An Exciting Month

It feels like forever since I posted in here.  It’s only been 23 days, but a lot has happened since then.  The biggest thing is that Candace and I have decided to get legally married in July on our 20th Anniversary of being together.  Most of the people we’ve told at this point have simply said, “It’s about time.”  I agree.  But it took every bit of those 20 years for us to get to this point and also for it to be legal across the country for “same sex” marriage.  The ironic part is that I have legally changed my gender now to male on my documents.  That’s the second piece of news.  So now that I’m legally male and Candace is legally female it doesn’t make an ounce of difference what the government allows us to do.  This is a bittersweet realization.  I think if Same Sex Marriage had been taken away we would not be getting married, but as long as we could marry either way we’re going ahead with it.  Candace had dreamed of a “Lesbian Wedding”.  I don’t even really know what that means.  I know she never thought I would wear a wedding gown so there were two brides.  In fact, I can’t even imagine calling myself a bride and never could.  This is part of why we haven’t done this sooner.  I wish I could give her the wedding she’s dreamed of, but I can’t, even if I knew what it was.

It’s been really fun dreaming about what our special day will look like and where it will be held.  I’m having a blast helping her make plans and envisioning how it will all unfold.  So far we’ve found a nice venue for both the wedding and the reception.  My anxiety shoots way off the charts when I think about standing up in front of 100+ people for the ceremony so I initially tried to talk her into having a private ceremony with just a few close family members.  Eventually it just made no sense to do that so now we’re planning the whole thing out in the open for all to see.  I’ll deal with my nerves somehow.  I knew the private ceremony thing wouldn’t hold up anyway.

The really cool thing about doing this is that neither of us really have any pre-conceived notions of what the wedding will look like and we’re not locked into having a religious ceremony so we get to be as creative as we want and make our own rules.  I’ve been researching wedding traditions of various different religions and cultures and I’m hoping we can throw a couple neat things into our ceremony that our guests have never seen before.   As you can probably tell, I’m really excited and looking forward to it.

The emotions around changing my gender and planning a wedding are hard to describe.  Actually planning a real wedding is surreal.  I never dared to dream that this day would come for me.  Getting to stand up at my own wedding as a man and having a wife…mind blowing…dream come true…still feels like a fantasy…being referred to as a groom…being a husband…calling Candace my fiance’…hard impossible to describe the emotions I’m feeling.  And I knew that I needed to legally change my gender for my own peace of mind but I had a really hard time getting myself motivated to start the process.  I wasn’t scared but I was resistant.  Female no longer made sense for me but male still just doesn’t feel right either.  If there was a third option I might be inclined to choose it.  I’m still reluctant to being lumped in with the general population of cis-gender males.  I really can’t relate to many of them and most of them scare the crap out of me.  But I’m not female anymore either, so that’s just not an option.  Truthfully, I wish there was something in between the two.  But there isn’t, so male fits the best at this point and puts me in the category that best describes me.  I’m seen as male 99% of the time now (the 1% that don’t see me as male are family and friends who knew me before transitioning) so to walk around with an F on my driver’s license makes no sense at all to me.

The actual process of changing my gender was pretty easy.  I chose to only change my driver’s license and passport at this time and leave my birth certificate alone.  The passport entailed applying for a new passport and including the letter I received from my surgeon when I had top surgery.  My surgeon’s letter got rejected because she didn’t put the right wording in the body of the letter but she quickly corrected that and now I’m waiting for my new book to arrive.  Changing my driver’s license in my state also required sending my surgeon’s letter as well as a letter from me requesting to change my gender on my license.  In this case, my surgeon’s original letter was sufficient.  There is a specific person at the main Motor Vehicle Administration office that handles the gender changes so my letters were faxed to them directly.  They then take the letters in front of a board that meets to approve the change and then they sent me a letter telling me I was approved that I could take to any full service MVA office to get a new updated license.  I did that last week.  I had to tell two people why I was there and they were both professional and helpful.  I was nervous about it for some reason but they seemed happy to help me.  One of them even told me I was her first to change my gender but she was excited to help me out.  She even took a second picture of me because the first one wasn’t so good.  Funny thing happened when I went to apply for my new passport.  The gentleman that I dealt with thought it was just a mistake that they put an F on my current passport and told me he would call the State Department for me to get it straightened out.  I had to tell him that it was not a mistake on their part and explained that I was born female.  He had a brief confused look come across his face but immediately switched gears and got me processed properly.  His friendly demeanor never changed and it was a positive experience.  The only negative I can say about it is that I had to explain all of this to him in the lobby of a post office with a lot of other people around to potentially hear our conversation.  We were not in a private office and it was uncomfortable to deal with it in public like that.  Thankfully, I don’t think anyone was paying any attention to us.

So now I’m just waiting for everything to come in the mail and the last thing I need to do is have my health and auto insurance changed.  Getting my health insurance changed over to male was a huge reason I wanted to do this.  I’m completely fed up with having to answer questions about my menstrual cycle every time I go to get blood drawn or see a doctor.  People get confused and embarrassed and it’s humiliating to have them start referring to me as female even though two minutes ago they were calling me sir.  I realize that having the male marker will bring new and different questions and challenges but at least they will be in alignment with my outer persona and not cause confusion or embarrassment.  I’ve been putting off finding a new doctor until my insurance is changed.   My old doctor retired so I need to get a new one and I wanted to start off with them as male.  I’ll need to be honest about my physical body and they will need to be ok dealing with that.  I’m not looking forward to it, but it needs to be done.  I’m guessing that all of my insurance will go up in price thanks to that Male marker.  That’s a definite down side, but one I’m willing to deal with.

It’s been an exciting month, to say the least.  Also, I turned 55 (double nickel, as my brother puts it) this month.  This is the year I pull a lot of loose ends together and start a new chapter in my life.  I’m excited about the future and hopeful despite the current political climate in my country and the world.  Candace and I have already made it through some very dark days together and I know we can weather any storm yet to come as long as we have each other to lean on.

Being Trans is Exhausting

It’s worth saying again.  Being transgender is exhausting.

exhausted

Why in the world would I have gone to all of the trouble to change my name, have surgeries and take hormones if I still wanted people to see me exactly the way they used to see me and use my old name and pronouns?  I wouldn’t.  That’s insanity, right?  But people, especially people that have know me a long time, just don’t want to let go of who they used to think I was and acknowledge, respect and honor who I really am.  It’s maddening, frustrating and, frankly, exhausting.

Candace and I went to visit her sister’s family a few weeks ago.  Her sister, who is ‘supportive’ of me, called us ladies twice even after I said something to her about it.  And then we were talking about me using the men’s bathroom in public and she was shocked (SHOCKED!!!!!)  that I would do that.  shockedAnd then we talked about me thinking about legally changing my gender on my driver’s license and she was surprised that that was even possible and that I would want to do it.  People just don’t get it.  She still refers to us as lesbians.  Please stop doing that sis!  She’s worried about what trump will do because her “sisters” are lesbians.  OMG!!!  I love her and I know she means no harm but this shit hurts.

I know that I could educate her, or try to, and I do try, but really, it’s just not my job to educate everyone around me.  Problem is, they really don’t care all that much to spend any time thinking about me and my gender on their own.  It’s just a big pain in their asses and kind of embarrassing to them.

And then, at work, I had to hire two new employees right before the end of the year.  Do I come out to them as trans?  All the other employees know I’m trans and some of them slip up occasionally and refer to me as she or my old name.  Plus, there still is the occasional phone call for someone named Dawn.  How do I explain that without coming out?

There’s also the fact that I avoid going to the doctor or hospital because I don’t want to have to come out as trans to get medical care.  I need to find a new PC doctor because my old one retired and I’m dreading finding a new one.  I’m hoping I can hold off going until I get my gender changed on my insurance, but then I realize that I will still have to explain that I’m trans in many cases.

It never ends.

This is the kind of crap that makes me just want to pull up roots and move somewhere where no one knows me and start over.  I didn’t do all of this to be dead-named and mis-gendered or misunderstood or to have to constantly be coming out.  Really, it’s pretty simple folks.  I used to be a girl and now I’m a boy.  Treat me as such.  You wouldn’t expect a boy to use the women’s room and you wouldn’t call him a lady either.  I just want to live my life in peace as who I really am.  I have no interest in constantly being reminded that I’m trans or having to explain myself or correct people or educate everyone.  There might be people who want those things or don’t mind it, but I am not one of them.  I did this so I could live my right life and be seen and treated like who I really am.  That’s it.  I didn’t do this to create a political buzz or stir something up or to become your educator on all things LGBTQ.  I really have no interest in all of that shit.  Other people are much more equipped than I to answer your questions (if you even think enough about it to have a question ) or be your political LGBTQ steward.  I just want to live my life as me.  I’ve waited a long time to get to do this and you fuckers are getting in my way.

frustrated

But, truthfully, there is no escaping my trans identity.  I am trans and I always will be.  Even if I did move far, far away from all that I know I’m still trans.  There’s still the doctor visits that I would have to discuss being trans or the hospital stay or the nosy neighbor who figured you out on the internet.  There’s no escaping being trans in this world.  I get breaks from it occasionally, but it’s always there.  I’ll be going about my day just fine, being seen as male every where I go, and suddenly someone will call me ma’am or someone I used to know will spot me and yell out “DAWN!!!!”

angry

What am I to do?

Well, first, I have to accept that this is part of my life now whether I like it or not.  There will be times when I will have to come out as trans.  There really is no way around this at least at the moment.  If I ever opt to have bottom surgery, maybe that would mitigate a lot of the need to come out to doctors and hospitals, but I’m not 100% certain about that either.

Second, I really need to get my own shit together about this subject and make it clear to my family, friends and co-workers what I need and expect from them when it comes to my identity.

Third, I need to stop being so ‘easy going’, aka a wimp, about how they speak of me and assert myself and enforce my ‘rules’.   This is the hardest one for me.  I’ve never wanted to be the kind of person who gets bent out of shape if they get mis-gendered, but when I see people who say they care about me not even really trying to do better it does hurt me and makes me angry.  I think it’s best if I learn to speak up more and remind them when they mess up, especially when it is obvious that they’re not trying at all.  If being assertive doesn’t work then they will get the same treatment from me.  I will refer to my sister-in-law as a he and her husband as a she.  Every time they mess up I will respond back at them immediately in a way that makes it clear that they need to try harder.  This might cause some hurt feelings on their part, but honestly, they hurt my feelings and don’t care, so why should I?  This is a 3-part process.  1. State my needs.  2. Remind them of my needs when they mess up.  And 3. when all else fails, make them feel what they make me feel so they stop being so thoughtless.

I never thought that living as a lesbian was easy but compared to being transgender it was a lot less exhausting.  I didn’t have to be concerned that every person I interacted with would acknowledge my sexuality or see me as a lesbian.  Most of the time I didn’t really need to think about my sexuality at all and preferred that others didn’t think about it either.  Living as trans is different.  It’s not about sex.  It’s about who you are.  Your identity.  Your gender.  Every interaction you have throughout the day has a little bit of gender thrown into it no matter how hard we try to avoid it.  You can not escape gender in this culture.  Polite people do not talk about sex to acquaintances, but everyone uses gender constantly in their conversations.  It’s a subconscious thing and most people aren’t even aware of how often they use gendered pronouns.  It’s so ingrained in us that it’s automatic.  Getting people to flip pronouns when they’re not especially motivated to do so is a monumental achievement and exhausting.  It’s exhausting to constantly get referred to as the wrong gender too.  And it hurts, especially when it’s done by those who we care about.  Bathrooms and lockers are gendered.  Dressing rooms in stores are gendered.  Sales people and wait staff are taught to refer to us in gendered ways.  Anyone who thinks gender is not that big a thing has never had to think about it and is at least mostly comfortable with the words people use to refer to them.  I’m here to tell you that gender is exhausting and inescapable when you refuse to let others decide who and what you are.

 

*Note:  While I admit that I am not 100% comfortable with everyone knowing I’m trans and living out all of the time, my need to not be seen as trans by everyone is not borne out of internalized transphobia.  I do have some internalized transphobia, mostly based on a healthy fear of what others might do to harm me.  I readily admit this.  But, really, the heart of the matter here is that I just want to be seen as any other male in the world without having to explain how I’m different all of the time.  I’ve spent my whole life feeling like I’m different and I honestly just want to be accepted as a guy without any asterisk or explanation.  Maybe that will change one day, but for now, this is how I want to live my life.

 

 

My Little Advocate

I have a friend who’s 8 year old daughter is famous for saying whatever pops into her little mind with reckless abandon.  This little girl scares the crap out of me.  For a couple of years now she has looked at me strangely but not said a word.  Her mother knows that I’m terrified of what might pop out of her mouth and finds it pretty amusing.  I must admit that it’s fairly funny that I would be so nervous around an eight year old.  Lately she’s taken to telling me that I’m gross and weird.  I’m gross because a few weeks ago her dad and I took a bite out of some gourmet dog treats to see how they tasted.  (Not bad, actually.)  She told us both that we were gross for the rest of the night.  She likes to remind me about it every time she sees me now.  And now, for some reason, I’m weird.  I think she likes me, but I’m not really sure.  She brought me a bouquet of lollipops when I had my surgery and proceeded to eat a couple of them before she left.  Still, she looks at me like she’s trying to figure me out, but says nothing.  The tension has been building between us for quite a while now.

Last night Candace and I had dinner with her and her little brother and parents to celebrate New Year’s Eve.  She was quiet and pensive all evening.  She’s eight going on fifteen and already has teenage mood swings.  Apparently she didn’t want to go to that restaurant, but we had made reservations weeks ahead so…too bad, sweetheart.  After dinner we all came back to my house to play games and hang out.  My basement is a party zone and I have a little disco light that I turned on.  She started telling me that it was stupid to have a disco ball in such a small space and that I was weird.  Ok kid.  Usually I just say, yep, I’m weird.  Yep, I’m dumb.  Whatever.

All night I was misgendered.  It was she and her from all of the adults when referring to me.  As they were all packing up to go home and her dad said something about me and referred to me as a she, my little eight year old friend put her hand on her hip and said, “Dad, it is not a she.  It’s a he now!  It used to be a she.”  Dad’s expression was priceless.  Her mom told her she was smarter than her dad (that’s true!).  Finally it was out!!  My little friend said what I should have said a long time ago.  And now I know that she knows and we’re good.  Thank you my little advocate for speaking up for me.

Out of the mouths of babes.

Happy New Year!

The Deeper Side of Transition

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.

Exhausted

Lately I feel so exhausted from dealing with my life.  I live very close to where I grew up and went to college so there are a lot of people around here that have known me a long time.  In some cases, they’ve known me most of my life.  Most of these people I do not consider friends, but acquaintances from the past.  Yet, I find myself hiding from these people and constantly worried that I’m going to bump into someone that I used to know every day.  Last month, two women I went to high school with decided to have lunch at the restaurant that is two doors down from where I work and they called my shop and asked to speak to me.  I told my employee to take a message.  The message was that they were two doors down and would like to see me.  Great, I thought, just what I wanted to do, go have lunch with two people I used to know 35 years ago who were never really good friends to begin with.  I hid in my office and didn’t go.  My mind went to thoughts that they just wanted to lurk and poke at the trans “friend” from high school to fulfill their own curiosity about me and my transition.  I couldn’t deal with that and the questions they might ask.  One of the women is very direct and I was pretty sure she would try to dig into what I consider private space in my head and I just didn’t feel like being probed.  I know they’re hurt and disappointed but seriously, I was at WORK people!!  If you want to have lunch with me why can’t you try to arrange that ahead of time and not surprise me at my place of business and sort of ambush me into eating pizza with you to satisfy your own curiosity.  No thanks.  This all happened while my brother was in the hospital and that particular day I was only there for a short while before I had to head to the city to go see him and I had a lot to do.  I should have called them and told them I couldn’t take the time to meet but I know those two and they would have pushed me to take 5 minutes (which would have turned into an hour) with them and I just couldn’t do it.  This stuff happens to me quite a bit.  I never know when one of my employees is going to show up in my office and tell me that so and so from high school or college is in the store and wants to see me.  Immediately my blood pressure sky rockets and my palms get sweaty.  I have to steel myself to walk out there and greet them with a smile and act nonchalant about their unplanned and unwelcome visit.  I guess they figure it’s ok to just pop into someone’s work place to say hi.  Personally, I’d call first and make sure it’s ok to pop in because I don’t like being surprised like that.  Anyway, I know people don’t mean any harm but it unnerves me and annoys me and makes work more stressful than it has to be.

My mind tries to work out a solution to this problem.  Every day I fantasize about moving to some place where people don’t know me and starting a new life with a fresh start.  It’s such a strong desire in me lately that it’s actually causing some depression.  I feel like my new self as Shawn is always butting up against Dawn’s past and it’s kind of pissing Shawn off.  It happens all of the time.  I went to the dentist the other day.  They have my new name but the last time I was there I didn’t pass as well as I do now so I was nervous about how they would treat me.  It was fine but the hygienist started out using female pronouns and ended up using male for me at the end.  Why did she switch?  I never said anything about the pronouns either way.  Which leads me to the other question bouncing around in my head these days.  When and how do you decide to disclose that your gender has changed?  Legally, I still have that F on all my records.  I keep dragging my feet about changing it.  It’s the last little step I need to take.

I can’t move though for too many reasons, at least not now.  Maybe in the future we can relocate but it’s just not possible at the moment.  So I think about how I can give Shawn a fresh start without physically moving to a new place.  I could get all new doctors.  I can’t use a different daycare place for my dog though.  I guess those people, since I see them every day, really do need to be told what’s going on with me.  The other day Candace told me that they use she and he pronouns for me and don’t know which one is right anymore.  Did she help me out and tell them for me?  Nope.  So I’ll have to do that.  I could move my business I guess.  I have thought about it many times.  I’ve thought about separating the two major aspects of the business and moving the part I take care of on my own to an undisclosed private location that only my employees know about so that these so-called friends can’t just pop in on me.  The thought of doing all of that is exhausting.  The thought of continuing to go to work and worry about impromptu visitors is exhausting.  The thought of having to disclose to the doggie daycare workers that I’ve transitioned is exhausting.  I don’t want to deal with any of it.  If I were single and unencumbered I would just move and start fresh.  That’s what I want to do and what feels the most refreshing to my spirit.  But I can’t.  I have too many obligations here and Candace can’t so easily just up and move her business.  I’ve even thought about moving to a new area and keeping my business here but coming back once a week to get and return work and take care of any situations that I need to be here to handle.

Like it or not, I guess the bottom line is that I have to buck up and deal with my life.  I can’t run away from it even though every fiber of my being wants me to.  I chose to transition here and now in this place and time and I have to learn to be proud of my transition instead of ashamed or timid about it.  I need to get my gender changed on my IDs and push people, including Candace, to use the proper pronouns for me.  When people refer to me as she it hurts me now in more ways than one.  Yes, it grates on my nerves and frustrates me but it also confuses other people and outs me as trans.  A side note about when strangers realize I’m trans is that they no longer see me as male and revert to female pronouns and honorifics.  Come on people!!!  Do I really look like a ma’am and do I look like I want to be called ma’am?  NO!  I have to try to get that to stop.  In the mean time, I really wish I could just take a really long nap because just thinking about doing all of that has already exhausted me.  All this really does make it clear to me why so many people live stealth and are so concerned with “passing”.  It’s a huge pain in the arse to constantly have to worry about being outed or explain your transition to strangers and acquaintances. It just adds another draining layer on top of a life that is already challenging enough and who needs that?  No one.

Oh The Irony

Most people probably don’t give their high school yearbooks much thought, especially 30 years after they graduated.  But my senior yearbook will always haunt me.  There’s a mystery within its pages that I’ll probably never solve and now, all these years later, the mystery takes on a whole new perspective into the ironic.  The mystery?  Well, in place of my senior picture and placed above my name is a picture of a man sporting a tuxedo and a very nice mustache.  Was this merely a mistake?  Who is the man?  Is he even part of our class?  Was this some vengeful act by someone in the yearbook club?  Is it supposed to be funny or mean?

I’ve thought about that picture often over the years.  I’ve blamed the “mistake” on a girl that was on the yearbook committee that I didn’t particularly like.  I think the feeling was mutual.  I remember the day we got our books and the first thing everyone does is look for their own picture.  I couldn’t believe what I saw in place of mine.  I was pissed off to say the least.  I know mistakes happen in yearbooks all the time.  I’ve seen plenty of them.  But this guy wasn’t even, to mine or any of my friends knowledge, anyone who even attended our school.  That makes it feel intentional and mean.  So I’ve wondered for years who disliked me so much to swap my picture out for some strange man.  It’s a mystery.  Of course the girl claims to not have had any knowledge of it and she’s sticking to her story til death do us part I’m sure.

It occurred to me the other day that it’s actually pretty ironic that there’s a dude’s picture in my place in the yearbook now that I’m transitioning.  Who knew?  Now, if they had just changed the name under it too that would’ve been really helpful.  I wasn’t a bad looking guy.

My class has a reunion every five years and I’ve gone to a couple of them.  I was even on the committee that organized one of them.  Since I live nearby I get roped into stuff like that a lot.  I didn’t attend the last one and I don’t know that I’ll ever go to another.  I stay in contact with the people that matter to me from that chapter of my life.  I don’t enjoy the reunions at all and find them stressful and boring.  Now that I’ve transitioned I feel like it would be way over the top stressful for me to go again.  I just can’t see myself walking into my high school reunion as a man or trying to pretend like I’m still a woman.  I guess this is some unresolved shame I’m holding onto, but I just can’t shake it and if I can’t imagine it I probably won’t do it.  People know I changed my name but for some reason I’m really scared to let them actually meet Shawn now.  I have no problem being myself around my real friends but these quasi acquaintances from the past?  I just feel like all they’ll do is judge me.  Isn’t that what reunions are all about anyway?  Plus, I don’t want to be anyone’s science experiment friend.  I can hear it now.  “Hey, this is my transgendered friend, Shawn!  Isn’t she cute as a guy?  She used to be a girl and now she’s a boy.  Cool, huh?”

No thank you!!

Stealth Cruising

Many months ago, Candace and I planned to take a cruise up into New England to celebrate our 19 years together.  It was our anniversary gift to each other.  We mostly forgot about it until, one night while having dinner with my old high school friends (all female) that I still keep up with, one of them started talking about this trip that she and her husband were going to be taking soon with her sister and her family.  I knew her sister from high school and playing in the band together as well as the many family outings that I was invited to join them on during my youth.  As she talked about her trip it started to sound really familiar to both Candace and myself and eventually it turned out that we were all going on the same trip on the same ship at the same time.  My heart sank.  It isn’t that I don’t like this woman.  I do.  But I had been looking forward to this trip as a time when I could go and be myself, the new me, without anyone around that knew me before who could make me feel self conscious.  Now that was all blown.  Candace reassured me that it is a really big ship and we wouldn’t see them much or maybe at all unless we wanted to.  I told myself that it didn’t matter what they thought of me and that I owed it to myself to live my life on my terms.  I wrestled with whether to contact my friend ahead of time to see where her head was regarding spending time with us.  She was definitely interested in hanging out with us some.  Again, my heart sank.  I had given her every opportunity I could to bow out without sounding rude and like I didn’t want to hang with her.  It didn’t work.

So the time came to board the ship and from the moment I got out of my car I was referred to as sir by everyone who I dealt with.  The guy that took our bags, the terminal check-in person, the security people, the people trying to sell us drink packages and trip excursions and all of the ship staff called me sir.  When I stepped off of the ship to take a tour or into a store to look at trinkets, I was called sir.  The restaurant staff, the cleaning people, bus drivers, other cruise attendants all called me sir.  We hadn’t been aboard the ship 30 minutes before my friend found me and chatted with us while we ate a quick lunch and  waited for our room to be ready.

In preparation for the trip I went to Men’s Warehouse and was fitted for and bought my first men’s suit, tie and dress shirts.  Candace wanted to go to the “formal” dinners (suit and tie, tux if you are so inclined, but many show up in neither) so I needed something to wear.  I wasn’t wearing a dress as I’ve done in the past.  As an aside, the experience at the Men’s Warehouse was awesome.  A very nice lady helped me pick out a suit and fit it for alterations as well as helped me pick out some accessories to go with it.  It was an expensive venture, but also one that felt like a rite of passage into manhood.  She taught me a lot about men’s clothes/fashion and treated me from start to finish like any other man that came in there.  If she knew I was trans or suspected that I was not born male she never let on to me in any way.  I explained not knowing my sizes by telling her that I had lost a lot of weight (which is true) and needed some new things but didn’t know what size I’d wear exactly.  I also told her that I never wore long sleeves because my arms are so short that they’re usually too long (also true).  I’m not sure she bought it, but she was a good sport and was able to find me a couple shirts that fit remarkably well and were of excellent quality.  I was ready to cruise.

Our first formal night was the second night of the ten day cruise and I was nervous.  I confided in Candace that I was worried about running into my old friend and her family as well as other people thinking I was merely a woman wearing a suit.  If you’ve ever taken a cruise you’ll know that they take pictures of you constantly on the ship and then offer them back to you for a nice fee.  We posed for a picture on formal night and I was absolutely blown away when I saw it the next day.  Not only did I not look like a woman in a suit, I looked convincingly like a nice middle aged man and the picture was one of my best I’ve ever taken.  We bought it.  And I did not run into my friend that night before we went back to our room and changed our clothes.

At some point on the trip we did run into my friend again and her sister’s family was all introduced to us.  Here is where things got really weird for me.  I used to know her sister well and even attended her wedding back in the day.  She acted throughout the whole cruise like she didn’t know me.  No, she acted like I freaked her out and was pretending like she didn’t remember me.  Every time we bumped into them…and it was actually quite often (every day, several times a day) she got this weird deer in the headlights look on her face and ignored me as much as she could.  I thought that maybe she didn’t know who I was because my friend hadn’t explained to her that I had transitioned but then I realized that she would treat me very different if I was just one of her little sister’s friends that she’d never met.  No, she acted like she just wanted to get away from me as fast as possible and wished she’d never seen my face.  It was bizarre.  In fact, they had a couple of their friends join them on the trip and those people, who actually were strangers, were nothing but pleasant and friendly to us.  They even told us that we were welcome to hang with them any time.  That’s how strangers treat new people.  They don’t treat them like they have the plague.  So, I’ve come to the conclusion that she knew exactly who I am and just was completely wigged out about my transition.  It hurts my feelings, but really she is nobody to me so I have to let it go.  My friend treated me fine throughout the trip.  Her husband was a bit cold and distant but was not rude.  Again, their problem.  Not mine.  All in all, having them on the ship with us did cramp my style and in some ways spoiled the experience for me, but I made the most of it the best I could.

Being on board a ship of over 3000 strangers (mostly) who all 100% of the time* saw me as male was quite an interesting experience.  Candace and I felt free to refer to each other as husband and wife, to hold hands and even kiss in public.  Everyone assumed we were a married couple and we blended in with the crowd unseen and hidden.  We did nothing but be ourselves to provoke this assumption.  It still feels very strange to refer to Candace as my wife, but I do it when I feel like it’s appropriate (we did have a little ceremony for our 10th anniversary, but it’s not legal).  We chatted a little about how invisible we were on the cruise and how that has both positive and negative aspects for both of us.  We both liked the fact that we could be affectionate without concern for our safety or other people’s feelings.  That was nice.  Being seen as a man, especially at the formal dining hall, was a little intimidating to me at first.  Generally, the male waiters treated me like just another guy and everything went fine as they joked around with me about behaving myself and Candace keeping me in line.

I can’t talk about this trip without mentioning bathrooms.  The ship had at least one handicap single use bathroom on every floor but I didn’t realize that until nearly the end.  The men’s rooms on the ship were fine, but out in the world, when we got off of the ship there were a few times that the men’s facilities were just not the best.  Thankfully, all of the buses that we rode had a bathroom on them.  I no longer feel that I even have an option to use a women’s restroom at this point, so I’m stuck with whatever the men’s option happens to be.  There was one bathroom I attempted to use that was so full of guys that I basically didn’t even get through the door before I walked out and decided to use the bus toilet.  One stall and two urinals seems to be the norm in most men’s rooms and an amazing number of men use the stall, even if it’s to pee standing up with the door open.  Often they don’t even bother to lift the seat, so it usually has pee on it.  Thanks, guys.  I really, really, really hate this part of transitioning.  I hate using public bathrooms in general and men’s in particular.

I’m still kind of in disbelief that I was gendered male so consistently on the trip.  At home, I’m probably at about 90-95% depending on what I wear and how short my hair is.  Button up shirts and super short hair with a ball cap almost guarantee a sir from strangers.  Take the ball cap off and put on a polo shirt instead and it drops to about 95%.  Grow out the hair some and it drops to 90%.  Why I care really has to do with the blasted bathrooms.  We all have to relieve ourselves throughout the day.  I just want to be able to do it safely and freely.  I want to walk in and not get hassled or messed with in any way.  If it weren’t for the bathroom I wouldn’t care as much, though I have to admit that being able to confidently don a men’s suit and tie was a thrill for me.**  And not being referred to as a lady or ma’am is a breath of fresh air.  The cruise was a huge confidence booster for me as far as my passing.  We had a funny interchange in Portland, Maine when a young guy with his girlfriend commented that Candace’s shirt matched his girlfriends shorts (they both had little anchors on them) and wanted Candace to give his girlfriend her shirt.  When Candace said she thought his girlfriend should give her the shorts instead he said, “well, she looks pretty cute without her shorts” and winked at me.  Then he told me we should exchange shirts and started to lift his off as I started to freak out that he might be serious.  Thankfully, he was just joking.

*I did get called ma’am once by a female waiter on the ship but she only did it once and switched to sir.  Once in a store in Canada a fellow shopper called Candace and I ladies.  Why, I don’t know.

**Suits are hot!  We have a friend who’s husband refuses to dress up for anything because he claims that it’s not fair that a woman can just throw on a skirt and a top and be dressed and he has to wear a tie and long pants (he’s a shorts 24/7/365 kind of guy).  I would love to put him in a skirt and blouse, make up, stockings, maybe even a girdle and those stupid little shoes women force themselves to wear and see if he still thinks he’s got the raw end of that deal.  Other than being hot, suits and ties, if fit properly are very comfortable to wear.