Sunday, July 3, 2011

Review - Original Plumbing: Trans Male Quarterly, Issue 6, "Schooled"

Original Plumbing (OP) is the first magazine ever dedicated to the sexuality, lifestyle, and culture of FTM (female-to-male) trans males. The editors, Amos Mac and Rocco Kayiatos, believe that there is no one way to express trans life. Their quarterly magazine is a collection of interviews, photos, essays, and personal narratives from FTM trans males which are an expression of the diversity of trans male life experiences and the more personal aspect of their feelings and relationships to their own bodies.

[caption id="attachment_452" align="aligncenter" width="225" caption="If you like this magazine, you can find issue 5 on Babeland, or you can buy all of the back issues directly from originalplumbing.com. You can even subscribe if you like!"][/caption]

I received Original Plumbing, Issue 6, "Schooled" through Babeland, a woman-friendly sex toy shop that I'm a fan of. I chose this product for assignment in an attempt to help me better understand trans issues.

I remember when I was younger and I first heard the terms transgender and transsexual. I didn't really get it. I couldn't identify the difference between the terms, and what they meant. For some reason I thought that trans people were only men wanting to become women. I blame this mostly on shows like Jerry Springer. That, and it's easier to surgically create a vagina than a penis.

I never thought I would actually meet anyone trans, but in the past two years, I've met several trans people. What surprised me the most was that out of all those trans people, the majority of them were trans men, including a bio woman/trans male in my sorority. Before that point, he had publicly identified as a lesbian, but now that he identifies as a trans male who is taking T. After I got to know him and his current girlfriend a bit better and after recently becoming friends with a trans female, I took it upon myself to actively try and understand what it's like to be trans.

It's not that I never tried before, but I was excited to get this magazine. Honestly, it was a bit shorter than I expected it would be for a quarterly magazine. Initially, I was a little disappointed. I will say that I thought that the doodles in the "conversation between the authors" section (aka the introduction), adorable.

[caption id="attachment_446" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Awww"][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_447" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Who knew that Cyclopes could be adorable?"][/caption]

The book measures 5.5" x 8" and has 55 pages including the covers. It includes interviews with art-therapist Twiz, teacher and comedian Cayes, baking student Dento, and high school student Benji. Interviews were conducted by Amos Mac, Rocco Kayiatos, and Chris Vargas. Amos Mac was the photographer for this issue.

[caption id="attachment_444" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Interview with Twiz Rimer"][/caption]

The photoshoot has a high school theme. An excerpt from the site says that the boys are playing the roles of the nerd, the jock, the band geek, the stoner, the metal head, the teacher's pet, and the heart throb. I can pick out who most of the models are posing as, but not all of them. It took me a few look glances to decide who was the stoner and the heart throb. I'm assuming the heart throb is the guy with the leather jacket, who sort of reminds me of a modern adaptation of "The Fonz."


[caption id="attachment_448" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="See, look at Fonzie on the left. Totally looks like him, right? Oh, his name is Scott Fabiani-Beeman, by the by..."][/caption]

Berlin Reed recounts a haphazard, hard-for-me-to-follow account of a recent trip that he describes as being "surrounded by a shitstorm" in his submitted work, "I'll Take The Practical."

Wyatt Austin shares in his account "The Reunion," the difficulty of attending a high school reunion when you're a trans male and you never liked most of the people in your high school anyway.

Wesly Heney shares a touching and heartbreaking poem, "Eyelashes," which relates his fear as being recognized as the bio woman he used to be by a fellow student.

James Douglas retells his anarchy against forced uniforms and the support of a loving family in his account titled "Catholic School."

Overall, I'm not entirely sure what to think of the magazine. I liked reading the interviews, and I found the written works interesting to read. I felt the pain in the words of Wyatt Austin and Wesly Henry in their works, and I enjoyed hearing about the snarky rebellion of James Douglas. I couldn't understand what message Berlin Reed was trying to bring across. Whatever he was trying to say, it was completely lost on me.

I liked the ads included in the magazine, one of which pointed me towards a site called I Heart Queer Porn. There's an included code in the back that allows the magazine reader to get 20 free minutes of viewing. In case you're interested in the site, but you haven't gotten this issue, don't worry, you can still get 10 minutes of free viewing without credit card verification and 30 minutes free with credit card verification. I intend to check out the site. There's a particular porn that caught my interest.

As for the magazine itself, I'm not sure what I think about it. It's still a very young magazine, so I personally think that it has an interesting start, but it has some room to grow. This was after all only their 6th issue. Their 7th issue, "The Green Issue"  is now out, but it's not yet listed on Babeland. I will say, however, that I am very interested in the future of this magazine and how it will grow in the future. I really like the art direction, and for that, I have no constructive criticism.

Reading this magazine made me consider a little deeper what it's actually like to be trans. I know I'll never really get it since I am not trans, but I appreciate any sort of literature that can maybe make it a little easier for people like me to try and learn more about it. I think the concept of this magazine is absolutely wonderful since it really seems to create a platform for people to share their experience with other trans males. My hope is that magazines like Original Plumbing will make trans less of a closeted issue and that it will help people who are going through the same thing know that they aren't alone. That by itself is a ground-breaking concept.

I'm not sure if I will hold onto it yet, but if I don't, I know I definitely have friends who would be interested in it. I might even donate it to this local queer and kink friendly coffee house. They have a library that I've become addicted to, but more on that later.



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