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.
“What if I was truly alone?” This thought hit me on the way to work this morning, and it terrified me. “What if my wife told me to leave?” I haven’t told my parents or my brother that I’m transgender yet. My wife and kids know, a cousin knows, friends at work, but not the people I grew up with in the same house. Why haven’t I told them yet?
I keep telling myself that I’m waiting for more changes to happen first, but is that really going to make the shock easier to bear for them? Is it going to make it somehow easier for them to wrap their minds around, or to dispel forty years of the person they thought/believed they knew? I don’t think there is anything that makes it easier, but it is something they have to accept if they want to be in my life, and I really would like that. I really would like them to know the real me. I really want my parents to get to know their daughter, and my brother to get to know his sister. I hope they can get to a place where they want that as well, and I hope that it will come sooner rather than later.
Yesterday, I spoke with my mother, and every time she asks me what is going on with me, I want to tell her. Heck, I’ve been calling her less than I usually do, because it is so hard to not tell her, and then I feel like I’m lying because I don’t. I have this huge thing going on and I’m not sharing it with the biggest cheerleader I’ve ever had. It’s hard, and even now I fight back tears as I think about my relationship with her. I grew up closer to my mom than my dad. I was more bookish, like her, and more open with my feelings. I also wanted to be like her, but never shared that with her. My mom has become far more liberal and open as she has gotten older, and so I think she will be the first to get past it and accept me, but she may also have it even harder as I’m her first, her baby, and sometimes that makes it really hard for mothers to let go. I can only hope that when I write her letter, it will express in such a way that when she calls me to talk, the first words out of her mouth will be that she loves me and she is there for me.
As for my father? I grew up striving to be like him, seeing him as image of what I was supposed to be as a man, and I fashioned my adult male persona after him, at least as much as I could. I always wanted his love, and even more his respect and admiration. If he ever reads this, I don’t say the next part to hurt, it’s how I felt/feel. I love him so much, so I don’t want him to ever think I thought he loved me any less, but I did feel often while growing up that my brother was his favorite. I know as an adult that he related to my brother better, and duh, that should be obvious why, especially now. However, growing up I often wondered what I could do to change that, but never could figure it out. As an adult I figured it out to a point. Work hard, be a good parent, make good decisions and I earned his respect. By forty I finally felt like I had earned what I always sought. At least that’s what I thought/how I felt. I will say that I know he has always loved me to death, and would do anything for me. He doesn’t always say it, more as he’s gotten older, but his biggest concern in life is that we are safe. I want to believe this will be his biggest concern when he finds out. One of the safest places I’ve ever been in life, at least in my mind, along with some of my warmest memories are when he’d wrap me up in a hug, the smell of his cologne, and the feeling of absolute security that would envelope me. Dad would make sure everything was OK. He’d always keep me safe. Part of me still believes that, even while my adult self says that’s my job. His love and support just might do what part of me still believes it can…make everything OK, and keep me safe. I think he will come around. It may be weird at first, but my hope is that my slow transition will make it easier. I can’t know for sure, but I want to believe like that little kid so many years ago…My daddy loves me, and would never do anything to ever hurt me.
And then there is my brother. Three years younger, he has always been somewhat easy going and accepting. I think it may be easiest for him, but I could also be wrong the opposite way as I was his “big brother” and all that went with it. I’d look out for him, be protective of him, bail him out when he’d get in trouble, and we’ve had some great adventures together in our younger adult years. I love him to death, and would drop anything if he needed me. I love his kids to death as well. I have to think his worries will about how his kids and wife take it. He will think of his family and how they will explain it to the kids. Both are still young, and so I think the handling of it won’t be bad, but one can never know for sure. If I know my brother, I think I will get a call one day telling me that he may not get it, but that he loves me and if that is who I am then it may take a little time but he accepts me and will have to get used to it.
Now, if all this goes south, and they go in a direction I can’t imagine, I’m not sure what I will do. I know my wife will be protective of me on this matter, and that she will be there for me, but to be rejected by those you love is never an easy thing. In this case could be earth shattering on some level. I have to be ready that this could happen, and so it is another reason I choose to send letters. It gives them a chance to process and reach out when they are in good places, and if they’re not…well, I can always hang up the phone. My father taught me to only put on paper that which you are willing for the world to see, and so I will put to paper my authentic self, and my love of my family. I am happy to share those things with the world.
If the letters I will eventually post can help one other trans person navigate their own coming out in a positive way, then the sharing will be worth it. This is no easy thing, and I anticipate the writing of the letters to be a major cry-fest. This has, by far, been the most emotional post I have written to date, and I get why. It’s the most emotional thing I have grappled with since freeing my emotions, and I’ve been in tears throughout the writing of it, having to stop several times as I wrestle with my feelings. That’s how it should be, isn’t it? We should feel emotional about those we love, and hope they feel the same about us.
In the end, I believe this is just a reboot to the relationship with my family. They will get a better me, a more engaged me, and a me that no longer feels she needs to hide her real self. The positive me can’t help but think, “How can they not want to know the real me?” I’m so much a better person than “he” ever was. I am actually happy with who I am for the first time ever, and what’s not to love about that?