Ellie Valkyrie Battle Jackets

My Etsy store is now live! I'm starting with just the first four battle jackets, but I plan to make more in the future!

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A Meditation On Padded Bras

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

Why is it "weird" for a man to wear a padded bra but not weird for a woman to do so? The basic premise behind a bra as an article of clothing is that they are designed to support breast tissue. In some cases, it is absolutely true, but what about heavily padded bras? What about bras that are not so much for support as they are for emphasizing breast tissue? Is it okay for a bra to have a practical use (support) but not okay for it to have an artistic use (emphasizing)? If artistic and support uses are both considered normal enough to not be weird or problematic for women, then why not for men? It’s actually incredibly weird (when you think about it) that women are encouraged to emphasize their breast tissue while men are actively discouraged from doing so.

I am a man (well, this body is) and I have breast tissue. I have nipples. I'm lucky in that it's completely socially acceptable for me to run around with no bra on (being that my body is male) and I don't have to worry about people laughing, judging me or hitting on me when a cold wind picks up and you can see my headlights. With male bodies, breast tissue isn't really sexualized, certainly not like it is with female bodies. With a male body, I can run around any town or city totally stripped to the waist, with all of my breast tissue exposed for everyone to see, and no one would gawk or think twice about it. Now, if I had been born female, even if I'd been born with breast tissue as minimal as what I currently have with this male body, it would literally be a crime for me to be out in public with my chest exposed. The problem is so bad, in fact, and female breast tissue is so sexualized that women are chastised for breast feeding in public (not a sexual use at all!) and numerous women have photoshopped images of male breast tissue over their own chests in pictures as a means of protesting the hypocrisy. What is going on here? It's just breast tissue!

It's ridiculous that female breast tissue must be covered (with an encouragement to emphasize size and shape with padding) while male breast tissue is rarely covered (except with a shirt) and never allowed to be emphasized. As someone with a male body, it would be ludicrous for me to wear garments which emphasize my mostly flat breast tissue, for me to go out in public with my padded bra on, no matter how good I think it makes me look. In times when I have done it, I have been gawked at, as much a spectacle for the public as I would be if I were a woman with her breast tissue exposed. The only difference is that I can wear a bra in public without it being seen as indecent exposure. Even if I were a transman (someone who transitioned to male from another gender) I could expose my chest, (but only perhaps after top surgery, so my breast tissue would look more male and therefore be less sexualized.) Conversely, if I were to get top surgery in a transition from male to female, I would be giving up the freedom to run around bare-chested in public. My breast tissue would go from being “just a chest” to “woah mama! Look at those hooters!” and that’s just bizarre.

I would venture to point out that perhaps the problem isn’t with breast tissue at all, but rather with the beauty standards we have for women as sexual objects. To be appropriately beautiful as a woman is to meet standards necessary for you to be lusted after. These standards often include great skin, a thin waist, long hair, emphasizing makeup and large breasts. The further a woman strays from these ideals, whether by birth or intention, the less “feminine” she is. The less feminine she is, the less she is objectified by others. Since degrees of objectification are directly related to the value and worthiness of a woman in most social arenas (who would you rather say hello to, an interesting “beautiful” woman or an interesting “ugly” woman?) there is a great deal of pressure on women to emphasize their stereotypical feminine traits (breasts being a big one) to maximize their sexual appeal (and by extension, their social value.) Since female social value is still very much based on sex appeal, men who adopt the same ways of emphasizing parts of their bodies (makeup, padded bras, etc.) are seen as weird, because why would any man want to be a sex object in the same way that women are?

Going back to my article on feminism here: [link] we can see the deeper misogyny beneath what, on the surface, appears to be simply misandry (negative and hateful responses leveled at men for wearing whatever the hell they want) and transmisogyny (negative and hateful responses leveled at female-identifying transgender folks.) The question that we should be asking is not so much “why do people hate trans people?” as it is “why do people feel aggression and disgust toward men embracing their stereotypically feminine traits and sides?” I would argue (and have) that there are two reasons. The big one is that women are seen as being weaker than men, and since strength is prized and celebrated in our society, a man who identifies as female and/or embraces his feminine side is seen as worse than just weak. He’s seen as self-emasculating. Cutting himself down and choosing to be weak. Add to that the sexualization of womanhood (with heteronormative attitudes establishing a foundational idea that women only want to have sex with men) and you end up with a knot of homophobia (men who embrace their female side must be gay) with optional transphobia (if you’re not gay, then what are you into? Kids? Dogs?) In the end, nobody wins, and the only people not feeling the pressure are men who choose to be as masculine as possible. Women who choose to be as masculine as possible win second place for least oppressed in this area of consideration, as their embracing of stereotypically masculine traits makes them appear “stronger” (which is equated with better) though the more masculine a woman becomes, the more she may have to deal with oppression rooted in homophobia (being called dyke, etc.)

So why is it weird for men to wear padded bras (and a crime for women to go around shirtless?) I’d say, it all comes down to sex. Emphasized breast tissue is equated to female breast tissue and since women are sexualized to such a high degree (especially our breast tissue), emphasized breast tissue is seen as a sexual advertisement, or a trait indicating a desire to be lusted after. A woman who goes out in public bare-chested is seen as sexually advertising, an easy lay for the next available man, and all because of the sexualization of her body paired with heteronormative ideas about sexual preference. I would argue that if female breast tissue wasn’t sexualized, then it would not be weird at all for a man to wear a padded bra. Heck, there probably wouldn’t even be a market for padded bras at all. If feminizing garments and fashion stereotypes were not so associated with the image of what it means to be female (an image based on beauty standards rooted in sexual objectifying of women) then they wouldn’t be feminizing, and passing (appearing more feminine) is one of the reasons why some transgender women (assigned male at birth) choose to wear them. Sure, as with anything, I’m sure there is a spectrum of reasons why individuals with male bodies choose to wear feminine articles of clothing (padded bras among them) but the problem comes when people assume it is always a sexual reason, and simply because women are seen as sexual objects. When I wear my padded bra, I do it for art and activism. Sure, looking down and seeing emphasized breast tissue helps me forget in the moment (to a degree) that this is a male body (instead of a female one) but I don’t need “big hooters” to feel like a woman. I’d rather save my shocking (stunning?) female presentation ensemble to express myself like living sculpture (as a bad-ass modern punk valkyrie) or as a protest against pointless phobias and oppressive standards that define what society will allow us to wear without judgment and what it will not. In reality, I think fashion policing (judging people for what they wear) belongs on one of the lowest levels of inane things to do with your time, and really shouldn’t be a part of our experience as humans in 21st century America.

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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On Children Medically Transitioning

Article By E.S. Wynn

I’m going to come right out and say that I don’t know what the right answer is when it comes to whether or not children should be allowed to medically gender transition. You may create a definite answer for yourself after reading this article, but I am not writing this to create a stance, start an argument or convince anyone to take (or not take) any specific action. I’m writing with an aim to share my personal experiences, my observations, my fears and what I have learned through reading the articles and the viewpoints of others. I want to explore the issue in the hopes that parents who are presented with the choice of whether or not to let their children transition medically can make that decision from a more fully informed place. It’s none of my business what anyone chooses to do with their bodies, and if a child transitions, I am fully in support of it. I am also in support of all individuals who choose not to transition. It really does come down to individual preference either way.

Whenever I wonder if helping children transition medically before puberty is a wise choice or not, I ask myself where the doubt comes from. As far as I can tell, the primary fear is a fear that they're too young to understand dysphoria, to understand gender, sexual characteristics and sexuality. While I think this may be true (to a degree) for some children, I also know that one doesn’t have to know anything at all about sex or gender roles to feel dysphoria. Even before clear distinctions between male and female are laid down in the brain of a child, a child can feel the difference between being one gender on the inside and being a different gender on the outside. I know, and that knowing comes not only from personal experience, but also from the personal experiences of others I know well.

I mentioned in my earlier article “On Dysphoria” [link] that I knew as early as two or three that something was off between my body and my mind. I felt the incongruence, the dysphoria, and I remember it clearly. It was probably one of the first moments that I doubted the godlike wisdom (from a child’s perspective) of my parents and wondered how they could be right when the idea of me being male felt so wrong. It wasn’t that I wanted to be female. I didn’t have any interest in pinks, dresses or Barbie dolls. I wasn’t yearning for a vagina, for a housewife life or a male lover. I was two or three years old. I loved robots, cars, fighter jets, dinosaurs and mud. My favorite colors were sky blue and crimson red, and accordingly my favorite clothes were blue jeans and red shirts (preferably with dinosaurs or robots on them.) Despite all of this, despite the fact that, in many ways, I was a stereotypical young boy, I felt strongly female inside, and the feeling has never gone away. It’s definitely there, and it definitely transcends everything else about who I am. It’s self-image, or for the spiritual, it’s the soul. It’s who I am and who I have always been.

But even looking at my own experiences, even knowing firsthand how strong and how consistent the feelings have been for me, even as far back as my earliest memories, I'm still not so sure what the right answer is. If I had been born in 2017 to well-off, well-educated and very liberal / progressive parents, my feminine side might have been explored and cultivated. I might even have transitioned before puberty. Would I have been happier growing up as a woman? I don't know. Ideally, I wouldn't have the dysphoria (and it is a constant companion,) but I would likely have other concerns and weights chewing at me. (See my article on why I have chosen not to transition here: [link]) Coming to terms with being a sterile woman would likely be chief among the concerns I’d be facing. At least as a male, I have the ability to create a biological family. If I had transitioned surgically, I would have lost that option utterly.

Yet even that way of looking at it precludes the viability of adoption. Who is to say that if I had medically transitioned at the first opportunity that I would not have found enough self-acceptance to be excited about the idea of adoption? Perhaps I would even have found myself preferring the idea of adopting children, celebrating it as a personal choice and pursuing it until I was mother of a whole passel of different kids. My late stepmother was a champion of children who took in dozens of kids and cared for them as if they were her own and because of this, she has become a sort of hero to me. Who is to say that I would not have followed in her footsteps? The thing is that we don’t know. We can only speculate. We can only speculate, and even then, this is all based solely on one individual’s experiences. Chances are that, with the insertion of a major change early in my life, my interests and viewpoints on all manner of things would be different (not necessarily healthier, or better or worse) than they are now.

Another thought to consider is the potential for rebellion on the part of the child. If I had medically transitioned as a child, or even gone on puberty blockers, I wonder if I would have been completely happy with my life and the course I had chosen to set for myself. It seems to me that transitioning medically could either strengthen the bond between parents and child (as an ordeal that unifies the family as they go through it) or stress it (if the child has doubts later and blames the parents for letting them do something they eventually come to see as self-destructive.) Helping a child transition before puberty could set them up for a lot of pain if they change their mind about it as a teenager or an adult. What if, one day, a given hypothetical transsexual minor decided that he/she wanted to be a different sex than the one they had transitioned to? What if they stopped taking their medications and started using any surgeries or social discomforts against their parents like weapons? There are so many little variables, so many what-ifs, and in reality, no real hard lines. Even this could be seen as just fearful mental masturbation with no facts except “teenagers tend to be rebellious” behind it. As I have said before in previous articles, it is perfectly normal to be transgender and not be transsexual, or intending to transition to a different sex. Perhaps if a child expresses consistent dysphoria, the cure could be as simple as offering them the ability to express themselves however they like. Perhaps they could be allowed to transition in every way except medically, and then be given the option to transition medically once they reach a specific age, whether it be as young as twelve or as old as eighteen. In effect, we’re already there. Children are not whisked off for surgery the instant they begin playing with the “wrong” toys, even children of the most liberal and progressive parents. There are years of therapy, there is a great deal of gatekeeping (for better or worse) and hormones are only administered (at the earliest) when a child reaches puberty. When you consider the fact that we have the ability to delay puberty for years, there is definitely room for doubt on the part of the child. There is time for the child to decide what they want to be when they grow up.

Another fact to consider is that this question is not new. There are plenty of transgender individuals out there right now who have transitioned medically as children, and some who medically transitioned as adults wish that they’d had the opportunity to do so as children. There’s also research that indicates that starting hormone therapy at or just before puberty (whether natural or delayed with puberty blockers) prevents or encourages certain physical sex characteristics (facial hair, breast tissue growth, voice deepening, etc.) and makes it easier for a trans kid to pass, to be accepted and to focus more on growing up than on fighting dysphoria. It could be said that puberty is a type of hormone therapy provided by a person’s own physical body, and by striking before it does, a more neutral body can be pushed in a direction more in line with the mind of the individual.

I want to offer two additional ideas in closing. The first is that if a child is suicidal and/or threatening self-mutilation because of gender dysphoria, then I think that is a clear sign that something definitely needs to be done to take the child’s needs into account. Children do not threaten such things as a gambit for control. They see and consider taking drastic action because they see a problem, a very serious problem, and the only course of action in that case is to take them seriously. Talk to your child. Make sure they are informed about all of their options. Help them consider the benefits and downsides of every decision, and encourage them to search themselves for the answer to what is right. Most of all, listen to your child. Help them, talk with them, understand their perspective, seek out professionals and work with them, but most of all trust your child and follow their lead. If your child is suicidal and the cause is gender dysphoria, neglecting or ignoring that cause could lead you to not having a child at all, and I don’t have to tell you how painful or serious a proposition that is. No one wants to lose a child to suicide, especially when it is easily preventable.

The second consideration I’d like to offer is that I believe there may be too much emphasis on medical transitioning, that transitioning and living as a given gender doesn’t have to be so complete or so defined. Of course, individual preference is individual preference. I have read the first-hand accounts of people who fought hard for complete transition before turning 18 and I applaud them for the courage and hope that their stories become lessons that make it easier for others to get the therapy they know that they need, regardless of how young they are. What I am saying is that all of the options should be understood, and perhaps explored. I say this not out of fear that someone young might make a “mistake,” but out of the opinion that passing should not be so important. Seeking medical transition to feel more in tune with one’s body is absolutely necessary in some cases, but if the reasoning for seeking a complete sex change is based primarily in fear of the opinions and judgments others level at an individual for their inability to pass (or for any other physical trait, like height or weight) then I think a decision to surgically alter one’s body deserves some thought first. Judgments can be worn down and changed if people are willing to be themselves completely (whatever that means to a given individual.) It just takes time, and a willingness to embrace individuality, to fight the toxic standards of a society that oppresses us only to the degree that we allow it to.

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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Stealing Wings

My 70th book is out! I'm really excited about "Stealing Wings", which is the latest piece set in my long-running series "The Cygnus War." In the last ten years, I've told a lot of stories in the universe of "The Cygnus War," but this book tells the story of how it all began. Whether you're new to "The Cygnus War" or have read about every adventure Tessa Eisenherz has ever scraped her way through, there's something for you in this book. It's a great gateway for newcomers and it's packed with little references that flesh out the universe that much more for those who have read the series. Pick up your copy today here: http://www.thunderune.com/2017/09/stealing-wings.html

The Genderless Narrator

Photo and Article By E.S. Wynn

As a writer, I’m always seeking the next great horizon. I explore, I discover and I learn to understand different worlds and different ways of being through research and through writing. It is said that the best way to learn something is to teach it, and I think that is especially true of writing.

When I write, I write for myself as much as I write for the reader. I write the kinds of stories I would like to read, and as someone who has experienced gender dysphoria for my entire life, I primarily like to read stories that are told first person, by a female narrator, so I can really snuggle into the story and experience it as if I were actually there, living it. This desire carries over into my writing as well. The majority of my books feature female main characters, and at this time, about half of my books are told from a first person perspective. The women that I write about are all shades of myself, of the woman I am inside, and I find that I get the best creative flow when I embrace and accept that completely, instead of trying to filter it by creating distance between myself and the narrator in any number of ways. Write what you know, it is said, and I do.

I have, however, found something interesting as I've worked my way deeper and deeper into my own writing. In polishing my craft as an author, I have discovered that I can play with the perceptions of the reader, teach them and broaden their minds by challenging their ideas about gender. I can write stories which feature a subtly (never directly announced) gender-neutral narrator and leave the determination of gender to the reader themselves. What follows is an example of how it works and why it’s effective.

In stories like “Reasons To Live, Reasons To Die,” “Astride Twin Seas,” and many others, I take a first person narrator approach, but leave the gender of the narrator unexpressed. This does two things, I think. If done elegantly and artfully (instead of overtly, stumbling over sentences in order to keep them gender-neutral) the reader seems to slip into a role easily, assuming the gender that feels most correct for them as an actor within the world that you’re establishing. Much as with the approaches toward fear that Steven King and H.P. Lovecraft take in their writing, I leave certain elements unwritten knowing that the mind of the reader will fill in those gaps far more effectively than I ever could. (Check out my article on Lovecraft’s approach toward Fear here: [link] The basic premise is that everyone is different, and while some people will be genuinely terrified of something, others may laugh at that very same thing, destroying the feeling of horror you’re trying to cultivate. So it can be with gender as well, I think. Not everyone is comfortable being male or female, but if the gender is left open, the mind will create a gender that is more comfortable and remove the feeling of incongruity that establishing narrator gender can cause in the reader. While you as the author might envision the character as being of one gender or another (or genderfluid) the reader will see the narrator as exactly the gender that feels most natural. In example, for the story “Reasons To Live, Reasons To Die,” nearly 90% of the people who I have talked to who have read the story see the narrator as male, despite the fact that every cue that might be used to establish that (besides stereotypes and clich├ęs) is crafted to be deliberately indefinite instead. Those who see the main character as male are often surprised to find that I envisioned a woman as the main character when I wrote the story, and that all of the cues they have used to establish the character as male have come from their own judgments and internalized ideas about what it means to be male and what it means to be female. There are literally zero specific cues to indicate the narrator's gender. It is assigned instead by the reader in reading because a certain gender or another felt right to the person given observations and ideas of what it means to be one gender or the other.

To challenge these ideas even more directly, one might even consider writing a story where the gender of the narrator might be inferred by the reader based on “masculine” or “feminine” actions, only to have the switch and reveal come about at the end, or near the end, challenging established ideas about what it means to be male and what it means to be female. I would argue that these established ideas need to be challenged, as they are the poisoned root that leads to the idea that men are strong and women are weak. If we can challenge, soften and even eventually eliminate that idea, I think we will create a healthier environment not just for women, but for men as well (see my article on “Why I Need Feminism” here: [link])

If you have a story (or poetry) about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

On Trans Veterans

In my travels online, I recently discovered a very interesting four-part documentary called Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Veterans Throughout American History. I found it really interesting to discover just how many transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have served with distinction in the armed forces in the US alone. Set aside forty (or so) minutes of your time and watch this series. It's definitely worth it!

Part 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJGOOeJYMTk
Part 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MnLl-o5bQK8
Part 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b9njRibbYGA
Part 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHMQnK8i888

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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On Coming Out

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

Movies and media tend to make it seem like coming out is sudden, impulsive and celebratory, but in my experience, it was anything but. It was a staggered, starting and stopping process full of self doubts and “screw this” moments that held me back for years. Coming out officially and completely came only after I had sufficiently saturated the people around me with enough information that I felt like I could safely come out, and even then, I wasn’t out everywhere all at once. I made a checklist of things to do with the words "come out" penciled at the bottom like a goal. And it was a goal, but everything had to be perfect first. The big final coming out came in pieces, with my first announcement being to a couple of my genderqueer friends, then to my mother, then six months later to my partner (when we were still just friends, before we were dating) then I started hinting at things and being a little more open across some of my more liberal social networking sites. I changed my bio on my website to include a statement about my being openly transgender in late May, and I finally dropped the bomb across the board (and to my more conservative relatives) on Litha, 2017 (June 21st.) The response was cathartic, but rather unremarkable, which is actually kind of what I was hoping for. The last thing I wanted was fireworks or a fight.

The build-up definitely took time, more time than maybe was needed, but then, I was also battling some pretty intense fears and some bad coding based on my own flawed ideas of what it means to be transgender. I’ve had several false starts and failed attempts at coming out throughout my life, and in reality, the only person I blame for that is myself. If I’d been tougher, stronger, less concerned with what other people think, I’d have come out decades earlier than I did, but there’s no use in mourning the past. What’s done is done. All we can do is reflect on our lessons, learn from them, and share our mistakes with others so that they can proceed forward in their own journeys with more strength and self-love than they might otherwise have to carry them through.

The first time I tried to come out as transgender, I was so young that trans as a concept wasn’t even on my radar. I didn’t have an urge to wear female clothing, and that’s probably because all of my female relatives ran around in pants and t-shirts most of the time. My heroes were people like Ripley (of Aliens) and Amelia Earhart, both of whom dressed with a more stereotypically masculine style. I had a concept in my head, an unshakable feeling that, at my core, I was female. I was about ten or eleven, and had no idea how to deal with it. I had one friend who was as liberal and activist-leaning as me, and I remember bringing it up to him one day when we were alone. “I feel like I might be a woman inside,” I said, and I remember the way he froze, his look of shock and his inability to process the data at all. We were both young, both just starting to get to the age where males accused each other of being gay at every opportunity. I remember that we sat there in silence for a moment, and then I changed the subject and never brought it up again.

Ten years passed before I thought about talking to anyone about it again. Instead of opening up, I joined PFLAG, figuring that though I was terrified of homosexuality (and of being homosexual) I could figure out just what was going on in my head and proceed from there. Through PFLAG, I met the first transgender people I had ever seen, and discovered that they were very nice women. They seemed very wary and timid (understandably) and so I didn’t really take the time to get to know them as I worried I might make them even more uneasy. My own fears about what I might find and what I might learn played a part in the fact that I didn’t get to know them better, of course, as did the mistaken information I had at that time that equated gay with trans. During the course of the year that I was involved with the GSA and PFLAG on campus at Sierra College, I spent a lot of time getting to know gay culture and my role within it. I’m really glad that I did, because by immersing myself in something unfamiliar (and, at the time, utterly terrifying) I learned things about myself, and absolved the fear completely. I went from being afraid that I might be gay to wishing I could be attracted to men, as I had met a lot of really great gay guys who probably would have made good and loyal partners. But if immersing myself in queer culture has taught me anything, it’s that we are what we are. We have set preferences, and men just don’t do it for me.

Between the ages of twenty-three and thirty-one, I fell headfirst into my career and my writing. The dysphoria was a constant companion, and though I did go through periods where I conducted extensive research on trans issues and transitioning, I never spoke to a soul about any of it. Work kept me busy, and through my writing, I lived as a woman for 8-10 hours every single day, which made it easy to cope with the dysphoria. By age 27, I was in a relationship that heated up fast and would lead to a very intense marriage with a woman I loved dearly, both wanted and wanted to be with equal intensity. She became the sole focus of my existence for years, and so I didn’t want to do anything that would throw a wrench in the relationship. One transphobic statement from her about an experience she had as a teenager was enough to shut the door on transitioning for me forever. I never breathed a word to her about my dysphoria, or anything even related to it. I was too afraid to.

I suppose it’s no surprise then that I finally began to unpack my psyche when she ran off with an old boyfriend and moved halfway across the US. About two months after we said our final goodbyes, I started investigating transgender perspectives on life and on transitioning on Youtube. I started really living my life, going to concerts, clubs, bars, exploring and discovering myself and my place in the world. There was a period of several months where I came into work with painted nails, shaved arms, shaved chest and shirts with plunging necklines. I got a few weird looks and not much else. In the end, I stopped shaving my entire body (too much work, too much cost of razors) stopped wearing nail polish all the time (too much cost, too much lost time doing the painting, too many weird looks and questions from old men) and with those gone, I didn’t see a reason to wear shirts that were cut for a body with cleavage. Exhaustive research led me to the decision that, though I like the punk and artistic aspect of dressing up as a woman and going out in public, I have no interest in transitioning (I’ve got an article about it over here: [link]) I don’t need to pass as a woman to feel like a woman. I feel like a woman all the time anyway, even when I’m dressed in a tux in a Masonic lodge addressing a room full of brothers. For me, transitioning to full time female is just too much of a pain in the ass.

So here I am now, writing articles about trans issues from a trans perspective while being openly trans. As I mentioned earlier, it was cathartic to completely come out, and though it wasn’t without its little snags, fears and weirdnesses, it was relatively relaxed and easy. I was lucky enough to have a community of people around me that has been more supportive than I expected they would be, and I’ve overcome the worries that plagued me in the past. If you are trans and you’re thinking about coming out, realize that there is no right or wrong way to do it. There is no deadline. Sooner can be nice, but it is not necessarily better. If you’re going to come out, do it in your own way and at your own pace. Only you can decide the course and timing that are right for you. All I can offer is my own experience, and a prayer that you will be strong and confident about your course, whatever you choose to do.

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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The Importance Of Your Voice

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

I see it all the time in my travels online. A minority or marginalized individual will stand up and use their voice for political activism, drawing from their personal experiences (much as I do) only to have a person speak up afterwards with a line akin to “Your work is really great, but I wish someone would stand up for my oppressed minority!”

I am of two minds in regards to this. While I do believe we should help each other as much as we can and provide platforms where we can that people can use to talk about their pain and struggles (especially if society is turning a blind eye to that pain and those struggles) I also believe that no one is more qualified to talk about your experiences than you are. We all have our own battles and rights to write about, our own experiences and wars to wage. We can't expect others to do the hard work of expressing ourselves for us.

I give this same feedback to people who tell me they'd like me to make their life story into a book. The stories are always interesting in brief, but I know that I'm not qualified (nor do I necessarily have the time) to turn their experiences into entertainment or direct activism. What I tell them is that they have a good story, and that they should write it out. If they need help with editing, formatting or diving into the corporate meatgrinder of the publishing industry, I can help with that, but I can't tell their story for them. It can be hard to stand up in the face of a hostile society and state your truth, but someone has to be strong enough to do it. Might as well be someone who has direct experience with it. It might as well be you.

Another reason why your voice is important to the fight against the struggle you’re facing and living through is representation. If only one person stands up and says “I am part of this minority and I am oppressed!” then that person becomes the face of that movement. It’s happened in the trans community, and I’ve mentioned this in previous articles. I bear no ill will toward Caitlyn Jenner or toward any of my fellow transgender people, but I want more diversity in representation. I don’t want people to think only of her (or her and LaVerne Cox, or god forbid, Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Frank-N-Furter) when they hear the word Transgender. I want them to think of the heroes who have battled with gender dysphoria and who have transitioned openly under the force of tremendous scrutiny and hate. I want them to think of all of the people working in the trenches of art, education, and hell, every field out there who openly identify as transgender. I want to pack the minds of the populace with an entire army of trans voices so that they can see that that we aren’t weird or dangerous or freakish. We’re people, just like they are. We’re people, and our experiences need to be voiced.

So stop reading this article, get out there and make your voice heard, whoever you are. Your perspective matters, and regardless of how or where you choose to express it, express it openly and completely. The only thing you have to fear is fear itself, and fear is a toothless bitch. You’ve got this. You’ve so got this.

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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Allowing Experimentation

Photo and Article By E.S. Wynn

Author's Note: This photo feels almost like a baby picture to me. I took it when I was first exploring my trans identity a few years ago, and first starting work on my personal battle jacket.

It can be really difficult to live a life without judging others. I’d even venture to say that it might be near impossible to never judge anyone for anything. We can work on it, strive toward an ideal of empathy over judgment certainly, but I think even that is a practice, a constant journey that we never really complete.

But judgments also come in many forms, some of them more dismissible than others (or even accepted in certain communities.) At some point in our lives, we’ve all looked at someone trying to find their own look, trying to find their own way in the world, and had a reflexive, negative gut reaction to what we’ve seen. It’s normal, and though I’m working on being more empathetic and understanding, I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve had that kind of reaction many, many times in my life. I’ve looked at the actions and external manifestations of others’ attempts to discover and define themselves and I’ve had powerful, negative gut responses to them.

The ironic thing is that, in every single case, I’ve always been the only one affected by my reaction.

Allow me to digress with a story. When I turned twenty-one, a number of my friends and relatives offered to take me out and get me drunk for my birthday. It’s like a rite of passage that most people I know have jumped at the chance to go through with. Myself, I turned every one of those offers down and went out for a nice sushi dinner with family instead. I’d seen so many people make utter fools of themselves while sloshed and had heard so many stories of things people had done while drunk that they could never live down that I had no interest in drinking anything alcoholic ever. As far as I was concerned, booze was for losers who didn’t care about ruining their own lives.

Just before I turned twenty-two, my life fell apart in a major way for the first time. Literally everything I had built up until that point, everything I had traveled halfway across the country to secure blew up. I was stranded with heavy debt, a broken heart and no place to shelter except the guest room on my mother’s farm. Again, friends offered to take me out and get me drunk, and again, I declined, but this time there was a certain desperation, a certain feeling of being at rock bottom, with nowhere else but up to go.

That was when I tried alcohol for the first time. I went out to the store, bought a big bottle of the cheapest vodka I could find and wandered around the farm sipping it on a hot summer’s day. I chose that day because I knew I would be alone. I knew I could make an utter fool of myself and no one would know about it. In the end, it makes kind of a funny story. I made myself a “White Russian” out of skim milk and vodka, and drank enough of that horrible concoction to get a little shaky and bleary, and then I went to bed. End of story. No one else was around to witness (or judge) my brief period of self discovery.

In all the time since then, I’ve gone through years of total sobriety, years of heavy drinking and have leveled out at a place where I have a cocktail with friends about four times a year. It’s easy, comfortable, and I have no issues or judgments around alcohol anymore. I look at college kids getting wasted on jungle juice and I laugh at their antics, but there’s no judgment. They’re discovering themselves, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

So how does this relate to my experiences as a transgender person? Well, like with my experience with discovering alcohol, my experience with discovering my identity as a trans person has been largely conducted behind closed doors, where I cannot be observed or judged. In researching and exploring to understand my own experiences with gender dysphoria, I have run across so many images of transwomen bravely putting their faces out there online to be seen as they begin to discover themselves, and even still, I sometimes get skeeved out. I hate it, and I’m working on it. I ask myself what my problem is and I think the clearest answer is “do people see me that way when I wear a wig and eyeliner? Do people have the same kneejerk negative reaction and think I look weird and wrong?” Maybe. I’m sure there are quite a few people who do. I know for a fact that there have been people who have been totally skeeved out by me when they’ve seen me out in public with full gear on. I’ve seen the change in facial expression, the realization in passing and heard the comments. It sucks, but I’ve gotten really good at shrugging it off because I know I’ve got my look down as good as I’m going to get it down. I’ve done everything I can do. This body is simply male, and there’s no way to hide that completely, from myself or anyone else. It shouldn't be an issue at all, but I address that in my article On Passing.

The level of confidence and security I have currently comes from my own patterns, and that’s the jist I’m slowly working toward with this article. I mostly perfected my look behind closed doors, hiding who I am until I was secure enough in the fact that I’d done everything I could do to make myself as immune to judgments as I possible. When I see someone who was born male just starting to discover herself, taking her very masculine body and strutting in stereotypically female fashion with hot pink dresses and blond bob wigs, it can be physically painful, and there’s a whole host of my own issues behind that, like a knot of extension cords I’m working to untangle (and I'm committed to working on ironing out those issues, because anything less would be hypocritical, sexist and all around shitty.) I hate that I find myself wishing they would just hide themselves behind closed doors until they’ve finished discovering themselves and have cemented who they are, but the thing is, there is no right or wrong way to discover yourself. Some people do it openly and in public from the very beginning, and that’s okay. It’s actually transphobic to feel like they make the rest of us look bad, (especially when the standards for "looking good" are so oppressive and insane) and that’s one of the issues I’m working on myself. We, all of us, have to allow people the space to discover themselves in the ways that work best for them. We have to pull at the threads of society as much as we can until anyone can go out in public wearing anything and people only absorb it or appreciate it, instead of being skeeved out by it. There’s honestly no reason to be judgmental toward another person’s way of expressing themselves. Discovery starts basic and takes time, and can sometimes be a phase, but never at any point in that growth should we judge the way a person chooses to express themselves or identify. Every transwoman has stood in front of a mirror with her first bra and a cheap wig, trying to see if womanhood is right for her, and what it means for her, what kind of woman she’ll mature to be. It’s part of the process. We need make a conscious effort to work on our own judgments and learn to be as supportive of everyone as we can, especially in their most vulnerable periods of self-discovery. That’s just plain human decency.

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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Transgender Sci-Fi

Art "Valkyrie / Mother 2017" and Article By E.S. Wynn

I am first and foremost a science-fiction lover. I love absorbing all of the different interesting forecasts that sci-fi storytellers make about what might come to pass in the near and distant future. in my own visions of where we could go as a species and what goals we could accomplish, I like to think that maybe transitioning from one gender to another will become a much less arduous and much more complete proposition than it currently is. I like to think that someday we will reach a point where popping our consciousness into a new body will be as easy as installing software on a new computer. In that future (and I hope I live to see it) I'd love to make a complete transition to female, to the fully customized physical form that would most fit my ideal vision of myself and who I could be. Heck, if I could try different types and shapes and styles of bodies on, run around for a week or so in each, I’d definitely be willing to give that a try too!

Now, certainly I have the opportunity in this life to seek a gender transition, but I choose not to, partly because the technology of today is too crude to change my external characteristics to the degree necessary for me to be happy with the result (my previous article talks about my reasons for not transitioning.) If I had access to the technology that would be necessary to change my outside to match the physical parameters of the woman I am inside, complete with modified genes and a fully functioning female reproductive system, I would jump at the chance. A brand new body, custom-designed to fit my specifications? Who wouldn't want that? I know quite a few non-trans people who would love to completely overhaul their bodies. I wonder how many people would run down to the "body shop," as it were, to swap out for a different model than the one they're currently wearing. Heck, even being able to swap bodies with others would be a neat compromise. Imagine a database of people who are looking to trade their physical form with a specific other type of physical form. Imagine being able to arrange a swap, or a collective of swaps, so that those who don't like their bodies can trade them out for one that they do like, with enough people in the chain of swaps that everybody ends up happy. Sure, there are a lot of potential problems that could come out of a situation like that (what if you end up with a body that has major undisclosed problems, or just miss your old body and want it back?) but I wonder if the benefits might outweigh the drawbacks. Depends on how much you have to gain and how much you have to lose, I suppose.

Though we can certainly achieve wonders, I feel like today's technology for gender reassignment still leaves a great deal to be desired. To get an idea of how good it could be, given a sufficient level of technological advance, check out the free-to-read stories I've included below, which are my own explorations into the future of gender, and how it might be modified to suit the needs (and whims) of the individual. Click on the names to view the stories.

Cool Blues of Fresno Bay

Gender Revolution

Digital Repatriation


If you have a story (or poetry) about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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Why I Won’t Transition

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

For some, the very existence of this article may be seen as inflammatory. I want to take a moment to state right here, right now that I'm not writing this article to shame anyone or try to dissuade anyone from pursuing the highest realization of their physical and emotional self. I feel that I have expressed many times in previous articles how proud I am of those who choose to medically, socially and legally transition. It's a huge process, and for many who undergo it, very necessary.

It is important to remember, however, that transgender is an umbrella term. It's a spectrum, and just as there are those who will choose to adjust their physical form to match their internal identity, so there will also be those who will choose not to. This article's purpose is to shed light on the reasons why just one trans individual has made the decision not to transition at all, despite the incongruities between my inner sense of my gender and my outer physical sexual characteristics.


Family is very important to me. I'm very proud of my ancestors and I'm proud to share the same DNA as them. For as far back as I can remember, I've wanted to carry on the family line, to continue my physical lineage on into the next generation and share the legacy that I am so proud of. I'm not adverse to adoption. I think it's very noble, and if I was given a choice between adopting and not having children at all, I would certainly choose adoption in a heartbeat. I am proud of my ancestors, of who they were and of all that they accomplished during their lives, and I want to continue the legacy we've all been building, if I can, as completely as possible.

One of the problems with transitioning medically is that it can render you infertile. This isn't a problem if you adopt, but if you plan on having children that you are biologically related to, it gives you something to consider. Going all the way with your medical transition can also (for some) mean genital reconfiguration, and since we haven't reached a place yet where such a reconfiguration could be so complete that someone like me could become pregnant and carry a child to term, the desire to procreate outweighs (for me) the desire to bring my outsides as closely into alignment with my insides as possible. And man, if I could take on the pain and struggle of pregnancy for my partner, I’d do it in a heartbeat just for the opportunity to experience the creation of life.

Advantages of Being Male:

Even when I spend hours preparing (emotionally and physically) to go out into public with the aim of being seen as a woman physically, I don’t pass. My body is very male, and it’s very obvious to the people who see me that I’m not a woman biologically. As a man, I have been told that I am good-looking, that I am very masculine-appearing. I’ve got a good solid jawline, good musculature, a man’s nose and I’m six foot, four inches tall. To “fix” all of that with surgery, (if that’s even possible) would cost a mint, and if I’m going to spend a mint on something, I’d rather spend it on land I can farm, on board games and the materials I need to make more bitchin’ battle jackets.

So when I look at myself in the mirror, I take a moment to really consider the physical form I’m in. Yeah, my first reaction is almost always “what the hell? Who is that?” but it passes. Like an old familiar ghost I’ve worked to become comfortable with, I’ve learned to accept that the dude in the mirror really is the body I’ve been born into. Instead of looking at it and hating all the aspects that are masculine, I try to turn it around and see the value in what I have. I look at this body and think “well, it’s not so bad as far as male bodies go.” Sometimes I look at my physical form and can almost convince myself that I’ve won the genetic lottery, as far as male bodies go. I try to see the advantages, the benefits that my physical form gives me.

One of those benefits is the ability to walk around nearly naked without being hauled off to jail for having my chest exposed. Another is the effect that a strong, deep voice has when used to shock people (for self-defense) and the fact that my partner really digs this body. Male genitalia have all kinds of useful features, and by being male, I’m immune to the oppressive beauty “standards” (makeup, plucking, eye-liner, body shaving, etc.) that most women feel they have to adhere to religiously. I don’t have to budget for the supplies for the beauty regime, and I don’t have to spend money on chest underwear that costs $20 a piece (at minimum) with the upper limit being in the hundreds of dollars per unit. Let me tell you, the worst part about breasts is that wearing an uncomfortable bra all day long really sucks, and whenever you lose or gain weight, your breasts change size and your bra can become uncomfortable. Add to that the fact that washing machines and dryers can literally eat your underwear (or cause the underwire to burrow out through the fabric enough that it stabs you in the boob) and I think you begin to realize how much being “required” by society to wear a bra really sucks.

So, long story short, I’ve learned to see the advantages that come with wearing this male body and presenting as a male, even if the gender dysphoria is there. I’ve found ways to come to peace with what I have, and even see the benefits of it, the pros instead of focusing just on the cons. There’s power in accepting who I am, and it’s a hell of a lot less expensive than dealing with all of things that are required to completely medically transition to female (I’ll get into those in the next section.)

Medications, Surgeries and Hormones:

If a doctor told me I needed surgery to survive, I'd ask for a second opinion. Unless I was bleeding out on a gurney, I'd think twice about any kind of invasive medical procedure. If a doctor told me I needed to take a medication for the rest of my life, I’d laugh in that doctor’s face and walk out. I have no interest in modifying my brain or body chemistry with medications that work “in theory” prescribed by practicing physicians who are getting kickbacks for every patient they hook to the drugstream. I’m so anti-modification (for myself, others can do what they want) that I have no interest in even getting any kind of piercing. I hate needles with a passion, and consider even shaving my face to be a frustrating chore.

Considering all that is required to transition from male to female, it just isn’t a priority for me. When it’s done completely, gender reassignment therapy for an MTF (Male to Female) requires a lot of cutting, a lot of electrolysis, a lot of medications and injections. The worst part is that once you’re on hormones, in most cases, you have to stay on them for the rest of your life (if you want to continue to benefit from their effects.) Add to that the fact that there are warnings about the dangers that long-term trans-specific medications can have on the liver (and warnings about going off of them suddenly) and it all starts to sound really dicey and full of risk (for me.) To each their own. I don’t judge. The pros of any situation, change or way of life must be weighed against the cons.) For me, as someone who eats organic as often as I can, who does everything I can to keep weird chemical shit out of my body, the benefits of transitioning medically seem small compared to the many risks and sacrifices I’d have to make. For those who need medical transitioning as a life-saving procedure (especially if they are a suicide risk,) I say, 100%, go for it. You do you, and don't let anyone's opinion (or choices) hold you back.

Spiritual Reasons:

I believe that one's relationship to the spiritual is a deeply personal part of their experience as a human being. We all have our own beliefs and experiences, things we doubt and things we seem to know innately. I think there's more going on out there than our minds are currently capable of understanding, but that's just me. Long story short, I think every person's religious or spiritual viewpoint is valid, but only for themselves. If you truly believe that your actions will send you to hell, I wouldn't be surprised if you find yourself there when you die, but that's neither here nor there. For me, the closest label I identify with is Vanatru. I don't believe in the Christian vision of hell.

So how does this shape my views on my own body in regards to gender transitioning? Well, despite the fact that there seems to be evidence that at least some of Freyja's priests were cross-dressers (maybe transgender? Who knows) I simply believe that I chose to come into this life as a male, to learn and work through dysphoria while I'm here. As I stated previously, having a male body has its advantages, and I think sometimes that one of my big spiritual life lessons is learning to see that, to see the beauty and the power in the body I have, instead of yearning for the beauty and power I'd have if I had been born female. A lot of my personal philosophies and spiritual ideas fall along similar lines, that my life is colored by lessons I can experience and work through now, or choose to address at a later date (or in another life.) Facing the problem head on and conquering it, resisting it and staying above it-- that's the approach I take toward my own gender dysphoria, toward self-judgments and worries, and even when it comes to ideas like suicide. No matter how dark the situation you're going through seems, no matter how long you have to live through it, it is still always temporary. No matter what you believe, you only get one chance to be in the body you are in right now. Enjoy it, be at peace and make the most of it, whatever that means to you. My dad has a saying: "The grass is always greener on the other side, by the sewer pond" meaning that whichever side of the fence you're on will have its own pros and cons. Only you can decide which good outweighs the bad that comes with it.

I'm Afraid

Fear is another powerful part of the human experience. It holds us back, but it also protects us. I talk big, I fight hard and I've come a long way in fighting my fears, standing up to them and throwing them off when I feel like they serve no purpose but to limit me. I've vanquished a lot of pointless and destructive fears in my life, but with each new horizon I've opened up within my own experience of reality, there have been new fears to face, new limitations to slow me and shackle me. To say I am free of fear in regards to my transgender identity would be dishonest. I have a lot of fears, and some of them influence my stance on my own body and my decision not to transition to female.

Perhaps most of all, I'm afraid of being unhappy. I'm afraid of taking that long, arduous journey between male me and female me only to find that I'm no more happy (or worse, actually less happy) than I was before the journey began. It comes down to the grass is greener idea I mentioned in the last section. I'm afraid of looking back and going "damn, I had it good. Why did I fuck that up?" I'm afraid that the disadvantages of being a transwoman would far outweigh the disadvantages of being trans without transitioning. I'm afraid of missing something, some positive thing still to come in my life if I stay male. I'm afraid of social stigma, of limiting myself and putting myself in danger by being who I am openly, of crossing a line in the sand between me as a curiosity and me as an unemployable "freak." I'm afraid of being controlled by the expectations that gender roles create within our society of what it means to be a woman, fostering the creation of a hyperfeminine me that is less honest than who I am already. I'm afraid of losing more friendships than I already have, and I know that chances are I'd be kicked out of Freemasonry and lose my loving partner as well if I underwent a full transition. What woman would love me if I crossed that line, if I became a woman to as much of a degree as is medically possible? I know I can survive without love, even thrive in my own way, but I'd rather not put myself in a situation where I'd have to face that. For me, the potential cost of becoming female in this society, in this era and at this technology level far outweighs the benefits.

As I stated in the beginning, these are simply my reasons for choosing not to transition to full time female. If you are transgender and you feel that you want or need to completely transition to the gender that you identify with, I am 100% fully in support of your decision. You do what makes you happy and what brings you toward the realization of your highest self. Don’t doubt yourself, and don’t let anyone make you feel like shit for whatever you decide is the right path for your life. Seize your individuality by the ovaries and go be the best version of you that you can be. Whatever you decide for you, you’re right, and if you start to doubt yourself, make a list of reasons why you need to stay strong. You can survive, whatever you decide. You can survive and thrive. At the very least, know that whatever course you chart for yourself, I’m proud of you. Be you in the best way that you can, whatever that means to you.

If you were moved in some way by the content of this article and you’d like to share your own experiences and decisions about gender transitioning, or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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Red Gender

In previous articles, I've talked about the importance of visibility and representation for trans individuals. I maintain that it is vitally important for people within all minorities (the trans community included) to voice their experiences and to be heard. In order to resist and destroy destructive stereotypes and fear-saturated opinions about trans people and what it means to be trans, we must stand up and express our truth and our perspectives in any way that we can.

For me, that means writing. For me, the easiest way to express my experiences as a trans person is through poetry. That is why I wrote the book Red Gender.

Though Red Gender is not my first collection of poetry to deal with trans issues (see my book Trans Physical Dynamics by clicking [here]), it is the first that I've written which deals with trans issues exclusively. Every one of the more than fifty pieces included in this collection is inspired by my life and growth as a trans individual. Some are spicy, some are spiritual, some explore my battles with gender dysphoria and some are full of great joy and gratitude for certain experiences that only a trans person could live through.

In lieu of an article this week, I'm going to include a couple of my favorite pieces from Red Gender in this post. I'd be incredibly grateful if you would also consider picking up a copy of the book for yourself over at my publishing house, Thunderune Publishing. [link]

For One Night Only

Whether we're shaving our legs
stepping out together
as women
as the sexiest
most elegant
and enviable
lesbian couple
you've ever seen
or cropping our hair
back to butch
in black suits
and crisp hats
or slicking back
and going punk
in blood-flecked war boots
in grungy battle jackets
or mixing it up
as one stunning male
walking arm-in-arm
with his buxom babe
until we swap the roles
until we mix it up
and both become
a celebration
of alternate identity
arting up the body
for one night
for one night only.

* * *

Shave Away The Pain

It's about freedom
not fetish
it's about feeling
about being
your highest self
to shave down
all the rough edges
turning every angle
into a curve
until you are you
until you can look in the mirror
and smile
and see
someone you recognize
see you
the inside on the outside
for the first time
in all the dysphoric days
of your upsidedown life.

* * *

Manmade Monster

show your little girls
that they can be heroes
be butch and strong and sensible
and idolize tomboys
and tell them that they are beautiful
in their bald-head bootheel badassery

but never let your boys
grow up to be Nagels
to be proud and elegant
to be bold and beautiful
with eyes that slay
and heels that clack
that demand attention
and each strike
is like lightning

because we all know today
that it's okay
for a babe
to want to be a boss
in pants and suit and tie
in close-cropped hair
with minimal makeup

but put a guy
in painted nails
in a wig
in a cute top and padded bra
with shaved legs
under a pencil skirt
and people look
and people stare
and all because you've made a monster
you've made a man
into a monster.

* * *

If you enjoyed these pieces and would like to read more poetry on the trans experience, hop on over to Thunderune Publishing by clicking the link here: [link] and pick up your own copy of Red Gender today. Thank you for reading!

If you have a story (or poetry) about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

On Passing

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

One of the things that I'd like to talk about is "passing" as your preferred gender. For trans people, passing can become an obsession, the holy grail of our lives, but it doesn't have to be that way. Sure, there can be a great deal of joy and safety and self-acceptance in passing, in being your internal self in the external world, but pursuing it to its highest degree also ignores the fundamental underlying problem of what has to be done in order for a person to pass, and why we would feel compelled to go to extreme lengths to do it at all.

In every trans-centric post I've written so far, I've posted a picture of me from a photoshoot that I literally spent months preparing for. I don't dress like this every day, nor would I want to. It's way too much work, and I've got better things to do than spending hours making sure my makeup slays every time I leave the house. Most days, it's easier just to dress "like a dude," in a shirt and pants, unshowered and unshaven, as many women I know do. Stereotypically female clothing, beauty products and accessories feminize the body and aid in passing, but I don't need to wear a dress to feel like a woman. I don't need to pass as female in the eyes of strangers to feel like a woman. I feel like a woman all the time no matter what I'm wearing. That's just how gender dysphoria works.

So why is passing so important? Fear. I'm not just talking about the fear that trans people feel of being outed against their will or the fears we experience of being judged or assaulted if we don't pass. I'm talking about the fear that drives strangers to judge, to assault and to decry those of us who are different. Every time someone makes a judgment, it ultimately comes from a place of fear, fear of homosexuality and how it could effect them personally, fear of their own inner demons, fear fueled by a lack of information about what it means to be trans. I know that in my younger days, I sneered at a fair number of drag queens, and the first time I ever actually met an MTF individual (at a college PFLAG meeting in 2006) I stared at her and studied her for hours out of morbid curiosity. I have met old men who used to make a sport out of beating up “queer” individuals, men who have turned around their lives and who now live without judgment. It wasn't just time and the mellowing of age that made them change. It was information. Information is the best weapon we have against any fear we use to oppress ourselves and others.

I don't want anyone to get the idea that I think passing is never an important consideration, or that I'm shaming women who choose to wear makeup every day. Cosmetics are as much a beauty-enhancer as they are a form of armor, or warpaint for the woman warrior. To look fierce and beautiful is to become intimidating. Women who are confident, intimidating and strong are fully within their place of power, and are less likely to become victims (I've been told, and I have experienced this personally) as are transwomen who pass well enough to be accepted as women by strangers instead of being seen as "men in drag." What I am saying is that people should be allowed to wear what they like. Hairy legs and cargo shorts, lipstick and skirts, it shouldn't matter, and it especially shouldn't matter what the fears of others drive them to think about us as trans people. We carry our own truths within us, and we can share those truths with others, but we should never squash them, especially to shield others from their own fears. Whatever gender you identify with, whether you are trans or not, you know that you still feel like that gender no matter what you are wearing, where you are and who you are with. It's constant, it never changes, and so why not wear what you want, in any given combination? You're still you. Be you, and strive to be you in your own highest form. If that means pink wigs and frilly skirts, go for it. If that means tanktops and tattoos, go for it. Be you, unapologetically, and fuck what anyone else thinks. Feminine beauty “standards” are bullshit and binding anyway, and most women (transgender or otherwise) that I know personally don't have the time to slay like a supermodel every single day. We've got better things to do than to cater to anyone's fear-based judgments.

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link]. Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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An Article on Timing

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

Coming out as trans (or as anything else that there might be a social stigma attached to) can be a real challenge, and it can take a lot of support from friends and family to get through it. Even so, when it's over, there can be this feeling of “well, now that everyone knows, what's the big deal?” Which can lead to the question: why didn't I come out earlier?

Instead of following that thought down the dark road of self-criticism, I think it's important to explore the reasons why it can take so long to come out. Because my own experiences are the only experiences I really have to draw from, I'll discuss my reasons for waiting thirty-three years to come out as trans in this blog post.

Fear, and a lack of information. I'll just come right out and say it. Fear and a lack of information about what it means to be transgender are the reasons I waited so long to self-identify and to be open about it. Even still, I get little twinges of doubt and worry about what people will think, about the hatred and weirdness I've read about other trans people having to deal with during the course of their everyday experiences. Even still, I think about my friends and family, and worry (only a little now) about whether or not my being open about who I am might drive them to distance themselves from me. I've been destitute in the past. I've been abandoned suddenly by those I cared about, and there's a fear, indeed a deep terror that, when I do something as simple as painting my nails or putting on a wig, I'm sewing the seeds of my own destruction, of my fall back toward homelessness and heartbreak.

But, you know what? It's all illusion. I live in a time, a city and a community that celebrates diversity, and even if I express my inner feminine side openly, I haven't sabotaged anything. In fact, all of the most important people in my life (including my work life) have been incredibly understanding and supportive since I've opened up. It's who I am, and it's common, human decency to accept people for who they are.

The fears still come and go, though, as fears are wont to do. They're there to keep us safe, to keep us keen and on guard against threats that could (literally) kill us. They've protected me, but they've also been like a concrete brick, slowing my growth toward the openly transgender individual I am today. Part of the reason for the fear came from my own aforementioned lack of knowledge about what it means to be trans, and it's that lack of knowledge (and the fear dynamic within it) that I'm going to talk about next.

When I was a teen, sexuality was social credibility. If you were gay (or suspected of being such) you would be the target of constant abuse (physical and emotional) from the other students. Every day on campus was a fight to defend myself from attack and prove that I was not gay by acting "like a man," which usually involved using my fists or backpack as a weapon. Homophobia was so rampant that no one used the school's extensive shower facilities after P.E. class, and those very few (one or two) kids who did were ruthlessly teased for it with lines like "oh, you want to smell good for your boyfriend?" Fistfights would break out in the locker room over accusations of one student looking at another student's "junk" during changing. Some of us avoided all of this as much as possible (myself included) by just changing in a stall in the bathroom. Despite this and other precautions I took to avoid caustic situations, I was still repeatedly slammed against lockers for being “queer.” I denied the label vehemently, but children (and teens) can be ruthless in enforcing the social pecking order, and "fag" was the label most easily wielded in that place and time.

The funny part is that I've never found myself attracted to men. It's a heteronormative idea that all women (including those who were born male but who identify as female) must be attracted to men. I can attest, (as can many other trans individuals) that gender identity is a completely separate concept from sexual preference. Trans individuals, no matter how they identify (as male, female or something else entirely) have the same range of preferences as any other group of individuals. Some are attracted only to women, some only to men, some to both, some to neither, and some are pansexual, meaning they are attracted to every kind of gender configuration out there, or nearly so. Assigning a sexuality to a gender is as silly as assigning a race to a creed. You wouldn't assume that Catholics are always Caucasian. There is a rainbow of races within Catholicism, just as there are a rainbow of sexual preferences under the trans umbrella.

It has taken years to work past the flawed programming of my childhood that kept my own gender expression firmly in check. For decades, my mind was filled with horror stories and twisted images of what it meant to be gay and what it meant to be trans. For me, growing up, trans was synonymous with gay, and as a label was applied to only two people: RuPaul and Rocky Horror Picture Show's Doctor Frank-N-Furter, and I found them both to be absolutely terrifying. I wanted nothing to do with that world, and so I shunned it. The woman within me grew and matured, and though I often found myself wishing that I would wake up in a world where I would be living my life as a female, complete and accepted, I never sought to express it on the outside. I didn't want to be the third name in some kind of trans trinity that included RuPaul and Frank-N-Furter.

What I didn't know was that neither RuPaul or Tim Curry are transgender. In his/her own words, (RuPaul is comfortable with either pronoun) RuPaul has said that “drag is really making fun of identity. We are shapeshifters. We’re like ‘okay, today I’m this, now I’m a cowboy, now I’m this’. Transgender people take identity very seriously – their identity is who they are." And so it is with me, and with all of the self-identified trans people I know. We have an identity, a feeling inside that is very important to us. It has always been a part of our lives, our experience and it colors and defines everything we see, do and the very way we live, whether we're out of the closet or not.

So who do we rally to then, as Trans individuals? What heroes do we hold up as ideals to aspire to? Well, let's look to the media. LaVerne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner are well known and probably the first two who come to mind, but where are all of the other voices? The transmen, the bigenders, genderfluid and genderqueer individuals? As a demographic, trans people face the same problems that all minorities struggle with: the problem of representation, and that's where the lack of information comes from. We have precious few suitable role models to look to, and a host of bizarre, fetishistic caricatures (like Frank-N-Furter) that are applied to us against our will as examples of what we “must be” if we feel a certain way. Like so many others, I wandered lost for decades because, to me, even feeling very strongly female inside, I refused to consider that I might be transgender simply because I wanted nothing to do with men getting off on wearing women's underwear. I'm not that kind of person. I have no interest in wearing anything “sexy” and I never have had such an interest. The woman I am is not a neglige woman. The woman I am is something harder, edgier. Something real, something else entirely.

But again, that's where representation becomes important. Trans people aren't all beautiful super models. We aren't all female, and we haven't all transitioned, nor will some of us ever choose to transition. As LaVerne Cox herself says, "The preoccupation with transition and surgery objectifies trans people" and I think that is such an important thing to remember. Transgender literally means someone who transcends the binary of gender, someone who doesn't fit neatly into the box of boy or girl. There are as many ways to be transgender as there are ways to be human, and that is one of the main reasons why I am writing this, why I am openly identifying as trans. It's the reason why I encourage my trans friends and family to write about their experiences, to put their perspectives into poetry and sing about who they are, about what it is like to be trans. By increasing our visibility, both as unique individuals and as a community, we make the world safer for others like us.

When it comes to the fear and the bad programming and the lack of knowledge, I blame no one. I don't blame my parents, and I never will. They did the best that they could given the tools and the knowledge at their disposal and I am incredibly grateful for the wisdom and the values that they imparted to me. If it wasn't for my dad, I wouldn't be the man that I am today, and if it wasn't for my mother, I wouldn't be the woman that I am today either. If anyone is to blame, I blame myself for being afraid, for lacking the confidence to even research gender identity or explore my own feelings more than I did within the confines of my mind. I blame myself for thinking that trans-ness was fetishistic and involved nothing but gay men putting on panties and getting turned on by the taboo of it. I blame myself for not talking with anyone about my inner woman until I was thirty, for being so secretive that even my ex-wife knew nothing about it during the course of our entire five year relationship (I'm sure she'll be very surprised if/when she finds out!)

More importantly than any of that useless blaming, though, I have to say that I forgive myself. I forgive myself not just because I was young and very much invested in being as male as possible for survival's sake, but also because I'm not hiding who I have always been anymore. I'm standing up, I'm opening up and I'm explaining what it means to be trans (for me) in the hopes that by doing so I can increase awareness and create a safer world not just for myself, but also for all those who are still locked inside the closet, unable to express themselves for fear of social or physical injury.

So if you're reading this and you're thinking about when the best time to come out might be, or how you might go about it, I can tell you that the only right time is when you feel safe and right about it. If you're curious about something, research it! If you feel like you might fall within the transgender spectrum, look for the youtube videos, podcasts, blog posts and articles filled with the voices of people who are openly trans. Listen to what they have to say about their experiences. Take the good with the bad, explore it, and proceed toward your own highest self, whatever that looks like for you. There's no such thing as too much knowledge, so keep exploring.

If you have a story about your own experiences as a trans individual or would like to be interviewed so that you can share your perspectives as a trans person with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link] Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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Managing Gender Dysphoria

Photo by Rayne's Avante-Garde
Article By E.S. Wynn

Gender dysphoria is a very personal thing. In my own life, it has been a constant companion, insistent and powerful.

Transitioning to your true gender is one way of dealing with gender dysphoria, but it isn't the only way to move through it. Being unable to transition because of costs, commitments, fears or any other reason can leave trans people feeling trapped, which can in turn intensify existing depression, dysphoria and other such maladies which arise from the stress of one's self image (or soul) not being aligned with the gender of their physical body. Whether you transition or not, if you are trans, you have to take care of yourself, and one important part of that self-care is managing your gender dysphoria.

It's also important to remember that no matter what you may feel in your deepest depressions, you're not alone. You're never really alone, and you don't have to struggle alone. If your feelings of dysphoria are so intense that you have thoughts of suicide, it is important that you seek help and talk to someone immediately. There are professionals out there who understand and who see gender dysphoria as a symptom rather than as a disease (or worse, as something to be ignored.) You might also consider ways that you can begin to transition, even if only partially. Even small adjustments can help ease the discomfort. In my own experience, I have found that even just painting my nails or shaving my arms has helped immensely. Consider changing things up within your wardrobe or your personal aesthetic so that they fit more with the gender that you identify with.

For me, the easiest way to manage gender dysphoria has been to experience life as the highest realization of myself possible as often as possible. Makes sense, doesn't it? If your soul doesn't match your body, then change your body to match your soul and you're golden. For many, that means medical transitioning, but that's not the only way to go about it.

I have a rich fantasy life. There's a reason why I have almost seventy books in print and the vast majority of them feature female main characters. There was a point in my life where I lived within my writing, where I lived as a woman 8-10 hours a day and fell asleep at my keyboard dreaming of being someone other than the man I had to be while at work and in public. Through writing, I sought my highest self and lived within it. In art, there are no limits. If you yearn to experience something completely, one of the easiest ways to do so is to do it through art, whether it be painting, prose, poetry, or any other creative medium. Do not limit yourself—refine your technique, explore and expand. Go beyond your gender. When you envision the highest version of yourself, are you male? Are you female? Are you someone or something else entirely? What kind of individual are you? What are the traits of that ideal self that you resonate with most strongly? What kind of clothes do you wear? What kind of work do you do? What time period do you occupy? What planet? What universe? There are no limits and there are no expectations in art. Even making a list of what comes to mind can help immensely.

Videogames can offer another easy way to mitigate the effects of gender dysphoria. Many games these days offer players the ability to create custom characters with different unique physical characteristics, or at least give players the option to choose the sex of their character. Having the option to play as a female has been a powerful way to keep my own gender dysphoria in check in the past, especially with games that have compelling and gripping storylines which draw the player in completely.

Social interactions with real people while embracing your true gender can help immensely as well. One way that I’ve done this is through crossdressing, then going out with friends to places like the Lavender District, where I can dance and listen to good music in an environment that is (mostly) safe for trans individuals to express themselves openly. Another way that I have experienced social interaction while living as a female was through the anonymity of the internet. In my early twenties, (when I was absolutely terrified of crossdressing and the social implications of being outed for it,) I would spend time with a group of friends I met on Starcraft who knew me only by my gaming handle. To them, I was (and had always been) female. Our group was mixed as far as gender goes, three women and four men in all, if I remember correctly. At that time in my life, the hours that I would spend talking about music, writing and pop culture with the friends who knew me as female were an incredible haven from the gender dysphoria, and one of the few that I knew of at the time.

Certain spontaneous indulgences can help here and there as well. Next time you're feeling pressed by dysphoria (or even just frustrated or depressed,) ask yourself what you really want to do right now. At times, when I have done this, the answers have been conflicting. "I want to take a bath. I want a nice cup of tea. I want to dance in the rain." No problem. Fix yourself a cup of tea, run a hot bath, put on some good music, then turn the shower on lightly so that it sprays a soft rain of lukewarm water over you while you relax. Combining elements like this doesn't always work, but creative solutions can often be playful and fun, breaking the heaviness which comes with depression and dysphoria. Don't think that you have to limit yourself. Make time to be alone and to take care of your mental health in the best ways that you can. Make it fun. Make it simple. Make it relaxing. Feeling good is an important component in battling your gender dysphoria and keeping its impact on your life as minimal as possible.

If you have a story about your own experience with gender dysphoria or have some useful tips that you’ve used to manage it in the past that you’d like to share with the readers of this blog, please feel free to contact me through the contact form here: [link] Make sure you have javascript enabled or the form will just display a blank page. If you’d like to share your experiences living as a trans person (or your experiences of living with someone who identifies as trans) drop me a line through the aforementioned contact form. I’d love to hear from you, and I’d love to share your perspective with our readers. Thank you!

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