It is all still worthwhile

I’ve been sharing some stories that I realise are fairly negative in their scope. There are a couple reasons, the first of which is that this journey has not been particularly easy or fun so far. The other is that there are more definitive negative events then there really are positive ones.

Little wins tend to be very small but no less satisfying. I found a great pair of jeans that fit me well and look good. Win! They’re pretty obviously women’s jeans too. I’ve been wearing them in public and haven’t been stoned in the public square. It might not seem like much but its each battle that makes up the war, and I’m finally starting to see some battles won.

Hormone therapy can be slow and peoples opinion and behavior changes even slower, but I will try and write about the good with the bad. Though probably not much over the next couple weeks as I’m going on vacation. Talk to you all then!

It’s the little things: Man hands

My firm has offices spread across the country so we use video chatting services to communicate quite often. So as I was walking by our administrator the other day I stuck my hand in front of the camera. I know it’s not a particularly funny joke but it’s my way of saying hi.

“Oh those are just (my) big man hands in the way.” says the woman in my office.

One of the worst parts of coming out is that you expose yourself to being hurt. The little things are what hurt. My hands aren’t even that big, they don’t really bother me. In that moment though it was all consuming.

Like most people I just want to be treated with respect. Which means even a basic amount of dignity and social pleasantries being extended. You don’t point out someones obvious pimple, you don’t stare at the mole, you don’t stare at the only minority in the room, you don’t make fun of a Trans person’s less appreciated characteristics.

It might make you feel like you’re guarding yourself and have to step on egg shells. I’d feel bad if I hadn’t had to walk on egg shells and guard myself at all times for every moment of my life.

Most people know they should be nice to the people around them, they’re just not used to being around Trans people. It only takes some time to think or to ask the question to treat us like you would treat anyone else. It costs you nothing.

On a side note I know I’ve been talking about a lot of negative experiences lately, I will try and start writing some positive posts.

Baring your Soul: Feeling for the first time

I’ve talked a lot already about how weirdly dehumanising this whole transition thing is. I want to take a second now and talk about one of the very humanising experiences I’ve had through this.

Which is that transition has helped me feel, for the very first time.

In order to cope with the weight of being in the closet and other elements of my younger life I clammed up. I’ve talked about this before but that void that only expressed anger was my life for 22 years.

What I’m starting to discover now is that I am beginning to feel, rather regularly, different emotions. I’m beginning to have that complete feeling. This all became noticeable to me yesterday. The event in question? I had a friend piss me off. They had done something, I made fun of them and they reacted pretty harshly back. Nothing particularly revolutionary what was revolutionary was that I felt hurt.

Now, feeling hurt is something I have not allowed myself very often. The only person really capable of it is my wife. To have opened up that a close friend could actually hurt and upset me. As crazy as it sounds is new to me. It was a weird milestone of success.

What got me thinking about this all though is that I’ve noticed that when I get angry I can feel something other then just pure rage. A plethora of emotions begin to rise and compete. It’s not pleasant but it’s still novel enough that it makes me happy.

Transition is a weird time and its full of a lot of ups and downs, and one of the things that’s keeping me engaged is that I can feel those ups and downs for the first time.

My first collision: client meets transition

I had a client come in the other day to pick up some work we’d done for him. In going through it all he ended by asking for a card. We were at the front desk where we keep all of our cards so he just looks over himself. Seeing our administrators card first he asks if that’s mine. I say no my card is the one next to it. He responds dismissively with “oh good I thought you were one of those people with gender issues.”

There’s a very petty and malicious part of my soul that just wants to throw things in peoples faces but as usual I didn’t. I awkwardly smiled and he left afterwards. He was none the worse for wear.

Now, years from now I know I will likely find this story funny. But this is the first time I have had a client bring that up, as awkwardly as it was. So unfortunately my first experience is always going to be awkward and weird at best, or a sign of a long, winding, and largely uphill battle.

As is another sign of the toll that being in the closet and transition has brought upon me. I didn’t really think it was that strange until I told other people. I now see why it should have been painful, and am now bothered by it but in the moment I wasn’t. Either i have incredibly low standards for people around me, incredible patience, or I’m just as broken on the inside as I think, maybe even more who knows. My money is it’s a bit of all three, but likely more of the first and last then the second.

So now that I’ve stewed on it for a week, screw you guy!

 

Baring Your Soul: The Consequences of Not Baring Your Soul

I’ve talked before about how it feels to start working towards medical transition.

Here and here.

There’s definitely more to discuss there but I wanted to step back even further and talk about what it feels like when Transition is not on the horizon.One of the things I hadn’t noticed at the time was how dehumanising the process of transition is. The reason for this is that its taken transition for me to feel like a person, to in turn understand what I’d experienced.

Things might be a little different now but where I grew up and when I grew up being Gay was still considered a largely negative thing. The existence of Transgender people as a concept, let alone as members of the community was unheard of. As such, though I knew there was something different it took me until my teens to start to understand what I was.

One of the worst effects of being in the closet at such a young age is the isolation. This feeling of wrongness that pervades your whole being is not something you fully understand or could point out if asked. Its this element you quickly learn to disguise. My way of coping was to mirror expectations. What I mean by this is that if someone thought I was angry, or mean. I was angry and mean. If someone thought I was quiet and reposed, that was what I was. It was exhausting trying to balance people with different expectations co-mingled but I did.

The other downside is that I didn’t build very deep friendships. I had long term friends, because I was consistent in meeting their expectations so there was little to complain about. Yet I couldn’t really connect to people because I was incapable of connecting to myself.

That’s the meat of the problem. Using an onion analogy when speaking with a therapist I met later on that, though gender isn’t the core of your personality, it’s not many layers past it. If you have an underdeveloped or neglected sense of gender. Your societal expectations are out of whack. Your sense of self is impacted. Who you are and what you are begins to atrophy because you have no working context for how to express that socially. Humans are inherently social creatures. We relate to ourselves largely through how we relate to each other. So as I was unable to build any sort of consistency in my relations to others. Eventually I became nothing to myself.

There’s a lot of consequences of this that I’ll discuss more of them later, but the main message I have with this is that realising that I was Trans was not as simple as understanding who I was and finding my soul. It took a lot of background work just understanding what had been lost and what needed to be built. The pain of not having an identity, which is what I consider myself having missed out on during my normal development. Isn’t so easily reconstructed. When you talk about developmental milestones there’s certain ones that are very hard to recreate once missed. You just have to try and figure out how to be you with all of the pain and missing pieces anyways.

Because the alternative is much worse.

 

 

Misgendering, a new pain

I’ve never been dismissive of the idea of misgendering being hurtful, but until I started opening up about it I was never bothered by people who didn’t know misgendering me.

It’s a rather unfortunate and painful new experience for me. I spent the weekend with my wife’s family, who are rural, uninteresting, and strangely concerned with gender roles. They do not know I am Trans, and a lot of their everyday conversation revolves around conversations of gender. It’s incredibly odd in the first place, but the sheer volume of it ended up being rather painful.

I want to take a second to say that I also live in a rural area (though not as small, and not anywhere near where we visited) Being rural doesn’t make you uninteresting and backwards. it does however mean that there aren’t many ways to escape family when you visit them in a rural setting, which compounds the discomfort.

One cousin, who has two sons and a daughter, seemed fixated on ensuring her children were doing gender appropriate activities, said children are 2, 4, and 6. Not that it would ever be a sane thing to fixate on but its doubly unfortunate when you start pushing your daughter to under aspire at such a young age.

So that was painful to watch, but I’ve never been called a man so many times in such a small amount of time. I usually don’t really refer to my self in very gendered language and don’t refer to much of anything in a gendered way. So experiencing such a narrow and suffocating worldview was as uncomfortable as it was painful.

I don’t really have any great advice. I was tempted to come out to them out of spite just to throw them for a loop. I didn’t, because that’s not constructive and I don’t want my coming out to be petty. So I guess the moral of the story is similar to that of my other advice; maintain your principles and unfortunately life just sucks sometimes.

Baring your soul: dealing with dehumanizing elements of Transition

Things got a little off the rails yesterday. What I’d originally intended to talk about was preparing yourself for how much you’re going to have to give up of your privacy and really shine a light into your soul.

Medically, the assumption seems to be, that hormones are unsuitable until proven suitable. It’s easier to get intense narcotics then it is to get hormones. One of the first steps is being classified as mentally stable enough to understand the consequences of your decisions.

This involves meeting with some variety of psychologist, in my experience I got to go through it twice because the first one wasn’t actually qualified to write “the letter.”

The letter, if you’re not aware, is what is written by an ‘expert’ giving their opinion that you are capable of making a decision about your own body. Trans people have the same rights as everyone else though!

I’ve spoken with different doctors and a few have found my letter to be unacceptable because it didn’t detail enough of my ‘Transness’ nor did I seem Trans enough.

That lack of detail offended one doctor so thoroughly she refused to accept the letter as acceptable and demanded to speak with the expert who wrote the letter. Then promptly refused to work with me anyways.

She was also the one that initially didn’t think I was Trans enough. At the time I was working at a bank in a rural town, it was my first permanent job after college. I didn’t have a lot of space to deviate from gender norms. Having long hair (which I always tied back) made some people leery, but I digress.

So once you have this letter, which takes as long as it takes, mine took a year and a half. that’s not enough to be taken seriously, prepare to explain to every medical professional between your family doctor and whoever ends up prescribing you hormones why you’re Trans. As if you can easily explain that. I”ve found myself relying on the “I don’t know what its like not to be Trans so I can’t really help you” argument.

One of the most frustrating elements I found about this process is the lack of agency you have in this realm. my last article spoke about how lasting this dehumanising process was. What I had initially wanted to talk about there and did so here is how dehumanising the process is to go through. The expectation to discuss all of your trauma, detail intricately your emotional supports, your financial status, your coping mechanisms all so you can have someone decide if you can be marked acceptable to make your own choices. Something most people are just born with is something that you get to work towards.

I’ll compare it to another thing I’m dealing with in my life. My Wife and I are currently trying to become foster parents. As part of that process you have to go through a similar experience of stripping down your life and understanding your own psyche intimately. As part of this process we are taking classes with other prospective adoptive and foster parents. As this process starts to dawn on people and they realise how daunting it is they start to get worried or afraid.

Now, this process is to understand your ability to handle a traumatized child, and help them heal in your home. If you don’t have tough enough stuff their trauma will break you. The key difference between this and obtaining the “letter” is that you choose to be a foster parent, and it is ultimately not about yourself. You can choose not to be a foster parent. It is a choice.

Being trans is not a choice, we don’t expect people to tear down their mental state and check the stability of their psyche before making any other decisions related to their body. That’s generally considered antithetical to a free and just society. Agency begins with your own body.

After all of that dour talk I wanted to reaffirm the value and joy that transitioning has brought me. Each step has made me more comfortable and confident and helped me discover who I am and my own identity.

I just also think its important to know that the process leaves its own set of scars. Nothing about this journey is pain free.

Nothing.