Whoops!

Apparently the week before finals is a bad time to declare I’m going to blog every day.  It’s not going to happen until I’m finished with my work, but then I will be back, for sure!

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Aesop’s Fables

You know those projects where people take an entire cook book and cook every recipe?  I think I might try to write a blog post about every Aesop’s fable.  They get pretty ridiculous, but it might be a good way to start off this whole “blog every day” madness.

Also, I just want to say, I’ve had the song “I”m Coming Out” stuck in my head for a really long time now.  I hadn’t even thought of the song when I titled my post, but as soon as I wrote out the title, the song popped into my head and, for the most part, has not left since.

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The Fox, the Grapes, the Dog, the Ox, and Me

One of Aesop’s fables that I remember the most is the tale of the Fox and the Grapes.  In this tale, a fox stumbles upon a low-hanging branch bearing beautiful, succulent grapes.  The fox reaches for the grapes, but finds that they hang too high.  So, he tenses his hind legs and takes a great leap toward the branch, but still he cannot reach them.  The fox backs up , taking a running start and jumps toward his prize, but he merely fell into the dirt, the grapes still eluding him.  Finally, he gives up and scowls, exclaiming, “Those grapes look sour anyway,” and trots off.

The moral of the story, according to Aesop: “It’s easy to despise what you cannot have” (The Fox and the Grapes, Palica).  And the truth of that statement shines through quite clearly.  Matt Kailey, of Tranifesto, answered a reader question regarding perfection and transition.  Similar to the questioner in Mr. Kailey’s blog, I constantly wondered, “Should I bother to go through with hormones if they can’t get me all the way there.”  I struggled with that concept a lot before coming out and early on in my transition.  It still plagues me today, but to a lesser extent.

I first realized I was trans during the Fall semester of my second year at Oberlin.  I spent my days in the library, desperately reading transgender facts and memoirs of those transitioning.  I was, at once, elated and terrified.  Reading the changes that testosterone could incur exhilarated me.  Even sitting cross-legged on my dorm room bed, I could feel my heart beating wildly.  But I was so deathly afraid of some aspects of transition, and, most of all, of the limitations of transition.  I knew I could never have sperm or produce testosterone on my own.  I would never have an Adam’s apple, nor would I ever grow tall enough to reach the cereal in my parents’ kitchen.

So I said to myself, “What is the point?”  If I could not wake up one day a man, down to my very genetic code, what point was there in pursuing this half-formed pipe dream?  And, like the fox, I lifted up my nose and pretended I didn’t want the grapes.  I took care to ensure my friends that I wasn’t transgender.  I even went so far as to scoff at some of the other students exploring their gender identities — moments that, now, I am truly not proud of.  I attempted to insulate myself in my daydreams, crushing the faint hope I had fostered of watching those dreams become a reality.

 I had a lot of trouble spending time with other guys during this time.  I enjoyed hanging out with other men, but it was always bittersweet.  Every moment of camaraderie came as well with deep pangs of jealousy and resentment.  Even when I was happy, I found other guys to be a constant reminder of my dysphoria.

There’s another Aesop’s fable, the tale of the Dog in the Manger, which depicts a dog hiding in an ox’s manger.  The dog curls up on the ox’s hay and tried to sleep, but he couldn’t because the straw stuck him so.  The ox returned, wanting to eat some of his hay, and woke the dog.  The dog, enraged, barred the ox from eating its hay, and the two animals reached a stand-off.  The dog could not fall asleep, but it would not allow the ox to eat the hay.  So the ox left.  Aesop’s moral: people often grudge others what they cannot enjoy themselves (The Dog in the Manger, Fong).

During the time that I could not bear to believe in my trans identity, I resented both cis- and trans- men for, on certain levels, having what I dreamed of every day.  I thought I could never make it to the end of the road to find a self with whom I could be happy.

And, you know what?  I am not going to find perfection at the end of this road.  Frankly, that is quite impossible.  But does anyone find perfection, really?  I just get a sneak preview for the trouble in paradise.  And I have the opportunity to go into life with those imperfections in mind, trying to work through the issues I know I have with myself.

***

On an unrelated note, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who was so supportive of my impromptu pseudo-coming out yesterday.  I got a flood of Facebook messages and emails and “likes” of the post, and I really appreciated all of it.  So, thank you, to all of my friends and family who have made this process so much better than I thought it could be.

***

*drawings by Ann Palica and Edwin Fong at the University of Massachusetts.

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I’m Coming Out

Since beginning my transition, I have wrestled most consistently with the idea of living “out” as transgender.  When I thought I was gay, it was simple – I wanted everyone to know I was gay.  I wanted the world to know.  I was not afraid, nor ashamed, nor hesitant at all to broadcast my membership in the LGBT community.  But that all changed when I came out as trans.  At first, I dreamed of the day when no one would have to know about my trans identity.  I relished the thought that I could keep it a secret from anyone new in my life.

Over the years, my mindset has shifted significantly.  It started small, with a willingness to reopen channels of my life that I had attempted to close — for example, getting in touch with some of my high school classmates.  Originally from Maryland, I have for a long time wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest.  When I came out as trans, the idea of moving across the country took on a second appeal as an opportunity to “escape” my former life.  But I gradually stopped wanting to entirely escape it.

Next, I noticed that I didn’t mind as much acknowledging my past or my identity.  Where before, questions about high school had sent me into a panic — “Should I lie?  Should I pretend I was home schooled?  God forbid, should I say I went to Landon?”  — I now found myself volunteering information about that part of my life.  If I wanted to joke about the uniforms at my high school, I all of a sudden didn’t mind prefacing my stories with, “Well, I went to an all-girls school.”

Concurrently, I discovered that, as I made new friends, it bothered me if they didn’t know that I was transgender.  Surprisingly, as I have gone further and further in my transition, and as I have become more comfortable with and confident in my own masculinity, it has become more important to me to acknowledge the trans aspect of my identity.  Not because I feel I am hiding something if I don’t talk about it, but because I do believe it has shaped who I am in a very distinctive manner.  I wouldn’t be the same man that I am today if I had simply been born in the right body — as nice as that would have been — and, truthfully, I am pretty damn happy with the man that I am today, and the man that I believe I am growing up to be.

I am not ashamed of who I am, and I am no longer afraid.  It still bugs me if someone messes up my pronouns, but every day it shakes my confidence less and less.  Other people’s perceptions do not make me a man.  If someone cannot see me for who I am, that is their problem, not mine.  I am proud of who I am, and the journey I have taken.

Things are improving for trans people in parts of the United States.  I have been overwhelmingly surprised by the positive responses I have received as I came out to those who knew me before, and those who know me now.  But we, as a country, still have so far to go.  I think the best thing that any trans person can do is simply live his or her life and allow the rest of the world to see that we are not so different from anyone else.  Like any other person, all I want is to live my life and find contentment.  Now, not every trans person could safely live out, as fantastic as that would be.  But I am in a position where I can do so more safely than most, both where I am now and where I plan to end up.  And I am also in a position to handle some of the less severe hardships that come from being out.  Knowing the importance of out trans people, how can I stand by in the shadows?  Knowing that there are trans people all over the world who cannot be open about their identities, how can I stay silent about mine?

After considering the subject, quite frankly, for many years, I have decided to officially come out of the closet.  Most people who know me already know that I am trans, but, as of today, I am choosing to make that part of my life an open book.  If my actions or my words allow even one person to more fully understand transgender issues or accept transgender people, I will consider all of this worth it.

So, for those of you who know me, but did not know, here it is: I am transgender.  More specifically, I am a trans man, meaning that I was born female, but I am a man.  I encourage questions, if you have them, as long as such questions are asked in a respectful manner.  Please also remember that not all trans people want to be asked questions, especially those that involve very personal medical or emotional issues.  I also encourage you to share my blog, if you think someone would enjoy or benefit from reading it.

And for those of you who read my blog, but do not know me, please allow me to introduce myself: my name is Isaac Katz.  I am a student at Oberlin College, which, truly, is one of the best places in the entire United States to realize that you are transgender.  The online trans community — the blogging community in particular — has been such a lifeline for me during the hardest parts of my transition.  I do not want to hide who I am from those who have supported me despite never having met me.

My transition has not been without hardship, but I feel fortunate in the wealth of support I receive from my friends, my family and my community, and I am incredibly lucky to be in a position where I can feel safe being out as trans.  I hope that, one day, no one has to be afraid to admit, “I am transgender.”  And that’s really all there is to say.

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I’m back!

Good morning, internet!

I’m sorry I’ve been gone for so long.  Life has been crazy, in ways both good and bad.  The longer I waited to post, the more I had to say, and the more I had that “I don’t even know where to begin” reaction.  At this point, I may not hit everything I have been meaning to blog about, but I have to begin somewhere.  I would like to make more of a commitment to my writing.  I’ve been thinking about this book I read in high school, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.  She suggests writing for at least thirty minutes a day, if I remember correctly.  I would like to start doing that.  And the best way to motivate myself will be to blog every day, so I’m going to give that a try, and see how well I can manage it.

Lamott has this great anecdote, for which she named the book, which holds a lot of lessons about life.  She explains that her brother, when he was a kid, procrastinated quite impressively on a project about birds.  The night before the project was due, he broke down, completely overwhelmed.  It is a plight in which I have often found myself (including, for example, catching up on my blog), where the amount of work seems so momentous that I can’t even get myself to start.

So, Lamott’s brother is freaking out, sitting “at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead.  Then [Lamott’s] father sat down beside him, put his arm around [her] brother’s shoulders, and said ‘Bird by bird, buddy.  Just take it bird by bird'” (Lamott, 19).

I just think that is some of the best advice that exists in the world.  Honestly, no joke, no exaggeration.  I strongly believe that it is the secret to life, to happiness, to success.  My worst moments have been when I forgot to take things “bird by bird.”  Obviously, it applies quite literally to schoolwork of any kind, but I think it has applications far beyond academia.  Similar to the sentiment of “one day at a time,” I think “bird by bird”  provides a reminder to take things as they come, to work through things step by step, and that even if you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, the first step is just to…start chewing.  You can’t just sit there and hold that bite of food in your mouth until the end of time.

I’m going a bit overboard on the analogies, so forgive me (in my defense, I am quite sleep deprived).  But, cheesy idioms aside, the sentiment is an important one.   The last couple of years have felt like one long lesson in taking things as they come.  I’ve always been pretty good at it, if I do say so myself, but I’ve gotten a lot better.   And I can improve further still.  I believe very strongly in being adaptable.  I don’t like to meditate, but I try to keep kind of a zen attitude about life.  You do what you can – I don’t suggest just waiting for things to happen or being passive about life – but at some point you have to accept things for how they are.

I’m using the word “thing” a lot.  I do not think Anne Lamott would approve.  But who knows?  The truth is, I don’t have one particular situation in mind.  The sentiment applies so broadly.  I try to minimize the regrets that I have about my actions and my life, but it is hard to live life without regrets.  At some point, you have to take stock and say, “Hey, this didn’t turn out how I wanted, but I’m going to move on.”

On a similar vein, I have been learning not to think of my life as a series of stages.  I have a tendency to think, “Hey, I messed up this stage, so I’d better wait until the next stage and do better once I have a fresh slate.”  But there’s no need to wait until the next “stage” – and, truly, the stages don’t actually exist.  There’s always room to turn your life around.  That’s something I firmly believe.  It’s so easy to forget that people can change, that circumstances can change.  It’s so easy to say, “I fucked up.  There’s no digging out of this hole.”

But that’s not how I see life.  We should learn from our mistakes, and it’s important not to forget our mistakes, but it is equally important to make sure we do not allow ourselves to be defined by our mistakes.

I also think it’s important to make sure that you measure your own mistakes based on your own priorities.  As a “young adult,” I have been thinking a lot about where my values and my priorities come from.  I have also realized that some of what I used to consider a “mistake” was based on someone else’s world view.  I have complicated feelings toward ideas like moral relativity and really anarchistic stuff.  There are certain things I just believe are bad ideas.  But I also recognize that there are people out there who don’t think those things are bad ideas.  And though I believe that I am right, I recognize that I can’t necessarily know that for sure.  But I have to live based on what I think is right, and not someone else’s checklist of ideals.

I’m going to try to write about all of this more coherently in the days to come.  But I have been thinking a lot about who I am, and what I value in life.  A lot of trans people talk about having to reassure their friends and families that they (the trans person) have not changed, that they are the same person they always were.  I have spent plenty of time reassuring people of that fact about myself.  But, over the last couple of weeks, I have realized that I actually am a different person.  And it’s not necessarily that I’ve “changed,” per se, but that I have reverted to a person I kept locked away and hidden for so long, no one really knew he was there.  Possibly not even me.

For almost twenty-three years, I pretended to be this fictional “Hannah,” this person who never felt right or real or stable.  And a lot of aspects of that person were fictional, were fabricated to make sense of the life I was living and the body in which I was trapped.  The real me, the real Isaac, was trapped, like in those horror stories where people keep a relative locked in the attic.  I thought that he was the monster under my bed, and I ran from him for so long that I forgot who he was or what he wanted out of life.

But now I’ve stopped running, and once I stopped, I realized Isaac was not, in fact, the monster, but the warrior sent to slay the beast.  Hah, all those years dreaming of being a knight, and maybe I was the one who needed to be saved.  Amusing thought.

The first year of my official transition was very much about accepting my trans identity and learning kind of the bare necessities of functioning.  This year has been more about exploring what I actually want my life to look like.  I had done some thinking on that before my transition, but I have found that knowing I could truly be myself has changed what I want my life to look like.  I think when I was still pretending, there was a certain amount of trying to compensate for the undercurrent of unhappiness that ran through my life.  Now that it’s gone, and I don’t have to spend energy putting up a front, I have the time and the mental capacity to settle into the life I actually want.

It’s still an adjustment, don’t get me wrong.  Once in a while, I hear Hannah’s voice in my head, telling me I’m settling, or that I’m rationalizing, that what I have and who I am isn’t good enough.  But, for the most part, I’m able to tell her to shut the hell up, because, quite frankly, Isaac is much more awesome than Hannah ever was.  And all those insecurities just stemmed from this fear that I could never be happy.  And I couldn’t have been happy, as Hannah, not ever.  No matter how perfect I made my life, she would have always been miserable.  And I think that’s why her goals were so unreasonable.

But that shadow of a person, that semblance of reality, is gone for good, to the extent that something can be gone that never really existed.  And my fears and anxieties are slowly leaving in the same direction.  And my life looks nothing like I would have ever imagined, but it is so much better than anything I could have dreamed up.

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10 Month Update (er…a bit late)

Hello everyone!

I’ve dropped off the face of the blogosphere for a while, sorry about that. I’ll do a quick update for now. Not much going on in my life at the moment. I am on medical leave for the semester, hopefully going back next semester. Dealing with the medical issues is frustrating, but it needs to happen. Hopefully have found a more permanent solution.

Transition has not progressed that much. Voice is still dropping, obviously:

36 Weeks: 111021 36 Weeks

43 Weeks: 111210 43 Weeks

I noticed a big change between these two clips, personally, but not sure if it’s just me.  Facial hair is good, but it doesn’t seem to change much; seems to have plateaued.  But even the scraggly facial hair makes a huge difference.

Studying for the LSATs.  Taking them in February.  Because of the medical leave, going to have to push back law school a year even if I go back next semester.

My friend and I started a guild for TOR (Star Wars: The Old Republic).  That’s been a lot of fun.  Getting to know a good group of people.  Game starts in a few days.

Need to get back on the blogging bandwagon, so I’ll work on that.  Hope ya’ll are doing well.  Happy Holidays!

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And Now For Something Completely Different…

Today is my nine months on T anniversary!  111021 36 Weeks

And on an unrelated note, I am super excited for Star Wars: The Old Republic, which comes out in a couple of months.  I’ll be joining up with at least one of my old WoW friends, maybe even more (I just came out to a couple of them, which seems to have gone well).  I’m very psyched to be gaming with them again, and the game itself looks incredible!  Though now I am faced with the tough choice of Jedi Guardian Defense vs. Jedi Sentinel Combat vs. Jedi Sentinel Watchman.  Choosing a class is making my head spin a bit and, in case you have never played an MMORPG, it is a very important decision which will determine my role in the group and how easy/hard it is for me to find groups.  Extremely important life issues, I know.

There were a few other classes that looked interesting, but when I really think about it, how can I say no to a lightsaber?  The answer is: I can’t.  Lightsabers are awesome.  I have been dreaming about having a lightsaber since the very first time I saw Star Wars, and this is most likely the closest I will ever come.  So badass.

I’m very psyched to have the experience of playing a game from launch (or actually a bit before launch).  Aion (another MMORPG) I jumped in a bit late, I don’t remember how much.  I missed most of what is now called “Vanilla WoW” in World of Warcraft.  Though I was playing for part of vanilla, I was way too distractable to reach level-cap (which I didn’t manage until Wrath of the Lich King – oops), so I didn’t see much of the game.  It is definitely a unique experience that gives you a particular perspective on the game, having seen all of the ups and downs.  It will also be a lot of fun to start a guild with my friends (assuming we end up doing it), instead of just following a group of people around from guild to guild.

Getting back in touch with my old guildies has put me in a good mood, despite some other parts of my life not being fantastic right now (I am sick and had to take the semester off from school).  It is weird to think I have known some of these people for longer than I have known some of my closest friends.  They are certainly an indelible part of my life and I’m glad to have another chance to hang out with them, so to speak.  Especially now that I can really be myself.

Just for fun…

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