Case Study 5: "Frank"

Image: circle-backslash symbol Note: Because of the wishes of the next subject, I am not providing any video or audio for this case study, a choice I discuss in greater detail below. This case study analyzes three videos.

After a discussion of a "really great" massage in which gender issues didn't really come up, "Frank" moves to a discussion of the tensions between height and being a fem women (a category with which he identified pre-op). When he started to pass, he no longer was read by the outside world as a fem woman; instead, because of his height, he was read as a boy. In both cases, "Frank" felt disempowered and treated as "incompetent."

Because of his height, he doesn't feel pressured into being competitive (he doesn't say competitive for what, exactly). Instead, as he puts it, his height "disqualifies" him from male competition, which he finds "liberating" as he can embrace his "gayer" aspects of himself. He glosses "gayer" a few minutes later as meaning that he is free to be more fem. Though he likes not being seen as threatening, his height means he "does have to project extra confidence" in order to be seen as "competent" but he does recognize himself as a potential model for other FTMs because the media represents "us as not short or small in any way." He finds himself in an ambiguous position: it may be liberating to be short but it is also irritating to be seen as incompetent or weak merely because of lack of height, though less so than when he was seen by others as a fem woman or a boy.

Another video "Frank" made is a very open discussion of penis length and hardness of erections following metoidioplasty in which an hormonally enlarged clitoris is separated surgically from the labia which allows it to swing forward and present a bulge visible to the eye through clothing. It also is erectile (because the clitoris is erectile) providing a biological erection, as opposed to a phalloplasty which grafts skin tissue from the leg or arm in order to create a new penis. With the latter surgery one can then surgically insert a phallic prosthesis providing a perhaps more reliable means of penetration during sex; however the metoidioplasty allows the FTM the means to stand and pee—an issue that comes up again and again in discussions of gender dysphoria. "Frank" is presenting this information for potential FTMs who are considering bottom surgery as one option available to them.

This case is reserved for last because it represents one ultimate endpoint for the gender transition to male: stealth, which I will explain below. Unlike the other case studies, I am not including the video I have archived. This request not to out "Frank" as trans was made in the last of his YouTube videos in which he notified his viewers that he was deleting the channel. This is fairly unusual in the YouTube world. There are many abandoned channels in which no one posts and no viewers comment; that's very common. Others may morph into different communicative purposes or messages, but are still actively maintained by their makers.

But this was deleted—because "Frank" was going stealth. In the transworld, to go stealth is to perform male or female identity so effectively and so full time that the status of transgendered is hidden. Thus, "Frank" is no longer being public about his status. In face, he is hiding it actively. Most people who meet him from this point on, he said, would not be told, at all, that he had been a natal female. He went on to explain that he "didn't want the hassle" of being out as transgendered precisely because his transition was so successful. He asked his viewers not to mention his trans status if they should meet him in the real world not because trans status is shameful but merely irrelevant to the life he is trying to build as he moves on to a new phase of his life.

So far as I can tell, so far as anyone can tell, he is living happily as a male; certainly his videos have disappeared and his channel has been deleted. Certainly, too, given his last videos, he could pass as male as could many FTMs post op and on hormone therapy. I include his case because while going stealth should not be read as the best outcome for FTMs (that depends on the particular FTM and what he wants from his life), it is one outcome and one that brought "Frank"'s particular T-diary to a particularly dramatic close.