“Hi! I wanted to talk about one of the main reasons that I am really passionate about treatments for gender dysphoria that are not medical interventions, meaning not hormones, not surgery. And really you know this just reveals to you how self-interested I am, I am very interested in alternative treatments because I believe for working class people they make a lot more sense.
You know one thing that is hard to talk about in the trans community is that for some people this process is a lot easier than other people. It’s easier for people with money, it’s easier for skinny people- that’s just the truth, and it’s easier for young people. And ok, so that doesn’t mean that those people are bad people, it doesn’t mean that like they should feel ashamed or guilty for having the process be easier for them. But it does mean that the consequences for them pursuing the process are a lot different. Someone who has not a lot of body fat and is gonna pass very easily, that’s fundamentally a different choice to pursue surgery than someone who is not going to pass easily. They’re staring down different life routes.
And you know my journey was hard partly because I really had to confront the reality of where I was in life. I was an older person, you know I was 30 when I transitioned, and deciding to give your twenties to transition is different than deciding to give your thirties. Things get a lot more real in your thirties, it’s…your fertility is on your mind, your money is much more on your mind, you know in terms of like building a life, the need to build a life becomes way more pressing in your thirties. Staring down giving all that time to transition suddenly becomes a different thing, even if you were under the impression that you needed to transition really before you could build a life. I had to really confront the reality of my body, which is that I got some body fat going on and my body is not one that testosterone can help pass. You know if someone was talking to me realistically about what testosterone would do for me, I just wish someone had acknowledged like, “Hey look you could take testosterone for like a long time before it made you look male at all.” I think realistically I’d have to be on testosterone for like three years really before fat began to redistribute in a way that made me look at all not female. No one had that talk with me, I had to figure that out on my own. Why not have that talk with me? Why not like, say “hey if you’re serious about this you should do the surgeries first before the testosterone?” Whatever.
I had to confront where I was financially. Confronting where you are financially is really rough and partly because other people aren’t talking honestly about where they are financially. Especially in the Bay Area you meet a lot of people who have a lot of…have a real parental safety net happening with their money. If you have parents who can help you out with rent, who can buy a car for you, who paid for your undergrad, that is a much different financial position to be in. So your choices about the time that you can give towards not really being able to work, to not being able to land a job because you look unnerving to people, your choices are going to be different. But if you’re not talking about it openly then how do people know? I had a real rude awakening about it. I had like a…I sort of had to confront that I had been hanging out for a long time with a radical queer community that had tons of family money in it. And I was mostly hanging out with people who didn’t have student debt and who had parents who could pick up a rent check and who had parents who could buy them vehicles. For some reason I had prioritized the like queer component that we had in common over the financial components that we did not have in common.
It was funny, someone recently asked me how I…like for advice on quitting smoking weed and I didn’t have any good advice, like I have stopped smoking weed but it pretty much had to do with like dissociating all the time and not wanting to revisit those feelings of dissociation that weed will make me revisit. But then also I also was like, oh you know what, the biggest piece of advice that I can give for like, quitting being reliant on weed for stress reduction is eliminating the stressful circumstances that are in your life that you can eliminate and for me what I eliminated was hanging out with people who didn’t understand my finances. Like I mostly hang out with my coworkers now, who I love, and you know they don’t have gender dysphoria, their takes on sexual politics can be very different from mine, but they understand the money stuff. When I talk about student debt, even if they don’t have it they understand how serious it is. When I talk about rent checks they like, get it. And when I talk about like…you know, we just are from a class of people that needs to be more careful about this stuff, and for me in my life I need to be around people like that mostly, because I need what I’m stressed out about to make sense to them.
So if you’re from that kind of class of person, who needs to be way more careful about your finances and your ability to get a job, to have the only narrative for how you can handle distressing feelings be very expensive surgeries is not helpful. Who that story works for is people who can afford those surgeries. If you fundamentally can’t afford those surgeries the idea that that’s the only way you can handle these feelings puts you in a terrible position.
The darkest moment in my transition was after I had stopped testosterone, not because I wanted to but because I pretty much had to, and I still considered myself a trans guy and I was working at the rich dude club and I was really thinking hard about, ok, I’m a guy that no one can see pretty much, and the reality of how much time it’s going to take for me to cultivate an appearance that lets people see who I am is it’s going to take a huge chunk of my thirties and I’m working in the service economy and that’s going to have to….figuring out a role in the service economy that’s going to finance this is going to have to be the priority. I was thinking about trying to become the person at a restaurant that shows off the wine to people, which, the fact that I can’t bring up the word for that right now should show you how deeply uninterested I am in wine. I don’t give a shit about wine! When people talk about how wine tastes and how wine smells it sounds like bullshit to me. Like…I’ve had a wine salesperson talk about how like…a Malbec you know…smells like a dusty spanish road. It’s like, that sounds like complete bullshit! Anyway. Obviously I don’t care about wine! It would make no sense for me to have a career where I was doing that kind of work, but it made sense because I was just looking for a way to move up in the restaurant industry, so that I could I have some kind of middle class income and transition. That would have been a huge waste of my talents. If I had spent my life doing that that would be such a waste.
And I just realized that for someone in a different class position than me, in someone with a different kind of body than me, in someone with a younger body than mine these choices meant a different thing. So they could afford to buy into a story where the only treatment is expensive surgery, they could afford that. But actually I can’t afford that. So, I think there are so many great reasons to pursue exploring different ways that you can approach these feelings, but especially if you’re a working class person, I feel very connected to you and I want you to do well and if you’re a working class person I want you to strongly consider thinking about these feelings in a different way. I want you to strongly consider thinking about these feelings in a way that means you don’t have to give thousands of dollars to surgeons. And I want you to, I know it sounds deeply threatening, and I’m worried that maybe it sounds like I’m saying these feelings are not real or are not as distressing as they are, I know how distressing these feelings are, I have been suicidal about these feelings…I’ve been suicidal for awhile over these feelings, I’m not suicidal anymore over these feelings.
The idea that the only solution to these feelings is expensive surgery, the rich trans people you know can afford to believe in that story, you should strongly consider whether you can afford to believe in that story. You should really consider your class position and whether the story you’re being fed makes sense for rich people and doesn’t make sense for you. Yeah. You know it’s funny because my experience transitioning gave me way more of a class consciousness and all these terrible feelings I’d been having about gender for years and years and years, they’re important. I think they’re incredibly important. What I’ve come to understand is that they don’t define my life the way that my money defines my life. So I’m very interested in building community with people who have the same challenges around money that I have, because it makes me feel sane and relaxed, and on some level I just feel closer to people who have the same challenges with money, and I feel very protective of people who have the same challenges with money, so…please, think about your money in terms of this.”
I made this video yesterday and then today I see this article on my facebook timeline:
It’s funny because the first three comments on the video have all been from trans people talking about how class has interacted with their experience with transition, and I gotta cop that my reaction of, “Ugh I want to stop giving this trans community my energy and time and start giving it to people who are actually like me” is a very specific reaction. Someone argues in the youtube comments that cases like mine are why insurance companies should pay for surgeries and why more pediatric transition would be a good thing, because the “aesthetic outcomes” are better. I don’t believe more insurance companies covering these surgeries would be good for people, because if your life isn’t together enough to save up the money for these surgeries your life probably isn’t together enough to handle the stressful realities of living with a modified body. I don’t believe minors can comprehend all the repercussions of having a modified body and so I don’t think that allowing them to go on puberty blockers or cross sex hormones or surgery is respectful of their autonomy as adults. Also adoption and fertility care are both very expensive, so even if you save money on surgeries to change your appearance you’ll end up spending a lot of money when you want to have a family. So it’s so interesting and strange to me that I can have this specific experience and be like, “I’m out, done with the trans thing, moving on!” and for other people they just buckle in harder. There’s no doubt in my mind I (eventually) started making self-loving choices when I gave up the trans thing and started regarding myself as a very smart, valuable person who had given my energy over to some self-destructive obsessive pursuits.
So strange how people are different. So strange how people hear the same story and create a totally different meaning from it. Hmmm. Lots to think about.