Unisex Bathrooms

This post is only tangentially related to LGBTQIA, but I figure it may be beneficial to any trans*men who are transitioning and haven’t gotten much experience in traditional men’s bathrooms.

This last Saturday I went to Geek Girl Con. A fantastic con that promotes feminism, minorities and LGBTQIA people in geek culture. One of their trademarks is converting all the bathrooms to unisex bathrooms.

This isn’t the sign, I forgot to take a photo of that.

I love that unisex bathrooms are there. I don’t personally see a reason why its separate. After all, its illegal to harass someone no matter their gender anyways. It is true, I probably have some personal biases with Wolsey and bathroom bills anyways, but still that is how I have always felt.

Now, there is one thing that unisex bathrooms makes very clear. People raised as men are taught different bathroom etiquette then women. I have been told by Wolsey and prior girlfriends that it is allowable to talk with each other in the ladies bathroom. I also know it is evidently a surprise to a lot of women that this is definitely considered a no-no in boys bathroom.

So Saturday I walk into the unisex bathroom and there is a line for the stalls and the urinals. A couple of younger girls are talking and they start talking to me. I hesitantly respond, not because they aren’t interesting or there is an issue, but my entire training in life for men’s bathrooms was you don’t talk.

They are nice people of course, and so I do start talking. The line for the urinal was much faster so I walk over when its my turn and they are still talking to me. Just chatting away and no matter how hard I try I can’t go. They are behind me, so its not like there is any danger of them seeing, and they aren’t particularly interested in watching anyways, but they want to talk to me.

I stood there for several minutes thinking in my head that its all ok, just go ahead. It wasn’t until the ladies who were still talking to me both went into stalls that I was able to partially do my business. I finished, said goodbye and came out to Wolsey, who erupted into laughter the second I told him about it.

So key fact to all people using the men’s bathrooms for the first time (or sharing a bathroom with a man for the first time). There is a pretty explicit hard rule that we are raised with, you don’t talk to each other, especially not at a urinal. This of course only goes for public bathrooms, things change in relationships at home.

I am not saying that is the best option, of course we could relearn it and maybe be more easy going about it. However, until that day happens, other people who grew up using the men’s bathroom are going to be uncomfortable with you, and they will avoid using the bathrooms with you in the future.

Oh, and yes some men do talk to other men in the bathroom. I am not sure where they were when the rest of us learned the etiquette but it is sometimes awkward with other men.

Also, just a side note that this goes for bathroom stalls as well, it is generally considered not polite to start chatting to someone in the other stall, which is apparently contradictory to those who use the women’s bathrooms, or so I have been told.


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Some uncomfortable thoughts

I want to tell other partners of transitioning people that it is absolutely normal to miss your partner’s pre-transition form. They were part of you before the transition and they were shaped like that when you got with them. In my case, it was over 20 years together. This is absolutely normal and no one should shame you or make you feel bad that you may sometimes miss the form of the person you fell in love with. The problem is if you can’t let it go.

The last several weeks I have been scanning our old photos. We have a lot of negatives I have to scan and edit and these are all 10+ years old. They all have Wolsey in his pre-transition state and it caused some emotional baggage to come up. I realized I sometimes missed his old form for more than just being able to hold his hands or hug him in public (something I have covered in the past).

This sensation of loss doesn’t come often. I love the way he feels, smells like and sounds now, but sometimes when I see pictures of him from before, or we are talking about something prior to transition, or even sometimes just a movement or gesture will bring me back to his old self. I do in fact sometimes miss the way his body had felt, his scent and sounds. I don’t feel that way much anymore, but it still pops up sometimes.

After thinking about that for some time I realized that feeling comes up in other occasions, but at the time I couldn’t explain what I was feeling or why I was missing what he looked like. Unfortunately, these times are more uncomfortable, not because of him, but because of the reflection on me.

Before his transition, Wolsey used to do pinup modeling, was an incredibly attractive by society standards, and on top of that was incredibly alternative so it had an exotic feel. When he would walk into the room people noticed Wolsey, and by default me.

Some people would focus on me and question me on how did I end up with Wolsey, and what keeps Wolsey still wanting to be with me. I have to admit it did buoy my self-esteem that someone everyone thought was hot was with me. I admit I married up, but my self-esteem always thought it was a lot further up and their recognition of Wolsey being with me made me feel better.

It is uncomfortable to realize I miss Wolsey pre-transitioned for more reasons than originally expected when I think about it. The first was for intimacy which is acceptable and to be expected.

The second part is what bothers me, that I didn’t realize I was being sexist and that I sometimes had missed being able to take advantage of that sexism. Yep, that smacks my self-identity as someone who was fairly successful at not being sexist.

I never realized until now the benefits that I had with having a hot wife on my arm. I never intentionally wanted that status symbol that a lot of men seek out and now I find I am ashamed to actually miss it.

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TMI: Intimacy now

I figure I have gotten enough PM questions that I can give a general overview of things, but don’t worry there aren’t any gruesome details. I also have some more future thoughts I want to write about, and I think having this here is a good foundation for those posts.

Not this kind of foundation though.

I had always idly wondered if intimacy with Wolsey after his second surgery would be different. I had assumed not really, but there is a change in parts, and a change in hormones so I wasn’t sure.

Even with his top surgery, there wasn’t a lot of difference in our interactions except appearance and maybe an awkward automatic attempt to touch breasts that weren’t there. It was pretty funny when it happened, and Wolsey laughed about it so no bad things, but that was about it. The first couple of times we were intimate definitely showed me how automatic some reactions are when you are with the same person for decades.

I swear it wasn’t like this.

The second set of surgeries was a bit different. All trace of the intimate parts of my husband I had married were gone, and in their place, were new parts. There were new sensations for him and definitely a new pace/tempo.

I was flexible before any of this occurred, and I found with our new intimacy that it didn’t bother me or give me any negative reaction. In fact, his comfortableness with himself made our new intimacy that much better. He smiles more and just seems happier.

There is of course the relearning process of what he likes, and just general adjustments but overall there has been no negative consequences for me and intimacy when it comes to his transition.

So there is the answer many have asked for.

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Being an out Transgender Man at Work

I haven’t written an article for a while. I’ve been occupied by my job and my surgeries. However, I was listening to the Nancy podcast, and they had a prompt for what it’s like being out of the closet at work. I’ve been thinking about this anyways, but I thought I would write down a bit of it.

Being an out transgender man, in a super gay marriage at work means people self select on if they want to have anything to do with me before I even get to the word, “Hello.” People who have a problem with queer folks will automatically avoid me. This isn’t necessarily bad. However, it has led to some awkward interactions where I can’t tell if they avoided me because of that, or they somehow failed out of being human beings when it comes to polite work interactions.

Being out at work means that the folks that don’t have a problem with LGBT folks make it a point to have my back clearly. I’ve never in my life seen so many straight folks make a point to be clear about supporting queer folks. It’s awe inspiring sometimes.

Especially in this crazy Trump/Pence inspired attack on transgender people having basic rights. When the Trump ban on transgender people serving in military came down, a large number of my coworkers were furious about it. They wanted my husband and I to know they felt it was a total injustice. It felt nice to walk into a place where I knew so many amazing allies. If I wasn’t out at work, I would have never known.

Being out at work as a transgender man, means I use the bathroom farther from the office, so I don’t make people uncomfortable, and they don’t get weird and awkward to me when I am in there. I try to stay as predictable as possible in my bathroom habits to avoid that frozen deer in the headlights thing that happens when some dude is forced to share bathroom space with a known trans guy, and is obviously uncomfortable about it.

Being openly transgender in the office means I think about this bathroom issue every single time I have to pee. Bigots are sometimes like a Jack-in-the-Box. It’s all nice pleasantries until they spring out. In my experience, sometimes I am complete shocked by the people that suddenly freak out about my being transgender. It’s like they had to think about it, talk to their friends, get some courage from some church somewhere, before they feel they have enough backing to spring. So yeah, I think about this every single time I have to pee.

Being out at work means having to listen to a coworker spend a year telling my husband and I how he supports bathroom bills, banning trans folks from the military, and general anti trans fuckery disguised as “debate.” As if not being allowed to pee in the appropriate bathroom, or kicking transgender soldiers out of the military is a debate. Sneering at the loss of my medical because “Is that all?” as if getting testosterone, or surgery is somehow an affront. Oh yeah, and nothing says you are a dick, like loudly discussing how you are pissed your tax dollars might go to a transgender person’s health care, two seats down from a real live transgender person.

Being out at work, and getting bottom surgery that I am are not hiding, means I get asked a lot of questions. I am cool with the questions, until the person that is super anti-trans uses this openness to attempt to affirm their erroneous backwards anti-transgender biases. In a lot of ways, this was a cool experience, and I got to see so many supportive gestures, and I got to do some actual education on the topic. It was totally cool.

Being out at work means sometimes allies are shocked and disappointed to realize you are a normal guy, with normal foibles. I think allies sometimes want to swoop in and protect LGBT folks, and it’s sometimes shocking that we aren’t “Will and Grace” gay. We are grumpy in the morning, stressed about deadlines, and not agreeable all the time. Sometimes I can see the exact moment I fall off the rainbow pedestal.

Being out at work means, I sometimes see a flood of people digging into my LinkedIn. I see this in waves, usually when folks find out I am transgender. I work for the Department of Defense, and I know when the contractors find out, because I get a flood of them looking at my LinkedIn. Otherwise I’m not in a noteworthy enough position for it to warrant that kind of thing. Plus, nobody else around me ever gets these little floods.

Being out at work means I get to see folks evolve on the issue of LGBT people. Sometimes I see folks go from not thinking or being outright against our existence, to being shockingly supportive. This one makes it worth while to talk to people openly about their questions, for me. It’s nice to have someone come back a year later, and tell me how they really changed their views because before they had never known anyone like me.

I have tried being closeted about being transgender on the job, and it was one of the worst experiences in my adult life. Being closeted was more about attempting to be careful about what I said, or referred to. It meant that if folks suspected, they dug into my life online, to prove I “wasn’t a man”.

While being out at work is definitely a mixed bag, I am not sure I want to go back in the closet, though. It’s definitely something every transgender person has to consider when entering a new work position.

If I wasn’t out at work, I would not have seen the amazing folks step up in this current political climate. I would not have been able to see how amazing day to day work is when you don’t have to hide your identity. It’s not without it’s frustrations, as an out transgender man, but my only option is to hide, or be out. I prefer out.

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Final Appeal

We finally got notice from OPM (federal government human resources basically) saying they received our final appeal and will give us an answer in 60 days. Sadly this is about 14 days after we have to make payment and we all know they won’t decide early. Hopefully on the off chance they approve we can get a refund pretty quickly.

We had our first two go to Kaiser Permanente, the second time with an incredibly well written letter by the surgeon explaining why it is absolutely necessary to have the second part of the surgery, otherwise intended function of the first surgery would not work.

All they have done in their response was say they won’t cover it, because it isn’t a covered procedure. As someone who has worked in and managed medical offices it is absolutely the most moronic response we have ever seen. The purpose of appeals is to find medically necessary procedures/medications/services that are needed on an individual basis.

Normally the appeals person will respond in detail why something is or is not going to be covered. My experience it is a lot of times a doctor explaining either other options that would get the same medical necessity, or at least go into detail why the surgery isn’t medically necessary. This is the first time we have seen an appeal response, especially the second time, not give any details. That is exactly what they aren’t supposed to do when they respond to an appeal.

Wolsey even called the appeals department and the representative we got on the phone went over the response and was stunned about it. You aren’t supposed to be able to just say “its not covered” because after all that was the original reason for the turn down, and the appeals is supposed to allow medically necessary things through or explain in detail why it isn’t necessary.

Both Wolsey and I suspect it isn’t a normal appeals because it is the federal government. They are immune to almost all the insurance laws out there. This is the reason before Obama approved transgender care, they ignored our state law when it came to transgender services, and the state was really frustrated they couldn’t touch them.

So now Wolsey’s surgery payment is in the hands of appeals in the federal government. I don’t know what to expect in the response. I have seen Medicare appeals, and they have a good rate of approval of appeals, but this isn’t Medicare and with Trump and Pence’s war on transgender people both Wolsey and I suspect it will be a no go.

We are fortunate in the fact we can fall back on our recently paid down credit cards. It will put us about 7 months of major payments back, but it is an absolutely necessary surgery, and we are going to get it for Wolsey whether or not the feds abandon us.

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It keeps getting rougher.

A lot of things have been happening, lots of little things, and I think I will just address them individually. So right now I will start with the most angry/frustrating thing I can think of. Trump’s ban on transgender in the military.

Everyone has probably read about it, transgender people won’t be allowed to sign up, those already in the military may be ejected at any time, and their medical has been hit with no transgender services used by the military.

We found this also hits Wolsey. It has been said that as of the end of this year we are back to where we were when I petitioned to have his medical care back in 2015. I have been told, but I don’t have a confirmation yet that he won’t have coverage for anything in those areas. We won’t  have that until the new medical plans come out in November.

This means at the end of the year, hormones, SRS, or ANYTHING to do with his transgender status will no longer be covered.

We knew this was coming, and I am incredibly grateful that the two of us “panicked” at the start of the year and pushed two years ahead on our schedule to start his surgeries.

Currently our final level of appeal for the last surgery itself is at OPM (the Human Resources for the federal government) and we will see if its covered or not. If it isn’t, I have two credit cards ready to take on all the debt, it will just push us back about 7 months.

Even so, I am very glad we assumed the worst of this administration, and that through sheer luck we were able to get Wolsey in for surgery.

The other aspect that I haven’t talked about yet, we don’t know if civilian DoD workers can be fired at will like active military or not. If the medical is cut the same, I am prepared for the rest of it to be treated the same with him.

After his surgery in December we are going to reassess. Our original goal was to wait until he got 5 years here. That way he gets a tiny little pension worth 5% of his paychecks when he retires. We are currently at year 2 for him next month (and I am at year 3). We still want to hold three more years, but we don’t know. State jobs would cover him, protect him and also put into a different tiny pension when he retires, but he really wanted to finish what he started here.

I guess we will see, and I will tell everyone else when we know.

Oh, and we will have more stuff coming, Wolsey had to take a break from Background Radiation last couple of weeks. It has been so depressing.

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A BRCC and Dog Whistle encounter.

Dog Whistle (term): a coded message communicated through words or phrases commonly understood by a particular group of people, but not by others. – Merriam Webster

Yesterday was a long day, one that I won’t go into here but was very physically and emotionally exhausting for both Wolsey and myself. On our way home from a single day 250 mile round-trip we stopped at McDonalds, and we decided to sit inside to eat.

We had just heard about the horrific alt-right/Nazi/Trump Douchebag attacks in Virginia and were not in a great mood because of it. The area we were in was remarkably pro-Trump earlier in the day, with a god awful sign screaming about defunding Planned Parenthood, so I think I was extra vigilant (or maybe just so pissed about the day I was looking for a problem).

I will be the first to admit I was more aggressive then I probably should be, but the family stuff along with the Alt-Right douchebaggery had me rattled. However, I didn’t want to clean up what I say here because I wanted to share my emotion, and admit I probably could have handled this a little better.

We got in, got our burgers and were talking. I was incredibly thankful to have Wolsey with me, and we just started feeling a little better when in walked two young men, mid-twenties probably who came walking into the seating area and stumbled around for a minute or two. I noticed their shirts had the letters BRCC on them, some sort of coffee symbol and a crosshair (although I wasn’t sure at the time if that is what it was, because in each corner there was a symbol).

The symbol was similar to this, plus a coffee symbol

I couldn’t tell you what caught my attention, but they seemed uncertain of sitting near Wolsey and I so I kept watching. Eventually they sat one seat over behind Wolsey and were talking back and forth. They seemed a bit nervous, but the guy facing away from me seemed to forget I was there. I noticed along the back of his shirt it said Black Rifle Coffee Company.

Immediately I was sure the shirt was a dog whistle. Two white males, displaying a brand of coffee that loves its artwork about guns, on a day of alt-right violence. I had never heard of a BRCC coffee shop so I doubted it was a local coffee company and that they worked for them, and while I couldn’t be sure about the meaning of the company, I was sure it was an alt-right signal.

I noticed the guy kept watching me and Wolsey, and that brought my full stare at him, I didn’t look away even as I talked with Wolsey. Something about the guy bothered me, and while I didn’t say anything to him, I am fairly sure my staring at him caught him off guard. He kept half looking at us, but he wouldn’t meet my eyes.

I watched for a couple of minutes and then without looking away I reached over and lovingly patted Wolsey’s hand, in a gesture that established our relationship. The guy’s eyes shot up and he flinched a bit.

In my emotional state I was hoping he would say something. I was praying he said the “f” word even in passing. The last year and a half dealing with the passing of both parents was wound up pretty tight. However, they are both small to medium sized guys and I am pretty big and he said nothing. He just looked down.

By this time Wolsey noticed I was watching something and had a curious look. He knew I was bothered, but didn’t draw attention to it. He told me a little about the crash (we had just heard about the car attack) and I said loudly something about “Alt-Right Fucks” and the guy that still wouldn’t look at me directly flinched again.

I knew I was right about them at that moment. I was also slightly disappointed that evidently like the other alt-right people they were not willing to say something to someone on equal playing field.

It was then that Wolsey and I got up to leave. I think Wolsey knew the second he saw the guys what had my attention and why. As we walked out I wasn’t sure if they would say something, they douchebags had been super active all over the country so maybe these guys would say something.

I was hoping they would, but the one guy wouldn’t look at either of us, and I don’t think the second guy even knew what the situation was. He did seem taken aback as Wolsey and I walked out the door as I had hugged Wolsey as we walked away and was watching the two of them.

We did a quick google search after it about Black Rifle Coffee Company. They do supposedly hire veterans, and I am for that. However, they are based in Utah, they scream about the millennial attitudes, they are for retaking back what we originally where (a coded dog whistle), they are a coffee company that “makes coffee that conservatives can drink”. Their coffee cups even have weapons printed on them. They scream about immigrants and refugees, they were upset that Starbucks pledged to hire refugees and somehow made that an attack on veterans. There is more, but I don’t need to repeat all the shitty things they say.

Oh, I guess I do have to say one more thing, they support Donald Trump, if that isn’t a reason to call the company douchebags then I don’t know what is. Also a confirmation to me that wearing the shirt is a dog whistle.

Update: BRCC hiring veterans is not necessarily a “feel good” thing. There are definite advantages for tax credits and if you think BRCC doesn’t consider that as well then you aren’t thinking it through.

While Starbuck’s gets no tax credit for hiring refugees, BRCC is hiring veterans for PR and for tax bonus:

Businesses that hire eligible unemployed veterans can take advantage of a Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC). (This credit is also available to certain tax-exempt organizations.) After recent changes, The Returning Heroes Tax Credit now provides incentives of up to $5,600 for hiring unemployed veterans, and the Wounded Warriors Tax Credit doubles the existing Work Opportunity Tax Credit for long-term unemployed veterans with service-connected disabilities, to up to $9,600. (source)

If you think for a second they are not doing it for a tax credit, I have a bridge to sell you.

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