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.
When you start HRT, and it is something you really want, it can put you on a self-induced high. You become convinced things are happening every time there is a little change. You have visions of your body transforming and being one of those girls who has to out herself at seven months, because people constantly gender you female. It is the thing dreams are made of, and so you stand on the mountain top higher than everything around you.
The funny thing is HRT rarely works that way in the best of circumstances, and so such things are merely the dreams of someone who has yet to come back to reality. Coming back to reality is a shock to the system as you struggle to accept it, but it is a positive if you look at the future with realistic expectations. I have spoken with enough girls to know most of us go through such a phase, and even girls who go full time out of the gate have said to me, a year or two in that they don’t know how they did it because looking back they were terrible in the beginning.
To expect drugs to physically change my body, a “male” body of 43 years, overnight is ridiculous. Expectations ranging in several months to a year are also not very realistic for most. Realistic expectations for full HRT feminization range anywhere from 18 months to 36 months, if being honest. Reputable surgeons won’t touch you until around 18 months at the soonest, and GCS surgeons want you on hormones at least a year before they will perform surgery. There are reasons for these things, but one major reason is that evidence shows most trans women hit their peak development around the two year mark, and still there are many who see significant changes between 24 and 36 months. This knowledge actually helped me break out of a self-induced funk that I sank into shortly before Christmas. It also helped me to look to the future with a renewed hope that was grounded in realistic expectations, rather than simply naive dreams.
So what was the source of my funk? I had my two month checkup and blood work in mid-December, and shortly before that I was feeling like my testosterone was fighting the HRT I was taking, While it doesn’t quite work like that, I felt like my development was hitting a wall. This was confirmed to a point by my blood work which revealed that while my testosterone was down 100 from 450 to 350, but it was still well outside the range of female levels. In addition, due to the high testosterone, my estrogen was only at about 50, which was still significantly lower than natal female levels. No trans woman wants to hear such news (almost always a trigger), because we all know others who’s bodies snapped to almost right away, and their first bloodwork showed them to be within the natal female range. However, for most of us it doesn’t work that way. Things take time to happen.
As a result, my doctor doubled my spironolactone, so I now take daily, 200mg of spironolactone and 6mg of estradiol. My doctor said that we should definitely see a significant decrease in testosterone and this will allow my estrogen levels to rise up to where we want them. Again, this gives me hope, but as someone who has waited over 40 years, I want it all right now.
Adding to my funk was the fact that my weight loss had kind of plateaued, and while I looked elsewhere to blame, I also knew that this was my fault. As a result I began tracking everything I ate to get a handle on where my issues were, and soon came to realize it was mostly evening snacking, and that snacks throughout the day can really add up. With the start of the new year I enacted a new diet plan, and it seems to be working as I’ve dropped seven pounds so far in 2018, and there is no doubt this also has added to my renewed spirit.
Now, I say all of the above to stress that as a trans person I can choose to dwell on those things I perceive to be negative about my transition, my body and my mental state, or I can choose to see the good things that are happening, even if those things are only slowly evolving. So let’s look at those positive things, beginning with measurements on Day 1 of HRT to my measurements on Day 1, Month 4 of HRT:
Day 1, Month 1 measurements:
- Weight: 244lbs
- Chest: 42.5 inches (underbust: 41 inches)
- Waist: 38 inches
- Pant/male waist: 40 inches
- Hips: 43 inches
- Neck: 16 inches
- Bicep: 15 inches
- Wrist: 7 inches
- Ankle: 9.5 inches
Day 1, Month 4 measurements:
- Weight: 235 lbs
- Chest: 40.5 inches (underbust: 38 inches)
- Waist: 35 inches
- Pant/male waist: 37 inches
- Hips: 41 inches
- Neck: 15 inches
- Bicep: 14 inches
- Wrist: 6.25 inches
- Ankle: 8.5 inches
Now, if I were to look at the above numbers only from Month 3 to 4, then I would see almost zero changes…half an inch on a couple measurements, or no changes in several, but from day one these changes are huge, and that’s what I have to remember. I have only lost nine pounds from Day 1, and yet I have lost 2-3 inches in many places. Things have been happening. It’s just often I don’t see them, or they get overshadowed by things like the start of breast development, which as a trans woman is always a moment of joy for all of us.
People also sometimes ask about other things that I’m seeing, and some I’ve talked about and others I haven’t, because it is hard to pinpoint what some changes are. I have yet to talk about my face, other than to say it has thinned out some and that my skin is softer. I can say now, without a doubt, that there is something happening around my eyes and my chin. With my eyes I can’t say for sure what is different, just that there is something that is making me look younger? It’s the best way I can describe it. As for my chin, it’s almost like it is emerging from wrapping, as if the tissue around it is reconfiguring. These things don’t happen overnight, and so I often think maybe I’m seeing things because I want to. However, looking at older/before pictures I can say there is definitely something going on. My head is becoming less blocky, or putting it another way my head is going from looking like a circle to more of an oval. At least that’s the way it seems to me.
I mentioned ankle and wrist measurements because joints are a great way to get an idea for just how “bulky” your bone structure might be, and seeing mine drop into natal female ranges for a woman my height makes me realize that my bone structure might not be near as broad or thick as I thought it was. My underbust measurement is also further confirmation of this fact. At 38 inches, it stands to reason that with continued weight loss and time on HRT I should continue to see my measurements head in the direction I want.
My breast development seems to have slowed down the past month, but I know from others that it comes and goes in cycles. They remain sore, but that soreness has retreated to just behind the nipple where the bud is. I’m ok with that as well, as the bulkiest muscle on my body is the muscle of my upper torso. Knowing how it affects appearance, boob growth can slow down to match what I hope will soon be a noticeable decrease in the muscles on my back and chest.
Mentally, I’ve written before about how HRT has given me access to my emotions, and I still tear up at the dumbest things, and I’m ok with that. It’s all good. However, I’ve also come to realize that HRT doesn’t change who we are. I am still the same person I was before I began it. I’m just happier now, and the dysphoria has lessened. This might be the biggest lesson of Month 3…and I can’t stress it enough…HRT doesn’t change who you are on the inside. It might let you show the real you, but that person on the inside is still there. If you hope that it will change you, then you will be sorely disappointed, except to say it frees you up to be yourself.
Relationship wise, my wife and I are good, and my family life is better than it’s been in a long time. The nature of my marriage has changed, and I’m not sure if it will ever go back to what it was before. Here, too, I must also take the long view. We have children who would be devastated by a separation, and my wife and I both know this. We know the children are the number one reason we are trying. We are still best friends, and we still love each other. As to if we are still in love? I don’t know. My attitude about sex and romance has changed. I’m more apathetic about both at the moment. You could say I’ve put that part of my life in limbo, along with so much of my life right now (Will discuss this feeling of limbo in my next blog post as it is something I want to talk about).
Talking about my parents, they still need time, and they can have it. Right now, they’re still fixated on themselves. They’re dealing with their own issues on my transness, and are incapable of giving me what I want from them right now. I am still talking to them, and they love and support me, but they’re really not available to me right now, and I can’t say for sure when they will be. My brother also falls into the same boat. I know they can’t picture me physically female, and that has to be part of it, heck I can’t picture myself physically female much of the time. My hope is that physical change will help them accept a little more and to alleviate their worries as to how the world will see and treat me.
Overall, I am happy to put month three behind me, and I have moved into the new year with a renewed hope for what the future has in store. I will focus on those things I can control, my diet and health, and I will let HRT do its thing in its own time. How we take care of ourselves can effect how we transition, and so from here on out I intend to maximize that in any ways I can. No matter what I am moving in the direction I want to, so can take heart in that.
I always end my monthly updates with any changes I’ve noticed sexually. And I can say I’ve noticed a few things since doubling my blocker. The first is that my sex drive has decreased more, meaning I care about it even less than I did before it was doubled, and it had already dropped before that. I’ve also noticed an increased sensitivity to the underside of my penis. The use of a vibrator is pleasurable now, meaning that with time and relaxation, it might be enough to do the job alone, which brings me to the third point, and that is, what turns me on is shifting. Visual stimulation can still start me off, but often I find greater intensity when I simply close my eyes and let my mind focus on the building feeling/pleasure. Mental imagery seems to be taking over from the visual one I’ve existed with most of my life. There have been moments in the last couple weeks where for me to reach orgasm I simply had to relax, close my eyes, and focus on the pleasure, otherwise the building sensation would keep dropping, but I couldn’t get over the hill. I also want to say that those orgasms were different, as a heat or flush would build up and wash over me near the point of climax. This was also new. I look forward to see how this progresses in the next few months, but also can say while it feels good in the moment…I’m finding it necessary to talk myself into it more often as it is nowhere near a priority for me like it was pre-HRT.
If you follow me on Twitter or are a friend on Facebook then you know that the last week or so haven’t been the best for me mentally. I can readily admit I started sinking when I found out that my hormone levels really haven’t moved much the past two and a half months. I did rationalize with myself that my body and mind have seen changes, many of which I’ve discussed on this blog, and if I’ve seen such changes with my levels where they are at now then once they get to cis-female levels I should see some even bigger ones. That, of course, is my rational mind speaking, and most of the time I let it run things, but every once in awhile when the dysphoria demon creeps in, and my emotions take over, I start to feel “mannish” and things head south for me mentally.
Nobody, I don’t care who you are, can be happy and positive 24/7. Humans aren’t built that way. I consider myself a strong and positive woman. I like to think that most of the time I look forward to the future, excited at what it has to offer. The past few days this has been difficult as I fixate on the questions of, “what if things don’t get better? what if I will never get to where I want to, where I need to be?” I realize that this is dysphoria fucking with me, but I still need to get past it, and so I thought I’d look back at the past year and see just how far I’ve come.
2017 began with me deep in taking care of name change stuff for my daughter. I had already begun delving deep into information on trans women, but was still more focused on trans children and their needs. My closet door was starting to buckle, but the skeletons where still locked away. I can remember throwing myself into work and the idea of starting to backpack with my daughter. The prospect of hitting the trail with her had me excited, and the need to buy her gear and to update mine consumed most of my free time. We even managed to get out for an overnight hike on the Appalachian Trail in January, and she was a trooper considering the terrain we had to hike. I can remember how happy I was when she finished in tears, but ten minutes later started talking about “when we go the next time”.
The rest of the winter continued much the same. My daughter’s name change became official at the end of February, and we got her passport about a month after that. Late March saw my daughter suffering from some pretty bad dysphoria and so we went for another backpacking trip, as being out in nature always seems to help her. It was on this trip that my closet exploded and I realized that I also suffered from dysphoria, although I wasn’t willing to admit I was transgender yet. Instead, I still hedged with the idea that, just because I was sometimes jealous of women and wanted what they had, well, that didn’t make me trans. However, the door had been opened, and my online searches now centered on trans women and not trans kids. Subconsciously, my brain had shifted, even if my conscious awareness was still battling or misdirecting.
Late May saw my daughter and I go on a 7 day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, and we had a wonderful time. It was great just being alone with her on the trail, and it made for some good bonding. Looking back I can say that it was the peace before the storm, and in many ways I approached the hike as if I was saying goodbye to something. I didn’t realize it at the time, but there was a moment near the end of our hike where I was walking along listening to Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe” and tears just started to stream down my face. I was thinking of my family and my kids, and how things might change. I still had yet to make the connection, but the memories of my past had been hitting me harder, and I just had this feeling that things had to change. I just had no idea how much they were about to.
The summer was my biggest summer of discontent ever. My father-in-law came to live with us just as my closet completely imploded. So many memories were coming back to me daily. I began forming friendships with trans women online, and spending most nights researching anything and everything about transition. I know now that I was trying to talk myself into the idea that transition was possible, but at the time my self-hate and loathing were at an all time high. I was going through a nervous breakdown of sorts and taking it out on everyone in my house. In many ways, I was mentally in the darkest place of my life as I realized that I could not continue as I had, and that something had to change.
Three girls, all of whom I met through Twitter, were instrumental in helping me to figure out that I was trans. By this time I knew I was also intersex, but was playing around with the idea that I might be nonbinary. However, after talking with one girl, and giving it greater consideration I realized that nonbinary did not fit me, because it didn’t mesh with who I knew I was on the inside. I needed more, and nonbinary wouldn’t give me that.
Discussions with the other girls made me realize that I could transition, because it was about what I needed. I began to realize that if I didn’t I would end up killing myself due to neglect or by my own hand. Late July saw me telling people I was nonbinary, as I was hedging still and it was a baby step towards me admitting the full truth. Local friends convinced me that I needed to tell my wife, and at the same time I finally accepted that I was a trans woman and needed to begin gender therapy. With those admissions my life began to drastically shift for the better.
I came out to my wife in August, and again hedged that I thought I might be nonbinary, but I also admitted that I may want to transition. I already knew the truth, and as I began therapy, in the very first session I admitted verbally that I wanted to transition fully. With each admission, the weight that had been crushing me began to lift, but there would also be some low points as I began to set the path I planned to walk.
I learned how close I had been to losing my wife and kids, due to my self hate and loathing during the summer. Coming out to my wife and beginning therapy kept my family together. Although the nature of my marriage has changed, as a family we are better than we’ve been in a long time. Accepting who I am and having some hard conversations with my wife has allowed me to put my anger and self-loathing behind me for the most part. I won’t say things are perfect, but they are much improved.
I have made some good friends for the first time in a long time, and now count several trans and cis women as friends. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to be friends with people who only know me as Allie. It is truly a gift to feel comfortable enough to simply express as the woman I am. I am even out to two girlfriends at work who are supportive, and one of them will be my new boss beginning with the new year.
October 9th, 2017 will forever be important to me because it was the day I started HRT. My mind and life have simply become brighter since starting it. I have seen changes, which I discuss every month in a post, and while not drastic, those changes are enough to keep me moving forward, along with having lost 40lbs in an effort to work towards a more girlish figure. I don’t know how I navigated life for so long without estrogen, but I’d rather die than give it up at this point.
Overall, I’d have to say that 2017 is ending on a high note. The blip I have experienced the past week was the realization that I have moved out of the mountain top phase and into one of realistic expectations. I’m still excited about my future, but that excitement is tempered by the reality that physical changes take time and will happen when they happen.
When I think about where I was on January 1, 2017 compared to now, there is no comparison. My mental state is stronger than it has been in years and I can’t remember ever being so in touch with my emotions. I don’t want to dwell on the past too much as I believe you learn from your past, live in the moment, and look to your future. 2017 will forever be one of the most important years in my life, but it isn’t the best or the most important. I believe those years have yet to come. For the first time, I look forward to the future with hope and excitement. In the mean time I will take each day as it comes with the knowledge that even if bad, tomorrow is always a new day that takes me one day closer to living full time as the real me.
“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.
Last Friday I heard from my family regarding the letters I sent them. They all sent texts to me, because texts are safe. You don’t have to show emotion or get emotion in a text. They said all the right things, that they love and support me unconditionally, and it did mean a lot to me, but it wasn’t all that I needed, and I don’t know when I will get all that I need from them.
Coming out to people is mentally exhausting. I’ve already decided that now that I am out to my immediate family I will only come out to people, if and when I need to, because of how exhausting it actually is. The act of telling someone I am intersex and transgender isn’t the hard part of the coming out. Instead, the hard part of coming is the time spent explaining to the other person that I will be OK, and the time spent making sure that they are OK with me being…me.
I talked to my mother three days after she got the letter I sent her, and I walked away from the phone call feeling off about it all. I spent the next day and a half in a darkening mood as I tried to figure out why the call bothered me so much. It wasn’t a bad call, but it wasn’t a good call either. Instead it was a safe call, as if my mom was afraid to show any emotion, and so the topics stuck to transition related stuff, which in turn also included the issue of passing. As a result, I spent the call basically justifying who I was and making sure she was OK with this. It will also be the last time I do this…I hope.
It isn’t my job to make sure you are OK with who I am, that’s your issue to deal with. I have a shit shack full of my own issues with out adding yours to the mix. Are you sad, scared, worried, or concerned with what others will think? If so, then you need to work that out and keep it to yourself, because guess what…I’ve thought about it ten times, no, one hundred times more than you will ever think about it.
I’ve thought about the effects on my marriage, my kids, my job, my body, my health, and I could go on with the list. I’ve thought about passing, living full-time, safety, how people will see me, and how people will treat me in such minute detail, and I will continue to do so, long after you stop. This is “my” life, so of course I think about these things…I live these things, or will as I move forward. Transition, and everything about it dominates my thoughts and life.
If you are trans and reading this, then I am guessing you are nodding along, as I know you have dealt with this, and like me will probably continue to deal with this. In some ways it is the shittiest part of being transgender, and I fear that if I never “pass” that it is something I will always deal with…and probably on some level I will anyways, because dysphoria never goes away entirely.
It is such an easy thing for people to take their worries back from a trans person they care about. How? Don’t dump your concerns and fears on the person coming out to you. Instead, you could hug them, tell them you love them, you support them, and that no matter what you’ll be there to help and see them go where they want to.
In the case of my mom, I just wanted her to be my mom. I wanted to hear her say she loves me, and that she will be there no matter what. And this is where I get selfish…because I know she has already expressed this to me, but I wanted to…needed to…hear it. I wanted to feel the emotion of her love, and I didn’t get that with the first phone call. I’m sure I will get it in the future, and I don’t want to paint her as being wrong, or that I’m mad at her. I’m not mad at her, after all she has talked to me. I also found out from my sister-in-law (through my wife) that my mom is hurting bad right now. My biggest fear in coming out was that she would hurt when she realized how long I had been hiding and that she never knew. As a parent you would do anything to keep your child from pain, and when you find you didn’t or couldn’t do it…it breaks your heart a little. Knowing this, I’m giving her the benefit of time to let her process. It isn’t my problem that she feels this way. She’s a mom, and so it can’t be avoided, but I can give her time to deal. I’ve thought about sending her a text to tell her that it isn’t her fault and that I don’t blame her or my dad for anything, but there will still be a part of her that feels like she should have known. I tear up thinking about it, because this could easily have been my daughter and I thirty-some years from now. Being trans and having a trans child puts me in a unique position to get both perspectives on this. I want what I want, and yet I also can empathize with what she is feeling.
Let me be clear…I am not in a bad mood as I write this, and actually feel like I’m in a pretty good place. My mood always gets better as the week goes on, and this is another source of mental exhaustion. These days my weekends are almost always good. I get to be me all weekend, even if most people see boy…I’m good with it, because I get to wear what I want and express as I will. I don’t have to be him or think like him, and I love every minute of it. As the week goes on and I get closer to the weekend, my mood improves because I know I won’t have to play the part for a couple days. Conversely, as the weekend comes to a close I become anxious and depressed because I have to put the man suit back on for another work week. Luckily, I work from home on Mondays and so it’s only four days, but my brain is already at the point where it doesn’t give a krap…it simply wants to be, and I wish I could let it.
This means exhaustion also comes from my need to hold off presenting full-time. I know many gals jump right in, and this is why they do so. It’s too hard for them not do so, and perhaps they don’t have the constraints that I have in my life. There can be a myriad of reasons for why we go full-time when we do. For me, it isn’t time yet. It’s not because I don’t want to, but rather because I want to go full-time when I feel the time is right. However, knowing the time isn’t right doesn’t give me comfort, after all logic and emotion are often at odds with one another. Logically, I should wait and plan it out, so that I can maximize the greatest benefit for me and my family. Emotionally, I want to say “Fuck It!” This is who I am, deal with it. These two sides being at odds with one another in my head can be draining, and I don’t see it ending anytime soon, but I know it will end. I just have to keep my eye on the glimmer at the end of the tunnel and hold to the idea that one foot in front of the other gets me where I want to go.
Now all of the above, plus add in hormones, mood swings, and all the normal day to day stuff everyone deals with. You can start to see why one might have mental exhaustion issues. Usually sleep rejuvenates me, but this week with the added stress of coming out I haven’t been getting that emotional rejuvenation, and so I just feel tired every day. If I didn’t have my emotional support network…if I was alone…then I don’t know where I’d be, but it wouldn’t be a good place.
I have my wife and my friends to thank for helping me get through this week, and for bringing me out of my funk. My wife was there over the weekend giving me support while I started to stress about talking/not talking to my mom. My friends were there to get me out of my funk after I talked to my mom. Some friends just listened and offered words of understanding and comfort. One friend, in particular, who is becoming a really good friend, just made me laugh and smile, because she seems to get me on a level that I never had a male friend ever get me on. She, in large part, was responsible for getting me out of my dark place this week, and I’m thankful to have her in my life.
The takeaway from this post and the one I want cis people to walk away with is that your mental exhaustion and mine are not the same thing. You don’t have to pretend to be someone else half your week, every week. You don’t have to regularly justify your existence or make others feel better about the fact that you exist as yourself. If you have a trans person in your life, please remember this. Remember, they don’t need to hear most of what you think. What they need to hear is your positivity and support. What they need from you is to simply be a loved one and/or a friend. If they bring up worries or concerns then by all means talk about them. If you have questions ask them, but do it in a way that comes from a desire to learn, and not from a place of worry or fear. We do enough of that on our own, even if you don’t see it. Yes, I try to be positive and outgoing to the world, but that doesn’t mean I don’t fear and worry. It just means I don’t want to constantly shoulder others with my problems, and yes, most of the time, I’m in a good mood. I would venture to say this is the case for many trans people out there.
Tomorrow is a new day, and next week, a new week…and before that a weekend with blessed sleep! I look forward to the future, because every day there is something that moves me forward. Even though I get exhausted sometimes…I like where my life is heading…I just wish I could get there a little faster.
Also finally changed my video…I thought “Just Breathe” by Pearl Jam was appropriate for this week.
I’ve never really talked about my dysphoria here, at least not with the intent of making it the sole topic of a blog post. Some might think that with the start of HRT and the steps I’ve been taking to move forward that it would get better or lessen. However, I am realizing that this will not be my reality, at least not for some time to come. Now, I can say I don’t think any one episode will be as bad as the one that had me dealing with a nervous breakdown of sorts this past summer. Instead, the big “D” has chosen to ride my shoulder almost daily now.
HRT has opened me up to my emotions, and I am so thankful for this. It allows me to feel in a way that I don’t ever remember feeling, but little things impact my emotions and moods far more than ever before. Coffee and conversation with a friend can leave me riding high throughout the rest of the day, but a negative event can also send my mood crashing down and this is where the demon always waits for me.
These low moments can come almost out of nowhere, and they can almost cripple. I can feel almost as if I’m Alice about to tumble down the rabbit hole, and it is in these moments where I get how easy it is for one to contemplate suicide. Fall down the rabbit hole, and who knows where it might take you. It won’t be anywhere good, that I can assure you. Parents, friends, loved ones often blame themselves that they never saw it coming, and I would say to them in many cases…you never will.
Why? Trans people are masters at hiding. We lie to ourselves and to the world. The older we get, the better we get at it. So, you can imagine how good someone is at it by 20?…what about 40? I can see a lie coming a mile away, and I can see a scammer or con artist just about every time. Liars know liars. Now, I don’t call myself a liar to hate on myself. Rather, I simply am speaking the truth. I prefer honesty, but the world forces me to lie to satisfy it’s needs. Heaven forbid the freak out herself at work, or make others uncomfortable because they have to look at her. Thoughts like this let’s the demon and mind take over, and boy can they both get nasty…
You’ll never be feminine enough!…You’re voice is too deep, it will never pass!…People will never see you as a woman!…You’re destroying your family!…You’ll lose you’re job over this!…Maybe you’re better off continuing to live as a man?…If things get too bad, you could always kill yourself!
All of those are thoughts that have gone through my head at one point or another…in the past week. I’m not alone in this, I would venture to say most trans people have all had similar thoughts in the past week, we just don’t let on. We don’t share. We might hint to other transpeople, or close trans friends, but this is not something we usually talk about with our cis family and friends.
Why? They would take us as suicidal or crazy…because they can’t get it. They can’t understand how we feel on the inside. The constant rub that we will never be 100% how we want to be, how we want to be seen…hell, how we want to see ourselves.
I have a friend who transitioned over a decade ago. She’s pretty, fits into cis-society perfectly, and unless she shares…nobody would ever know…and even she still get’s hit by the demon. As she puts it, “I can be perfectly fine 95% of the time, but I’ve accepted that is as good as it is going to get. The other 5% of the time can be bad, and it’s all in my head.”
Knowing I’m not alone is huge. Knowing there are people who get me, means so much. This is why we have community after all, and why trans folk can often seem cliquish to outsiders. It’s the old safety in numbers. I am thankful for it, although I haven’t dealt with near the hate or bullying that many have, and not being completely out I’m still insulated, and I probably always will be due to my age and life experience to this point. I simpy don’t care what others think…the only thing that can really hurt me…is me…and I do just fine on that front.
Now, it may seem that I just shit on cis folk, and that is not the intent. I love my cis friends and family dearly. Their support is vital to my well-being. While I say they can’t get it, that doesn’t mean they can’t be there for me. Sometimes just listening to this crazy bitch vent, can be enough to relax or cool me off. Many times I am also slow to talk about what is going on in my crazy mind. As I shared with a friend yesterday (and I think this is a fear of many trans people), I don’t want to be that drama queen that makes her start to cringe every time I send a text. In short, I don’t want to be a burden or bother to those I care about.
People often tell me that I’m brave, courageous, inspirational, etc. While part of me feels good to receive such praise…if I’m honest, part of me also cringes on the inside. I do so because I don’t often feel this way. Instead I usually feel the opposite. I often feel like I’m a coward still hiding in the safety of her man suit, and that effort to hide causes much of my mental exhaustion in and of itself.
When my mind is right I understand that the way I am transitioning is a necessity born out of having a family, and the need to provide for them financially. There is nothing cowardly about this. It is the responsible thing to do as a spouse and a parent, but still I feel sometimes that I’m not being authentic to myself, and each day on HRT, playing the man becomes more and more exhausting. For work, I can maintain the part, but for other things I’m finding myself becoming apathetic towards things that I once gained joy from doing. This apathy is born from the knowledge that to do those things I have to do them as “Him”.
Today, I will be letting the guys on my soccer team know that I can no longer play with them due to medical reasons. Now let me say, I LOVE to play footy. I love everything about the sport, but I just don’t want to play as him anymore, I just can’t do it. Playing with all men, while I have this secret that I can’t share turns my stomach. I hope to go back to play one day, and have already been told when I’m ready that I can join a woman’s team (I’m out to the league director, a wonderful lady), but that may be 1-2 years away at the very least. Initially, I intended to play through this season and step away come May, but certain developments have made me rethink this position.
This is just another step to remove myself from circumstances and circles that can heighten my dysphoria. One less “all male” thing I have to do is one less chance for me to fixate on being seen in all my “male” glory…which makes me cringe. It used to be that the sport and competition helped to alleviate dysphoria, but just being with all the guys as one of the guys…is now making it worse.
I also share the above, because I do have a handful of male friends who know about me, and they have been great. While I have been reluctant to engage, I do value their friendships, and it has nothing to do with them as people. Right now, being with men, any man, makes it hard for me to feel free to express as Allie. It’s nothing that they do, but it is everything with how I see myself. That is the thing to remember about dysphoria, it’s all in my head. I can let others affect me, but they can’t take my dysphoria away…only I can push it down.
My broad shoulders, back, and voice…these are my biggest dysphoric triggers…my facial hair follows those up closely, but that can easily be remedied with laser/electro, money, and time. The others require time, genetics, work, and some luck. Granted I could get vocal chord surgery, and may very well do so, but the other things I often find myself fixating on, and this is why so many trans people hate mirrors.
People used to think I was vain because I could never walk past a mirror without looking. It was never about vanity, but rather about the reflection that I could never, and still can’t feel good about what I see in the mirror. Today, I can look at my reflection, and see a good looking 42 year old man smiling back, but he isn’t me. I can’t see me yet, and it frustrates and saddens me at times. I look for myself now, and am waiting for the day I catch that first glimpse. Hell, I’m longing for that day, but it hasn’t come yet. Some trans people can’t stand to have mirrors because of how dysphoric their image makes them. I won’t say that it is quite that bad for me, but there are days when I absolutely can’t stand what I see. It used to make me angry…now it just makes me sad. I have hope now that it will change, but that change can’t come fast enough, and dysphoria makes me wonder if the changes I want will ever come, or if the changes will be so minimal that they will barely be noticed.
In the end, dysphoria sucks, but that is life as a trans person. It seems it will be my eternal burden, and am learning to deal with that truth. My hope is that like my friend, with each passing day the good ones become more numerous. If I can get to the point where I am good 95% of the time…I’d take that percentage all day long.
To step away from the negative I will take a moment to talk positive by sharing changes that I am noticing, and I will admit I’m a mix of excited and “what the fuck?”, only because I’m trying to figure out how to work some things if the muscle doesn’t start dropping off soon, and why is this a concern of mine?
Because I am already getting BOOBS! Yes, my girls are slowly starting to take advantage of the small amount of fat I have over my pecs…which are still pretty large. I noticed last night that the fat now has a layer in it that feels more firm…not sure what to make of it, but it isn’t the same as what was there before. I admit my mind could be fucking with me, so I will let it play out for a couple more weeks to see what is what. While the fat composition could be debated, what cannot is that my nipples are definitely in transition. They are already getting bigger, and are more sensitive. I also am noticing something is happening behind them, and they are ever so slightly sore if I rub them. They are also becoming slightly erogenous, as touching them a certain way can elicit sensitivity/tiny sparks down below.
My skin is changing, a friend who knows about me said to me yesterday that she can see it around my eyes and on my cheeks. She said it looks softer. Now, it hasn’t changed much yet, but I also have noticed that it is starting to get drier. If I forget to moisturize, then it can feel as if my forehead and cheeks are tight and have been windburned.
My body hair seems to be growing more slowly on my lower legs…could also be in my mind, but it seems like growth on my lower legs has slowed by half…four days after shaving, my legs look like they did two days after shaving just a week ago. Unfortunately, my chest hair seems to be growing back faster, so go figure.
My body composition might be starting to change…I had a slight increase in weight of five pounds over the last two weeks. I have since lost that weight this week, but its eems without really losing weight that my male waist has lost almost a notch on my belt. There’s also a greater leaness to my upper back, and my legs seem a little smaller…but all of this is just going off how my clothes are fitting me. I could be imagining it. What I do know for sure is definition is down in my shoulders, and my forearms and wrists both have gone down about half an inch in size. My legs also seem thinner, but may just be more defined from weight loss.
My sweat and body odor seem to be slightly less, and slightly less offensive, but still in the male range for both. I’m just noticing I don’t stink quite as bad after an hour of working out.
My sense of smell seems to be starting to change a little…I occasionally smell food, or other smells, and am like…Wow, that smells better than it used to or much worse…but this is inconsistent and not a constant.
As for expression…I’m feeling more myself in this area than anywhere else. It felt so good to get together with another woman and just…talk…share…and be myself. No masking, no posturing, and no worries about what she would think. I didn’t feel like she was seeing him, heck I didn’t even think about him…I just expressed as me. That also brings me to unconscious things I will find myself doing now. Sometimes I will sit a certain way, start to walk a certain way, hold my hand a certain way…in what I would call a more feminine manner. It always makes me laugh a little when I find myself doing it, because I didn’t actively think about doing it…I just did it.
Trigger Warning: Sex talk
…and by sex talk I mean masturbation…it’s the only way things are happening these days, and because I also want to know when and how things are changing in that department, and as they change…so people…I do this for science!
What I can say is that it is different, but much of this can be mental as I don’t desire to touch myself in the way I used to. Lighter touch is sufficient. I can touch myself in much the same way any woman might, and I can get where I want to go. My mind also has to be right, or nothing doing. The build up has gotten slower and longer in the last week…and I’m also beginning to notice a change in quantity and consistency, but this is still very minor…but it’s definitely there.
My desire to masturbate has also changed. I don’t think about sex that often anymore, and when I do, it doesn’t get me cranked up like in the past. Making the decision to masturbate is kind of like…should I have a cup of coffee or should I masturbate? Part of me couldn’t care either way…it’s more a curiosity than a need…and this is a shift that has occurred in the last few days. Now I do it because I want to track change, or because I simply want the endorphin rush due to feeling shitty or stressed about something.
As for sexuality…I’m accepting that at minimum I will be bi-sexual post transition. I still find women very attractive, but admit a sexual curiosity towards men…but have no interest in exploring until I feel more myself, more feminine. I’m also married to a woman, and not a cheater…so that also can’t be discounted.
Anyways, I share about sexuality for posterity, and because I think this will be a hoot to come back and read in two years time. I will try and touch base on changes every week or two if there is something worth noting. Anyways, I need to get back to work, and have been interrupted a few times, so I’m gonna end with this, and hope maybe to do an audio post this weekend, but no promises.
Leaving my therapist on Monday I was struck by the thought that I had inadvertently lied when answering one of her questions. The lie was unintentional, and in the moment I had come to believe the lie so well that I believed I was telling her the truth.
She asked me if I had ever been depressed or suffered from depression. She also included the typical signs of what my man suit would consider the calling cards of depression: suicidal, substance abuse problems, the inability to function, etc. My answer, was, “No, I don’t really get depressed. Sometimes I might get the blahs, or feel a little down, but not depressed.” In my answer, I had dropped Allie, and put back on the man suit to “Man Up” and downplay any suffering that I’ve endured in my life.
For all I know, she saw right through it. I mean, she is good at what she does, and I’m sure I’m not the first girl in a man suit to sit down on her couch and downplay a personal struggle. After all, boys are taught from a young age to toughen up, man up, rub some dirt on it, and carry on. Men wear their scars with pride, and love to talk about how they earned them. I’ve participated in such discussions on more than one occasion. However, what men are taught about mental wounds and scars is a far different thing…You don’t talk about them…ever. You downplay them, or as my father likes to joke, “Karate men cry on the inside.”
I took those lessons to heart as a child, and by the age of twenty I had learned to lock those feelings down tight. Crying was to be fought at all costs, and if you got choked up, swallow that shit back down. Even to this day, I find it very hard to cry. I get choked up, I can want to cry, feel the need to, but a painful lump in the throat and a few tears is often all that I get to come out. This is definitely an area I need help in.
As for mental health/depression? Well, I definitely have depression, I just have never thought of it that way, but upon further reflection I have come to understand how mine presents, and there is no doubt it is real.
Let me be clear, I don’t have the kind of depression that leaves me incapable of action, or with thoughts of suicide. I’ve never been addicted to substances, other than cigarettes (quit 5 years ago), and while I did dabble with drugs, it was purely recreational, and it’s been over 18 years since I last used.
My depression is more subtle, and I always thought of the way I dealt with it as a badge of honor. I hit a major pocket of it at the beginning of the summer, and my wife would tell you that “I was there but I wasn’t there” all summer, as I hid away in my office at home. Being alone is one major way in which I deal with depression. Sitting here, I realize that I may still be suffering from it to some degree. Many of the things I enjoy doing saw me lose interest this summer. I just stopped caring if I did them. This isn’t the first time this kind of behavior has come up, but just the most recent and best example. I have often thought, “well, I just need alone time, at least I’m not depressed!” No, bitch, you are depressed big time, and obviously this summer’s depression walked hand in hand with the realization and acceptance that I was transgender.
Wait! You mean you weren’t excited to realize who you really are? No, I was scared shitless! Sure, I had moments where I’d start to daydream about how my life could change, but when you only come to realize who you are after forty years? You can’t help but think about how much time you’ve missed, how hard it will be to transition, and what you might lose in the process? It would take one cold mother fucker to not be scared. Accepting and embracing my femininity requires me to be honest with myself in all things. My man suit would never admit being scared, but the real me? She’s still scared, and I don’t know when that fear will entirely go away. I also don’t think it is entirely a bad thing to have a little fear along for the ride.
This summer’s depression was the result of the little girl in me crying about what all the changes that would have to occur might mean. Would I ever pass? Would I ever be able to find a female voice? Would I lose my wife, my family, and my friends? What will happen with my job? How will I pay for surgeries? My mind ran away with me, and started focusing on things that are months, if not years off in the future. These things began to depress me, and having my father in law in my house still does. I want to start to express, to feel free to talk, but I always have to keep an eye out for where he’s at. Some would say, “Do it anyways!” While, that’s a great sentiment, in many ways as I’ve already suggested, I’m a little girl. I am uncertain, afraid of how I will be perceived, and how any changes, regardless of how subtle will be received by my wife. As for my father in law, well his presence simply heightens my dysphoria as it reminds me that I constantly have to be “On”, and that I can never let down my mask. It’s exhausting and depressing.
I haven’t even talked about my life-long way of coping with depression/dysphoria (I see them hand in hand), which is obsessing on hobbies by spending lots of money on said hobbies. Whether it’s needing a GoPro to film and edit my backpacking adventures, or the nine pairs of soccer cleats (can’t wear heels!) I’ve purchased in the last two years…this is a behavior that has been around in me forever. Talking with other girls, I know what it is now, because many have similar stories of doing anything they could to distract from the feelings they had inside them. I was doing this as well, and I have spent probably close to $20,000 over the years to keep trying to fill the hole in my soul, but nothing has ever been able to do so.
My first memories of this behavior was taking money from my dad to buy Dungeons and Dragons books. Dungeons and Dragons was great, I could throw myself into the worlds, and role-playing was a way to ignore the storm inside of me. Eventually, I would give up gaming for other hobbies such as video games, backpacking, writing, yoga, soccer, etc. With each new hobby came the need for things I just had to have. Fighting my inner female meant that I had to throw money at her, and for brief periods I would think I was ok, but then a new obsession would emerge and the cycle would repeat itself, until this summer.
This summer, I broke the cycle, because this summer I accepted who I am as a woman. With no more misdirection, I couldn’t sink money into my depression, and so instead I withdrew, letting the anxiety and anger build until I finally started to share who I really was. Sharing helped to alleviate and make me more aware of the my poor behaviors. However, I’m also a work in progress, and I’m not entirely out of the woods yet.
My therapist convinced me to join her support group sessions, and I will attend my first tonight. Aside from meeting others in my area, I also see it as a chance to be myself around others without fear of judgement, or being made fun of. I’m not there with my wife yet, and it may be some time before I’m comfortable. She knows I’m dealing, but I don’t think she is capable of seeing Allie yet. Don’t get me wrong, she is handling this better than most wives from what I understand, but I haven’t changed much at home yet. I have gotten a couple little comments which I feel further confirms she’s not seeing the real me, but I also admit I could be overly sensitive about things right now. The reality is I don’t think my wife will be able to accept until I feel ready to begin physically presenting, which will mean several months of HRT. I also can admit to myself that with issues currently facing my son right now, it is real easy for me to simply sit in dad mode. My needs are important, but I’m a parent and can’t help but put my kid first.
I also accept that a little of my depression may be from unrealistic expectations. I’ve shared with my wife that I may want to fully transition, that I have a female inside of me, but aside from an offer to talk if I want to, she has shown zero desire to engage on the issue, although we may go out and talk on Saturday night. She hasn’t gotten the message that I think more like her than a man. When she continues to speak to me, or to react to things as if I am a man, all I can do is sigh on the inside, and try and understand that it will take time. My desire was that she would start to try and engage with me on a more female level, but realistically, can I expect that to happen overnight? I have played the part of husband for eighteen years, and I’ve known her even longer than that. Just as my process is my own, she has a right to hers as well.
My urge to spend money has dwindled to almost nothing at the moment, unless it has to do with transition. I’m not interested in my hobbies right now, but I’m also not looking to find a new one either. Accepting who I am, has finally forced me to stop running from my truth, and without the need to run, the need for new hobbies has also gone away.
Accepting that I have suffered from depression throughout my life is a big deal for me. I have no more reasons to “Man Up” and power through. It’s OK to admit I need help, and to ask for that help. It’s even better to see my depression for what it is, and to begin to work on those parts of me that will help to make it go away. I’m not saying I won’t ever be depressed again. I’m almost certain with transition and dysphoria that there will definitely be moments of depression in my future. However, I can deal with that knowledge, because I can now see that what I’m entering isn’t a cave, but rather a tunnel, and there is light on the other side of that tunnel. I have to go through darkness to get there, but with help and one foot in front of the other I will emerge on the other side.