To The FemmeMobile! Away!

{July 19, 2011}   Trans stuff

(Written over several days, starting Monday morning…)

I had a minor breakdown yesterday (okay, probably not so minor from the point of Q, who did the hug-and-rock thing for close to an hour). It’s not that there’s anything big going on in my life (little sister getting married, trying to shift from training to writing, finding an agent, business suddenly DYING — which was finally explained and rectified — trying to send business Q’s way and training her to take over when I’m ready to shift to full-time writing, concerns over alcoholic tendencies… no, nothing big…), but there’s a lot of little things (busy times, little to no down time, struggling with finding time to blog, two friends transitioning and trying to remember new pronouns, a friend having a baby, lots of traveling, new website, lots of deadlines to be met, trouble sleeping).

I have this blog for All Things Queer And Especially Femme, and a general life-stuff blog, and I haven’t had a chance to write in either of them in too long. It crowds my head.

I have two friends, DK and Nezu, who are recently FTM. It’s been interesting, from my perspective. All sorts of strange little cultural-sexism stuff has been cropping up for me. Nothing painful, but bits that make me go, “…fascinating.” (I just need pointy ears, now. I’ve got the “live long and prosper” fingers down pat.)

For instance, I was talking clothes the other day — I’d gotten who knows what that I was tickled about — with Nezu, who has never been anything but interested and supportive. And yet suddenly, I found myself cutting the topic short, and doing something that wasn’t quite a thank-you-for-listening or a self-dismissal, but it was awfully close. Close enough to stick in my mind as a combination of the two.

Now, lest you think Nezu had somehow triggered that, he didn’t. At all. In fact, when I heard myself saying whatever I was saying, I stopped and re-took up the topic, and Nezu went along with that, too. But it made me start noticing the way I talk to men vs women, and I noticed that even with my male friends I generally edit. Part of that is politeness; I don’t want to bore people with things they don’t care about. But a bigger part of it is definitely a clear-cut idea of what aren’t “men’s” topics, and a tendency to defer to what a guy would rather talk about — even if it doesn’t particularly interest me. (Note that I don’t want to bore someone with things that don’t interest them, but it’s okay to bore myself with things that don’t interest me. Hmmm.)

For instance: during the above conversation with Nezu, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t boring him. Nezu has a keen eye for color and design; he’s very much the artist, and will point clothes or things out to me that he thinks I’d like. If only from an artist standpoint, he seems to enjoy clothes and fashion. (From a human standpoint, he likes those clothes on people, too! ;-D) My sudden desire, then, to switch the topic, had nothing to do with whether or not Nezu was interested in it, because he was, which means it had to do with cultural sexism and my assumptions about what a guy would be interested in and deferring to that.


There’s other things that have cropped up, too. An acquaintance of mine, D, is also transitioning FTM. He’s recently started hormones, though when the below happened I didn’t know that — I didn’t even know he was FTM. The last I’d seen him, he was butch but not — to my knowledge — trans. So Q and I were at Sundance, and I saw him out of the corner of my eye. It was clearly D, and yet something in my head went, “Ah, male.”

Know what it was? Pockmarks. D had started testosterone and his skin had broken out, healing with faint (not unattractive) pockmarks, like guys in their late teens and early twenties get. I’m guessing D is early to mid twenties, so it definitely fit. When we walked up and Q said, “Hey, S!” D said, “It’s D now.” We had a quickie conversation to sort out new pronouns and butch or trans, and then that was done. So it wasn’t until after I’d mentally categorized him as male that I learned he was FTM. I thought it was kind of funny that, in my head, apparently acne scars are a gender marker.

I’m also constantly flubbing pronouns with DK and Nezu (this is making my little perfectionist self CRAZY), which I figure is normal, but at the same time I’m treating them more like I treat guys. This leads me to two thoughts:

1. Oh, hey, cultural sexism! Fascinating.

2. At least, despite the word-flubs of my conscious mind, I’m subconsciously categorizing them as male?

Another funny thing. DK is my ex; I think I’ve mentioned that. When we started dating, DK was identifying as lesbian (or bi; now I can’t quite remember. It was too long ago!), then about a year into dating she discovered butch and was identifying as that, and then after we stopped dating she started identifying as he. (Note how I use ‘she’ while I’m talking about the past, and then suddenly it’s ‘he’. Later when I’m talking about doing this, you’ll understand what the heck I’m talking about!)

Here is an issue I didn’t really expect: while I would totally date a trans person, because DK was the first woman I dated, she — as she — was an important part of my coming-out identity and process. Now, perhaps I’m kidding myself and anyone I had previously dated transitioning would bother me; it’s only happened this once, so I really don’t know. But I don’t THINK so. This wasn’t just someone I’d dated, this was my first female, the person who made me realize I was more bi than not, and then more lesbian than bi (the jury is still out on whether I identify as bi or lesbian. I identify as femme and queer and leave it at that!), and for my first eye-opening girlfriend to suddenly be just another boyfriend… well, that was a challenge, I have to admit. So, he and I had the following conversation on Sunday:

Me: I need to ask you something.
DK: Okay! Shoot!
Nezu: *comes wandering up*
Me: …uh… privately… (because I was pretty sure about DK’s reaction, but it seems most polite to ask without an audience, y’know?)
Nezu: *Wanders off, poor thing*
DK: *now looking extremely curious and kinda bemused*
Me: Well, I guess it doesn’t need to be that private… we are in the middle of a crowd… anyway. *thinks* When we were dating, you were a girl.
DK: *who, luckily, speaks JB and realizes that kind of is the question and starts to chuckle* You can out me. It’s okay.

So then, this morning, I was on the phone with Q talking about something to do with when DK and I were dating, and I realized mid-conversation that I was swapping between he and she pronouns, depending on the… er, timestamp on the memory. I mean, if I was talking about DK when we were dating, I was saying she (and sometimes using the name DK was using then), and in the very next breath I’d say something about, for instance, seeing DK Sunday and I was back to male pronouns.

I can’t decide if this is good or bad (DK may well read this and have his own opinion, in which case I’m sure he’ll let me know), if it’s going to confuse me more or make me start thinking of DK-my-ex and DK-my-girlfriend as two different people or just clarify things in my own head… but there you have it, it’s weirdly automatic.

Given it’s all pretty new, I figure it’s very much in a state of flux for a while — for both me and DK, as we start to feel differently about things. In a year, DK may not want to be outed anymore! I dunno. We’ll sort it out.

Wow. All right, that’s it for now. I have lots more to say, but I need to write the third short story in my gay fantasy series. (The first is out, the second comes out on Aug 17, and the third is in progress! 😀 Check out my fancy cover for the first and second ones! …The first one is linked to the short story, if you’re interested, and it’s only $2.99. >.>)












Off I go!



i’m thinking a lot about gender right now as well. I’ve not had a lot of experience with trans, and I like reading your experience of it.

btw, I’m looking forward to reading your work. What press is it? (I’m an editor and always curious who the lesbians are publishing with. 🙂 )

JB says:

Thank you! It’s good to have a blog to process on. *wry smile*

My gay stuff is all published with Torquere Press ( I subbed to Samhain at one point, but they only liked my straight novels — and then I was VERY UNIMPRESSED with various things that happened there, so I try not to sub anything to them now. TQ has been great with me, and they do publish lesbian stories too — though all mine are gay! — and their staff is awesome. I’ll probably always send queer stuff their way!


amen to that. 🙂

I’m going to check out your stories and TQ. Most of my stuff goes to Cleis, just because their calls for submissions are easy to find. 🙂

I blogged about being a femme–would love your input if you have the time/inclination.

JB says:

*nods* I remember looking at Cleis at one point, and don’t remember why I didn’t sub to them. But I REALLY like TQ — the staff is awesome, Kate (who has had complaints for being too demanding) is My Hero and has improved my writing tremendously, and they do a pretty good job of creating easy marketing possibilities. I definitely like the easy part. 😉 And if you go to the main site (, the writer guidelines (to sub things) are linked right there on the front! 🙂

Blog — woot! Just was over there. 😀


DK says:

(In advance, I’m sorry about the length of this. And the extensive naval-gazing.)

I don’t know how I missed the memo that you’ve written dragon hunting books, but I’ve just downloaded the first one and will read it as soon as I have a minute free. Dragons! 😀

I’m sorry that my identity shift is causing unexpected upset. I’d made some mental room for myself to deal with future partners facing the whole ‘if you’re [X] and I like you, what does that make me?’ issue, but somehow I never thought it would ripple backwards. I can certainly see how it would throw you, though. In the same way, if you decided to transition, I’m sure I’d have a moment of ‘wait — but, what? I’d categorized you, damn it. Don’t shift!’ (Though, with you being so very femme, I suspect you would throw everyone if you decided to lean masculine-of-centre.)

and for my first eye-opening girlfriend to suddenly be just another boyfriend…

It’s funny, I read this and thought “Y’know, I don’t want to be just another boyfriend, either. That’s boring”. (No offense intended to boyfriends in general, who are smashing creatures.) I suppose it is boring in a way; or at least it’s standard and thus unexceptional, which is an unappealing thought to have about oneself. I’ve always rather liked the idea of myself as visibly queer — and being your first visibly queer partner, in the same way that you made me even more visibly queer and fabulous looking, which was an important part of my figuring-shit-out process.

Thinking on the cultural sexism/being treated as more male (which I, uh, hadn’t noticed, but we’ve only hung out twice since I got here, and one time I was ill and also buzzed on your boifriend’s KILLER DEATH COCKTAILS, and the second time was at church. Totally doesn’t count. >.>), I had a conversation with Ruth recently which I found pretty interesting. We were leap-frogging through a bunch of topics, and kind of bouncing back and forth between different styles of conversation (like the kind of chattiness that I tend to associate with feminine-of-centre people, and the more direct exchanges of opinion that masculine-of-centre people often lean towards), when she pulled up short and said she really liked the idea of having a transmasculine guy around, because I was feminist-educated and up-to-date on a good number of “girly issues” (which I took to mean I can talk about tampons without going green), but I can also offer opinions from the other side of the fence. Which, y’know, made me feel all special. *amused*

I’m going to have to watch and see if I censor myself in new ways around people. I’ve noticed myself trying to act more guyish (more butch — ha) around other transguys of late, and knocking it off when I relax enough to realize nobody’s judging me for not being dude-like enough. But that’s not really what you’re talking about.

Jesus, this response could be its own post.

Regarding your pronoun checker-change, I also swap back to ‘she’ when I’m talking about myself in the past tense. I think that’s partially muscle memory; I’m used to telling certain stories certain ways, so the pronoun choice is automatic. But I also don’t feel any particular need to erase my XX-chromosome background — at least, not right now. I don’t know how I’ll feel in a few years. Either way, I’m out and hanging around in safe circles, and all my important people know I’m trans, so it doesn’t cause any major psychological ouch to remember that I used to think I was a girl. Some cognitive dissonance, maybe, but that’s pretty standard. (And I get some hilarious faces when I drop a random ‘she’ into conversation.)

Either way, I hope you keep writing trans posts. I’m interested to hear your thoughts. 😀

JB says:

*laughs* Well, I’m glad we’re at least on the same page as to whether or not you should be just another of my boyfriends! 😉 It actually does make things easier, I have to say. It keeps from challenging my identity that way!

I’d also be extremely interested to hear if you notice getting treated differently — though you did mention that you get mis-gendered as female here more than England, what with there being more butches about, so perhaps you won’t. Still, if you do you have to tell me so I can crow that I was right and other people have my issue. ;-D

…In fact, I should probably go read your blog. I keep forgetting that it’s not still on auto to tell me when you’ve posted, since you changed it. >.>


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