by Dan Savage
I’m a high-school girl with big problems. All my life I’ve worn boy clothes and had male friends, mainly because I’m into “male” things like video games and geek stuff. As high school approached, Mother Nature flipped me off with DD breasts and hips that would make Shakira jealous.
I don’t even identify as female. I’ve come to terms with the fact that my mentality doesn’t match up with my vagina. But now most male clothes don’t fit and my male peers don’t take me seriously because of my body, even though I wear my hair short, wear no makeup, and go by a male nickname. I’m not a lesbian. I like boys. I just wish I could be one of them, too. I’m too young for breast-reduction surgery or gender-reassignment counseling, but these are things I’m considering.
My parents are shaken and unsure, but loving and supportive. My best friends have no idea of the issues I’m facing. Any tips on dealing with this and trying to adjust accordingly?
“I’m struck by Troubled Tomboy’s kick-ass confidence,” says Seguin Spear, a case manager at Lyon-Martin Women’s Health Services (www.lyon-martin.org),a community-based nonprofit in San Francisco that provides services to women and transgender people. “While he’s clearly holding his own, I’m concerned about TT getting enough understanding and space to explore his gender identity.”
Spear says there are three things that all transgender people need. “First, feeling loved, accepted and understood,” says Spear. “Second, getting adequate support for exploration of gender experience, identity, and expression. And third, having access to good, transgender-competent medical information and care.”
Needless to say, you won’t find any of that in your average American high school. We live in a culture that is, says Spear, “frequently hostile toward people who don’t fit into artificial binary gender norms.” That’s putting it mildly. As I learned watching High School Musical—under duress—boys who bake strudels are regarded as gender outlaws in American high schools. So brace yourself for a bumpy ride if you start opening up to your friends about this stuff, TT.
But combating the isolation kids like you experience in high school was one of the reasons Al Gore teamed up with Larry Flynt to invent the Internets, a series of tubes that transports health information, YouTube videos, and pornography into our homes. “TT has access to community and support anywhere there’s net access,” says Spear, “and FTMInternational (www.ftmi.org)is a good place to start.”
But be careful out there, kiddo. There are predators lurking on the Internets, just as there are predators lurking in the halls of Congress and area churches. (Parents should be required to Google “youth pastor” before giving their teenagers permission to hang out at megachurches.) Spear and I, however, trust you’ll be able to use your “geek-sharp critical-thinking skills,” as Spear puts it, to avoid the creeps.
In some ways, TT, you’re one lucky boy. Your parents may be shaken and unsure, but a lot of transgenders would cut off their—oops, sorry. A lot of transgenders would give their left—shit, that’s a pretty poor choice of words, too. Hell, let’s just say that a lot of transgenders lack in the “loving and supportive parents” department. “Many transgender and genderqueer kids face familial rejection,” says Spear, “and it’s great that TT doesn’t have to deal with that.”
As for surgery, Spear agrees that it’s too early. “But it’s a great time for TT to start exploring his identity with someone who isn’t personally invested in TT’s choices,” says Spear. “Therapists specializing in gender frequently offer phone sessions so trans and genderqueer people who live outside of larger cities can access gender-competent services.” Therapy can be expensive, “but even a few sessions could offer some emotional backup and tools for coping with confused or threatened family and friends.
“Finally, TT, do whatever it takes to keep sane,” says Spear. “Be gentle with yourself, and know there’s lots of love for you out here.”
I am a straight female and I’ve been in a relationship for two years. Is it bad to get tired of the same things all the time? I want a change. I am only 20 years old and I want to live my life and not be tied down all the time with some controlling guy. He won’t allow me to have friends or talk to anyone, but when I try to break up with him he cries and promises me he will change and I take him back and we go through the same thing all over again. I don’t want to hurt him. I just want out of this relationship. What should I say to him? And how do I deal with the crying and broken promises? Please help!
Stuck With Him
Go ahead and hurt the controlling, manipulative piece of shit, SWH; he deserves it. He doesn’t let you have friends? He doesn’t want you talking to anyone? Those are the early warning signs of an abuser, sister. He’s already abusing you emotionally, pummeling you with insincere tears and false promises. And the longer you stay, the greater the odds that he’ll start abusing you physically. So dump the motherfucker already.
And if you can’t handle the tears, SWH, don’t subject yourself to them. Live together? Pack up your shit when he’s at work and move the fuck out. Don’t live together? Even easier. Just call him and tell him it’s over, you’re gone, and hang up when he starts crying.
Recently, I had the chance to reconnect with a friend from high school. After one too many drinks, she confided in me about her sexual habits, telling me she likes “soiling.” I stupidly asked what it was. The answer was probably the most disgusting thing I’ve ever heard: “You get some poo, and then you rub it on each other’s skin.” Apart from this shocking admission, she is a really nice girl. She is Christian and works in a caring profession. To look at her, you would never guess. But I don’t want to see her again because I am grossed out by the mental image she gave me. My question is: Is it fair to end a friendship over someone’s sexual practices?
Shocked Over Soiling
Jesus loves the little children, all the little children of the world—including, ostensibly, the poop-rubbed ones who work in caring professions. But you’re no one’s savior, SOS, which means you’re under no obligation to be similarly promiscuous with your affections. However, it isn’t this woman’s fetish that gives you grounds to end this friendship. It’s her bad judgment and her lack of consideration.
Lots of people have creepy fetishes; the only way to avoid being friends with creepy fetishists is to refrain from having friends at all. What disqualifies this woman as a friend isn’t her fetish, per se, it’s her willingness to burden you with wholly unnecessary details about her sex life. For all you know, half your friends, both your parents, your boss, and a certain advice professional are into soiling. But all the other poop fetishists in your life have the good sense and common decency not to share this information with you.
Now some fetishes are charming and/or quirky, and friends may feel comfortable sharing these with each other. But soiling and/or poop fetishes are best managed on a “need to know” basis—and the only people who need to know about your friend’s soiling fetish are the people she soils, is soiled by, or hopes to soil.
A new Savage Lovecast (my podcast) is available for download every Tuesday at www.thestranger.com/savage