Becoming a Man in the #MeToo Moment

I’ve been thinking a lot about becoming a man. I mean of course I have, but more deeply than just this transition process.

In my adult life, I have been spared from sexual harassment. I think that’s largely because I have been gender non-conforming, and thus not an object of male attention. But I do fully know and understand the effect it has on women’s lives and livelihoods.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what kind of man I want to become. Not just what kind of man I will be, but what kind of man I want to be. I think that it’s probably always been important to be conscious about male privilege, and how walking around in the world as a man is different. But now, it seems mandatory.

I already have witnessed a few trans men take on some of the more unpleasant aspects of male behavior (luckily, it seems rare.) I think it’s that for many of us, we see what society demands of men, and given that we want to fit in as men, we take on some of the same behavior as men.

I have said many times in the weeks and months after starting testosterone, that if you’d asked me what percentage of male behavior and psychology is conditioned by family and society, I would have said 95%. Now, after having experienced first-hand what testosterone does, I’d drop it down to 45%.

But I think what’s important about that is not to say “boys will be boys.”  I think that human beings have all sorts of inclinations and impulses no matter what our gender is, and we are taught how not to act out of them. Boys and men could be taught how not to act out of those testosterone-fueled impulses that I have now experienced first-hand. (In fact, plenty of men know quite well how not to act out of them, so it’s not that hard.)

One of the things I am acutely aware of is that for many women who don’t know me, there is a way that I will no longer feel safe. (Of course, as a black woman, there are ways I wasn’t considered safe, but let’s put that aside for a moment.) In fact, I’ve already experienced (on Twitter, primarily) how I am treated differently by women who don’t know who I am because I have a male name. Even though (I think) I’m saying pretty much what I would have said before. And so now, that makes me think twice, or three times, about what I say.

 

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What’s Coming in 2018

I was pondering what to write for a New Year’s post. I don’t generally do a post for New Year’s, but somehow it seemed a good idea for this year. For one, it’s a big year for me. Two, I think it’s a big year for all of us – at least potentially.

I think I have one major intention I have for the year – and that is simply (simple, but not easy) to be present and open for the wide variety of things I know are going to happen this year. A lot of things are settling and changing in my life, and I’m meeting a lot of new people, and making new friends. The littler intentions are:

  • Get more involved in local community activism.
  • Write more (fiction, essays.)
  • Learn lots of stuff (I’m currently focused on data science and machine learning.)
  • Take care of my body and heart.

I also think that this is, for this country, a make or break year. This is the year we either break the grip of this authoritarian-capitalist cabal, or the country enters into a death-spiral.

Frankly, I’m not so worried about California, New York, and the 1/2 dozen other progressive coastal states with vibrant economies that don’t actually need the rest of the country. I’m sure that the local pressure for things like single-payer health care, educational investment, renewable energy, livable wage, affordable housing, etc. will continue and in fact increase in those states in the face of a country going in the other direction. If things get way much worse, we can always just leave. (Yes, that’s complicated, but it’s not impossible.)

But I am worried about the millions of immigrants, people of color, LGBTQIIA folks, disabled, and poor and working-class people in the states that don’t have such vibrant economies, and are held in a headlock by the right. (And those DO correlate.)

Next year, like every year, I’m going to vote. But my vote is going to have zero effect – I live in a super-deep blue county in a super-deep blue state. I already have a representative I can really respect, and one Senator I really like (the other one I often have trouble with, but not since last year.) My state reps are, on the whole, great people. So I’m going to give time and $ to whoever is challenging the two geographically closest GOP congressional representatives whose districts either are mixed or lean Democratic: Jeff Denham (10th district) and David Valadeo (21st district.)

And I’m going to keep doing what makes sense to me to do, which is what I think we all need to do. No judgement on who is doing it “right.” No holier than thou. No purity tests. No “my strategy is better than your strategy.” Let’s just do all of the things, and keep bending the arc of history toward justice.

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New Year, New Voice, New Name, New Life

So it’s 2018. It’s a big year for me. It’s the year I will emerge visually as a man. I’m having top surgery on February 6th. I’ve been on Testosterone now for 4 months, and my voice, as well as other things, have really changed:

I’ve pretty much completed the coming out and name change process. It’s interesting getting used to people calling me “Max.” I like it – and it’s also a little strange.

My legal name change process will soon be underway – I’m submitting the paperwork to the county next week, and 45 days later, I’ll have a court order with my new name and gender marker. I’ll also be submitting a change to the NY state for a modification of my birth certificate. Then starts the fascinating cascade of administrivia. Social Security, banks, credit cards, driver’s license, passport, etc. etc.

So there’s a lot of practical things to think about and do. And I’m still wanting to hold this time as sacred – to hold this big change in my life and body, and this big change in the way I will live in the world.

I’m wanting to be conscious about how I am living into this person called “Max.” Who is this man I am becoming, and what is he like? It’s so interesting to get to do this consciously – of course, I did it once before, but it was without experience, without self-knowledge, or really knowledge of the world.  But I still have so much to learn.

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