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!

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