Yesterday I was part of an FTM (female-to-male) panel sponsored by the Lou Sullivan Society, an FTM organization in San Francisco. The Lou Sullivan Society was a support group for transmen in the area—I had heard about the society, but I had never been to any of the meetings. I had written a piece on being transgender that was included in an anthology, “Letters to My Brothers,” and I had been asked to read my piece from that anthology. I actually left my ski trip early so I could attend—I left from Tahoe around seven in the morning, got back at 11, took a quick shower, and scrambled onto the 11:31 Caltrain. One and a half hours later I found myself in the Castro.
I was nervous as hell. I had transmale friends back at Stanford, but they were my age, and we were all more or less in the same stage of transition. Not to mention there were only about three of them, and if I were to count the entire open transgender community (transmen, transwomen, and those in between), they could easily fit in my room for tea. Here, there were going to be for certain more than three transmen. And this possibility blew my mind.
But even so, the transmale community is pretty small. It could be because of a number of reasons, like the possibility that many transmen prefer to live in stealth and don’t feel the need to congregate with other transguys—or it might be simply because there aren’t really a lot of us. There are at most two degrees of separation between one transguy and another. If you’re a transguy and you meet another transguy, chances are he knows somebody you know. It’s so bizarre. We all know each other. It’s like being part of some cool, fun-sized club.
When I arrived, I immediately felt at ease. No, I didn’t know any of these people, but I felt that I could just be myself, that I didn’t have to worry about impressing anyone. We could just be ourselves. There were men here in different stages of transition. I was, in terms of age, the youngest there. But there were numerous transmen covering a whole range of ages and transition stages—there were several transmen who had mothered children, some who had not started hormones yet, some who had been on hormones for at least 20 years, some from around the Bay, others from the East Coast, and even some from other countries. There was a man with a rather menacing mohawk and an even more menacing pierced face crocheting a baby blue scarf in the corner of the room.
But despite our different experiences, there is a mutual understanding among us, a mutual respect for each other’s unique sense of masculinity. We don’t take our manhood for granted. That is what makes us different from other men. And besides, it’s not every day that you see more than 15 transmen in a room. It felt pretty cool actually being the majority for once. That pretty much made my week.
As if the world were not awesome enough, Jamison Green was also a fellow panelist. He’s one of my heroes—he wrote one of my favorite books, “Becoming A Visible Man,” which I used to help get me through hard times when I was first coming out to myself and when I was going through some tough transition issues last quarter. And not only did I meet him, he was also a panelist with me—a panelist who sat right next to me. (Talk about a high-pressure situation.) I, being a complete nerd, brought along my copy of his book and asked him to sign it. The gracious man he was, he agreed, and he wrote, “Cris, thanks for contributing to the literature of our community.”
And it was in this moment, reading that little note, that I realized—this column does not exist in isolation. This column is part of a movement within the queer community, a reaction to the tiny amount of trans-centered literature present today. This column exists in order to empower those who are transgendered and to educate those who aren’t. This column exists in the same space as other transgendered people willing to write about their own experiences, their own aspirations about their futures, about their own fears about intimacy. As I said before, there are many states of being transgendered, one just as valid as the other. And when I’m long gone, what I write here will help somebody. And that’s more valuable than any amount of money I could ever get.
Be proud that Cristopher’s creative writing degree isn’t going to waste! E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.