Why I Chose to Transition

First of all, I never thought I would have the guts to go through with a full transition over to living 100% as male.  It all seemed like a nice dream but not something I had the courage to undertake.  I was more likely to sky dive and that ain’t ever going to happen.  So what, exactly, was it that tipped the scale and made me decide to go for it?  I’m not sure it was one thing.  How much better and more alive I felt on T certainly played a big part.  A goal of living more authentically and truthfully also played a huge role.  But, honestly, I think it was a lot of little things that added up very gradually that eventually led me to living as male.

I’ve been counseling a friend who is questioning how to proceed in his transition and I’ve been telling him he needs to make a plan and get honest about what he wants to accomplish.  Yeah, that’s bullshit.  I mean, it’s a great idea, but most of the time even the best plans don’t work out and our reasons for doing things shift mid stream.  I kind of had a plan.  At the beginning, all I knew was I wanted to try a low dose of T and see if it made me feel better.  And boy did it.  I was at one of the lowest points of my life when I started taking it and practically overnight my outlook changed 180 degrees into the positive.  This, to me, was evidence that I was on the right track and should keep going.  Other than T, my wish list included getting a hysterectomy, changing my name, and having top surgery, in that order.  It was important to me to get the hysterectomy done while I still had a female name and gender presentation.  But I never honestly thought anyone would ever see me as male or treat me as such.  It just seemed like a big fantasy.  A foolish pipe dream.

Well let me tell you, I upped my low dose of T to a full dose about six months before I had top surgery and by the time my surgery was over I was firmly entrenched on the male side of the spectrum as far as how people perceived my gender.  It happened really suddenly and completely took me by surprise.  It was disconcerting, but inside I was elated.  Could this really be happening to me?  Are these people just humoring me and playing along with me?  Just a few months prior I had worn a binder and my most masculine outfit to go out to dinner and the waiter referred to us as ladies and called me ma’am.  I left feeling demoralized and defeated.  Obviously, I was failing at this whole transition thing.  I felt like giving up.  Instead, I scheduled my top surgery for the next possible date.  While I was away have my surgery I let my facial hair grow out some.  That seemed to do the trick along with not having boobs anymore.  Flat chest and facial hair = Male.  Now I rarely get called ma’am and they usually correct themselves after they look at me better.  Quite the opposite of what used to happen.

I can’t say that I actually had a plan or made any conscious decision to transition with the goal of living as male.  I stumbled blindly through this whole process and really had no idea where I’d end up or even where I wanted to end up.  I was actually hoping that I could be happy staying in the female zone with a more neutral exterior.  Nope.  When I was in that middle zone I was so uncomfortable I could barely stand to go out in public.  Every day was a challenge just to leave the house.  I couldn’t stand not knowing how people would perceive me and I had no answers for them either.  I dreaded the question, “Are you a man or a woman?”  I had no idea.  I was as confused as they were.  So, even though I applaud folks who relish the confusion of gender neutral and non-binary identities, I need to pick a side for my own sanity.  I need to fit into a clear category that I’m comfortable with.  While neither female nor male fits perfectly, male is the closest.  I’m very comfortable in the male role whereas the female role felt completely wrong to me in every way.

Another thing that made a big impact on my decision to go for it was that I was on the precipice of losing everything I cared about.  My life was about to implode and I really felt like I didn’t have anything to lose by going for it.  I figured that if I didn’t start to transition I was dead anyway and if I did start then at least I had a chance of surviving.  I can clearly see now, looking back with 20/20 vision, that my old self was dying.  Literally, dying.  I wasn’t physically ill, but I had no desire to go on the way I was.  My spirit was dying and I didn’t really care about much at all.  I had ruined my relationship and my business and, while it looked from the outside like I had a great life, everything was about to crumble.  So, when you’re practically dead anyway, what do you have to lose?  I was worried about losing my relationship but once I came to the realization that it was over anyway I knew I had nothing left to lose by going for it.  Starting T was the best thing I ever did for myself, my relationship and my life in general.  I don’t mean to make it sound like a magic bullet because it isn’t, but I’m pretty sure that a lot of my problems stemmed from my hormones being out of whack from menopause.  I should note here that my thyroid was also low and I started taking meds for that at the same time.  Together, the two hormones made a huge difference and I felt better than I had felt since before I started puberty.

All in all, I think this whole process has occurred over the past six years.  I’ve gone incredibly slow intentionally.  I needed the time to adjust to the changes and figure out what to do next.  I’ve had a lot of self doubt along the way and have questioned myself non stop.  Now that I’m on the other side of things though I can confidently tell you that this was the best thing that I ever did for myself.  I’m dramatically happier, less moody, less depressed, less anxious, a better person, more engaged in life and more optimistic than I’ve ever been.  My relationship has been through hell and we’ve come out the other side together somehow stronger than ever and are planning our wedding.  My business somehow survived despite my best efforts to destroy it and, while I wouldn’t say I’m rolling in dough, I actually showed a profit for the first time in a long time and things are pretty stable again.  I’m easier to get along with and I think people like me more now because I’m happier with myself.  I’m a lot less angry than I used to be.*  The only thing I’m really dissatisfied with is my gut.  The T has made all of my fat redistribute to my belly and I have a huge gut now.  I hate it!!  But, I’m working on it so it will get better.  It’s a hell of a lot easier to deal with one issue than a multitude of issues at one time.  Now that most everything else is taken care of I can focus a lot of my energy on my weight and physical health.  I’m looking forward to building up some nice muscular biceps and trimming down my waistline so I look good on my wedding day.

 

* One of the bad raps that Testosterone gets is that it can make people more aggressive and have anger issues.  This is definitely true.  I have noticed that I am quicker to anger and it boils up really fast inside me like a wild fire.  Before T, I was just dealing with a low grade constant feeling of being angry and pissed off on a daily basis.  After T, I’m pretty laid back but when I do get angry it happens fast and sudden.  Learning to control that impulse is a challenge that requires a lot of deep breaths and taking time to let it dissipate before I open my mouth to speak.  Just like a teenage boy has to learn to control his impulses, so do Trans Men when they start off on T, no matter their biological age.

 

PTSD and Growing Up Trans

I read an article recently on trans.cafe that I found to be very thought provoking.  The article is called PTSD and the Act of Transitioning by Zane Tyler. Zane tells a story of how his mom outed him to a playmate when he was young by using his birth name.  The playmate had thought Zane was a boy, like him, and got angry.

“I would liken this feeling of being separated from oneself—society’s refusal to acknowledge who we really are—to a baby who does not get held. We know what happens without touch. I would suggest that a person who can’t hold themselves up, and who instead lives in a split, and forced performance, is experiencing a slow accumulation of real and pronounced trauma.”

“..a slow accumulation of real and pronounced trauma.”  That statement really hit me in the gut.  Yes.  Being denied the ability to self actualize as a child is traumatic and every incident of being forced to perform as someone we’re not splits us from who we actually are.  It is a slow accumulation and the trauma is devastating to our psyche, creating a split in a lot of cases.  I know it did for me.  I’ve talked before about feeling like I was leading a double and even a triple life at times.  There was the whole straight/gay split and then there’s the ‘I feel like a boy, not a girl’ split.  So you walk around the ‘real world’ looking like a girl and presumed to be straight/heterosexual while in other circles of the ‘real world’ you are presumed to be a lesbian because you appear to be a female you is attracted to other females but the whole time in both situations you really see yourself as male.

BOOM!  Is that a total mind blower??  I know it makes my head spin.

How can that not be damaging to a person, especially a young person?

Zane goes on to say,”Recently, I was diagnosed with PTSD—post traumatic stress disorder. I’m a textbook case: flashbacks, hyper-awareness, an inability to trust people. I believe my PTSD went unacknowledged, unchecked for years, because of the lack of understanding of what it means to be trans, the core separation from self that is experienced when you are forbidden by society to be who you really are. I’m still re-experiencing what I went through in order to get here, which has impacted my ability to enjoy what I now have.”

You do not have to be a combat veteran to experience PTSD, however, I would say that what we experienced as children growing up trans in a world that didn’t understand us is more likely to be classified as Complex-PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrom).  The difference is based in the cause of the trauma as well as the duration.

According to Out of the Fog, “Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (C-PTSD) is a condition that results from chronic or long-term exposure to emotional trauma over which a victim has little or no control and from which there is little or no hope of escape, such as in cases of:

  • domestic emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • childhood emotional, physical or sexual abuse
  • entrapment or kidnapping.
  • slavery or enforced labor.
  • long term imprisonment and torture
  • repeated violations of personal boundaries.
  • long-term objectification.
  • exposure to gaslighting & false accusations
  • long-term exposure to inconsistent, push-pull,splitting or alternating raging & hooveringbehaviors.
  • long-term taking care of mentally ill or chronically sick family members.
  • long term exposure to crisis conditions.”

Out of the Fog goes on to say, “C-PTSD results more from chronic repetitive stress from which there is little chance of escape. PTSD can result from single events, or short term exposure to extreme stress or trauma.”

It’s not at all a stretch of the imagination to see that being forced to live as someone you aren’t is abuse.  Abuse like that over a lifetime is a real game changer for most of us.  I didn’t realize I was actually trans until I was 47 years old.  That’s FORTY-SEVEN years of forcing myself to live as a woman, as a lesbian, and denying who I really knew myself to be.  Forty-seven years of being told that I was wrong for wanting to just be myself.  Forty-seven years of living a lie.  And forty-seven years of not even really understanding who I was because my family and society had so brainwashed me that I believed they were right and I was wrong.

How does this kind of long term abuse effect a person?  Well, speaking from my own personal experience, I have struggled with the following issues my entire life:

  • Anxiety/Panic Disorder
  • Depression
  • Lack of confidence
  • Fear of conflict
  • Social anxiety
  • Low self esteem
  • Chronic anger/rage
  • Chronic irritability
  • Social dysphoria
  • Physical dysphoria
  • Chronic lying to cover up and hide my split worlds and to try and hide who I was
  • Inability to connect emotionally to others
  • A tendency to be a loner
  • Extreme introversion

How has this effected me?  It’s beyond my understanding all of the ways this has impacted my life.  I would go as far as to say that it has impacted every moment and every aspect of my life.  I’ve lived a lot of my life in a fantasy world to help me cope with reality.  While my symptoms have seriously held me back and stunted my ability to thrive in the world, I feel fortunate that I didn’t have other, more severe symptoms such as self harming or suicidal ideations, eating disorders, or substance abuse.  I can honestly say that I’ve never considered any of those options as a coping mechanism.  But many folks do.  And many don’t make it to the age of forty-seven.

Physically transitioning does help to alleviate some of the symptoms, like physical and social dysphoria, but it does not always help with the mental split from the abuse of being forced to live a false life.  There really is no cure for PTSD other than to get out of the situation that caused it (transition), acknowledge the trauma, and mourn what has been lost.  Along with all that, it’s a matter of managing the symptoms with meditation, mindfulness, exercise, yoga, being around supportive people, therapy, and sometimes anxiety and/or depression medications.

At the beginning of my transition I used to say that understanding all of this was like peeling away the layers of an onion.  After all of those years I no longer knew what was really me and what parts had been socially forced on me.  Separating all of that to get to the heart of who I really am has taken years and many tears and I’m still discovering hidden layers to myself.  While the trauma was intense and destructive on many levels, it has afforded me the opportunity to understand myself and the world I live in in a much deeper and thoughtful way than most people ever take the time to understand.  That is the hidden gift in all of this, in my opinion.  In the end, we understand ourselves and know ourselves at a level that most never dream.  There is value in that, but it’s also time consuming and takes away from pursuing a fruitful and enjoyable life.  I feel stunted from all of these years of naval gazing and anguishing over my gender.  I feel like I’m behind because of it in some ways.  But I’m also far, far ahead in others.

With understanding comes great responsibility.  We can no longer use “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t understand” as an excuse to live a blind life like so many others do.  Now that I know, I can’t un-know.  Now that I know, I have a responsibility to myself to make it right to the best of my ability.  My transition has been a journey of understanding and making things right for myself.  This can be an epic journey or a holy hell and sometimes both.  The world thinks nothing of forcing its abuse on us in the name of cultural norms.  The trans youth of today give me great hope that as we continue to evolve there will be less and less of us dealing with the symptoms of a lifetime of societal abuse.  I dream of a world where children are allowed to express themselves and grow up exactly as they are and that being trans is of no more concern than being born with any other minor issue.  Being trans should not have to define a person’s whole life.  Until we get to a point where being trans, or gay, or queer is considered as normal as having brown hair we have a lot of work left to do.

 

Wardrobe Malfunctions and General Grumpiness

I had one of those mornings today where nothing i put on to wear felt right to me.  Strangely, I had thought those days were long over since I now have the luxury of wearing anything I want.  Apparently they aren’t.  I used to blame my tantrums over my wardrobe on hormones, or my period, or chest dysphoria.   I didn’t want to wear another polo shirt today and I didn’t want to wear jeans.  I’m getting sick of wearing the same old crap day in and day out.  But I work in a shop and I don’t dare to wear anything nice to work either, so I have about 5 black or navy blue polos that I usually wear throughout the week.  It’s pretty boring and I was wanting something different today.  Part of my problem is that I’ve lost weight in the past year and top surgery has made my shirts all much looser than they used to be, so I end up feeling frumpy in even my nicer clothes.  I found a pair of black chinos that I had forgotten I had and put them on.  I couldn’t decide on a shirt.  I must have put on four shirts until I settled on a light blue plaid button up that I used to really enjoy wearing.  It’s way too big now but I tucked it in and it looked a lot better.  I surveyed myself in the full length mirror in my bedroom and decided that it was the best I could do so I proceeded to get myself out of the house.  About a third of the way to work (I have a 20 minute commute), I started getting a panicky anxiety attack about how I looked today and I turned around to go back home.  I made a deal with myself that I’d just get a t shirt to take in case I needed to take the shirt off later in the day.  Once I was home, I ended up changing into one of my better v-neck t shirts and, though I still wasn’t in love with my reflection, I decided to stick with it and go to work.

So what’s the problem?  What did that shirt trigger in me?

What I saw in the mirror looking back at me was an old man.  A grumpy old man.  A fat, grumpy old man.  I have a grumpy resting face.  I wish I didn’t, but I do.  I have a lot of extra skin around my neck from losing weight and it makes me look older than I am.  I don’t love my face like I used to and that upsets me.  I like it better than I did before I lost weight and started T but it’s still a very different face than I used to have for most of my life and I don’t like it as well.  I look in the mirror and don’t really recognize myself anymore.  And I’m not in love with the new look.  Plus, I need a haircut and that always puts me in a grumpy mood.  And my hair is a bone of contention that I’ve been trying to ignore for a while now.  I used to have really nice thick hair and I really liked it.  T has thinned it out and I’m still getting my haircuts from the same lady that did them before I started transitioning.  She does a little clipper work on the bottom and sides now but the top is still styled like it used to be.  I’m not 100% happy with it.

Maybe I’m just in a bad mood today and nothing is going to make me happy.

Maybe it’s the black chinos throwing me out of whack.

Maybe I need to go to a barber and get a proper men’s haircut.

Maybe I need some clothes that fit me properly.

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m still struggling with my identity and when I wear button up shirts it makes me feel like the whole world sees me and that makes me feel naked and vulnerable.

Maybe this is one of those days where I just don’t have it in me to go to work and present as male and deal with that if someone who I haven’t come out to happens to walk in and wants to talk to me.

I’m tired.  I’m tired of thinking about gender all of the time.  I’m tired of not feeling comfortable in my own skin or the clothes I want to wear.  I’m tired of seeing my old, grumpy, sad face reflecting back at me in the mirror.  I want to look younger and happy.  I’m tired of feeling afraid to be out in public in fear of running into someone I used to know before I transitioned and dealing with their shock or having to explain.  I want a fresh start in a new place where I can just be myself and not worry about going about my life.  I want to go to work and do my job without the fear of some old “friend” popping in to say hi and asking for Dawn.  I’m tired of being ashamed of myself and living in fear.

Maybe it’s just all getting to me today.

 

 

Reflections On my Chest

proud bustAs I prepare myself mentally for top surgery I find myself reflecting back on the relationship I’ve had with my chest over the years.  It’s been a complicated relationship to say the least, which I’m sure most of you can relate.  At this point in my life I’m not hugely dysphoric about them, but I most definitely always know they’re there, in my way, protruding where I don’t want protrusions, and for all to see, declaring me female gendered whether I want that or not.  Physically, they do bother me.  Like I said, I’m very aware of them.  I don’t want to be aware of them.  If I focus on it, this awareness can give me pretty severe dysphoria.  Some days I notice them more than others.  On the days when I notice them the most I feel like they take up the whole room.  I usually end up taking off my bra and putting on some loose layers to help soothe this feeling.  I don’t know if it’s related but I’ve never been able to deal with close fitting shirts or scratchy fabrics against my skin.  This is a big reason why I can’t deal with binding.  The binder is tight, not just on my chest but around my back and my mid section as well.  Even the ones that don’t bind all the way down are too much for me to deal with.  I just can’t do it.  So I’m forced to wear a bra, which I can deal with most days, or go with loose layers and let it all hang loose (my favorite system).  But, I also can’t stand to get over heated and sweaty either so the days where I can actually do the layer thing are limited.

Back when I was a child, before puberty, I loved to go shirtless in the summer.  As my chest started to develop breasts I tried to ignore them and pretend they weren’t really there.  I continued to go shirtless at home until I was told to stop it.  That was a sad day in my life.  Still, I didn’t wear a bra even though I probably should have and continued to be in denial.  One day my mom bought me a “training bra” and I actually liked it because it was loose and yet kept my budding boobage close to my body and stopped the bouncing that I hated so much.  Eventually, though I got too big for the trainer and had to step up to a real bra.  Mom took me to the local department store to get fitted for one.  The first few they tried to put me in caused almost a violent reaction in me and I started to cry.  These were bras that held the boobs up and pointed them out.  My mom loved it.

madonna

OK for Madonna but not for me, thanks.

I hated it.  I burst into tears and couldn’t get that thing off of me quick enough.  I would have ripped it off if I could.  Finally the sales lady brought me one to try on that was padded and made them rounder instead of pointing straight out and I felt better wearing it.  I still didn’t like it but I could handle it.

What made the whole breast thing worse for me was that I thought mine were ugly.  They weren’t perky and small like other girls my age.  Mine were saggy and droopy and big.  I hated them.  Not only could I not go shirtless anymore I couldn’t stand to go bra-less either.  I had a huge phobia about anyone ever seeing my nipples so I always wore a padded bra.  I eventually slept in my bra and only took it off to shower.  I couldn’t stand to not have my bra on.  I remember at sleep overs with my girl friends they would all strip down to their panties and put on a t shirt or nightgown to go to sleep in.  I kept my bra on and just put a t shirt over it.  This was how I slept at home as well.  My friends gave me a hard time about this and told me I need to let them “air out”.  NO!  NEVER!!  I couldn’t stand to see myself without a bra or to let anyone see me without one.  I know this now to be dysphoria.  It was pretty severe when I was a teenager.  My bra was my binder and I couldn’t stand to see myself without it.

Somewhere along the way I got over this and started to enjoy letting them hang free.  Still I think they’re ugly and can’t stand the idea of anyone seeing my nipples through my clothes.  Usually at home I will go without my bra on the weekends unless we’re going out but I always have to have a soft t shirt or loose tank under a sweat shirt or something like that so I am not too aware of them.

I’m trying to have surgery to remove my baggy boobage in the next month or so (March 31, hopefully).  My resistance to having surgery is complicated and I’m not sure I understand it fully.  I think the biggest part of it is that my chest is the last vestige of femininity that the general public sees on my person.  I feel like once my boobs are gone so will be my past as a lesbian and a woman.  I know that the surgery can’t erase my past but it feels like it will definitely erase any last chance of being part of the lesbian community.  I mourn this loss.  But, I’m also not actively part of a lesbian community anymore.  It’s been 20 years since I really participated in anything other than a lesbian cruise we took about eight years ago.  It’s the price I have to pay to be myself.  I know this.  And I’m willing to let that all go.  It’s hard for me to fathom a future without breasts.  They’ve become part of my struggle.  I wonder if one can get addicted to pain or suffering and actually miss it once it’s gone.  Or is it just such a relief that you wonder why you waited so long?  I’m guessing it’s the latter.  I worry about getting depressed after surgery.  I have such strong feelings towards my chest that I wonder how I’ll be emotionally around having them removed.  I have a feeling that it will be a complicated rush of emotions and I’m hoping it will make me cry, because I sure could use a good cry.

Shame, Narcissism and Gender

I’ve been studying shame lately.  I tend to get obsessed with a subject and delve into it until I can see it from every angle.  Shame is tough to do that with due to how dense a topic it is.  I’m not talking about shame we feel when we did some little thing wrong or had an accident of some sort.  I’m talking about core shame.  Toxic shame.  Shame based living.  There’s a lot of good stuff out there on the subject if one is interested.  I’ll share some of it at the end of this.

I’m interested in shame because I have been dealing with it in my own life recently around my gender transition.  I’ve said this already but I’ll say it again.  I’m not ashamed of being transgender.  My shame comes from early childhood.  I was raised by a narcissistic mother who was grieving the loss of my dad who died suddenly when I was 14 months old and left her to support two children on social security and no skills with which to get a job.  It was 1963 and not many women worked outside of the home so it wasn’t something she had been expected to do.  I can only imagine the stress that put on her with a little baby to take care of.  Was she narcissistic before my dad died or did it develop as a defense after the fact?  I have no idea.  My brother is convinced that she was a saint so he is no help at all in figuring out this mystery.  And I guess it’s really irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.  What matters is that as early as I can remember I felt unsafe to tell the truth at home in fear of getting in trouble.  My pattern of telling lies persisted into early adulthood.  Guilt trips, shaming and irrational behavior (changing the rules haphazardly) were typical tools she used in her efforts to control me.

I think a lot about when I started to feel like a boy inside and how that exactly manifested itself in my life.  I can’t remember a beginning point of it.  I can’t remember ever not feeling like I should have been born a boy.  I wanted a penis but don’t remember laying in bed at night praying that God miraculously turn me into a boy.  I didn’t think it was possible.  What I wanted was to be able to do, act and dress how I wanted whether I was a girl or not.  The adults called me a “tomboy”.  It was said in a derogatory way.  God how I hated that term and the snide tone of voice that accompanied it.  I was told that I’d outgrow it one day.  I sort of did.  When puberty hit my mother pressed me hard to start looking and acting more lady-like and I did really try.  She told me I should wear earrings because people will know I’m a girl despite my short hair.  So I got my ears pierced and wore earrings every day for most of my life.  I was paranoid to leave the house without them.  She pushed me to date boys earlier than I think I should have.  It was obvious to me that all she was concerned with was making sure that I didn’t embarrass her by being too boyish.  It went against my nature but I did it.  Once I was out of college I let all of that go for the most part but I was still deeply ashamed of my masculine side.  It was so ingrained in me that I would get extremely upset if anyone mistook me for a man.  I would get angry and in the person’s face about it, defending my female gender while feeling deeply ashamed that I wasn’t performing female better.

I have shame so deep in me that I don’t know where it ends.  Toxic shame is a profound sense of being worthless at your core.  I was raised with the belief that children are to be seen and not heard.  I was not to be a bother to my mother or any of the adults that came to our house.  I don’t remember our family being huggy or showing love towards each other often.  I wonder how much attention I got as a child.  I remember having to make myself occupied a lot, being lonely, and creating great adventures in my head.  I was creative but quiet, often preferring to stick with the adults than to hang out with the other kids.  I never really learned how to socialize and play with other kids.  My street was short and I wasn’t allowed to play with the other kids on it because they were trouble makers.  They actually were bad kids and I got in trouble every time I defied my mother’s orders to leave them alone.

So now, all these years later I’m realizing, with the help of some pretty amazing people like Darlene Tando, Brene Brown and John Bradshaw that the shame I feel is built on a lie.  I’m not worthless and never was.  There’s no such thing as too masculine.  To quote Darlene Tando in an email she sent me:

“You have to remind yourself that your mother was shaming you for something that didn’t exist. It wasn’t real. She was shaming a “girl” for being “too boyish”. We know this isn’t even possible, to be “too boyish”, some girls are just more masculine than others. That said, you WERE NOT A GIRL, YOU WERE A BOY. So you were acting natural and she just didn’t know who you were. ”

I was shocked at how simply she unpacked that shame I was feeling walking around as myself in my present day skin.  I feel really vulnerable and naked when I go out into public looking “too masculine”.  I’ve devised all of these rules around what I can and can’t wear.  What is acceptable and what isn’t.  How I should behave.  I’ve spent a lifetime protecting my male side from scrutiny and hiding it from the light.  And now that I finally have given myself permission to live authentically I’m struggling with all of this shame.

But Darlene is right.  I have been ashamed all of these years for who I really am and not allowing myself to behave in the way that came naturally to me.  It’s monumentally difficult to put that shame to rest but this is a good start.  Becoming aware of the shame is the beginning.  Uncovering the lie underneath it and shining light on it is what will heal it.  There is nothing inherently bad about me, even though I’ve felt like there was for most of my life.  Brene’ Brown says that shame keeps us from connecting with other people.  How true that is!  I’m really fortunate to have a handful of really true friends who honestly know me and love me despite my flaws but the vast majority of people in my life really don’t know me at all.  I honestly want to change that.  I want to connect with people and let my natural personality shine through.  I’ve hidden it for long enough and who knows, maybe I’ll make a few new friends along the way.  And those who don’t like the real me?  Well, you know where they can go.

Valuable resources for further depth into this subject:

Brene’ Brown’s TED talk: Listening to Shame

John Bradshaw’s 6 part series on Healing the Shame that Binds You

and his groundbreaking book on the subject of shame

Gender Blog by Darlene Tando…not really about shame but she’s AWESOME so check her out if you haven’t already.

A New Attitude

After my three day experiment of trying to live out (my term for pass) as a man last week I was exhausted and mentally drained.  I have spent a lot of time this weekend thinking about the experience and what I’m going to do next.  I’ve come to the conclusion that the thing that exhausted me the most was binding.  I had built up in my mind that binding was going to give me some special golden ticket into the men’s club and it clearly didn’t.  That was disappointing especially how uncomfortable it made me.  Binding actually causes dysphoria in me in a way that a bra doesn’t.  I don’t think I’ll ever wear a binder again until I have to for top surgery.  There’s something about having all of that pressure around my chest and being so aware of it that pushes my anxiety over the top and I just can’t keep doing that to myself.

I’m not doing this to make myself feel worse.  This is supposed to be a freeing and liberating experience and that’s what I intend to make it.  Binding sucks so I’m not doing it anymore.  I’ll either wear a bra or a compression shirt or nothing under my other clothes.  The other thing I realized is that I’m pissed off about my last haircut.  I’ve been going to the same person for a long time at her house and I’ve asked her a few times about getting a clipper cut.  She always tells me to go to a barber for that.  Last time I saw her we talked about it again and she said she would do a clipper cut on me like she does for her nephews and brother but when I went to get my haircut this time she had “forgotten” to bring her clippers home with her so she did my hair pretty much like she always does but a bit shorter.  It’s an ok cut but I really had my heart set on getting my first real man’s haircut and I’m disappointed.  More disappointed than I thought.  So I think I’m going to go to a barber this week and get the cut I really want.

So I’ve decided to stop putting so much pressure on myself and just do the things I want to do and set myself free from worrying about passing and being seen as a man.  I want to be seen as myself so the first step is to be myself not some stereotypical resemblance of a man.  I want to get that haircut, not because it’ll make me look more masculine, though it undoubtedly will, but because I want it.  I’m going to wear the clothes I want to wear whether they make me look more like a man or not.  I’m sick of worrying all of the time about what people see.  It makes no more sense to start trying to look like a man than it did to pretend to be a woman.  I’m who and what I am now and that will continue to evolve as time goes on.

My confidence has been at an all time low lately too and that certainly doesn’t help me feel good about myself.  People can sense that lack of confidence and it makes all of us uneasy.  I need to just go be myself whatever that is and stop all the fretting over whether they see me as male or female.  It really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.  I just need to be confident in who I am.  That’s what matters.  If I’m comfortable then others will be more at ease with me too.

As for the bathroom, I think that’s going to continue to be a challenge but eventually it’ll work itself out.  I just can’t afford to push myself to the point of a nervous breakdown over where to pee.  I’ll pee where I think I should pee wherever that may be.  I have an F on my driver’s license so legally I have a right to be in the women’s room.  And I do think I look masculine enough most days to go into the men’s without too much notice as well.  So I can use whichever one I feel good about going into that day.

Pressure is off.  I can’t handle it anymore.  Three days of it was enough to push me nearly to a mental breaking point.  All of this thinking about gender and fretting about passing is taking any enjoyment out of transitioning for me.  Between the pressure I put on myself and what I’ve felt from other people I’ve not really enjoyed this process and it’s taken a toll on me.  So now, from here out I’m not pressing myself to do anything I’m not ready for and that won’t make me happy.  I want my transition to be a joyous experience.  I’ve waited 50 years to finally be able to express myself as I really am and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let anyone, including myself, ruin it and make it a living hell.  If it doesn’t make me smile I’m not doing it.

Peace Out!

Overwhelmed and Exhausted

I made a decision recently.  I decided to start living OUT as Shawn, as my true self, to not hide who I am by down-playing my male side.  I came out to (sort of in a vague way) the rest of my high school and college friends on Facebook as Shawn and explained that it had to do with how I see my gender and who I really am.  I think most everyone figured out what I was saying without saying it.  It went well and most of those folks have migrated over to my new page without a hitch.  Some remain on my old page for whatever reason and soon I’ll be shutting that down for good and say goodbye to my old persona as Dawn.  That was step one in living out for me.  The second step was to finally tell my brother about why I look so much more like a guy than I used to.  He pretty much already knew but we actually had a conversation about it and it went fine.  I was nervous and stressed about it but it’s all good.  I had planned to do it several times but for a variety of reasons I hadn’t felt like the time was right.  On this particular day I had gone to one of his doctor’s appointments to see a doc I’d never met before and the doctor thought I was his brother and neither of us challenged that idea.  This has been happening a lot even with doctors that see me regularly.  I don’t know if it has anything to do with their heritage as middle eastern men or the low lights in their offices but it happens and, other than feeling uncomfortable for my brother, I don’t mind.  So that little experience was a great jumping off point for our conversation.  My brother is a really odd guy and sees the world in a very unique way due to his mental disability.  We actually joked around a bit about it and I asked him if he could think of me as his weird little half brother, half sister/half brother.  He thought that was pretty funny and agreed that I was weird at least.  Anyway, I’m out to him now and it’s all cool.

Step 3 was to start binding my chest and using the men’s rooms.  This is where things got pretty dicey for me.  First, I hate hate hate binding my chest.  HATE IT!!!  Binding reminds me throughout the day that I have this chest.  It is uncomfortable and hot.  I hate being hot.  I have always hated the feeling of stuff wrapping around my body tightly, like a bra or a binder.  Bras were extremely hard for me to get used to wearing way back and I clung to my “training bra” for as long as I could.  Binders are a special kind of hell for me.  It’s like wearing 50 bras that are too tight.  ALL I can think about all day is my chest and wanting to rip the f-ing binder off.  I don’t think I can keep doing it.  I’d rather go bra-less out in public than wear that thing.  I have 3 of them, all different and they fit fine.  They are the right size for me, not hard to get on (well a little but that’s the way they are) so it’s not like I need a bigger size.  So I wore a binder for 3 days last week all day at work and when I went out at night and I’ve been uncomfortable and cranky because of it.  Last night Candace and I needed to do some shopping and decided to get dinner out.  I wore my binder with a white t shirt over it under a men’s polo.  I was anxious as we went into the restaurant how they would see me.  This was the first real test of my living out experiment.  It flopped.  The waiter called us ladies after giving me a very hard look-see.  And then at the grocery store the teller told us ladies to have a good night.  Great!

And then the bathroom issue reared it’s head.  I had to go.  REALLY had to go like it couldn’t wait til I got home.  We were in the grocery store.  What is it about grocery stores that make you have to go to the potty???  I really had no idea which one to go into.  Technically, since I’d been seen as female I should use the women’s.  But I was determined I was going to stick with my preferred gender so I went into the men’s.  I almost walked back out.  There were three urinals and one handicapped stall.  And there was pee on the floor by the toilet and poop on the seat.  Yuck!  So, yes Virginia, men’s rooms are disgusting after all.  But I had to go and there wasn’t much time to worry about all of that.  I went as quick as I could and got the hell out of there.  No one saw me.

Binding, coming out, worrying about which bathroom to use…I’m mentally exhausted.  I want to not think about gender or at least MY gender for a while.  I need a mental rest from it all.  I am feeling like I’m not as ready to charge ahead with all of this as I thought I was.  I don’t look male enough to pass in the men’s room or out in public.  What do people see?  I have no idea.  I could ask them but that’s not going to happen.  I asked Candace what she thought and she said that I look like a person who has one foot in both worlds.  I’m trying to put both feet in the same world but maybe I’m not ready for that.  Maybe I’m just trying to force it because I feel so uncomfortable being seen as a masculine woman and not fitting into a gender.  I’m not non-binary and I respect those who are but that’s not where I want to end up.  I’m extremely uncomfortable in this in-between place and I want it to end.  If I could just grow some decent facial hair it might help but even that is no guarantee.  So I’m frustrated, tired and grumpy as heck and I’m just going to hibernate at my house this weekend and try to forget about it for a while and give my brain a break.