(Edit, a few months later: should that be “change my gender”? No, “affirm myself as a different gender”? I’ve learnt a lot about the nuances of language since I started this process and would now write in a different way. Now “sex change” sounds for me more like operating my genitals than the complex set of psychological and lifestyle changes I was trying to describe. I’ll keep the rest of this article as it is for now but I wanted to give this proviso).
The move consisted in a big announcement on Facebook and and shift to wearing only woman’s clothes from now on, as well as other details.
I’ve changed my name to Sophia and began referring to myself with the female suffix in Spanish. I’ve learnt to speak in a pretty convincing female voice. I’ve also started shaving twice a day and covering up my “shadow” with a lot of foundation, wearing lipstick and mascara, and carrying a handbag.
Basically, I’m doing all I can to feel and appear female. Most likely, I’ll soon begin hormone therapy.
(Image is of me, in one of my first attempts to do my hair nicely).
Obviously, this wasn’t a frivolous decision. In some way or another, I’ve been developing this side of me and questioning myself for two and a half years. It was a hard decision to make, in fact it shook me to the core.
Why would I do such a thing? Simply put, I’m a transgender individual. My condition is that I feel a strong sense of discord between, on the one hand, the body and role I was born into, and on the other hand, who I actually feel myself to be.
It’s a myth that transgender people change their sex in order to improve their chances with the gender they are attracted to. As a woman, I’m bisexual but strongly leaning towards lesbian, so at least in appearence my potential dating pool would have gone down. (In reality for a long time I had been mostly attracted to bisexual women, which I suppose was because I knew they could be attracted to both the inner and the outer me).
It’s also not true that I want to change because I have some issue with men in general. I definitely used to, especially with my father, but I got over him quite a while ago — he’s just a person, how big a deal can any one guy be? — and since I’ve made this change I started respecting and liking men more. I think my residual dislike of men was basically resentment for having to *be* one.
And finally, neither is it the case that I’m doing this because I find women’s clothes or having a woman’s body sexually appealing. It’s not like I won’t be able to turn myself on by playing with myself in the mirror, but that would be an incredibly frivolous reason for such a hard path to take.
And it is hard. I’m only just starting to realise how hard.
I found it easier, to start with, to view this as a sort of experiment, even though I now know it’s much more than that. Thinking that way let me start with the changes and see how I felt without feeling like I was trying to do the whole process at once. I was also unsure about whether I really was transgender, but the more I’ve tried living as a transsexual the more right it felt for me, and the more my doubts have disappeared. As I write this, my remaining doubt mainly consists of curiosity as to how my questions about myself are going to be answered, and not so much about me as a transsexual in itself.
Starting out I guess I naïvely assumed that this was going to be like any other change, for example going vegan or becoming polyamorous. It turned out to be on a way different level to those things, especially now that I look to the future and the process I’m going to be going through. In these few days, too, I’ve had some serious emotional shake-ups, to the point where I feel I don’t know who I am anymore.
Let me clarify that I think this is all a very good thing. Indeed, it’s not all hard; at times I’ve had a lot of fun discovering this new side of me, and I absolutely love the results in emotional wellbeing and positive self-image I’m already getting. In general I view this all as a sort of adventure and feel no resistance to walking this path; I’m doing it enthusiastically. I suppose it helps that changing my sex won’t have been the biggest thing I’ve done. It’s bigger than going vegan, but not as big as conquering a 10-year long disease that I was told could never be cured.
I wasn’t aware of quite how big it was going to be though, or not aware of how big it was going to be personally, as in the beginning I still viewed it as a sort of experiment.
I had officially decided to start on this when I got back from the UK about three weeks ago. I started wearing some feminine attire to warm people up to what was coming, so to speak, and made preparations. On Tuesday I felt the time was right to make an announcement on Facebook, which marked about the point where I stopped wearing any male clothes at all and started working very hard to do everything that would help me pass as a girl.
On Thursday, I didn’t really realise how much all this had affected me, and kept trying to do life as normal, but found I couldn’t. I was basically in a daze. I kept pushing myself to do something productive or even eat, but kept falling back into a stupor. I locked myself out of the house by accident and missed one of my English classes by simply forgetting.
That night, I went to my friend Tiago’s house to get my spare key. Me and Tiago have been friends since I began questioning myself and he knew all about this side of me.
“This is basically a dream come true for you, right?”
“Well, it’s a lot of emotions, all mixed together. But yes, it’s good.”
I was practically feeling a different, intense emotion about this every few minutes. Here are a few of my updates on Facebook, which give you an idea of the thoughts and feelings that were passing through me:
“I feel like I’ve completed a bank heist or something. Gender rug successfully pulled out from everyone’s feet XD”
“I occasionally have a thought along the lines of, “What the *heck* am I doing??” …But it’s a good feeling.”
“You know, it’s hard sometimes to stop thinking of femininity as a “guilty pleasure”.
“It’s so liberating not to have to pretend to be masculine any more!!”
“Went clothes shopping yesterday with a female friend I met over Couchsurfing. Had a lot of fun and felt EXTREMELY girly. My words: “It’s wierd how not-wierd this feels””
In short, I was experiencing – am still experiencing – the breakdown of an old identity. In all my life, despite all the feelings I had about my gender, I never once thought of myself as transsexual. I presented myself as masculine to stop people making fun of me and pushed the idea of being a woman away as a forbidden pleasure I would never, ever have. And then suddenly – WHOOSH! The floodgates opened. Practically from one day to the next I realise that all this pain, all this discord can and will be solved.
And at the same time, my entire idea of myself which based itself on the one principle that I couldn’t have what I wanted, was forced to die. All the structures, all the things I associated with myself to fit in in society and avoid the pain of facing myself as a transwoman, fell down. Crashed down. If I had realised quite how intense this process was going to be I would have cancelled all my classes for the week and stayed at home.
My old identity just died and I was faced with the question, “Who is Sophia?”
I still don’t know the answer to that, but I know who I’m not. I’m not that guy who hated his name and hated looking in the mirror. I’m not that guy who feigned a false masculinity that felt rough and discordant. I’m not any of the images I used to associate with myself.
It took me a long time to come to terms with myself as trans, largely I think because I didn’t fit the standard story about transpeople. The commonest story you seem to hear is that a person knows from childhood that they’re in the wrong body and say things like, “Mum, I’m actually a girl!”. They search for answers and eventually realise that there are others like them and they can be treated, whereupon they start transitioning.
I didn’t… know. Not exactly. I think that I always would have preferred being a woman if you had asked me, but wasn’t too vocal about it… I don’t know why. I hated looking myself in the mirror and disliked my own name, encouraging people to use a gender-neutral nickname. But I didn’t associate those issues with the pleasure I might have taken with playing a videogame as a female character, or the fact that I liked the show Ranma 1/2 a little bit too much.
*[For the uninitiated, Ranma 1/2 is an anime show in which the protagonist changes into a woman whenever he gets splashed with cold water.]
Maybe my gender dysphoria mixed with the general sense of self-loathing I had at the time, for other reasons. Maybe it just seemed normal that looking in the mirror felt wrong because of that. Maybe I just didn’t feel like I could express my feelings, or that they would be taken seriously.
My personal thought is that I might not have noticed my transgenderism until now because of my personal way of dealing with the dysphoria.
Looking in the mirror used to be a sort of shock. The feeling would be along the lines of, “Huh? What is that?” — But the thing is I wouldn’t think that it was wrong that I was a man, more that it was wrong there was something there at all. I think I coped with my gender dysphoria and possibly the other issues I had by disassociating myself totally from my body and imagining myself as nothingness, a bodyless spirit.
I could think and even move this meat puppet around, but only in a disconnected way, and not in any way feeling I *was* that meat puppet.
So I think I managed to avoid most of my gender dysphoria and, incidentally, even realising I was trans by just avoiding having any sense of myself at all.
I paid for that though now, because as soon as I let myself accept myself as a transperson the floogates opened and every emotion I ever repressed came out at once. To speak of its intensity, it was like a great wall of different emotions hitting me with the force of a train.
The case is that even now I still question myself a little but I ask myself that, if I wasn’t trans, how is it that now that I see myself as a woman it’s the only time I can look in the mirror and feel like I *am* what I see? Quite apart from seeing myself as beautiful and wonderful, which I do, now. But actually being identified with my body… that’s such a big thing, and such an impressive change. It feels like I’ve finally come down to Earth.
One of the things I said when talking to my wonderful girlfriend María José was a so very heartfelt, “Finally“.
I still question myself even now, and wonder about going back, but when I think of that I ask myself what is it that would going back to? A fake, masculine sense of self that doesn’t even fool me anymore. A name I hate. An appearence I hate – you know I never used to like dressing up nicely? But now I spend at least an hour on my appearence every day and I love it, it doesn’t feel like a chore at all, and I understand so deeply now, like I never understood before, that I’m doing it for myself and not for others. Going clothes shopping and choosing from girly stuff to make me look great is an absolute joy, so much fun and so engaging. I don’t see how I could go back to the only criteria for my clothes being, “does it still smell okay?”
It’s funny. Now, I’m finding I’m not just a girl. I’m a girly girl. I love laces, flowers, bows and the colour pink. I love shopping and chatting in an inconsequential way with female friends. I giggle, squeal and clap my hands when I’m excited. I get excited over dresses. It’s so much fun and such a continuing surprise to get to know this new side of me. I have no idea where I’ll be in a year, or who I’ll be.
I’m so thankful for the support I got for this change. The facebook announcement got 50 likes and 92 comments (so far). Every single one of those comments was positive, many of them overwhelmingly so. One of them said that she was fascinated at how wonderful the response had been and what wonderful people I surround myself with, and I have to agree. I’m so blessed to have such a supportive and loving social circle.
I couldn’t have possibly have done this without the help of my girlfriend, who showed absolutely unconditional support from the beginning and enjoys my new self exactly as it is. Emotionally this has been very very intense and she has been there for me through all of it. So thankyou, thankyou so much, my love, and thankyou so much to everyone who reached out.
At this stage in my path I’m processing all these emotions and finishing off the work of questioning myself to the point of absolute certainty about what I’m going to do. I think in all probability I’ll start hormonal treatment in a few months. Wish me luck 😉