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My Name Is Ian

Ian Syder

Ian Syder opens up about being coming to terms with being trans, his transition, and how he’s helping the transgender community.

(HOUSTON) — My name is Ian Syder. I’m a 34-year-old married man who plans to have kids one day. There isn’t much special about me.

Except that I was born female.

When I was a child, my sister and I used to play house, just like all kids do. Even then there were clues as to who I really was. I always introduced myself by male names and took on more masculine gender roles. My sister, who is now my brother (and they say it’s not genetic…) often did the same. Back then we had no idea what transgender even meant or that it was possible to do something so radical, so life-altering. As an adult, I look back with amusement. Knowing what I do now, I wish it could have happened differently. I have, however, no regrets.

We won’t go into the turmoil of my teenage years. It’s the typical unfortunate story. Self-medicating, drug abuse, promiscuity. Anything to drown out what my mind was screaming at me. I presented as a very butch female, so people assumed I was a lesbian. It was so much easier to go along with that. I let people sort me into this category and never allowed myself to think about what it really meant. But that’s a story for another day, so let’s skip ahead to the point when I really found myself.

When I was thirty, I was invited to an amateur drag show here in Houston. I had been to shows a few times in the past, but never really thought much of them. This one was different. It felt like I was watching real people onstage. My then-girlfriend told me I should try drag. I had the personality. So why not? The friend that had invited me said the same, which led me to make the decision to give it a whirl. A few weeks later, there I was with street clothes and a horrible makeup beard (I’ve gotten much better since). I introduced myself as Ian and the people there called me sir. The entire night I was in a daze. It just felt . . . right. I was hooked. I suppose I did all right that night, though I really don’t remember, to be honest. Still, I feel like that’s the moment that my life began to change.

It took a few months for me to start coming out to the people I had met in the drag community. I was met with joy and acceptance from all sides. I’m still amazed as to how accepting these people were. Once I started telling the people around me, I dove into research with a fervor I never knew I had. I watched every video, read every blog. I looked for information about how to do this venture down this path I’d been pondering. I found every tidbit you can imagine, positive and negative, but not quite what I was looking for.

I found myself lost again, even contemplating how to end my life. I felt alone and desperate, and had no idea where to turn. In my weakest moment, I went to Legacy Community Health. I knew nothing about what they did and continue to do, but I had a friend that worked there who I thought might be able to help me. I had done a benefit for them once and the person who helped me set up all of the details was one of the most amazing people I’d ever met. He was so open and kind. He explained that if I ever needed anything that I could look him up. So I found myself in his office, crying in his arms begging while for help I was sure he couldn’t give me.

But I was wrong.

He took me downstairs to talk to the people who would help him save my life. Some long months and an arduous process later, I started hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I feel like that was the first real day of the rest of my life. Legacy has since done a lot of work to improve the services they offer the trans community, and have been one of the greatest advocates for us of which I know. They have literally saved the lives of thousands of men and women, and I cannot tell you how grateful I am for every single one of the people there.

Since then I have changed more than you can imagine. I am a completely different person. The parts of me that make me who I am are the same, but transitioning has allowed me to become confident in ways that I never thought possible. I learned to be happy, not just content with my life. The happiness applies to all aspects. From my clothing to my sexual preference, I am who I was always meant to be. I will, however, always be grateful to the woman I used to be.

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Ian Syder performing in Dessie’s Drag Race.

Valerie. Without her, I would not be the man I am today. Her experiences molded me, and I promise I will never forget that.

Transitioning allowed me the confidence to help others find what I couldn’t all those years ago. I still perform regularly, and use it as often as I’m asked for anything it can do. I’ve organized “top surgery” benefits for several trans men, all of which have been able to get the medical surgery they needed to live their lives happy and healthy. I use my drag performances as a platform to promote understanding and acceptance with people who may not have ever met another transgender person. I don’t shy away from any question, and make no secret of who I am. People sometimes find it easier to approach a personality than someone they meet on the street. I’m just glad I can be that guy.

Currently, I facilitate two different support groups here in Houston. One meets on Monday nights at Grace Lutheran Church. I’ll open the doors at 7:15, so maybe one day I’ll get to meet you. This group allows people of all types to come, so don’t hesitate if you aren’t like me. As long as you come with an open mind and a kind heart, you’ll be welcome. The second group meets the first and third Tuesday of every month at the Montrose Center. We start at 7:30, and it’s only for transgender men. We also need a space to be ourselves, so please don’t feel left out! I know I couldn’t do what I do if it weren’t for the ability to live my truth. I’m lucky, and that allows me to give other people hope. I don’t feel that I deserve the breaks I’ve been given, so I do what I can to give back to those that aren’t as lucky as me.

In January I was able to get my name and gender marker changed legally, with the court system in Travis County. It took months, and was not the easiest process at the time. No one I spoke to could tell me how to get this done, because in Texas there wasn’t a way to change your gender marker. There just isn’t a law specifically saying you can. It’s left up to the judge’s discretion. Usually that means that it was denied for almost everyone. I wouldn’t take no for an answer though, and made sure to do everything I could to get this done right the first time. My husband had his name changed years ago, but that was all the courts in Harris County allowed. So I did what I do best, and started researching.

What I found first was that Travis County was the most likely place to get the approval for the gender marker change. I also found a document that was written by a law student as part of a class. It had never been tested. I took the leap and started editing the petition to match my information. A few friends found out what I was doing and asked if they could tag along. I couldn’t say no, which led to the petition for me and my husband turning into one for a group of eight. I was terrified that this wouldn’t work and that the trip would have been made for nothing.

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Ian Syder married husband Shane Townsley on Oct. 22nd, 2017.

That day in court, one of those friends was asked by the judge who was responsible for the petitions and the editing. I was pointed out of course. The judge thanked me, told me that everything looked good, and asked that we call ahead next time we were bringing such a large group. That day, eight people walked in with a name they never chose and left knowing that they would never have to hear it again. They would never again be questioned when showing their ID. They could live exactly as they always knew they should. We all cried that day, and they were finally tears of joy.

To date I have given this information to 147 transgender people. Felons, minors, foreign nationals, even a few lawyers who wanted to help but didn’t know how. Not one has been denied. The clerks in Austin took my calls and emails in the beginning, and we have worked out a system that makes the process much easier – especially for the judges! I’m still getting the requests, but so far it has been word of mouth, and word is slow to spread. I’ve held several “clinics” for various groups and look forward to hosting as many as I can. This information just isn’t available in a Google search. If you know someone who might need this, please find me. I would welcome the ability to get every one of us taken care of. Without proper identification, we face discrimination in housing, employment, insurance, and many other ways. There is no situation that can’t be worked around, so please don’t think that you can’t get this done too.

When I realized that I was transgender, I felt like there was no hope for me, that something was broken inside and could never be fixed. I know now how wrong I was. We have a long way to go, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Every day that we go out into the world is a triumph. Every conversation that we have is a victory. I was able to find out who I am, and I know for a fact that there is nothing wrong with me. There are so many others out there who do what I do, but they stay in the shadows. There are more of us than you might think. So the next time you see someone who looks a little different, don’t turn your head and whisper behind our backs, just say hello. We are more like you than you can imagine.


If you would like to reach out to Ian for assistance with changing your name or gender marker in the state of Texas, you can email him at ianmichaellarive@yahoo.com.

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2017

A note from the editor-in-chief.

Today is 18th annual Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR). It is a day not only to be acknowledged by the world’s trans community, but by the world as a whole. This is because trans people should not be pigeonholed to just their community, or even just to the LGBTQIA community. Just like cisgender people, transgender people are just … people.

Trans Day of Remembrance has been annually recognized since 1999, when it was established by trans advocate Gwendolyn Ann Smith. Smith started the memorialization in response to the murder of Rita Hester, a trans woman who was murdered the year before. In the years since its inception, TDoR has become a vigil not only for Hester, but for all the trans people who have lost their lives to violence in the years since.

Today, we can see that violence against the trans community has not changed much. In 2017, 25 trans people have been victim to a fatal crime, including Texas’s own Stephanie Montez, a 47-year-old trans woman from Robstown. The majority of those people were trans women of color; and those numbers are up by 2 from 2016, with still a month and a half of the year left to go before the beginning of 2018.

The names of the people lost in 2017 are as follows: Jamie Lee Wounded Arrow (28), Mesha Caldwell (41), Sean Hake (age unknown), Jojo Striker (23), Tiara Lashaytheboss Richmond (24), Jaquarrius Holland (18), Chyna Doll Dupree (31), Ciara McElveen (21), Alphonza Watson (38), Chayviss Reed (age unknown), Kenneth Bostick (59), Sherrell Faulkner (46), Kenne McFadden (26), Josie Berrios (28), Ava Le Ray Barrin (17), Ebony Morgan (28), Troy “Tee Tee” Dangerfield (32), Gwenyvere River Song (26), Kiwi Herring (30), Kashmire Redd (28), Derricka Banner (26), Ally Steinfeld (17), Stephanie Montez (47), and Candace Towns (30).

Sadly, the attitude toward the trans community around the country is not generally improving – especially so with a president in the Oval Office who perpetuates antiquated and ridiculous stereotypes about the trans community by trying to ban trans servicemen and women from the military. From there, it trickles down. It trickles down to his supporters, those who are unsure of him, but who still listen, and then to the children of all of those people. Children who, if I might add, we should be educating about equality, about not seeing gender identity or sexual orientation or color or religion or nationality.

That’s why here at About Magazine, I’m making it a personal mission to make About Magazine + About News just as inclusive of our trans community as it is of the lesbian, bisexual, gay, and pansexual community. We will also be more inclusive of the intersex and asexual communities, so that no one is left behind.

To do so, we will be launching in 2018 our first page on the website for trans-only content, aptly titled About Trans. Currently, we are looking for trans writers and editors to be a part of this initiative. Until then, I will oversee it. However, I am a cis person, and in order for this operation to be genuine and authentic, it is my earnest belief that this portion of our site should be trans-run. If you or anyone you know would like to be a part of About Trans, feel free to email me at anthony@about-online.com.

Going forward, let’s remember what today stands for, and remind ourselves and our trans friends, neighbors, and loved ones that they are just as important as anyone else, and that we’re there to aid them if they should ever need it in any way. Give them your love, and give them your support, because they are just as much a part of the LGBTQIA community as anyone else that falls into any of those other categories. And if you don’t believe this to be true, read a little bit of our content today so that you can understand why trans people are so important to the queer cause. Because as genderqueer activist and musician C.N. Lester said, “Even when we are confused about someone’s gender, and don’t have a greater awareness of what it means to be trans, we have a choice to respond with kindness rather than cruelty.”

Choose kindness.

Choose community.

Choose love.

 

Anthony Ramirez

Editor-in-Chief

 

For more information on Transgender Day of Remembrance, visit the GLADD website here. 

Tricks and Treats, Pt. II

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Halloween

Less Than Butterflies Column

At a certain point, I was undoubtedly drunk. Between Stephen’s specialty Nerds-flavored shots and the shots of Fireball in conjunction with all the vodka, I was just moments away from trying to play Someone Like You on the piano in the living room over whatever Bebe Rexha was shouting about. I refrained.

The party was fun and very much alive, but I was tiring quickly and wanted to see what was going on in Montrose before I retired for the evening. Courtney and Jennifer had already made their way to Pearl for the costume contest. Carter was flitting around the party, coming back every now and then to get a little handsy as the night progressed. The drunker I became, the less I fought it off. After all, I may not have been interested in Carter, but I was alone at a party and somewhat sadder than I had been before I was this drunk. The attention wasn’t killing me.

After goodbyes with Stephen and Leo and a few other people I’d met at the party, Carter and I dashed down the stairs to our cars to meet a couple of other friends at JR’s. Montrose, however, proved to be impossible to navigate thanks to street closures for Halloween and the perennial road work always taking place throughout the neighborhood. I must have parked six blocks from JR’s (and probably illegally, at that) before I was able to make my way to the bar.

The temperature had dropped significantly in a very short time, but it hadn’t prevented anyone from wandering the streets. Even the patio of JR’s was packed with people, as was every room of the bar. Finding Carter, as well as my friends Casey and Nick, proved to be much more difficult as I squeezed my way through the unnecessarily sweaty patrons.

When I did finally find them, I had trouble keeping my attention zeroed in on the conversation. This could partly be chalked up to drunkenness, but my distraction was due to everyone else in the bar. From Casey and Nick to every other pair, it became depressingly obvious that nearly everyone in the bar was coupled off.

Where had gay Christmas gone? Where had the twinks in wings and colorful underwear tottered off to? Even the bears in leather were partnered-up. Long gone seemed the days of going out on Halloween with the intention of hooking up or meeting someone interesting who may only seem attractive at the time due to their costume. Looking around, I obsessed over the fact that out of 5 million people in the city of Houston—granted only a minority of them gay—everyone out for Halloween was already spoken for. Where were all the single people? Was there some sort of single, gay, Halloween party I hadn’t been invited to where everyone drank wine and watched Practical Magic until they’d become so drunk and suicidal that they decided to join hands and jump off the roof like Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman at the end of the movie?

Why hadn’t I been invited?

The clock struck 2 AM sooner than I’d have guessed, and Carter and I made our way through busy Montrose hand-in-hand toward our cars.

Unfortunately, like on so many occasions before, I couldn’t find my car anywhere.

Fuck,” I swore, irritated with myself for not thinking to pay more attention when I’d parked.

“It’s fine,” Carter told me as he led me to his car. “I’ll drive you around until we find it.”

If ever there came a day when I didn’t have to rely on a man to help me find my car, I might actually wake up a different person. Sadly, that was becoming more and more a trademark of who I’d become.

Finding the car didn’t take long. Once we’d passed by JR’s, I began to remember how I’d walked to the bar from my car. Carter pulled up right behind it to let me out on the corner like a hooker who’d lost her way. He leaned in to hug me, lingering a bit before he kissed me on the cheek. Once he had, I kissed his back.

What happened next I could blame on the alcohol, but I’d be lying. Being drunk had never made me do anything. I knew better than that. Still, as I moved just a little bit to the right and kissed Carter on his lips, I couldn’t compose a justifiable reason why I’d done it. He kissed me back, and we did so a little more before my senses returned to me and I pulled away.

This was not the magic of Halloween. This was a drunk, lonely gay who’d been thinking of another gay all night while taking advantage of his friend. And though Carter didn’t object and reciprocated the kiss, I was taking advantage of his kindness, and for that I felt like shit.

I bid him goodnight, then sped off in my own car. I was embarrassed. Not because Carter wasn’t cute, he certainly was. But because I’d escalated to a new level of sluttiness—the kind that involves and can harm your friendships.

I guess I really had put the ‘trick’ in trick-or-treat, even if only by way of innocently kissing a friend in whom I had no romantic interest. Worst of all, though, I felt unfulfilled. This kiss hadn’t meant anything, though maybe part of me was hoping that it would have coming from a boy who at least paid attention to me and made me feel attractive. But the magic—Halloween or otherwise—simply hadn’t been there.

Even on a night when witches were supposed to fly their broomsticks across the night sky, and spirits were said to creep from one side of the veil to the other, and twinks paraded around in their underwear and angel wings, maybe the magic of gay Halloween wasn’t resting in how much we had to drink or how slutty we became thereafter. It laid in our friendships—the unexpected ones that started off as silly crushes, and the ones that we kissed by accident that we’d never crushed on before and probably never would. Those were the people who made Halloween—a night of needless celebration—fun. They were the ones we could count on no matter what.

Return to Part I here.

Tricks and Treats, Pt. I

Less Than Butterflies Gay Dating Houston Halloween

Less Than Butterflies Column

It’s no secret that Halloween is gay Christmas. It’s not as though we’ve ever needed an excuse to dress up in costume or drag and attend some hedonistic party in Montrose where someone will certainly be distributing ecstasy in the bathroom while remixes of every song by every pop icon are blared in the dark, trembling background. But Halloween poses a different sort of spectacle than every other party in Montrose. Inhibitions are lost; time seems to slow; and there’s an affection for our friends that provides a kind of high not brought on by bathroom ecstasy or specialty shots.

Plus, we get a little bit sluttier. At least I do. I being the person who puts the ‘trick’ in ‘trick or treat.’

There’s no logic or rule that dictates why Halloween puts us in such good spirits. Maybe it’s something psychological. Maybe it’s all hype. Or maybe, just maybe, there is something truly magical about Halloween.

Even in my exhaustion after two long weeks with work-related affairs, I couldn’t move myself to peel away from the idea of attending my friend Stephen’s boyfriend’s Halloween party. It was an annual event—or it was at least becoming one—that had the year before proven to be like any other gay Halloween party: a genus of twinks in brightly colored underwear donning body glitter and angel wings. This, mind you, was at an American Horror Story-themed party. Stephen’s apartment was small and the air conditioning was hardly working. An hour in, everyone was sweating and trying to escape into the 90-degree outdoors just to catch a breath.

This year, however, Leo (Stephen’s boyfriend) had relocated the party to a friend and co-host’s townhome off Washington. The theme? Netflix’s GLOW—appropriately retitled as the Gays and Lesbians of Wrestling.

As per the usual, I was dateless. I’d invited Ezra to accompany me, but he was to visit friends in San Antonio for the weekend. Luckily, my friend Carter tagged along with me. Carter and I hadn’t been friends for long. Like most of my friends at the time, we’d met through Pride. Carter was 30, single, and sweet, and not at all my type. Still, he was a good friend and an intent listener and the kind of person who would do anything for anyone.

We drank a bottle of wine at Barnaby’s before heading toward Washington for the party. Upon arrival, it was clear that Stephen had already been drinking well before our arrival. My friend Courtney and her girlfriend, Jennifer were also there, dressed from neck-to-ankles in incandescent Lycra. Just as the year before, a large portion of the attendees had taken it upon themselves to ignore the theme of the party—myself included, as I was not sure I had the body type to be wearing fabrics with such elasticity.

That’s not true. I was sure. I was certain that I did not. I did, however, dress nice enough and put on some black lipstick just for the hell of it.

Stephen grabbed me by the wrist just after I’d made a drink and dragged me to a wet bar in the living room of the townhome. “Let’s do a shot!” he suggested with all the charisma of a Beyonce drag impersonator. But like with all things when it came to Stephen—shots, bottles of wine, valid points in a heated debate—one shot turned into several shots.

My background with Stephen was relatively short, but fast-paced in some rights. He was one of the very first people I’d met at Pride Houston when I was a first-year volunteer. To be completely honest, when we first met, I thought Stephen was cute. True, he was gross and sweaty from working all evening in the sun and was about 15-pounds underweight. But in his glasses and seemingly-nerdy disposition, I was initially attracted to him. For a while, my friend Alice and I couldn’t figure out his last name and took to referring to him as just Hot Stephen.

But much like books, a boy should never be judged by his cover. As I transitioned into my role as the volunteer chair for Pride, Stephen and I encountered each other more frequently. Real Stephen was vastly different from first-impression Stephen. He wasn’t as tightly wound and I don’t think I ever saw those glasses again. True, Stephen was a pretty boy, but he was also a boy who was spoken for and whose personality—regardless of whether or not he’d ever admit it—was too much like mine. Opinionated, mildly neurotic, a little slutty, and often drunk.

As my first year as a chair dragged on, Stephen and I saw a lot more of each other. Pride events and workdays eventually turned into drinks at the Eagle or numerous bottles of wine at Barnaby’s or birthday and dinner parties. The conversations that had once just revolved around our work with Pride grew inclusive of similar interests. Soon we’d become friends.

After a few more shots, I found myself standing outside on the balcony smoking a cigarette with some strangers from Mexico. One of the two was in medical school and in Houston for her internship. The other was presumably her boyfriend. A moment later, Stephen found his way outside to the patio.

“I knew you’d be out here smoking. I’m gonna lock you out,” Stephen said before engaging with the medical student and her boyfriend. When their own cigarettes were finished, they made a quick exit and Stephen and I had changed the topic to the busy week we’d had with Pride work, the party, and our friends inside. It wasn’t until the tail-end of the conversation that Stephen asked, “So, how’s Ezra?”

“I think he’s fine. He’s in San Antonio right now, if I’m not mistaken.”

He took a sip from his straw while gulping down some vodka as he goes, “Mhm. Mhm.” Once he’d swallowed and removed the straw from his mouth, he asked, “And what’s the deal with that?”

I paused just long enough to roll my eyes. “Nothing . . . ? We’re just friends.”

More, “Mhm. Mhm,” until he was slurping what remained of his vodka out of bottom of his Solo cup. “I’m gonna go get another drink. Have fun, though!” he told me as he slipped back inside. However, before he’d closed the door, Stephen poked his head back through the threshold and said, “You know, I’m really glad we became friends.”

I couldn’t help but smile a bit. Formerly Hot Stephen I knew nothing about had graduated into Close Friend Stephen, which turned out to be a good fit for him.

“God. You’re so gay,” I told him as I rolled my eyes, relatively unable to ever reciprocate kindness. He stepped back onto the balcony for a second and pointed to his cheek. I laughed, then gave him a kiss there, leaving a large, black lipstick stain under his cheekbone.

“You’re my favorite person in Pride,” he told me as he slid through the door and closed it behind him.

That was gay Halloween magic at its finest—bringing two very unlikely people together to be friends . . . even if both were extremely drunk.

Oddly enough, however, Stephen’s momentary mention of Ezra made me wonder what he was up to. I nearly pulled my phone from my pocket to text him, but realized it was late and that I shouldn’t bug him while he was out of town with his friends. I could gather, however, that Ezra probably wasn’t at some rager in San Antonio like I was in Houston. A part of me missed him. 

Regardless, I resolved to wander back inside and drink through it like a grown-up.

Although, as I turned to open the door back into the townhome, I made an attempt to turn the knob, rattling and shaking it until it became increasingly clear that Stephen had, in fact, locked me out on the balcony.

“Bastard.”

Read Part II here.