The journey of Transition from “assigned male at birth” to bring the external body into agreement with who we know ourselves to be as women is, as my roommate calls it: “A Beat down.”
It’s just hard – and it’s not a linear process. It’s not all just working on the exterior – there is dealing with emotions in new ways and social interactions both with other women and men responding to you in a way radically different than ever before. But frankly, if you can’t get the outside right – your life is going to be very different than if you can.
I’m not talking about being pretty – I’m talking about surviving. None of us have to be told that either. Transgender women are, for the most part, some of the most supportive people you will ever meet. Certainly, there are some that are catty – just like in any group, but mostly, Trans* girls are supportive to the point of telling me that I look fine even though I know I don’t.
The “Beat down” that Katie refers to is the never-ending series of challenges placed in front of each of us that seems to exist solely to sabotage our transitions. One of the more cruel practical jokes that nature plays is with beard growth. You can take all the Estrogen you want, for as long as you want and you are still going to have to do something with that 5 O’clock shadow. It looks like crap poking through make-up. Women don’t have beards – this is a dead giveaway and a huge stress point for girls in early transition.
The advice I’d give is the same as I’ve received – get going on hair removal ASAP. The sooner the better. It takes a while and it hurts. Figure between 18-24 months if you are aggressive with it.
The hair on your face has different growth cycles and if you don’t zap it when it is in an active cycle, it will come back to haunt you later. Again and again.
I wanted to share an experience I had recently – I am not looking for any “Poor Leslies” I am posting this experience for those of you who may just be beginning this process – or who have experienced what I have – to let you know, you are not alone.
I had a Texas size meltdown in the chair last time.
I knew I was in trouble when I pulled up in front of the building. I ordinarily feel like I’m a warrior. I’m strong. I’m ready. Not this time. I didn’t feel right, there was something inside of me that just wasn’t up for this.
Make no mistake, electrolysis hurts. Whether they do a small area for a short period of time, or like my clinic, clearing your entire beard in one sitting and using dental injections to numb the face, it still hurts. A lot. I was able to make it through the first 2 rounds of injections but when they started in with the third round – I just couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. They slid silently down my temples and pooled in my ears because I was fully reclined. I did my best to hold still while shot after painful shot was administered.
The thing is, I couldn’t pull myself together. I was trying not to be obvious about it, but I just couldn’t quit crying. So I had two technicians working on either side of my face and I was having an emotional breakdown! I felt like such a wuss!! I had been able to handle this before – why not now?
Was it the pain? Partially. I just wasn’t mentally prepared for it that day. That was part of it. But there was more. I can’t afford this. I’m not working though I am looking for work daily – so I am going into debt. But I have no choice. This isn’t vanity – it’s safety. It’s employability, it’s self-confidence. It means so very much.
In addition, it’s the duration of the treatments. I guess there is a light at the end of the tunnel – I just can’t see it from where I am…and that not knowing combined with everything else makes it harder to take. Then add that I hate my voice…I’ve been working on it for quite some time and while I can get by in person with it because of the visual cues that accompany the voice – I still get called “sir” on the phone and each one of those is a dagger. I also have seen my dysphoria come roaring back with a vengeance in the last 2 weeks or so. It comes and goes – right now it’s staying close and yelling in my ears.
Part of what makes that bad is the fact that when you have an electro appointment – you need to grow your beard out for about 4 days. These are always 4 of the worst days imaginable. I just want to hide under the covers. Of course the 3-4 days after the appointment are bad too – your face remains red and swollen for a few days as it heals up from the electrolysis.
After the next round of injections I asked if I could use the bathroom. So the technicians raised up my chair and I ran to the restroom, closed the door and sat on the toilet and cried. I’m embarrassed to write this, but it’s what happened. I had a real honest to goodness meltdown and there was nothing I could do about it. I was finally able to pull myself together, wipe my eyes and get ready to go back and finish up…but I made the mistake of looking in the mirror. Oh boy did I look like crap on a cracker!
My eyes were still red, and my hair had partially fallen out of my ponytail and my face looked like a catchers mitt from the electrolysis. But I made it back into the chair and finished up with no further waterworks.
(After Electro – Pretty, isn’t it?)
I got home and saw Katie and she noticed I was “off” even taking into account my swollen face. So as I sat with an ice bag pressed against my face I tried to relate what was eating me and I just started sobbing again – I’m a mess! She has been there and can completely relate.
What turned it around? I had a date with my girlfriend, Andrea, that night. I texted her and gave her the chance to opt out gracefully given my state of swollen yucky face. She said she still wanted to see me. So I drove over and she opened the door and kissed that swollen face like there was nothing at all wrong with it. That turned my whole outlook around and in no time, I was laughing and having a really good time.
Feeling loved when you look and feel your least lovable is a pretty powerful thing. It can even help you forget the beat down – at least for a while.