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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.
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People are often fascinated by my physical body, but it is usually in a way that strips away any sexuality that I have. When people ask me questions about surgeries, it is rarely because they find it attractive or appealing. These questions are usually asked with freakish and desexualized overtones. Often, others try to reduce my identity to my physical body and sexed characteristics, specifically to whether or not I have a penis. After all, how can I even consider myself a “man” (or, at least, “not woman”) when I don't have a dick? Even when these questions are asked with the implication of finding my non-binary body attractive, it is often in a fetishistic way – reducing me and my body to a fantasy waiting to be fulfilled. In the first case, I am stripped of having any sexuality; in the second, I become only a sexual object. Where is the happy medium?

Even as a transperson I am supposed to see my own body as non-attractive and deny my own sexuality, according to the traditional medical discourse. As Jason Cromwell argues in his essay “Queering the Binaries,” “Within the narratives made available through the medico-psychological literature (and, for that matter, through published autobiographies), both MTF and FTM transsexuals are disgusted by and hate their genitalia, and, by implication, sexual acts of any kind are considered equally disgusting and abhorrent” (515). However, this model of self-repulsion hardly reflects my own experiences.

Before I started transitioning, I was admittedly less comfortable with my body. Rather than really thinking about my identity and its relation to my physical self, I survived by ignoring my physical body altogether. As I began exploring my gender identity, I started questioning my investment in my physical self. I began to really look at my body to see what it had to offer and what I wished to change. When I began testosterone injections, the gradual physical changes gave me a heightened sense of self-awareness that bordered on narcissistic. This obsession with my newly discovered body was spurred on by my testosterone-induced leap in libido. I became fixated on exploring my sexuality.

While I had an aversion to vaginal penetration before starting to transition, it fascinated me once I moved into a more male-identified gender. I had never slept with men as a woman, but I was more than ready to explore that territory with queer men with my altered body. My experience was similar to that of author and activist David Harrison: “The whole point of my gender transition was to free myself up. If something feels good to me, I'm not going to stop doing it because it doesn't fit someone else's notion of what a man is” (132). I had found a way to feel more comfortable and present in my body, and I was going to explore that in every way that I could.

I also found it easier to explore relationships and my sexuality once I began to transition. Rather than making it impossible for me to connect with people sexually, changing my body helped me become more confident and comfortable with myself. My confidence and comfort with my body went much further in establishing relationships with people than my discomfort with my strictly female body had allowed me to do.

A challenge in establishing relationships with partners, though, is dealing with labels and identities. By this point, I have dated partners coming from a variety of sexual identities: gay, lesbian, queer, straight, bisexual, and/or something else entirely. While labels can be useful in forming social movements or conceptualizing ideas, they can become an obstacle in forming relationships that aren't easily categorized. If a gay man is in a relationship with me, how does he negotiate his gay identity in relation to his attraction to my body? How much do outside forces, identity politics, and cultural norms play a role in his response to his attraction to me? Sometimes, the outside forces are too much to overcome and the relationship quickly falters. Other times, my partners have been readily accepting of and attracted to my physical body, regardless of the implications toward a specific identity label.

As a person outside of the male vs. female gender binary, I struggle to assert myself in a gay vs. straight world. I prefer fluid and inclusive sexuality labels like “queer,” “pansexual,” or “omnisexual” to describe myself and my sexuality in order to create space for bodies outside of the binary to be visible and desirable. By reclaiming our bodies as attractive through physical alterations that we initiate, we are able to create room for trans bodies to be attractive. I have reconstructed my body through testosterone injections in such a way that I am comfortable in living in it, and presenting my nonconforming body as one that can be sexually desired is a political act within itself. In refusing to assimilate my body into the idea of what a man's body or a woman's body should look like, I am challenging society's ideas of gender and sexuality on a very personal level.


Coming out as transgender did not mean that I had to toss out my feminist politics; to the contrary, coming out as trans helped me to become a better feminist by becoming aware of a new layer of gender oppression based around a gender binary system. While some of my actions have been damaging, such as lying to the medical industry in order to reach my personal objectives, I have become aware of the problems with these actions in the perception of transgender people as a whole. Through accurately presenting myself to the medical industry instead of assimilating into a strictly defined role, I continue to complicate and expand any narrow definition of what it means to be transgender.  Rather than choosing to pass as a “man” in all facets of my life, it is important to me that I continue to out myself – to become “posttranssexual” – in order to effectively challenge the oppressive gender system instead of reinforcing it. By claiming ownership of my trans identity and my non-normative body, I am able to become empowered in myself and to reclaim my sexuality.

Even though I may not know precisely where my journey is taking me, it is important for me to continue living my life in a way that feels truthful to how I see myself and to my political beliefs. I have yet to find a place where I feel entirely comfortable, but I have been moving progressively closer since I chose to begin addressing my identity issues. As I navigate my way through different gender expressions, I hope to get closer to that elusive place where my identity, my politics, and my physical self converge... (continue reading)

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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