“When I say I was a faggot before I was a queen, what I mean is that I didn’t know. I didn’t know what they saw. And once I did know, I didn’t know how they saw it. Later I realized it was gender they saw and not desire, but can gender be an expression of desire too. I know we’re supposed to see the two as separate, but what about when they aren’t so separate? It was always the girls who gave me shelter, but also they were looking for shelter. I mean we gave each other shelter. So I was always told I was a girl, and told I could never be a girl. So many faggots have this story to tell, and yet there are so few spaces where we can embrace it.

When I say I was a faggot before I was a queen, I should say that queer was the word and the world I stepped into as soon as I got away, and faggot was what I embraced once I knew I needed to reject even more. I remember the time my parents came with me to an ACT UP meeting in San Francisco, when I was 19, and they said they were impressed by how passionate everyone was, how eloquent, but why did they have to talk that way? You don’t talk that way. They meant the lisp and the swish, and that’s when I realized I was still holding back. I was holding onto the gestures I’d cultivated in high school, counterculture as a way to camouflage femininity, a toughness that said I didn’t care what anyone thought. So when my parents said you don’t talk that way, and they meant it as a compliment, I was embarrassed. I remember the first time I walked through the Castro, with my friend Denise in 1992, after driving cross-country. Everyone had said this is where you need to go, to find everything. But when we got there, all we found was that we didn’t matter. There were no dykes, so that meant no Denise, and all the fags were busy trying to fit into the exact type of masculinity that was everything I despised. And that was the end of the Castro, the end of the Castro for me. At least there was a gay bookstore, A Different Light, and there was always some flaming queen or gender-bending diva reigning at the front counter—and honey, those girls recognized me. I would never have said it then, but I was terrified of each of them in different ways. I was terrified they would see me, and I was terrified they wouldn’t.”

mattilda bernstein sycamore, the freezer door

"Meth gave me a boundless energy and a feeling that I could do anything. Take a child of parents with their own substance abuse issues, sprinkle that with gender confusion, and you have a recipe for a speed freak. I was unconsciously numbing the pain for which I had no words. Looking back, I believe I was literally androgynizing my body with meth, which is the ultimate appetite killer, stripping my body of fat and thereby taking my breasts along with it. Plus, with each snort or injection my dopamine skyrocketed to twelve hundred times its normal level. To put this in context, cocaine only raises the user's dopamine by 300 percent. What this means is that I got skinny and felt a thousand times more euphoric and my body began to align with my self image. I got thinner and thinner and my breasts disappeared! My jaw and cheekbones emerged, and I couldn't believe the person I saw looking back at me in the mirror. I saw a man, not the boy of my childhood. And everyone else began to see a man too. I started playing with facial hair at Halloween and began packing a sock on occasion.

That was the cool part. But life on meth was completely destructive and unsustainable. I stayed awake for days at a time in a drug-induced psychosis in order to avoid the real discomfort lurking just below the surface. I studied reincarnation in the wee hours of the night as a way to make sense of the jarring truth: that my fantasy life and body identity were solidly fixed on the male side of this gender system I was working with, but my genitals told another story.

(...) Once back home in Texas, I slowed down just enough to realize I felt like shit. It was 1986, the year that HIV was named HIV, and I knew I needed to get checked out. Remarkably I dodged that bullet; instead I was diagnosed with a dangerous case of Non-A, Non-B Hepatitis, which is now called Hepatitis C. Even after this diagnosis, I had some fits and starts towards sobriety. By then I had been using meth for weight control for years. Getting clean off of speed "gifted" me with eight pounds of breasts. I was miserable. Of course the addict brain wants to turn to something at that point to numb the pain. Alcohol would be a bad choice given the liver is compromised with Hep C. But denial had never let me down, so alcohol it was. Since I had eaten only sporadically over the past five years, the pounds began to add up. With every bra size increase, I felt increasingly miserable in my body. I assumed my misery was related to the weight gain. I wore very tight one-piece gymnastic leotards in an attempt to flatten my chest. This only managed to push them down and take the breast shape away, making me look like my belly was ten times bigger. After much begging, my reluctant mother paid for a partial breast reduction. I went to Dr. Wong at the Rosenberg Clinic. Unbeknownst to me, I had ironically walked into the oldest gender clinic in the south, but my visit left me none the wiser about my identity.

I didn't realize that gender dysphoria was a thing until the mid-1990s, when I moved to Austin and met a queer artist named Venae Rodriguez. Venae had made a short film called Male Identified. As we talked about our childhoods and compared notes, I began to feel like parts of myself, formerly buried, were beginning to emerge. We became closer friends, and the next year we took a trip to San Francisco Pride. At the Dyke March, I met my first out trans man in Dolores Park. He talked about how he had always marched, but now he had to stay back during the march itself. I was taken by the physical transformation, and the power of testosterone. I felt excited to meet someone who identified similarly but had taken another path towards physical transition.

It was around this time that I was finishing my master's in social work. The influence of Venae and the chance meeting with the trans man at the march had left me hungry to know more. I began to learn about transgender communities, trans men, and the whole diverse spectrum of gender identities. I read everything I could find on the subject and plunged to the depths of my psychological pain in therapy. I came out as transgender in my classes at school and found this to be very exciting. I had a name for my experience, and I felt the power that comes with language. I looked around and found no therapy resources for transfolks in Austin, so I decided to learn as much as I could and eventually start a private practice that would serve the community. It was life changing to read Leslie Feinberg's Stone Butch Blues, Roxxie's Dagger: On Butch Women, Riki Anne Wilchin's Read My Lips, and Kate Bornstein's Gender Outlaw. As an emerging caregiver, it was helpful to find True Selves: Understanding Transsexualism— For Families, Friends, Coworkers, and Helping Professionals, and Randi Ettner's Gender Loving Care. I also found the crown jewel for trans men at the time: Body Alchemy: Transsexual Portraits by Loren Cameron. Across town at the University of Texas, Sandy Stone herself handed me a copy of the movie Gendernauts so I could show it to my transmasculine support group."

CK Combs, from What Am I?, from Non-binary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity, edited by Micah Rajunov and Scott Duane, Columbia University Press, 2019

“[T]he language of fascism is written in the language of love. Love is made into the primary quality of attachment, what motivates individuals into fascism: ‘we hate foreigners because we love our country.’ […] Love has an enormous political utility: transforming fascist subjects not only into heroic subjects, but also into potential or actual victims of crime as well as those who ‘alone’ are willing to fight crime. Fascist subjects become freedom fighters, willing to stand against the ‘swamp’ or ‘tide’ of the incoming others, who themselves are narrated as hateful: as being not only worthy of our hate, but as full of hate for what we are and have.”

Sara Ahmed, “The Bond of Belief”

Ben, 64, Northampton, MA, 2014

I identify as an FTM, non-hormone, non-op, transsexual heterosexual man. That’s the whole string of it. I was in the lesbian community when I was younger, but I never really fit. That was the 1970s and there really wasn’t the language then about transmen or FTMs or any of that. I didn’t have that accessible to me as an identity. I thought, “I’m the only one on the planet like me,” but then in 1985, Lou Sullivan sent his little booklet through the mail to the archives I was working on. It was “Information for the Female-to-male Crossdresser and Transsexual,” a little booklet that he self-published with a little handwritten note that said, “Maybe some people in your archive would want to read this.” Even though he didn’t know me, he didn’t know who he was sending this to, I read it. I read it and within two hours I called him and I said, “I gotta meet you, because now there’s two of us, you know, on the planet.” And I flew to San Francisco to meet him.

When I got there, I dressed up super masculine. I even wore temporary facial hair, because I wanted to demonstrate to him that I was a man. So, he opens the door and he is this little frail ninety-eight pound gay guy with a t-shirt on and I thought, “Well, he’s a man and he’s kinda like me, but he’s kinda not like me.” We ended up talking for five hours straight in his kitchen. In the middle of it, he told me he had to get up and take his AZT. I hadn’t known that he had HIV/AIDS, but I realized then that I was making the closest friend of my entire life, the most pivotal individual for me, and that I was losing him at the same time. We corresponded until he died and when he died, I started the East Coast FTM Group because I had nobody and he had asked me to head up his group in San Francisco, which I couldn’t do.

I always felt some resistance to the fact that I didn’t transition medically, but over time I started to find transsexuals who had not transitioned medically, or who had transitioned partially and then stopped, like my friend Leslie Feinberg. Eventually I found more people with the idea that, “I’m already me, I don’t need any medical intervention to become me.” It took a ten-year journey with a gender counselor to give myself permission around this, because it is not popular, even in our community.

I’ve done a lot of organizing, much of it pre-internet. I did it the way Lou did it at first, all by mail. I remember the first big conference I went to, a True Spirit Conference, and I think there were 300 guys, FTMs, from all over the country and Canada, and I remember thinking, “It’s starting. The movement for FTMs is really starting, big time.” Now I have a vision for making the Sexual Minorities Archives a national comprehensive LGBTQ educational resource center with a museum and an art gallery with many rooms to show the collections, to have a youth room, to have a meeting room, to have a community room, and to be the preeminent LGBTQ archive on the East Coast. That’s what I’m most looking forward to as I age and that’s what I want to accomplish before I die.

From: To Survive on This Shore

“Pedestalization is one of the major ways that sexism continues to be reinforced in our society. After all, everyone would recognize that “women should stay home and take care of children because they’re too flighty and emotional to work” is bullshit, but “women should stay home and take care of children because women have a special emotional connection to children, and motherhood is the most important job in the world” slips past the radar. “Playing outside is for boys” is something the straw sexist in a movie says, but “little girls are so polite and mature, not rambunctious and rowdy like little boys” comes out of the mouth of the most ardent feminist. “These occupations are female-dominated because women suck at being in charge” is unthinkable, while “these occupations are female-dominated because women are so good at caregiving” is a routine observation. How can it be sexist? It’s nice! Of course, not all women have a special emotional connection to children or are good at caregiving, and not all little girls are nice and polite. There are two ways I’ve noticed that people deal with women who aren’t on the pedestal. First, they may conclude the women have been misled, taken advantage of: that evil men are forcing them to engage in the behavior that person doesn’t like. Second, they may conclude that those women are not really pure wonderful angels; instead, they’re evil and disgusting. In fact, the pedestalization of women is highly correlated with the degradation of women, both on a cultural and individual level. At first this may seem bizarre– how can you simultaneously believe that women are refined, moral creatures that men ought to sacrifice for and that women are horrible conniving bitches? Well, obviously, they don’t believe it about the same women.”

From: My Feminism Will Be Pro-Sex Work or It Will Be Bullshit

i'm being mean here but it is kind of funny to write about pedestalizing women & then cite adrienne rich. but it's my website so

“Living in a FTM transsexual body is, of course, living in, with, and through corporeal incoherence. Very few FTMs can afford successful lower surgery as most phalloplasties remain simply cost prohibitive. Enough Man, and Casey in particular, both take those private masculine anxieties about living with indeterminate bodies (that is, bodies that might pass as male in public but could not pass visual inspection) and refuse the social shaming by allowing the camera to film the physical site that is quietly and euphemistically identified among FTM men as “the tranny bonus hole.”

In his interviews with FTMs as well as with intersexed folks, Colin Thomas teases out the way that transitive folks rearticulate gender possibilities based on a decoding of the binary gender system even as that system attempts to limit its subjects. “Hanging out with gender-variant people,” Thomas writes, “can quickly dislodge one’s concepts of what it means to be male or female, gay or straight.”

In fact, one of his interview subjects notes how these limits of language mirror the limits of bodies when “he” says: “If there was a tranny pronoun, I’d use it . . . I’m male, but I’m not suddenly this biodude either [ . . . ] I do plan on keeping my tranny bonus hole [though]. That’s staying.” This is not the same site of physicality that equally defines heteronormative femininity and some radical-fundamentalist feminisms (the vagina-as-sheath-for-penis) and by implication lesbianism (the for-women-only vagina); this is the paradoxical space that defies existing gender and sexual taxonomies but which uses their imperatives as foreplay.

As a way to pay homage to the early feminist porn workers, and to Annie Sprinkle in particular, as a queer trans son of this post-porn movement, Casey does a performance piece in the film that he calls his “Andy Sprinkle.” With partner Natalie holding a flashlight, Casey puts his feet into stirrups and invites the viewer, assisted by Natalie and through the camera’s gaze, to quite literally look at his genitals and into his vagina or what he calls his boy hole. Narrated through a voice-over by Natalie—a voice-over narration directly evocative of Sprinkle’s in Linda/Les and Annie—“Andy’s” scene puts that productive space of nothingness and impossibility fully on display, situating his body within a public representation while challenging its essentialisms at the same time. There’s something vertiginously incoherent about Andy’s body literally in motion between sexes, reducible to neither, bearing traces of both, and owned, and narrated, in queer representational circuits of desire, by his femme top. Gendered discourses of shame might compel the composition of the sexual scene but their work is rendered mute.”

From: Knowing Dick: Penetration and the Pleasures of Feminist Porn’s Trans Men, Bobby Noble, from the feminist porn book: the politics of producing pleasure, edited by tristan taormino, constance henley, and celine perreñas shimizu, 2013