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,