becoming leander star
I wanted to include a page on this site addressing my transition from female to male. I hope that this will be found by other transgender people looking for community and solidarity. I hope this page will answer the questions of colleagues and friends. Lastly, I hope this will continue my ongoing "coming out" - a political choice to speak truth to the world.
now that's out of the way...
Here's more about my story!
I was born Starlyn Holder and went by Star. Living twenty-five years as "Star Holder," I knew that I could never be a "Steve." I changed my name to Leander because it is unusual, it sounds lovely and feminine, but it also encompasses the bravery of what I had decided to do. Leander means "man of lions" (from the Greek, leo=lion, ander=man - think "android"). I came across the name in Edith Hamilton's excellent book, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. Leander is one of the tragic figures in the Ancient Greek myth, Hero and Leander.
Unlike some transpeople, I didn't always know that I was trans. I was a happy-go-lucky tomboy when I was a kid and I grew up in a fairly liberal city and family where gender nonconformity was not the end of the world. It was only later, after I had navigated the experimentation of adolescence and began to feel settled in young adulthood, that I realized that I had spent my entire life trying to see a man in the mirror instead of a woman. When I was a child, I would always slick back my hair after a shower and pretend to see a prince in the mirror. As a young adult, I planned my whole wardrobe around trying to minimize the female appearance of my body.
I made the decision to change my name and alter my appearance using surgeries and hormones while I was studying horn at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. I am so grateful to my classmates, professors, and the administration for their acceptance and support. Even though that transition could have been stressful, I remember it as one of the happiest times of my life. Comparing my musicianship before and after transition is difficult because school is always such an intense time of learning. However, I have noticed that I am more analytical since starting testosterone. Being more analytical can be helpful for solving problems but can occasionally get in the way of making beautiful music.
GENDER AND ME
Although I walk in the world perceived as a man, I hold the socialization and memories of a quarter of a century spent as female. I value those experiences and I treasure the female part of myself. Not all transpeople feel this way, but I definitely feel more "in the middle," gender-wise. To me, it is an essentially feminist statement to value myself, as a man, for the ways I do not conform to traditional masculine roles. My friend recently wrote a super awesome commentary on the new Mad Max movie and talks about this:
Movies like [Terminator 2] FEEL feminist because they are presenting the possibility of women being badass and macho and shooting guns and not being dependent on men, and of course there is something empowering about seeing those representations. And yet, do women not also have value and dignity if they AREN’T avatars of hideous violence? Do women not also have value and dignity if they ARE dependent on others, as indeed we are ALL DEPENDENT ON ONE ANOTHER? ...Aren’t women who are peaceful valuable? Aren’t fat women and thin women and black women and white women and all kinds of women valuable, on their own terms and for their own sake, not for how well they can fit themselves into a masculine-capitalist mold by killing people and not needing anyone but themselves? And, if we accept this, then doesn’t that mean that ALL types of people have value, and deserve care and thought?
Since transitioning, I have been in a unique position to understand the privileges afforded men and straight people that were once denied me. It has been fascinating. I have often noticed that people will listen to me much more often since my transition. If I am rude, it is more easily forgiven. If I don't feel like talking, nobody asks me if everything is ok. Landlords believe me when I talk about their houses. Panhandlers don't badger me if I have nothing to give. On the other hand, women will not meet my eyes, most of the time. My elderly neighbor only talks to me when she wants to convince me to mow her lawn. Folks laugh at me on the street when I wear colorful or flamboyant clothing. I don't always know the social etiquette for hanging out with men and I am often too honest, too sensitive. I honestly know next to nothing about sports. The small privileges I have given up via transition are nothing compared to the respect and value that are automatically put on my shoulders as a man. I recommend this really great article written on the subject.
LEANDER MOVING FORWARD
Many things have changed for me but so many more have stayed the same. I have always been a happy person; now, I am a little happier, more centered. My partner, Elise, has been with me since before I came out as transgender; our relationship only strengthened through my transition. Being trans has opened up beautiful communities of people to me - folks I might never have met otherwise. My musical career moves steadily forward, unhindered by my gender status. For this, I am so grateful. The world, far from perfect, continues to move toward equality and acceptance. And this page, this addendum to any success I may achieve, is meant to steer those achievements from being the kind which submit to oppression to the kinds of achievements that fight oppression.
This page is dedicated to Leslie Feinberg, a butch lesbian and transgender activist and author. It is impossible to imagine the influence Feinberg had on so many people, including myself, through actions and words, loving kindness and righteousness, and a refusal to apologize for living outside norms.
Reading Feinberg's book, Stone Butch Blues, influenced me just a little bit more than visiting the website of Leslie's partner, Minnie Bruce Pratt, in the early days of the internet. Theirs was the kindest site I had ever encountered - a place, though virtual, where I always knew I belonged.