When Is Transition Over?

We read articles, blog posts and see videos where people talk about being fully transitioned or “post op”.  This gets me thinking.  What is it they mean by fully transitioned or post op?  It feels like people use those two terms interchangeably.    People talk about how things will be when they are done transitioning.  I hear folks talk about “once I’ve transitioned”.  What does all this mean?  How do they know they’re done transitioning?  Do we get a certificate that states that our transition is complete and there’s nothing left to do?  Who gets to decide this?  Doctors?  Society?  The government?  Ourselves?  People ask us if we’ve had “the operation” like that’s some kind of testament to whether we’re fully transitioned and, like-wise, when we talk about being post-op, we buy into that whole notion that it takes an operation to fully transition.

Transitions are as unique as finger prints.  No one walks exactly the same path or has the same experiences.  Not everyone has the same end point in mind when they begin to transition.  What one person might consider a complete transition another might consider only partial.  Many blog posts have been written about people who do not buy into the gender binary and what their transitions look like.  There is wide variety in what any of us, whether binary or not, consider that point where we’re done transitioning.  I’ve heard trans people who started transitioning 20 years ago state that they don’t feel done or that they don’t completely relate to the opposite gender as they were assigned at birth.  Some are adamant that they are no different than someone who was born and raised as their transitioned gender.

Personally, I don’t even like the word transition.  To me it is misleading.  It means that we’re going from one thing to another.  We’re not doing that, though.  We already are this thing that we’re supposedly transitioning towards.  It’s true that our bodies change and how society sees us and treats us changes, but who we are stays the same.  Because of the brainwashing that we received from birth it might take us quite a long time to realize who and what we really are but it doesn’t mean that we weren’t that person all along.  Sure, hormones can do some wonky things to our heads, especially at first, and make it seem like our personalities have changed, but what’s really happening is that our true self is coming out and we’re being allowed to let our personalities be free for the first time since we were little children.  I prefer the word align.  I feel like I’ve gone through an alignment internally and externally as a person.  My internal and external are in alignment.

The general population of cis-gender people see people like Kaitlyn Jenner in the news and they assume that we all go from being a hyper masculine dude to a hyper feminine woman (or vice versa) in the blink of an eye and that then we’re done transitioning.  This is a fairytale.  Even Jenner, with all of her money, will still continue to transition throughout the rest of her life.  Transition is so much more than just surgeries and hormones.  Those are the most talked about components, inside and outside of the trans community, but they are just the gas that makes the engine run and not even completely necessary for some people to transition.  The nuts and bolts of the transition engine is internal/emotional and social.  Why do we get surgeries and take hormones?  So we feel better in our bodies and to align our internal and external personas to both ourselves and the world.  They change the way we look and therefore how other people see us.  They change the way we see ourselves.  For me, personally, I wanted to experience having the body I felt I was supposed to have as well as be seen by the rest of the world as the person I have always known myself to be.  I could say that once those two goals were met that I was done transitioning.  But that’s not even close to true.  Even though strangers might see a man when they meet me, people that knew me before as a female often still see a female and want to treat me that way.  They are uncomfortable referring to me as he and him and using my correct name.  They say things like, “you’ll always be my old relationship (brother/sister/mother/father/etc) and old name to me.”   I won’t even go into how selfish and cruel this is to say to someone.  Let’s just suffice it to say that the social side of transition is often the hardest and most complicated portion of the journey.  And then, there’s our own emotional, internal world that battles over whether we’re really men or women after all and whether we’re “trans enough” and whether we’re performing our new gender correctly and worries about whether someone is going to be able to figure out that we weren’t born into the gender as we present and kick our ass or worse.  There are people who will crop up out of nowhere for the rest of our lives that didn’t know we transitioned or that we are forced to “out” ourselves to for a myriad of reasons (think doctors, lawyers, judges, employers, etc.)  We can never escape our past.

So, to me, transition never ends.  The human body is constantly transitioning, whether we want it to or not.  As we sit here reading this post our bodies are all in the process of transforming into something new.  Our viewpoints are changing constantly.  Our brain is always in the process of change and adaptation, learning new things, forgetting old things, building new pathways.  Society might see a man or a woman, but our mother will always see that baby girl or boy that they gave birth to and will struggle to honor our truth throughout the rest of her life.  Old employers, even if they got the memo that you changed your name and gender marker, will still mess up your information occasionally.  This is just life as a trans person.  Or life as a person.  How many of us are the same person at 40 that we were at 10, 15 or 20?  Hopefully none of us.  We’re all transitioning, some more dramatically than others, but we’re all doing it everyday, all day long.

As I sit here writing this post I ask myself this question.  When will I be done transitioning?  Technically, I am done.  Society sees me as a man.  I see a man in the mirror.  I’m happy with my surgery results.  I don’t plan on any more surgeries at the moment, but I’m open to the option in the future.  I like the facial and chest hair that hormones have given me, but I want more of it and I know that, with time, it will come.  My body is not done changing and it never will be until long after I’ve physically passed on.  Even after death our bodies continue to change.  We’re never static.  Nothing ever stays the same.  So, I can happily put on the clothes I feel best wearing every day and step out into the world as a man today, but I know that the transition process will continue throughout the rest of my life.  The only difference is that now I can live a more honest and open life and there isn’t anything besides maintaining my hormone levels left to do.  If this is what someone means by being fully transitioned than I guess I am at that point but I know that things will continue to change as I go throughout the rest of my life and there is more work to do.  And I’m ok with that.  I am in alignment, and that’s what matters.

One Year Post Top Surgery

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been a year since my top surgery but it has.  At first, I was posting updates every few weeks but then I stopped updating about my results.  Why?  Well, because I had a very serious complication and I got pretty sick for a while and I didn’t want to share what was going on.  After a few weeks it was pretty obvious that my right nipple was infected and wasn’t going to heal like the other one.  I sent my surgeon pictures nearly daily of what it looked like, she ordered more antibiotics, and finally she asked me to drive back down to her so she could see it in real life.  She ended up cutting the dead nipple out of my chest and I spent about six weeks hooked up to a wound vac which sucked the infection out of the wound where my nipple used to be.  I continued on a regiment of different antibiotics during that time period and suffered from sever diarrhea from the drugs.  Through all of this she also had to open up some of my incision for drainage so my scar is jagged where that was done.

At the time all of this was happening I got fairly depressed.  I wasn’t so upset that I had lost a nipple but I was worried about my health and the experience of being attached to a machine 24 hours a day for six weeks made me feel miserable mentally.  At times, I wondered if I would ever heal and get back to my old life.  Never, though, did I regret the surgery or the surgeon I chose.  She did a fairly new procedure on me and I knew going into it that it had its risks.  I feel like my surgeon did everything in her power to help me get through this and went above and beyond what most would have done in this situation so I don’t hold her responsible at all and just chalk it up to shit that happens sometimes.

I’ve decided to share that experience here finally at this stage of the game.  I’m completely healed now from the surgery and the wound.  Now, instead of a nipple on my right chest I have a slightly sunken pink scar that looks a little like a nipple.  There never was any pain.  I’m happy to report that my left nipple is healthy and has excellent sensation.  The sensation is different than it was before surgery but it’s quite alive and thriving nonetheless.  My scars are starting to fade pretty well now and all in all I think my chest looks pretty good.

In a few weeks I will be heading back down to see my surgeon and she will do a scar revision on the nipple so that I can get a tattoo later on and make it look like the other, healthy one.  It won’t have sensation and won’t react like a normal nipple, but it should make the overall appearance much better.  I have to admit that I’m a bit nervous about doing any more surgical work to this area after the experience I had, but I trust that it will go much better this time.

While I am overall pleased with the look of my chest surgery I want to talk about something that I am not happy about and that bothers me greatly in regards to my chest.  I’ve heard a few people talk about this phenomenon but I don’t know how prevalent it is.  Along my scar line, where she made the incision, I feel a tightness and pulling internally that I find to be extremely annoying and uncomfortable.  If I stretch my chest muscles and under my arms it seems to help to loosen it up.   Massage seems to help it.  Rubbing, and even tapping on the scar seems to help.  But it’s still there every day and seems to feel worse when I wear a jacket or heavier shirt where the fabric pushes down on my skin.

I’ve talked to my surgeon about it in the past and she thought it would loosen up with time.  Maybe it has loosened up some, but it’s still pretty aggravating.   I’m going to talk to her about it again when I see her in April.  I don’t know if this will ever go away but I sure hope it does because it’s very uncomfortable.  I don’t want to be aware of my chest at all and this is almost as uncomfortable to me as binding or wearing a bra was.

Other than the discomfort, which I may just have to learn to live with, I have thoroughly enjoyed not having breasts and seeing myself with a flat chest.  It’s an amazing feeling to be able to wear a shirt and not have those pesky things protruding and getting in the way.  I love not having to hide them and just being able to throw on a t shirt in the morning.  I very unceremoniously dumped my old bras in the trash shortly after surgery and donated my old binders.  I’m thrilled to never need any of that again.  I’m seriously considering getting a tattoo across my chest to hide my scars at some point down the road.  I’m not sure what the tattoo will be at this point but once I decide and get it done I’ll make sure and let all of you know.

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.