Pre-Transition

And So It Goes, And So It Goes

Random late-night musings….

#1 – Since work is extremely slow between Christmas and New Year’s, I ended taking a couple days off. I had hoped to get out of town for a couple days, but the pieces never fell in place. Wasn’t necessarily a staycation either, my plans to do stuff locally ended up getting messed up as well. So I spend a bit of time just puttering around the house getting caught up with stuff, running errands, etc.

But I was able to be Marlena for a full week, probably the longest stretch I’ve had, and it wasn’t in non-“real life” setting, like BurlyCon, Southern Comfort or Diva Las Vegas. The very ordinariness about it — including the “oh gawd do I really have to get up earlier to do my face and hair” — was educational in a chop wood, carry water sort of way. And Sunday night it was hard knowing I’d need to go back to male-mode during the week. (Not helped by knowing it’s back to having stubble all week so I can do electrolysis.)

#2 – At fundraiser New Year’s Day, one of the queens came over and told me words to the effect that she really respected what I was doing — implicitly referring to me clearly moving toward living more and more as a woman. I didn’t get any trans-dar vibe from her, I think she was just being supportive. (It is a little awkward with the fundraising group, since I’m on the board and have to attend the monthly meeting in male mode, since there’s not time to change easily.)

A few weeks earlier after I did a burlesque show, the show’s producer (who’s know me for a couple years), remarked it’s been fascinating to him to watch how I’ve changed from [boyname] “to really embracing [stage name],” and specifically mentioned seeing photos from BurlyCon. Again, nothing explicit but clearly referencing my work-in-progress.

There’s been some other comments as well, that’s got me thinking about the degree to which my evolution is playing out public — at least in my outside-of-work circles. Admittedly in both the burly world and the drag world (outside of meetings for the fundraising group I belong to), people have rarely seen me in male mode — which has been very deliberate on my part. So I’ve already established a fairly strong femme persona, even people also know I’m male-bodied. In both worlds there’s already a number of people who just assume I live full-time as a woman. And for the rest… it seems like that if I do transition full-time a lot of folks reactions will be, “what took her so long.”

Though obviously work is the big exception, though I seem to be leaking gender pretty freely. Though as mentioned, when I came out to a co-worker last month, she had no idea. We’ll see what happens. I’m rapidly reaching the point where if I grow out my hair any further it’s clearly (at least to me) becoming obviously “long hair.”

#3 Happiness is new boobs. I’ve had my prior set for years now and they were loosing their shape, and had started tearing. So while I was able to repair them, it was clearly time for new ones, which arrived today.

They’re the Gold Seal Classic 1-1/2 which is a bit less convex in the back than my prior pair, so they fit better — no more pulling away from my body when I bend over. Plus they end up being effectively a quarter-cup size larger, which is filling out my bra properly without leaving a little dimple. They’ve also got a thicker backing, so you can attach them via tape. Haven’t tried it yet, and generally my bras fit well enough I don’t need it, but it’s nice to know it’s possibility when I may need it, such as wearing a swimsuit.

But mostly it’s just nice to feel them on my chest again — after week en femme, it was a bit odd at work for them to be absent. Even though they’re probably contributing to my neck and shoulder problems, they just feel right. Just like looking into the mirror when I’m wearing hip pads and seeing a curvy figure feels right. Yes, my body dysphoria does seem to be getting a bit worse…. If I do transition to full-time, I suspect it’s going to be because of having a body that’s too curvy to hide (i.e. getting implants).

And so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes, and so it goes, but where it’s going, no one knows…

Am I the Last to See?

Had a good show last night at one of my regular burlesque shows — albeit just lip-synching (I’m not sure it’s really “drag” anymore…) a really raunchy Christmas parody song that’s become a holiday tradition at the show. (In fact the producer made a point of booking me for it, after we didn’t quite connect last year and I didn’t do the show.)

Afterwards, as he was counting up the money to pay me out, the producer mentioned he’d been talking about me with the producers of “Body Political” show, where I did the “Clothes Make the Woman” act (that’s about my experience of transformation). He said he’s found “my journey” over the past couple years to be fascinating to watch — seeing the change from [boyname] to really committing to being Joie,* including seeing my photos from the most recent BurlyCon (where I was there as a woman the entire time, including traveling to and from Seattle). He meant it in a complimentary “being true to yourself” kind of way.

It wasn’t really the time have a deeper conversation, and we got interrupted before the discussion went any further. But it got me thinking, am I the last to see what other people are seeing?

* “Joie” is how he knows me; like the drag world, there’s a lot of people in the burly world who I only know by their stage names.

But I Like Armor, It’s My Thing

I Like Armor I've my thing
Armored….

Last night I did a lengthy massage session with a friend who’s really excellent massage therapist.

After she’d been working on me for a bit, she asked if I trusted her with body. Yes, of course, I said (we’ve been sexually intimate in the past). She said everything was locked up and it felt like my body wasn’t willing to let go. Later on she added, it felt like my body was trying to hold everything together. Still later on she was working very deeply on my thigh and asked if it hurt. Only a little, I said, and she was amazed because something that people typically find pretty painful.

Some of it is 30 years of accumulated computer hunch — my body is so used to muscles that are permanently on that it feels normal. Some of is accumulate stress from various non-trans stuff. Some of it that I am trying to hold things together as it seems like I’m doing more and more than just meandering toward a possible transition.

But it also got me thinking about the ways I’m become distanced from my body. Especially in light of the “Nothing But Light,” photoshoot where the photography commented afterwards how my body language was guarded and tightly controlled throughout the shoot, and how I never eventually loosened up like her subjects usually do.

Some of it is the sadly “normal” indoctrination one gets growing up masculine: “boys don’t cry,” “walk it off,” etc. Don’t feel emotions, don’t feel weakness.

Some it is not feeling at home in my body as it now. For years it was more of generalized body dysphoria — my body was just a meat sack to carry my brain around. More recently it’s been more specifically gender dysphoria, in particular not having breasts and hips.

But some of it is a physical manifestation of the emotional armor I’ve girded myself in. If I don’t let anyone in, I can’t be rejected by them. If I tightly control myself, no one will see the gender that’s leaking out; no one can hurt the scared little girl inside who’s trying to figure out what she wants to be when she grows up.

Getting the body to loosen up is something I’ve been working on for nearly the past two years. I’ve made progress (I’ve having far fewer neck/shoulder/back problems these days), but there’s still a long way to go. I suspect it’ll take even longer to reconnect with my body. In some ways I’m not even sure where to start.

(Cartoon added retroactively, because damn, it fits.)

 

 

Accidentally Outing Myself

Had lunch today with a co-worker who’s a fashionista (actually went to fashion school, although she’s doing something else). So we’ve enjoyed talking about clothes, which in turn led to a prior lunch.

I’d mentioned that I’ve been building a winter wardrobe (implicitly a women’s winter wardrobe from comments I’ve made) and just today I mentioned I was trying to learn how to do the scarf thing. Plus, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve worn nail polish to the office for a while now, stud earrings and started wearing my hair the way my stylist was experimenting with on Friday.

So during today’s lunch she asked if I had a special someone in my life (she’s married, so it was more of “getting to know you better” friendship question). I said I didn’t, and I wasn’t really looking at the moment, and anyway I was a bit of a specialized taste. “Why?” she asked. I’d been leaking gender enough with her that I just decided to come out. “Well as you’re probably guessed, I’m trans.” “Really,” she said, “I had no idea.”

Oops….

Fortunately, it went well. She was very accepting. We talked a bit about Teh Tranz and me, and it turned out that she had an uncle who lived as woman (though reading between the lines, the uncle didn’t do any surgeries, legal name changes, etc.)

I don’t expect Teh Tranz to be a major topic of future conversation with her — as I told her, I’m not going to deny if someone asks, but I hope it’s the third or fourth most interesting thing about me — but it is nice to have someone I can be open with.

Face the Face

In a case of fortuitous timing, I got the assessment and photo simulations back from the woman who does the Virtual FFS site.

The good news is that she thinks the top half of my face is not very masculine to begin with (she couldn’t evaluate my lower face very well because of my jowls).

Her recommendations weren’t unexpected — the two big ones are a nose job to remove the hump on the upper bridge and make the tip less bulbous, as well as lowering the hairline. She also recommends removing the brow bossing, and having a lip lift since I’ve got a relatively long distance between the top lip and nostrils.

The simulations she did include all of these procedures, plus opening the orbits of the eye a little, as well as simulating the effect of hormones.

(If I lose a lot of weight, she said I may want to also consider surgery to reduce, narrow, and round the chin and reduce the jaw.)

The changes are more of the subtle side, but definitely do seem to make difference.

FWIW, besides the assessment and photo simulations, she also had advice about the types of hairline procedures that are possible, as well as what’s the best order to do certain procedures that affect overlapping areas (she does work with two plastic surgeons — presumably to do the photo simulations with them).

Obviously, it’s not gospel (and she’s careful about her caveats), but it was worth getting a POV from someone who’s a disinterested third-party.

E.g. she recommended not worrying about the naso-labial folds, even though most surgeons will try to take you into filling them even if they’re barely visible. Likewise, she cautioned against doing a chin reduction — unless I lose a lot of weight, which may cause the chin to look somewhat square — because doing so would cause me to get more jowly, since it would slacken the tension on the soft tissue (which in turn would probably mean getting a face lift).

Gimme a head with hair

I’ve been growing out my hair for the past couple months, and it’s started getting long enough that my stylist experimented tonight with some feminine styling.

Not my best look — there’s not much I can do about my hairline* — and wigs will probably always look better, but it would be nice not to always have to wear one.

* Though several people reminded me that extensions (clip-in or permanent) are a possibility

Not quite brave enough to wear it outside yet, but it’s still nice to be able to look in the mirror sans wig and see a more feminine me.

On a different note, my electrologist has been rather enthusiastic about trying to clear my upper lip. It definitely is starting to feel like there’s fewer whiskers, and today there were two finger tip-sized spots at the corners of my mouth that were totally clear. Admittedly, there’s likely to be regrowth, but it’s really nice to see progress. (There’s also two patches along the jawline, each about the size of two fingers that are more or less clear.)

Workplace Transition, No Not That…

So our CEO announced he’s stepping down next spring — not unexpected, he’s been there for years and the company is hitting a milestone that’s a good exit point for him.

But from a selfish “if I do transition” POV it’s annoying, since he’s known me for years, albeit not well, but we were a much, much smaller company when I started so I did get chances talk with him, and he likes me, and he always seem to get a kick out of me cross-dressing in costume for Halloween.

Granted having the personal support of the CEO is a different thing — and removed from the more crucial day to day interactions — now that our company is the size that it is. But it certainly wouldn’t have hurt.

Reverberations

Things are still reverberating from the “Nothing But Light” photo shoot I did, but I’m doing better. It was a definite (and unexpected) mindfuck.

The photographer is doing an exhibit and may post them online. It’s possible people I know may see them. I knew that going in. (I recently found out that someone I know recognized me in the “American Beauty project” shoot I did that got a lot of publicity.)

Am I OK with it? Not sure yet… I’m leaning toward leaving them as part of the project. There’s already a number of photos from my burlesque performances online, and arguably I look as much “not female-bodied” in those — albeit with the benefit of make-up.

She’ll send me copies of the photos in about two weeks after she finishes the current round of shoots. Maybe I’ll be better about then (or maybe it’ll re-trigger, we’ll see…).

As part of the project, I’m supposed to write something. Whether it’s about the experience, myself, whatever…. it’s pretty open-ended. I’ll probably be writing some version of what I posted Sunday night. About how it ended up (despite good intentions all around) being an intensely uncomfortable experience for me, and the subsequent reverberations.

Partly I think it was bit of reaction due to being at my mother’s for the Thanksgiving weekend and feeling like I had to hide part of myself. (Mom knows about the cross-dressing, drag and burlesque — she doesn’t know that I’m dual-living. Part of it was (the day after) having to let my beard grow out again for electrolysis, which has been making me more dysphoric, since I’ve got stubble four days out of five during the work week. Part of it was a bad hair day — especially annoying because the photographer was running late and I would’ve had time to fix it, if she’d let me know that.

Part of it is that I came in during the tail end of her preceding shoot with an adorable couple (both about 20) in which the male-bodied partner identified as gender queer. They were playful as a pair of puppies and clearly comfortable in their skins.

And I was fucking envious of that. Envious of how they had their whole lives ahead of them in a far from perfect, but far, far more accepting world than I had at their age. Envious of their youth, of their good looks.

It did help that the Sunday after the shoot I had another event where I put my hip pads on. When I got home I left them on instead of taking them off like I normally do, and changed into a cami and yoga pants. Looking in the mirror, seeing my (now) curvy self, I kept thinking this is what I should look like. This is the body I should have.

So yeah, is that telling me something? I suspect so…. Though I suspect it would take more than just hormones and breast augmentation, it would take a fat grafting to the hips to get the sort of curves to balance out my broad child-bearing shoulders.

In the meantime, we’ll see how long it takes for me to go out without hip pads again — something I’d just gotten comfortable doing in the last month. (At least comfortable doing in jeans, instead of the sundresses I was wearing this summer that had enough structure to disguise the fact that I wasn’t wearing hip pads.)

Nothing But Darkness

So yeah, the “Nothing But Light” photo shoot was today….

I’d heard about it when a friend of mine posed. My initial reaction was that much as it was tempting to do it, in my case being naked in that way would put the focus on who I’m not rather than who I am.

I decided to push through that feeling. To face down my fears. To show that it was possible for someone with a body like mine could love a body like mine.

I pushed myself too hard. Sometimes when you stare into the abyss, the abyss not only stares back, but swallows you whole.

I don’t have a problem getting naked. I knew what I was getting into to. The photographer, Anastasia was lovely and excellent at putting me at ease. We had a great conversation during the shoot.

But while the spirit was willing, the body was saying fuck off. As we were reviewing the photos together after the shoot, Anastasia commented that during the shoot I rarely moved around during the shoot, and all my poses were tightly controlled — poses with “pretty hands” and “pretty legs” and otherwise positioning my body to looks as “feminine” as possible. It wasn’t something I did consciously. She said normally people start this way but usually loosen up after a bit. With people who perform it takes longer (since they’re used to presenting their body to audience) — one reason she does a very long shoot. I never did loosen up.

I knew this wasn’t going to be a glamour shoot — but part of the appeal was the challenge of communicating my femininity when the make-up, the padding, the clothes were all stripped away. (I did still wear a wig, which she was OK with.) But going through the photos all I could think was that my hair looked awful (it had frizzed a bit that morning and I didn’t have time to fix it), my skin without foundation looked red and blotchy, I had man-boobs instead of boobs, my belly was all-too-prominent. I looked fat, old and ugly — and far too male.

I wish I was more self-accepting of the body I have now. I want to be more self-accepting. I need to be more self-accepting. But it wasn’t happening today.

We did pick out a half-dozen photos out of the hundreds she took, in which I don’t look as bad. I do have the option asking her to pull the photos of the project — that was an upfront option she makes available to all the models. Not sure if I’ll exercise it. I’ll ask her to send me copies of the photos and take a second look at them. I probably need more time to process the experience.

I’ll probably never think of them as photos I like, but they may be photos I’m willing to be seen publicly.

Static in the Attic

So….

This weekend will be the first time in six months that I won’t be living en femme (since I’ll be down at my mother’s for Thanksgiving).

Unexpectedly, the prospect of doing so doesn’t freak me out. A little sad perhaps, but it’s not a big deal. Probably because it’s really just one day, since I’m flying back Saturday night.

I still feel like I’m occupying a place on both sides of a threshold I don’t quite understand; at that place of transition, waiting, and not knowing.

Though I sure seem to be meandering towards transition. I’ve started electrolysis, I want to do voice work when time and money permit. Hormones are something I’m thinking of trying after I finish up electrolysis. I sent my photos off to the medical artist who does the Virtual FFS stuff.

All of which has caught me by surprise. I never really expected to be in this place. I never prayed to wake up as a girl when I was young. I’ve always been fairly comfortable with Teh Tranz, even when I knew society wasn’t. So it’s not like I’m sloughing off years of self-denial and self-hatred.

And yet…

As I try to work on one of my other “not happy with the current state of affairs” issues (the lack of a social life that’s not up in SF) I ask myself whether I want to build up a local social circle as a man or a woman, and the answer is pretty clear — I want new people I meet to know me as a woman.

I’m becoming increasingly less comfortable (for the most part) being in places where people see me switching genders. To the point where I won’t go out to certain restaurants on a weeknight because I usually go there en femme on the weekends. (Burly is a bit different, in part because when the clothes come off it’s pretty obviously I’m not your standard-issue woman.)

I’m leaking gender at work. I’ve been wearing (a nice neutral) nail polish to work for the past couple months. I wear stud earrings. The past two weeks I’ve worn a woman’s sweater to work — albeit the gendering of the sweater, buttons along the sleeves, was pretty subtle so no one probably noticed. (And the irony is that I worn it many because the weather turned cold and I can’t find the box of men’s sweaters I put away last spring.) There’s two fashionista co-workers who I haven’t explicitly come out to — that it’s more than just for the stage — but I’ve talked with them about needing to put together a fall wardrobe, so it’s probably not too hard for them to read between the lines. As far as I know this hasn’t caused any issues — one advantage to having a good number of people there knowing that I perform.

And yet…

I don’t hear the siren call of transition. Much as the Pink Express is problematic, there is something to be said for certainty. In my case, I’m finding I’m more comfortable as a woman, and I don’t hate being a man, even if at times it’s feeling more like a part I play. I don’t have a horror at the thought of dying as a man. It’s more like…. done the guy thing for 50 years, been there, done that; maybe it’s time to try something different.

Will it work to have a life working as a man and living as a woman outside of work (perhaps with some chemical enhancements)? Quite possibly. Quite possibility not. As said, in another thread, the tipping point often seems to be when people reach a discomfort level that they can’t take anymore. Maybe I’m the boiling frog, but it doesn’t seem like I’m close to that yet.

I do have serious — if probably somewhat unfounded — worries about the impact transitioning would have on my career, especially in light of a friend’s comment that she traded her career for transition. Especially since I’m at an age where age discrimination in Silicon Valley becomes a definite thing. Which, when I am support myself is a bit scary, even if I do have far more financial reserves than most people who transition. Because the Bay Area is so fucking expensive, but there’s very few other places I’d want to live.

I do have a lot more churn in my head related to Teh Tranz these days. Mostly because I still feel like I’ve moved out of one stable place and don’t really know where I’m headed. Because I’m thinking through various possible scenarios (hey it’s what do for work). Maybe that static in the attic will calm down as I get more used to this true “dual living,” or as I work through the issues I’m wrestling with, or as I take more small steps. Or maybe that noise will be the precipitating event to transition.

Or who knows, I may end up rivaling another friend for the world’s slowest transition.