“I can walk into a men’s bathroom, and no one blinks because I have my clothes on. But once I drop my shorts, there is a lot of explaining to do.”
I’m a transgender man who passes; only I don’t. What do I mean by that? What I mean is that I can walk into a men’s bathroom and no one blinks because I have my clothes on. But once I drop my shorts, there is a lot of explaining to do.
There’s a lot of information in the public realm about the physical options available for transgender women (from male to female). We’ve all heard about what can be done surgically to support the physical transformation from male to female: from breast jobs, to sex reassignment surgery on genitals to adam’s apples. What is available for male to female gender transition is radically more advanced than what is available for female bodied persons to transition to male.
While it’s common for transgender men to be able to transition their tops from female looking breasts to male looking chests – the complications for genital surgery are great.
The technology and research simply isn’t there to create an outcome that is equivalent to what is available to transgender women. Transgender men end up losing their sexual function and pleasure – and the surgically created penis simply doesn’t “pass”.
So, many transgender men, unlike transgender females do not choose to change the appearance of their genitals which creates a life of constant explaining and limitations. You are a man with a vagina.
As a transgender man; I want to be in community with other men. Sometimes, that means playing sports and ending up in the locker room or steam bath. Suddenly, I’m the elephant in the room that in the best case scenario everyone is trying to “act natural” around; in the worst case scenario I could be a victim of violence. And so, while I hunger to be in men only spaces, it continues to be a complicated and risky endeavor.
Recently, I put my big toe in the water again. I’m a brave guy; and to be honest just asking was vulnerable. I was interested in attending a men’s naked yoga retreat run by two close friends of mine. I was told that of course I was welcome by them, but that they didn’t know how my attendance would be received by the other men. One softly offered, they in all honesty even in male gay community of open minded men; they he thought that some of the attendees would have a problem with it. Frankly, being the object of group processing about my maleness would kinda wreck the retreat for me.
It’s interesting how quickly we are moving into acceptance and understanding around transgender people; and yet there are few safe spaces for us to simply relax, play and vacation in comfortably. When people say to me with varying degrees of either jealousy or amazement on my ability to “pass” as male in polite society – there is a level of acceptance that is still beyond me.
And that’s the part that no one is talking about.
Don’t tell me that I have male privilege while you exclude me from the gym, spa, pool locker room, and male-only retreats. I remain in so many ways a person between genders; a man with a vagina who is stuck in some weird gender purgatory. Waiting for the next evolution of gender equality and acceptance.