I have to admit, I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that my transition has swallowed up so much of my life. I resist very much the people who think that trans is somehow who I am, who think that everything I do must revolve around being trans; and yet, I find myself leaning annoyingly close to that stereotype.
Since starting to transition, being trans has been one of the biggest things I’ve written about, even though I never envisioned this as a trans blog. I also talk about it a damn lot, care about it, think about it.
I resist this, I guess, both because I don’t like the stereotype, and because I really had a different vision for my life before transitioning. I had hoped that I could just quietly affirm myself as a woman and go back to living my life.
Of course, it didn’t happen that way. While the fact that I am a woman is objectively a small thing (billions of people are women and no-one ever comments on it), society makes it a big thing for me.
And so, in a way, it is a big thing. And while I resist that, I find myself being drawn inexorably into making being trans a big thing in my life.
Trans issues matter to me. The trans cause matters to me. It matters to me when the press refer to Chelsea Manning as “he”. It matters to me when a friend of mine told me she had to wait through 9 years of psychiatric process to finally access hormones.
Once upon a time I thought I would choose my activism by what felt most important to me, but I never thought I’d be forced into activism. I felt like a cis straight white male superhero, flying down to save the oppressed classes but never being oppressed himself. I thought I’d fight for others; I never thought I’d have to fight for myself.
There’s less kudos in that, of course. I no longer look so selfless. But well, I wanted to get into activism, and here’s my goddamn opportunity.
I’ve actually been invited to two different conferences to give talks about trans issues, one of which I’ve already done. The next one, in November, will even be paid. It’s rather funny, in a way, that my speaking career may be kicked off by a cause I’ve been initially reluctant to get into.
But the talk I did go really well. People really thanked me for it, and I could see I was changing minds, making people think. And I think: this is a message that needs to be spread. Because so long as the public is willfully ignorant about trans* issues, more trans* people are going to suffer, live a half-life, and/or kill themselves. (Attempted suicide rate among trans* people nears 50%).
And you know what? I think I really do identify with being part of the trans community. Sure, I don’t reduce myself to nothing but a trans person as many people want to do for me. I don’t forget that I am amazing in many different ways apart from my trans-ness. But this fight is my fight. These people, are my people. I feel like I am a part of this.
So I want to let down my resistance to this, bit by bit, and perhaps let this unexpected twist in my life story carry me in new directions.
Now comes the question of what will happen to this blog.
Inadvertently, this blog has become kind of a “trans blog”. Which is not what I ever intended it to be.
I believe trans issues come under the heading of personal development and activism. So, well, they do deserve to be in a blog dedicated to personal development and activism.
But I don’t want to make this a niche blog dedicated to only the trans community. I want to reach more people than that.
Recently, I came to an idea which would help me feel like trans issues were more balanced as a part of a wider-scope blog. I would write occasional very long articles about trans-ness, and more, shorter, articles on everything else. This would help emphasise the fact that this is not only a trans issue blog, while still letting me express everything I want to. (And frankly, I have a need to get all these thoughts off my chest).
Or, perhaps I should just surrender myself to this being a different blog than I expected it to be? Lose some readers, perhaps, and gain some others?
I don’t know, but I know I still want to write about non-trans-related personal development and activism subjects, and you know, I really don’t mind the idea of showing the world that a trans person is useful for something else other than just being trans.
Possibly at some point I will make my another, trans-related blog/content site. But for now, I’m good like this.
So, these are changes that have been going through my head since the last trans update. Interestingly, I think they might actually have something to do with hormones, because hormones gave me that absolute certainty I was trans, and that certainty in turn let me think more seriously about being an activist.
It has also let me think more seriously about the fact that this is who I am, who I will always be. I mean, I will always be a woman, and I will always be plagued by people singling me out in order to question the validity of my womanhood. I will always have to deal with discrimination.
Before Absolute Certainty in my trans-ness, I was somehow able to avoid thinking about or dealing with this harrowing prospect. Since the point of Absolute Certainty, though, I have had to begin to fit that into my mind.
Dealing with a loss of privilege is an interesting experience. When you’re privileged (and as white, middle class, apparently straight, apparently cis, apparently male, there wasn’t anyone much more privileged than me) you don’t think about your privilege, or try to put yourself in the skin of the under-privileged. That would rather burst your comfortable bubble. You just somehow imagine that everyone out there has it as good as you.
And of course, if you lose privilege, you suddenly realise how all that was an illusion.
For me, this brought me down to Earth even more than I was before. Some of the things I wrote before about myself now seem a little shallow by comparison, a little frivolous. I’m becoming more “real”. It’s good, in a way, but a bit of a hard pill to swallow.
During this process of “coming down to Earth”, I underwent a little low dip.
Since Absolute Certainty, I’d suddenly started taking injustices against trans people a lot more personally. So articles on the internet about trans* oppression, and a book I read (Julia Serano’s “Whipping Girl“), struck me much harder than they would have done before. I started thinking about the high risk of rape if I were sent to a male prison (a risk I believe no one can completely dismiss, no matter how closely they abide by the law). Or getting shocked at the statistics for trans women getting denied healthcare because their carers were too bigoted to want to even touch them. (I still find this hard to get my head around).
Under the weight of all of this, I began sinking into a light depression.
As soon as I became aware of this trend, though, I decided I had to change something in what I was doing. So, I chose to stop reading so much about trans* oppression and change my focus. I wrote on Facebook:
I’m going to appreciate my friends who see me as I am, appreciate how society generally does let me do what I want, appreciate my own power to shape my destiny (which is very large), and downplay the ways in which I might seem oppressed/generally have it bad.
Although I didn’t entirely stop reading about trans* oppression, I cut down a lot, and in fact, my depression shifted pretty much as soon as I decided to shift my focus.
Later, I made a comment on someone’s blog, which helped me realise what I had been forgetting when I sank into depression:
Not sure if I identify with the birth defect idea. I mean, I get it, and I know my body is “wrong” and not my mind, if anything is wrong. But somehow I don’t like to look at things in those ways.
I don’t like to think that any part of me is “wrong”. Despite some dark times I’ve been through recently, I still would tell you that if I could have chosen to be born a cis woman, I would have said no.
I don’t know many trans people who would say that. But I would. I like being trans. I like who it has made me. I like the process of discovering who I am, and the disproportionate joy I feel as I uncover myself layer by layer.
If being trans is too hard, it’s not the fault of being trans, it’s the fault of society. And I have never been one to let society bend me or alter me. Even if it’s hard for me, I still want to be trans*, so I can stand up for my rights and make a society a better place for those trans people who come after me.
*Still imagining I have a choice, here, I guess.
When I started on my transition, I had this viewpoint, and generally refused to read anything trans-related that was too depressing or pessimistic. Somewhere under all the pressure of what I was going through I forgot this viewpoint for a while, but now I remembered it and I still feel identified.
And remembering that I would actually choose to be trans if it were a choice, seems to make it so much easier to not feel victimised.
In my time, I’ve seen some happy, optimistic trans people, and some trans people who let the weight of their difficulties hang over them. I know I want to be one of the optimistic ones.
On a more physical level, I’ve been unspeakably happy with my progress so far in my hormone transition.
Some weeks ago, I started to notice I was growing breasts. Very enthusiastically, I showed them to Anja, who couldn’t see any difference.
I kept up insisting I was growing breasts, though, and after a week they had grown further, enough that even Anja could admit their presence.
For a long time after that, I was spending quite a few minutes per day admiring myself in the mirror.
I wasn’t lusting over my new body parts, by the way, even though I am into girls. It just didn’t really occur to me (and still doesn’t, really). I was mainly beaming over how pretty and feminine my body was beginning to look.
Someone (male) on Facebook replied to my news by saying, “If I had breasts, I would never leave the house.”
This phrase seems kind of weird to me. After all, I’m bi, and I sometimes got sexual pleasure out of touching and looking at my body pre-transition. But of course I left the house.
I think there is something in male conditioning that kind of puts breasts on this pedestal. Sure, breasts are attractive. But I think male conditioning goes beyond that, and teaches us* to crave breasts.
*After some consideration I’m using “us” here as I am among those who were conditioned as male, even if I’m not male myself.
It’s interesting that now I have breasts, I find I crave or mysticise breasts less. I don’t think this is because I like breasts less; I think it’s because they are just longer this unknown quantity, this holy grail.
On a related note, I have found out that the idea of being in a woman’s shower no longer feels so weird or uncomfortable to me.
I mean, same-sex-attracted women can be in a woman’s shower and not be phased by it. So why are opposite-sex-attracted men brought up to fear (and possibly crave) the experience of being in a woman’s shower?
I think, again, it’s this thing about making the female body this unknown, this holy grail. Now that I am growingly the proud owner of a female body, I find that the idea of sharing a shower with other women would be less embarrassing or awkward than it might have been for me before.
Asides from my breasts, I’m also getting some more curves in my body. My body hair is growing slower, which has made it finally possible to shave it all, which in turn has made my body confidence go right up.
My face is also becoming a lot more feminine. In general, I’m bothered much less on the street. Despite my habit of rigidly staring into space somewhere where I won’t meet anyone’s gaze, I notice I tend to be looked at less. Yesterday a man even flirted with me. (It’s not like people never saw me as a woman before, but it seems to be happening much more consistently now).
A couple of weeks ago, a new friend I had made asked me an interesting question: “Are you ‘out’ to your roommate?”
Previously, the question of being out or not hadn’t really come up. My (new, temporary) roommate found out I was trans just from me being me. And yet, a week or so after meeting her, seemingly I had crossed a critical point, and now someone was expecting that I would have to tell people I was trans.
And another time, I casually referenced my trans status in a poly meetup and I saw out of the corner of my vision someone’s eyes popping out a little bit.
Interestingly, this is combined with a few rather overt instances of street harassment which I experienced recently, all of which were in my neighborhood.
It’s my theory that these people must have seen me before (they seem to spend all their time hanging out on the street anyway) and, now that I am looking more like the woman I am, they feel threatened.
I had two separate instances of a particular group of young adults harrassing me. First, they called out to me, “Gay, gay gay!” and made grotesque imitations of my feminine mannerisms. (I had been speaking very animatedly to Anja as we passed, and waving my hands about a lot).
Then the second time I passed this group, they called out to me, “Boy! Hey boy! Hey, gay boy!”
I ignored them completely. It’s my usual coping method. And in this case, I felt there could be a risk of violence, so not engaging seemed safest.
Then a couple of days later a group of young boys who were playing football in pretty much the same place shouted after me, “Gay! Gay! Gay! Gay! Gay! Gay!”
I stared straight ahead and tried my best to act as if I hadn’t even noticed.
Due to the timing and location I’m guessing the group of young adults had talked with these boys and that’s why they joined in on harassing me.
An observation I seem to be making is that people* tend to harass me most when I appear most feminine.
*By which I mean, men.
Those young adults harassed me when I was waving my hands about in a very feminine way. And the boys who harassed me later chose to do so on a day when I happened to be wearing lipstick.
And the time I had water thrown at me in a music festival, was also when I had decided to wear my full makeup, after a week of passing the same people by and getting only mild harassment.
It seems that these sorts of people not only have a problem with me being trans. Most of all, they seem to have a problem with my femininity.
Julia Serano explains this very well in her book, repeatedly mentioned here by now, “Whipping Girl“. A lot of the discrimination trans women receive can be more appropriately described as misogyny. I really recommend reading that book if you want to understand all this better. It really ties in trans issues with feminism and benefits both with the combination.
But, I think I’m reaching the end of this sort of street harassment. My face is looking much more feminine. I think, unless I use my most male-sounding voice, I basically “pass”.
As nice as it is not to be bothered on the street all the time, I’m enjoying, too, this change for its own sake.
As I mentioned in my last article, I can finally look at myself more or less comfortably in the mirror.
A while back, about when my face was first changing, I had an odd experience; my eyes at one point very suddenly and unexpectedly came into focus as I was looking at my face. Yet, before then I hadn’t noticed that I was unfocusing my eyes every time I looked in the mirror.
Now I can often enjoy the experience of just looking at myself, and no longer feeling this huge resistance or having the sense that existence is somehow intolerable*.
*As I mentioned in my last post, this is not about wanting to die, but resisting existence itself. My post, What It Feels Like To Be Transgender, will give you a better understanding of what I’m talking about.
And I’m more confident with my body now, more happy to share it with people. This has resulted in me going to a sex event for a first time, the likes of which I previously didn’t dare go to. As well as this, I’m getting a bit more bold about chatting up straight men on OKCupid.
In fact, I don’t know if it is related, but I seem to be finally getting out of the house and socialising a bit more. I think this has something to do with learning to respect my own need for safe spaces (something I couldn’t come to terms with until I reached Absolute Certainty and started finally process all the discrimination I was receiving). But surely, too, I’m more comfortable now that I look more like how I should look, and now that I know that if it comes to it, I can perform sexually more like I should be able to perform.
Another exciting benefit of hormones which I noticed just a couple of days ago is that my bald spots are growing back!
Followers of this blog might know what a big deal this is for me, as my fast advancing hair loss was a big motivator for me to try and get hormones as soon as possible.
I know not every trans woman gets her hair back, but I guess I’m lucky that what I lost, I lost during only the last two or so years, so I think it should still not be so hard to reverse it.
Now I have little fuzzy areas where my bald spots were, almost like the peach fuzz you get on a woman’s arm, except it’s getting longer than that by now. The hairs are still soft and pale, but I’m guessing they will get stronger with time.
And, well, that is pretty frikkin’ awesome!
Asides from the physical changes: I seem to be finding animals and children cuter, more endearing. In particular, there were some times where there were children making a lot of noise: I remembered that I used to find such noises grating, but somehow the same experience now seemed cute.
I’ve also noticed that I seem a bit more dependent on food now. Not that I need to eat more; I think I need to eat slightly less (and I think my appetite is lower as well). Rather, I notice that if I skip a meal, I pay for it much more in terms of discomfort, low energy, and mood dips.
I had heard of trans women needing less food after taking hormones, but this bit I hadn’t heard of from anyone. Well, I guess everyone’s different.
Apart from that I occasionally notice feeling more tired or low in energy than before. This is one thing that seems like it’s not so much of a boon, but then again, I would sacrifice MUCH more than this in order to keep taking hormones.
I am thinking, though, that perhaps what energy I have is a bit more sustainable; it seems to come out less in terms of intense bursts which are followed by lulls, but rather it’s more of a constant, slow burn. So perhaps once I get used to it, it will turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
And another, totally unexpected change I’ve experienced since starting hormones: people are better at guessing my age now.
Previously, they would usually think I was around 30 (I’m 23). But now, the several times I’ve recently asked people to guess my age, they were all much closer. 26 seemed to be the common guess.
I don’t know if the effect of hormones is just to make my face look younger, or if it’s something secondary: maybe I look less over-serious, have less of a “weight” hanging over me, and that makes me look more my age. Somehow, I think it’s the latter. Life seems less “heavy” than before.
I still feel old for my age, but maybe less so. I’m even thinking of trying short skirts and other so-called “fashionable” items XD
So, in general, things are starting to really improve for me. A lot of the stress is dropping off my shoulders, from street harassment, from worries about whether I’ll ever pass, from the pain of gender dysphoria. It feels like life is getting a bit easier.
I still have a long way to go. Though, in a way, that even makes me happy! Because if I enjoy these changes so much after only 3 months, I can’t imagine how it will be after a year.
For now, I should work on my voice (a boring job but necessary) and in October, I will start getting my beard removed. Once those two things are done, I expect to be very much satisfied with my gender concordance. 🙂