Caidyn will be in blue. – 5/5
Chantel will be in purple.
Hey everyone, Chantel here! I just wanted to let everyone know that Caidyn is going to be taking the reins in this review as it is a book about a transman. We agreed that it would be better if he talks about his experiences and I ask questions about his experience. Frankly, this is why I love having our own blog and being able to do posts like this because Caidyn has an outlet to tell his personal experience.
The reason I liked this book so much was because it was part textbook and part memoir. Both were compelling because Jamison Green meshed them both together so well. He talked in terms of his own experience with changing documents, surgeries, finding acceptance, and, most importantly, navigating visibility.
I really connected to this book because I’m a transman like him. This is kind of a personal review because, like Jamison, I can only talk about my own experiences. He and I have different ones, of course. He came out and began transitioning at 40. I started in my teens (15 when I came out and 18 when I started medically and legally going through it). He has had all the surgeries, I’ve only had one. He was always decently at home in a female body and I was the same way until I started researching.
The biggest take home message for me from this book is the importance of activism. And there are many different types of activism. There’s the very outward kind where you campaign for laws to change and talk with Congress and have committees and speeches. Then, there’s the more personal kind where you just focus on the people near you and change their perception. Jamison does both, but I’m definitely more of the personal kind.
However, the first kind brings visibility to transmen. If you can, think of how many famous transmen that you know. Personally, I can name two. That’s it. Two. Brandon Teena (a murder and hate crime victim) and Chaz Bono. Transwomen? Omg, a million. And that’s the issue within the trans community. There is a huge disparity in services available.
When I was a baby transman, my mom found a group so I could talk with fellow transpeople and maybe find a community. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t need it since I could find that easily online. But, I went because she made me. When I arrived, I was the youngest person there. And the only transman. All the women chatted and talked and just went over their issues navigating the world. I had nothing. I’ve always been on my own trying to figure out how to be a man.
That’s something you can see all across the trans community. There are simply more transwomen around and talking than transmen. It’s, well, ridiculous. Because you have issues that come up like the controversy with Rub & Tug, the movie that Scarlett Johansson was going to star in that was about a woman navigating the mob scene and making it…. except that the woman was really a man. A transman. Hell, it says in his obituary that he preferred living as a man. Yet, it’s being targeted as a woman making it in the world. Jamison even brings up in this book, written over a decade ago, that he met people who thought he was transitioning to become a woman.
If you want to have a glimpse into trans life — and transmen, not transwomen, because the experience is very different; men can blend more (hence why it’s hard to be visible) while women can’t if they’ve already had a male puberty — I highly recommend this book. I felt extremely visible and like my experience was valuable. And, as a transman, I don’t always feel that way.
In Becoming a Visible Man, Jamison’s experiences take place in San Francisco which is well-known for being very friendly to the LGBTQ+ community even twenty years ago. How is your experience different living in a small town in Kansas?
It’s very different.
There are definitely resources there for us — such as, one of the world’s best known trans therapists is located here (however, I had a VERY bad experience with her and I would never recommend her to anyone) — but it’s not open.
I was, like, 15 when I came out to my friends and family. I never came out in school. There was no GSA or LGBTQIA+ club at my school. There still isn’t. Hell, a year or so after I graduated, someone hung a Confederate flag up and they hushed it up. Different topic, but it shows that I come from a very small area.
My parents and I literally had to sit down and talk about what we were going to do once we all came to terms with the reality of it. And I flat out said that I was not going to come out in that high school because I knew what would happen. I would have been in a lot of danger. So, I was fine with everyone gossiping about me being a lesbian. It was a choice I had to make, which is sad since I live in the more liberal area of Kansas.
It sounds like there were little to no resources for LGBTQ+ teens for you in Kansas. Due to the times we live in, were you able to find a community online which helped you find others who were trans?
There was one in-person group for teens, but I didn’t want to go to that. I didn’t want to go to any groups in the first place, but, well, you know moms.
Online, there was mainly Tumblr. I could find people online there and just see that I was valid and needed. I suffered a lot from depression and anxiety from the time I was 15 on through this year, so it was always nice knowing I could find someone online — trans or just sympathetic to the trans community — I could talk to. But, Tumblr is a great resource. I don’t use it anymore, but I’m extremely grateful it was available to me.
How difficult was it to handle being trans, being closeted, and being a teenager all at once?
It was hard. I lost a lot of friends when I came out. Or, more like, I had friends who stayed with me but we drifted away and became more like acquaintances until the end of high school. Currently, I’m only still friends with two people from high school and have no plans of getting back in touch with anyone else.
My relationship with my parents, admittedly, became a bit strained. I know that I took out a lot of my frustration on them. It wasn’t right and it’s what a lot of teens do, but it was hard. My dad was pretty cool with it all. When I came out to him, the most he asked was “does this mean you’re gay?” and I said no and then we went to Walmart and he bought me male things. All on the same day. My dad’s chill. My mom took a bit longer. She says that she was immediately fine with it, but it didn’t come across that way for me. Still, she read a lot and just immersed herself. They’re my biggest support group to this day. I can’t imagine going through everything we have without them.
Things were tense, of course, but I managed. I never used the bathroom at school — just held it for all those hours, so I fully expect to have bladder problems later (which is common in transpeople) — and I hated going to school and the people I had to be around. But, I managed and my goal was just to get out of there and fly under the radar by not standing out.
Recently, you graduated from college with your BA in Psych. How was your experience in college different from high school?
Before I matriculated from my alma mater, I went to community college. But, with both places, we actually set up meetings with the Dean of Students at each place to tell them I’m trans and to find out their policies. Basically, is there anything I can/can’t do?
In short, I was out. I was able to be as visible as I needed to. The most I did (and still do, even after nearly four years on T) was give a shout to the professors about pronouns. If you follow us on Instagram, you’ll have heard my voice. It’s high. So, I let them know so they would be able to handle any situations in class where I was misgendered.
I never had any bad experiences with professors, either. They were all open and fine with it. Even at my Jesuit alma mater.
In short, I was able to be me without any worries while I was constantly on my guard in high school.
In March of this year, you had top surgery and yesterday you sent me a photo and your chest looks fantastic. Do you feel more comfortable in your body than before?
Yes! Anymore, I don’t have to worry about what clothes I have to wear or how long I’m going to be out of the house with a binder or anything like that. It’s freeing. I have a lot more confidence in passing. I’m sure it shows because I get called “sir” more and more. (And not because I’m experimenting with facial hair, some!)
You told me the whole story regarding your surgery and the bullshit you had to go through with insurance. As a whole, how much would you guess you had to pay for surgery, therapy, legal system, and testosterone?
Well. A lot.
Currently, the nurse who prescribes my testosterone — which we abbreviate to T in the transman world — only does tiny bottles. Like, they’re so tiny and cute… but they only last two weeks per bottle. (I’m currently prescribed at .5mL per week, so I draw it to the 50 mark.) She prescribes two bottles so I have a month’s prescription. Right now, with insurance, that costs $11.18. On the bag, it actually says how much I saved with insurance. I saved $42.81. That means for two tiny bottles of a medication I need to have to stay sane, it would have cost me over $50 if I didn’t have insurance.
As for surgery, I’m not sure off the top of my head. I didn’t have the traditional surgery. The traditional is where they make a large incision under the breast, take out the glands and tissue, completely reposition (aka take off and put back on) the nipple and areola, then sew it all back up. Me? I was small enough where they could make a very tiny incision, insert a tube and suck out all that stuff. So, like liposuction. Then, they resized the areola.
I’m had a huge issue with my insurance, so it cost $1500 to pay for the facility. Then, I would have had to pay the surgeon what they owed, the pathologist what they owed, and then the anesthesiologist what they owed. I blocked out a lot of the cost, but I had to pay $500+ even after insurance decided they would cover some of it.
Therapy is out of pocket. I’ve really only gone to the therapist I had a bad experience with. For a thirty minute session, that was around $250. And, you have to see a therapist to get the diagnosis because without that, you can’t begin medically transitioning. Some therapists make you see them a few times to actually diagnose you with Gender Dysphoria (that’s what it’s called under the DSM-5 but it will probably change again).
Then, you have to pay them for a letter to see a doctor for hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Then a letter for any surgeries. Then a letter for changing anything legally. And you have to pay them for that, whatever the amount they want. I wish I was joking.
As for legal changes, it’s different. I didn’t have to pay anything for changing my name because after we went through the trial — yes, I have had to go in front of a judge and answer questions to get my name changed — we realized they spelled my middle name wrong on my dead name. No one ever challenged it legally, but we weren’t billed because that was a mistake on the lawyer’s office for not catching that. It wasn’t anything to do with me. But, I know it can cost a lot and wipe you out financially.
Also, only some states will allow you to change your gender marker. Kansas doesn’t allow you to change that, but since I was born in Missouri (a state that does allow it) I could legally challenge the state to do that. But it would cost a lot, despite how I do get a little nervous when I have to show my ID. I rarely have to do that, though, so it’s not a huge deal at the moment.
In Becoming a Visible Man, Jamison talks about passing a lot because he himself passes as a man often. How do you personally feel about passing?
It’s difficult. I’m short, have a high voice, and I have a more feminine affect with my motions and stance. I don’t always come across as male. When I first talk to someone, I tend to have a wider stance, cross my arms over my chest, and make a point of pitching my voice deeper. That’s because I don’t exactly look and seem like a stereotypical male.
Passing is also difficult because it’s a construct and it’s playing into the gender binary. I’m definitely more gender fluid or non-binary, but I want male pronouns and those things. If that makes any sense at all, obviously. Just that passing does feed into the gender binary, even though it is life saving to pass as a man or woman.
What kind of changes would you like to see regarding visibility for trans men?
I would like people to see our issues as passing as male in a male society. As I said, most resources are for women and figuring out hair/make-up/fashion. It’s not so much about men figuring out how to be men. I want there to be more resources with that. Obviously, I’d want it to be open to all men wherever they fall on the masculine/androgynous/feminine spectrum, but something to help us find resources for how to dress, shave, and work through female socialization.
Do you have any advice for anyone who is coming to terms with being trans?
You’re going to be okay.
There are tons of people who will understand and love you as you are.
It might feel like you’re alone, but you’ll find people who will love you.
Never forget that you are valid and needed.
If someone tells you that they don’t accept you, no matter how long you’ve known them, now they’ve shown you who they really are and they are not worth your time.
Be strong. Be brave. You’ll be able to get through this.
Find people who make you feel good about yourself. They’re out there.
It’s okay to mess up your own pronouns and/or name! It doesn’t make your identity any less valid!
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