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.