When the Illusions Come Off

I suppose I should explain the context of my last post. Burlesque and BurlyCon have always been a double-edge sword for me.

OTOH, being able to be just another woman in the company of woman is hugely helpful helpful to the social aspects of my gender dysphoria. OTOH, it also usually kicks up the gender-related discomfort I have with my body.

I’m fortunate, unlike some trans people, I don’t feel like my body (or parts of it) are completely alien. But I’ve yet to feel really at home in it. With my clothes on, I can approximate the body I wish I had, the body that’s slowly moving closer to the body I have in my mind’s eye — although it will never be that body, I’ve been too fucked over by the androgyny fairy for that. It’s been a major issues I’ve had to come to terms with, and mostly I’ve made my peace with it. Mostly.

But when the clothes come off, well, so do the illusions. In both senses of the word.

It doesn’t help that in burly spaces I’m often around women who, if I could have their kind of bodies, I would do many terrible, terrible things.

Now hating your body is all too pervasive among women, given the way we’re socialized. Unfortunately the body positivity movement often rings hollow for me. “Love your body just the way it is”… well that doesn’t work so well if you’re trans. In fact it often feels damn exclusionary (even if it’s unintentional). It’s not just that I’m fat, but I’m fat in ways that are characteristic of someone who’s male-bodied. It’s not just that I have wide child-bearing shoulders, it’s that they combined with my narrow hips are characteristic of someone who’s male-bodied. It’s not just my large hands and feet make it extremely difficult to find rings and shoes that will fit, it’s that they’re characteristic of someone who’s male-bodied.

Earlier I had reached a bit of a detente with body, but with transition looming I’ve actually become become far less comfortable in my body as of late. The gap between what it is, and what it may be (after surgery and more time for hormones to take effect) seems unbearably wide at the moment.

That Moment When…

That moment when… You’re in a class and although you assume you’re “visibly trans,” you have to decide to say “as a trans woman” because there’s a point that you can’t really make without outing yourself.

Again this is where being “out and proud” is different if you’re T vs. LGB — for latter it’s telling people who you really are, but for transitioning trans people it tends to focus attention on who you were (or at least who people think you were).

One of the things I enjoy about burlesque and BurlyCon in particular, is that it’s been a space where I’m accepted as a woman in the company of (almost exclusively) women. Last year’s BurlyCon was marred for me by some transphobic incidents — both the incidents themselves, but also that by calling attention to them I by necessity had to call attention to myself being trans.

Now I’m not one of those transitioners who plans to disappear into the woodwork post-transition. I’m proud to be a woman who’s trans. But there’s just some days where it’s just… nice… to have that not be the thing that defines me. To be just another woman.

Today wasn’t something that needed calling out. I didn’t have to raise the point I raised, it was just offering an insight that was a bit unique.

(It was a class on eye contact and one of the exercises was for everyone to walk around the room and hold eye contact far longer than normal as they encountered people. For me, I initially had to stifle an automatic defensive reaction, because “the stare held too long” is the reaction I get from people who are displeased by my gender, or at least are trying to figure out my gender. And while I don’t let that bother me anymore, it does mean I go do become much more watchful of whether the person staring poses a potential threat. At this point it’s more of an ever-present, almost unconscious continual threat assessment, just likes he ones I do without thinking as a woman being out in the streets at night.)

I raised this because I thought it would be a useful bit of gentle consciousness raising, especially apropos now.

But yeah, it’s complicated…

Some to Do, So Little Coffee

I realized I’ve just been feeling exhausted lately is that transition not only takes up a good amount of mental/emotional energy, but also by just the sheer amount of time it’s taking up.

Appointments with my electrologist, gender therapist, and speech therapist usually take up 10 hours a week. Then there’s been regular drives up to San Francisco to see the hormones doc, and time needed for the related blood tests to monitor things for him. Plus last weekend’s visit to Mom so she could meet me, the time spent this past two weeks with my brother and the relatives after the coming email. Laser hair removal for my body every 6-8 weeks. Dealing with the surgeon’s office for my upcoming facial feminization surgery in January and having to book flights and place to live during the recovery. Getting the paperwork together for my legal name and gender change, going to the bank to get my birth certificate out of the safe deposit box, going to the courthouse next week to file the paperwork. Going through my male clothes and getting rid of them.

With yet more stuff to do on the horizon.

Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon

These days I’m often feeling like simultaneously a girl on the verge of womanhood and a woman of “a certain age” — if that makes any sense.

It’s a weird feeling to be moving into womanhood without having a girlhood, with all the little things one picks up along the way. To give a trite example: When my hair gets long enough, I’ll need someone to help me learn how to how to braid my hair, since I have no clue how to do it.

OTOH, I didn’t (directly*) grow up with some of more toxic parts of girlhood. And I’m really thankful my second puberty comes at a point in my life where I’ve got enough decades to be far more able to handle the inherent emotional rollercoaster.

* Myself and my trans-feminine sisters did still hear the same messages, albeit not directly aimed at us, especially since we far more attuned to them than cisgender boys.

What happens to [boyName]?

It began innocently enough with a question from my electrologist: “What happens to [boyName] after you transition?”

Good question indeed….

(And before we go further, let me say that I detest talking about one’s masculine and feminine sides as separate people, but for this particular discussion personifying them does seem to be the easiest way to talk about the issue.)

I’ve never liked the metaphor some trans women use of killing your male persona, or at least the notion that your male persona died when transitioned.

So my initial reply was that [boyName] will be taking a well-deserved retirement. My masculine aspect, my masculine history, will always be a part of me even if it’s no longer the active part of my personality. And yet, I’m feeling a sense of loss.

“Caterpillar to butterfly” is also popular transition metaphor, but does the butterfly realize that it had to sacrifice being a caterpillar to become who it is now?

Maybe it’s because I was never one of those trans woman who hid behind a hyper-masculine facade until they were able to come to terms with who they really were. Maybe it’s because I spent a long time on the middle path of identifying as bi-gendered, so that there’s not that sense of relief (of shedding one’s male persona) that I often see with rapid transitioners. To me, [boyName] *is* an aspect of me, just not the true *me.*

To borrow a friend’s analogy, he was the trusty work truck who got me through life up until now. Not flashy, a bit dented here and there, but reliable and always there when I needed him.

He protected me. Rory the Roman, standing guard all those years. Armoring himself against the world, so that I didn’t get hurt. Keeping the scared little girl inside of me safe, until she had time to grow up and begin venturing out into the world. Supporting her as she spread her wings. Building a life that’s now allowing for a remarkably smooth transition.

But the cost… the cost has been so dear. He had a exceeding tough job and did it until he just couldn’t do it anymore. And now, in a final act of self-sacrifice, he’s stepping aside to let me take my place out in the world. I’d like to think he’ll have his toes in the sand, with a drink in his hand. But it feels more like he’s climbing the steps to the high tower, where a girl grew into a woman with only fleeting glances of the world outside, and willingly closing the iron door behind him. Moses helping me across the deserts of living as a man, but unable to enter the promised land with me. To have sacrificed so much, and not reap the joys of what (I hope) will be a much fuller life after transition.

I’m sooooo not woo, but I’m feeling a need to somehow mark and acknowledge this parting of the ways. To honor his service to me. To mourn that it feels like a part of myself is fading into the woodwork.

To [boyName]: I’m sorry, I’m so so sorry. I wish you had a happier ending.


During my workout tonight I needed to drop the weight by 10 pounds for one set of exercises — for something I had no trouble doing two weeks ago.

And my Gyrotonics instructor, who’s got a great eye for the subtleties of my body and movement, said he’s started seeing a decrease in muscle mass in my arms.

So the estrogen is definitely kicking in. Now if it’ll just do something about reducing the size of my wide child-bearing shoulders….

Changing Your Body is Self-Love Too

Given that in all likelihood I’ll eventually end up getting breast implants (after waiting to see what grows naturally) — as well as other body mods — this resonates:

“All cosmetic surgery, whatever that surgery may be, is about embracing the identity you already know you have. It is a tool you can use to help achieve your true identity. End of story.

Of course no one should make you feel ashamed of the body you have, and if you have the body you want, no one should try and make you conform it to their rules. But on the same hand if your body does not reflect the You that you see, whatever You that is, and you have the capacity to safely change it, you should not be shamed for doing so, either.”

I Must, I Must, I Must Increase My Bust

Three months on estrogen, two months on the testosterone blocker and things are definitely starting to change.

My skin has already gotten softer, and body hair is growing a lot more slower. But this week one of my breast definitely started budding. The nipple’s gotten plumper and there’s lumps behind the nipple where the breast tissue is developing Thankfully things aren’t sore — yet.

Now the other boob just needs to get with the program.

A Sweet Birthday Gift

At one of my breakfast spots…

Months ago one of the women working the counter misgendered me when calling back the order (she’d been good about pronouns when we interacted in the past). I gently corrected her and she was mortified. To the point she came by my table later on, where she apologized again profusely and vowed she’d comp a meal for me. I told her that while appreciated the gesture, it really wasn’t necessary.

Today she was working the counter, and yes she told me breakfast on her. I again told she really didn’t need to do but, and she said “but I want to do it.”

She’s got no idea it’s my birthday, but it definitely was a really nice gift.

Thank You All

Thank you everyone, I’m so touched by your support.

People often ask whether I’m excited. Excited, terrified, something like that…. Mostly it’s been exhausting.

A friend of mine said that transitioning was like simultaneously planning her wedding and planning for the arrival of her first-born child —and running a marathon everyday to boot. She was only half-joking.

So having you all help celebrate a major milestone with me means a lot.

If you know any other trans folks who are transitioning, let them know you’ve got their back. It’s inherently a bit of lonely road, one spends a fair amount of time locked up with your thoughts and feelings.

If you know any other trans folks who are post-transition, let them know you’ve got their back. They’ve made it through the fire, but they often face a whole new set of challenges.

If you know any other trans folks who aren’t transitioning, let them know you’ve got their back. In some ways they have the most difficult path. I should know. For a number of years, I lived the middle path. Not because I was repressed, but because at that time I was truly and bi-gendered. And being bi-gendered or gender queer, or even an plain ol’ crossdresser is fucking hard. Maybe it’s a kiddie-coaster in terms of ups and downs compared to what transitioners go through, but there’s a big difference: at some point I get to get off the road. They don’t. It’s a ride they’ll be riding the rest of their lives.

If you know any partners of trans people — regardless of whether the trans person is transitioning, or post-transition or non-transitioning — let them know you’ve got their back. Of all the people, they’re the ones who are the most overlooked, the least respected and the least supported.