(Comic from Lifetechniques.tumblr.com)
My perspective slowly shifts as I mature as a trans person. I’ve gone through a pleasantly oblivious phase, then a horrified phase where I slowly came to terms with just HOW much I was oppressed as a trans person, and now I’m trying to slowly let go of all the horror and find some kind of peace in myself.
The realisation came in phases. Bit by bit, I realised that people didn’t consider me to have the same rights as other people. Several times I would be shocked by something they said or did, and I’d spend an evening crying as this new reality incrementally sank in.
I began to see myself as living in a kind of ghetto. I was pushed to the fringes of society, unable to participate in the old circles I used to be in, because I’d be too scared of the violence and objectification I’d get for being trans there.
Now, after having raged about that a while, I am somewhat more accepting of how things are. I mostly just go to the places where I will feel safe, and it’s not too bad because on the whole those are the places I’d go to anyway. If I have to go to where there will be people who aren’t aware of trans issues, I generally go “stealth” now, and avoid telling anyone about my history.
When I started transition, I thought I’d never go stealth, because I wanted to teach people about trans issues, letting my visibility be a form of activism. Now, I am SO weary of transphobia, so much in need of safe spaces, that I would go stealth for sure if I found myself obliged to spend much time in non-trans-aware spaces (e.g. a job, university, whatever). If I had known at the beginning how much I would need this, I would have used a pseudonym for my website and stopped posting photos. For now, I just avoid non-trans-aware spaces, and will use a fake name if ever necessary.
As for dating, I’ve rather avoided disappointments by mostly focusing on trans people. This has been easy because I’ve been most of all hanging out with trans people anyway.
A few months ago, I slept with my first trans person. Before that, I have to admit that I had a little internalised transphobia making it seem a little “weird” to be with a trans person. But after this experience, I realised that my fears were all untrue: trans people are as attractive as cis people, and they are attractive as members of their own gender, not as some weird male-female hybrid or whatever.
Since then, I’ve slept with several trans people, and fell in love with two. The chemistry was absolutely great and of course there were no issues with acceptance or whatever; no “does this make me gay?” worries, no objectification. They knew how my dysphoria works and I didn’t have to explain much. It was just… easy.
I have to admit that I haven’t dated a cis person since then. Perhaps it was just because I didn’t have the opportunity or didn’t meet anyone who seemed compatible, but it’s also just the case that I feel safer and more relaxed this way. If I tell a cis person I’m attracted to them I have to brace myself for a potential rejection not on the basis of actual attraction, but on the basis of my status, my history, their prejudices. That hurts so much, because it’s a reminder of how the whole of society rejects me. It’s easier just to focus on dating trans people and avoid risking that pain.
My body has been steadily changing. My thighs, hips and boobs have erupted with stretch marks. I’m particularly happy with my hips and boobs at the moment, which have gotten to a very nice size. I think that apart from my genitals, my body looks very much like any other woman’s. It’s nice to pull off my shirt and look in the mirror. And sometimes I like being topless in the house just so that I can see my boobs there at the lower limits of my vision. It’s comforting and pleasing.
I suspect that my face has continued changing, though it’s hard to tell. I have noticed, though, that I pretty much always “pass” nowadays – it has been several months since someone read me as trans that I’m aware of. Recently, someone who was helping me with some beaurocratic matters noticed the Herr (Mr.) in front of my name on the papers, and laughed, thinking that the beaurocrats had made a particularly funny mistake.
I notice it in my interactions. Before, I would have felt a subtle sense of discomfort coming from people if they knew or suspected I was trans. Now, I don’t get that. I can have whole, long interactions where I feel completely comfortable, where I even forget about the fact I am trans. Before, that would have never happened. I was always thinking about being trans, worrying about passing or worrying about people’s reactions to me.
I’m getting more comfortable with my reflection now, too. This happened somewhat abruptly, as a psychological change rather than a physical one. We trans women sometimes talk about the “man in the mirror”, that uncomfortable sense of dysphoria we get when looking in the mirror even when everyone else can’t tell we are trans. It seems to be a residual mental image issue. We need time to “update” our brains.
I actually asked around in the trans world for advice on this, and a friend suggested me this: I should look at cis women like I would look at trans women. This means doing that slightly neurotic searching for features that give someone away as trans, except for cis women. When I started doing this, I noticed, everyone is trans! There are plenty of cis women with rather masculine faces. Some don’t even pass, for God’s sake! Once I realised this, I stopped being so hard on myself, and stopped focusing so much on the details of my face that might suggest at my trans history. I even found a cis woman with a head bigger than mine, and since then I’ve stopped suffering about the size of my head. (Perhaps this is surprising, but that was a big deal for me for a long time).
Now, I often look at my reflection and really enjoy what I see. I think I look beautiful; imperfections, fat and all. I think this is not only a good achievement for a trans woman, but a good achievement for a woman, period.
Incidentally, I suggest cis people try that exercise too. Once you realise that everyone is trans, then perhaps you won’t feel so unnatural around trans people.
My sexuality seems to be shifting in some way. A week or two ago, I suddenly felt a surge of attraction to men, checking them out on the street and so on in a way that I had never done before. I felt like I had when I started my first puberty, except then it was women, and now it was men. For a few days, I felt a little guy-crazy.
I had identified as bisexual before, but suddenly my attraction to men was a lot more physical, a lot more present; and just, well, stronger. It was almost disquieting. I’ve been quite used to being mostly-lesbian for a while, and the idea of my sexuality shifiting gives me a sense of instability and uncertainty that I don’t overly like. I don’t suppose I will turn completely straight, but it’s a worry, seeing as I have two love interests at the moment who I’d stop being attracted to. (And yes, this CAN happen on hormones, though it doesn’t always).
On the other hand, it’s quite interesting, and opens new possibilities for me. I can imagine having casual sex with guys (as opposed to being attracted more on an emotional level as happened before). I can suddenly lust over them in a very physical way. I’d love to explore that a bit more. If I’m lucky and don’t swing all the way to straight, I’m approaching closer to 50-50 bisexual now, and that is potentially a very fun place to be.
Being trans, and being a woman, has slowly become more natural for me. Just today I was thinking about caesareans, and thought how I really wouldn’t want to have a caesarean myself, then stopped a moment and thought, “oh yeah…”. These sorts of thoughts are pretty common for me nowadays.
I think about being trans a lot less. I worry less about whether what I do is what a woman does. That just seems absurd. I’m a woman, so by definition, I cannot do anything that a woman doesn’t do.
I’m branching out a little into less feminine pursuits. I play football now, once a week, and I love it. (Incidentally I hated playing with boys when I was a kid; I love women’s football). I recently drilled some holes in my wall with a power drill. Perhaps when I started my transition I would have been insecure about doing such things. Now, I’m pretty comfortable with my identity, so I go for it.
I haven’t stopped wearing exclusively dresses and skirts, though. I enjoy being the only woman in my football group who plays in a dress. It’s surprisingly practical 🙂
I’m looking back now over the last two-plus years with a bit more perspective. I once had this incredibly unrealistic thought that I could get transition over with in a matter of months. Now I’m more aware of the many levels in which transition comes. I’m not just changing my body and my appearance, I’m realigning myself to a new sort of life, new position in society (sadly), new way of interacting with the world, new perspective. I can only compare it with the culture shock I got from moving to a new country, and the several-year process it took to overcome that. However, I am certain that this change will take even longer than that and be even more profound.
I am somehow more accepting of that fact. I’ve come to let myself view the next years as being dominated by my transition. Perhaps before I wanted to cling to the thought that I could have a normal life for the next years. Now, I no longer harbour that illusion. I am certain I will eventually have a happy and fulfilling life, but it will not be without an amount of sacrifice which most cis people don’t ever even consider having to make. That’s how it is, and I’m okay with it now.