When I started to transition from a butch lesbian to something on the male side of the spectrum I knew I needed to take things slowly. I needed time to wrap my mind around exactly what I was doing and where I wanted to go with hormones, surgeries, name changes and the like. I knew I needed time to wrap my mind around the idea of not being a lesbian anymore. Of not being a sister and a daughter anymore. Of being seen as male. A white, heterosexual male. I knew that the social side of transitioning was going to be the hardest part for me to navigate. I wasn’t really sure I could handle it, or if my relationships could handle it. In general, it’s been easier than I ever imagined. But it’s also been tougher than I ever imagined too. The person who’s given me the hardest time about everything is myself. I get in my own way. I’m not comfortable talking about my personal life to even my dearest friends. I still feel like I’m walking around naked a lot of the time and everyone can see all of my flaws, scars and short-comings. I still struggle with coming out to people, especially face-to-face, or even telling someone I changed my name.
I’ve been fortunate though. The hormones have changed my looks gradually, lowered my voice to a definite male timbre, and top surgery seemed to seal the deal of helping me look like the man I’ve always felt like inside. Before top surgery, I probably was perceived as male about 70% of the time and could still use a women’s washroom without too much fear. I had started to work towards using the men’s but still didn’t feel like I could go in there safely 100% of the time. Post top surgery, something magical happened and I was suddenly thrust over into the male side of the spectrum and it became clear to me very quickly that I was now seen primarily (98%) as male to the general public. Generally, I’m happy with this turn of events, but it happened so suddenly that I wasn’t quite prepared for all of the repercussions this would foist on me and my family. Now I am Candace’s husband, even though we’re not married, and I am my brother’s brother, and Candace’s mom’s son-in-law. I don’t know if I could manage to pull off a non-binary transition now if I wanted to. Luckily, I don’t want that but it’s still a little uncomfortable and strange for people to refer to me as someone’s brother or husband. There’s a part of me that feels like I should be ok with this and it should feel natural. Sometimes it does feel natural, but mostly it feels strange. I’ve gotten totally comfortable with being referred to as sir and he/him by strangers but the titles still throw me. I think it’s just a matter of getting used to it and will take time. My brother also has to get used to this, and thankfully, has been very gracious about it so far. He stumbles sometimes, but so do I. I still avoid telling people I’m his brother by saying that he is MY brother and leaving my gender up to them to decide.
Basically, though, I’m really enjoying being a guy in public. I went shopping at a jewelry store yesterday and it was really cool that everyone assumed I was shopping for my wife. When I made my purchase, another man and I had a fun interchange about being good husbands. Living the role of man, husband and brother in the real world is feeling like it fits much better than woman, wife, and sister ever did. I feel freer in a lot of ways. Socially, with the exception of a few people, I’m out to everyone. It’s still awkward at times and we all have some adjustments to make, but I would consider this transition a success at this point.
Transitioning is funny though because we can’t always count on how the hormones or a surgery will effect how we’re perceived. Just like a teenager, we can have a sudden growth spurt or physical change. You could wake up one day and realize that you’re losing your hair at a much faster pace than expected. Or your beard could suddenly sprout like a lumber jack. If we’re not prepared socially for these changes it can really play havoc with our progress and mental space. Whenever we inject a hormone we have to be prepared for whatever side effect it gives us and often, we think we are prepared until it does something unexpected. In this case, the physical transition moves faster than our mental and social transition and causes a lot of problems. Sometimes it’s more than we can handle at the moment and we have to make the heart breaking decision to stop our transition, temporarily or permanently. I can’t say that I started hormones willing to take all of the possible side effects no matter what. As time has progressed though, I’ve become willing to take them all no matter what. I don’t relish the idea of becoming a bald guy, but I accept that it could happen. I’ve seen my hairline recede quite a bit in the past couple of years and I know that my hair is thinner than it used to be up top. Baldness is creeping up on me and I know it. I don’t expect to go completely bald, but I do expect to lose quite a bit of hair.
Another, deeper, side to transitioning is erasure of our pasts. Now that I look male, people make a lot of assumptions about my past that just aren’t true. I did not have all of the opportunities handed to me that I would have if I’d been born with male genitalia. I was not raised as a boy. I never was a Boy Scout. I never played Little League or any male sport growing up. I grew up queer, a Tom Boy, a lesbian and I had to fight and prove myself every inch of the way to get where I am today. I played girl’s softball and was a Girl Scout growing up. All of that is forgotten now and definitely does not seem to fit with my current persona. This can be very disturbing and upsetting if we’re not prepared for it. Personally, I don’t care that much and I never really liked being a “female role model” anyway, so it’s sort of a relief. I know my history and that’s what matters to me. No one ever handed me anything and I’ve had to work my butt off to get what I have and I don’t care who knows that about me. Others, though, could find this to be very upsetting and it’s something to keep in mind.
Balancing the emotional and physical sides of the transition process is tricky and not for the faint of heart. There are a lot of days where I still wonder if I can handle all of this and even whether I want to. There are days when I wonder if I made the right decisions along the way. But then I think about the option of going back to living as a butch lesbian and I know that I could never do that again. So, it’s onward I go as there is no turning back for me at this point in time. What the future brings is anybody’s guess, but I know I will handle it to the best of my ability.