Post-Transition

Getting “Sir”ed Yet Again

So I got “sir”ed again tonight… It’s happening several times a week, and although it always appears to be unconscious and unintentional, it’s still a bee sting to the heart every time it happens — and enough bee stings can kill you.

It’s usually people who I’ve never met before — store clerks, restaurant workers, etc. — so clearly it’s reflecting their first impressions. Whenever it happens, my reaction is: FFS, I’m wearing women’s clothing and shoes, women’s jewelry, make-up, painted fingernails, and sporting a pair of D-cups — what the fuck else do I have to do to get people to realize I should be gendered as a woman?

As you might imagine, it’s fucking disheartening. I’ve spent an enormous amount of money, time and pain over the past year reshaping my body, and still it happens. Don’t get me wrong, the vast majority of people treat me like the woman I am, and yes logically I know that I shouldn’t let a small number of people get under my skin. But the heart and the gut don’t think rationally.

There’s practical concerns being a trans woman who — like most of my trans sisters — who wasn’t blessed by the androgyny fairy, and who probably will never look like the “typical” woman assigned female at birth, and who won’t always blend in as one. Probably the biggest concern is safety, particularly since I like to travel, and the vast majority of the nation, let alone the world, isn’t nearly as trans-friendly as the Bay Area. (Right now, even the U.S. there’s a number of states that have become no-go zones for me.)

But more than that, the incidents have been kicking my body dysphoria into high gear lately. It’s just a constant low-level reminder of the gap between the body I have, and the body I wish I had, but never will. Just I’m reminded whenever I try to look for size 13 shoes, extra large sizes in rings, necklaces and clothing, dresses that always 2-3 inches shorter than intended. Or when I’m in photos with other women and look hulking and towering by comparison.

I agree with Laverne Cox that I should be able to love my large hands and feet, my height, my lower than average voice because they’re beautiful, because trans is beautiful. But — and I mean no disrespect toward her own long struggle towards self-acceptance — it’s much easier to love these things when you have a body that’s otherwise considered extremely attractive according to hetero cisgender standards.

As Sam Dylan Finch says in his excellent essay, “I’m Transgender and I Need Body Positivity Too” my body

“tricks others into seeing me as something that I’m not. And no amount of self-love and validation can change the fact that, when I step out into the world, my body precedes me and erases a very important aspect of my identity.”

I’ve been working with my therapist to shrug off this sort of misgendering, to maybe not love my body as it is but at least reach a detente with it. But it’s a hard place to get to right now.

(And before anyone chimes in with comments like “you’re perfect just the way you are,” or “love your body, no matter the shape or size, exactly as it is,” fucking read Sam’s essay about why those sort of comments are more than a bit… off-putting… to many trans people.)

The Long Coming Out

So today I ended up needing to work with some co-workers who I’d worked with three years ago — and didn’t know about my transition.* After the meeting, they came up to me and said they thought we’d worked together previously. I said yes, and that I did look a bit different back then. Which addressed the question that was hanging implicitly in the air.

Unless one “goes stealth” — cutting all ties to one’s past — social transitioning is rarely a one and done. Instead it’s been an ongoing series of coming outs, as I run into people with whom I have only casual connections.

* There’s several hundred people in my office, and back in December I only came out to my immediate team and other people that I worked with directly.

A Relief From Stubble Bummed

Yesterday was my 150th hour of electrolysis, and today was the first Saturday (more about that later) that I haven’t felt the need to shave.

My electrologist says I have some the thickest and most stubborn hair she’s ever seen, the only good side is that they’re practically transparent — while it makes them harder to find and kill, means they’re not very visible.

Which is a really good thing, since my electrologist needs two days of growth to be able to find them, and the stubble drives me crazy. I’m doing three hours of electrolysis a week on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, so Saturdays have been the only day I can shave and not have to feel the stubble, which is really gender dysphoric for me.

But this week we’ve been hitting the remaining patches of untouched facial hair, hit them hard. My throat is dotted with tiny electrolysis scabs bearing witness to the battle.

So when I felt my face this morning, it was largely smooth. There’s scattered hairs here and there — it’s amazing how sensitive one’s fingertips are to being to feel an isolated hair.

But it was smooth enough to forego shaving today without feeling dysphoric (although I may regret the decision tomorrow), and it will help on Monday when I go back under the needle again.

Will some of the hair grow back? Undoubtedly. (Fortunately when the hair follicle is partially dead, it becomes finer and downier.)

But it’s clearly the beginning of the end. I’m not sure how long it will take to get there, but I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know there is an end in sight. Because with everything else going on, personally and politically, I could definitely use some hope.

Drag Erased?

What does it mean for me to be doing drag (in additional to burly*) now that I’m transitioned to living as a woman full-time?

For the record I know of at least half a dozen drag queens here in the SF Bay Area who are/were post-transition trans women. One is a pageant queen, where “hyper-real” femininity (i.e. it’s a really stylized version of “real”), several are costumers who do over-the-top outfits.

Whereas my style was always “woman done up for the stage” rather than “DRAG QUEEN!” My drag mother, who was trans, identified her performing style as a female impersonator (sans the implications of doing specific celebrity), and “female personator” was how I saw my style pre-transition.

But what does it mean artistically now that I’m a woman personifying a “woman on the stage”…. There’s several cisgender women locally who do/have done drag, but their style has been over-the-top (as one of them said, “what’s the point of me looking like a woman on stage”). However, that’s not a style that’s “me.” Kind of a moot point at present since I’m still sidelined with an injury. But something I’m pondering.

That said, given my build (I wasn’t blessed by the androgyny fairy), short of having an outfit where my boobs are hanging out (when I get implants), so realistically I know I’ll still probably get read as a male-bodied drag queen by audience members who don’t know me. (Which is it’s own set of issues…)

* I performed for as a drag queen for a number of years, before moving into burlesque — which is my preferred art form these days, but as I recover from my injury I’ll be doing drag first, since there’s a lot lower risk of re-injuring myself. And I still enjoy doing drag because the venue for our show has a low stage, which means I can get off it and interact with the audience in ways during a song that I can’t while doing more choreographed burly numbers.

Come, You Chicken Fat, Come!

t’s interesting to see how, after almost a year, estrogen is reshaping my body.

Besides some (not nearly enough) boob growth, I seem to have a bigger booty, my shoulders have gotten smaller as I’ve lost muscle mass* (yay!), and I’ve now got underarm chicken wings** — I’m probably one of the rare women who’s glad to see the latter.

* The Olympics will let trans woman compete in the women’s divisions after two years on hormones, because their muscle mass is equivalent to that of cisgender women.

** The underarms are the third area women tend to accumulate fat, along with the hips and thighs.

Random Encounters With Potentially Outing Myself

Had a celebratory dinner at a French restaurant where the service is… languid. So I when I asked the waiter for more water, I mentioned that I’m taking a medication that makes me thirsty.

What medication? I tell him. What’s it used for? I pause. Do I tell him that it’s used by trans woman to block testosterone? While I can blend well in a crowd, in up-close interactions I just assume people know that I wasn’t born female-bodied. (There’s a few too many tells.) Usually it doesn’t matter and they treat me as a woman. But outing myself in a random encounter is really uncomfortable — Transgender Day of Visibility be damned. Not explicitly outing myself lets me hold on to the illusion that maybe, just maybe, they’re seeing me as the sort of woman I’d love to be, but never will. Which is kind of a fucked up feeling, but there it is.

So I simply say it’s a diuretic. It turns out he’s just curious because his wife is also on a diuretic to counteract water retention issues. He has no idea he’s asked a triggering question.

That’s what life while trans is like. Random encounters where you have to decide whether you want to be out and proud, or whether you want to just enjoy a quiet dinner in peace and not have to deal with Teh Tranz.

Whatever Tomorrow May Bring

Tomorrow I’m going back to work, and I’m nervous AF about it. (I’d love to take another month off and finally get that recharge time, but I can’t afford to do so — especially since my short-term disability claim has disappeared into the black hole that is the California EDD.)

To a large degree I shouldn’t be worrying. My company, my manager and my co-workers have been nothing but supportive, and I even went to work as a woman for two weeks in December.

But…

That was like a beta test. Many of my co-worker were leaving early for extended holiday vacations, I was out of the office a lot to take care of legal ID changes, and I was just wrapping up a project and didn’t need to interact with other people very much.

Now is the final “shit gets real, really real” step in my transition.

Women get judged far more of their appearance and behavior in the workplace, so there’s that. But I know that — consciously or not — I’m going to be scrutinized about how well I “do woman.”

Will they deep down truly see me as a women? I now really get why it’s common for trans people to switch jobs post-transition. Make a clean start. Somewhere where people will likely know that I’m a woman who’s trans — but don’t have history seeing me as a man.

Then there’s the whole issue of how women are treated differently in the workplace — there’s undoubtedly a huge learning curve about how to handle that. Threading the balance of being authoritative without being seen as a bitch (a particular issue for me because a big part of my job is getting buy-in from stakeholders and the engineering teams I work with), how to handle being talked over, raising an idea and having it ignored until a man says it at which point it’s the best idea evah. And all things I don’t know that I don’t know about.

All I can do is what I’ve done to do date with my transition — keep pushing through. People have called me brave, but honestly I don’t feel brave. I’m just doing what I need to do. But it’s so damn tiring.

Looking forward to a time when I can live life without having to be “brave.”

Mourning the Life I Didn’t Have

Sometimes I am an un-ironic delicate fucking flower.

Today the gender dysphoria hit hard — I’ve been having bouts of crying all afternoon and yet to reach that cathartic cry.

The trigger: my hair. Or rather my my utter inability to style it. I’ve never had long hair before, and being raised as a boy in a household without sisters has left me without even a second-hand knowledge of what do to with it.

It’s times like these that I feel like a 12-year-old girl, on the verge of womanhood and not quite sure how to do it — except that I’m in a 52-year-old body, lacking many of the essential life styles of being a girl/woman that most my peers learned through osmosis by that age.

The head knows that, yes, I’ll learn those skill — albeit having to do so on an accelerated pace (and thank you to all who’ve offered to help).

The head knows that the past is the past, and that I need to focus on the years going forward being able to live as a woman. Especially now I that have fewer years in front of me than behind me.

But the heart is still mourning those lost decades of my life. The girlhood I’ll never have. The young womanhood I’ll never have. The female body — the young female body — I’ll never have. The female friendship and companionship of girlhood that I’ll never have.

I don’t mean to romanticize being a young girl/young woman, because I know all too well how painful those years could be for the various women in my life. And yes, I know women can be just as shitty to each other as men can be, albeit in different ways.

But it’s still hard not to feel like there’s a void in part of me that will never be fully filled.

Failure Is Always An Option

Unsuccessful experiments in blending in….

I had another electrolysis session this morning, which meant I couldn’t really wear foundation, contour or blush the rest of the day until my skin calmed down again.

So I tried wearing workout tights and top, with a hoodie, while getting brunch and running errands. Sporty girl who’s just done something athletic and therefore isn’t wearing make-up,* right?

Well I got”sirred’ twice and I got “the look”** more than few times. Not unexpected, but it’s still always a bee sting to the heart.

At least it was useful as a calibration exercise….

If a number of trans women seem “excessively” femme, it’s because we often have to send unambiguous signals about how we want to be gendered. And being able to blend in can be an issue of emotional — and sometimes physical — survival.

* I did have on mascara, eye liner and shadow, plus lipstick.

** It’s usually a glance held too long, as people are trying to figure out what gender I am, or why “a man in dress” is out on the streets.

I’m On The Right Track Baby, I Was Born This Way

Forgot to check the mail yesterday, so when I got caught up today I discovered I’d received my new birth certificate! (Yes, I literally jumped for joy.)

I’m just really lucky to have been born in a state that will change your birth certificate. Some state require major surgery first. Some states won’t let you change it all — and the Talibaptists are pushing for more state to prohibit it.

Like the “bathroom bills,” it’s part of an attempt to legislatively harass trans people out of (public) existence. Since it forces trans people to out themselves when getting legal ID that requires birth certificate (e.g. a driver’s license or passport). And given the state of things it might not be long before we’re all carrying around our birth certificates just to be safe.