Your Name:

Your Email:

Friend's Name:

Friend's Email:

Creative Commons License
Powered by Movable Type




Elliot Long

By Elliot Long
Elliot Long is a radical queer vegan who hails from the outskirts of Wichita, KS. He holds a Bachelor of Music from Ohio University and is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction Writing from the University of Southern Maine. In addition to radical politics, Elliot is passionate about biking, public transportation, educating himself and others, and delicious vegan food.
This text will be replaced by the flash music player.

First, it would be easy to assimilate into the mainstream based on my whiteness, my perceived maleness, my mostly normatively-gendered appearance . . . but at what cost? Assimilating myself would mean denying my first 20 years of living as a “woman,” dyke or otherwise. It means denying formative experiences, old friends, my experiences of sexism as a woman, the parts of  dyke culture that have stuck with me through all of the physical changes. Making up lies about growing up as a boy or simply omitting a story that comes to mind only make me feel as though I'm digging a deeper well of shame and secrecy within myself.

Even the act of legally changing my sex on my driver's license presented me with a moral and political dilemma. When I recently moved from one state to another, I took advantage of an ambivalent and/or inattentive Bureau of Motor Vehicles clerk. While my previous driver's license bore a very blatant “F” next to “Sex,” my new license proudly reads “M.” Initially, I was very excited. Now, I can get a passport that shows my legal sex as male. I can switch over the sex marker on some of my old school records if I want. Surface level interactions involving my identification such as buying beer, going out to clubs, and dealing with airport security no longer involve outing myself as transgender as long as I'm passing as male. After the initial excitement wore off, I reconsidered what I had just done: am I thwarting the system by changing my legal sex the “wrong way,” redefining the idea of “man” in such a way that I can still possess female anatomy, resist surgically altering my body, and still legally be “male” in the eyes of the state? Or am I feeding into trans invisibility by seeking out a way to conceal my female past? These are difficult questions, to say the least, and I'm still not certain of the answers.

Even though I have physically changed toward the male end of the gender spectrum, I find that I am still in control of how much I pass as male or female to varying degrees. With biology working against me with my small stature and the tell-tale signs of my female past, a gender is often assigned to me by outsiders based on my body language, mannerisms, and intonation. When I follow the binary standards for male behavior, I am more likely to pass as a man, and usually a gay man at that. If I choose to ignore or disobey these rules by crossing my legs at the knees or gesturing too much, I still occasionally find myself designated to the “female” or the “too-androgynous-to-tell” box that makes people uncomfortable. While I felt pressured into fitting these behavior standards in order to pass at the beginning of transitioning, I am starting to resist that pressure and move back toward the middle ground of presentation.

I am finding a way of living comfortably with myself and my gender presentation without being forced to hide my female past in order to do so. Indeed, the only solution to becoming a whole person is to refuse to assimilate and to embrace the idea espoused in Sandy Stone's “Posttranssexual Manifesto.” I must go beyond just trying to pass as a desired gender. The only way that things are going to change for transgender people is for us to be vocal and visible about being transgender. By being vocal about our transgendered selves rather than trying to assimilate into the role of either “man” or “woman” (thus becoming “posttranssexual”), trans people open new realms of possibilities of physicalities and identities. Claiming our histories – including those pre-transitioning – allows us to reclaim power in our bodies and to make space within established identities for ourselves to exist.

Of course, it is impractical to ask someone to be “out” 100% of the time in all situations. When I meet a person for the first time, I don't assault them with an in-depth discussion about my gender identity and how that relates to my presentation. As someone who works with at-risk elementary, middle, and high school students, I don't take the time to explain my sexuality and gender to every student who needs help with math homework. However, if students ask questions about me, I would like to answer honestly. Also, if I am expressing my gender in what feels true to me and that happens to coincide with a traditional male appearance, why should that be a problem? The key for me is to be out as transgender in social situations, out to my friends and family, and to be vocal about my trans politics when I need to speak up. I want to feel comfortable discussing my past and not feel stifled into a role as ill-fitting as the female role was for me before I started transitioning. I want to be in control of physically altering my body, regardless of how I identify, regardless of whether or not my body fits into a strictly-defined category. I don't want to be forced into obscuring my past in order to function in the world; I want to be a whole person.


Attraction outside of the binary

Even though my outer appearance may be able to conform more or less to a binary gender category, my physical body has moved into territory where it cannot be neatly classified as either male or female. My politics and identity as a transgender person play out most clearly in the changing physicality of my body and the way that I navigate this in sexual relationships.

After years of testosterone injections, I have a medically-constructed body that is unintelligible to a society upheld by a strict gender binary. How am I supposed to feel attractive and empowered in my body and sexuality when mainstream and gay cultures leave no space for bodies outside of the male/female binary? How do I describe my relationships in terms of the labels “gay” and “straight” when I am not firmly in one of those two categories? Sexual orientation binaries are just as impossible for me to navigate as gender binaries. Even the label “bisexual” implies that there are only two sexes from which to choose, thus excluding bodies like mine from the realm of attraction... (continue reading)

Navigate:  << Previous Page |  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  | Next Page >>


rei said:

Thank you sincerely for writing this Elliot. There needs to be more voices, louder voices, describing the lived experiences of gender diversity. I identify as genderqueer (hey that comes up as a typo!) but struggled with my own identity politics for years before finding a community who understood and embraced the importance of screwing with the gender binary. Before I met these people I didn't have the words to articulate who or what I was, I really just didn't know.

Because I think education and choice and just plain old exposure to new ideas are so important I'm working on developing a drama based sex ed program for youth centred around roleplay and improv and drag and all kinds of fun stuff to create a platform to discuss sex and bodies and relationships, and of course, gender. Your essay gave me a new injection of energy towards that end and I will borrow your reference list for some more of the same!

Again, thank you.

Posted at: October 30, 2008 8:58 AM

genderkid said:

Thanks for making me rethink transition. When I first read this, I wasn't sure about altering my body; I was afraid I'd become totally "male", something I didn't want to be.

You --and the other FTMs in this anthology-- succeeded in showing all the shades of color within the category "man".

Posted at: December 3, 2008 8:34 AM

Felix Garnet said:

Thank you so much, Elliot, for taking the time and trouble to write this. Your experience resonates with my own and I'm pleased to read some of my own ideas so clearly expressed! The very best in your journey, Felix. :-)

Posted at: February 6, 2009 9:53 PM

Sara said:

Hey I'm a male to female, I can't say I identify as a transsexual or anything, but it's certainly -part- of my identity. I confuse people as it is being a trans 'lesbian' in a relationship with a transwoman who has opted out of transitioning. I find that while I eventually want MtF surgery, I'm exploring my sexuality, I'm burdened with the stigma of being a "shemale" or some kind of sex object, and I find it hinders me in my own exploration of myself. I have, due to my preoperative state, a unique sexuality, that I, for the moment would like to embrace. Sometimes I feel like embracing that sexuality, leads me into becoming closer to the stereotype associated with transgendered women. Anyways I hope my comment is not too vulgar, I stumbled across this page by chance, and it helped me clarify my own thoughts.

Posted at: February 27, 2009 7:08 AM

Paige said:

Just LOVE this. I've been on T and transitioning to 'I know not where' for some months. This is exactly what I've been searching for in terms of peer support for really stepping outside of the binary. Thank you. Thank you. I feel as though I'm not alone in this decision to transition into myself, rather than some concept of myself.

Posted at: April 4, 2009 6:48 AM

Mr. Understanding said:

You're an excellent writer, Elliot.

I'm a gay man (funny how we all feel the need to identify ourselves when commenting on writings about identity) and I admit I have a difficult time understanding well transgender issues. Part of this comes from my difficulty with labels in general; the other from a genuine ignorance of the emotional and intellectual mechanics involved. While I was often taken for being a girl (until I was about 14), I didn't embrace the mix up as you eventually did. I think it drove me into a place where I don't like to think of people in terms of sex or gender. I use neutral pronouns as often as possible -- I often say "person" instead of man or woman -- and it puts me kind of at odds with the idea of working so hard to embrace a gender identity. I suppose I simply wish they weren't there to begin with. :)

But thanks for bringing me at least a little closer to understanding.

Posted at: April 14, 2009 10:11 PM

Anonymous said:

Who were your childhood heroes, Elliot--more women or more men?

I am desperately searching for answers, myself. But there's an answer I want more than any other. I want to be a man, and I can't articulate why (which is weird, 'cause I'm a wordy guy) but so much in my past, in my family and friends, even in my own is blocking me. But the more they block me the more desperately I want it. I wish some sci-fi machine existed that would transform you body and brain. Because some important part of me is male, maybe the central part, yet I know I don't fit the benjamin standards. I watched Sailor Moon after G-force and Birdman went off the air. But Somehow I just want to be truly, wholly a man. I always wanted to be the male hero. I have a lot of issues with how soft and round my body is. BTW, anyone know how to convince a therapist to give you testosterone?

Mom doesn't want to go there. She wants her daughter back, she treats me like an invading do I convince her that I suppressed half my person to be her little girl?

Sorry, needed to vent. I feel so angry at being feminized. I've learned to cry far too much.

Posted at: July 14, 2009 10:47 PM