Category Archives: Transition

How I Cope With Misgendering

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My One Year Transition Timeline

 

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Pre-trans awareness: Didn’t know I was trans – comfortable with secret crossdresser identity

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What I looked like for forever: This look was pretty typical for my twenties, still pre-trans awareness

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One of the last photos of me with a beard

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May 2015: Accepted myself as trans – pre-HRT but playing with makeup (makeup game was very weak – I had no idea what I was doing)

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Early in transition – Pre-HRT: I remember being really happy with this photo set and my makeup and hair

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First week on HRT – Early September 2015: Also, first time visiting my parents after coming out as trans

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Early into HRT still playing with makeup

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November 2015: Feeling more confident in myself

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December 2015: About to meet my fiancee and the love of my life –  about 4 months on HRT and several laser sessions

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Nine months on HRT: feeling more confident in my makeup-game

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9 Months HRT: loving life

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9 Months HRT: Living my life

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9 Months HRT – Over a year in transition: happy, self-actualized, autonomous femme person engaged to a wonderful human being

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Thoughts About Having A Non-Binary Identity

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As I understand it, a binary gender identity is identifying as either 100% male or 100% female. A non-binary identity is where you identify outside of the male-female binary, as either somewhere “in between” (genderqueer), as alternating over time (gender fluid), perhaps being a mixture of both male and female or feeling both male and female (bigender), or feeling like one does not have a gender (agender). There are many possible ways to identify outside of the traditional gender binary.

Until about 5 months I identified as a straight cisgendered gender-nonconforming male. When I first realized I was trans I was reading the wikipedia on transgenderism and stumbled across the concept of “bigender”. Initially this really appealed to me. At the time I still felt partially male. Upon realizing I was trans I remember making a journal entry and describing myself as being a kind of “androgynous” butch type woman. Also I remember writing that I wanted to always be able to switch back into guy mode so I could visit my family for the holidays. I also saw myself as presenting male for my career as a academic philosopher – I saw myself teaching in guy mode.

Because I still wanted to be able to present male that ruled out HRT because I did not want breasts. My plan at the time was to just get laser hair removal on my face so I could pass as female better while wearing breast forms.

But my bigenderism was alas just a temporary way station. Eventually I realized that my desire to present male when visiting my family and when teaching was entirely a product of fear. I was scared of the negative reactions I might receive. I was scared of people laughing at me, or mocking me, or feeling downright uncomfortable in my presence.

But I got over those fears. I realized that I wanted to eventually work up to where I would never present male again. I wanted to present female all the time. I wanted breasts. I wanted a feminine body. I had some other issues to work through before I felt comfortable with the idea of taking HRT (infertility, sexual function, etc.) but eventually I got to a mental place where I accepted that this is what I truly wanted.

After abandoning bigenderism I started identifying as a trans woman with a binary female identity. It felt right to see myself as a woman. After all I really wanted to be a woman. As a side-note, some people distinguish between being a woman and wanting to be a woman. Some trans women say that they have always “felt like a woman” and they don’t want to be a woman they are women. But for me, the nature of my transness is probably more about wanting to be a woman then it is feeling like I really am a woman.

Which brings me to my recent realization that perhaps I was not totally off-track to identify as non-binary. I’m starting to appreciate that my feelings about my own gender are more complicated than simply saying “I am a woman”. I feel like in order to identify as a woman I need to know what it is like to feel like a woman. But I have no idea what that means. When I have a feeling I don’t know how to identify whether that is a male or female feeling. They just feel like feelings. I just feel like myself, like I have always felt. But I used to identify as a man. So does that make me have the feelings of a man? No I don’t think so. I categorically reject that idea. But neither do I have the feelings of a woman.

I suspect there is a continuum between binary and non-binary identities and I am somewhere in between a binary and non-binary identity. I don’t feel like a man (except in my appearance and voice) and I really, really don’t want to be a man. I don’t feel like a woman yet I would like to be a woman. But I know that wanting to be a woman and being a woman are two different things. So I am in some kind of middle-ground between binary and non-binary, of kinda-sorta-maybe feeling like a woman at times or feeling like I want to be a woman but never knowing exactly what that means. Sure I could resort to stereotypes in order to define myself as a woman but I am trying really hard to not be sexist in that respect. There are no necessary or sufficient conditions for being a woman. I am even starting to suspect that the very concept of sex/gender is incredibly problematic and only exists because of historical contingencies. Which is of course compatible with the idea that many people love and cherish their gender and see no problems with gender. But gender having deep conceptual problems does not entail that people are somehow confused in their own experience of gender. Gender is real. And I don’t think it is entirely a social construct either. But it is a problematic and confused notion that ultimately, I think, survives by piggy-backing on the stereotypes we all know so well.

Ultimately I think my experience of gender is too complicated to be boiled down to simple categories like “woman”. Trans woman is more accurate because it describes how I have rejected my birth assignment of male. Transfeminine is also accurate. I still think of myself as a “femme” because I have a feminine gender expression. I love makeup, long hair, dresses, jewelry, shoes, purses, etc. I take great joy in my gender expression – it brings me extreme happiness every day. But AMABs (assigned male at birth) can also identify as “femme”. Femme is a non-binary identity. So I am starting to think of myself as a non-binary femme of some kind.

However, for political and social purposes, I still feel most comfortable introducing myself to people as a binary trans woman. My identify as non-binary is for my own introspective clarification. It’s not for anyone else. It’s to figure myself out in as much concrete detail as I can. It’s for technical reasons. But for social purposes most people have a hard time understanding what it means to identify outside of the gender binary so I don’t necessarily want to have that conversation every time I attempt to explain to someone who I am in simple terms. “Trans woman” is fairly accurate although it does not capture the true underlying complexity of my identity. But for political purposes it works well enough.

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1 Month Transition Update

Ok so I have debated with myself about to what extent I want to make this blog reflect my personal journey as I transition and experience HRT or whether I want it to stay more academic. I decided though that sharing my journey and photos of my “transition timeline” might be of interest to other trans people. I know I continue to draw inspiration from others and have an enlightened self-interest in learning how HRT affects people differently so consider this an exercise in self-documentation.

I can’t promise I will always do monthly updates but it might be fun.

VictorStJuly 1st, 2011

I had then just moved to St Louis with my at-the-time fiancee to start my PhD. I was reasonably happy. Wasn’t troubled by gender identity stuff. Just thought I was a run-of-the-mill crossdresser with a secret life of dressing up that I kept private from pretty much everyone. It was just some thing I did, often for sexual reasons to be perfectly honest. I mention that because I see many trans women overanalyze things and think that because their crossdressing started sexual they aren’t “really trans”. However what can start as a “fetish” can definitely transform into legitimate gender issues later -early sexualization does not invalidate one’s identity – it just has nothing to do with it – it’s a side effect and also could be an effect of circulating testosterone levels. But for me, over time, my crossdressing had less and less a sexual component and became something I did because I found it the most comfortable way to exist in my house. I just enjoyed wearing’s women’s things.

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IMG_118692860119832July 19, 2014

Still deeply in denial about being trans. I had talked about the possibility of transitioning with my ex-wife but I always told her that was not something I was interested in. She seemed to accept that answer. So did I. Little did I know….

IMG_20150424_180457 (2)April 24, 2015

This is probably the last picture that was ever taken of me with a beard. This was still before I realized I was trans. My wife and I had split up back in October, 2014 for reasons unrelated to my gender identity. Things just felt apart – it’s a long story. But needless to say that after getting divorced and going through another brief relationship my crossdressing returned with a vengeance. I shaved my entire body shortly after this picture was taken and began crossdressing more seriously, expanding my wardrobe, and going out in public dressed. At some point I even came out on Facebook as a crossdresser. Funny – only a month after coming out as a crossdresser (to much consternation from my family I might add) I realized I was trans and had to do a second coming out.

10359017_10103963545410072_434187556417985148_oApril-May 2015

This is the picture I used to come out on Facebook as a crossdresser. I received a lot of support …and a frantic phonecall from my mother. But it felt good to come out of the closest as a gender-nonconforming person. It still took me awhile to be comfortable presenting feminine around people in my department though I was starting to present feminine around my friends. Baby steps at first. Like nail polish. And then a bit of makeup. And then highly androgynous clothing. Eventually tilting toward the feminine. It takes time. As I learned the hard way at a bar one night  with a friend early in my adventures of crossdressing out in public, presenting totally femme when you are not ready to present totally femme can be a really terrifying experience – make sure you can escape if you need to. Go at your own pace and preferably in safe, LGBT friendly places.

IMG_20150525_154600May 25, 2015

After struggling with my identity as a crossdresser and a feminine man I finally came to terms with myself and accepted myself as a trans woman for the first time. My life suddenly took a new focus. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once. I startling googling “transgender” etc and I stumbled across horror stories about murder rates and suicide and depression and all this scary stuff about how awful it is to be a trans woman. Honestly I was scared shitless. But after calming down I came to do more research that put some context around the statistics and significantly helped me see things with a clear head. Being trans wasn’t going to be this terribly scary thing. I had a lot of privilege in my life. I started to see how transition could work and I began to plot my social transition.

When I first accepted myself as trans I was not sure how far I wanted to go with hormones or surgery. I was pretty sure I did not want “bottom surgery” but I was less sure about hormones and growing breasts and losing my sexual function. I briefly toyed around with the idea of a bigender identity and presenting ambiguously and not going totally full time. I think this brief foray into bigenderism was really just my own internalized transphobia working against me, pulling me back from my true identity, which I have come to realize is a binary trans female. I had to learn to accept myself totally as a woman in order to reject my history of male-identification. It definitely did not happen over night. I struggled to see myself as a woman because I did not conform to the typical trans narrative of being made fun of as a “sissy” growing up. I always fit in the with the boys – I loved being a boy (albeit one who secretly was obsessed with wearing pantyhose). My lack of femininity in my gender expression as a young boy and my comfort as a married man in society made me question if I was “trans enough” to really identity 100% as a woman. What does it even mean to “feel” like a woman? I struggled with the idea that I have “always” been trans – for me being trans almost felt like this radical choice I was making – albeit a radical choice to be true to my authentic self but a choice nonetheless – which defies the standard narrative of trans being innate and biological. I felt like I was just going through another phase – until it wasn’t – until it started becoming real. My social transition and dating as a woman really helped provide some much needed validation. Also healthy amounts of therapy. I started seeing a gender specialist.

IMG_20150807_194855Aug 7, 2015.

I got bangs! I actually kind of regret this haircut now. But oh well. Live and learn. Cis women have had decades to learn from their mistakes – I am compressing an incredible amount of trial and error into a short period of time!

IMG_20150901_094431September 1st, 2015

This picture was taken in the lobby of my endocrinologist the first day I started Hormone Replacement Therapy. To say I was incredibly stoked would be an extreme understatement. I was SO happy. Oh I should mention I really tried to femme it up because I wanted my endo to think I was “serious” about transitioning and “trans enough” (aka passing according to Western cisnormative hetero beauty standards), which is of course utter BS. But whatever. I still ultimately do it for myself and myself only but in this case I did feel the pressure to conform to standard trans feminine expectations in order to maximize my chances of walking out of that office with a script in my hand. This paranoia and counter-productive mindset is ultimately a function of the problematic gatekeeping system in trans healthcare but that’s a post for another day…

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A thrilling moment sitting in my car outside of Walgreens. For those who are curious, my my doc started me on: 2mg estradiol X 1 day, 50mg of spiro x 2 a day, and 2.5mg finasteride x 1 a day. I should be getting my estradiol bumped up to 4mg at the end of October – I’m excited about that.

IMG_20150908_155606September 8, First week of HRT

Did not notice any real physical changes my first week of HRT. But I did have increased anxiety about passing and became really interested in researching all things HRT. I had trouble sleeping the first few nights because I was so excited about waking up and taking my next dose. It was like waking up to Christmas every morning getting to take my pills. I have since calmed down as to where my sleeping patterns are back to normal and I am getting good sleep again. It’d still say I’m pretty preoccupied with trans-related thoughts though.

IMG_20150914_130139September 14, second week of HRT

At this point I had just had my third session of laser hair removal. Still working on removing residual facial hair – I still have a noticeable shadow though it’s not nearly as bad as when I first started.

IMG_20150922_171031September 22, week three of HRT

IMG_20150930_183313September 30, week four of HRT

It’s been 31 days since I started HRT. Probably the biggest change I have noticed is my skin is a lot softer now. My body hair seems to be growing in slower and less thick and dark – I shave less frequently and shaving is much easier. My sex drive has diminished. Erections are harder to get, sensation is minimized. Ejaculate is pretty much dry (this happened only a couple weeks in surprisingly). Not much development breast-wise. No sensitivity or pain or breast buds yet. Things look slightly flabbier and puffier but that’s about it – unless I am imagining things because sometimes  I slightly maybe see some breast development but it’s so subtle I don’t want to say for sure. Appetite has increased. Not much in terms of mood swings or mood changes. Fairly happy and content. Bouts of dysphoria here and there, especially after laser wrecked my face for a good week. But dysphoria seems to be getting better all the time. I seem to be starting to get gendered female more often even when wearing androgynous clothing. I feel like I am passing a little bit better. I’m also getting better at makeup and my gender presentation. My awful bangs are starting to grow out so my hair looks a little better. My current goal is to grow my hair as long as possible as quickly as possible.

Stay tuned for next month’s update!

BONUS PICS:

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Transition, Hormones, Informed Consent, and Gatekeeping

So I have been on the fence about going on hormone replacement therapy (HRT) since I realized I am trans about 2-3 months ago. One of the big reasons that I didn’t necessarily want HRT was because I had to decide whether I want biological children or not given that I cannot afford to bank sperm right now (being on a grad stipend). I eventually realized (1) I can adopt or use sperm donors and (2) going on HRT is more important now than my long-term desires for raising children. In other words Im doing some temporal discounting right now and placing my priorities on my short-term happiness with the understanding that my long-term desires might change as I make further progress in my transition. I know that HRT will make me happier. How can I not choose that?

Another reason why I didn’t want to just ASSUME that because I’m trans I MUST go on HRT is that I have always liked forging my own path. I’m not going to do something just because everyone else is doing it. I think it’s perfectly possible to fully transition without HRT. It’s harder but it’s doable. I thought seriously about taking that route. But ultimately I realized that I want the secondary sex characteristics that come with HRT (mainly breasts).

So having decided that I want to go on HRT I talked to my psychiatrist yesterday and asked her for a letter. She said yes! And I booked an appointment for an endocrinologist on Sep 1st! So hopefully that means I will have a prescription for estradiol in a little less than a month from now. I am so excited! Besides doing laser for my facial hair this is the most significant step in my transition. I could hardly sleep last night.

For those that don’t know, many endocrinologists will not prescribe HRT to trans people without a letter of recommendation from a psychiatrist or therapist. Traditionally this requirement has led to many trans people not being able to get the treatment they need to feel comfortable in their own bodies and to ease their gender dysphoria. Such requirements have been criticized for being a method of “gatekeeping” that is biased towards trans people who have won the genetic lottery and have passing privilege. It was a lot harder for people without passing privilege to gain access to treatment because it was assumed that they would be “unsuccessful” in their transition and this would lead to suicide or self-harm.

But now the new model for HRT access is the “informed consent” model that doesn’t require a letter from a therapist in order to start HRT. So long as you are of sound mind and understand all the risks that HRT entails then an endo will prescribe you them and help you monitor your blood levels for safety reasons. For obvious reasons I think the informed consent model is superior to the traditional model. The biggest advantage is that the informed consent model respects the autonomy of the patient to make healthcare decisions for themselves. Since the principle of autonomy is one of the major foundations of biomedical ethics it’s pretty easy to make arguments that the informed consent model is ethically superior to other models.

Think about it. We respect the principle of autonomy enough for people to get FACE transplants, a hugely risky procedure that was entirely experimental until recently. Why did we allow this? Because the patients gave their informed consent. They knew the risks but decided it was worth the risk. And the risks of HRT are significantly less than the risks of face transplants. So the only reason why HRT has not traditionally been on an informed consent model is because of transphobia, which translates to the idea that transitioning is so radical as to require some kind of paternalistic oversight from the medical profession. But paternalism does not respect the autonomy of the patient. The underlying assumption of paternalism for HRT is that trans people are not of sound enough mind to evaluate the risks of going on HRT so the medical professionals need to make this evaluation for them. But often the professionals end up projecting their own transphobia onto the patient and bias themselves against trans people who dont have passing privilege or fit into the “standard” trans narrative (“I’ve always been a girl/boy”).

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First steps on my transition

So last night was the first time I went dressed fairly in femme amongst my philosophy friends at a causal drinking get together at a local bar near campus. I was just wearing skinny jeans and a feminine-cut t-shirt with ballet flats. I decided at the last minute to not bring my purse inside because I dunno I don’t want to make this grand transformation in front of people – I’d rather slowly transition through a kind of fem androgynous zone before I fully embrace my feminine identity amongst my department friends. I know they wouldn’t have reacted any differently if I brought in a purse but it’s really about my own comfort levels. Like, I don’t feel comfortable yet presenting as if I have boobs, either by wearing a bra or my breastforms. It just feels…weird. One step at a time though. As I spend more time in a half-way transition state I think I’ll feel more comfortable taking bigger steps.

At the bar people didn’t even blink an eye though for the most part, it was great! They were totally respectful but didn’t ignore it entirely either bringing up related anecdotes or offering support and advice. It was a great experience – I felt totally comfortable and accepted.

In other news, I just scheduled my first appointment for laser hair removal on the ol’ beard! I am tremendously excited as my beard shadow is a pretty big source of frustration and anxiety on my part. My beard is thick and dark and grows very fast so I have noticeable stubble only a few hours after shaving. Which means I can never really present as feminine in public for very long before I become noticeably mannish. It sucks! Makeup helps to a certain extent but it’s hard to apply makeup when I don’t have a totally smooth canvas.

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