I posted this on Facebook (in the account under my stage name). The positive response has been touching.
Enough people have asked, so I might as well clarify things…
Yes, I’m trans. Yes, I’m transitioning. What I’m transitioning to remains to be determined (although as a friend aptly put it, for someone who’s not sure if she’s transitioning to living as a woman full-time, I’m sure doing a good imitation).
But a sage friend once advised: do only as much as you need to — and no more — to deal with your trans-ness. So I’m taking things step by step, and then seeing whether that step is enough.
In any case, things take time… I’ve started removing my beard, which typically requires 100-200 hours of electrolysis (1), and I’ve probably at least 8-10 months to go to go. After that, I’ll probably start hormones and it takes 6-12 months to adapt emotionally to the ways in which estrogen rewires your body, and it’s not a good idea to make major life changes until you’ve gotten centered again (2). There are likely to be other renovations along the way, timing to be determined, and preparing for them takes time. Retraining my voice takes months.
Will those changes be enough to reach a detente with my body dysphoria? Will continued bigendered living — working as man and otherwise living as woman — be enough to resolve my gender dysphoria? We’ll see.
The “standard narrative” is of trans people who knew at age four that their bodies didn’t fit their minds, who either transitioned at a young age, or who’ve now broken through internalized shame and repression, and are now on a fast-track to transition. But those folks are only the tip of the trans iceberg (3), non-transitioners actually vastly outnumber them, but they’re generally so deeply closeted that they’re the vast “dark matter” of the trans universe (4). For many years I was one of them.
The gender dysphoria has been slowly building over decades. Something shifted a decade ago and I felt compelled to go out in the world and interact with people as a woman. But I was still OK spending the majority of my time living as a man. During the past year something has shifted again, and the “middle path” between genders doesn’t seem to be the road I’m on any more. For a number months now I’ve been still working as a man, but otherwise living as a woman.
I’m fortunate, I don’t hate being a man (5) — but I’ve realized that I’m happier and more comfortable as a woman. I’m also fortunate that I don’t hate my body the way some trans people do, feeling like it’s alien with alien parts. Am I uncomfortable with my body? Sure. Some of it is the sorts of things caused by the way society inundates women with body shaming messages. Some of it yearning for things I don’t have. Some of it is making peace that there’s things I can’t change (e.g. I’m always gonna have wide child-bearing shoulders). Some things I can —and likely will — change (6). Some changes are compatible with continue bi-gendered living, some of them would force the issue of full-time transition.
Full-time transition is scary for a lot of reasons (and I didn’t have fears, I’d be worried), chief among them: being able to earn a living. I’m privileged to have a job that’s in demand, that pays well, that I generally enjoy. But age discrimination is definitely a thing in Silicon Valley. So is gender discrimination, and the combination could be a career-killer (7). The flip side of being privileged is that you have further to fall. So it’s possible I might continue bi-gender living because of that. It’s also possible I end up feeling that’s a risk I have to take in order to feel whole. We’ll see…
In the meantime, if I seem distracted, if I seem distant, or if I’m withdrawing into my glitter cave, it’s because gender dysphoria in general and contemplating transition in particular, takes up a lot of mental and emotional energy. A friend of mine said it feels like simultaneously planning a wedding, planning for your first child, and running a marathon every day. She was only partly joking. I don’t mean to go all emo and make it seem like I’m consumed with stress and anxiety. But yeah it’s there, and sometimes I am preoccupied, or I’m worn down and need to recharge.
If I sometimes seem socially awkward, sometimes it’s because of the above. It’s also because I’m playing catch up in learning how to interact with the world as a woman, especially in the company of other women, especially as a woman interested in dating other women (8). I’ve felt a bit like Elsa, closely watching the world outside, but walled up away from from it. Unlike a Disney movie though, now that the gates are being flung open, I’m not able to magically fit in like I’ve been part of that world my life.
But I’m learning. I’m evolving. We’ll see where I end up.
We now return you to your regular programming….
1) No, I can’t do laser hair removal, since the hair is blonde.
No, hormones won’t get rid of it — they don’t affect post-puberty changes (including beard, voice changes and other things). Which is why puberty blockers are such a big deal for trans kids, it buys them time to reach adulthood and can legally make decisions about the kind of body they’ll have.
Yes, it hurts. A lot. It also requires me to grow beard during the week between sessions. Gender-wise that’s really uncomfortable for me to do. I just try to embrace the suck.
2) Which is a polite way of saying that estrogen typically heightens emotions significantly, so just like 13-year-old girls flush with adolescent hormones have to learn how to manage that, so would I. (FWIW, for trans guys, going on testosterone typically means they get to experience what being a 13-year-old boy pumped full of adolescent hormones is like.) And yes, there are physical changes as well, which is kind of the point. Probably not as much as I’d like — due to being older — but OTOH, more limited changes are more compatible with a life short of full-time transition.
3) Not to mention that there’s other “visible” trans people who identify as gender queer, non-binary, etc.
4) Also part of the “dark matter” are the people who go “stealth” post-transition, i.e. they don’t mention their history and are perceived as cisgender. For those folks who are freaking out over the thought of trans people in bathrooms…. trust me, you’ve already been sharing bathrooms with them for quite a while, you just never realized it.
5) To steal from a friend, my male identity is like a well-worn, trusty work truck. It gets things done, it pays the bills. I honor it, it’s gotten me through decades of life. But it’s not really me anymore.
6) And unless you want to sleep with me, any changes under the hood ain’t none of your business. If you do want to sleep with me, let’s definitely talk.(dick pic senders need not apply).
7) I’m especially wary after just watching a friend’s workplace change from highly supportive to a toxic work environment, after management— who initially were behind her 110% — caved in the face of employees who refused to recognize her gender, and management tried to do the “well both sides have merit” thing. Which is a problem when one side wants to be treated as a human being and the other side isn’t remotely willing do to do so.
8) I actually identify as pansexual, but I’m mostly attracted to women.