Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Becoming real

It started out as a feeling
Which then grew into a hope
Which then turned into a quiet thought
Which then turned into a quiet word
And then that word grew louder and louder...
—Regina Spektor, The Call

Not so long ago, the female version of me existed only on the internet and in the confines of my bedroom. "Ashley" was a name I used here and in a crossdressing forum. I would dress as a girl in my room, but I was still in the closet to my housemates, so I couldn't even open the door. I would snap some photos and post them online so that I could be seen by someone, somewhere.

But as I've been coming out to more people and going out into the world, that has been changing. Now, as Ashley, I've felt sunshine on my face, and grass beneath my feet. I've been smiled at by strangers (and once pointed and laughed at, but I won't dwell on that). And last Sunday I had two more important experiences as part of this gradual process: I introduced myself as a girl to someone I'd just met, and I visited my mother.

According to the website of my local Pride Centre, there's a trans social mixer that meets there the last Sunday of every month. I'd been wanting to get involved in the community, and to interact socially as a girl, so I decided to go. And oh my goodness was I nervous. Meeting new people and being in new social environments just scares the shit out of me. I parked my car around the block and spent nearly ten minutes sitting there just convincing myself to go through with it. But I when I finally walked through the door I discovered I needn't had been so nervous: I was the only one to show up.

The only other person there was one of the people who run the centre. He told me that the guy who organizes the mixer was running late, and that he doubted anyone else would come. "Now that it's summer and the weather is nice, the number of people attending this thing has dropped," he said, "but you're welcome to stay and see if any one else shows up."

I decided I'd wait for a bit. "I'm Steven, by the way," he offered. (Not his real name.)
"I'm Ashley," I said. We shook hands.

I'm Ashley. It was the first time I'd said those words out loud. The first time someone had known me by that name outside of the internet.

I chatted with Steven for about fifteen minutes before I left, but no one else came. It was kind of disappointing. Having made the effort to look like a woman I didn't want to just go home. I texted my mom saying I could stop by for a visit if she wasn't busy, and gave her the heads-up that I was in girl mode. (My dad was out of town for work.) She said I should come over, and that my brother and sister-in-law were there too.

And the whole experience was actually very normal. We all just hung out like we usually do: our regular, goofy selves. The only time the subject of gender even came up was my ma noting how the dogs made no distinction between boy mode and girl mode, which lead to my sis-in-law and I wondering whether animals would notice if someone were on HRT. I'm so glad to know I can be myself around my family.

I wore my locks in a bandanna: sort
of a transy pirate look, I guess? :)
Like Regina said, it started out as a feeling. At first my female self was nothing more than a vague sense that something was wrong. Then she was a hope, then a reflection in a thrift shop mirror, then a girl in a photo with an unspoken name, then a smiling stranger passing people on the street. At last she's meeting people and hugging her mother. She is becoming real.

At first my male self was nothing less than an unquestionable reality— all I knew and thought reasonably possible. Then he was a weight whose absence I could imagine, then a prison whose walls I had walked briefly beyond. At last he's rapidly crumbling around me.

And I look forward to a day when he is nothing more than a memory.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

What I should have said

(Sorry, this post is going to be a bit of rant.)

Earlier this month one of my roommates moved out and a new guy moved in. This means I am once again no longer out to everyone I live with, which is mildly uncomfortable for me, but whatever. (This new roommate is from Ireland, which, in addition to my German roommate, means my house is filling up with Europeans!)

Anyways, a bunch of us were sitting in the living room chatting the other day. The CBC news was on the TV in the background, and Chantal Hébert came on to talk about some political thing.

Ms. Hébert is a fairly well-known commentator and pundit here in Canada, and she has a very distinctive look. By which I mean, she wears basically no makeup, no jewelry, has bushy eyebrows and keeps her unstyled hair tucked behind her ears. I'm not that interested in punditry, but I think she is awesome: here's a woman who obviously gives no shits about our culture's silly beauty standards, and yet has a successful career as a talking head on television. It's clear to anyone that she's there to discuss politics, not to be a pretty face.

"Wow," said the new roommate, glancing at the TV, "I'm sorry, but that woman looks like a transsexual."

Oh my goodness. What a thing to say. And do you know what I said in response to this? Nothing, I just shrugged it off. And now I'm annoyed at myself for that, so I'm going to write down my thoughts to get it off my mind.

Okay, first of all, there's a no such thing as looking like a transsexual: the range of what they\we look like is identical to the range of what anyone looks like. A pre-transition, closeted trans woman might be indistinguishable from a cis man, and a trans woman who's been on hormones for a while might be indistinguishable from a cis woman. And of course, the inverse applies to trans men.

Secondly, his comment clearly implies that looking like a transsexual is a bad thing, which is obviously so very offensive for, like, all the reasons.

And lastly, his comment seems to overlie an assumption that women ought to wear makeup and look pretty, simply because they are women. Which is, you know, pretty darn patriarchal.

So... there. I guess now if I hear a comment like that again, at least I'll know how to respond! In any case, I shouldn't be angry with him because it's clear he simply hadn't thought through the implications of that statement and was unaware of how stupid a thing it was to say. But that's precisely why I should be educating people when stuff like this comes up.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Little things

My previous post was kind of mopey. Hopefully this one will balance that out a bit, 'cause I'm feeling pretty good right now! :)

It's not the result of any big accomplishment or anything: just a bunch of little things. But sometimes the little things can matter a lot.

First of all, I mentioned before that I was having headaches and fatigue— it turned out I had a bad sinus infection. I saw a doctor about it and got prescribed some anti-biotics and am feeling much better now. (I didn't talk to the doctor about being trans; I figured I'd deal with one issue at a time).

Secondly, I finally got around to painting my nails and shaping my eyebrows after a long time of not doing either. Those seem like such superficial things, but they really do help me deal with the gender problem. I'm always surprised by how much better I feel with pretty nails, and by how much easier it is to see a woman's face in the mirror when my eyebrows are arched. I've also been making an effort to shave every day, which of course is tremendously helpful.

And lastly, I've started to be ever so slightly more out on Facebook. There are a number of people in my life whom I interact with primarily through that website, and, as in any social context, I want to present myself to those people as the person I actually am. This slightly increased outness includes posting a link to a brilliant trans-themed music video by the band Arcade Fire (which is by far the queerest thing I've shared on Facebook), as well as updating my profile picture to something that looks decidedly feminine (at least to me).

Feminine and kind of artsy!
So yeah. I have nothing particularly exciting to report, but a bunch of little things have conspired to make me happy the past few days, and for that I'm grateful.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Struggle, decision and hope

Today it's really hard. And it's not just the gender issues, it's a whole bunch of things. I've always suffered from depressive episodes and I seem to be in the middle of one right now. I've also been having headaches and trouble sleeping for the past two weeks. And now that school's done I need a summer job, but I haven't found one yet and I'm running out of money.

And as much as I'd like to think that all these other problems would magically go away if I were living as a female, I know that's not the case. So I can't even really blame gender.

Aaahh bare shoulders aaaaaahhh!!!
(Actually I look pretty good here, I think)

I did get manage out in girl mode once last week. In fact, I'm kind of proud of myself: it was my first time going out with bare shoulders and bare legs. I felt a lot more vulnerable not having all the layers to bundle up in like I did during the winter. But it was a beautiful day, and it felt so good to take in the sunshine as me. I'm not under any illusions of having passed, but I did get called ma'am by a cashier. That was nice of him. :)

On Saturday I was at a restaurant with a couple of friends. I think our server might have been trans. She was certainly tall enough for it, not to mention the broad shoulders, huge hands and small bust. She was very pretty.

Envy isn't the right word for it, but there's a certain feeling I get when I see other trans women having the courage to be themselves. And every time I do it's one more nagging voice saying: Ashley, you need to do something about this gender problem. And while that tends to trigger the dysphoria, it's also kind of inspiring. (The same thing happened when my classmate at school started presenting female.)

And that brings me to the question: what am I going to do about it?

While I still haven't totally figured that out, I have made one decision: I need to get to a point where I can function normally before I go back to school. I failed a lot of classes these past two semesters, and most of the problem was my inability to focus on anything when the dysphoria struck. It doesn't make sense to keep throwing money away on classes when I'm not dealing with the issue. So I'm going to see a doctor sometime soon-ish and maybe start counselling. I'm going to return to my local support group. And I'm going to start electrolysis.

That last one just makes a lot of sense. I've realized that even if I decide not to transition (which seems unlikely), I'm still never going to actually want a beard. Even if I am just a feminine male (which I doubt), I still have a gender identity that's incongruous with facial hair. So transition or not, electro is a good idea.

What this means is that I won't be going back to school in the fall, since I can't afford both that and hair removal without going deeply into debt. I might go back to school in January, or I might just take a whole year off from academics. We'll see how it goes.

I'm also starting to reconcile myself to the fact that HRT may be in my future. There are a number of reasons why I don't want this. The biggest one by far is my desire for biological fatherhood— I want babies!!— but also lots of little fears about the phyisical and emotional changes that would take place. But at the end of the day if you need HRT you need it: it's not like gender dysphoria gives a shit about your hopes and fears.

So yeah: I'm struggling today. I'm pretty darn depressed. But I can see the steps I need to take (find a job, see a doctor, start electro...) and for now that's giving me something to work towards. So, in a way, I guess I'm sort of hopeful too.

They say it gets better. I hope they're right.

Out in the sun last week.
See, I was happy then at least! :)