Tag Archive: blogging


chickenblogSomething like two and a half years ago, I wrote a blog post called ‘How To Have Sex With A Trans Man’. When I started my blog, it was intended for family and friends – a way to get around having to tell my story and answer questions several times. The vast majority of what I write is about my own ‘stuff’ – how transition has affected me, and how random vaguely transition-related issues have impacted on me. Occasionally, when the spirit moves me, I write something different, and given the number of bonkers ideas people have about sex with someone like me, ‘How To Have Sex…’ popped into existence.

Ironically, given the content of this one post of mine that is currently ‘doing the rounds’, I am sitting typing this in my single bed, accompanied only by an ancient cat. If there are any typing errors in this post, it’s the cat’s fault. Honest.

Ever since ‘How To Have Sex With A Trans Man’ was published, it has been by far and away my most popular post. This is explained pretty easily by how many people ‘Out There’ put things like “How do trans men have sex?” into your friendly neighbourhood search engine. Or “FTM sex”. Or “Can ftms have sex?” You get the picture.

As time has gone by, my posts to ftmark have gone from weekly to fortnightly, to monthly, to whenever I feel like it. Despite the lack of new content, I was having around 100 post views a day. Most of which, wouldn’t you know it, for that one post. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a bit disappointed – of all the posts I’d put together over time, some great, others mediocre, all the attention is on the one about sex. But hey, mustn’t grumble – maybe I was helping a few people understand that YES, trans* identified people can have sex, and that it’s not rocket science.

But it seems that inadvertently, I had spawned a monster. WordPress very nicely lets me know when things are happening on my blog, but when my ‘phone bingled at me a couple of days ago, I was really shocked to see that the blog had suddenly amassed 3000 views THAT DAY. It got worse (or better, I suppose, depending on your world view). Through the limited information available, it was clear that Facebook and Tumblr were generating thousands of views.

That terrifies me.

Remember that this blog’s intended audience from the start was friends and family. I worry a lot about what people I KNOW will think of my opinions, let alone thousands of strangers. And whilst I have had some amazing positive feedback after nearly 18,000 views in three days, there has inevitably been criticism, too. I’m a sensitive little flower, and when you’ve not deliberately gone out on a limb, that criticism from strangers can be a shock to the system.

I’ll be honest and admit that I’ve been scared of what to do next – whether I should just carry on and write the post I was planning (getting a passport in the UK), or try to acknowledge the increase in traffic by choosing a really ‘good’ topic. I’m very self-conscious now about writing, in case I offend someone, somewhere ‘out there’. It was so much easier when I only had to worry about offending my Mum. But you know what? Once all this dies down, and I’m back to my 98 views a day for the post with sex in the title, and 2 for whatever else I’ve written, my stress levels might be lower. Service will hopefully resume at some point soon, and you can all read about How I Got My Passport….

The cat says hi.

Birthday Beer2I started writing this blog for two main reasons. The first was as a form of cheap therapy, and the second was to try to help family and friends understand what on earth “transition” actually involved. I didn’t really have any grandiose plans for the blog, though of course I still fondly imagine how it would feel to be offered a ‘proper’ writing job as a result of someone important reading my efforts and being inspired! Equally, I’d love it if a publisher contacted me to say I am wonderful, offering a book deal. Yeah yeah. We all know these things don’t happen.

Still, what started out small has got much bigger. For the first few months, the average number of ‘post views’ on my blog was around 400 a month. By ‘post view’ I mean one viewing of one of my posts, not how many people. So one person could visit, look at three posts, and you have three post views.

I started in March 2011, and by the end of the year, I was averaging nearly 1000 post views a month. Now that figure has grown to nearly 1500 a month. The scary thing is that I’ve halved the number of posts I publish, but the numbers keep going up.

What started as friends and family has spread to friends of friends and beyond. Other bloggers have created links to my blog, and I’ve been fortunate to have my details on Transguys.com, ‘The Internet’s Magazine for Transgender Men’ (NSFW in places, if you plan to take a look). I self-promote in a small way, on Facebook, but contacting Transguys.com was the first time I’ve really actively sought to get my blog ‘out there’. Now I am seeing the effects of people reblogging what I write, and I am losing track of who is reading my posts. It’s frightening.

I am still surprised when people I know say that they enjoy my blog. I’ve once had a complete stranger bound up to me in a pub and say “You’re ftmark!” (turns out he was a friend of a friend). That freaked me out, and I must admit that the way my blog has grown and blossomed is doing the same now.

I feel like I ought to be writing about ‘proper’ subjects and addressing ‘issues’ and being ‘representative’. Suddenly me talking about rogue nostril hair and how cheesed off I get with ignorant people seems a bit…well, trivial. I’ll be honest, dear reader: my confidence has taken a bit of a knock.

It does seem a ridiculous reaction, I know. I should be pleased that people are reading what I write, and hopefully taking something useful away from it. This may, I realise, come under the ironic Twitter hashtag #firstworldproblems. But I think that it’s going to take a bit of time before I can get my head around the concept of a wider audience, and get back to feeling confident writing about what comes from my heart.

On a lighter note…BEER. My lovely partner and I have 2 nights booked in a suspiciously cheap hotel, just up the road from the National Winter Ales Festival. We used to go to a lot of events like this, being beer lovers, but this will be my first as Mark. Beer gatherings tend to be very male-dominated, and Will and I have often been referred to at events like this as ‘girls’ (not women, even though at that time we both identified as such. Girls.) I am sorely aware that I will probably be misgendered  a lot in the coming weekend, and I really hope it doesn’t detract from enjoying the frothy brown loveliness. Will did suggest she could enhance my chin fluff with eyebrow pencil, or we could just go the whole hog and use that pencil to write ‘I am a man’ across my forehead. I will let you know how it goes…

We’ve been together a long time now, and I really value what our relationship has done for me, my confidence and my outlook on life. It’s just that sometimes I feel a bit smothered, and spending all my time with you is getting in the way of doing other things…

I’ve been blogging solidly for a year and a half, every week, and occasionally in between when I got particularly over-excited. Writing about my transition really does help me to understand myself, and I hope that what I write gives some insight into the life of a trans person. Most of all, I want to show that whilst we do have very specific concerns and issues, trans people do not share identical needs or motivation, and we are, on the whole, very ordinary people going about very mundane lives. We’re not brave, not exotic unicorns, not perverts, not delusional, not trying to follow some sort of weird trend, not fetishes, not walking political statements. Actually, we may be any and all of those, but not on account of our gender identity.

I have been a busy bee, setting up a local group for trans guys, genderqueer people, and those who were assigned female at birth and are questioning their gender identity. The group’s name is, rather unimaginatively, FTM Norfolk. I tried to think up something dynamic and funky, but failed 🙂 I’ve also started running a FB page for the group, to provide an easily accessible point of contact, and spend a lot of time monitoring the group’s email account, liaising with local LGBT groups and Trans* groups nationally. It’s all very exciting, and I am really hopeful that slowly we can build a strong valuable resource here in Norfolk.

You may also be aware that I make videos for YouTube. I take part in a collaborative channel for *cough* ‘more mature’ FTMs exploring a different topic each week, which is challenging, but fun. I used to upload a video on my personal channel once a month, but came to realise that at this stage in my transition, I don’t have a whole lot to add to my ‘progress so far’ on a monthly basis, so I’ve cut things back to every 2 months.

That rather brings me back to my point today. Whilst I love blogging, I promised myself from the start that I would do my best to keep it relevant. Because there’s not an awful lot going on personally in my transition, there is always the option to explore the trans experience generally, and get into the politics surrounding treatment of people like me in the world at large. I definitely enjoy a bit of tub thumping, but I don’t want my blog to become a rant. Or a whine.

I’m at a point where I’m having to scrabble round a bit for things to say in my blog, whereas before I just couldn’t write things down quickly enough. I’ve started to worry about finding topics, and what to say, and when to find the time to say it. As I’ve so much else going on in my life, I’d rather my blogging remained a positive, affirming process, and I don’t want to stress about it!

As a result, dear blog, I’m afraid I want a bit of space – some time I can spend apart from you that will make our relationship stronger. Instead of posting once a week, I’ll be doing it once a fortnight instead. We’ll still be together, but with a bit less stress. If something super-exciting happens, I’ll be right here blogging about it, but if not, I’ll see you in a fortnight.

I started writing this blog to reach out to family and friends about the changes I am going through, and the reason why I have made these decisions in life. It was also intended as a useful way of me committing my thoughts to print for my own future reference. I’ve never been any good at keeping diaries, so a blog seemed like a pretty good idea.

My blog has by no means gone global in the usual sense – I haven’t had any calls from newspaper or magazine editors or funky online zines begging me to contribute, and my viewing numbers, whilst steadily rising, reflect a fairly small audience. I average around 280 post views a week, as opposed to 100-ish a week this time last year, which makes me very happy.

I have gone global in a different sense, though. On February 25th this year, WordPress started providing bloggers with information about what countries their views come from. It makes really fascinating reading. The picture at the top of this page shows all the different countries where people have sat at a computer, and viewed my blog since Feb 25th. The list runs downwards, rather than across. Everywhere from Jersey downwards has just had the one post view, but all others have had more than one.

I’m no egoist (though some might disagree) but the thought that my blog has been read so far across the world, and in such diverse places, is exciting, and a little scary. This isn’t just me talking about my boobs for friends and family any more.

Now I’d be the first to admit that it is unlikely every one of these post viewers was looking for information on the trans experience. It’s clear from what search engine terms people use that actually they’re looking for p*rn, or advice on swollen ankles. However, I like to think that for every misdirection there is another person who has found exactly what they needed. For every “what on earth have I found??” there’s an “It’s not just me, then”. Whether that’s in Worksop, Walnut Ridge or Warhapur, that makes me very happy.

The internet has opened up the world, there’s no doubt about it. Arguably that isn’t always a good thing, but in the case of linking up trans people across the world, it can really affect quality of life. In places where people experience no support from family, friends or the wider community, reading a blog, watching a YouTube video or chatting to someone via Messenger, or using Skype can mean that you feel a bit less alone. Whether the person you’re in touch with is on the other side of the world, or in the next town.

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The map below shows all the countries where someone has looked at my blog from 25th February 2012 to the present.

It has been a year – happy bloggiversary! Well, it was on the 5th March, anyway. I’ve been posting every week, and occasionally in between when I got particularly over-excited. I have now produced 66 posts, of varying seriousness, usefulness and quality, and now I’d like to share my amazing secrets. Please don’t get me wrong, I know that there are WAY better blogs out there, dealing in the same issues that I raise, with far more panache, from a much more educated perspective, and getting a gazillion hits a week. However, I acknowledge my own brilliance, so these are my gems of wisdom…

1) Don’t try to “represent”.

One of the biggest things I have learned through speaking to, mixing with, following online and reading about people who come under the heading of FTM, is how completely different we all are. And I mean completely. I have never met anyone who shares exactly my aims, experience and beliefs regarding transition. I try really hard to make it clear that what I say in my blog relates to me, and whilst there’s a lot of stuff FTM people have in common, it’s not fair or accurate to try to speak for them.

2) Be honest.

I’m a terrible liar, and also have a core belief so deeply-seated that it’s probably become an internal organ by now, that I have to tell the truth. This has got me into trouble on numerous occasions, but I’ve learned to work with it. Society does, after all, require a certain amount of bending of the truth and omission in order to get by without dipping oneself in the sh*t, or hurting others. Anyway, this isn’t a post about telling the truth, but I did promise myself that this blog would be truthful, and that I wouldn’t censor what I said according to who I think might be reading. That said, if I’ve been really torn over something, I’ve developed a policy of “not now but maybe later”, as it may be that later on, talking about something may be easier, or more appropriate. Which leads me to…

3) Draw your boundaries, and stick to them.

I was chatting to someone in the pub a while back, and we agreed that sometimes it is possible to say more than you are actually comfortable with about your transition, particularly given the very searching questions people ask (and my personal honesty fixation). As I put it then: “Oh god, yes, I get carried away, and the next thing I know I’m talking about my clitoris”. In writing a blog about anything, but particularly personal stuff, decide right at the beginning what you WON’T be talking about. For me, it’s what’s in my pants.

Sure, there have been times where I think that others might benefit from knowing in more detail about genital changes through testosterone use, or the different paths available regarding genital surgery (or the lack of it). I do have opinions on these things, but actually, that’s not something I feel comfortable about sharing just now, and I’ve stuck to that. I’ll certainly make reference to things when appropriate, but really feel that just because this is often one of the first questions people ask about FTM transition, that does not mean it should be the first to be answered.

4) Think carefully about the words you use (general).

Talking about anything can be a linguistic minefield. As I’ve discovered over the past year, it is easy to get things wrong. ‘Transgendered’, for instance, was a word I used to use, until I learned that that’s just not a correct term, so made sure I used ‘transgender’ from then on. It’s tempting to go back and change early posts, but after all, this is the story of a transformation, in more ways than one. I feel that each post was the product of how I was feeling, and where I was on my particular journey at the time. I also used to refer to myself as transsexual (still do under certain circumstances, but that’s a whole post of its own) but now, knowing myself better, and appreciating the connotation of that word, tend to steer clear. The word ‘trans’ works well for me when referring to myself or others, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that one word can fit all. Some use ‘trans*’ to denote an umbrella term with the possibility of a number of endings according to the individual. Just be careful that language that you use and feel fine using does not have a different meaning or context for someone else. Tricky.

5) Think carefully about the words you use (naughty).

I made the mistake, being a bit of a comedian, of entitling a post “You typed in Cute Pu**ies and got WHAT?” Only with s instead of a *. You get it. Now, this post was looking at some of the referrals that search engines have sent me. It was largely a humorous post, but also challenged the reality that often people come to my blog because they want to see an FTM pen*s or something along those lines. This would have been fine, but me using the word pu**y has meant that that post has amassed the most individual hits of any of my posts, all year. Even changing the title hasn’t made a difference. I don’t think the picture of the shocked cat, apparently caught watching po*n helped…

6) Be aware of where your pictures may end up.

I like to have a picture on my posts, and they are often of me. That’s fine, as I don’t mind people knowing what I look like, or my partner for that matter. I make sure I have her permission to publish pics of the two of us. That’s all well and good, but I do know that quite a lot of ‘random’ traffic to my blog comes via G**gle Images. Occasionally I put one of the search phrases that has been identified as leading to my blog into an image search, and there are a lot of pics of me on there. How hard I laughed when I put ‘hot ftm’ into an image search, and just a few pics down was a picture of me, topless. That didn’t weird me out too much (though I nearly cracked a rib laughing at being labelled a hot ftm) as I have chosen to put these pictures ‘out there’. Just be aware, expecially if you are stealth.

7) Stay focused.

I challenged myself to write a post a week, and most of the time, that’s been pretty easy, as the nature of transition is that there’s usually something changing/bothering you/to look forward to, plus it’s a time when you are super selfish, and therefore convinced that everything you have to say is important. Which of course it is. What also helps is deciding right at the start what you will and won’t include in your blog. I don’t mean as in point 3, so much as generally. My blog is about my transition, and related topics. It’s not about the great night out I had last night, unless that had some relation to my transition, or how I feel about badger culling. I have edged into talking about my bipolar, where I feel it’s connected to my gender identity and/or medical treatment. Apart from that, I’ve tried to stay very focused.

8) Be prepared.

At the risk of sounding like a teacher (Flashbacks! Aaaaargh!) it helps to know roughly what you’re going to write about before you start. Don’t get me wrong, I mostly start with a rough topic in mind, then write off the cuff after that. I’m not a planner. But I always like to avoid that ‘oh no, I’ve got to do a blogpost and I don’t know what to talk about’ moment. I’ve made a habit of writing things down during the week, so I always have a stash of ideas. I use the ‘notes’ section on my phone, which is full of weird, wonderful and downright stupid ideas for posts.  Just looking now, there’s “You’re history, no good to me”, “More defence than Villa” and “You have the Rights to remain silent”. These may or may not ever be used, if I can even remember what I meant. Many of you will know I’m not a good sleeper (I’m terrible in bed…) and a lot of my note making is done at 3am. What makes perfect sense then tends not to the next day. Witness my weirdest note: “Elastical”. Hmm.

9) Find an audience.

I started this blog for friends and family. Quite selfishly I figured it would be a good way to avoid having to say the same thing over and over. ‘Look at my blog, here’s the address’ probably sounds a bit pompous, but does save repetition. Use the tags facility – I’m not very good at this, but tagging your post will help bring people to your blog who are interested in a particular topic. The stuff I mentioned earlier about G**gle etc can work in your favour, as those search engine people are very clever, and will pick up key words. Just make sure it’s things like ‘ftm’ and ‘transition’ rather than ‘pu**y’, as we’ve established.

Facebook is, of course, a powerful tool, and Twitter too (did anybody hear an owl?) Publish a link to your newest post. Hopefully your FB friends and Twitter followers will be interested rather than annoyed – I suppose it depends how aggressive you are! Word will get round – I’ve bumped into ex-colleagues that I haven’t spoken to for over a year who’ve said, ‘I read your blog’. That is weird, but good. Try linking to other, similar blogs, as people often want to ‘read around’ a topic.

10) Enjoy it.

Oh, I know it’s a cliché, but there’s no point pouring your heart out if it’s not fun. There’s only been a couple of times when I felt I didn’t want to do a post, and I do get a bit stressed, wanting to write something ‘good’ (well, don’t we all?) but otherwise, I love doing this. The whole process is very therapeutic, and I like to think that for a few hundred words a week I am A Writer. Of course, it would be cool if thousands of people suddenly became terribly interested in my blog (how DOES that happen?), but that’s not why I do it. I’m terrible at keeping a diary, but this way, I can see for myself how far I’ve come, and how far I still have to travel.

I have currently had 9576 hits on my blog, with 4993 of those on the home page. I never in a million years thought I’d be looking at nearly 10,000 hits in a year. I am undecided at the moment whether to continue doing a weekly blog, or perhaps try fortnightly, to keep things fresh. My transition is at a point where nothing very dramatic is happening, and as happy as I’d be to rant about gender issues every week, I feel that would skew the focus of the blog. I’m going to see how I feel when I get to 10,000 and re-assess.

My next blog will be on Thursday 15th March, to celebrate One Year On Testosterone…my Transiversary! All 1st Birthday greetings and vegan birthday cake welcome 🙂