Month: May 2016

A Woman on the Verge III

Definitely have a case of the jitters. It’s unnerving it can be to make a risky conscious decision that you could theoretically continue to sidestep.

There’s also some concurrent transitioning going on in other ways, probably the biggest is that I’m stepping away from the fundraising group I’ve been involved with for years when my term as a board member is up in September, and I’ve only been nominally involved the past few months aside from being there for board meetings. Partly, I’m just a bit burned out with them overall (drag queen/gay men drama). Partly, it’s one of the board meeting are one few places where I still show in male mode with people I know, and that’s becoming increasingly uncomfortable. (The logistics are a little tough, but I’m probably going to start attending the meetings as a woman.)

Partly it’s cutting ties with (the vast majority of the) people who knew/know me as a man. (While folks in the burly community obviously know I’m male-bodied, with a few exceptions people there have only met me as a woman.) Even if it feels right to choose to back away, there is a sense of loss of community involved.

On the other hand, feeling in control of my approach and timing feels really important despite no shortage of anxiety.

While it might seem like I’m on a relatively fast timetable, I’ve got plenty of time to plot my course, time to maneuver and adjust as needed. (OTOH, it’s not really that quick. I blend well enough that if I wanted to transition well enough I could do so next week — albeit with greater difficulties, in particular my voice, while much improved, isn’t where I’d like to be yet and would definitely be a “tell.”)

Part of it is  lingering insecurities about authenticity and “realness.” Currently I feel like I’m still a bit gender-fluid, but it’s between “woman” and “not man” — if that makes any sense. Or at least stereotypical “man.” I suppose one reason I felt more at home in gay male circles was that there’s a greater latitude of gender expression (not just drag queens). OTOH, there’s other aspects that I just find wearing.
It’s also going to be a little harder for me because unless I want to cut my ties to the burlesque and kink communities there are going to be people who my past. Not that it necessarily will matter to them, but knowing that they know may matter to me.

But one things that’s always helped me with these sorts of anxieties is cutting straight to “what’s the worse that can happen?” — and if I’m OK with that, then I don’t need to spend (too much) timing worrying about the intermediary anxieties. ‘Course it helps to be able to limit the worse case scenario to one that’s reasonably realistic. I.e. things might go sideways at work, but I’m fortunate that I’m in a field that in strong demand, so I’d land on my feet. So I’m trying to keep myself calm.

 

A Woman on the Verge II

If I weren’t having some anxiety at this point, I’d be worried.

I am different though from some of the other folks I know who’ve transitioned — it’s just not going to be “transition or die” for me. I’ve never had that feeling, nor the feeling that I should’ve been born a girl. So it’s inherently going to be a less clear-cut decision.

I think the pause is occurring naturally, and there’s a bit of time. Facial feminization surgery won’t be until next January, and oddly the surgeon isn’t even asking for a deposit until the end of the summer. Since I’d be transitioning then as well, that also means I’ve got a month or so, before I hit the recommended six-months lead time to tell my employer (and even that isn’t a hard deadline). And honestly, I probably could have FFS and still live a dual-gendered life if it came down to it. I’ve already got a non-masculine face, and while I’d look more feminine, I could still pass for male if I wanted to (given my build and knowing the proper signals to give). Though obviously it would be obvious to those who know me that I had work done, which kind of means outing myself anyway.

It’s telling that I’m extremely reluctant to let my masculine and feminine presentations intersect these days, to the point where I just won’t go I guy-mode to places where I’ve established myself as a woman.

Mostly I think I’m just having the sort of last-minute anxieties one has before a making a major life decisions. I remember freaking out a bit before I bought my first home — “30 years, OMG I’m signing up for 30 years of debt!”

OTOH, the “standard narrative” is so pervasive, there’s that little voice in my head whispering “not trans enough” and “not truly a woman” because I don’t fit into it. Again the rational part of my brain knows that’s bullshit, but lizard brained-Wormtongue still goes to dark places.

Partly I have been pushing hard — not necessarily too fast — but hard, i.e. electrolysis three times a week (I really want this fucking beard gone), speech therapy weekly, and now trying to fit the gender therapy sessions in too. Plus lots of researching and decision making. So with everything else going on in my left, it’s been a bit much.

Partly it’s feeling a bit stressed about how transition has taken over my life — which intellectually I knew was going to happen — but still a bit frustrating when I want to get out and do other stuff and don’t have the energy. Or, like the last two weeks, when I didn’t want to see anyone because I couldn’t wear a wig and my forehead looked like road rash thanks to the hair transplant surgery. So I’ve also been a bit isolated because of that, and that’s not helping. (Doesn’t help that all my friends and my social life are 30 miles to the north in SF and Oakland, which is a separate issue to deal with.)

Partly I just needed to acknowledge those feelings and vent. Some of my posts are more about me talking to me than anyone else.

Waking up this morning, I do have a renewed sense that, yes I do want to transition. Will I continue to have some doubts? Almost certainly, just like I did when I moved to the Bay Area from L.A (and just like I did when I switched careers years ago). It’s a huge life decision and nothing in life is certain.

OTOH, coming out to HR and Mom are probably two of the biggest remaining milestones as far as researching, prepping and worrying — and stress levels. Not to say the rest of the process will be effortless, far from it, but after that it’s less about deciding what I want to do and how to do it, and more about the actual doing. Thankfully being single, no kids, with an employer who likely will be supportive, and essentially being out to friends and acquaintances outside of work means a lot less drama and worries in the run up to Avalanche Day.

A Woman on the Verge

<Warning: another long-ass maudlin post, cue Puddles Pity Party for an encore>

So it’s been a year since I started posting… and once again I’m a woman on the verge, occupying a place on both sides of a threshold.

Obviously I’m a very different place now, much has happened during the last year; I’ve changed in the past year.

Here I am about to pull some of the final triggers towards transitioning. Most of my beard is gone. I just did the first round of hair transplants. I’m seeing the hormone doc next Tuesday to add spironolactone to block testosterone and hopefully increase the dosage of estradiol. I’ve found a gender therapist who’s both nearby and supposed to be good, and I’ve got my first session with her Thursday. I’ve decided which surgeon I want to use for facial feminization surgery and I’m discussing dates with him. I plan to talk to HR within the next 2-3 weeks, and talk to Mom in July.

Friends who know my plans are happy and excited for me. Much more so than I am myself. They ask me if I’m excited, and my reply is: “Excited, terrified, something like that.” Usually it goes over their heads. It’s easy to cheer on the team when you don’t have skin the game.

In fact, this I’ve been procrastinating on moving ahead — I had planned to put together the workplace transition plan stuff so that I could talk to them next week, and was slow to contact the surgeon. Partly, I’ve been dragging a bit from the hair transplant surgery. It wasn’t physically that demanding, but I’ve had a tension headache for the last 10 days — not surprising since a good-size chunk of scalp is missing from the back of my head, so the scalp is being stretched out. Partly, I realized I’m a bit burnt-out. Work has been really crazed the past two months with too many simultaneous projects due at the same time that kept constantly interrupting each other, making it hard to make headway on any of them. (Thankfully I was able to offload two of them.) I’d also been really stressed getting ready for the Fierce Festival in Denver, and the weekend itself, while fun, wasn’t really relaxing, given the number I did fucks with my head, plus I was rushing to make some last-minute costume fixes. Partly, there’s a tribute show to Nikki coming up the weekend after next, and that’s rekindling feelings of grief and loss.

There’s pausing because of the impending loss of the person I used to be. The person who for years was comfortable being dual-gendered (at least until she wasn’t any more).

But mostly I’m pausing because I’m scared.

I’m scared of what it might mean employment-wise. The logical part of my brain knows that it should go well, but the lizard brain doesn’t think logically.

I’m scared of how things will go with Mom. The logical part of my brain knows that she’ll probably be understanding, but it’s still go to be a big shock to her, and impacts her lift in many ways.

But mostly I’m terrified of being that Trans Woman Who Does Get Clocked for the rest of my life.

When I first went out in public, over a decade ago, I just assumed I was going to be that person, and armored myself accordingly. I wanted to be invincible, so I put my armor on.

So I hardened my heart. Because that’s how we become tough, right, we wrap our hearts in leather and steel, build ourselves a wall that even Trump would find overkill. Feelings are vulnerable, and vulnerability is death. So I hid the softest pieces of my bleeding heart deep within and locked it away. I thought I was invincible, then. Untouchable. If I was going to be put on a pedestal than goddamn I was going to build a moat around it and fill that moat with crocodiles. I put my armor on, and I welded it shut.

It worked. During those first forays out, I ignored the stares held too-long, the teenage girls trying surreptitiously — and failing— to sneak a photo of the tranny having lunch at Pier 39. One reason I got into drag was to confront my fears of being clocked — I’ll make myself the center of attention and you will look at me. But that was a mask I could on (and take off). Transitioning means forever and that’s a mighty long time. No mask, just me.

Logically, I know I’ve had few problems, and that — regardless of whether or not people think I’m female-bodied -—I’m treated as a woman. But I’ve also noticed getting clocked more. Probably it was always happening, and I was just able to tune it out more. Partly, it’s the spate of trans-hate rhetoric is getting under my skin. The lizard brain isn’t logical, it’s focused on sheer survival. “Danger, Jill Robinson!”

It’s also coming to terms with what I’ll be transitioning into: a woman of certain age, peasant-bodied with heavy features. facial feminization surgery may improve my features a bit, but I probably will never be conventionally pretty, though maybe I can aspire to being joile laide. (Yes, I can photograph well, but the photos I post publicly are carefully curated.) I’m going to be plus sized without the curves that I really desire. Yes, the body dysphoria has really kicked up significantly. It’s the unfortunate continuing Catch-22 of hanging out in burlesque circles: it’s definitely helped my social dysphoria being a woman in the company of women, but it’s definitely worsened my body dysphoria. Not just comparing myself to the skinny women with big boobs (although there’s a number of them), more so the larger women. With my clothes on, and the right padding, I can pass for pleasingly plump. But do I want to wear hip pads the rest of my life? And let’s not talk about the V-shaped silhouette I see in the mirror when the clothes come off.

So yeah. Shit’s getting real, and talking to HR and talking to Mom both feel like huge leaps from the lion’s head into the void, trusting with blind faith that there really is a path to the other side. And once down that path, it does feel like it gets harder to change course. Obviously I can change my mind at any time, but some ways that takes much more courage that it does to decide to transition in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. This feels like the right step for me. It’s just harder when one doesn’t feel like “transition or die” — which for all the downsides, at least has clarity of purpose. I do know that I feel more comfortable and happier when I interact with the world as a woman, and I feel more at home in my body when it’s a more feminine-appearing body.

But it’s not that I don’t have a choice. If circumstances were different, could I continue a split-gendered life? Yes. People live with a bad marriage or a bad job all the time.

Happiness isn’t necessary for survival.

Although that overstates things. Masculinity and I aren’t necessarily in a bad marriage, as much as a dead marriage. I don’t harbor ill-will toward it, nor do I hate living as a guy, but it’s just not working anymore and it’s time to move on.

So yeah, I’m ready to move ahead, I’m choosing to move forward. Doesn’t make it less scary or stressful.

Out of the Mouths of Babes…

As I was shopping today, there was three-year-old who’d lost her mother in the store and starting to panic, she looked like she was about to cry.

So I went over and told her not to worry, her mommy couldn’t be too far away.

With utter guilelessness, she replied, “Why do you talk like a man?”

Ouch.

I’ve definitely made big improvements in my voice during the last three months, and realistically I know there’s much more work to do. But ouch.

I told her my voice was just kind of like that.

On the plus side, after pondering that for a minute, she apparently was side-tracked enough that she forget that she was panicking, and proceeded to skip down the aisle (presumably toward where she’d last seen her mother).