RSS Feed

Monthly Archives: November 2013

“Clocked”

HammerClock3To be “clocked” or “read”, in the transgender vernacular, means to have someone (general public) treat us as if we are our pre-transition gender.  In my case that means someone addresses me as ‘Sir’ or refers to me as ‘he’ or ‘him’ or would treat me as a guy, etc.  We start out fearing this and doing everything to avoid this ever happening.  Some transsexuals will never pass (to pass is to be ‘automatically’ assumed to be the gender as which you are presenting).  Others change remarkably and have no problems.  Of course this is the hardest when we start our transition.

The local society and environment has a lot to do with this as well.  This can range from open acceptance, to very dangerous – look at the recent hate crimes and murders of transgenders and transsexuals, especially out east and in Texas.  In a couple cases, the police and rescue personal would not treat the transgender victims resulting in their death.  I am lucky, Hawaii is very open and accepting and most likely is the reason it took over half a year before I experienced being clocked in public.

It happened today at the local wholesale buyers club.  They have employees that hand out samples of different foods. One of them addressed me nicely with “Sir would you like to try…”.  Well I looked at him – he seemed to be friendly – and asked if I wanted a sample, so I took one and said thanks.  Then he offered to help if I needed to find something, saying he saw me looking around, but he again used ‘Sir’.  Sort of bugged that he did it twice – not really sure if he was pulling something or making a point and I’m also upset that I didn’t correct him!

To be fair, I was dressed a bit more androgynous today.  Usually I wear jeans with a tank top or straps sometimes with an open shirt over it.  But today I wore jeans and a shirt, which did sort of hide my, ummm, assets ….

On our way out the lady checking the cart at the door made mention of a 2 broom/dust pan set we purchased saying “ah, his and her’s”, then quickly changed that to “inside and outside” which to me meant she ‘read’ me, accidentally made that innocent comment (would have been awkward but better if she stopped there and not ‘corrected’ her statement) but in correcting, it made me know for sure she clocked me and was trying to politely cover her tracks. I’ll give her high marks for trying.  As my partner pointed out, she could very well have corrected her statement because she noticed we were a lesbian couple.

Now to be balanced, earlier today someone did call me “ma’am”.

Of course I had spent plenty of time thinking about how I would feel if I got ‘clocked’.  I think that is just part of the process of transitioning.  It is sort of amazing that I’ve gone almost six months before this happened.

Mentally I share the same philosophy as the ‘old hats’ (post-transition): this is my life, not theirs, what they think or say is their own issue.  But when it happens – feelings are still hurt, it smarts.  This had the effect of calling into question any and all of the progress of my transition so far (putting it in the classification of ‘probable progress’).  Was everyone just being nice to me all this time?  Was I really starting to be able to ‘pass’ as a woman?

Now, I’m not that naive that I think I’m passing everywhere I go. I know I’m a long way from being able to do that. I do think however, that I’m somewhere on the road to that. This is the first time being ‘clocked’ as well. One spends time and worry about being clocked and one also prepares themselves for it. I hear from the ‘old hats’ that even after 20 years some of them will get clocked occasionally.

And really, it does not matter – I am finally becoming the real me – becoming congruent. So this is expected and one is to be tough and to be true to ones self, etc, etc, etc. But – it still stings and hurts.

Why does this hurt, especially when one has confidence?  Why do things like this force us to re-evaluate everything?  It puts back into question everything we so painfully and carefully worked out before – again! And precisely ‘why’ does it matter?   These are important and difficult questions.

We are social beings.  As much as this is a personal voyage, it is tied up with others that surround me – known and unknown people and agents of society.  As much as society effects each of us, we in turn ‘are’ society.  It becomes difficult when we are outside societal norms, especially something as foundational as gender.  It is both a “Why can’t they see?” and “What am I not doing right?”.

It matters to me precisely because there is both an internal and external component to living.  I have come to profoundly understand who I am and transition is an extreme step to realize or actualize that.  As much as this is an internal transition, it also is surrounded by society.  I think we all have a need to be accepted – maybe just to affirm the real person – maybe just to be comfortable in our life.

Why can’t people just see who I am …..

With aloha,

Sifan

Month 6 Summary

20131128_170026

Steph!! THE BIG SIX !!

Before starting my transition, I had heard that most of the ‘major’ changes would occur by the end of six months.  My original plan was to wait for this milestone and then come out full time as a woman.  My thoughts at the time were that this would give me the best, least embarrassing and most comfortable way to do this, as I would look more authentic and be able to pass (as a woman) so much better.

Unfortunately I was focused on looking like a woman and trying to pass as one and in the process forgot that in the meantime I would have had to look and pass as a man. At three months I was ‘budding’ enough, plus other changes, that I could not present as a man any longer and started my RLE – full time “real life experience” (eg. full time out as a woman).

The good part of this is that I’m now three months closer to GRS (gender re-assignment surgery) than I would have been if I waited.  GRS is a good name for it as most everything is re-used (it’s not chopped as some transphobes like to proclaim).  As for timing to start a RLE:  you just have to do it when it seems right.  There are pros and cons regardless of when it’s done.  No matter what, there is still the ‘ugly duckling’ phase where you are not able to present as a man nor are you able to present as a woman.  Not that I’m past that yet – but it sure is better than it was.

A caution here:  I’m a transsexual – I’m ‘binary’ in that my gender is female – opposite my birth sex.  I’m not gender fluid or someplace in the middle as other transgender people are.  I’m fully on the opposite side.  Therefore when I talk about an ugly duckling phase, I’m speaking from my experience of the difficult phase of changing from one extreme of the gender scale to the other.  Others are perfectly happy someplace in the middle.  And as many have pointed out (me included), we all are someplace ‘within’ this scale – probably never on the extreme ends (binary), although society blindly asserts that we all are.

So much for an intro!  I’ve read that the changes from here on out are slower but continue for up to 2 years – stay tuned …

This last month saw a number of what I would call ‘massively public’ events.  Events where there were a lot of people and I had some public role, like giving a tour, holding ‘mock’ interviews so students could practice and get experience, hosting or giving presentations.  In each of these cases there were a lot of people I did not know (20 to 50 people) and I had to be ‘up in front’ of everyone and had to either present or hold open discussions where I had to fully participate.  These were still scary but this is good experience for me.  I am getting more comfortable – not quite back to where I was when I was a professional instructor – but starting to get there.

Another notable recurring situations are compliments:   I’m starting to get them on how I’m looking, on my choice of clothes or colors or on my hair styling and even how my face looks.  These are from people at work, friends and also people that have not seen me in a while.  Three people that I unexpectedly met after having not seen each other for, well definitely since I transitioned, had dropped their jaws and grabbed me in huge hugs!  One was an older fella whom I had not told of my transition after he had left the islands.  I wasn’t sure how he would take it.  As we walked down the hall together talking – he put his arm around me …. what a sweet guy!  Another person, host of our TG support group, was amazed at how much I had changed (we both had been busy for a couple of months and had not seen each other).  At the library, I ran across a woman I knew but haven’t seen for a while.  She knew about my transition (sort of knew about that before I ever said anything).  When she saw me, she ‘attacked’ me with a hug and an “oh my – you are gorgeous”!

On the other side of the coin:  this is the first time I was ‘clocked’ (it’s also called ‘being read’).  This is when someone in a public space persistently calls us by the ‘wrong’ pronouns – in my case calling me ‘sir’.  Of course this is something ‘we’ (transgender/transsexuals) are sensitive to, watch for, do everything everyday to avoid (by the way we dress, carry ourselves, talk, act, etc).  It’s also something ‘we’ mentally and emotionally prepare for.  Mentally I share the same philosophy as the ‘old hats’ (post-transition): this is my life, not theirs, what they think or say is their own issue.  But when it happens – feelings are still hurt, it smarts.

This had the effect of calling into question any and all of the progress of my transition so far (putting it in the classification of ‘probable progress’).  Was everyone just being nice to me all this time?  Was I really starting to be able to ‘pass’ as a woman?  Usually I wear a tank top, sometimes with an open shirt over it, but that day I just wore a shirt, buttoned of course.  So I was probably a lot more androgynous or even masculine looking than normal (my assets were, ummm, less noticeable).  Another way of looking at this is that I’ve been out 3 months already and this is the first time that had happened.  I hear from the ‘old hats’ that even after 20 years some of them will get clocked occasionally.  This is the subject of my next post.

Ok, physical changes during month six:  oh are my breasts sore …. ya, they are still growing (yay).  I seem to have gotten back some of the size from before – only now they are very firm – and ummm, sensitive.  All my skin is much softer.  Even my lips are a bit fuller (let me put it this way – I now ‘have’ lips …)  My bottom is filling out, my waist is shrinking and my shoulders and upper arms are losing a bit of size (no where near enough for me though).  Some weight is definitely redistributing.  A number of people have noticed and mentioned the changes in my face.  And even I have noticed (and oh am I critical ….).  There is a bit more definition of the cheek bones and my face is not so ‘square’ as it was.  Still a ways to go, but I can see progress.  So, I now have some ‘curves’!

I’m finally able to change my earrings without going through the roof.  I did learn my lesson:  I had left them off one night.  The next day my partner had to, well, it felt like she had to ‘drill’ one of them back in ….  Of course every time I change I have that memory in the back of my mind.  But at last, I can now change them and only have a tiny bit of feeling.  I have learned my lesson however and I keep my original studs in over night and anytime I’m not wearing hooks.

Even after laser hair treatment on my face, I’m still shaving daily.  It’s not that noticeable in that most of the hairs are white now, but from the side you can tell.  Even after a close shave, my skin is not smooth – or smooth enough.  This next month I’m planning on starting electrolysis.  That should make a big difference.

I am also still shaving the rest of my body:  legs and arms about once a week, torso almost every day (sometimes every day, mostly every two days).  One of the changes expected from hormones is to change the body hair to more of a peach fuzz. My partner has been after me to stop shaving to see what results.  But I can’t stand to see any hair there – at least for now.  I’ll let you know the results once I get brave enough to experiment and let it grow (eeeeeek).

I’m doing daily walks now too.  I walk around this large block where I work.  It has about a 60 foot difference in elevation, so it’s a good exercise.  I have started to notice that the way I walk has now changed.  There is a definite bounce and a bit of a wiggle in my step now.  I think it has to do with ‘filling out’ ….

Finally, I have spent more time with the speech lessons (about time actually).  From a number of different courses and online material I’ve read, there is a lot of discussion about constricting your throat, pinching your thorax, lifting your adams apple and speaking from your mouth, not your chest.  This was all mumbo jumbo and somewhat senseless at first – how can you even know from where you actually speak?  How could a person pinch their thorax?  For me the best course I’ve found is the 30 day Crash Course.  With guided help and exercises I finally figured out all of these.  For me, just thinking about talking from the mouth will accomplish all the others automatically.  Once it clicks, it clicks!

I have a long ways to go yet, but I have surprised my self after a couple of public speaking engagements when I listened to the audio/video of myself.  One time I was setting up for an outreach public astronomy talk – I was testing the links from the remote mic to room speakers to the broadcasting equipment and finally to the feedback from the web.  There is a built in delay for censoring (about 6 seconds).  So I could speak, then 6 sec. later hear myself in the headphones.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing – I absolutely had a female voice!  It was awesome!  So, my advice to others – practice, practice, practice – it is possible (I’m definitely still in the practice phase).

Oh, and a biggie just today …. I ordered my wedding dress!  We are soooo excited.  Also, make sure you read the excellent post my partner wrote here regarding her experiences being the SO (significant other) of someone transitioning.

Wishes (or to work towards):  more hair on my head, less ‘no’ hair anywhere else, better voice, more defined curves and electrolysis and …. of course …. GRS!

I guess I would summarize this month as gaining more confidence (despite being clocked), physically filling out more, redistributing weight, defining curves and starting to get compliments.  If you are just starting your transition – ya, six months is magical.

With much aloha,

Sifan

I am Sifan’s Sweetheart: A Significant Other Speaks

What follows is a guest post from my kealoha (my beloved):

LKH 2I am Sifan’s Sweetheart. No big thing to almost anyone but us. What makes it newsworthy (if it is) is that Sifan was born female with a male body, and it is that male body that I met and thought was part and parcel of the entire package when we fell in love. I was wrong. Sifan is transsexual. The male body is disappearing and will eventually be surgically corrected into the female body that she so wants to have.

I am female physically, emotionally, psychically. I am heterosexual and I will be marrying Sifan, who considers herself to be lesbian, in the spring. We will both be wearing dresses, hers probably a tad more flouncy than mine as I am a big fan of simplicity in clothing. She will still have parts of the male body present; corrective surgery is not scheduled until next summer or fall. I care not a bit. Here’s why:

I fell in love with a human being whose name used to be Stephen and, while I knew there was a lot of what I called at the time “female traits”, was someone I considered to be fully male in all the ways that counted. I thought of Stephen as a man and was happy in that.

Imagine the surprise when Sifan explained last January that there was no longer a way to continue presenting in life as a man when in fact she was, in all the ways that matter other than the body, a woman. This news was explosive. I was angry, confused, hurt and fearful. And I did not know if I could get past it.

The biggest issue: could I stay with this person? Could I live with a male body that would transition via hormone therapy and eventual surgical correction of the genitals? And later with the female-in-every-way person? Could I still love this person? How? How long? How deeply? It was an extremely challenging time as I wrestled with these huge questions. In the end it was simplicity itself that triggered resolution.

I saw that there was really only a single fork in the road. I had to decide if I wanted to live with or without my beloved, for Sifan was exactly that. I also saw that she was not going to be able to move forward living the lie of being masculine. This situation would not change. As I stared for weeks at these- live with, live without- the truth of my love for this human being slowly solidified. I loved her regardless of body gender, physical appearance, genital configurations, voice frequency, length of hair and style of clothing. In short, I loved a human being, not a man, not a woman. A real live wonderful amazing person named Sifan. I could never willingly give her up.

Once seen, this decision was easy and stress-free. I made my choice, have not looked back and cannot even imagine its revocation. I feel blessed and honored to be in lifelong partnership and love with this courageous and beautiful one. I am shocked, sometimes, to realize that not everyone in the world envies me this relationship, as I feel so much gratitude and appreciation for it. She truly is my beloved. In the early days of our relationship I was unable to control my heart. Now I am unwilling.

Some who are aware of these changes have felt uncomfortable or even rejecting of them and of us. Some are very open and supportive. Yet I care not what anyone thinks of this, be it pro or con. I am clear that this is nothing if not an intensely personal decision made by the two of us and fundamentally involves no one but ourselves. Like it, hate it or be somewhere in between. Not my business what you think.

I see now that to imagine that there are but two classifications for gender is unconscious ignorance. I have come to understand that we are none of us wholly female or male; we are a soup of qualities, we are gender goulash.

I have looked closely and find that there are no inherent female traits nor male ones. What exists are simply traits; characteristics, qualities, behaviors, sensations, thoughts and feelings that are evaluated in relation to the gender of the body and then called masculine or feminine. To call my love of balancing the budget and planning a financial future a masculine quality is absurd. To say that my tender response to a hurt animal or my willingness to feel and express my emotions is more female than male is ludicrous. I like beer, hate to cook, don’t want to ever wear high heels and have never been a follower. I also love lipstick, plucking my eyebrows just so and admiring male and female bodies alike. These things are human, they are me, they are gender neutral. They just appear as I walk around in my daily life. So it is for us all.

Only when a label is applied might it seem that the particular and specific ways we show up belong in one category or another. A more focused look reveals that these behaviors and interior workings are only what they are and that the labels are what they are not. If I am considered a woman because of my genitals and breasts, curves and hormone levels then it is but my body that is such. Were my psyche male I would be something other than what that body seems to dictate. So would we all.

This to me is a cause for celebration for it opens the door to removing many of the barriers that bind us within and without. We are tremendously more free and diverse and deep than we ever knew. Hallelujah! Life is just wide open.

I continue to walk happily down the street holding Sifan’s hand and feeling nothing other than rightness and contentment. We are deeply connected and are constantly aware of that fact. Bodily and hormone changes cannot possibly endanger this. We are blessed.

We are love, as is everyone.

Beach Bodies: a view of perception

Cancun-Beach-CoupleYou know how sometimes when you wake up in the morning, and you have time and don’t have to get out of bed right away – sometimes you start thinking about ….. something.  Living in Maui, of course I think about the beach and swimming and just laying out sunning or reading or chatting with my partner.

But I noticed a big change since before I transitioned.  It’s another one of these ‘internal’ changes that has happened.  And because this seems to be something that was driven by the hormone therapy that I’m taking (HRT – transition), this was a very slow change or at least was not noticeable until now – as hindsight.

Now, a disclaimer …  This is ‘me’.  I have lots of evidence (first hand) of many of my friends both male and female (cis) that also support this, but in no way is this a generalization – it’s documentation of something that happened to me.

As a male, seeing a ‘hot’ bodied female (say in a bikini) on the beach, my first thoughts were ‘wow’, in a sexual way – as in ‘focused on the body’.  This response was automatic as is the tendency of ones eyes to follow her down the beach.  However, seeing a ‘hot’ male body on the beach, the response was something like “oh, he must work out” – and nothing more.

But now, as a woman, having been on hormones for more then 5 months, the first thing the I think of when I see a ‘hot’ woman in a bikini on the beach is:  1) nice body (but not in a sexual way), 2) what is she wearing, 3) humm, nope, I could not wear that, 4) nope, I’ll NEVER be able to wear that, 5) I wonder what her personality is like.

When a see a ‘hot’ bodied male on the beach my initial reaction is: 1) nice body (again, not in a sexual way) and 2) I wonder what his personality is like.

Now, the only thing that has changed with me is a very low testosterone level and an elevated estrogen level (compared to a cis-female) – in other-words hormones.   I’ve heard others talk about the ‘testosterone fog’ of which this is just one aspect.  Even back then, I would describe having a ‘male’ shield around me that only let in a portion of the energies of the outside world – almost like it was protecting the woman (me) inside.  But a fog not only obscures, it changes the perspective, the ‘light’ if you will and therefore influences the perception of the world outside.

And, like when the fog lifts, everything is much clearer and that is where I am right now.  Looking back, yes, I agree with so many other transsexuals regarding this ‘testosterone fog’.

I always looked at people in a ‘holistic’ way – a person is both body and personality, body and soul.  But before transition I had this conflict:  a female ‘hot’ body elicited this initial sexual attitude with a holistic view coming secondarily – the ‘fog’ ….

Now, understand this change in me, I will sometimes ‘experiment’ and try to see a person ‘sexually’ only to find that does not exist for me anymore.  What I see is the person – I am not attracted to a hot body now – only if the ‘package’ is complete and compelling would I be interested in meeting them – and then I would never take the initiative – they would have to say hello!  I still recognize a hot body – it’s just that is not a sexual response anymore.

And yes, I have always heard the female response described this way, or sort of this way.  As I said, in a way, my former testosterone fogged being had that deep down inside (and was conflicted).  I suppose it’s like the difference between ‘knowing’ something versus knowing about it experientially.

With aloha,

Sifan