Claiming masculinity

“It is not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong.”

Primo Levi

I’ve been thinking a lot on this, what makes me strong and what makes me feel strong.Transitioning makes me strong quite literally because there is a constant resistance and a constant struggle from my side. Resistance and endurance is what builds strength, both at the gym and in your everyday life.

When I feel masculine, I feel strong, I feel good about myself. That is not the same as thinking masculinity equals strength or that femininity is opposite to masculinity.

To transition from female to male has so far been a lot about claiming masculinity. About stop being ashamed of the parts of me that I’ve always liked best, to keep doing the things that I love to do or start doing things I’ve always wanted to do. But fun as it is, claiming masculinity is hard work. Some cis-genderd people tell me “just be yourself”. Well, off course I am. Yet I feel like anything I do is read as a stereotype nowadays. I take that as a proof for the male gender role to be limiting as well.

Then I decided that I’ll just have to work with stereotypes for a while. Playing with or simply accepting stereotype expressions of masculinity is exactly what I need to do. And I might just as well start documenting it for me to look back at later on.

So here is a gallery of relativity fresh pictures from my everyday life, claiming masculinity. You cannot miss the stereotypes, but I’m not going to excuse myself or shy away from those any more. I’ll use ’em until they break or stop feeling like stereotypes. In that way, I can make room for many ways to be masculine.

#claimingmasculinity

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Getting dressed, yesterday. This is my binder, disguised as a black tank top.

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At the hospital where I train to be a speech and language pathologist.

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At the gym.

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At a party.

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In the 14th century, at war.

At an adventure.

At an adventure.

/ E.

 

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Job interviews – About being weighed and measured

Job interviews are often difficult situations for transgenderd people and there are many  reasons for that. If you already in your application have to check a box for either man or woman, which one are you to chose if your gender identity or general appearance does not match your sex assigned at birth? Can I as a transgender man apply and hope to get a job where it is stated that they prefer female applicants and vice versa? If you identify yourself beyond the binary gender system, well, I don’t even know where to start.

Transgenderd people or individuals rebelling against the binary gender system are not seen with keen eyes by most employers. I guess we are expected to be difficult to deal with and maybe we are sometimes. I suppose we are believed to have more sick-leave than cis-genderd people since it is commonly known that many transgenderd people struggle with depression and other health issues. Also, from a normative point of view you may look “fake” if you don’t pass well enough and that’ll reduce your credibility.

I’ve been on a few job interviews lately and I still hope that I’ll find a more steady employment for the summer. Please le me know if you think of something that would suit me!

The first employer I met a few months ago started with questioning my name and gender when I presented myself (with my male name, of course).

– “Emil? Excuse me, but are you a guy or a girl? Is Emil your real name?”

That pissed me off, but it was only the begining of my humiliation. She continued to ask if I was “about to go through some kind of surgery?” while she discreetly waved her hand towards my crotch. I was at first stunned by the pure impact of her ignorance and stupidity. Then I felt humiliated because I could not reply without risking not getting the job I wanted. I just nodded. Then I stuttered something like

“What? Yes, that is me. Well, I’m a guy. I guess you cannot always tell, can you? And no, no surgery.”

Seconds after I had thought of a thousand more clever and educating answers. But by then it was already to late. The interview went on smoothly from that point, except for the fact that my interviewer seemed a bit edgy. She was eager for me to take the job for which I was very well qualified. But I think she suspected that she had insulted me, although she clearly did not understand how or she would not have asked so ignorant questions in the first place.

I guess that I don’t have to point out how outrageously wrong it is to ask questions about anyone’s private parts during a job interview, unless those parts are of vital importance for the job at hand? In general when it comes to what you can ask someone – try to imagine yourself asking other people the same questions. How would they react? Would you even ask and if not, why? (I could have answered my interviewer something like “Nah, I’m happy with my parts thank you. But what about you, are your labia symmetrical? No? Have you ever considered surgery?” But I would not, off course.

Afterwards I was mad as hell. I phoned a friend to talk the whole thing through and decided to contact the superior of the woman who’d done the interview. This sort of behaviour cannot be accepted or tolerated. I know so many trans*people for whom this is a nightmare scenario. The sole fear of risking something like this keeps them stuck in poverty, unemployment and misery. The fact that this sort of thing actually happens is  contributing to maintain stigma and induce depression among transgenderd people.

So I wrote a letter to my interviewers superior, explaining what had happened and why it was unacceptable. I urged the company to look over their routines and told them that I intended to file an formal complaint, which I’ve now done. Sadly, I felt that I could no longer accept the job offer since the idiot who’d questioned my name and gender then would become my boss. I could never trust and work for someone that treated me with such ignorance and disrespect.

The day after that I was at another interview for a similar job. It was about being a companion and support for a teenage boy with autism. I was to meet the boy and his parents in their home for the second time, together with my future boss and my predecessor who was about to quit. My job would be to make sure the boy gets outside and meet other people now and then, to get him safely from A to B and back again. I was also supposed to help bridge the gap that sometimes seem to rise between ignorant neurotype people and those with autism spectrum.

The family had early on clearly stated that they wanted a male for the job and I was a bit nervous about that since I don’t really pass well enough not to ever be questioned as a man. I was afraid that the boys parents would see me as “fake” or not think me a good enough male role model for their son. And after the last disastrous job interview I was also prepared for super awkward questions…

But no awkward questions was raised. No questions at all about me was asked there and then, as I remember it. I had already been chosen as a suggested companion for this child on the base of my personal qualifications, interests and personality. Instead the boys mother talked about what my predecessor had done together with her son and other relevant stuff like the boys interests, strengths and personality. Then she looked me straight in the eyes and said:

“It does not show on my boy at first sight that he is different from others. Some people have a hard time understanding that he has other ways than most boys and other needs. Some react with fear and loathing. That is why he needs company. Not everyone knows what it means to be different.”

My heart skipped a beat. What she really said, but without outing me as transgender or embarrassing me in front of the others, was that I was good enough. Not even thou I’m transgender or because I’m “man enough” to be a role model for her son. I was qualified because of my supposed understanding of what it means to be different, my unwillingness to adapt to norms in society that limit personal expression. I had been weighed, measured and been found as more than good enough for the job.

Yes, I got the job.

Three years of transformation

I’ve got the privilege of living an adventurous life together with lots of beautiful, creative and playful friends. We have a tradition some of us, consisting of dressing up in old’ times clothing and going on an adventure together the first weekend in December. Today it was my third time.

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Our brave advent expedition today.

I had a really great time and now when I look back at the pictures we’ve taken this weekend over the years, I can see something extraordinary. I can see how I’ve transformed over the past three years, how much I’ve changed. I thought that I would post a few pictures from each year so that you can follow my transformation. I’ll be starting with the oldest ones and going forth until today.

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This is me in 2011 on my first advent-adventure.

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The expedition crew in 2011. I’m number four from the left.

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This is me exactly a year ago, on the first of December 2012.

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There is something different and more androgynous about my personal expression in the advent adventure of 2012.

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This was today. I’m the grumpy and masculine looking one with his hat in his hand.

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I’ve gotten myself a seriously authoritative body language!

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Sometimes, I don’t recognize myself in the mirror at all. Other times, I feel that this is the way it was supposed to be, all along.

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I think looking forward into the future is worth doing in full colour, and with some of your best friends by your side.

It is really a huge change of personal expression, mostly related to gender identity, that I’ve been trough. Thank you Sofia, Karin, Johan, and Frida for the awesome pictures, and also a great thank you to all of my adventurous friends who’ve been in on this!