Mar 19, 2006

Creative Loafing Cover Story

So I made the cover of Atlanta's Creative Loafing magazine--the free weekly paper that bills itself as "Shelter from the Mainstream". Curt Holman, Atlanta's finest theater critic (in my opinion, and that of most of my actor friends), wrote a very sensitive, positive, and informational story about my transition, both from female to male and as a performer.

I used to joke that all of Atlanta has seen my tits. Now, without hyperbole, I can say that all of Atlanta knows what's in my pants (and under my shirt).

It has been fun and a little horrifying, carrying out my daily routine since the story dropped on Wednesday. Today I dined at my regular spot, the Radial Cafe, only to see my face on every table right next to plates of pancakes and scrambled eggs. I got a lot of looks--curious, supportive. My friend Shane and I next hit JavaMonkey in Decatur where a high school student from 7 Stages' summer program gave me the heartthrob mob treatment, causing everybody in the place to look over and wonder what was going on. The only part I found funny was that I turned a completely new and different shade of red. Everybody else thought the incident was HILARIOUS. Go ahead. Laugh it up ;-)

But the best part--aside from my story being treated very respectfully by Creative Loafing (factual, unopinionated, and semantically correct press for trannies is still woefully rare)--was a conversation I just had out at a community dinner. A friend who I don't know too well, but like very much (he generously loans me fun tools for projects and is just generally a very nice guy) told me he read the story, twice, Letter To The Editor Pen at the ready to defend me lest I fall victim to disrespectful press. This from a family guy who has patiently seen me through several less-than-manly predicaments with all manner of (his) power's enough to make a trannyboy tear up! (If I could. The hormones currently make crying impossible.)

I guess this is a blog to mark a very lucky moment in my life. I feel honored that my story and my work caught CL's attention, and very happy that they were so ethical and respectful with their portrayal. I am stoked that more people will be educated--I hope that they look into the lives of other transfolks for even more insight. And I just feel loved.

I'm going to sit with this feeling for a second more, and then I'm going to send it out to my trans friends everywhere, alive and dead. One more drop in what I hope is a fast-filling bucket of compassion and educated understanding.

Here's the article, which you can also find here

I changed my sex. Now what? 

Scott Turner Schofield's rapid transit to a new identity

Signs Scott Turner Schofield is a man:
He looks, dresses and sounds like a man.
He has a masculine name.
He's prone to let the dirty dishes pile up.
He uses the men's room.
At fox-trot lessons, he leads.
He goes by "he."
Signs Scott Turner Schofield isn't a man:
He was almost voted homecoming queen in high school.
On his driver's license, below "sex" it says "F."
He grew up with the name "Katie Lauren Kilborn."
He used to be a lesbian.
Until about two years ago, he went by "she."
Even when their appearance doesn't match their anatomy, transgender people don't view "passing" as deception. They think they're presenting an honest front. It's who they are. Anything to the contrary is a genetic mix-up.
As an Emory sophomore a few years back, Katie Kilborn came home to Charlotte for Thanksgiving break. She and her mother went to see Meet the Parents. Katie took a break from the Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro antics to go to the restroom.
click to enlargeThough Scott Turner Schofield was born a woman, he now uses the men's restroom. - Jim Stawniak
  • Though Scott Turner Schofield was born a woman, he now uses the men's restroom.
"This is the ladies room!" a fortyish woman called out to the lanky person with short-cropped hair wearing track pants and a hoodie sweatshirt. When Katie came out of the stall, the angry woman blocked her way and repeated the warning. So Katie lifted her sweatshirt, showed her breasts.
"I am a woman," she said.
"You dyke!" the lady responded as she struck Katie across the face with a purse. The metal zipper drew blood.
"I went back to my seat," she recalls, "and told my mother that I'd walked into a door -- sort of like an abused wife."
For a while, Katie stopped using public restrooms.
About a year-and-a-half later, at the Lenox Square movie theater, she really had to go. By that time, she was calling herself the more androgynous "Kt," but she tried to head off another confrontation by using feminine body language and speaking in the highest register possible. While in the stall, however, Kt overheard a woman say, "Why is there a gay man in the bathroom?"
When she finally ventured into a men's room in 2004, at yet another movie theater, she considered herself a man. Scott Turner Schofield stepped through the door, stared with shock at its unsanitary conditions and wondered, "Is this what the rest of my life will be like?"
It's hard to know which pronouns to use at different stages of Turner's life.
In college, she'd gradually adopted a more gender-neutral "trans" persona. In addition to calling herself Kt (pronounced like "K.T."), she began to keep her pronouns unspecific. Kt, who'd graduated in 2002, even used her evolution from woman to man as raw material for her honors thesis, a one-person show called Underground TRANSit.
She spent the summer of 2004 as head counselor at La Vida del Corazon, an arts-oriented camp in Costa Rica. American teens enrolled at the camp would ask her, "You're a woman, right?" But dressed casually in a T-shirt and khaki shorts as she strolled through the town of 72 people, she passed perfectly.
"Nobody could even fathom that I was a woman," she says. "People would say, 'Hey, buddy!' to me on the street."
In the camp, Kt was supposed to be a role model. She taught kids about self-confidence and integrity, about believing in themselves. That forced her to make a commitment: If she was serious about being true to herself, she'd have to be truer to himself.
In the States, she told friends to call her Scott Turner Schofield. They took the adjustment in stride. "They changed my name in their cell phones, so immediately they were like, 'Hey, Turner!'"
For his mother, it wasn't so easy.
"I'd gotten used to him being a homosexual, but this was a great shock," Margaret Dickson recalls in a phone conversation from West Chester, Pa. Since before the Costa Rica trip, Kt had been talking with her mother about being transgender. She'd dropped hints about impending changes. "For parents, there's a fear of your child coming out as transgender will make him a social outcast, so I tried to dissuade him."
click to enlargeScott Turner Schofield started dating Alison Hastings months after becoming a man. - Jim Stawniak
  • Scott Turner Schofield started dating Alison Hastings months after becoming a man.
When Kt drove her mother from Houston to San Antonio over Christmas 2004, it finally sank in that soon, her son, "Turner," would replace her daughter, "Katie." "I was angry. It wasn't fair -- he was robbing me of my daughter. I didn't want to lose those memories of her childhood as a girl."
Dickson had given birth to Katie in San Antonio in 1980. Her only daughter wasn't always a typical girl.
Dickson recalls that Katie liked playing with boys and toys for boys. When the family was living in England and took a vacation in the Canary Islands, an 8-year-old Katie asked, "Mummy, can we please tell people that my name is Scott?"
As a young teenager, Katie gamely tried to be more "girly." She grew her hair long, padded her bra, read Teen and dated boys. She was voted onto her high school homecoming court, even after she'd come out to friends and family as a lesbian at 16.
In some childhood photos, she looks like a girl; in others, like a boy -- so much so that years later, a housekeeper assumed snapshots around the house depicted a pair of twins.
The night before Kt made "Scott" his legal name, mother and child had an argument in her parents' Texas home. "I remember being 10 years old," Kt told her mother in anger, "and looking at my vagina and thinking that you and Grandmom must have had a doctor remove my penis." Then, crying, she locked herself in her parents' guest room.
The next day, Scott Turner Schofield, newly "christened" at a courthouse in the Houston suburbs, returned to his mother's house. A long way from fully accepting her child's new identity, Dickson took a big step: She hugged her new son and said, "Happy birthday, Turner."
Dickson started using male pronouns out of respect for her child's wishes. Then, it became second nature to her. Her daughter may have changed, Dickson now reasons, but all children change as they grow older.
In Texas, Dickson and her second husband had told people they had a daughter. After they moved to Pennsylvania in 2005, they began telling strangers "We have a son." Recently Dickson met a woman who offered to pass along some dating advice. "Young women can be very manipulative. You tell him, 'Don't get her pregnant!'"
Turner's lesbian lover broke up with him after he changed his name.
"If you're a man, that means I'm not a lesbian anymore," she told him.
"Who am I going to date?" Turner wondered. "Will I be so convincing that I can date straight women? If I date lesbians, how will that work for both of us?"
As a gay woman, Kt never felt she entirely fit. She'd gone through "a granola, homeopathic, Earth-mother lesbian" phase in college. But she always felt like the frat boy at the slumber party. "I was there, but I didn't belong."
click to enlargeHe was previously known as Katie Kilborn, pictured at age 8. - Courtesy/Scott Turner Schofield
As he grew more male, Turner sensed that he started getting the cold shoulder from feminist and lesbian organizations."
Radical feminism is like the equivalent of the good ol' boys club, and they can be very conservative about who they let in. Nobody's said anything, but there's been a kind of pulling-away, an unspoken message of 'You can't come into our space.'"
He began going out with straight women. Since grade school, Kt had been attracted to ultra-feminine girls. In college, she'd try to seduce them. "I enjoyed queering the dating pool. At the time, I was pretty androgynous, and boyish lesbians are considered the 'gateway drug.'"
Turner denies he has a "type," but he admits some friends have a theory for his attraction to feminine women -- "Yeah, that makes you way more of a dude when you've got a hot chick on your arm."
To become more of a dude, Turner embarked on a do-it-yourself sex change regimen. He researched gender alteration online and purchased a supply of his first steroid, Andro-D Gel, from a body-building website in December 2004. Steroids such as Andro-D Gel encourage the human body to produce more natural testosterone and are best known for bulking up such baseball players as Mark McGwire before Congress declared andro-infused dietary supplements controlled substances in January 2005.
click to enlargeKatie Kilborn had come out as a lesbian when she was elected to her high school homecoming court in Charlotte. - courtesy/Scott Turner Schofield
During his potentially illegal gender modification, Turner rubbed two tablespoons a day on his inner wrists and the backs of his knees. "I noticed weight gain through muscle mass, a little bit of a voice drop and general horniness -- the typical steroid response," he recalls. But the effects were more subtle than he'd wanted. "I guess that it plateaued after a while. My voice never really changed, and I always felt like my voice was really wrong, which is why I was desperate to go on testosterone."
To go further, Turner had to convince a physician to sign off on injections of testosterone, a more heavy-duty hormone. That meant pelvic exams, blood tests and providing a psychologist to identify him as having "gender identity disorder." He describes the diagnosis this way: "It basically means that I'm crazy, and the only way a doctor can treat my illness is to help me change my gender."
Finally, last October, Turner began injecting testosterone cypionate every other week. His muscle mass changed much more rapidly. His shape moved from a female's hourglass to a male's V. "I felt like a lava lamp," he says.
More body hair. More acne. More confidence. In two weeks, his voice dropped an octave.
"I woke up one morning, tried to talk and was like, 'AaAaAaAa,' he says, as if, at long last, he was experiencing puberty from a teenage boy's point of view.
That tall, boyish gal gave way to a slender, faintly girlish guy -- a bohemian version of the wholesome boy-next-door. And once the hormonal factor was out of the way, being a man became less about equipment and more about attitude.
Turner was so satisfied with his new voice that he even gave up donning his "soft pack," the convincing artificial penis he sometimes wore beneath his underwear. "They even have ones you can pee through, but I've never been able to pee standing up. Before I went on testosterone, I'd sometimes put on my soft pack when I went out -- if anyone was looking, I'd have the right bulge in my pants. After testosterone, I was like, 'Fuck that.'"
Turner now likens passing to an acting exercise -- learning to master such regular-guy gestures as "that chin-forward head-nod" to other men in public. He's even able to mingle with cowboys without raising eyebrows.
During a January visit to the University of Wyoming at Laramie, he went out one night with a group of young men and women to a cowboy bar. "These cowboys there would talk to me, but just sort of look right through the women. Or they'd look at the women, then give me a nod like, 'Git 'r done!'"
Bad dreams accompanied the testosterone. In one, his uterus fell into his hands and he wanted it back inside.
The anxiety has a real-world corollary. Testosterone's side effects could cause him to need a hysterectomy. Turner claims to have no second thoughts about his transformation, but sometimes considers the costs of sacrificing his womanhood, like the loss of his soft, feminine skin.
His new gender comes with trade-offs. He stopped menstruating four weeks after injecting testosterone, but now has to shave his facial hair. "Forced to choose between a period and having to razor my face regularly -- with razors that cost way more than tampons -- I don't know. OK, I do prefer shaving but still, it sucks."
Testosterone also will cause his vocal chords to lengthen permanently. Turner insists that "this is an OK voice to have as a woman" should he ever want to change back.
He seems to miss being androgynous more than being feminine. On his right arm, he has a tattoo of one of the Janus-faced, ambisexual animated characters from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and at times, he's made the ambiguity of his gender an explicit part of his art. You get a sense that he finds being a man less exotic than being a mysterious individual who transcends rigid social constructs, and keeps a foot in both camps.
His change has created problems for Underground TRANSit, the one-person show he developed as an honors thesis. He's performed Underground TRANSit at playhouses, college campuses and performing arts festivals across the country. It describes his coming to terms with his own identity and the slippery concepts of sex and gender, with a recurring metaphor of the New York subway system. Elements of striptease extend throughout the show: In front of his audience, Turner changes from a long, feminine skirt to sharkskin suit, "skater boy" duds, and even down to leopard-print briefs and a glimpse of small, unbound breasts.
Before the testosterone injections, Turner seemed more like a chameleon, with his gender matching his outfits. The first line of Underground TRANSit is, "Would you believe I was almost homecoming queen in high school?" And it worked, because you could believe it.
Turner admits that now he looks much more like a guy wearing a skirt. "Some people think I'm a male-to-female trans now, so when I ask the opening question, they think, 'Yeah, in some kind of alternate universe where drag queens get on the homecoming court.'"
Turner's transformation contains an element of Murphy's Law. He's pleased with his lower voice and more masculine frame. But, he acknowledges, "It might fuck up my performance career. For acting purposes, I want to bring an audience along with me."
Now, he's trying to decide how much he needs to overhaul Underground TRANSit, or whether he should retire it altogether. And Turner takes classes so he can still have the freedom to speak in a higher register as a performer -- just as male-to-female transsexuals take lessons to sound feminine more convincingly.
In the Atlanta-based independent short film Bad Witness, he's playing an androgynous lesbian love-interest role. He may even stop the testosterone injections for eight weeks to appear less masculine for the shoot.
Turner met his current girlfriend while playing a lesbian drag king in the gender-bending comedy Wizzer Pizzer at 7 Stages last May. Atlanta actress Alison Hastings and Turner hit it off quickly. Going out, they say, felt natural to them. Hastings has dated both men and women. "My dad says I'm 'homoflexible,'" she quips.
Hastings says she might have found it more difficult to date a transsexual man who had more trouble passing, but that's not a problem in her relationship with Turner. "To most of the world," she says, "Turner and I are a straight couple -- and we are."
Once, she admits, she slipped and called Turner "she." Before Turner began the injections, the pair were out at a show at Actor's Express, where Turner wasn't feeling well. After a friend asked if he was all right, Hastings recalls, "I said, 'Yes, she's just having her period.' It's very strange when your boyfriend is having a period."
Hastings helps enhance Turner's manhood not just socially, but biologically. By himself, Turner has a great deal of difficulty inserting the 1.5-inch needle intramuscularly into his buttock, but Hastings has happily taken over the job. "When I tell my friends about it, I say, 'I'm making a man.' It's kind of a joke, but it's also true."
Turner has become something of a transgender ambassador. He serves as Exhibit A during lectures to college classes and post-performance Q&As.
"His art makes people feel challenged, but also invited," Emory theater professor Vinnie Murphy says of his protégé. "Boy, do people feel free to open up after his shows."
In an effort to make transgender people more visible and better understood, Turner maintains a personal full-disclosure policy. He tells college classes, "You can ask me anything. You can ask me how I have sex." The hands immediately go up. "How do you have sex?"
But he also finds himself having to educate people in transsexual etiquette. "It's not OK to just ask a transsexual, 'Have you had surgery?' or 'What do your genitals look like?' You can talk to me about those things, but other people won't react the same way. Sometimes they ask me that question and I feel like asking, 'Well, what do your genitals look like?'"
So far, Turner doesn't want to take the physical refinements any further. He's considered upper-body surgery, but finds his chest is flattening as he works out. He has neither the interest nor the money to undergo phalloplasty or procedures to create male genitalia. (For some reason, he's less than thrilled about having surgeons cut open his labia and insert silicone balls to make them resemble testes.)
"Medical science has progressed a lot further with male-to-female surgery than female-to-male," he notes. "They can make a great scrotum but not a very good functioning penis. The Kia of penises starts at upwards of $25,000, but if you want to donate nerves from your arm, it's up to $70,000."
Legally, he's still a woman. To change gender on one's Social Security record, the federal government requires a physician's letter that states sex reassignment surgery has been completed. "I'm a lucky trans person in that I don't feel like my body is wrong. But most trans people don't feel that way."
Turner continues to use his body as raw material in his art. He may have to alter or abandon earlier pieces, like Underground TRANSit, but he'll have new discoveries to impart. Currently, he's writing a book about his changes called Becoming a Man in 127 Steps. He'll perform excerpts from it and his earlier work at Emory on March 22 -- ironically, in an appearance cosponsored by the Center for Women at Emory for Women's History Month.
As an artist who tours often, Turner doesn't expect to have the short-term flexibility or the financial means to settle down and establish a family in the "normal" way. "Getting married might be a problem, unless I go to Massachusetts and have a gay marriage. I was born in Texas, and you can't change your gender on your birth certificate there. So I can't get into the straight club all the way."
"I'm not sure what my future is going to look like," he acknowledges. "In some respects, I think I'll always be in transition. As an actor, will I get male roles, or will people always want to cast me as trans guys, or women who are hot in a masculine way? Would I trade the really fun part of being trans and getting people to think differently, just to be a normal guy? The value of that is not to be underestimated."
Feeling at ease in his male identity, Turner continually wonders just what kind of man he's becoming. "You'd think that if I became a man, I'd bulk up and go all out. But it turns out I'm sort of this metrosexual pansy -- what the hell is that?"
Maybe it reflects Turner's confidence that he doesn't have to conform to anyone else's idea of manhood. But does Turner's new self-assurance come from being a man, or does it derive from being true to himself, no matter what gender he is?
Either way, he now goes to the men's room without self-consciousness. "If someone starts looking at me, I can always use homophobia to my advantage: 'What are you looking at?'"
Listen to and speak with Scott Turner Schofield when he's a guest on "Air Loaf," CL's talk-radio show, 10 a.m. Saturday on WWAA-AM (1690) Air Atlanta. Schofield performs parts of Becoming a Man in 127 Easy Steps Wed., March 22, 7 p.m., at Harris Parlour, Harris Hall, 1340 Clifton Road. Free. 404-727-2000. Find out more about Underground TRANSit

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