Case Study 1: Charles

In this first video, Charles, a young transman living in San Francisco, is documenting a t-shot including the use of such paraphernalia as needles, shields, alcohol wipes and so forth.

At this point in Charles' journey to full transition, he was, in his words, "dealing with" bottom surgery, the alteration of female genitalia to male genitalia and on his second year of hormone therapy. This is not a first shot video; instead, Charles' matter of fact approach after two years is intended to be comforting to other FTM watchers who may be impatient with their own gender transition.

To summarize his stance in this video, while Charles may wish that his t-shots might have produced more body hair, often a concern of FTMs in transition, nonetheless after two years of shots he feels he is finally looking "manly," and not like an adolescent. In other words, he is telling his watchers that they will pass through transition and survive and achieve the masculinity that has been the desire of many FTMs. For Charles, at least, T is finally bearing fruit as his physical body begins to morph towards his own internal vision of what a masculinized body ought to look like.

In this second video, "Charles Sees His Chest for the First Time," we are allowed to observe the moment in which the dressings from Charles' chest surgery are removed. This excerpt preserves the moment of the actual showing of the new flat ("male") chest following what is called "top surgery," the removal of the female breasts. At the moment I've excerpted, Charles looks down, sighs, and touches his new chest for the first time.

As the rest of the dressing comes off, we hear his friends, present for this key event in his life, tell him how great the new masculinized chest looks. His work on YouTube is evidence of the activist position of this young man as he has documented the entire process of his FTM gender reassignment surgery including his first testosterone shot. The current video embedded on his YouTube channel (as of this writing) both celebrates his new body and references his old body when he displays high school pictures of himself as "Christina." That video, however, also includes some masculinist misogyny, as he notes how he no longer has to "have a period and have to do girl shit," and is now "able to pursue my intellectual interests," all of which he did not feel possible as "Christina," his birth identity (charlesasher's Channel).

Another potential crisis for Charles' young FTM audience is dealt with in the video above: how to pee standing up. For some transmen (like all human conditions, there is no one way to do anything, including, as Charles notes below, being trans), not being standing up to pee is a major factor in gender dysphoria—if men stand up to urinate, then not being able to do so makes it clear that the success of the gender performance is at least put to risk.

image of 'medicine spoon For these men, and for Charles, a STP (Stand to Pee, a device with a cut open medicine spoon (fig. 1) inserted into a plastic simulation of the penis used to create a bulge in the pants identified with being male) gives the ability to stand up at a urinal is a major issue and a major triumph. As Charles notes in another video ("Charles' Take on STPs"), this relieves much of the frustration and anxiety of his own gender performance and of his listeners who have been asking about his own device. In this video, Charles proves that transmen can pee standing up by doing so successfully on YouTube.

In this video, "There's Not One Way to Be Trans," Charles makes an affirmation that he feels is important for all queers—there are no right ways to be queer and that includes trans.

He then takes his video in two separate directions; the first is that there's no one trans process, that one can be a trans man or woman regardless of what surgeries or hormones that one might use and regardless of the fact that the medical establishment has its own protocols for transmen (dress as the target gender for three months while in therapy; start T; get top surgery; get bottom surgery). Instead, because transmen live in the real world, their journeys might differ. Some won't seek surgery at all, either because of the cost or because of their own beliefs and inclinations. In all events, their gender status is not in question.

In the second strand he glories in the wide range of possibilities open to him as a "queer transman" including straight sex with heterosexual women, gay sex with gay men, a relationship with straight men, and so forth, celebrating the wide range of human sexual and gender expressions that is possible to him, not only because he is transgendered (many FTM transmen are heterosexual in orientation and don't feel the need or desire to identify as queer) but also because he is, in addition, queer. As a performance, and generally in Charles' videos, his affect is fairly low key—nonetheless, the carnivalesque quality still comes through, largely through the long list of possibilities he presents as very real world possibilities for himself.