Girl “Friends”

I think about my childhood a lot.  I don’t really mean to, but it seems to be something that a lot of trans people talk about.  When did you know you were really a ___________ (pick a gender)?  This question always takes me back to my earliest memories and no where in there do I think I knew that I was anything other than different.  I’m not even sure if I knew that.  I just knew that what I wanted was at odds with what the authority figures in my life wanted.  I grew up in the dark ages, before the internet and reality tv.  No one knew anything about being transgender and no one ever said anything positive about gay people.  All of this was way too taboo and exotic.  My small town upbringing did not prepare me to live 30 years as a lesbian who is now living as a man.  I was ignorant about all of this stuff growing up and so was everyone I knew, even the authorities in my life.  How could I have known I was transgender at 4 years old?  I knew that I liked boy stuff and wanted to be like my brother and uncles.

I was a flower girl in my cousin’s wedding when I was about 7 years old.  I had no idea what that meant until the day of the wedding and they put me in a little light blue dress and stood me next to my male cousin who was the ring bearer.  He was wearing a black tuxedo.  Suddenly the difference in us just smacked me in the face like a wet dishrag.  I wanted to wear that tuxedo and I was so jealous of him.  It was experiences like this that I can tell you about where I felt jealousy because the boys got to do or wear things that I wanted to do or wear.  But I couldn’t tell you why that was.

And then there are friendships.  Friendship, for me, was complicated.  From an early age (5 or 6?), I got crushes on girls.  But I was expected to play with girls and develop friendships with them and get crushes on boys.  I tried.  Really, I did.  I could play with a girl as long as we could do what I wanted, but if she wanted to do really girly things, like play Barbie where I had to be one of the girl dolls, I was out of there.  I could deal with being Ken, but not Barbie.  Luckily, there weren’t all that many kids around for me to play with when I was young.  I lived on a short street with big houses on it that a lot of old people lived in.  We did not live in a big house.  We lived in a tiny bungalow that belonged to one of the big houses.  There was a seedy apartment building up the street from my house that mostly had single people who could barely pay their bills.  The place reeked of cigarettes and booze.  I hated going in there, but my one friend lived there.  His name was Scott.  I liked Scott because he was a real boy’s boy and he made me feel like a boy when we hung out.  We did boy stuff, whatever that was, and I didn’t have to worry about being the Barbie with him.  Occasionally, my mom would force me to play with his little sister because I really shouldn’t be friends with Scott.  I guess the adults were worried that we would end up having sex or something.  I don’t know what they were worried about, but I hated playing with his little sister.  Usually I managed to wiggle myself out of it after just a few minutes of torture.  I remember, one day being over at his apartment and his grandmother was there.  She gave me the most hateful look I had ever seen anyone give me.  I had no idea why she hated me so much, but every time I saw her she looked at me that way.

Scott moved away after a few years and I really never saw him again.  I didn’t really have friends until middle school.  I met this girl in band class who was new to me.  She was the prettiest girl I’d ever seen and I was immediately infatuated with her.  We became best friends and hung out together all the time.  We had sleep overs and participated in three-legged races and shit like that.  I would do anything I could to be near her.  This “friendship” of ours grew into a circle of girls who hung out together and did the sleep over thing and all that goes with it.  There was another girl in that group that I later developed a big crush on as well.  This circle of friends endured throughout high school and college, even though we all went different places.  Today, we are still friends and I’m out to all of them.

What I wonder about today is whether we were ever really friends and how different it would have been if I’d been born with a penis.  I mean, I was in love with two of them and what I really wanted wasn’t just friendship.  Of course, they had no idea how I felt at the time (or now, for that matter).  This was my big dark secret that I never told anyone.   I almost kissed one of them one time and I did tell her that I loved her, but you know, she just interpreted that as friendship love.  Life got really complicated when they were dating and going steady with boyfriends.  God that sucked.  I was so jealous of the boyfriends, yet I had to be nice to them and be happy for my “friend”.  I had crushes/feelings for these girls for a long time.  All through high school I was still obsessed with that original girl, even though she always had a handsome boyfriend.  And, to complicate things even more, I dated a couple of boys in high school on a semi serious basis.  It was, for me, way less serious than it probably seemed to my friends.  It was really just a cover for who I really was.  The boys I dated were nice guys that I liked as friends and had zero interest in as a romantic partner.  We never did anything more than kiss occasionally.

The fact that I’m still friends with my high school group is unusual and awkward now that I’m awake and knowledgeable about who and what I am.  Since they know I’m transitioning, I wonder whether they ever put pieces of our pasts together and truly understand why I was part of their group.  There’s a part of me that feels like I did something wrong all those years ago.  I know that I understood on some level, even back then, that I was not like them.  I feel like our friendships were built on a lie, or at least a falsehood.  It makes me feel like my whole life was built on a lie, like every relationship I had was false.  I was always just doing the best I could to pretend to really be a girl, but deep down I knew that I wasn’t.  I didn’t understand any of this at all, so I don’t blame myself.  And I don’t blame the world I grew up in either.  We were all navigating in the dark without a map or compass.  We were all ignorant.  Still, I wonder.  What do they think when they see me becoming my true self?  Do they realize that the thing that drew me to them was that I had a crush?  Do they wonder if we would have been friends if I’d been recognized as a boy?  Would we have dated?  I know for sure that I wouldn’t have been invited to the sleep overs.  And then I think that there was attraction on their part too, because, even in friendship, there is an attraction that brings people together.  I can honestly say that I did and do feel true friendship for these women and I cherish our long standing relationships.  I enjoy visiting with them and even like their husbands quite a bit.  Of the five women in my circle, I only had a crush on two of them.  One of them I don’t even really like at all, but the others do so we make nice with each other (it’s mutual).  I give this group of friends a lot of credit for helping me through my weird and awkward childhood and adolescent years.  They were my lifeline.  I don’t have any idea how I would have gotten through high school without them.  Still, I feel like I deceived them and that eats at me, even today.  I don’t still have those feelings for any of them and haven’t for a really long time.  At some point in high school I made a conscious decision to disengage from the notion of them as romantic partners.  It was too difficult to see them with their boyfriends and not even be able to tell them how I felt.  That’s probably when I started to date boys a little bit.

Unfortunately, I thought my story started and ended with my physical attraction to girls, so when I finally kissed a girl my freshman year of college and declared myself a lesbian, I thought that was the end of the story.  It took 30 years for me to realize that that was just the tip of the iceberg.  Unraveling my past and discovering who I really am has been like peeling the layers of an onion.  It’s taken a long time to get to the core of my onion and I’m not entirely sure I’ve arrived there yet, but I’m pretty close.  Processing through my relationship with these women, some of which I’ve known since kindergarten, has been just a small part of it.  Small, but vitally important.

You’re a Super Hero

These days I’m pretty busy just living my life but I do take time everyday to reflect on where I came from and where I am now.  Most days I am in awe of the life I lead today compared to even a couple of years ago.  I’m here to tell you, if you doubt that you can flip your whole life upside down, inside out and survive it, that you absolutely can.  And, in fact, you will be a much better, happier person for doing it.  Your friends and family may fight you every inch of the way but at some point even they will admit that you are a better person now than you used to be.  Will it be hard?  Yes, of course.  Everything worth doing is hard.  Will it get worse before it gets better?  Yep, most likely it will.  Can you do it?  I have no doubt.

Why am I so confident in you?  Because I did it and I was just like you are right now.  Scared, terrified even.  Absolutely sure that I’d lose everyone and everything that meant anything to me.  Convinced that I’d have to live in my car and eat food from the dollar store to survive.  Afraid that no one would ever love me again and pretty sure that I’d never be taken seriously in my real gender.  I was the kind of person that would say, “well, that’s ok for other people but not for me”.  I have too much to lose.  I’m too this, too that.  Too old, too fat, too feminine looking, too dependent on my partner, too scared, too weak.  I didn’t think it would be worth all of the turmoil I’d have to put myself and my family through.  I was wrong.  Very wrong.

I’m not telling you to transition.  That’s your decision to make.  But I want you to know that you can do it.  You absolutely CAN do anything you want to do.  I did it and so can you.  I’m not special.

Well….

Actually, I am special.  And so are you.

You see, people like us, the misfits and maladjusted freaks of society are the most amazing people.  We’re superheros.  We grow up being taught that who we are is wrong and we get beaten down into submission until we can’t take it any longer.  I look at the general population now and I feel pity for them.  They don’t know what it’s like to grow up the way we did and have to pull ourselves out of the abyss and rise above our upbringing.  I am stronger than they will ever be because of what I’ve been through.  They whine and moan about their aches and pains and every day worries while we’re out here reinventing ourselves into the superheroes we were born to be.   Once you find your truth you are unstoppable.  Take your truth where it leads you and don’t let fear stop you.  Feel the fear but do it any way.  Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real.  Fear is a liar.  You’re not weak or worthless.  Quite the opposite.  You’re one of the strongest people on the planet and you are special in ways others can’t even imagine.  Whatever your deal is that makes you feel like a misfit, turn that shit around and make it your greatest strength.  Think of all of the crap you’ve had to deal with in life because you’re not like all of the sheep in the world.  You’re not a sheep.  You’re a fucking lion.  You’re a fucking superhero.  All that crap has made you stronger and stronger.  Your muscles are popping out every where from all the heavy lifting you’ve done in life.  Now put it to good use and start living your wildest dreams.  Be your own hero and I bet even the person closest to you that tells you this is crazy will thank you for it one day.

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.

 

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.

 

 

Why I’m not a Butch

A couple of my readers have asked me to explain how I came to the conclusion that I was actually a Trans Man and not a Butch woman.  I’ve tried to write this post several times now and I keep running into problems with it.  It’s a complex question to answer.  The first problem is that I really never embraced  the identity of Butch.  Most of my life I identified as a Dyke or simply as a Lesbian.  I knew some older Butch women who dressed like men and had Femme wives and to my young feminist mind that was just too much like heterosexuality for my taste and I was turned off by it.  I was even in a relationship with a Butch for about seven years and she very much wanted me to be her Femme.  I didn’t have it in me and we mostly just stayed together because we loved each other as friends and enjoyed the company.  My current partner is a feminine woman but she isn’t really into Butch women.  She really was looking for someone who’s also a little feminine with a Tomboy side, what she refers to as CatFemme (her own category that she made up based on a woman named Cat that she found attractive a long time ago).  I guess she thought she might be able to mold me into more of a Femme but that didn’t really work out for her.  Instead, I got more masculine as the years went on.

Also of note is that I really didn’t know anything about the T in LGBTQ until about 7 or 8 years ago.  I didn’t understand what it meant to be Transgender until I had a friend who was MTF and she spent a lot of time educating me.  What I realized from talking to her over a period of time was that we were a lot alike, except the opposite.  Where she had hated having a beard, I’ve always felt jealous of men for their beards.  I hated dresses and frilly things and she dreamed of being able to wear them.  Pretty much everything I hated about being female she coveted and everything she hated about being a guy were things that I had always secretly felt envious of.  One day she asked me to read some psychological website that listed symptoms of transgenderism.  I related to pretty much every thing on the list.  After, she asked me what I thought and I told her that it sounded a lot like me.  This is how I realized that I was Transgender.  At the time, I kind of shrugged it off and said that it didn’t change anything.

But I was in denial.  Everything had changed.  How I saw myself and my future changed.  How I looked at my past changed.  I started to question my sexuality and my relationship.  Was I ever really a Lesbian?  A period of intense introspection began where I read everything I could about being FTM and Butch.  I thought about trying to embrace being a Butch to satisfy my emerging masculinity in order to avoid transitioning and keep my relationship safe.  My friend said to me once that she thought living all those years as a Lesbian had actually kept me from realizing I was Trans sooner.  She was right.  What had actually happened was that identifying as a Lesbian only answered part of the question for me.  It identified who and what I was sexually attracted to.  Women.  I thought that was the end of the story but it was actually just the tip of the iceberg.  It didn’t answer a deeper question of why I always dreamed of being male and fantasized about a life as a man constantly.  It didn’t answer why I occasionally felt like me and my Lesbian friends were different somehow.  Why I couldn’t relate to them on some levels.  It didn’t answer why I was so against the idea of ever being a mother or why I was so disgusted when someone referred to me as my partner’s wife.

Back in those days I remember thinking that this was like an onion.  I would peel a layer away and digest it and then another layer and digest that.  I didn’t know how many layers I’d have to go through to get to the heart of the matter.  Really, the heart of the matter boiled down to one thing.  I had never in my whole life ever felt like I was really female.  From my earliest memory, I had wanted to be a boy.  If I could remember further back I’d probably be able to tell you that I actually thought I was a boy until someone told me otherwise.  Every instinct in my mind and body was to be a boy when I was a little kid.  It was the adults who stressed that I was a girl and should act and do differently that taught me that I wasn’t a boy.  They brainwashed me to go against my own natural instincts and thought processes.  So, as many trans people do, I made the best of it and did what I could to play along and keep the peace.  I made a lot of compromises.  Living as a Lesbian was a compromise, even though I didn’t think that at the time.  It was as close as I could get to where I needed to be in order to be happy.

So it should be pretty evident at this point that I was never a Lesbian and I was never a Butch.  I was born a Transgender Male.  I just didn’t know it until I was about 47 years old.  There’s no way I could have known about what I didn’t know existed.  Once I understood, though, everything made a whole lot more sense to me.  I spent a lot of time trying to decide whether I was a Butch or a Trans Man but, honestly, I think I was just in denial and trying to find a way around transitioning.  The bottom line is that Butch’s are women.  They are happy being women and being seen as women.  They are masculine women.  Their gender expression is masculine and sometimes very male appearing, but they are women and do not wish to change that.  Trans Men do not want to be seen as women and are not happy being forced to live as a woman.  This is the line in the sand as far as I’m concerned and for myself.  Lesbians are women and enjoy being women.  They might not love make up or dresses but they are still women and proud of it.  There are Butch women who elect to have Top Surgery to remove their breasts and some even take a little testosterone, but most do not want to transition fully to male.  They want to still live as women.  Masculine women.  Are some of them Transgender?  Possibly, but that is for them to decide.  I think there’s a fine line between Butch and FTM and the deciding factor is how you want the world to see you and how you see yourself.  Personally, I came to the conclusion that I was really male my entire life and that I’d been brainwashed into believing otherwise, so I was never really a Lesbian or a Butch.  I just got tired of hiding my masculine side as I got older and let it out more which made me appear Butch, even to myself.

This really is a complex issue and there is a lot of over-lap between the two identities at times.  What I wrote here is purely my opinion and reflects my own experiences.  I know that others will feel differently about this subject and that is their right.  I was asked how I came to the conclusion that I was Trans and not Butch and I have tried my best to answer that question as clearly and thoroughly as possible.  It is my hope that this helps someone figure out who they really are one day.

 

P.S. I want to say that I actually loved being a Lesbian in a lot of ways and it’s been really hard to let go of that identity.  It was hard to embrace it initially, but once I did, I found it to be a very enriching and enlightening experience.  I feel fortunate to have gotten to live those years as a Lesbian and get to know so many great women.  I was able to attend the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival twice in my younger days and still feel a deep appreciation for those experiences.  Lesbian culture is rich and diverse and delicious in so many ways and I truly miss it.  I often say that I was raised by Lesbians.  My own mother did a poor job of preparing me for “real” life and my circle of Lesbian friends from the 80s and 90s really taught me the skills I needed to survive and thrive in society.  They also gave me the space to be myself and never told me I had to be a certain way to be their friend.  They were my chosen family for a long time and I miss them.

 

 

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.