I started the rocky road of my gender transition about 11 months ago now. My first “birthday” is looming. It’s quite something to think about. One whole year, soon, as Sophia.
(Image: me eating a homemade vegan döner kebab)
This year has hardly been wasted, though I sure wish I could have moved faster in this. I’m now facing a period of waiting, waiting, waiting for various things to happen so that I can finally get the go-ahead to use the hormones I so crave.
Perhaps I could have started the process of getting hormones before. But somehow I didn’t want to. See, most of this year I’ve been wrestling with myself, working out whether I can bet the rest of my life on my impulse to be a woman.
And somehow seeking hormones was a gesture of commitment. Making that gesture before I was ready would have been sending out mixed messages, and somehow I felt I’d be getting in my own way. So I left it off.
I expected for most of the year for my final realisation to be a big announcement on my blog and on Facebook. However, when I got to that point it suddenly didn’t feel big at all. Rather than actually realising anything directly, in fact, it seemed that I was just getting over some fears and blocks. These had just been stopping me from trusting myself in what I already knew.
So I didn’t want to make a big announcement of it, because that would be making a big deal about it. Whereas, in fact, the solution itself was somehow to make it all less of a big deal. When I dropped my fearful doubt, the truth was just… self-evident.
And I tried to post my “big announcement” more than once on Facebook, but each time I noticed that if I took that approach, I was validating my fears again by buying into the illusion that it was such a big thing. I didn’t want to validate my fears anymore. I just wanted to trust myself. So it felt good to leave the announcement, and spend some time getting comfortable personally with this new state of being sure in myself.
That was all a month back. It seems longer somehow. But that’s what my journal entry says. One month ago.
Let me explain how I got to this point of certainty in my gender identity.
After my last update on my gender transition, I had my third and last session with my great therapist Federica Fiore. Through talking to her, I basically came to the clear conclusion that I had nothing to worry about with my gender identity.
At about the same time, I had the pyschic reading with Erin Pavlina which I mentioned I’d be having.
Erin mostly felt guided to explain stuff about my life purpose, which was all quite bolstering and enlightening. But when I drew her to the mundane matter of my transition and whether it was possible I could regret it in future, she said I wouldn’t, and that I’d have fun with it, but that it wasn’t absolutely necessary for my happiness either. About what I expected.
(As to it not being necessary: I’ve long understood that I was happy before knowing my trans status and could be happy if something somehow forced me not to transition. But then, knowing that I can transition, the question is why the heck would I not?).
Following all that, however, some annoying questioning thoughts still remained in my head. So, in the interest of calling my introspection period to a close once and for all, I sat down with my electronic journal. I then spent several hours and more than 3000 words painstakingly grappling with myself.
In this process I tried to force every little fear I’d ever had out, onto the page. Once it was there I could stare it down and force it to face up to logic. On the page, it couldn’t hide from me anymore.
It was psychically very taxing. The logic seemed to be clear enough, but full acceptance of my trans status was elusive. I would always come up with a new fear which would make me feel scared to accept myself as trans.
It took an almost violent effort, but finally I chased down every last fear – really I think every last one. And finally I just couldn’t deny being transgendered anymore. There was absolutely no logical basis for it. My mind just had to shut up.
Note that I’m usually not such a left-brained person, but this time hard logic seemed to be the way to go.
I had been using my thinking mind more than usual this year, having decided that I wanted my brain and not just my heart and my gut to agree with my transition (I usually make decisions with the latter two).
This seemed to expose me to just how illogical the thinking mind can be – thoughts are attached to fears, and fears blow things way out of context and proportion. And thoughts can go in circles again and again, never really becoming that much smarter or more sophisticated.
But finally logic was also my salvation, as I sat down with my journal and forced my thoughts to come up to the standard they were supposed to hold. You want logic, brain? I’ll give you logic!
I gave it logic 🙂 And when I did, the truth won out.
Well, I didn’t completely lose all of my fears after my journal entry, but I basically cut them off at the root with it. From then on, whenever a fear that I might not be really transgendered came up, I just felt reassured that those fears were irrational and didn’t pay them too much attention. Once I had stopped feeding them in this way, they quickly lost strength and started to disappear.
By the way, if you want to read the journal entry, I’ve made a page – not linked to from my front page – where you can read it: here. It’s raw and unedited, but I thought it could be interesting to people, especially those going through the same questioning process as me.
The day after this definitive journal entry, I decided to go for absolute overkill and experimented with putting on some male clothes I had set aside for just this occasion.
I felt just… weird. Uncomfortable. Disconnected from my image. Like I was wearing a costume.
My partner said that I looked totally different – my expression totally changed. They said that it was as if my soul was hiding. They were very emphatic about that.
I guess I didn’t really need to do that, but I can at least feel satisfied that I covered all my bases. The feelings I got while wearing male clothes were stark and impossible to mistake.
So, after all that, I tried and failed to post my “announcement”, and from then on I was just kind of relaxing into being transgender.
It’s a weight off my mind to not worry about whether I’m trans or not anymore. I guess in this last month I’ve been slowly coming more to terms with it all on a feeling and not just thinking level: yes, I am trans.
It’s strange but I think some part of me wanted to deny it. Just imagined it was some experiment or just a phase or whatever. The full import of what it really means to be trans is slowly seeping into my life.
It’s a big thing. It’s certainly life changing. Sometimes it feels like a problem (though I try not to view it through that lens). Sometimes it feels like fun. But it’s definitely breaking down all the ways I used to look at myself and forcing me to learn all sorts of new things. I’m facing up to my internalised issues towards LGBT and women. I’m learning about discrimination. I’ve got a new social cause to fight for.
It’s definitely an interesting time.
As a related aside, I told my partner a while back: If I could choose to have been born a woman, I would still be just as I am today. Because being trans has given me so many new perspectives.
My experience is a powerful resource. I can identify with both women and men quite intimately. I’ve learnt some humility and tolerance and discovered myself, perhaps more powerfully than I could have discovered myself had I not had this experience as a contrast.
I’ve discovered my femininity as a gift, rather than perhaps something I might have resisted or questioned a lot more if I had been born female. Instead, being myself, being feminine, is itself a sort of rebellion for me, or at least an expression of my personal power, and I enjoy that greatly.
I love being transgendered!
In this time of chilling out about my identity, feminism has helped me a lot in becoming comfortable in myself.
I used to feel uncomfortable at the thought of being a woman sometimes, and I thought that might have been a sign of me not actually being transgender. I realised, though, that those feelings were coming from my social conditioning – in particular social conditioning which suggested women were passive, secondary, or limited.
As I came to get more into the right sort of feminism, that discomfort lifted. Feminist Frequency helped me, for instance, by pointing out how practically all of the media I’ve always watched shows a skewed representation of women. Women are shown not to have the full range of skills and possibilities as men; they are stereotyped, used as filler or token characters, and are often turned into the object men fight over rather than active agents in themselves.
It’s weird but I just didn’t notice it all my life. I guess we are trained not to notice it. But making the switch from male to female, the discrepancy was obvious. All of a sudden I’m in a category of people who never seem to drive the action, who are rarely represented as deep, nuanced people, who are generally shown as secondary to men. But I know I’m not secondary! I know I’m nuanced, I’m the main character of my personal life story, not a sidekick! Something almost physical in me rebels against taking these associations on board.
If anyone (male) reading this disagrees with feminism, by the way, I would really recommend them doing a thought experiment: just imagine who you would be if you were born a woman, and what it would be like to do what you do, and live your life, as a woman. Imagine how it would feel to be expected to be, and depicted as, secondary to men. Just try and get into a woman’s skin.
I did it – and it really changed my perspective. Perhaps, without going so far as me, you can benefit from the same perspective shift too.
In general at this point in time I’m really trying to become more graceful with this awkward stage.
One night alone, I repeated to myself aloud, not attempting to modify my voice: “I am a trans woman, in transition, and I am proud.” They were kind of hard words to say, but it felt good. That’s the attitude I want to have: proud, unapologetic, and aware of my in-between state. It’s so easy to feel ashamed for being where I am right now, and there are so few models for proud and open transsexuality. But I want to set a good example for myself and others. I want to be proud, and dignified, even if my appearance is something which most people are accustomed to making fun of rather than respecting.
Modifying my voice has long been my crutch. Feeling uncomfortable in the company of strangers, I’ve come to almost automatically raise my voice to a higher pitch. The trouble is that I’m not doing it very consciously, and retraining your voice is a notoriously delicate exercise. If you speak too long outside of your natural pitch, you can seriously damage your vocal chords. The result sounds rather like smoker’s voice. I’ve seen quite a few examples of that in my time hanging out with trans people.
Every so often I’ve overdone my voice a bit and come to hear myself speak in a smoker’s voice for a while. I’ve gotten scared and tried to go back to how I was previously to all of this, and so far I don’t think anything permanent has happened to me.
But in the interest of just getting over the discomfort of being gender-ambiguous, I’d like to try using an unmodified voice for a while and not even thinking about changing it to female.
In future, I’ll be trying for a low pitch AND female sounding voice. In my forays into the trans world in Berlin, I’ve heard enough great voices like that that I’ve come to be convinced that pitch is not an overly important element of a good female voice. It’s all about the timbre. Deep, feminine voices can be pretty sexy, actually.
So that’s March 2013. In general I’ve been becoming much more comfortable and grounded in my gender identity, and it’s been a relief to have the excessive fear and doubt lift and take it more easy for once. I’ve started finally having days and even weeks where I don’t really think about gender at all. That was sorely needed and very refreshing.
Perhaps the next update I make about my gender will be my “birthday” post – how exciting! 🙂
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