Visualizing Self: Gender Identity in a Vacuum

Imagine your ideal self. How does it differ from how you look now? Are you more attractive? More masculine, more feminine? Skinnier, fatter? How does your voice sound? How do you have sex?

Now imagine your ideal self again, but in a social vacuum. Are you attractive in the way our society defines attractiveness? Are you masculine or feminine without the societal stereotypes attached to those things? Is the way you want to have sex the way society wants you to have sex?

How much of your ideal self is based on what other people think of you?

For a long time I didn’t want to medically transition. “I don’t want to go on hormones. I don’t want my voice to be lower, or to have more facial hair. I don’t want to have to explain the changes to people.” “My breasts are attractive, I don’t want to get rid of them. How would I explain it to my family?

Anxiety is a bitch. But I’ve been on anti-depressants that help with anxiety for a couple of years now. And I’ve started to realize that my reasons for not transitioning weren’t so much to do with what I wanted, but with what other people expected.

I’ve spent so much time trying to visualize my “ideal self.” Not having a societal representation of non-binary existence doesn’t help. But then again, the societal representation of “masculine” is not what I want to be either. I have to create that vacuum. I have to visualize myself in that space where “masculine” and “feminine” are not personality traits, but simply the body’s response to different hormones.

And more importantly, I’ve had to create a vacuum where who I want to be isn’t influenced by the anxiety I feel about coming out, explaining my androgyny to people, dealing with the response from my family. It’s just… who I want to be.

I do want to have a lower voice. I don’t want breasts. Maybe I do want to be a man,  but I want to be a radically different kind of man than what our current society says a man is.

Coming out sucks. Having to explain myself to people sucks. But it is what it is. And I can’t let those things affect my gender identity. As cliche as it sounds, I’m on the path to being the truest version of myself, and I don’t want to be stuck in traffic anymore.


Life updates!

In January I visited Dr Melady Preece in Vancouver, BC. I sat with her for an hour and talked about my experiences with dysphoria, and my desire for top surgery. At that time she suggested to me the possibility of going on a low dose of androgel to help ease the other symptoms of dysphoria. I didn’t like the idea at the time, but a few weeks later, I emailed her and asked if she could include a recommendation for HRT in her letter to my physician.

A couple months later, my physician received my diagnosis of gender dysphoria and letter of recommendation for top surgery from Dr Preece. He forwarded it to Dr. Bowman in Vancouver, and I’m now on the waitlist for top surgery.

I also asked my physician about my options regarding HRT, and he recommended me to Dr. Tregoning in Abbotsford, who is an endocrinologist who specializes in providing HRT to transgender patients. I made an appointment to see him, and we talked about my options. I stressed that my period was giving me a lot of dysphoria and I wanted a way to stop it without taking a lot of testosterone. I suggested the idea of estrogen blockers, and we decided to try that out.

So as of today I’m three weeks into a month-dose of estrogen blockers, and three weeks on testosterone! And the longer I’m on it, the more impatient I am for the results because, a few days before I started, I posted this picture on facebook:

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…and basically told everyone that I was starting HRT. And now that that’s out of the way, suddenly I do feel like I want the effects of testosterone after all. Hence what this post is about.

I posted about it so publicly because (besides wanting to get coming out out of the way) one of the main reasons I decided to transition medically is because I finally started to see other non-binary people doing it. Visibility and representation are so, so important for trans people. It’s where we look once we’ve finally managed to find ourselves in that vacuum. It can be lonely in there. And I want to be visible to others.


Promo time! I haven’t been working on anything much lately, but here are my three latest projects:

Junior Hero Blues is a gay superhero YA novel I published last year with Riptide Press’s YA Imprint Triton. Sea Lover is a m/m trans romance novella about a fisherman and a selkie that I published with Less Than Three Press also last year, and #TRANS is an independent collection of essays by trans people about their experiences online that I contributed to.

If any of these three interest you at all, please check them out!

And finally, no blog post would be complete without this beauty: IMG_0280

FEAST YOUR EYES!

Thanks for reading, everyone! I know I haven’t been active lately, but this blog still exists, and I really wanted to take the time to talk about my transition. Hope you enjoyed!

So How Was My Year?

What a question! So much happened this year, not all of it good. I struggled with depression and anxiety, and for a few months I didn’t do any writing or social media, and considered whether or not writing was actually something I wanted to do. In the end I came back to it, of course. Because I didn’t really wanted to quit. I just wasn’t sure if I could do it. I’m still not sure if I can. Being online, putting myself and my work out there, it’s incredibly stressful and hard on me. But it’s also incredibly rewarding and meaningful. So I’m keeping on.

Mental illness is so often invisible. You fight, sometimes every day, just to be at the level of normal that other people take for granted. But I know that I’m not alone in this either, since so many authors struggle with things like depression and social anxiety. For all the drama that goes on in the online publishing community, I still get to feel like I get to have a community of people who understand me and support me, and that’s pretty amazing for me.Ink & Flowers

Anyway, despite all the down moments, 2014 was still pretty awesome. I feel like I became more confident in myself, especially in my gender identity, and I continued to put myself first and try not to feel guilty for doing what I need to to make myself happy.

I had two books come out this year! Ink & Flowers in June and To Summon Nightmares in November. The positive critical reception to them has been wonderful! Both of them are on a level of quality that I don’t think I could have achieved in years past. I really feel like I’ve improved as an author, and to know that I’m constantly improving and becoming more and more able to tell the stories that I want to tell is really rewarding. I also did a lot of writing this year, and, as a “LGBT author”, I’m making an effort to To Summon Nightmareswrite more novels that aren’t just cis m/m. I’ve been writing almost exclusively stories with trans characters this year, and I just finished writing my first f/f!

All in all, my life is pretty good. I have a wonderful partner, and a stable job, and a place to live with enough food to eat, and a little bit of money left over. I got to take a couple trips into Vancouver earlier this year, one to see Wicked live, which was totally on my bucket list, and one to go to the Pride Parade! I haven’t been able to make it the last few years, so it was absolutely lovely to be able to go and have that sense of community and support that you don’t really get in a small town.

So, plans for the new year:

Keep on writing! I’ve found that there’s real value in pushing myself to continue, even when I don’t feel like it, although I’m going to have to keep my mental health in mind and take a break if I really need one. I just started a m/m superhero story that I think is going to be fun to write. It insists on being about teenagers though, so when I do finish it, deciding what to do with is going to be a challenge. But I’ll deal with that when I come to it. After that is a blank slate, but I hope to be able to get Skylark Tower and Witch, Cat and Cobb published sometime next year. Double Take is also coming out in January, which will be a lovely start to the year.

With luck, the bf and I will be able to get a mortgage in the new year and buy our own condo sometime next year! So that’s where the majority of our $$$ will probably be going, although I do want to get another tattoo, since I didn’t get one this year. Oh, and I’ll be travelling south to Seattle to attend the Gay Romance North West convention! My first author convention, and I’ll finally get to meet a bunch of people that I’ve known on the internet for years. I’m one part excited, and one part terrified, with a dash of absolute panic about the whole thing, but I do think it will go well. Which reminds me, I need to get a passport.

Anyway, if this post comes off as a little bit discombobulated, it’s because I’m still recovering from this!

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Christmas fondue! It was lovely! See my tumblr for more photos. I also got some wonderful presents, including a freaking awesome Spider-man mug. (My love for Spider-man runs deeeep.)

So here’s hoping everyone had a very merry Christmas, and wishing everyone best of luck in the New Year! Love you all!

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Wouldn’t be complete without a kitty photo, of course!

On Love and Bad Parents

I write a lot of dysfunctional families. It’s something I like to explore, because it’s something close to me, and because I find the ways in which parents spectacularly fail to understand and empathize with their children fascinating.

Here’s the thing. The overwhelming parental l love that most people feel upon having a child is one of the most powerful things in the word, but it’s also, unfortunately, quite shallow.  This might seem cynical (and I won’t be surprised if I get some comments to the effect of “you don’t understand because you’re not a parent!!”), but compared to the love between romantic partners and friends, which is based on mutual respect, understanding, and shared values, parental love doesn’t require anything except, well, having a child.

There’s a quote from a video by Joji Grey that’s always stuck with me:

If someone says that they love you, but they refuse to accept you for who you are, then they don’t really love you. They love the idea of you.

And I think this is all too common, especially in cases of queer children. Parents will refuse to believe that their child is actually gay, or grieve the loss of their transgender child, even when said child is right there in front of them. And it’s not a nice feeling, being the queer child of a grieving parent and realizing that they are rejecting you in favour of a person who doesn’t even exist.

I also don’t imagine it’s a nice thing to think, as a parent, that you don’t love your child for who they are so much as just because they are your child. And I’m not saying that this love can’t be used as the base from which to grow a strong, respectful, healthy relationship, just that a lot of the time it isn’t. Parents assume that the unconditional love they feel for their child is a solid alternative to an actual relationship. Or worse, they assume that their child must be a certain way, or they wouldn’t love them so much. 

Anyway, I wanted to challenge the idea that parental love (especially a mother’s love for her child) is intrinsically a a pure, good thing. It’s portrayed that way a lot, but it doesn’t really fit with what I’ve been talking about. As I said before, love is powerful yes, but it isn’t necessarily good. In To Summon Nightmares, one of the villains, Kathleen, is compelled to carry out increasingly horrible tasks so that her sick daughter will continue to receive treatment. She knows that what she’s doing is wrong, and she hates doing it, but she feels that she can’t help herself. That she loves her daughter too much to let her die. 

Obviously that’s a bit more extreme than a parent refusing to accept their child’s homosexuality, but the point I’m getting at here is that just because someone does something “out of love” or for what they believe will be the benefit of their child, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a morally good action. It’s no good to make sacrifices, or to do anything really, on another person’s behalf before first acquiring that person’s consent. And loving someone doesn’t automatically equal knowing what’s best for them.

I think these things are really important thing to remember, both for parents, and for children, many of who feel like they are obligated to accept their parents love, no matter how toxic that love might be.


Rusted Antique Door Knob

Three years ago, Cohen Brandwein was “Ireland’s Favorite Daughter”, a popular teenage author and internet celebrity. But ever since he came out publicly as trans, the media’s treatment of him has been less than golden, and these days, Cohen is desperate for escape.

When he inherits an old house in the country, Cohen sees it as a perfect opportunity to escape the press and work on his new book. What he doesn’t count on is becoming embroiled in a small town murder mystery and falling for the primary suspect, a man whose reality makes Cohen’s fantasy books seem like child’s play…

Available November 5th from Less Than Three Press
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