Being Trans and having sex come with their own set of issues, which vary from person to person. Much like the gender identity spectrum, folks are all over the map; some people engage in risky sex, others “fake it til ya make it,” and a small minority of people just cut sex out of their lives to eliminate stress. For most of my life, I have been the latter; in fact, from late August 2010 until early January 2011 – aside from one low-risk encounter – I didn’t have any sex. Not with myself, not with anyone else, I just didn’t even think about sex as something that could exist in the real world.

In 2009 I was tested for HIV, got a Hep C vaccine and a TB Test, and like most young dysphoric transmen, I decided to forego my annual pelvic exam. However, on NYE 2010 I vowed to be better to my body and in January of 2011 found myself with a boyfriend, so I decided to get retested. Despite being female bodied I don’t know much about women’s sexual health resources, let alone gay men’s resources. I racked my brain and the only place I could think of to go to was Planned Parenthood. I heard they were nice and cheap. Being that I was in the beginning stages of my transition and the fact that sometimes saving $20 is the difference between being read as male or not, cheap was all I needed to hear to be sold.

Unfortunately there was nothing cheap about my visit. In fact I didn’t even get a visit, I got turned away for not being straight or high risk enough, and despite giving them my preferred name and pronouns they used my birth name and gendered me all over the place. Still desperate to get tested, I tried the Oregon Health Dept, and even though the state of Oregon sees me as broke enough to be on Food Stamps, they feel I make too much money (I make $650 a month/~400 is surrendered to rent) to qualify for free care, especially if I am not pregnant or at risk for pregnancy.

Just when it seemed like I wouldn’t be able to get tested because I made too much money or didn’t have unprotected vaginal sex, I went to Google and found a place I will refer to as “the boys club”.  The Boys Club is an m4m free clinic that advertises itself as “a space dedicated to the physical, personal, and social health of gay/bi/trans and all men into men” BINGO I had found the place I could be seen and it wouldn’t be a thing. Maybe this place wouldn’t suck. Maybe I might not be the only transman in the building maybe a pronoun would be thrown my way, but as with most things in my big transgender trials this was no different.

I browsed the website on my phone (kudos to the design team!), looked up their location, and decided to head in before I headed back to SF for New Years Eve 2011. Now while I had some issues with the term STD instead of STI being on the website, I’m not one to split hairs about anyone who openly welcomes Trans* folks. So on a Wednesday at 12pm, after 30 minutes of forcing myself to NOT bind in case my blood needed to be drawn I made it out of the house. Fuck, I was late —only 5 minutes though, and it was raining, and it’s Portland where everyone seems to be a little late perpetually. I thought I’d be ok but I couldn’t actually even think about what “okay” meant because I’d been starving myself for 12 hours because the website didn’t say if I could eat or not, the website didn’t say too much about what they offered for trans men or if I needed to tell them I was coming. Was every doctor experienced with Men on T? Would I have to come back and request a special doctor? My mind spun and as I boarded my bus it was nearly 12:45pm, but I figured I was doing well because the website advertised a suggested 15 min early arrival for 1pm clinic doors. Sadly, 12:45 came and went as my bus stopped to let a man in a wheelchair on, and by this point everything was starting to look like a Waterhouse painting. My eyes were getting heavy and I knew I’d probably throw up or faint if I didn’t eat soon so even though I was only going to be 10 minutes early I caved and sought out food a block away from the clinic. As an Anemic Trans man I need food when I need food and 5 minutes was not going to hurt me [or so I thought] I inhaled a Gardenburger as I ran a block and a half. As I was stuffing the sandwich wrapper in my pocket I panicked what if I had just ruined my chance at having a good test [again the website listed nothing about pre-test procedure] I shrugged and walked in; it was 12:51 on the dot. No line, no nothing, just a sign outside politely inviting me in. I thought I might be the first one there, I was almost excited. No witnesses to survey my sweaty, unbound, mustard on the lapel having transman body, was I actually going to get tested and not have to hyperventilate in a Ladies bathroom before it?! Nope… not at all. I approached the front desk where a Cis Gay man stared me down almost as if to say “Oh…We didn’t know you were coming” after he stood up [to size me up…to show me he was taller than me…. who knows] he slipped me a 9×6 piece of printer paper with a check box survey on it. No place for my name, preferred pronouns, nothing really just some random questions: Why I was there, If I had symptoms, who I slept with, some other questions that were so trivial and generic I can’t even recall them. I flipped the paper over, nothing on the back so I began to hurriedly check things off until my hand paused—  “I sleep with: [ ] Men [ ] Women [ ] Trans” well I knew I for sure slept with women  so I checked women, I have a bf so I checked men but then I saw Trans. All alone out there on its own. No FTM MTF not even an * I almost scratched out men but hesitated. I hadn’t actually slept with a Cis man since 2006 but what did the boys club consider a “Man” was I violating their code by being there? Would I have to inform someone my boyfriend wasn’t Cis? I paused again and started internally monologuing “Do I sleep with Trans? …Transmen? Transwomen? Trans who? Are Trans people actually a third gender in the eyes of The Boys Club? WAIT! That’s not even grammatically correct… that’s not socially correct *mockingly* ‘I sleep with… Trans. Screw it!” I checked all three boxes and looked up to ask for help. It was such a simple questionnaire the man at the desk was looking at me like I had 5 heads for taking so long with it. It was at that very moment I realized I was probably not in a t4m safe space but more so an m4m space that catered to a certain type of Transman. A binary minded assimilationist transman who might occasionally hook up with chasers or dudes from Craigslist. This place was for the men who I am not nor will I ever be. It was becoming clear I didn’t belong, no one said anything but it was all over their faces. I was invading their space and I suddenly felt more unsafe than I had in any Women’s clinic. I handed the desk guy my form and looked over my shoulder quickly because I felt eyes on me. I realized I wasn’t alone about 10 other people were in there but testing went from 1-3:30 so I assumed Id be fine. The desk guy rushed off with a concerned look on his face and spoke to someone briefly. I saw him gesticulate in my direction and began to worry. My eyes bounced around the waiting room and I began to get more anxious, there were pictures of Cis White Men everywhere the only photos featuring men of color featured an Asian man wrapped in the arms of a large bearded White guy and a hyper masculine Black man. Recognizing all this Fetishization meant I probably wasn’t going to be among friends. Finally, after returning to his seat and TRIPLE checking my form the desk guy told me there were 6 people ahead of me but I could come back another time or wait 30 minutes and he’d “let me know”. Despite how insincere his tone about letting me know was I agreed to wait. I couldn’t bring myself to stay there so I walked 2 blocks away to Starbucks, I don’t drink coffee and I hate Starbucks but I figured I might get friendlier treatment there and I could use a gender neutral bathroom. After ordering a 16oz Cider I realized I probably shouldn’t use the bathroom if I might be tested so even with 16oz of water already in me waited. Ten minutes before schedule at 1:20 I headed back to The Boys Club, I walked in the door at 1:24 and noticed the waiting room was almost empty. I got excited until I caught the eye of my new nemesis the desk guy. Before I even approached the desk, he let me know that they couldn’t see me today; he kept repeating there were 2 people ahead of me as if that were supposed to mean anything to me. I assumed the tests went in 15 minute increments if 4 people had been seen in the 24 minutes I had left but he never informed me of what went on. He didn’t say how long they would take and if I could wait more. He just kept repeating “Sorry, we can’t see you” before bumbling and giving me some cards. He didn’t offer condoms, lube, gloves or any of the other things I was hoping to get as consolation prizes so I cut my losses and silently cursed myself for thinking this visit would be any different than any of my others. Seeing my disappointment and trying to make me feel some sort of way about my arrival time he condescendingly informed me that they suggested a 30-35 minute early arrival, I didn’t dare dispute him and point out that the website stated a 15 minute early arrival multiple times. I just stood there silently, trying to keep face as he handed me FREE STD screening card that he said could be used at County a few blocks away. He said it might be worth a shot to try there today even if it was “awkward” Awkward? What did he mean by awkward. Was the fact that I was a man sleeping with men supposed to be awkward? or the fact that I was a man who slept with men and had a vagina? I just continued to stare at him hoping for him to apologize or say something inoffensive. We stood there for 5 seconds staring at each other in silence when finally he continued “I think we’ve sent a person there today. You should give ‘em a try or make an appointment here” He stressed the word “person” in the most ear splitting way. He didn’t say guy/man/dude/insertgenderytitlehere it seemed like he couldn’t use the one word that brought me there because in his eyes I was probably not a man. I looked at him quizzically, and he hurriedly re-informed me I could call back and schedule a time to be seen or go to county I said “yeah I got that” and headed out. He was clearly trying to get me to go somewhere else.  If I learned anything from my trip it was that even when establishments don’t technically fail at inclusion they sure as hell fail at awareness. I am not a MAN WOMAN or TRANS I am a Man. A man who practices safer sex as much as I can, a Top who always knows the status of my receptive partners, a Low-Co Person of Color who wouldn’t need Food Stamps if society didn’t see me as a threat and try to abstain from hiring me in even the most menial jobs. I don’t need or want special treatment, I just want treatment.

———

Mason S. is an Uninsured 20-something Queer, Jewish Convert, Person Of Color, and Liberal Arts, State University & Community College Drop-Out who was raised by a Single Adoptive Mother/Community Organizer in San Francisco during the Crack and AIDS Epidemics of the Late 80s-Early 90s.

As a Teen he spent most of his time ditching academic classes at San Francisco’s School of The Arts, getting shoved around by the SF and Berkeley PD at Protests, Tagging up MUNI busses, Freestyling/Performing Slam Poetry, Stressing “The Option of Adoption”, and doing Community outreach in his Native Mission, Fillmore, & Western Addition Neighborhoods.

He currently resides in Portland where he pursues his Joie de vivre via: Visual Journalism, Music, Writing, Dance, Party Promotion, Public Relations, Activism, Existentialism, Self-Therapy, Battling any and all forms of Oppression…and obsessively updating his Tumblr.