Caitlyn Jenner Takes Her Place

Caitlyn Jenner Photograph by Annie Leibovitz.

In the summer of 1976, I was 14 years old.  The US was swept with the fever of celebrating its 200th year as a nation with the signing of the Declaration of Independence on the 4th of July 1776.  The government issued Bicentennial quarters and I joyfully collected them.  I filled a bank coin book or two with quarters.  (I later lost the quarters to a bout of sibling rivalry.)

Another big event that year was the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.  I was a sports minded kid and I was glued to the televised coverage of the Olympics.  I, along with the rest of the US and the world, watched as Bruce Jenner became the US Bicentennial poster boy.   Handsome, strong, photogenic, Olympian, Bruce Jenner won event after event in the decathlon. It was the Bicentennial and the US was bearing fruit just across the border in the form of Bruce Jenner, All-American Male.

I am trying to paint a picture in your mind’s eye of the US when the athlete, Bruce Jenner, sprang upon the scene.  He was a human representation of the USA who won record-setting Gold wearing a suit that was reminiscent of the flag of the US of A. The media could not get enough of Bruce Jenner: it was an awesome love. He was the new Spirit of ’76.

If my memory serves, Bruce Jenner was on the Wheaties’ cereal box. Wheaties touted itself for years as the breakfast of champions. (I tried to eat that breakfast once and I can’t agree with their claim.) Only the most accomplished, well-known US athletes graced a Wheaties’ box when I was a kid.

When I was 14 watching Bruce Jenner, and for decades later, not a day passed when I did not think, “No one knows who I am. And if they knew they would not approve.”

It’s now 2015 and I am known as a trans man, a son, a brother, an uncle.  And everyone with a newspaper, television or internet connection knows that Caitlyn Jenner is a trans woman, a daughter, a mother, an Olympian.

I was struck by the similarities of our feelings in the summer of ’76.  Well, of course, one might say, you are both trans people and will experience similar feelings. (Often I forget I am trans unless something happens to remind me.) Caitlyn Jenner spoke of how, in the midst of the Olympics hoopla, she knew no one could see her. No one knew who she was.

While I was watching a “man” named Bruce winning the Olympics, I was dreaming of having a strong male body like his. Caitlyn’s journey reminds me of the summer of ’76 when we were both feeling incomplete and invisible. Now, in the spring/summer of ’15 we both have a happiness, freedom and visibility that we imagined unreachable.

The future for kids and adults who know they are trans* looks brighter everyday because health care is catching up with trans* health needs.  I look forward to the day when trans* people need only “come out” to their doctor.  For now, trans* people are taking their places and becoming visible, as the world adjusts to our humanity.

–Leo

 

Sgt. Shane Ortega: What is the Army’s next move?

Clearly, good things can come from tangled bureaucracy.  One of those things, in my opinion, is the military career of Sgt. Shane Ortega.

The US Military has been very good to Sgt. Ortega (and, in my view, Ortega is good for the military).  The military quietly permitted Sgt. Ortega to transition to male while serving his country.   However, Ortega is still listed as ‘female’ in the military database.  Sgt. Ortega’s commanding officers have formally requested the US Army decide if Ortega can officially serve as a male soldier.

Will the US Military go backwards or forwards into the future?

–Leo

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month!

It’s a new year and some of the resolutions we made were related to health.  I doubt many of us were thinking about our cervix at the time.  Many trans men and genderqueer/gender non-conforming folks have a cervix and that cervix needs to be looked after with regular Pap tests.

No one (whether female, trans or gender non-conforming) enjoys having a Pap test.  However, the alternative of living with unchecked cancer is not a reasonable option, in my opinion.

This week the Fenway Clinic in Boston released research findings that indicate FTM patients had over 10 times higher risk of having an inadequate Pap test compared to female patients.  One could read these numbers as showing that trans men as a group have a 10 times increase in their risk for cervical cancer when compared to females.

Part of the explanation for this statistic is that transgender and gender-nonconforming people have been treated with varying degrees of disrespect by medical institutions for more years than anyone can count.  Therefore, we are very wary of medical institutions and often use medical care as a last resort.  However, when people are treated with respect during interactions with medical staff, statistics like those in the Fenway research can be reversed.

The National Center for Transgender Equality has a good article on how we can protect ourselves from cervical cancer.

Buck Angel, trans advocate and porn star, made a great public service video about the importance of regular gynecological exams for trans men who are still living with their cervix.

Best of health to everyone in 2014!

-Leo