MUSINGS ON TRANSITION

I feel the need to provide a disclaimer of sorts here – I have mentioned on any number of occasions that Transition is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done – and I’m not kidding. But I have also said I’m not seeking any “Poor Leslie’s” – because this is my life. I’m living it on my terms. Lots and lots of people have bigger challenges than I do.

I didn’t wake up this morning fighting for my life – I woke up with a hangover from celebrating a friend’s new job. My life is wonderful – it’s mine and I love it – but in the interest of spreading understanding – I wanted to share some random things that make gender transition so difficult – yet also so essential for those who deal with Gender Dysphoria.

(This is not intended to be anything close to a complete list. That would be enormous and nearly impossible to include everything. These are just a few things that have come to mind in the last week or so)

I watched a wedding video of a former co-worker named Natalie today. It was SO beautiful. There were shots of the girls getting ready – doing hair and make-up and putting on the gorgeous dresses. I have longed to be a part of that my entire life. There was a meme posted recently that read:

“Some boys wanted to be cowboys. Some wanted to be Indians. I always wanted to be the bride.”

That about sums it up. At every wedding I’ve even been – when I was little, I longed to wear the cute flower girl dress and walk down the aisle. As I grew older, I wondered what it would be like to be a bridesmaid – getting ready together amid the chaos of fixing yourself up and helping the bride. And yes, what girl hasn’t dreamed of being the center of attention in a beautiful white wedding dress. (I even felt that way at my own wedding. My wife was stunningly beautiful and I loved her completely – but I wished – oh how I wished, that I could wear a dress like hers. But some things aren’t to be.

I suppose as much as anything, that anecdote illustrates the fundamental difference between a child who is cis-gendered (comfortable in their assigned gender) and one who is Transgender. Most little boys don’t lie in their bed and dream of what it would be like to someday wear a wedding dress. I did. A lot.

OK, how does that relate to the difficulty of Transition? Here’s how: (I’m getting pretty good at self-analysis)

When I was living my life according to society’s expectations and those of my family, friends and employers, the idea of me ever wearing a wedding dress or being part of the bridal party was just a dream. A fantasy. It would never happen. Come on, what set of events would take place where I would be asked to be in a wedding as a bridesmaid?  Certainly not a bride, as I was already married.

But since Transitioning, those thoughts move from the abstract to something much more real. I feel now like I missed out. For those of us who wait until later in life, the feelings are no less intense – maybe even more so because we are driven to give up so much – an entire life that I spent decades building is gone. But for someone my age, I know I am not going to experience so many things that I longed to do when I was younger. I have come to accept that. (Mostly)

Here’s another degree of difficulty. Try and think for a moment, putting yourself in another person’s place. You are a teacher at a high school. You have taught there for over 20 years and have won awards for excellence. You are well liked by parents and students alike. But you are hiding a secret – you are Transgender. You can no longer live in your assigned gender so you meet with school administrators and explain that you will be transitioning to female later in the school year.

Well, word leaks out and letters are written to the local paper igniting a flurry of comments – some supportive and others caustic or threatening. TV smells a story and jumps in the fray doing a story about you but using the incorrect personal pronouns, because they just don’t know any better.

Then on your first day at school teaching as a female teacher, NBC follows your every move as you ready yourself for work. Some ignorant and fearful parents pull their kids from your class. Others offer heartwarming gestures of support.

Then people write messages like this on social media:

“While consenting adults should be allowed to engage in whatever deviant behavior they want, as long as they are not hurting anyone else, why the Fu*k should society be forced to tolerate and bend over backwards for their perversions?

Choices have consequences. You can choose to mutilate your genitals and pretend to be someone you’re not, but it doesn’t mean that people should be forced to employ you or treat you as anything more than a sick confused individual”

Just another day at the office right? This is a true story and the teacher is a personal friend of mine. She has more strength and determination than you can imagine. The letter above was one of thousands sent. Could YOU stand up to that?

Transition is hard.

Jobs are scarce. When I was living as a male I never had a problem getting a job. I haven’t made less than $100K in a year since 1993. I had it good and I knew it. But I wasn’t happy.

Image 

[The picture above was taken the day before I came out. I was sitting in my yard – alone – thinking. It was quite peaceful]

I began my transition in 2012 and by April of 2013 the gravy train had derailed. I recently was offered job as a receptionist and I’m thrilled to have the work…things are definitely different.

As I near the end of my first year living my life completely as a woman, I look back on so many experiences, so many “firsts.” It has surely been a learning experience. I thank God I have been blessed with a sense of humor because there have been so many things that make me laugh as I take this crash course in living on the other side of the Gender Fence. (For instance, nobody warned me that when wearing a long skirt, be careful not to let it fall into the toilet when you stand up after peeing – fortunately that only happened once!)

I certainly look my age, or close to it. As such, I am expected to dress appropriately. I am coming along but I still rebel occasionally. Being of a certain age, one is expected to know so much!

How to tie a scarf – I learned, but had no idea what to do with them at first. Now I know about 6 or 7 cute ways to wear them. (I smiled inside recently, as a Trans Man friend was equally befuddled at tying a tie – THAT I can help with)

Just putting clothes together – there are 1000 times the options for women as there are with men. In selecting shoes alone there are considerations of heel height, style, color and others. I have no hope of looking stylish; I’m shooting for not looking silly.

I reiterate, I’m not complaining. I’ve ached to have this type of challenge. But it’s a lot to learn.

{Fair warning – adult subject matter follows. I talk about “Down There!!” So, if a candid discussion of that is off-putting – please consider this a gentle warning}

Another very personal issue is one that could consume an article of its own – or a book is – my penis.

I haven’t spoken of the little bugger in my writing before. Frankly, it makes me very uncomfortable. I have never really gotten along with it all that well. Though you can’t tell from reading it has taken me an inordinately long time to even write this part.

Imagine feeling, knowing you are female. No doubt. Yet, there is this appendage that begs to disagree and society sides with the penis! My argument falls largely on deaf ears. That is changing, but as evidenced by the ignorance on display in the letter above, slowly.

Just that mismatch is enough to drive nearly anyone to the edge. Chloë Sevigny, played a transgender assassin on “Hit & Miss.” She wore a prosthetic penis and it had a profound effect on her. “I cried every day when they put it on,” she said in an interview. I know how she felt, but mine doesn’t come off at the end of the day.

Norah Vincent (Noted Lesbian writer) As a social experiment, she tried to live as a man. In less than a year the strain caused her to have herself voluntarily committed.

Yes, it’s that bad. (sometimes) I have many friends in the Transgender community and not all of them feel the same way. For me, I would have the surgery today – right now if given the possibility. (By the way it is not removed, it is reconstructed – from an “outie to an innie”)

What’s annoying about it?

Mostly that it’s there at all. It is a constant and never ending reminder that I am different and not complete. But there are others –

  • Intimacy. I do not in any way shape or form wish to involve my penis in intimacy with another person. (Not that it would anyway after nearly a year and a half of female hormones)
  • Wearing leggings it is near impossible to hide – so a long sweater does the job.
  • I don’t like having one of those when I use the public restrooms (Not that I wave it around!)
  • Panties don’t look right
  • Wearing a bathing suit is a challenge anyway, but with this appendage…grrrr.
  • Any kind of snug dress or skirt is out of the question. Especially light solid colors that show the slightest contour.
  • Yes, I can wear Spanx, which help a bit, but every bit of having to conceal “it” is a reminder. They add up.

There are some girls that don’t mind…I guess that would be cool but I’m just not one of them. I don’t view GCS (Gender Confirmation Surgery) as any sort of panacea for all of my problems, but it would surely solve all of my penis-related problems once and for all.

Imagine a disease with a high mortality rate – in the 40% range – and there was a surgery that could reduce that by 87% – most reasonable people would agree that this should be made available to all who suffer from this. Well, such is the case with GCS. The suicide rate for Transgender people is 25 times the national average and having GCS drops this BELOW the national average. Yet this lifesaving treatment is specifically EXCLUDED in most insurance policies.

Then there is the whole body image thing.

Women in general are too hard on themselves with regard to their bodies. Objectified from an early age, women deal with ridiculous standards of beauty. Transgender girls have elevated those body image problems to a whole new level.

Image

 

[I have received many compliments on this photo – but I can find dozens of things I want to change] 

 

  • I have a Transgender girlfriend who is positively obsessed with the shoulder/hip ratio and it is keeping her from moving forward. She is absolutely beautiful.
  • Not many women have a prominent Adam’s apple. This can cause a lot of stress, as it is difficult to hide.
  • Our voices are unchanged by Hormone therapy or anything else for that matter – except practice.
  • Guys have that extra rib and a larger rib cage. Even removal of that extra (false) rib just results in breathing difficulties and it often grows back anyway. Women have that nice taper to the waist and larger hips. Most of us would just *die* for those hips.
  • I would love to wear heels more. I have some really cute shoes, but I’m already the tallest girl in the room in flats! I’m six feet in stocking feet. In heels I’m 6’5” – think that draws attention? (Oh, to be 5’ 6”)
  • I can paint my nails all I want but if you remember the Seinfeld episode? I have “Man Hands.” Hard to disguise that.
  • I’ve already addressed the footwear issue – yeah, I’m a size 12 in women’s shoes.
  • There is a subtle geometry that the human brain instantly evaluates – unconsciously – when looking at another person. The distance from the eyebrow to the hairline is about 7/10 of an inch less in women than men. That difference causes us to get read. Don’t get me started on the nose, cheeks, chin, hairline and brow placement.

Suffice to say – put a Trans* girl in front of a mirror and she will pick herself apart.

So, what keeps us going? With all of that seemingly against me, my body poisoned by Testosterone for so many years, doing things to me that were horrifying at the time that are either hideously expensive to fix or impossible to mitigate. A society that still largely looks at people like me as if I’m a freak and uses their voice and votes to marginalize me. How do I get up in the morning and love life?

Because to whatever degree possible – I am living my dream every single day. I love my life. I can’t believe how fortunate I am. On one hand, if things change to where I can manage to do something about some of these issues that would be great. If not, I vow to go on undaunted.

An E-mail sent to me sums it up rather well. It says:

“Please be brave enough to dream. (No matter what)”

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2 Responses to MUSINGS ON TRANSITION

  1. chrissyholm says:

    Transition IS tough but hating one’s self is even tougher. Despite the new set of challenges I face, I wouldn’t trade my happiness of being who I am (the woman I had to lock away in solitude for decades) for any amount of money or to gain (or regain) a relationship. I hope someday to be at least a bridesmaid but I’m still holding on to the dream of being a bride. When dreams die we die a little bit with each one lost. Hold onto your dreams as the one’s that have yet to be fulfilled can yet be realized.

  2. Thank you Chrissy – you are so very right. Dreams = hope.

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