodate an FTM individual requiring immediate medical services to prevent suicide as much as they need to accommodate conversations about cross-gender commonalities, whether that is the oddness of puberty or of hormonal changes later in life. Anne Reboul (2011) synthesizes research about human language and cognition and calls attention to the robust finding that humans are more adept at identifying larger shapes than their smaller composites, a principle known as global perception. The human preference for global (rather than local) perception means that they are ‘best adapted to yield abstraction and conceptualization directly at the level of perception’ (p. 133). The main consequence of this principle, Reboul maintains, ‘is that, though conceptualization of concrete entities is perception-based, it is also abstract’ (p. 133). Abstract representations, by definition, do ‘not faithfully reproduce all the features of any specific exemplar’ (p. 133). Upon closer look, these principles might illuminate dynamics in transmasculine discourses, and capture why transmasculine discourses may appear inherently incongruent. Although the human representation of the concept ‘man’ (or ‘woman’ or ‘transman’) is understood to be abstract, and hence not a concept one can manifest by virtue of displaying a prescribed set of identifying qualities (e.g. a phallus, muscles, a deep voice), we remain subject to global perceptions of ‘manhood’ and ‘womanhood’. Regardless of the degree of self-reflexivity, we are finding ourselves striving to bring to life a concept that will remain abstract, no matter how many concrete identifiers we may seek to engage. Reboul (2011, p. 135) further reviews the notion of linguistic non-situatedness in the context of perception and cognition: The fact that words associated with categories can activate the same brain circuits as does the perception of relevant exemplars (i.e. trigger the concept) means that, though the concepts are situated (environment dependent) in that they are perception based, they are the foundations of non-situated (environment independent), linguistically activated, processes […]. Applied to the context of transmasculine discourses, this principle illustrates the potential of transmasculine expressions in language and non-verbal communication. Our concepts of transmasculinity are tied to our perceptions of ourselves, to our perceptions of others and to the perceptions others have of themselves and us. What we see in the mirror matters, but what we see in the mirror is also a function of how we have been taught to process our visual stimuli. In her famous line, ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman’, Simone de Beauvoir (1972) addresses the social construction of biological womanhood and places it in relation to Sartre’s conviction that existence precedes essence. The US-based advocacy group Black Transmen, Inc. (2015) adopts her famous quotation by displaying the slogan ‘One is not born a man, but rather becomes one’ on its web page. From a theoretical perspective, 220

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Mary Bucholtz and Kira Hall (2005) suggest that ‘identity is emergent in discourse and does not precede it, we are able to locate identity as an intersubjectively achieved social and cultural phenomenon’. This particular frame of understanding the becoming of gender identity, however, is only one side of the coin. Ahmed (2006) proposes a phenomenological understanding of sexual orientation; many transmasculine perspectives reflect, whether explicitly or not, a similar desire in regard to male gender identity. Indeed, the notion of ‘desire’ might be relevant; as Don Kulick (2005) suggests, an exploration of discursive manifestations of desire in addition to more prevalent examinations of sexuality-based identities can be most meaningful. Identity necessarily involves ‘conscious claim-staking by a subject who knows who s/ he is, or wants to be, or alternatively, who s/he isn’t or doesn’t want to be’, Kulick puts forth (2005, p. 618). What gets left out, in studies focusing on identity rather than identification, is an examination of the ways in which ‘rejections, refusals and disavowals’ structure identifications (Kulick 2005). In a similar manner, scholarly examinations of transmasculine identities tend to shy away from profiling discourses of ambivalence and ambiguity. Spontaneously occurring discourse reflects varying degrees of ambivalence and ambiguity, willingness (or necessity) to embrace ambiguity born out of human perception and consciousness, the perpetual transition of a human life and the temporary nature of foregrounded perceptual targets. Time, a key concept in existentialism, both constitutes and limits human freedom because it places us, inextricably, into the present, and engages us in constant recasting of our past with an eye towards a future we are choosing (Barnes 1973). Language, with language use also inextricably grounded in time and place, plays a significant role in this process. Since language is compositional, meaning that it can be combined in new combinations, it has the ability to free ‘humans from the tyranny of the current situation’ and to allow ‘for creative thinking and behavioural flexibility’ (Reboul 2011, p. 135). Linguistic combinations, such as ‘genderqueer transman’, ‘transmasculine lesbian’, ‘masculine of centre’, or ‘non-binary transsexual man’ or the adoption of plural pronouns (they/their) to eliminate the gender identification implicit in English singular pronouns (she/he, hers/his), are symptomatic of a desire to rethink concepts that have become too constraining for our perceptions. This neither necessarily requires negation of ‘male’ or ‘female’ experiences nor insistence on a third gender category. Masculinity, like femininity or other gender-related constructs, is understood as socially constructed, variable, plural, malleable and contextual (Cornwall & Lindisfarne 1994; Halberstam 1998; Joachim & Schneiker 2012; Kimmel 2012, 2014; Petersen  2003). This is acknowledged in most transmasculine discourse. Yet masculinity can also be seen as initially innate. Green (2005) argues from his own experiences that masculinity is a collaborative project that starts with innate characteristics and behaviors (whether the expressor has a female body or a male body), and these are emphasized or deemphasized by social interactions […] in such a way that the innate characteristics and behaviors are magnified, elaborated on, or suppressed, and ultimately the individual 221

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internalizes these characteristics and behaviors, incorporating them into her or his personality. (p. 298) Kellaway sees manhood as ‘an accomplishment, an internal need and quest, for both cis and transmen’ (Kellaway 2014, 5 March). Salamon (2005, p. 266) writes that Hansbury ‘convincingly argues that transmasculinity can best be understood not as fidelity to any single ideal of gendered embodiment, or conformity to a singular fantasy of the uniformly male body, but rather as a range of masculine bodily expressions and feelings’. An acute awareness of the weight of social constructionism, sensitivity to an underlying need to express a masculine or masculine-leaning inner truth and an obligation to address political implications of gender-related constructs colour much transmasculine discourse. Booth (2011), who identifies as a gay man and references his experience as a transsexual man depending on situational context, argues that transmen bridge ‘the divide between essentialism and constructionism’ (p. 189). By negotiating ‘perpetual liminality in a world of ill-fitting hegemonic constructs’ transmen chip away at boundaries and ‘prompt others to question the unquestionable, serving an educational purpose by their very presence’ (p. 202). Transmasculinity research and scholarship coincides in time with the re-emergence of global, critical men’s and masculinity studies (e.g. Bridges & Pascoe 2014; Hall 2014; Louie 2014; Monaghan & Atkinson 2014; Thurnell-Read & Casey 2014) that first formally appeared on the academic scene in the 1980s (e.g. Brod 1987; Kimmel 1987). While cisgender scholarship pertaining to masculinity and men sometimes is integrated in transmasculine scholarship, the reverse is not necessarily true. Instances in which transmasculine approaches to masculinity are acknowledged – not out of a general aim for greater inclusivity but out of the specific aim to link related bodies of knowledge – are relatively rare (Boucher 2011). In other words, those encountering new knowledge about masculinity include cis- and transgender men, but those encountering new knowledge about transmasculinity are typically limited to transgender men. Of course, incorporation of transmasculine perspectives into cisgender masculinity discourses, which requires consciousness of transmasculinity, is predicated on the existence of visible discourses about transmen. In the context of post-World War II western culture, a transman was, first of all, invisible. If one’s sense of being is not acknowledged as real, as part of the externally tangible reality in which we clothe and present ourselves, in which we see the lives of others projected back to us, then invisibility turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy (Green 2004). While transmen are coming out of the woodwork today, invisibility continues to be a major factor in our self-understanding, depending on our cultural, socio-economic and geographical location. Ziegler writes (2014, 15 July): in many queer spaces, there is no lack of celebration of (white) transmen; their bodies fill the spaces of photography projects, popular online sites, and even queer porn. However, these images are rarely consumed outside of the queer community, leaving transmen 222

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on the margins of mainstream discussions of transgender identity and making black transmen, for the most part, culturally invisible. The most visible representations of transmasculinities in mainstream media reflect a phenomenology of whiteness. As Ahmed (2006, p. 138) offers, such a phenomenology of whiteness describes the ease with which the white body extends itself in the world through how it is orientated toward objects and others. […] whiteness becomes a social and bodily orientation given that some bodies will be more at home in a world that is orientated around whiteness. The tendency to focus on visual depictions of transmasculinity also affects those who seek to critique hegemonic portrayals. Often, identification of ‘missing’ portrayals adopts a visual emphasis by pointing to the lack of non-white, differently abled bodies, for example. Equally absent from dominant depictions of transmasculinity are less tangible manifestations of political or social self-expression; feminist and femme transmen are not nearly as visible in majority discourse as they are on social media and within in-group online discussions. In the context of English-speaking Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, white, able-bodied, educated, middle-class masculinities, which often, but not always, exercise heteronormativity, are most visible in mass media. More often than not, these representations maintain medicalized notions of transgenderism while also activating larger cultural narratives of self-actualization. While these representations often are produced or coproduced and consumed by trans-identified individuals, they appear to constitute the main depiction of transmasculine lives available to cisgender audiences. Marty Fink (Fink & Miller 2014, p. 615) argues that trans representations ‘have been recurrently co-opted, oversimplified, fetishized, and erased by mainstream media outlets and cultural productions’. While it would be tempting, perhaps, to therefore suggest that cisnormativity and heteronormativity prevail in the discourses of transmasculinity to the degree that they enshrine transnormativity, and to then segregate representations into hegemonic and counterhegemonic ideations, this would be an oversimplified reduction. Dominant mass-mediated images are just one slice of transmasculine representations, and transmasculine individuals orient themselves and are oriented by a multiplicity of representations, including those that challenge transnormativity. Although a transnormative narrative has clearly emerged and is maintained by popular media, whether generated by cis- or trans-identified people, there is simply more transmasculine discourse available to all of us, more publicly visible FTM presence, more community, more support and more awareness in the medical profession. A more intricate landscape of transmasculinities is opening itself up to trans and cis audiences. There are multiple indications that the room to manoeuvre, for cis- and transgender people, has increased substantially. In art, in literature, in film, in online discourse, in poetry and in music, multiple transmasculine discourses are striving to be seen and heard. 223

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By and large, these transmasculine discourses posit themselves as broader, encompassing conceptual living spaces, not designed to assign individuals to specific rooms, and allowing access for visitors. As is typical of similar movements, it is not in the print or virtual pages of trans or queer studies books or journals that such discourses are conceived of. They are born in the everyday communication acts of transmasculine people, who speak and write their lives online and offline, facilitating a much faster proliferation of an imagined community than possible 25 years ago, at a time when the idea of thinking of oneself in particular ways was limited to one’s exposure to physical communities, stories and a few works of fiction or reference. Transmasculine discourse today exemplifies convergence culture (Jenkins 2006), in which old and new media forms merge and media consumers also function as media producers. The World Wide Web is both a political resource and an expression of aesthetics (Jensen 2005), and social media platforms have enabled both activism and aesthetics to flourish. The rapid pace of online discourse, such as the possibility of hundreds of new Tumblr posts within hours (Fink & Miller 2014) and the average 100-day life span of a web page (Lepore 2015), mandates constant reframing of messages and a high degree of reactivity. While framing is not optional in the construction of texts but rather ‘a necessary operation in talking about reality’ (Carvalho 2008, p. 169), the sheer speed of reframing creates a vortex of simultaneous, contradictory constructions about transmasculinity. Tumblr has played a key role in the development of loose social communities for queer and trans people, which Miller characterizes as ‘intricate networks of digital self-representation’ (Fink & Miller 2014, p. 611). Tumblr sites naturally surfaced to prominence in this discourse analysis due to their popularity among trans-identified users. Fink observes that the site’s mechanism, its visual aggregation of posts and links, has allowed it to home the ‘work of queer users wrestling trans sexualities out of a white, middle-class, cisgender (non-trans), mass consumption paradigm and towards an individually tailored, polyvocal, marginbased, and personalized form of distribution’ (Fink & Miller 2014, p. 612). I would suggest that the effects of social networking platforms such as Tumblr or Reddit go beyond queer efforts to assert trans sexualities. Based on the analysis presented here, I suggest that such online discourse, in constant dialogue with mass-mediated images, engenders digital masculinities, which one might conceive of as digitally mediated intertextual, idiosyncratic articulations of maleness. Digital masculinities are neither inherently normative nor inherently transgressive; they are subject to neoliberal commodification as much as they are sites of political resistance. Digital masculinities, more so than other types of masculinities, are fragile, if not ephemeral; they offer the virtuosity of spontaneity but also run risk of losing potential for applied political change or simply being rendered invisible in a barrage of cyber waste. Digital masculinities reflect the confluence of online and offline worlds, intertwining virtual reality (Rheingold 1991) and real virtuality (Castells 2009). Conceptualizing digital masculinities as idiosyncratic does not condemn such articulations as irrelevant or incoherent, rather, this line of thought reflects Sartre’s assertion about the inevitability of choice. It stresses the effects of uniquely individual decisions (Barnes 1973), 224

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whether one contextualizes these as wearing gendered clothing, responding to pronoun usage or choosing a first name. In Sons of the Movement: FtMs Risking Incoherence on a PostQueer Cultural Landscape (2006), Jean Bobby Noble suggests that transmasculinities offer a deliberate ‘strategy of resistance’ by engaging in ‘an intersectional, post-queer politics of incoherence’ (p. 12). However, as queer activist critiques of queer theory have asserted for years, identity practices are not necessarily intentional, tactical or strategic. While for some, disrupting gender normativity is an explicit political goal, it is a contextual social choice for some, and an artefact of one’s physical appearance for others. A transmasculine individual can no more avoid participating, constructing and being constructed by gendered discourses than any other person. Noble focuses on the constructed and learned nature of masculinity and the liberatory potential of trans discourses, but contemporary transmasculine discourse is more conflicted; it includes discourses of explicit desires and achievements of gender coherence and insistence on gender normativity. As Kevin Walby’s (2007, p. 316) review of Noble’s book suggests, it ‘teeters close to the “powerful self ” conjecture: the idea that personal identities can be used to build political structures and that these structures create personal identities’. The impossibility of removing oneself from participation in gendered discourses, coupled with the significant effect of one’s physical properties, and the drive towards selfidentification (Hansbury 2005) requires a more nuanced understanding of transmasculine discourses. Factor and Rothblum (2007) assess that the transgender ‘personal narratives, historical documentations, and constructionist theoretical critiques’ that emerged during the 1990s are characterized by two major common themes: ‘One theme is the existence of a small, yet vocal minority of the transgender population who experience themselves outside of the binary categories of male and female. Another major theme is that transgender individuals are largely living outside the law’ (p. 12), which Factor and Rothblum then link to discrimination, harassment and violence. Social and cultural change since the 1990s in regard to trans identities in general and the specificity of transmasculine discourses in particular leads to a different assessment today. Questioning binary categories has become a recurrent theme that is echoed in varying degrees of emphasis in transmasculine texts; living outside the law is no longer constructed as a universal transmasculine narrative. Richard Ekins and Dave King (2006) identify four dominant modes of transgendering: migrating (permanently crossing a gender divide), oscillating (temporarily moving back and forth across the gender border), negating (ungendering) and transcending (creating third or new gender spaces). Ekins and King refer to their work with trans participants over the past 30 years to confirm that transgender individuals move within and between these major modes. As my analysis shows, the tendency of transmasculine discourse to shift between such major modes clearly has significantly increased in the last ten years. The visualization of trans people as border-crossers has also been scrutinized for obscuring the experiences of trans people who do not cross borders. Predominantly surrounded by scholarship that often offers either a singular autobiographical or scholarly perspective, an anthology of select voices, qualitative studies with convenience samples of fewer than 20 participants or incidental selection of websites, 225

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large-scale assessments of transmasculine self-narratives are absent, whether such assessments are driven by social scientific qualitative or quantitative methods or critical approaches. This places the burden of constructing mind maps on individuals who are identifying, or considering identifying, as transmasculine and inhibits the generation of a lay of the land perspective. It is precisely such a lay of the land perspective, though, that individuals may need to navigate the uncertainties of gender identifications. Consistently, stories and dances, photos and poems reflect that transmasculine consciousness arises from perception, a felt way of being in the world, regardless of its eventual particular expression. It appears to be the urgency of expressing this consciousness that creates moments of crisis, instances of decision-making and leaps of faith, propelling individuals to change names or clothing, initiate hormone treatment, schedule surgeries or change official documentation. Over and over, transmasculine discourse emphasizes that this consciousness arises from within (one’s ‘self ’) but in response to the linguistic and cultural systems of representation we find ourselves immersed in. Norwood (2012, p. 28) summarizes, in a review incorporating the work of Butler and John Sloop, that despite the dominant assertion of social constructionism in social scientific and humanistic scholarship on sex and gender, ‘biological essentialism seems to have a strong-hold in lay persons’ meaning-making processes’. Perhaps the most significant realization about current transmasculine discourse is one that requires a fundamental broadening of the nature of knowledge about sex and gender. Transmasculine discourse, at times in a single utterance, adopts both biological essentialist aspects of knowing one’s body (as opposed to one’s sex or one’s gender) and social constructionist understandings of gender identity. This constitutes a complex rhetoric, an argumentation that supersedes much scholarship on the matter, requires rethinking of polarized perspectives and holds the potential for wide-reaching change in thinking about identities – if it is recognized as such. On one hand, Salamon (2010) stresses the need for such an approach, arguing that transgender critiques of social constructionism, such as those offered by Cromwell, Feinberg, Green and Viviane Namaste, oversimplify social constructionist theory. She suggests that social constructionism ‘must not be construed oppositionally to a “felt sense” of bodily being, for one can contend both that a body is socially constructed and that its felt sense is undeniable’ (2010, p. 77). However, Salamon seeks to reconcile frameworks by arguing that the ‘felt sense of identity can, by virtue of its unlocatability, be said to arrive from elsewhere; the embodied subject can neither control nor reform it’ (2010, p. 83). Transmasculine discourse, however, shows evidence of embodied subject control and reform as much as it shows evidence of lack thereof. A 15-year-old’s YouTube clip, as much as a 60-year-old’s retrospective self-narrative, can reflect reconciled contradictions that arise from the composite of discursive elements. A growing awareness of the shortcomings of identity politics is contained in transmasculine discourse, whether it is in the act of foregrounding other identity markers (e.g. human, canoe-builder, black, dancer, white, parent, queer, blind) or the interrogation of identity politics at large. Adrienne Shaw (2012) interviews gaymers (LGBTQ participants in digital games) and finds a persistent sense of ambivalence about LGBTQ representation in digital games. While 226

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her participants acknowledge lack of media representation at large, they also emphasize game enjoyment over political representation and question the ability of ‘representative’ characters to reflect the diversity of LGBTQ communities. Shaw (2012, p. 81) argues that this ambivalence signals ‘the failure of most identity politics arguments for representation, as well as anxiety about exploitation’. Film-maker Ernst, who consulted on Jill Soloway’s television series Transparent, considers casting for transgender roles more complicated than biological determination. In an interview, Ernst says that as a trans director, he might cast a cisgender actor to depict a socially transitioning or pre-transition character because he sees film-making as a ‘holistic practice’ that does not constitute ‘casting as the only area to focus on regarding the politics of trans representation’ (Tourjee 2014). While some transmasculine scholars see the embodied lives of transmen as bridges between essentialist and social constructionist positions (e.g. Booth 2011), conceptualizing essentialist and constructionist positions as divided and separate appears an oversimplification of the unavoidable parallelisms in human thought and bodily perception. In their review of discourse analysis as theory and method, Marianne Jørgensen and Louise Phillips (2002, p. 6) articulate the limits of social constructionism in the following words: Even though knowledge and identities are always contingent in principle, they are always relatively inflexible in specific situations. Specific situations place restrictions on the identities which an individual can assume and on the statements which can be accepted as meaningful. As thousands of transmasculine online utterances attest, the specifics of time and place, of interactional context and of momentary consciousness, create unpredictable, unstable constellations for communication. Discourse that attempts to fix, to prescribe, to control articulations of transmasculine consciousness ultimately fails at inscribing liveable representations of transmasculinity because it discounts the knowledge that language use is always a contextual communicative event, a discursive practice and a social practice (Fairclough 1992). The politics of transmasculine representation, however, continue to generate all too real consequences; they play into employment opportunities (BenderBaird 2011), social isolation (Bockting et al. 2006), bullying (Whittle et al. 2007), health care coverage, access to governmental services and mental and physical health (Bauer et al. 2009; Moody & Smith 2013). Sally Hines (2010, p. 87) observes, in the context of the impact of the UK Gender Recognition Act of 2004, that the law ‘does not exist in isolation from social and cultural discourse’, echoing the applied political and social justice impetus voiced by critical discourse analysts. ‘Rather, legal discourse and practice is inextricably tied up with social and cultural understandings’, Hines writes (pp.  87–88), calling attention to the continued ‘influence of medical discourse and practice’ which ‘enacts an inconsistent framework of rights’ (p. 102). The rhetorical inconsistency embedded in the discourse, adoption and implementation of the UK Gender Recognition Act exemplifies the rhetorical inconsistency woven through transmasculine discourses at large. Untangling 227

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these discursive strands merits time and attention whether one seeks to arrive at a more holistic understanding of an empirical range of transmasculine voices for knowledge’s sake or whether one seeks to further a particular sociopolitical agenda. Spade (2011, p. 19) defines a critical trans politics as one ‘that demands more than legal recognition and inclusion, seeking instead to transform current logics of state, civil society security, and social equality’ and argues for the ‘indispensability of trans organizing and analysis for both leftist thinking and left social movements’. Kellaway (Office of BGLTQ Student Life 2014) says ‘I’d like to see a turn in the movement that refocuses on what plagues our communities at the roots and hinders many trans folks from flourishing, thereby re-entrenching our marginality: homelessness, job discrimination, immigration reform, and prison reform’. Stryker concludes her assessment of the current state of transgender issues by referring to the ‘growing acceptability’ and ‘increasing comfort’ with transgender representation but notes that ‘much work remains to be done’ (2008, p. 153). Elijah Edelman (2009, p. 98) wonders, in a review of Valentine’s Imagining Transgender, where the middle ground is between engaging with the neoliberal nation-state – eliding difference and privileging dominant discourses at the detriment to the most subjugated – and committing a similar violence by glossing over identity-based differences in a ‘postidentity’ framework wherein all autonomous subjects are equally subjugated. Transmasculine discourse, if approached from a phenomenological perspective, must not only be aware and sensitive to the differences in social and bodily orientations given structural inequities – it must also not lose sight of the fact that all humans are orientating themselves towards gender and gendered others. By being forced to question the for-given nature of gendered societies and gender segregation (Essig 2010) because of the way our bodies are re-oriented, transmasculine perspectives can open up normative constraints for the range of human bodies that gravitate towards male gender designations. However, pushing up against such constraints elicits systematic responses, which can range from murder, incarceration and violence to withholding of access to health care to economic and social discrimination to social support and acceptance. While several mainstream outlets have declared transgender rights the ‘next’ or ‘new’ civil or human rights issue (Talbot 2013, 18 March; Transforming Gender 2015), human rights protection for trans-identified people is still beyond the reach for many, if not most. An online video created by Asia Pacific Transgender Network (2014) includes transmen Jack Byrne of New Zealand, who frames trans rights as human rights in the context of systematic health care discrimination; Kaspar Wan of Hong Kong who argues for respect of stealth trans people; and Dorian Wilde of Malaysia who urges that it ‘is very important not to forget that we are humans’. The video calls attention to stigma and discrimination faced by trans people across Asia and the Pacific with the slogan ‘transgender rights are human rights’. A documentary broadcast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in February 2015 called transgender rights ‘the first great civil rights struggle of the 21st century’ (Transforming Gender 2015). The imperative 228

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for continued strategic essentialism therefore remains in place (Wilchins 2002) and although this imperative should not justify victimization narratives or essentialize identity discourses, its urgency must remain at the centre of our attention. Neoliberal discourse encourages displays of ‘transmasculine style’ as having arrived and consumption of commodified transmasculine practices as having emancipatory potential, but political realities vary sharply across and within nation-states. The emergence or existence of transgressive discourses does not protect against human rights setbacks, and increased visibility does not necessarily imply a linear trajectory towards equal rights. From within the ranks of scholar-activists, the story of Magnus Hirschfeld, who opened the Institute for the Science of Sexuality in Berlin in 1919, well illustrates this point. Hirschfeld documented the lives of cross-dressers, transgender and transsexual people, including FTM individuals, employed trans people at his institute and made endocrinological and surgical care available. He built an extensive library and archive, all of which were destroyed by Nazi student brigades in 1933. Transmasculine contestation of victimizing discourses does not negate accounts of discrimination but frames them in different ways. While some reports frame evidence of discrimination in a general context of marginalization of gendered others, other reports approach the issue from a focus on discrimination at large and then move into a transspecific focus. In 2014, Boyd Kodak, a 60-year-old transsexual man and trans activist from Toronto, filed an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal complaint. Kodak, whose legal identification is male, alleged that the Toronto Police Service and an Ontario correctional centre for women violated an Ontario law (Toby’s Law) aimed at preventing discrimination towards gender-nonconforming citizens. Kodak reported being asked invasive questions about his genitalia, being subjected to illegal strip searches and having his penile prosthetic confiscated, being forced to wear women’s clothing and being detained in women’s holding areas (Keung 2014). The story in The Globe and Mail (Houston 2014) frames the story in the following context: ‘This is far from an isolated incident. It’s a significant systemic problem affecting a frequently criminalized population that is disproportionately represented in correctional institutions’. Kodak’s case is portrayed as one instance of systemic trans discrimination at large, subsuming all trans people in the category of criminalized populations overrepresented in the correctional system. Research, however, shows (Grant et al. 2011) that ethnicity and gender play a significant role in disproportional incarceration, as reflected in higher incarceration and police assault rates for trans people of colour and transwomen than white trans people or transmen. In contrast, a story on Kodak’s case in The Advocate (Kellaway 2014, 16 November) focuses on the alleged dehumanizing treatment of Kodak by quoting him: ‘They just made a spectacle of me. […] They outed me’. Making a spectacle out of someone, thereby, is framed as unacceptable institutional practice in general, and Kodak’s case used to illustrate this. Transmasculine discourse must leave room for localized, individuated identification of marginalization, discrimination and violence but it must be careful to not obscure uncomfortable conversations and sweep dynamics that affect some, but not all transmen under a convenient banner of victimhood. To continue to build on the new visibility of transmasculine lives, the role of institutionalized 229

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discrimination and marginalization trapping some of us in untenable subject positions would need to move front and centre over a focus on self-actualization and identity politics. Calling for continued, growing transmasculine visibility and, in particular, the surfacing of non-majority transmasculine experiences, does not have to connote a blissful pursuit of a neoliberal ideal. As Henrik Bang and Anders Esmark (2007, p. 19) conclude, ‘[…] there is literally no place – and no such place can ever come to being – where humans communicate and dispute without putting power relations into play. There is no other side of power’. Much as there is no other side of power, there likely also is no other side of gender, at least not in recent and near human consciousness. Ahmed (2004, p. 39) reaches a similar conclusion from a phenomenological perspective: The impossibility of ‘fellow feeling’ is itself the confirmation of injury. The call of such pain, as a pain that cannot be shared through empathy, is a call not just for an attentive hearing, but for a different kind of inhabitance. It is a call for action, and a demand for collective politics, as a politics based not on the possibility that we might be reconciled, but on learning to live with the impossibility of reconciliation, or learning that we live with and beside each other, and yet we are not as one. The emergence of a transmasculine sphere, influenced by medical professionals as much as by spontaneous Tumblr eruptions and well-planned activist campaigns, appears pivotal. Contributions to such a sphere need to be marked by an awareness of the power hierarchies and the acknowledgement that ‘the transmasculine experience’ does not exist. Bang and Esmark (2007, p. 20) argue that ‘more public does not necessarily mean more democracy rather, we must conceive of any historically particular public sphere as a specific configuration of the power-freedom relationship, which may not – but in most known instances does – imply domination’. Fissures and tensions within transmasculine representations offer natural openings, especially when they give rise to open articulations of ambivalence and ambiguity. A discourse’s elasticity in regard to accommodating ambiguity is significant. Discourse about transmasculine identities already allows for ambiguity but formal scholarly articulations or political manifestos often discount the possibility or need for tolerance of ambiguity. The emergence of a meta-discourse about transmasculinity, one that allows for the simultaneous existence of biological realities and social constructions, holds the promise, however fragile, of allowing that same sense of ambiguity, that same acceptance of two seemingly irreconcilable sets of knowledge, to flourish in understandings of sex and gender at large. An open acknowledgement, invitation or reliance on ambiguity, however, is absent from the most visible of discourses, even though it is documented in social scientific scholarship involving transmasculine participants, captured in humanistic self-expressions such as anthologies of autobiographical narratives, and reflected in ellipses, question marks and emoticons on social media sites. As Jeffrey Bell (2006) demonstrates, philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze developed a ‘notion of a fundamental both/and or difference that is inseparable from dynamic systems that are at the “edge of 230

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chaos”’ (p. 4). Such a dynamic system ‘presupposes both the stable, structured strata that are in some sense complete, and it entails the unstable, unstructured, deterritorializing flaws’ (p. 4) – a philosophy that neither attempts to solve all philosophical problems or slips into ‘anarchical relativism’ (p. 4). Bell, who was initially drawn to philosophy by Sartre’s work, expresses his continued appreciation for philosophers who ‘think through the implications of non-dual thought as a condition for contradiction, or as a condition for determinate, identifiable differences and oppositions’ in a ‘sophisticated and rigorous manner’ (Marshall 2012). The discourses of transmasculinity offer a glimpse into such dynamic systems at the edge of chaos; they allow us to consider the ways in which gender orients humans and lead us back to individual consciousness and perception. Unfolding into difficult dreams and panoramas with scarce guideposts, transmasculine discourses defamiliarize the familiar and familiarize the unfamiliar. Inherently full of ambiguity and ambivalence, transmasculine discourses are a reflection of the human condition – unstable but bound in time, place and body.

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more images for transman i was not looking for images they came looking for me as my keyword search  ‘transman’ led to a sliding panel of transmasculine portrait shots taking over my screen my vision my imagination they came looking down on me visions of my self reduced to the smallest addressable element in an all points addressable display device the web captured me as a screen-struck subject to their gaze & although electronically connected i felt no kinship to these images as distant from me as the normative glossy family portraits that come with commercial photo frames yet they seemed to belong – tattooed, well-muscled, athletic, confident, bare-chested (often) – to each other pixelated i declined to see ‘more images for transman’ i was not looking for definitions they came to look me up my keyword search   ‘transguy’ yielded urban, wiki, medico-legal dictionary entries defining my 125-pound human presence in policy vocabulary, the language of anti-discrimination advocacy & testosterone therapy regimens they came to lock me up call me trans* naïve for not recognizing my self amidst the revolving images of mr. limpy & the sailor soft pack, alerts (only ONE WEEK left to grab July’s issue of Transman Magazine) & the occasional FTM body building competition designed to repatriate myself into a nation of trans: naturalization by conferencing selfies legitimate identification cards tattoos inking our need to belong original plumbing optional we are a culture now. i didn’t know that wanting to be me would require so many online purchases commodified but not comforted i visit one of the web’s most trusted and visited resources on trans health and fitness because there is no tangible proof of my existence!

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so i trust web browsers to generate proof that this figment of my imagination can see its shadow, rely on cultural studies to let me reclaim my monstrous body & engage enlightenment musings: i am trans because i think i am. because i am trans is. reduced ad absurdum in this fashion my keywords create identity parameters shaping not just my future but the consciousness of transmen transmasculine transguys trans* identified following my digital trail the simple state of being not a viable mode of digital existence my search requires frequent updates consumer tracking channels my vision quest as binders, once discreetly delivered by obscure mail-order outfits, suddenly pop up on my amazon profile like an uninvited solicitor at the house door during dinner the image of a twenty-something handsome boi sporting a binder breaks into my train of thought imagine that imagine me seemingly seeking youth, beauty, strength & unlimited purchasing power my browser generates 10 Handsome Men Who Were Actually Born Women with virtual certainty i can only confirm my net existence

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