The Best Trans Magazine Ever: 5 Reasons Why Original Plumbing is Awesome
If you type ‘trans man’ into Google Images, one of the first pictures you come across is the cover of the 3rd installment of Original Plumbing Magazine- The Health and Safer Sex Issue. The image is of a built but cuddly, soulful eyed guy standing topless next to a brick wall smiling gently at the camera. (You also get an image of Daniela Sea playing Max from The L Word, but more on that later). Last year, my curiosity caused me to click through to the source of that image, and it opened up my world.
That’s how I found Original Plumbing magazine. It was a time when I was starting to seriously question my gender identity, and what followed was the most intense rush of confidence, relief and (sometimes painful) self reflection I’ve yet to experience. There was a lot going on that summer, but reading Original Plumbing really helped to facilitate that exploration.
Original Plumbing is the collaborative effort of Amos Mac and Rocco Kayiatos, who have been putting out hard copies of the magazine since 2009 from where they are based in Brooklyn, NY on a quarterly basis as well as maintaining an active website and blog. So yeah, here’s my 5 reasons why Original Plumbing Magazine is awesome:
1.First things first. The photography is AMAZING.
Whether or not you’re exploring the blog site or poring over a hard copy of the magazine, you’ll be struck by how hot all these guys are. Hot in the physical sense, and also in the fact that they are so at ease with themselves. The photographer, Amos Mac, has gone to great lengths to capture the personalities of these guys. Sometimes they’re posing topless in the late afternoon sun on a Brooklyn rooftop, sometimes they’re out at the park with their partners and kids. It’s diverse, and always positive. Amos was kind enough to send me some pictures from the magazine for your viewing pleasure. Also, see the link at the bottom of this post for his personal site.
2. It’s not all about surgery and injections (although that’s an important part of it).
Yes, a lot of trans guys decide to have surgery and start testosterone. But, crucially, not all do (hence the magazine’s title, Original Plumbing). In each magazine, you can find someone who has had full top and bottom surgery* and also someone who doesn’t feel the need to have any surgery or take testosterone. You also will find guys who started hormones and now have decided to stop, and are trying herbal solutions to maintain their maleness (for example, Luke, pictured below with his herbal wares). There are a million different ways to express your trans identity, in the same way there are a million ways to be a cisgendered** man or woman. This in particular was a revelation to me.
3. Remember the Pregnant Man media frenzy? Remember My Transsexual Summer? Remember when Moira became Max on The L Word
For a lot of people, their knowledge of FTM transsexuals and transgendered people in general begins and ends with the media. Some representations are more positive than others. If you want to know about how Thomas Beatie felt when the story broke of his pregnancy, and how he’s doing now, turn to Original Plumbing Issue 8: Family Matters. Similarly, Channel 4 broadcasted ‘My Transsexual Summer’ with great success in November 2011. But now it’s finished, how did the cast feel about how they were represented? Original Plumbing kept up with Fox, Max and Lewis, who have all blogged for the site. Then there’s The L Word. The character of Max is a controversial figure. His narrative always felt a little bit shoehorned into the structure of the show for me, but I know it was a useful platform to introduce FTM issues, especially as lots of trans guys are really familiar with the lesbian community. So yeah, let’s talk about Max! Original Plumbing picks up where the mainstream media left off, and fills in the blanks.
4. It makes you really think about how deep the gender binary goes.
Has anyone ever called you ‘sir’ by accident? How did it make you feel? Or has a woman ever done a double take at you in the toilets, or worse, asked you to get out because you shouldn’t be in there? What if you don’t really feel or look too much like a woman, but are not built or masculine enough to ‘pass’*** convincingly as a man? Where can you pee then? Gender can often feel very limiting, and those little hostile encounters can really chip at your self-esteem when you aren’t sure how to resolve them. Reading Original Plumbing was a real confidence booster in that every contributor offers a unique insight into how to navigate the trans experience, be it in the workplace (check out Issue 4: Workin’ Stiff), in yoga class, in bed with a new partner, or even in prison. There isn’t an easy solution (I still feel awkward when I walk into a female changing room and all the conversation stops) but at least the gender grey area can feel like more of a mist than a smog.
5. It gives you the tools to talk about how you feel.
In In the process of writing this post, my mum walked in to give me a cup of tea and asked what I was up to. A year ago I would have made something up and shut down any discussion about my identity/sexuality, partly because I couldn’t articulate it in a satisfying way and partly because I was scared she wouldn’t understand. This time, sitting on the floor surrounded by spider diagrams, barely legible notes and old copies of the magazine, I looked up and handed her Issue 8: Family Matters. Since I started actively exploring my gender options in the last year, going to transgender groups and absorbing everything I can about trans culture, I’ve been able to talk openly with my parents, my friends and the girls I have dated. Every single one of these relationships has been deepened by this ability. It’s so helpful that I can hand my mum a copy of Original Plumbing and trust that the content is positive and diverse enough for her to understand where I’m coming from.
So, if you’re thinking about gender for any reason, know someone who is, or even if you just think trans men are hot, I’d really recommend checking this magazine out. It’s an invaluable resource.
Check the website and buy copies here: http://www.originalplumbing.com/
* top and bottom surgery= the medical procedures of having your breasts removed (double mastectomy) and also having surgery to create a penis (phalloplasty).
**cisgendered= someone whose biological sex matches their gender identity.
*** passing= successfully presenting yourself as a member of the opposite sex.
Why I got naked for a porn shoot, and a gay photographer’s thoughts on why we’re still shy of our bodies [NSFW]