It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update about my gender transition.
Partly this is because I’ve had other things to occupy me, and partly it’s been because I’ve chilled out a lot about my transition since the last time I posted.
As I mentioned before, I was being really intense about it and it just wasn’t sustainable. Rather than reaching burnout and being brought down to Earth by some sort of crisis, I tried very hard to find a way of slowing my process down a bit in a more intentional way, and I think I managed it.
I think the key for me was to change the timeframe I was thinking in. I wanted to get all the changes done in a matter of months – yet, the more I learnt, the more I came to realise this would be a matter of years.
Partly, I had the wrong timeframe in my mind because I started this out seeing it as some kind of experiment, and thought that I could get as far as I needed in a matter of months. Perhaps I could have done with my original idea, which was to live as a woman and as much as possible pass as a woman without doing anything permanent. But, when I started, I didn’t know how important this was to me or how deep I’d be delving into my own psyche, and I hadn’t really spent much time contemplating the possibility that I’d want to stay this way (I knew there was that possibility, I just couldn’t fit it into my head yet).
And partly, I felt very uncomfortable in this in-between state and wanted to get past it as soon as possible. In recent times I’ve been gaining comfort with it. I’m able to set an easygoing pace for myself, rather than continually running from or fighting where I am in the here and now.
I used to feel ugly in the mirror when I didn’t look as much like a woman as possible. But, recently that’s not been quite the same. OK, I still feel disconnected from my reflection when I look too masculine. But I’ve realised that so long as I see myself as a woman, I don’t feel so bad. Sometimes I have to look inside myself and see my female essence, and then the rest of my reflection doesn’t feel so bad. Sometimes I just have to practise the art of reinterpretation, seeing the masculine features of my body as somewhat distorted versions of what they should be. For instance my beard would be a rather large amount of those annoying chin hairs women have, my chest would be my small breasts, my body hair just an exaggerated growth of the normal female body hair. The hardest part to reinterpret is my penis, which I call, and imagine to be, my clitoris.
After all, biologically the clitoris and the penis are the same thing, really – just differentiated by a testosterone surge in fetal development. So it’s not so wrong to say that my penis is my clitoris. It just got the wrong hormones at one point – a kind of birth defect. When I see it that way, I can live with that.
While socially all this is still a bit tricky I think that if I lived on a desert island without access to hormones or surgery I could make do with this body I have. So long as I remember who I am, and express myself as I am, despite what my external appearence is, I feel good. Betraying my true self is the hardest thing.
I’ve decided I want to start loving my body more. And you know what? I am learning to love it more. I do love it. It feels good to have such a beautiful body that gives me so many chances to feel pleasure and to express myself as I am. I appreciate how beautiful I am. I like how nice it is to touch my own body, my skin, my torso, to run my hands down my legs and arms. Through it all I like my genital region, with the new names I give each part. I like how I can touch myself and be touched. I like how I can express myself as I am sexually even now, without need for bodily modifications. There is a little more anguish there sometimes but still lots to appreciate.
Most of all there is nothing I want to be able to do with my body that I can’t do in some way now. My body is a perfect vessel for my self expression, as it should be. I’m not trapped in the physical. It is my medium.
Socially, things are a little harder because people misgender me (call me by the wrong pronoun and sometimes the wrong name) and often have odd reactions to who I am. This seems easier now in Berlin, where I can go down the street with an obvious 5 o’clock shadow plus my skirt and blouse and not get too many odd looks. Barcelona was a bit less forgiving.
Still, I’m trying to learn to love myself even in this environment. Recently I’ve intentionally relaxed about always covering up my beard shadow when I went out and a few other things. I want to be proud of my transgender status and not run from it. I know that at this point even if I can sometimes blend in there will always be people who figure me out. And I don’t want to be running from that. I want to be able to present myself in a skirt and 5 o’clock shadow and say “yeah, this is who I am.”
Not that I like my shadow much, but hey, I don’t always want to be obsessive about getting rid of every last trace of it. Eventually it’ll be gone. In the meantime I’m okay with it as a badge of my status, the process I’m going through. Anyone who has half a brain cell can look at me and see that I’m transitioning. And I’m proud of that. I’m glad for people to see that.
People like my friend Alex and other trans people I’ve met have helped me reach this place by showing me what a relaxed, self-respecting transition looks like. Alex really seems to be taking things one step at a time and doesn’t care so much what people think about that. That was an inspiration to see.
It also helped that I froze my sperm and started taking finasteride, a mild testosterone suppressor that should ensure I don’t lose any more hair. Before that I felt more nervous about starting hormones as soon as possible. Having male-pattern hair loss as a trans woman has to suck.
So, I’ve decided, as an arbitrary date that feels good to me, that I’ll start hormones on the day of my first anniversary of living as a woman. Perhaps I’ll start earlier or a bit later, but I like to have that date in mind to get me into the right timeframe. Since I made that decision I’ve calmed down a lot.
This year is basically for me to come to terms with this massive change, something which I hadn’t really expected and which I have yet to fully assimilate.
I’ve also got to break down my unconscious sexism and transphobia, particularly my self-directed sexism which rather complicates living as a woman. Stuff like thinking that being a girl makes me less strong or less dignified or less worthy of respect. (…You know sometimes I just want to tell my brain to shut up. I often think that if I ever go back on my gender transtion it would have been worth it to have faced this issue. Most men never come to terms with their sexism just because they have no real motivating influence to change).
This time is also there to find answers to a few personal questions, such as why I repressed this feeling in myself and how I managed not to realise for so long. Most of all, though, I think it’s about assimilating this new self knowledge. It came as kind of a shock and I think my brain still needs to catch up. It’s a lot to come to terms with, especially if you spent 20+ years basically running from it.