Well, I’m back from travelling. First I went to Denmark for the Roskilde festival, as I mentioned in a previous post, and then almost immediately after I went to Slovakia for SES, a weeklong Esperanto course (and social event).
Now, I’m pooped 🙂 But I also have quite a lot to write about, as these last three weeks contained quite a lot of interesting experiences relating to my ongoing transgender hormone treatment.
I wrote the last post about my transgender experience in Roskilde. At that time, I was going through a few days of euphoria in response to what hormones were doing to me.
The euphoria has worn off a bit, but I still feel generally more at peace and happier as compared to before starting hormones. Every so often I notice myself just appreciating the simple wonderful things in life, like going for a walk with my loved one. I feel lighter, less weighed down by this heavy, overly serious “the world is going to end” feeling I used to have. It seems easier to just be content, for no particular reason, just because.
It’s easier to just sit in one place now. I can just rest, and look into my body in a meditative way, as I have long practised. But it’s easier now. I can just “be”, more easily. There’s less nervousness, agitation. On the contrary, there is comfort, and peace.
It’s funny, because I long knew that there was more to happiness than just material prosperity. I spent many years searching for the secret of happiness, and when I found the spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle, I knew that his ideas about inner peace and acceptance made a lot of sense. I assumed happiness would come from cultivating inner peace.
And, to the extent that I’ve succeeded in that endeavour, it has! But for a while I ignored that “outer” things can matter too. Later on, I began to integrate my spiritual and physical life.
Little did I know, though, that happiness would also come from a completely unexpected direction. Even though I meditated and I meditated, this heavy, agitated feeling never quite went away. And I could never make it go away with just meditation. I had to discover what this feeling meant, and take action. Only then could I be at peace.
You know, I think for all the meditation in the world I could never have been at peace without transitioning my gender.
One night in Roskilde, I lay alone in our tent. I lay with my hands each cupping one of my (still male-sized) breasts. It’s a comforting position for me, both because of the feeling of being encapsulated, surrounded and protected, and because the weight on the area reminds me that my breasts are important; that they are female breasts, not just the anonymous chest area which men have.
As I lay there, with this feeling of encapsulation and comfort, a sentence spontaneously, thoughtlessly escaped my lips. I said, “I love myself.”
Almost as soon as I had said it, I felt shocked. I have never said that spontaneously; at least, not as far as I can remember (and I think I’d remember). I had a few times tried saying it into the mirror, trying to force it to sound natural, but it never did come out naturally, back then.
And I have said “I hate myself” many times in my life. Usually when I was privately thinking about some shameful thing I had said or done, some social faux pas or similar, the phrase would escape my lips in that same compulsive, unthought way.
Interestingly I can’t remember saying “I hate myself” at all in this past month and a half on hormones. I seem to be cringing less at my painful memories, their emotional charge weaker than before.
I said “I love myself” spontaneously once more, in Slovakia, while lying in the same position.
It strikes me that this is a very important change, with very profound ramifications for my life.
In this time I’ve also been reading Julia Serano’s amazing book “Whipping Girl”. This is fast shaping up to be one of my favourite books of all time, and a review on this site will be in order when I finish it.
What felt really synchronistic for me, though, were a few experiences of Julia’s which are really only incidental to the book (her main points are about “sexism and the scapegoating of feminity”). She explains what transitioning was like for her, and what being transgender is like for her.
In particular, I learnt that, just as with me, she had felt unsure about taking hormones for a long time, and it was only by taking them, and experiencing this same spectacular sense of rightness as I had felt, that she had really felt sure. Further, she reported that in the transgender community as a whole, this was a very common experience. I had heard inklings of that before, but hearing it so clearly again now really validated my experiences.
What also stood out for me was her description of being trans:
Trying to translate these subconscious experiences into conscious thought is a messy business. All of the words available in the English language completely fail to accurately capture or convey my personal understanding of these events.
For example, if I were to say that I “saw” myself as female, or “knew” myself to be a girl, I would be denying the fact that I was consciously aware of my physical maleness at all times. And saying that I “wished” or “wanted” to be a girl erases how much being female made sense to me, how it felt right on the deepest, most profound level of my being.
I could say that I “felt” like a girl, but that would give the false impression that I knew how other girls (and other boys) felt. And if I were to say that I was “supposed to be” a girl, or that I “should have been born” female, it would imply that I had some sort of cosmic insight into the grand scheme of the universe, which I most certainly did not.
What I loved about this, apart from its accuracy and eloquence, was just how closely I felt reflected in these words. I felt like I could understand Julia’s experience so well, much better than I think any non-trans person ever could.
Why? Well, because I am trans of course 🙂
And, well, I just feel so secure about that nowadays. Julia’s timely words were just the icing on the cake. Hormones have given me an unshakable certainty, a certainty that goes down to my very bones. It would be unthinkable for me to question it anymore.
And this changes things. Now, I no longer hold back on identifying as trans out of the fear of somehow screwing up and realising I was pretending to be something I was not. I can speak for the trans community without secretly fearing that I’m risking hurting their cause. Besides that, when people challenge my trans status (“you can’t be trans because trans people are supposed to be this way or that way!”), I feel so much secure about standing up for myself. And when dealing with other tricky people (parents, some friends) I feel so much more justified in being very firm and straight with them.
I am also learning to be more confident that whatever I do is “right” for a woman to do. Back when I was secretly worrying that maybe I was only pretending to be a woman, it made more sense to think “what would a woman do?” and hold myself to that. Nowadays, I find it easier to resist these ideas by saying, “Whatever I do is what a woman would do, because I am a woman.” I’m becoming less insecure about my tomboyish traits, less in need of justifying myself.
The fact is, nowadays it would be unthinkable for me to question that I am a woman anymore, and looking back, it’s hard to understand how I ever managed to need to question it. It seems so obvious that I am a woman, and always have been a woman.
I was saying this in a conversation with my partner. My partner was with me throughout most of my questioning process, and yet, they understood me to be a woman all that time. There were many times when they believed in me more than I believed in myself.
For instance, when Erin told me in her reading that my transition was fine but “not necessary”, I thought that that was reasonable enough. My partner’s first reaction, though, to hearing those words, was immediate doubt. Even after I explained that I thought it made sense, my partner remained suspicious.
In the end, of course, I can see it was my partner who was right, and not Erin.
All this makes me think about how I was with some of my trans friends. From my perspective, it seemed so obvious that they were trans. But from their perspective, it didn’t seem so clear.
I guess fear can blind us to that simple thing: trust in ourselves. And sometimes others who don’t have that fear, can see what we can’t see.
Well, my partner has been through all of that with me, supporting me through all of it. I’m so appreciative of them, so happy that they are by my side. It has been an amazing year.
This sense of security in being trans is also causing me to change my plans. Previously, I tried to chill out on my transition, having started at a frenetic, almost panicked, pace. It was necessary, but as I’ve found this new certainty, I’ve begun to realise that I also need to act as fast as I can, because I genuinely suffer in this male body.
How I managed to doubt myself while experiencing this before I don’t know, but I did. But anyway, now that I don’t doubt myself, I have to face up to the suffering, and take appropriate action. For me, this means getting laser hair removal for my face, and improving my voice, as fast as possible. After two years of hormone treatment, I will also want to get facial feminisation surgery, and finally genital surgery, as fast as possible.
To start with, some of my motives for moving fast were different; I was uncomfortable with how people viewed me, and unrealistic about the time it would take to change, which pushed me into an unsustainably intense course of action.
Nowadays, I’m mostly comfortable with how people see me — or at least, I’m able to remove how people see me as an influencing factor for my actions. This lets me feel much less stress, as I’m no longer trying to change something which is really out of my control. Beyond this, though, I still do experience a very powerful motivation to change, which I think is borne out of responsibility and not fear.
So I’m thinking, now more seriously and practically than ever, about the course of action I must take, including what compromises I might need to make. I understand now that transitioning must take priority over most other things. Every year which I remain in-between is a year where I’m drastically missing my full potential for enjoying and expanding my life.
I hesitate to say something along the lines of “a life untransitioned is not a life at all”, because I have a full life, with lots of love and friends and purpose. But something to that degree of urgency is what I want to express.
On the subject of urgency, I have come to learn that it’s common for gender dysphoria to become stronger and stronger the more it is ignored. So people who, like I did, repress or ignore their knowledge of being trans, eventually come to be forced to transition when the suffering becomes unbearable.
Often, the stories I’ve heard involve a failed suicide attempt at this point. Afterwards, the realisation that they are willing to give up their own life forces them to face their fears and make a change.
Julia Serano went through this. She didn’t try to kill herself, but she did reach a point where she just couldn’t deal with her dysphoria anymore: “My gender dissonance had gotten so bad that it completely consumed me; it hurt more than any pain, physical or emotional, that I had ever experienced. … All I knew was that pretending to be male was slowly killing me.”
As I read those words, I had a harrowing feeling: “What exactly have I just managed to avoid?”
Because unlike many trans people, my decision came about as a conscious act of self-exploration, and wasn’t forced by any life event or by unbearable suffering.
Because of this, I’m one of the few trans people I know who doesn’t object to being called brave. I think I was brave. I had a choice, and I steeled myself and took the harder choice. Later on, though, I might not have had a choice.
Interestingly, I think this brush with death which many trans people go through is paralleled by an event which happened to me earlier in my life.
I was still in school, and was being inexorably funnelled into a way of life which others had designed for me: school, then University, then a conventional, “safe” job.
School was unbearable for me, due to my desire for freedom and self expression and my hatred of being told what to do. I saw that University would be more of the same, and having a job would be even more of the same.
Worse, I saw that the system was slowly wearing away at my will to fight. Perhaps some years down the line, I would no longer be able to break free; I would have been moulded into a perfect little cog in the machine. And that terrified me.
I was aware that this path was wrong for me for a very long time. But it was only at the transition between school and University that I found myself forced to either take action, or face the possibility of being stuck in the Machine forever.
With my options laid out like that, I realised that I would rather die than live the rest of my life in the Machine.
And when I knew that I would be willing to give up everything, I no longer had anything to lose.
That was when I started acting as a free agent, no longer controlled by fear. I faced down my fear, faced down the worst case scenario, and still moved freely.
And I failed my final school exams on purpose, effectively closing the door to University.
Ever since then, I have still been a “free agent”. I’ve done all sorts of things I would have been too scared to do, which I might have even thought impossible, before. Even though I was unsure, I leaped into the chasm, and time and time again found that I was safe.
So transitioning, though hard, did not seem like such an impossible feat. I discovered that I felt drawn to doing it, made my plans, and took action.
I think that once you have decided that you are ready to give up your entire life to do what you feel is right, you are changed forever. You only need to do it once. Then fear is never again the driving force in your life. You are a free agent.
I think many trans people become free agents when they face up to their fears and transition. For others, it can be a different experience. For me, it was this one.
…There was some great live music in SES. The Esperanto world is full of some really great culture.
I went dancing with a friend I had made, who happens to be lesbian.
And I danced like a woman. Very much like a woman. It was, and is, so natural to me. I think I could only ever dance like a man by forcing myself to. But when I put myself on a dance floor with some good music and just set myself free, this movement comes out of me.
And it really seemed that she appreciated it. If I am not reading too far into this, I think she found it attractive. And that felt good. It felt good to be appreciated not just as a person, not just as a trans person, but as a woman. Simply, as a woman.
I almost forgot to mention a couple of the more banal changes which hormones have brought about for me.
(Warning for this bit: explicit details about masturbation)
I masturbate now WAY less. During my travels, I noticed that I had gone two weeks without masturbating, which is an all time record since I learnt to masturbate. With willpower alone I managed to do ten days once, before hormones, and that was almost superhumanly difficult. My normal average used to be 3-5 times a day.
So my sex drive is way down now, and that is such a relief.
And apart from just not needing it so much, I’m masturbating less also because that way I can avoid dealing with a set of genitals which I really don’t like to remember I have. Before, my sex drive made avoiding this impossible. Now, I have the option, and I’m enjoying using that option.
Yesterday I tried using a vibrator, and that was really good. I think my.. thing responds better to a vibrator now than it used to; I remember finding it extremely hard to come when I did the same thing before. I’m thinking I will use it more in future, as it allows me to feel more like I’m stimulating a clit and less like I’m doing that “jacking off” thing which I so detest.
Apart from that, I have drastically much less acne, barely one spot on my face per week (as opposed to average at least one a day).
Related to this, I can shave my body more easily, as it is much less prone to break out in spots. Couple this with the fact that my body hair is growing back more slowly, and I’m taking advantage to have a smooth torso, the first time in about a year that I’ve done so. Before, the difficulties with shaving outweighed the benefits. Now, not so much.
So, that is pretty awesome.