Let me set the stage. I am a 39 year old white heterosexual divorced female rushing after work to listen to a gentleman talk about his experiences with starting a magazine. Upon entering the lecture space, I am unexpectedly met with a circle of chairs with a bunch of young people (young to me) standing around chit chatting. I spotted one other staff member who welcomed me in and encouraged me to join the group. I thought that everyone was just waiting around until the speaker arrived when I realized after about five minutes of observing, one of the young men was the speaker! That’s when I actually looked around the room to see the other types of other people in attendance. I looked at each and everyone one of the people trying to guess what their reasoning was for attending this lecture and honestly, trying to figure out what they thought about my attendance there.
The lecture that I was going to listen to was that of Jason Ballard, the CEO and founder of FTM: International Transculture Magazine. Ballard was to speak about his success as a transmasculine icon and founder of a magazine. I wasn’t sure what to expect but it certainly wasn’t a young, handsome, personable man in his twenties sitting around in stocking feet talking leisurely to a group of students.
Ballad is a female who transitioned into a male. Ballard wanted to provide a forum that didn’t exist. The forum is geared towards females who are thinking about, transitioning, or have transitioned to men. There is not a magazine out that discusses this. Is this really necessary? Unfortunately it is. Most of society does not understand or accept FTM transitions.
In a Huffington Post interview discussing the magazine’s recreation of a popular Adam Levine photo, Ballad states “We’ve had comments saying ‘he doesn’t look trans’ which brings up a great point on what does trans even look like?” he added. “Perhaps we’re struggling so hard for our rights here because people have a false sense of who we are. So besides the entertainment factor of a sexy naked man, there is a element of positive visibility too.” Ballard stated exactly what I was thinking and the reason why this magazine even exists. Society doesn’t understand!
Ballard discussed why this magazine was needed. Discussion went around the room about Ballard’s experiences as a female and as he transitioned to male. The attendees discussed how FTMs are taught how to wear their hair, sit, use space, walk down the street, etc. All of these instructions are needed just so that FTMs can pass as male. Ballard followed these instructions so well that he felt like an outsider when he and his wife walked into a “gay” bar to have a drink. There shouldn’t be instructions on how to pass as the other gender just as there shouldn’t be gay and straight bars!
I was amazed at how spending just two hours with a group of people could alter my state of mind. I no longer looked around at the people in attendance trying to guess their motivation for being there. I think that if more people opened up their minds and allowed themselves to listen and learn about other people, things, ideas then magazines like FTM wouldn’t be as much of a novelty or necessity as it currently is.