Purgatory…Limbo…whatever you want to call it, it’s that place between worlds, often associated with a person’s transition from the mundane (Earth) to the wonderful (Heaven), and for me it sums up perfectly where I am at in my transition, and where I may spend quite a bit of time before being allowed, by my body, to move on.
If living as a boy was my life on Earth, then this transition to purgatory is a step in the right direction because it means that I no longer fit the mold of a boy. I may look like one most of the time, and I may even pretend to be one some of the time, but it certainly isn’t who I am, and being honest it was never who I was. However, this would mean that my life in heaven would be me living my life 100% of the time as my authentic self, and most of the time being seen by people as I see myself. In my case, as a trans woman, that means being seen as a woman, which I am nowhere near being seen as in public. I believe the day will come, but it is not here yet.
And so the place I reside is purgatory. There are circles, a select group of friends, trans twitter, Facebook, and within queer circles where people accept me as Allie, but that is about it. Heck, most days I look in the mirror and I can’t see myself yet. My body is still too muscular, too big, and too hairy. My face, while thinning and softening, is also clearly more masculine than feminine. Yet, I also can’t fully present in public as a male all of the time, or in all manner of clothing. It is clear that I have breasts and that those breasts are not male, and so I am at the point that I have to wear something for support/compression every day. Which means, presenting male, I have to wear tops that hide my sports bras, bralettes, etc. In all likelihood summer will totally suck this year, as I love to wear tank tops and shorts all summer long, and as of right now, tank tops are probably a no go, unless I want to clearly share with the world that I am also wearing undergarments that I clearly need. I won’t be visiting a pool this summer, that’s for sure, and as for shorts? Weight loss and body changes will also influence what kind I end up wearing in public spaces. Sadly, changes to the body are essential for being gendered correctly in public. Only time and HRT can bring them about, and the jury is still out on just how much change I will actually see.
HRT affects everyone differently, and there are factors that will determine how it affects a person. Experts say age can play a factor, and from my own research I would say this is most definitely true. The younger you are the more likely you are to get good results, but not guaranteed. Genetics are probably most important, but coupled with age this usually determines how quickly people see those changes. Beginning dosages of blockers and hormones all can significantly impact when people will see changes and how those changes will come about. The older you get the greater chance that physical changes may be minimal, but some older women do get fantastic results, and I’m kind of straddling the fence not young, but also not quite over the line to old. I do feel like luck might be on my side, based upon the results I have seen so far, but nothing is a given or promised to someone in transition.
So, I am straddling the worlds between boy and girl, and while my body is slowly moving where it needs to be, my mind has jumped way out into the lead. Clearly more female than male at this point, as if any vestige of male remains (I don’t think it does), my mind struggles at times to do boy. Male actions seem to be more from memory than instinct or desire to to do them. Since doubling my T blocker I find myself succumbing more often to stereotypical female behaviors which makes me both happy and frustrated at the same time. Happy because internally I feel more myself every day, but frustrated because I’m painfully aware that my outside is nowhere near matching how I feel on the inside. In some ways this makes my body dysphoria worse. Luckily my increased body dysphoria is tempered by feeling “right” in my head, and so my overall gender dysphoria is less, but in some ways it causes me more problems.
I find myself wanting to present female so badly, and yet, more than ever, I am aware of my male physical attributes that I despise. The muscle on my shoulders and chest drive me insane! I have female tops that I used to wear, and I no longer wear them because they emphasize that which I hate. Instead, I have moved back to unisex t-shirts and loose tops that de-emphasize my hated body parts. Playing with make-up? Yeah, that’s not happening until the facial hair is gone. I know many girls move forward with heavy concealer and get quite good at hiding it, but until my face shape changes more along with facial hair being completely removed, I have decided to wait.
I recognize that my purgatory is partly self-imposed by the way my dysphoria works and how that directly affects my presentation. Some girls just go full-time, full speed ahead, and I admire them for it. For me, that simply isn’t the path I want to, or am willing to walk. My path is far more calculated and planned out. Aside from dysphoria, things like my family and job also affect how I transition and the timeline I choose to follow.
Even with all of the above said, there are mental changes that are already happening and they can’t be stopped. My brain is changing as i switch my fuel from testosterone to estrogen. Things I have noticed just since doubling my blocker over a month ago, many in the last two weeks, are:
- Lowered singular focus…My brain jumps from random thought to random thought in a quicker pattern. I find this happening as I’m talking to friends. My wife does this and it used to drive me crazy…now I do it and can follow others when they do it.
- Nervous energy…I never had this before, but my god, where did it come from? When bad I can’t sit still, and I’ve even found myself cleaning stuff. Often it will start with noticing something is expired in the fridge, and so I throw it out, and then I look for other stuff, and before I know it I am cleaning out the entire refrigerator. This never used to be me. I didn’t worry about such things, and was content to ignore them. Now it’s like I can’t help myself, and the reasons I do it run in a similar vein to reasons my wife has given before when she has done similar things. I always found the reasons funny…but they make total sense to me now.
- Anxiety…Where did this come from? I stayed home from work yesterday due to a migraine brought on by anxiety over having to go to work in full boy mode. The anxiety didn’t build, it just hit me out of nowhere Monday night and stayed with me all night long. Things didn’t finally start to get better till around noon on Tuesday, after girlfriends did their thing to either take my mind off of it or help me work past it. In the past I was always able to push anxiety down and lock it away, or compartmentalize it. Pushing it down is not so easy anymore, and when anxiety joins forces with dysphoria they both gain greater strength to knock me down. I used to listen to women talk about anxiety and how it would affect them, and shrug my shoulders as I had no issue ignoring it. Now I am forced to deal with it because my brain won’t ignore it, and instead fixates on it until I deal with it.
- Attraction…I finally felt attraction to another person since I started to transition, and it wasn’t based upon the notion of whether or not I found this person worthy of sleeping with. Sure physical attractiveness still matters to me, but it is personality and connection that matters to me more. The thought of sex doesn’t even enter into the picture because I have no interest in it at all right now. I also now know that my sexuality has shifted from having played the cis-het male to being a bi/pansexual trans woman. I know it could shift again, but I now see the fluidity of my sexuality, and how I view others with it. I also want to add that any crush I have is simply of a school girl nature, as I am married and the thought of cheating is not something that I even entertain as an option…nor am I interested in the physical with my body in its current state.
- Friendship…Huge for me. My girlfriends, and I have a select few that I know locally (many more online) mean so much to me. Friendship has taken on a new level of importance that was never there before. There is something about it that definitely affects my mental well-being. Lunch with a couple of friends can be like positive fuel for me. Online and texting is nice, but nothing beats getting together in-person and I need to try and make this happen more often.
- Public presentation…I have been playing with androgynous female clothing choice since November, but up until Sunday I was regularly identified as a cis-het male. I know this because of how women that I don’t know have reacted to me over that period of time. Women, with good reason, are often more guarded in their interactions with men. Often out of fear of being hit on or having to deal with creepy stalker-types where being nice might be misconstrued as a signal to flirt. On Sunday, when out with a couple girlfriends, and even when alone, I started getting queer ID’d. In any store or restaurant I went into on Sunday the women I interacted with were simply sweeter and more relaxed around me. I’ve been the big scary guy getting on an elevator with a lone woman, and having always been female I’ve always been painfully aware of the reaction I elicit. On Sunday, the reaction was openess that included compliments on clothing or accessories, like a woman would give to another woman or a femme man. This change has taken me off guard a little, but also makes me smile as it means that while I’m not being seen as a woman yet, I am being seen as queer and this puts me closer to my end goal. I will admit clothing, carrying a bag, and the company I keep can all be signals to people I interact with, but I also find myself talking a little different…more free with my enunciation and word choice…and it isn’t conscious. If relaxed I just do it, and while my speech pattern isn’t necessarily female yet, it also isn’t quite the typical male. All of this is a big positive and also highlights that not everything in purgatory is bad or negative.
I hate ending on negative thoughts, and so I waited until the end to show that purgatory doesn’t all have to be bad. There are good things that happen as I make my way through it. There truly is a mix of the frustrating and the wonderful within it. As to how long I will be there? I can’t know for sure yet. As of right now I don’t see myself going 100% full time until I’ve been on HRT a minimum of 18 months, but it could be longer depending upon my genetics. I will have to go full-time at home sooner because I want to and because there are things I need to work on, such as voice, make up, etc. Transitioning at home will give me an opportunity to work on and perfect things that will affect my overall presentation. In small ways I’ve already begun to work on some of them such as laser hair removal, voice, weight loss, beginning to grow out my hair, and shaping my eye brows.
There are always things I can work on that put me closer to full transition, and reminding myself to live in the now and to take it a day at a time are good things to keep in mind. The rest will come when it does, and worrying about things I can’t control is a waste of my energy. Sometimes I can’t help it, but I hope I’m getting better at stopping myself from obsessing. I think I am, and instead using that energy for the positive things that I need.
“Being a girl is whatever you decide it is.” I cannot tell you how many times we told our daughter this the first few months of her transition. She dove in head first, and we watched her discard so much of what she had liked before, because at seven that’s what you think you have to do. She wore dresses almost all the time, wouldn’t play video games, or watch her old favorite TV shows. She dove into girly TV shows, and tried to exclusively play with girl toys. She already had an idea of societal expectations of what it meant to be a girl, and even at seven thought she had to adhere to such things. As her parents, it was our job to remind her that she was her own person, and that there was no one way she, or any girl had to be. Slowly, she began to take up some of those things that she had liked before. She got back into sports (is a kick-ass soccer player), and she started to play video games again. She also started wearing what makes her comfortable. She’s active and now eight. She likes dresses, but doesn’t wear them often, because as she puts it, “I like to play hard, and dresses aren’t for doing that.” She’s figured out what being a girl means to her, and as a result has become happier with who she is.
This same dilemma faces anyone going through transition. Yes, I’m female on the inside and always have been, but I also spent over 40 years playing boy, and so figuring out my sense of style, and my projected identity is still something that I needed to do, and to be honest it has happened pretty quickly. I also buck the trend of many trans women I know, and I couldn’t give two shits about what society or even the trans community thinks I should be. It’s my life after all, and for me, being a woman is more than just a dress and makeup. Those are trappings and decoration, and for some they give comfort and solace, but for me they really don’t matter much. Will I wear a dress or use makeup when I do go full-time? Yes, of course I will, but those things don’t define my womanhood. My gender is female, what I wear doesn’t change that, or make it more so.
I get asked all the time, by my therapist, other trans people, family, and friends about my expression. Playing boy most days at work means that most people I know see me in male clothes on a regular basis. This isn’t by choice, but out of necessity, and because I can handle doing this for work. Some feel the need to come out right away and live as their “authentic” selves, which to me feels like a loaded term.
Webster’s defines Authentic as “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact.” This would suggest that one must prove themselves worthy of being seen as a woman to be treated as such, but who decides what being seen as a woman is? Cis women have argued and fought these definitions for centuries, and so it should not be a surprise that trans women also deal with the struggle to define what womanhood is for them.
Is it the clothes I wear? Use of make-up? Things I like? Thing I don’t like? My ability to pass? All of these things may impact how others view me, but they don’t speak to how I see myself. I accepted I was female before I began hormone replacement therapy (HRT). I knew it without a doubt, and as a result I started to let some of the shackles I had placed on myself fall to the ground. Still others remain. It is no easy task to shed decades of masking, but acceptance is the first step, and HRT also has helped immensely.
I’ve shared that it was at the three week mark on HRT that something slid home in my brain, and it was like for the first time my brain started working the right way. Something else also happened that week which would help to shift my brain, and it was the realization that my breasts had begun to develop. For me, early on, breast growth fundamentally changed the way I saw myself and how I wanted to interact with the world. It was a confirmation that transition was absolutely the right choice for me, and while it made me a little nervous at first considering how I might hide them, and concerns around work, etc. I was also ecstatic about them, as an obvious sign that my body was definitely responding to HRT, and beginning to feminize in a way I had always wanted.
It wouldn’t be until around four weeks on HRT that I’d start to really think about clothing, and a desire to have clothes for “me.” However, I had to consider what my style was. I also would and still do spend minutes every day staring at my naked body in the mirror. It doesn’t cause me crippling dysphoria, but it does cause me to wince or grimace on the inside. How I present to the world matters to me. Presenting male or female I want to look my best. I still have a body (minus the boobs) that most men over 40 would kill for, and I hate it, but it is the body I have to work with. As a result, dresses and makeup really don’t put it or me in the best light. Putting womanhood aside, I had to ask myself again, who am I?
I am an athletic, outdoorsy, hippie chick. I love to play soccer, specifically goalkeeper, and how many women can say they’ve backpacked over 3,000 miles or happily gone six days without a shower? I love tattoos and want piercings. Give me Chaco sandals in the summer and Dr. Marten boots in the colder months. I love the way my muscular legs look in skinny jeans or shorts. I love tank tops and over-sized sweaters. I don’t wear makeup yet, and may never wear much except for work, as I also love to sweat and workout.
After a long day at work I want to come home, workout, take a hot shower, and put on comfy clothes that I can relax in. I know some girls come home and need to immediately put on a dress and makeup, but that isn’t me. Neither way is wrong, and neither way makes one of us more or less a woman.
I remember reading the book “Tranny” and the chapter where Laura Jane Grace talks about her struggle to get her therapist to write her letter for HRT. She was already dressing full time as a woman, but a woman who was the lead singer of a punk rock band, which meant she favored black skinny jeans and black tank-tops. She had been writing trans-centric lyrics for years, and yet she would return week after week trying to get this male therapist to write her letter, until it dawned on her that he had to see what “he” thought it meant to be a trans woman, and so she returned the next session in full make-up and a dress, and got her letter for HRT. Thanks to the media, cis folk have preconceived notions of what a trans woman is, and even trans people fall into the trap of societal norms and conventions.
I’ve had quite a few girls gush about how exciting it will be for me when I start wearing dresses and make-up. The fact that I can do those things, isn’t what excites me, not even in the least…ok, I admit there might be some fun there, but what excites me is that the wearing of such things will mean my body has feminized to the point that I feel it looks more female than male. What I put on it is secondary to me. What matters most to me is how I see myself. I am my own worst critic, and that knowledge scares me at times.
Most people who know me as Allie, know me for my positive attitude, and my sense of humor over the whole transition experience. However, like any girl, there is that side to me that I hide from most, because I think people don’t want to see that side of me. I have moments every day where I hate myself, and I hate being trans all the time. That hate never goes away, and I don’t know if it ever will. I have fears that my body will never pass, and that even with facial feminization surgery (FFS) that I will never be seen as the gender I am. That fear kept me from accepting myself for the past decade, and while I am happy I finally pushed past it, being me is anything but sunshine and rainbows.
All of the above said, I would never go back, HRT has brought color to my life, and I have hope for the future. Most of the time I have hope that I will pass, and that I will get to do those things I’ve dreamed of doing out in the open as a woman. Many of them are simple things, little things that will give me the validation I want, and they may not seem exclusively female, but much of what we like in the world rarely is gender specific.
I look forward to playing soccer on a women’s team, and building camaraderie with female teammates for the first time in my life. I look forward to returning to the yoga studio as myself. I look forward to weight training again and rebuilding my body the way I want it. I look forward to going shopping with girlfriends, or just out for dinner and getting ma’amed instead of sirred. I look forward to not having to shave every day, and especially a stubble free face. I look forward to more piercings, painting my fingernails, and yes I do look forward to being able to wear skirts and dresses, along with pretty underthings that look right on my body.
I look forward to FFS and gender confirmation surgery (GCS). Not all girls get these things or feel that they need them, and you certainly do not need a vagina to be female. However, my physical appearance (what I see when I stand in front of the mirror naked) is vital to my feeling complete, and the confidence that will come with feeling complete will mean so much to how I interact with the world. For me, the end result cannot come fast enough.
However, even without all of the above, I am still female, a girl, a woman. Most of the above are simply modes of expression, and so often we all get caught up in blending gender with expression, when the two are not the same. We need to start asking ourselves why is it so important to us that men and women fit certain societal conventions of how they are supposed to express. Why does it matter and who does it hurt if someone acts outside of those conventional expectations? We all have one life to live, mine is already almost half over, and I have yet to really start living as myself. I have no energy left to really care what people think anymore, and within the next few months I’m going to begin pushing the boundaries of people’s expectations. I may keep presenting male at work, but get both ears pierced and cover/feminize old tattoos. After all, these are little things that will make me happy and feel more myself. In the end, like I still tell my daughter…being a girl is whatever I decide it is, and maybe it’s time I start “being” just a little bit more.
So, if you follow me on Twitter or are a friend on Facebook then you know that I have mailed out my “Coming Out” letters to family. As such, I’m nervous and anxious, so I figured I’d stick to a light and fun post today…and leave the serious post for after I hear back from my parents. There is much I want to talk about on that front, but will save that for early next week most likely.
With that being said, I wanted to talk about the expansion of my expression last week, and how away from work it is very hard for me to simply wear “guy” clothes anymore. However, there is a vast array of clothing that fits my casual style, and can present more androgynous if the outfit is put together a certain way. I’m not one for skirts and dresses yet, because I simply do not have the body for either, and at least for me I won’t wear things that don’t make me look good. Just because I love the red patterned pencil skirt paired with the creme colored silk 3/4 sleeve blouse in the window at the mall doesn’t mean I think it will look good on me. Wearing things that make me feel “mannish” doesn’t make me feel better or pretty, it makes me feel horrible. Just because they make it in my size, also doesn’t mean it will look good on me, and it is a must that however I present…I do it well.
So, all that said, what do I buy and what do I wear? I know style, and I dressed my wife for years. I put together outfits that look good on me, and fit my sense of self. I am an outdoorsy hippie girl for the most part, and so my casual style reflects that. I am also a trans woman in her early forties, and so I also keep that in mind. The idea is to present well, and not to get clocked. I’m all for another girl wearing what she wants, but I don’t need to wear dresses and heels to tell me I’m a female. This seems to be an overriding assumption of many people that trans women have to wear dresses and makeup…and it’s bullshit.
I’m an athlete who loves to play soccer, and I’m a backpacker with over 3,000 miles hiked…I wear clothing that suits who I am…not who the world thinks I should be. So feel free to check out some of the items I bought to allow me to feel more comfortable in my own skin as my transition moves along.
Before getting into my clothing purchases below, I wanted to highlight something and that is the beauty of online shopping. Currently I wear a 14/16 in pants, and am certain my ass looks better than most women who wear the same size (cis or trans), but I wear an 18/20 (XXL) in tops, unless tanks and then I can wear an XL in most. For the trans woman just beginning to spread her wings most major retailers offer extended sizing and the freedom to shop without the constant lurking sales girl who tends to follow you throughout an actual physical store. Most retailers offer free returns, and so I make it a habit of ordering what I want in multiple sizes as I’m between two at the moment. I can try things on in the comfort of my home and return the sizes that do not work for me. This is especially nice for foundational wear, as I’m nowhere near the point where I feel comfortable going into a dressing room to try on bras, etc.
Now…onto the clothing (I’ve included hyper links to all clothing still available online for anyone interested)…and I will note that the only thing I’ve actually tried on to date is a pair of jeans I already own. The rest will be arriving in the coming days.
For me, after a day of work I am all about comfort, as I am most weekends. Still being bigger in the shoulders and back it isn’t easy to find women’s shirts in XXL sizing. North Face does carry a large number. I love these colors and graphics…and can layer with long sleeve shirts underneath on a winter day along with a fleece or down vest.
Being a soccer player and hiker I have bigger legs, which are still heavily muscled. I actually like my legs, but not all pants seem to fit them. The Aphrodite pant is perfect for the outdoors or for just chilling around town. I spend most of my time outside of work running around with the kids, and so casual is what I want. The pants are definitely for women, but also don’t bring a second glance in public which is what I want where I currently am at in transition.
North Face Morninglory 2 Fleece Jacket
Again, bigger shoulders means I need to deemphasize. It also means I need to find XXL jackets and the Morninglory 2 fits that bill. I got it in the vintage white above, and can’t wait for it to come. This is much more my style for winters in north Georgia.
These pants are right up my alley (no pun intended!). I’ve had my eye on the Louisa pants for awhile and and the Halle pants come recommended by a friend as her go to pants. Again, they’re the perfect about town pants, or equally as good for outdoor gatherings which suits me just fine.
So, I bought these shoes because I needed some cute outdoorsy shoes, and I’ve loved the Keen brand for awhile. Obviously I bought these with the clothes that I’m getting in mind. The link above is to the woman’s shoe, but they also have them in many of the same colors in men’s sizing for us gals with bigger feet. I’ve already got my eye on the black ones with the purple laces, but went with the ones above for my initial purchase.
I LOVE American Eagle jeans. I’ve bought the male versions for awhile, and already have a lighter pair of the women’s skinny jeans which are my favorite pair now. They have just the right amount of stretch, and I think my legs look great in them. I decided to order the darker pair of skinny, and then after finding my old cowboy boots decided to go ahead and get the Kick Jeans as well. Online AEO sells them in extended sizing up to 20, and in short, regular, long, and extra long.
Love these over-sized sweaters as they de-emphasize the shoulders and can be worn with just about anything. They’re also usually super comfy. I already have a similar one from American Eagle, and decided to take a chance on this one from Gap as I got it for less than half the original price on Cyber Monday. I usually need a Tall, but am hoping that the regular XXL will do the trick as I want it to fit more loosely on me. For me, I’m all about over-sized sweaters and have a feeling these will be staple in my wardrobe for some time to come.
I am at the point that I do need some extra support at times, or by the end of the day I can be somewhat sore. As I’m not a fan of pain I’ve gone to wearing bralettes under tank tops and shirts now. I’m hoping that these seamless ones will hide better under male dress shirts and so I picked up one in the above color and one in white.
Aerie is becoming a staple in my closet, and while designed for younger women…I love their stuff and find it well made. I’m especially falling in love with their undies. Made of better materials than what Victoria’s Secret is using today, I decided to start switching over as I’m about to go down an undie size. Last week they were running a crazy deal, 10 pairs for $35! Too good to pass up so I ordered ten pairs all in my smaller size. I’m a huge fan of their Shine line, but have also decided to try a couple other materials with this order. The Boybrief is akin to most lines’ hipster undies, and when they have them the hi-cut bikinis are some of the most comfortable I’ve ever worn, considering the junk I have to smuggle around…plus their undies are just plain cute.
One thing most women know is that women’s pants pockets are almost purely decoration, and so I am sick of carrying things in my hands whenever I wear them. Plus I also have a need/desire to start carrying more things with me. The Kavu bag is outdoorsy, which fits my style, and is androgynous enough to fill the role of a first purse/bag for me. Obviously, I also need a wallet as I can’t stand the wallet bulge that is really noticeable in women’s jeans. This is a big step for me, and I actually can’t wait for them to come in the mail.
So, now those who follow me have a pretty good idea of my casual style in the evening and on weekends. All told I spent close to $1,000 this week, but considering I have almost nothing in my female wardrobe any woman knows that really isn’t much money at all. Depending on how everything fits once it comes in, I may order another pair of Prana pants, and a couple more North Face t-shirts, but we’ll see how that goes.