2017 Retrospective

As the year draws to a close, I once again find myself reflecting back on the things that I have achieved during the last twelve months. Though this year has certainly been busier and more productive than previous years, I feel like I still could have pushed myself to accomplish more. Let's take a look at what I completed during 2017.

#1: Against Atlantis has been on my list of projects to finish since I first started working on the concept in April of 2015. Through all the craziness of 2015 (and part of 2016) I kept trying to revisit this "Steampunk Serial," but it wasn't until this year that I really pulled my boots on and got into this piece again. If you're open to some radically different, totally out-there steampunk, then you should totally check out Against Atlantis here: http://www.thunderune.com/2017/06/against-atlantis.html

#2: Another book project that came to completion this year after a long haitus was "Stealing Wings: A Novel of the Cygnus War." For those unfamiliar with The Cygnus War, it was one of my first major projects. Conceived of in 2005, the Cygnus War was a free-to-read online sci-fi series that followed the naval career of a tough-as-nails female fighter pilot named Tessa Eisenherz. In total, the series ran for almost 160 episodes (now available in an omnibus edition here: http://www.thunderune.com/2011/03/cygnus-war-omnibus-edition.html) and has spawned several novella-length sequels in the years since (Dark Salvage, Voyage of the Tereshkova, and the latest installment, Stealing Wings.) Unlike the other two sequels, which take place after The Cygnus War, Stealing Wings chronicles Tessa's life before the Navy, in the early days of the war, when her biggest concern was getting out there, off the ground and into space, to make a difference in the galaxy in any way she could, to prove, even if only to herself, that people with genetically modified ancestry are worthy of equal rights, equal treatment and equal pay. If you're new to The Cygnus War, or even if you've read everything in the series, this book makes a great place to start and ties nicely into the existing canon. Check it out here: http://www.thunderune.com/2017/09/stealing-wings.html

#3: This year also marked my foray into transgender issues, rights, activism and artistry. As part of this, I wrote two poetry books that carry transgender themes to them (check out Trans Physical Dynamics here: http://www.thunderune.com/2017/01/trans-physical-dynamics.html and Red Gender here: http://www.thunderune.com/2017/06/red-gender.html) and I've also written almost 50,000 words worth of informative and activist articles on what it means to be a transgender invidual. (You can read those on my blog here: http://www.eswynn.com/search/label/activism). I have a book in progress (utilizing these articles and some additional new material) called "A Safe Degree of Trans" which I'm hoping to complete and release in 2018.

#4: Another project I completed this year that has been on the back burner for longer than I'd like to admit was my "meat monster" short story collection entitled "Devoured From Within." This horror sci-fi book features a great deal of new, never-before-seen stories along with some that were originally published as part of magazines or book collections released by "Schlock!", Horrified Press and other publishing houses. If being eaten alive or assimilated into something against your will terrifies you, then this is the book for you. Check it out here: http://www.thunderune.com/2017/06/devoured-from-within.html

#5: I've also explored a number of new ways to express my creativity this year. Among these are about a dozen minimalist art pieces done in the style of one of my favorite artists, Patrick Nagel. I've also tinkered in leather work and dice engraving. In addition to that, I've built and painted seven new battle jackets (see them here: https://www.etsy.com/shop/EllieValkyrie) and I'm currently in the process of designing and building a casual game with RPGmaker MV.

#6: Last but certainly not least is, of course, my work with Immanion Press and my contributions to Storm Constantine's Wraeththu Mythos. Though I completed the rough, initial draft for Echoes of Light and Static last year (as a Yule gift to my partner) revisions and the official launch of this second book in the Gold Country trilogy were all done during this year. The fanbase response was impressive, and many people have asked when they could expect the third book in the series. Well, as of this writing, I'm about 16,000 words into the rough, initial draft of the third and final book in the Gold Country Wraeththu series and I plan to finish it sometime this year. To read the other two books in the series, check this link: http://www.immanion-press.com/info/books.asp?authorID=127

In addition to my work on the Gold Country series, I also have a story out this year in Storm Constantine's seasonal Wraeththu anthology, "Songs To Earth and Sky." Check that one out here: http://www.immanion-press.com/info/book.asp?id=513&referer=Hp

And hey, this year I also got engaged! By late June 2018, I'll be married! I'm excited!

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Different Ways To Be A Woman

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

I have heard (and read) the argument that transwomen are a threat to feminism. The argument is that transgender individuals who are female inside (regardless of any other aspect of their physical form) aren't really women, and that we actually weaken feminism because so many of us engage with our femininity by embracing existing feminine stereotypes to a degree that far outstrips the "average" woman, reinforcing a bad standard and making it harder for "real" women to hold onto their power. In short, the view is that people like me damage feminism, especially when we wear dresses, makeup and work hard to pass as women. We reinforce an unrealistic feminine stereotype and do so out of mental illness and/or jealousy of the traits and bodies and power of “real” women.

Nothing could be further from the truth. What TERF (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist) people fail to realize is that, just as AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) women come in many, many different varieties and forms, AMAB (Assigned Male At Birth) women are not all clones of one another, nor does it damage feminism when any kind of woman wears makeup, pink clothing, dresses or embraces any kind of “feminine stereotype.” It's actually transphobic and sexist to assume that all transwomen choose to embrace oppressive feminine beauty standards by default (it also objectifies us and puts us all into a box, which isn't cool either) or to assume that embracing those standards is damaging to feminism. Feminism, at its core, is about freedom. It's about fighting for women to be seen as completely equal to men (this helps men too. See my article on feminism here: [link]) which means, among other things, women wearing whatever they want. Looking down on women who choose to be housewives or artists (instead of joining the holy grail STEM fields) and on AMAB women (who can't even go around bare-chested after having top surgery) doesn't help anyone. It's oppressive, and it's just as bad as the viewpoints and actions of people who would keep women out of the STEM fields. If you're going to fight for the rights of a group of people (or all people, depending on how you view feminism) then you can't just push aside and marginalize certain individuals within that group, especially with reactionary politics. If you say that you stand for equal rights, then stand for equality. Don't hold up scientists while poo-pooing homemakers. Don't hold up artists while sneering down at business executives. Don't glorify bio-born women while grinding transwomen under your heel.

AMAB individuals identifying as female (and transitioning to female) isn't about jealousy or power. It isn't about mental illness. It's about gender dysphoria. It's about knowing who you are inside and that identity being at odds with the body around you. It's a life-long and constant battle to accept oneself and to be accepted by others that should be simple and easy. Bottom line: if someone identifies as female, then they are female. What's the harm in accepting that? Does any good come of denying it? Of saying “sorry, you were born with a penis. You need to go be a man,” or “sorry, you like pink and have a hard time with math, you need to change.” Let people be people. Let women be women. Some women (AFAB, AMAB and otherwise) embrace the “feminine stereotypes” so hard they practically fart pink glitter and craft glue. Some women dress in suits and butch their hair. Some women bounce all over the spectrum, mixing elements and ideas and ways of being in highly individual ways that both embrace and deny stereotypes about what it means to be a woman. Joan Jett is a woman. Ruby Rose is a woman. Mae Jemison, Sally Ride and Sam Crisoforetti are women. Jane Goodall, Margaret Mead and Meave Leakey are all women, and so are other historic greats like Mother Theresa, Marilyn Monroe and every flapper or puritan girl who ever walked this Earth. Women come in endless hues, shapes and forms. We aren't all scientists. We aren't all girly-girls. We weren't all born female. We're individuals, each and every one of us completely unique. For anyone, male, female or otherwise to say that any group of people must adhere to the fashion, etiquette, biology or social standards of a particular stereotype (or be excluded from that group entirely) is ludicrous.

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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The Folly of Self Hatred

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

If I had a dollar for every time I've thought damn, I wish I could just wake up tomorrow as a woman, I’d probably be a billionaire. For as long as I have been alive, I have battled with gender dysphoria, and let me tell you, it has been a battle. It’s been hard (at times) but it has also tested me, like a nemesis that just will not leave me alone no matter how often we tango. In some ways, I have come to love my dysphoria, for without it, I would not exist as I am, would not be so driven to create or realize my inner woman through artistic expression. Gender dysphoria is the whetstone that has honed the sword of the valkyrie within me, and though it is a constant source of unease and discomfort, it is also familiar. It is a part of my existence that I have chosen to accept and turn into a tool, instead of allowing myself to become a victim of it.

For those who are unfamiliar with gender dysphoria and how it works, check out my earlier article here: [link]. In another later article, I offer some ideas on how to cope with gender dysphoria [link] because I recognize how hard it can be to deal with and how bad it can get. Living with gender dysphoria can lead to a person hating their physical body, and can easily manifest as suicidal urges if a person feels trapped and unable to accept or change their physical form. While I am totally, 100% supportive of people making whatever changes they feel are right for realizing their highest vision of themselves, I am not in support of suicide or self-mutilation. Choosing to change one's body to make it more comfortable (with piercings, tattoos, hormones, top surgery, gender reassignment surgery, etc.) can be a creative and positive approach toward any kind of discomfort or dysphoria centering on the physical body, but self-hatred, cutting and suicide are destructive and short-sighted ways of dealing with difficulties experienced in the short term. No matter how dark things get, there is always a bright side to life, if you're willing to fight through to it. I've been through some pretty dark stuff in my life as well. I've stared down the barrel of some pretty potent suicidal urges, and I've denied them, pushed through and fought back to the light again. I can testify that it does, indeed, get better. It takes time. It takes fight, but you can do it. We're all strong enough to do it.

As I have said previously, I have lived with gender dysphoria for my entire life. I've never really been one to hate my body, and maybe that comes from being so prone to deep depressions that I've developed a mindset where I'm perpetually looking for the good in every situation, the reasons to be grateful and optimistic about the future, no matter how dark things get. I don't really see the point of hating my body, or of fighting with it when it works so well just as it is. Yeah, it’s male, but as far as male bodies go, I could have done a lot worse, I think. It has done me no wrong. It isn't at fault (it's as stuck with this arrangement as I am, if you think about it.) It's functional, practical, and it gets me where I need to go. To make a car analogy (I’m only peripherally into cars, so bear with me) it’s like inheriting a really good, low-mileage van, but feeling like what you really want to drive is a sports car. Say you can’t have a sports car (for whatever reason,) but what you can do is modify your van until it feels more like a sports car. With money, time, diligence and purpose, you can cut down your van, reshape parts of it and repaint it until it passes for a sports car, until in every way that counts, it is basically a sports car, but it won’t be the same as driving a sports car that’s always been a sports car, with sports car benefits and sports car drawbacks.

That’s kind of how I feel about “driving” this body. It's optimistic ambivalence. It’s a van. It’s not the sports car I wanted, and chances are that no matter how much I modify it, it will still look and handle like a van. There's no way to install a working womb or rearrange the body so it's a foot shorter, and these are things that are important to me, that I'd want if I were to start living as a woman. I can't roll back the clock and pull the chromosomal strings that would make me completely female right out of the factory, that would erase all the living and learning that has happened while I've been wearing the meat of a male. I've got a van, and it runs. It's not the sports car I wanted, but I could have done a lot worse.

Given this pattern of thought, I see that I have two options. I can hate the van and wish for a sports car (or work toward making this van pass as a sports car) or I can just learn to love (or accept) the van. Vans aren’t all that bad. They have their advantages. They have elements that I can be grateful for. I may never be completely comfortable driving this van, but I can find reasons and ways to accept it, even enjoy it or celebrate what I can do with it. I can go out in the sun and show my bare chest to the world without issue. I may miss being able to get away with having hair down to my ass (like I did in college,) but when I get out of the shower on a summer morning and brush the cool water out of my bristle-short hair, I'm grateful for the simplicity and efficiency of it, for the lack of judgments and weird looks and "when are you going to grow your hair out?" questions I would get if I had been born female and chose to adopt a shorter look. I'm grateful for the money I get to spend on hobbies and adventures that I would feel compelled to spend on makeup if I'd been born female. To give up the cons of driving a van would be to give up the pros as well, and after thirty-three years, even despite the dysphoria, this van feels familiar enough. It works.

I don't want anyone to think that my way of living, my choice or my outlook on life is right for everyone. Transgender is a spectrum, and within that spectrum, there are a million different ways of being and of relating to one’s own body. There’s nothing wrong with feeling uncomfortable in your body (I do), and it can be incredibly empowering to modify it in various ways to make it more comfortable, more in line with how you feel inside, but please don’t hate the meat you’re in. It’s not your spirit, your consciousness, but it is a part of you. It’s been yours since you were born in this life. It’s not perfect, but it has its advantages, and should be treated with respect. Whether you choose to celebrate it or not is up to you entirely, I only ask that you try not to hate on it any. It’s doing the best it can. It’s carried you this far in your life and should be respected for that. Modify it how you want, be who you want to be, reach for your highest self and save the hate. Turn your anger into drive, into optimism, into the fire you need to rise. Believe in who you will become given enough fight and time. Life is a journey. You'll get where you want to be, and your body is one of the tools that will get you there, if you're willing to work with it.

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!

Crossdressing As Art

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

I am a creator. I love art, and I am always looking for new places and new ways to express myself artistically. I love the act of creation, the ways that the spirit can express itself in color, sound, rhythm and through the use of tools of all varieties and kinds. I am a creator. For me, art is a freeing, deeply spiritual pursuit, a way to make so much good with beauty, with dissonance, with contrast, connection, and with everything in between.

It may come as no surprise then that when I am faced with a form of art that is marked as taboo for no sensible reason at all, I find myself inclined to explore it, to hone it, and to develop my own expression of it.

So it has been with crossdressing.

As I have stated in previous posts, I don't need female clothing to feel like a woman. I was born feeling this way, and I'll probably die feeling this way. It's been a part of who I am, constant and unchanging despite what I might wear or do. I don't crossdress out of fetish or out of a desire to attract the male gaze. I crossdress primarily for the art of it, with an eye toward activism, toward visibility, and toward making the world a safer place for transgender people, no matter where we fall on the spectrum.

When I crossdress, when I work on my art attire, my "Ellie Gear," I work at creating a character, in a sense. I craft an external representation of the woman I am inside, or would be, constantly, had I been born female. I observe, I dream, I extrapolate, borrow and note what excites me artistically and I carry those notes forward to realize a person, a person that resonates with who I am inside, a person that, given a great deal of preparation, I can become, displaying myself in public as living art, even if only for a little while. For me, the art of crossdressing is one of the most intimate forms of creative expression, one where you take the elements at your very core and bring them out, using your own body as the canvas. It's artistic expression that you choose to become, that you carry into public as fearlessly as you can, showing off your work (and your innermost soul) for all to see. It's brazen and bold, especially using a male body as the canvas to express a female soul, bucking a strong taboo and making a statement about roles and beauty standards, about gender and sexuality all with one single outfit.

Artisitic crossdressing also got me into battle jacket building, ultimately leading to my own label, Ellie Valkyrie Battlejackets [link]. Learning to build battle jackets and other punk-style outfit elements was a long, self-taught process of observation, study and experimentation. I explored and polished my skills while building my own jacket, my Ellie jacket, the external expression of my inner soul, and carried those skills forward to make garments for others. Building battle jackets is a form of art I never thought I would get into, but I love it. It's powerful, spiritual, satisfying and totally fun to explore. To use leather and denim as canvases, to stitch by hand and brush designs into something meant to be worn-- it is unlike any other art form I have gotten into.

The clothing we wear is, in a sense, the way we chose to present ourselves to the world. In many ways, there is a stigma in our culture still against certain expressions of individuality. Safe expressions, like a hat with a catchy quote on it, attract smiles and conversation (something we like as social animals) but when a man wears a skirt or a padded bra, he draws as much negative attention as he would if he were to get a full facial tattoo. There is no good reason for reinforcing a stigma around expressions such as these. Saying “you could get attacked / you won’t get hired” is victim blaming and is as offensive as saying a woman deserved to be raped because of whatever she might have been wearing at the time. If a crossdresser is attacked, it’s because the person who attacked them is an asshole, and that’s the long and short of it. It’s not the crossdresser’s fault, and wearing clothing of a certain type should never been seen as an excuse for a person to be assaulted or denied employment for a job they are otherwise qualified for. I stand by this, even for people wearing MAGA hats and nazi uniforms. Self defense, of course, is another matter entirely. See my article on Fighting Hate With Hate for more on this subject.

Life is short. Individuality is rare and fleeting. Be you. Be the best version of you that you can be, and shine in what you know will empower you. Be art, in every moment and in every way. See the art that is you, that is uniquely you, and explore it. The only person stopping you, ultimately, is yourself.

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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True Trans

I’m going to take a quick break from the dense articles this week to shine a spotlight on another great documentary series that I found very fun and informative. Starring Against Me’s Laura Jane Grace, True Trans talks about the experience of being transgender, and how different people in different walks of life cope with it, move through it and use it as a way of becoming the best versions of themselves that they can be. It’s a really well put together documentary, comprised of a series of short episodes, so it’s easy to blow through the whole thing quite quickly. The pacing is great and the message is invaluable.

Check out the first episode here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKCIWuFB3vE

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 Fighting Hate With Hate

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

I live a life that is pretty sheltered from judgments and hate, but it wasn't always that way. I'm grateful that I live in a liberal-leaning state in a time when being trans (especially a safe degree of trans [link]) is not such a big deal, but that wasn't always the case. I have lived in places where being white was enough to make me a target for bullying and abuse. I have lived in places where being introverted and intellectual was associated with homosexuality and that was enough to make me a target. During my life, I have been physically attacked by people of all creeds and colors. I have been stalked by women who couldn't care less about consent and who wouldn't take no for an answer, and I have walked many a lonely road with my fingers wrapped tightly around a spray-stick of mace, not because of some imagined threat that might be lurking in the shadows, but because of experience, because of very specific people who I knew walked those same roads, people I knew I'd have to defend myself against if I were to cross paths with them.

I have lived through all of this, and all of it even before I crossdressed for the first time or came out as trans.

Sometimes it seems that to be human is to bear the scorn, judgments and attacks of others. Certainly it isn't the only part of being human, but it does seem to be something we have to deal with every day of our lives regardless of who we are and where we choose to live. People can be cruel, and whenever someone lashes out at you (for whatever reason) it can be very easy to lash back, to spit and snarl and show them what it feels like to bear the brunt of the very attacks they're leveling at us.

Sometimes that's necessary. I'm a proponent of self-defense and fighting back to protect oneself. I think all oppressed minorities should stand up and refuse to be silent, but I am not a proponent of senseless or vindictive acts of violence.

I think, far too often, that it is easy to hate those who hate. As creatures who tend to think in all-or-nothing ways, it seems like there is an internal belief that you must either be the victim or the oppressor, that oppression is right if your cause is just. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, when I see nazi thugs marching with the sacred symbols of my ancestral culture (the runes) I'm filled with a singular rage. I start to see red, for all the damage fascism and that brand of hate has done to my faith and my people. There is something approaching hate which fills my heart, and there is the urge to let it out in destructive ways, but to what end? Would I be any better of a person than the neo-nazi in the street if I were to embrace my hate? Would I be any better of a person if I were to echo their means for the pursuit of my own ends? Or would I be just as bad, even flying a different flag?

I understand the urge to get revenge. I understand the importance of standing up for oneself and protecting those who are being attacked by those who hate. Hating people "because they deserve it" is a wholly different animal, though. Whenever I hear someone say "you can't be racist against white people" I cringe just as much as I do when I hear white people speaking racism. Hate is hate and judgments are judgments no matter who they are leveled at. Do the radicals of Antifa have a right to destroy and loot the businesses of hardworking citizens who they have no real quarrel with simply because they are "on the side of right?" No! Destruction is destruction. No one has the "right" to hurt another, except perhaps in direct self-defense. If someone swings a punch at you, take them down, but if someone shows up waving a flag that you don't like or shouting slogans that you take issue with, don't give in to hate. Don't create violence and feed someone else's hate. Oppressing those who have a differing viewpoint than you, no matter what it is, is fascism. No one "deserves" to be oppressed, injured or abused, no matter whose flag they fly or whose words they parrot. Violence is the only thing that matters. Violence, those who use it and those who defend themselves and others against it. Defense is the middle-path between victim and victimizer. It is the high road, but it is also a road which doesn't give into or cultivate a never-ending cycle of hate.

So if you're trans, the next time someone shouts something nasty at you, just grin and nod, or ignore it. If someone throws a punch at you, duck under it and strike back. If you meet people in the street who sneer or express a viewpoint contrary to yours, have the self-confidence and inner strength to not react, to let it roll off of you, knowing that what you know is true for you (and for countless others as well.) Hatred and violence only go as far as you allow them to. Do you want to live in a world of hate and fear or do you want to work to end the reign of hate and fear? It starts with you, with each of us as individuals, each of us being confident in who we are, standing up for ourselves when others judge, and holding back the urge to oppress others as strongly as we ourselves have been oppressed.

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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You Are Not Alone

Photo and article By E.S. Wynn

There are more of us than you realize. There are more queer and transgender people around you than you could ever guess. Many of us have become very good at blending in, at hiding who we really are inside. I had no idea how many people like me there were in the world until I came out and started announcing who I am, what I am, and that there's nothing wrong with it. It was like people started coming out of the woodwork in droves, whispering "I am here, and I understand."

It's unnerving. It's beautiful. It's unnerving because so many people are hiding who they are. It's unnerving because so many are terrified to admit the feelings they have carried inside for their entire lives. Even when someone like me comes out and says "I am Trans!" there are dozens more who cannot, or who don't feel safe expressing who they are, except maybe once, in hushed tones, to someone they know they can trust not to attack, out or chastise them. It's beautiful because it gives me hope. It affirms the normalcy of my experience in a way that nothing else does. It gives me a fresh perspective that I can carry out into the world to show others.

To all of my fellow trans people, I say: take heart. You are not alone. I've caught a glimpse of how many of us there are out there. In the few months that I've been writing these articles, I've been approached by dozens of people who feel the same things, share the same experiences with dysphoria that we do. There are more of us out there than I think most people realize. Many, many more, and though most are quiet, we aren't going away. Look deeply into history and you'll see that we've always been here, sometimes silenced and marginalized, sometimes loud and proud about who we are, but always here.

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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Why We Need To Protect Men In Dresses

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

As far as transgender people go, I’m pretty “safe.” The “weirdest” thing about me is that I have always felt strongly female inside and I’m pretty open about it. My body is male, I dress fairly “male” almost all of the time and when I do express my feminine side through garments, the clothing I choose is typically combat boots, pants and a battle jacket, making me appear very strong and masculine despite certain feminizing traits (boobs, makeup, shaved arms, etc.) People who interact with me do not have to remember any specific pronouns or worry about being seen talking with a huge muscular man in a tiny pink dress, stiletto heels and a cheap Halloween wig. People who interact with me do not have to face whatever degree of transphobia (I think almost all of us have at least a little, even transgender people) that might be lurking in their consciousness. I’m safe. I’m just E.S. Wynn, and there’s that “weird” trans part of me that’s easy for others to ignore and choose to forget about.

This may not seem like a huge problem, but I think it’s big enough that it needs to be addressed. When I expressed a degree of transmisogyny in the previous paragraph, did you notice it? I defined a specific type of transgender individual as being “unsafe” or “worrisome” and distanced myself from them. There’s not really anything wrong with saying “I’m more of a leather jackets and studs kind of woman than a pink dress kind of woman,” but when a sense of superiority or rightness is assigned to fashion, to clothing and how it is worn (when and by whom) there is definitely the opportunity to hurt someone with pointless judgments and poorly-chosen words. Do I really care if huge muscular men wear tiny pink dresses, stiletto heels and Halloween wigs? I want to say no, but there is still a part of me (I’m working on it) that does judge and wants to be seen as separate from people like that.

This is transphobia. Even if it were only a fear of being associated with certain types of transgender individuals (and being judged by others because of that association) it’s still transphobia. It’s a problem, and it’s very (disturbingly) common.

Let’s go back to the title of this post for a moment. Transphobia, especially in the trans and the greater LGBTQIA community, is why we need to protect men in dresses. As an activist, I would argue that we need to go further even than that. We need to go beyond just protecting AMAB (assigned male at birth) transgender individuals who choose to embrace their femininity (regardless of how they choose to do it) and need to start celebrating them openly, encouraging them to express themselves in the ways that feel right to them. Do you have any idea how hard it is for any man to wear a tiny pink dress? How much self-destructive judgment he (or she) has to fight through in order to show off (much less walk around in) a pair of high heel shoes? Homophobia, misogynistic and transmysgynistic attitudes so pervade our society that even the act of slipping on a kilt (which is a male garment that looks kind of like a skirt) can feel very brave indeed, and that’s just what AMAB transgender individuals deal with on the inside. Once we work past all of that, we still have the whole of society to face, and if even one person sneers at us (especially another trans person) the pressure can be difficult to just shrug off, given all that we’re fighting inside. It can feel like it lends credence to all the bad arguments we hold within ourselves that we use to hold ourselves back from realizing our highest vision of ourselves. Everyone wants to be accepted for who they are, but as social animals, we are very susceptible to social pressures, including the pressure we all feel to conform.

When a person with a male body has the balls (or ovaries) to stand up and try on that first wig, to wear it proudly in public, to wear a dress, a skirt, high heels, a padded bra, or anything feminine at all, we as individuals of any community should support that individual’s freedom to express themselves however they choose. If we are so tied up in our own doubts, issues and phobias that we can’t support them, then perhaps at least we can keep from judging or tearing down someone who is so brave and yet so fragile. Greater even than that, maybe we can pledge to work on our issues, to work on ourselves until we can move past the crap in our hearts and minds that drives us to judge, to look negatively upon people just trying to discover themselves. That’s what I’m working on, and I encourage everyone to do the same, to strive always to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. Nothing good happens unless we commit to change, and the only way to change the world is to change yourself, to be the best person that you can be, and set an example for all those who will see you, respect you and follow in your footsteps.

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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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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