Tag Archives: trans

South Dakota’s fixation with children’s penises

Yesterday, a bill discriminating against transgender children passed the South Dakota state senate. Of course, the bill didn’t mention trans people specifically. It simply stated that use of school restrooms and locker rooms is limited to people of the same “biological sex… as determined by a person’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth.”

As I’ve pointed out before, chromosomes are not routinely tested at birth, and the appearance of our “anatomy” when we are born has little to do with our appearance later in life. Regardless, what this bill comes down to is what I stated in the title. The people supporting this bill really don’t want anyone with a penis to be in a girls’ restroom. The idea that these adults are even thinking about children’s penises should be seriously disturbing to anyone who cares about safety, privacy, and autonomy.

The bill is awaiting the signature of the governor, who has apparently claimed he’s never met a trans person and doesn’t want to, in order to not influence his decision. Because of course, the people who are actually negatively impacted by this legislation – the girls and women who are bullied, beaten, and killed for attempting to live their authentic lives – don’t count.

Transmasculine people like myself are harmed  by trans-antagonistic legislation too, of course. I still fear using men’s rooms, over two years into my transition, and seek out gender-neutral accommodations whenever possible. But I am not generally seen as a threat.

It’s trans women who conservatives and TERFs are convinced are men posing as women in order to spy on, sexually harass, and rape cis women. They have presented no actual evidence of this harassment happening, but continue to promote these hateful lies, which they are projecting onto children as well as adults.

Cis allies sometimes ask what they can do to help trans people. Here’s something you can do. Speak out against trans-antagonistic restroom bills, loudly. If your school or workplace has gendered single-occupancy restrooms, lobby to make them gender-neutral. Call out anyone making jokes about  a trans person’s appearance or “anatomy”.

We need to stop this fixation on the genitals of strangers. We just need to pee.

My birthday wish (with bonus recipe)

[Image: A smiling stuffed toy banana slug wearing a button reading “100% SLUG”, next to a muffin on a plate.]

I turn 46 years old this month. I’ve removed the exact date from social media, not for privacy reasons, but because I’m not interested in getting a bunch of messages from people I only hear from once a year at Facebook’s prompting.* I understand that other people really enjoy those birthday messages, but it’s not for me, though I do appreciate sincere birthday wishes from friends.

I have special plans for the day (which I’ll write about afterward), but I also have a request to make of my readers. My primary audiences appear to be 1) vegans and animal rights activists, and 2) members of the LGBTQIA+ community and our allies. As a queer vegan, I would like to see more overlap between these groups.

If you are vegan, please take some time this month to educate yourself about trans, non-binary, and intersex people, using materials produced by people in those communities. My links page has a number of resources where you can get started.** Even if you yourself are trans, non-binary, and/or intersex, I guarantee you have more to learn from others who don’t share your specific identity or life experience. I know I’m always learning myself.

If you are a member or ally of the LGBTQIA+ community and not vegan, please take some time this month to educate yourself about farmed animals. While my links page has a number of resources, the one I specifically want to point to is Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary. The caretakers there treat animals as the individual persons that they are, and do a great job of debunking “humane” farming myths.

I would be remiss not to mention that this is also Black History Month. I can’t help but be a wee bit cynical about that given all the negative reactions to Black Lives Matter protests, and “colorblind” tone policing on social media lately. If you want to help black folks like me make some history of our own, check out Black Vegans Rock.

So that you’ll have something to munch on while you’re reading, here’s an original muffin recipe, as pictured at the top of this post. In addition to being vegan, it contains no sugar, salt, oil, or gluten.***

PB Banana Slugmuffins
(no slugs were intentionally harmed to make these muffins)

3 large ripe bananas
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed
6 tablespoons water
1/2 cup peanut butter (peanuts only; no added salt or other ingredients)
1 3/4 cup oat flour (old-fashioned rolled oats ground in a blender)
6 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other nondairy milk)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Put the dates and almond milk in a blender, and set aside to soak for a few minutes.
3. Whisk the flaxseed and the water, and set aside to stand for a few minutes to thicken.
4. In a large mixing bowl, mash bananas, then add peanut butter and flaxseed mixture and mix thoroughly.
5. Puree dates and almond milk in blender, then add date puree and vanilla to bowl and mix thoroughly.
6. In a medium bowl, whisk oat flour, baking soda, and baking powder.
7. Add flour mixture to other ingredients and stir until just combined.
8. Fill nonstick muffin cups (I use silicone) with batter, 3/4 full.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

* I no longer post, comment, or “like” from my personal Facebook profile anyway, for reasons I’ve mentioned previously.

** The only cisgender authors currently in my “Trans/non-binary” and “Sexism / Racism / LGBTQIA / General” links sections are Ursula K. Le Guin, Greta Christina, and some of the contributors to Everyday Feminism.

*** While this recipe uses oat flour, gluten-free has nothing to do with veganism; I eat wheat and other glutenous grains all the time. Make sure to use certified gluten-free oats if you have celiac disease.

Trans athletes and challenging biological essentialism

This week, news spread of new guidelines that would allow trans athletes to compete in the Olympics without needing to have surgery. Trans men would have no restrictions on competition, while trans women would need to reduce their serum testosterone levels to below 10 nmol/L for a year before competition.

This development (which, as of this writing, has not yet been confirmed by the Olympic committee) is welcome progress. For trans men, I doubt whether anyone has challenged their inclusion in men’s events based on anything other than bigotry. Genuine concerns about unfair physical advantage have been levied almost exclusively at trans women, due primarily to the higher testosterone levels that male-assigned people generally have. But surgery is unnecessary to address this imbalance; hormone therapy is sufficient.

Some have questioned whether testosterone levels are actually a useful predictor of athletic advantage. This article on that subject was written with intersex and cis female athletes in mind, not trans women. Intersex athletes have endured invasive gender checks for decades; see this article for some history of Olympic sex testing (note: contains cissexist language). Regardless, the question of whether hormone levels should determine eligibility to compete applies to trans athletes as well.

What about other physical differences, like height? While in the general population, male-assigned people are generally taller,  elite athletes do not represent the general population. Many cis female athletes benefit from being taller or more muscular than the average woman.

Where does this all leave non-binary people like myself? Is truly gender-neutral athletic competition possible? If athletic events all became gender-neutral today, there’s no question that cis men would dominate. But how much of this is due to biology, and how much to conditioning? If we had several generations of female-assigned children taught that they are every bit as physically capable as their male-assigned friends and siblings, and male-assigned children were taught to truly respect them as equals, I predict we’d see a huge narrowing of the supposedly hard-wired gender gap.

While I can say with confidence that I will never compete at the elite level, I sure would like to run in my local club races without being misgendered. (My annual checkup this month revealed that my testosterone levels are currently much higher than the average cis male’s*, but no one in my running club has anything to worry about; I’m solidly back-of-the-pack.)  We should continue to challenge biological essentialism that exaggerates or invents differences between sexes.

* Overly high testosterone in trans males doesn’t help speed masculinization, as too much testosterone converts to estrogen. I’ll be seeking the advice of a specialist.

Some positive gender news

[Image: A transgender symbol with the word “they” underneath.]

Maintaining a social justice blog entails writing about a lot of heavy, painful topics on a regular basis. So it’s nice to acknowledge positive progress from time to time, even if the victories are small. Here’s some good news for trans and non-binary* people regarding “singular they” and all-gender restrooms.

Singular they

Last week, “singular they” was named the “Word of the Year” by the American Dialect Society. I’m often cynical about these kinds of announcements, but this is a positive development, as it will bring more attention to the growing acceptance of this preferred pronoun for (some) non-binary people (including myself).

Singular they has been in standard usage since Shakespeare’s time, but telling people that hasn’t stopped them from insisting that it’s not grammatical to use when speaking about a single known person. Hopefully these people will eventually stop complaining and start accepting our choice of pronouns.

Restroom equality

This week, the Transgender Law Center and San Francisco Board of Supervisors announced legislation to require that city businesses and buildings designate all single-stall restrooms as all-gender. This development is long overdue. Having gendered signs on single-occupancy restrooms makes absolutely no sense.

I’ve written frequently about the harassment trans people face when using gendered restrooms, even in places like SF where we already have the right to use facilities corresponding with our gender identities. And many of us non-binary people misgender ourselves whenever we go into either a “Mens” or “Womens” restroom. Opening up access will improve safety and quality of life for trans and non-binary people.

Other cities that have enacted similar legislation include Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Austin, West Hollywood, Berkeley, and New York. I hope that more cities soon follow suit, and I look forward to a time when gender policing becomes a thing of the past.

* I state these terms separately because not all non-binary people identify as trans.

Men in skirts

[Image: Ziggy reclines on a sculpture in a park, wearing a purple shirt and blue -and-purple tie-dyed skirt. The Seattle skyline is in the background.]

There’s a great piece in Black Girl Dangerous today about femme clothing, gender expression and identity. In their article, non-binary femme author Jack Qu’emi Gutiérrez talks about Jaden Smith’s appearance in a womenswear campaign making the news, and explains that unless he states otherwise, Jaden is still a young cisgender man. He should be celebrated for showing that it’s OK for men – especially black men – to express femininity, but he’s not a “non-binary icon,” and he’s not mocking or taking anything away from trans people.

I’ve posted about this subject before, and agree with the author’s assessment. People of all genders – as well as agender people like myself – should be free to present themselves in whatever way feels comfortable and appropriate for them, without being hemmed in by binary gender assumptions. A male-assigned person wearing a skirt is not necessarily making a statement about their gender identity or sexual orientation. It is only because of our patriarchal society that casts masculinity and heterosexuality as the default that a man wearing a skirt is a more transgressive act than a woman wearing pants.

When I met my partner Ziggy, pictured at the top of this post, we were in those roles; I was living (pre-transition) as a woman, fairly ignorant about gender issues, who strongly preferred wearing pants, and he was living as a man who strongly preferred wearing skirts. I’ll admit that his skirt-wearing really bothered me at first, as I was prejudiced against femme presentations. But love conquers all, as they say, and soon his clothing was no more remarkable to me than any other man’s, even though I hardly ever saw another man wearing a skirt (even in the San Francisco Bay Area).

I’ve since transitioned to male, and Ziggy now identifies as genderqueer but cissexual; he has no desire to go through a physical gender transition. Our subconscious sexes are both male, independent of the clothes we wear or the pronouns we prefer (Ziggy still uses he/him/his; I prefer they/them/their for myself).

While Ziggy has been fortunate not to experience much harassment for his clothing choices, others have not been so lucky. Agender teen Sasha Fleischman had their skirt set on fire by another teenager who thought Sasha was a gay man. Other trans and non-binary people have told stories of what they wanted to wear but did not for fear of violence.

If anyone can wear skirts, what are the implications for male-assigned, femme-presenting people who actually are women? Trans women get the worst of gender policing; if they present as femme, they’re accused of parodying women, but if they present as masculine or androgynous (which in our patriarchal society is basically masculine), they are seen as men and treated accordingly.

My advice is to always assume that an individual knows their own gender better than you do. In other words, if someone is walking into a women’s restroom, assume that they belong there. If you misgender someone and they correct you, apologize and move on. Use gender-neutral language whenever possible. And stop using biological essentialism to justify bigotry.

Skirts are just fabric. Clothing has no gender. Celebrate diversity.

Addendum: Just after publishing this article, I read about the death of David Bowie, another gender “transgressor”. Check out this article by another non-binary blogger on Bowie’s legacy.

Milestones and hairy thoughts

[Image: Side by side self-portraits of Pax, at one and 24 months on testosterone.]

Today marks two full years since I began my physical transition with testosterone therapy. Looking at the above photo, contrasting how I looked after one month on T with how I look today, I can definitely see some changes. (My receding hairline might not be evident if you’re viewing this on my blog; here’s the full photo on Flickr.) But the pace of change has been frustrating, as I still haven’t been able to grow a full beard, and am still getting misgendered on a regular basis.

The most recent misgendering was this morning, when I went to compete in a 5K race. I was dressed nearly the same way as in last month’s race, and as with that event, was again misread as female. The mistake was just as quickly corrected as it was last time, but it still stung, especially considering this milestone date.

I’m well aware that there are ways that I can present myself to increase the odds of being read as male. But to craft an artificially hypermasculine appearance would not be living as my authentic self, which was the whole point of this transition. I’m not aiming for the middle of some (nonexistent, in my opinion) spectrum between “M” and “F.” Nor am I seeking  to embody a stereotypical “androgyny”, which to most modern US-Americans means thin, hairless, and usually white. I’m simply dressing in a way I feel comfortable, and accepting whatever changes come with my (second) puberty, just as a typical cisgender male would.

I do have more control over my hormone levels than a typical cis man would, however, and I plan to talk with my doctor about that this week. Increasing my dosage might end up making the hair on my back and shoulders grow faster than the hair on my face and chest (as has already been happening to some extent), but I knew that was a possibility well before I started on T. I don’t mind if the hair on my scalp recedes or thins out more quickly, either; if anything, I welcome baldness as an additional signifier of maleness. I usually wear hats when I’m out in public, however, so my disappearing hair might not be apparent enough to get me gendered correctly.

I hate that I feel I need to grow a beard to be read as male – as beards should not be linked with maleness in the first place – but since I don’t mind having facial hair, it seems like my best option. Since I can never realistically expect strangers to recognize that I’m agender, having my transitioned sex read correctly is the most I can hope for.

Best of funcrunch 2015 – gender

[Image: The left side of Pax’s face next to the words: Pax Ahimsa Gethen | queer • black • trans • vegan • atheist | blogger • photographer | gender & animal liberation | pronouns: they • them • their]

Since launching this web site six months ago, I have composed 103 blog entries. Here are the entries I consider to be most important on the topic of gender, regardless of how many hits or comments they received. For new visitors, reading these entries should give you good insights into my lived experience and philosophy.

If you read nothing else, please read “Don’t know much biology,” which I consider to be my single most important statement to date.

Kat Blaque shirt and mugAgender fashion, or lack thereof

Explaining why gender expression is not the same thing as gender identity or sexual orientation.


Bisexual contingent at San Francisco Pride ParadeBi, pan, queer, ?

On the bisexual vs pansexual debate, and  defining my own sexual orientation.



Pax - 18 month transitionTransgender vs transsexual

Explaining my distinction between gender identity and sex identity (which I later came to understand as “subconscious sex“).


Pax at Beat the Blerch half marathon. Photo by comerphotos.comAre we male yet?

On breasts, nipples, and what constitutes a “male body.”



Bee on flowerDon’t know much biology

On biological essentialism in dialogue about gender and sex. My most important blog entry to date.


Laverne Cox at Trans March San FranciscoWomen’s spaces are for women

On transmisogyny, trans-exclusionary radical feminism, and transmasculine intrusion into women’s spaces.


Restroom sign, alteredWe just need to pee

On the necessity of safe and equal restroom access for trans people. (Currently one of my most popular stories on Medium.)


Facebook signnup pageNonbinary erasure

On the need to include non-binary gender identities on forms. See also: Follow-up articles on MTV and Wikipedia. Wikimedia has also now added an “Other” gender option to their annual survey.

Thanks to my readers for learning about gender with me this year. Next up, I’ll post about my most important entries on the topics of veganism and animal rights.

Tag, you’re male

[Image: Pax, smiling and making a “V” sign with their fingers, approaches the finish line of a race on a rainy day at the San Francisco waterfront. Photo by Ziggy]

After spending much of the last two months sitting in front of the computer or TV in my apartment, I knew that I needed to move my body for the sake of my well-being. Several months ago my doctor actually wrote me a prescription, with my encouragement, to run at least twice a week, as running is the one activity that has consistently improved my physical and mental health. But I simply haven’t had the motivation to go outside and face the world.

I decided that signing up for a race would be a good incentive to run. I had my eye on the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon that I’d run twice previously. This race features a flat, scenic course, and was normally held around the time of my birthday in early February. Due to the Super Bowl, this coming year it would be held a bit later, on Valentine’s Day. This would give me enough time to train up to the 13.1 mile distance.

Before committing to that race, however, I decided to run a 10K (6.2 miles) with the DSE Runners club, as the course was familiar to me and the starting line was only a mile from home. I didn’t get much sleep the night before, thanks to a rare night of socializing in honor of my partner Ziggy’s birthday, but I still managed to head out the door in plenty of time to sign up for the Sunday morning event.

And here came the awkward bit I’ve faced ever since beginning my transition. As with virtually all athletic events, competitors in DSE club races are separated into male and female. I actually have no problem identifying as male for this purpose, especially at this point in my transition; I’ve been on testosterone for nearly two years. It’s the assumptions that male is equivalent to “being a man” that I have an issue with.

Regardless, I’m still not consistently read as male, and yesterday was no exception. As I approached the registration desk, the volunteer had a white tag – indicating a male runner – in hand. But as I began signing the waiver and getting my cash for the race out, he switched to an orange tag – indicating a female runner. I said, in as even a tone as possible, “No, white tag.” He put the orange one down and handed me a white one. I thanked him, grabbed a safety pin to attach the tag to my clothing, and headed off to get ready for the race.

As misgenderings go, this went about as smoothly as I could hope for. No awkward, stammering apologies, just a swift correction. Wouldn’t it be great, I mused, if we could handle gender this way, with a colored tag that each person requests to identify themselves. No assumptions, no guessing, just a strip of paper that immediately shows the world who you are.

Pax race November 2013
[Image: Pax, early in transition, stands at the waterfront holding a green tag. Photo by Ziggy.]

Of course, male and female are not the only genders. My club does have a green tag for those who choose the “self-timer” option. I tried opting for this early in my transition so that I could run without specifying a gender, but found out that I could not cross the finish line or get an official finishing time that way. As the adrenaline rush from accelerating toward the finish line is the highlight of racing for me, I decided to stick with the white, “male” tag for future club races.

Despite getting the proper tag with minimal fuss, I couldn’t help but take an assessment of my presentation, as I do whenever I’m misgendered. I know it’s not my fault if I’m read incorrectly, but I’m curious what visual cues I’ve given off that cause people to assume I’m female. As seen in the photo at the top of this post, I was wearing an oversized purplish-blue rain jacket, white cap, long black pants, and a fanny pack. While not obvious in the photo, I hadn’t shaved that morning, so had a bit of stubble. My sideburns also came down below my ears.

Surveying the other runners, most of the men were wearing shorts, and most of the women were wearing leggings. (It was about 45 degrees and overcast outside at the start, for the record, with rain on the way.) Almost no one else was wearing a fanny pack, but I like to carry water with me even for a short race, and I don’t have a car to stash my keys and cell phone. (Some runners leave these in boxes at the registration desk, but I’m not that trusting.)

In any case, I crossed the finish line with my slowest time in three years for this race distance, thanks to my months of inactivity, but at least I finished the race. (I set a PR on this course exactly one year ago, so my fitness has taken a nosedive since then.) I’ve signed up for the half-marathon, and look forward to running it with Ziggy as a Valentine’s Day date.

Pax and Ziggy at Kaiser Half Marathon
[Image: Ziggy and Pax pose with their finishing medals at the 2015 Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon in San Francisco.]

Flying while trans

[Image: An egret, partially reflected in water, glides in for a landing.]

This time of year, many people travel by air to go on vacation and visit their families. I’ve never enjoyed traveling myself, and dislike flying in particular. My gender transition only exacerbated the nervousness I experience whenever I go to an airport. I’ve only flown once so far since changing my identification documents, and fortunately was not harassed or selected for additional screening.

But as today’s article in Everyday Feminism illustrates, many trans people are not so lucky. I’ve read countless stories about trans people setting off alarms for wearing binders or prostheses, and being outed and humiliated by TSA employees.

This situation is simply unacceptable. The burden should not be on trans people to disclose the configuration of our bodies and educate staffers who should already be receiving training on trans issues. This isn’t just a matter of “sensitivity” (as such training is often termed); outing trans people can put our health, jobs, and very lives at risk.

If we’re to reach a “transgender tipping point” that actually makes a difference in the lives of all trans people, as opposed to just celebrities on magazine covers, we need to address discrimination in all facets of life. That includes our transportation system.

Cisgender definitions

Living as a trans person for the last two and a half years, I sometimes forget that much of society does not have any clue about the definitions I take for granted. I’ve been assuming that most regular readers of this blog understand that “cisgender” is a term that simply means “non-transgender.” It comes from the Latin prefix cis, meaning “on this side of,” as opposed to trans, meaning “on the other side of.” Cis people agree with the gender identification they were assigned at birth; trans people do not.

Cis is not a slur, though some trans people have used it as such, just as some people of color have used “whitey” as a slur. When an oppressed person uses such language, it is “punching up,” not “punching down,” and use of such language should be policed within the community, not by outsiders.

Some cis people have pushed back that they are simply “normal,” and that the term cisgender is politically correct. Some ask how we can expect our own identities to be respected when we force a label on them.

Here’s the thing: Cisgender is not a gender. When I say that someone is cisgender, I am not defining or labeling their gender identity. I am simply stating that they agree with the gender identity they were assigned at birth. They might not consider being a man/boy/male or being a woman/girl/female to be an identity because they’ve always lived with one of those labels without question, but cis people “self-identify” just as much as trans people do. They just aren’t questioned, mocked, or attacked for it. The same is true of preferred pronouns.

As far as cisgender people who consider themselves to be simply “normal” while transgender people are “abnormal,” the hope is that being trans will come to be considered just another human variation. More people are coming to accept varieties in sexual orientation, and you don’t hear a lot of pushback from folks being labeled “straight” or “heterosexual” nowadays (though I’m sure there are some who reject those terms). Acceptance of variation in gender identity is the next step.

There are, of course, other complications. Some people that Westerners often label as “third gender” do not use either transgender or cisgender as terms in their societies. Some non-binary people consider themselves to be neither cis nor trans. Some people are cissexual but transgender, or vice versa. Many trans people do not openly identify as trans, either for personal or safety reasons, or may reject the trans/cis dichotomy for other reasons. And some intersex people may also reject the cis label; activist Cary Gabriel Costello has suggested adopting the term “ipso gender” for certain cases.*

Regardless, I hope that the term “cisgender” (which was added to the Oxford English Dictionary this year) will come to be widely understood and part of everyday usage. Acknowledging gender diversity shouldn’t be seen as political correctness or oppressive. It’s simply treating people with respect.

* In the article Dr. Costello also writes, “I urge people to define someone as cis gender if they have a binary gender identity that matches the one expected for people born with the primary sex characteristics they had at birth (genitals, gonads, chromosomes).” I agree that this definition is more complete and accurate than the summary version I presented in this article (agreeing with the gender identification one was assigned at birth), but it needs to be understood in the context Costello was writing about (intersex discrimination and erasure).