Today is International Transgender Day of Visibility.
Being forty-five years old, married with two kids, and living in a small community, I never had the choice of flying under the radar if I was going to come out and transition. This was one of the fears that held me back. Because being visible isn’t always easy.
Many transgender people would put themselves in physical danger by disclosing their status, and plenty of others just want to live their lives and not have everyone know their history. The choice to not disclose is a valid one and nobody should ever feel pressure to be ‘out’ if they don’t want to be.
However, given that I have no option but to be open about my transition and ‘female history,’ I decided to try writing about my experiences in the hope that it might be useful to others.
When I first started blogging, I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about sharing something so personal. Historically I’ve never liked writing about myself (preferring to tell the stories of fictional characters rather than my own) because I was always incredibly anxious about how other people perceived me. In retrospect, I think a lot of my social anxiety was based on me not having a strong sense of self. I didn’t know who I was, and I defined myself through other people – so their good opinion really mattered to me. Since coming out and living authentically, I feel more confident about who I am, and therefore I’m less desperate for other people’s approval.
If I can help just one trans or gender questioning person on their path, or help a cisgender person be a better ally to other trans people in their life, then pouring a bit of my soul out onto a page is worth it.
And since today is a day for spreading the word here are some useful links:
This morning I did my third testosterone shot — all on my own with no supervision, yay me — and I figured I should do an update on how it’s going. I was intending to write a brief update, but it turned out really wordy so you might want to get a cup of tea or a glass of wine or something before you settle in to read.
The physical changes are slow but definitely happening, which is reassuring. I always knew it would take time, so the tiny changes that are only noticeable to me are still good. So far there isn’t much that would be obvious to anyone else, but here are the things I’ve noticed (that I’m prepared to share here, because there is such a thing as TMI).
I had a small but noticeable (to me) voice drop very early on, within a week of my first T shot. It’s more obvious in my singing voice than my speaking voice, but I gained a few new notes at the bottom of my range, and have also gained power and resonance where previously my voice was very weak. I used to be a soprano, now I’m a solid alto.
My speaking voice is very slightly different too I think, but mostly you might just assume I had a cold so it’s not very impressive yet.
Around week five I noticed that my single lonely pre-T chin hair had some company. Since then they’re coming in… well, not exactly thick and fast, but there are new additions whenever I look closely. They’re currently very uneven and mostly showing up on the right side of my face so I’ll be shaving/trimming until they get to a point where I can grow it out without looking ridiculous, which may take months or even years.
I’ve gained about 2-3 lbs and I’m pretty sure it’s all muscle. I feel leaner/firmer and have gained an inch on my waist and chest, but lost half an inch on my hips so I’m happy with that. I have been working out regularly and watching what I eat.
My body thinks I’m a teenage boy, and although I might be gaining muscle I’m not growing upwards so I need to be careful not to trust my appetite. The hunger has mostly been manageable so far, but occasionally I find myself raiding the fridge in a food frenzy. Tracking calories via My Fitness Pal is helping!
In some ways I have more energy and stamina when I’m actually doing things, but in the afternoon/evening I sometimes feel wiped out. That was more noticeable in the first month, maybe while my body was adapting to the new hormones? I’m sleeping pretty well, although I had some serious night sweats in month one — presumably hormonal as I’m fast-tracking the menopause now.
Yuck. Remember greasy puberty skin and hair? Yeah. I have that now. It comes and goes a bit during the month (it’s at its worst between shots when my T levels peak), but when it’s bad it’s really bad. Of course that also means I’m more prone to spots. But so far the spots from T are less evil than the oestrogen spots I used to get. They’re superficial and tend to clear up more quickly whereas the oestrogen spots hung around so long I felt like I should charge them rent. The acne situation may well get worse before it gets better though, and I’m resigned to that.
Obviously it’s really hard to tell what’s down to the hormones, and what’s down to me being happy about the fact that I’m taking the hormones. Plus, just to muddy the waters further I also started on ADHD meds about 3 weeks after I started T so that could be a factor too.
So with that disclaimer…. Generally my mental health has been really good since starting T. I’ve felt less anxious, more positive, more stable, more confident, and more able to cope with things. I had a slight blip around week 3-4 when I felt horrible for a couple of days, but I think that was when my T levels dropped before my 2nd shot. In month two my levels felt more stable (based on the physical symptoms), and I didn’t get the mood drop.
I think that’s everything… It’s been a busy week in blog land. I’m terrible with consistency so they all came at once this week. I might be quiet for a while now, but will be back with another update at some point when I have something new to say.
When I first came out and told people I wanted to transition I got a lot of people asking the question. “Are you sure?”
My only answer to that at the time was to say that yes, because by then I was very sure about the fact that I’m transgender – but it was hard to be sure whether social and physical transition was the right path or not. Eventually, I got to a point where I felt like moving forward was my only choice, and so far, it’s felt right every step of the way despite the challenges. But the fact that it feels right doesn’t totally eliminate those doubts and fears.
This inner conflict tends to generate questions like:
Am I doing the right thing?
Is transition really going to get me to a better place?
What if I regret it?
As a trans person, it often feels like there isn’t much room to express those fears (other than to a therapist). When we come out we usually have to do a lot of justifying ourselves, and proving our “transness” to family and friends in order to gain and keep their support. Similarly, in order to access medical treatment (in the UK) we have to convince professionals that we qualify for a diagnosis of ‘gender dysphoria’ and that transition is something we need.
Once we’ve accessed that support and treatment, it sometimes feels as if everyone expects us to be 100 per cent positive about every aspect of the journey. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad to have started hormone therapy. I don’t regret it, it feels right and I’m excited about the way it’s changing me. But I still occasionally wake up in the morning feeling slightly panicky and thinking: “Oh fuck, this is actually happening.”
Similarly, I’m excited at the prospect of having chest reconstruction surgery this summer. But that doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally have doubts about it. But everyone has doubts about major decisions in their lives: changing jobs, moving house, relocating, getting married, ending a relationship…. Hell, people have doubts about whether getting a new haircut is a good decision. So I think it would be pretty weird if I wasn’t experiencing slightly ambivalent feelings about having part of my body removed under general anaesthetic (even when it’s bits I don’t want).
Having occasional doubts and fears doesn’t mean I’m making a mistake. Change is never easy. Yet it’s hard to speak those doubts and fears out loud, because I worry that admitting them somehow invalidates me, and will make people think that maybe I’m not trans at all – and then I risk losing their support. So this is a hard thing to be open about.
I’m guilty of not updating for a while. I was going to post a proper “Two Months on Testosterone” update next week (how time flies), but I bumped into a local friend at the gym today, and she told me she’d been reading my blog. I think I sometimes forget that people are following it, because I deliberately set it up so that it’s not interactive. Maybe I will change that in the future. But it’s lovely to know that people are reading, and are interested in following me on this crazy journey. Thank you!
So, as I said, I will update in more detail on my progress next week. But I wanted to pop in with a few things that have made me happy over the last few weeks.
My biggest excitement recently was being gendered correctly by a stranger – twice.
It’s hard to understand what a huge deal this is if you’re not transgender, but take it from me. It’s amazing. I was on a train, and the guard was checking tickets. I braced myself, ready for the (previously) inevitable “Thanks, madam,” and nearly fell out of my seat when he said, “Thanks, sir.”
I managed to play it cool and nod and grunt (because my voice would ruin things at the moment). But I actually wanted to kiss him because it was the first time that anyone has read me as male since I was twelve years old. It made me realise just how much I missed it.
Later on the same journey a bloke who wanted to take the spare seat next to me called me “mate,” so it wasn’t just a random fluke. I’m not even sure what’s changed because I don’t think I look very different to how I did a couple of months ago… but I’m not complaining.
After that, I spent two days with my sister in London and we got called the collective “ladies” everywhere we went, and I wanted to punch things while smiling through gritted teeth. But hey. Baby steps.
People who know me are gradually getting better at gendering me correctly too. I’m very forgiving, and I know it’s hard – but please keep practising using those he/him pronouns. Every time I see or hear them being used for me, it makes my day. My son gets a gold star for being the best at this so far, but my daughter is starting to remember too. She also called me a gentleman the other day (while trying to get me to fetch her something – that kid will go far), and takes great delight in bringing me jars to open and saying things like: “Come on, mum. Be a man and use those muscles.”
That’s all for now. I wrote this in a rush so please excuse any typos. I save my best editing for my work rather than my blog 😉