In changing from one gender presentation and embodiment to another is not only challenging but it allows a ‘window’ into some of the perceived and real differences in how society and we ourselves view each other.
In a way it reminds me of the ancient (and modern) native societies that valued transsexual people as shamans and people of spiritual power. We are able to transcend genders, experience both and understand better, perhaps have a deeper association with nature and our relationship with not only others but universally, everything.
Now, I’m not claiming anything for myself – but I do want to document those things that I see, feel and experience both in my life and especially now as I transition. Some of these will be very mundane, hopefully others may reach grand thresholds and visions …..
My intent for this post is to keep it open, to keep updating this as I recognize changes or differences either between the genders or in my general earthly or spiritual viewpoints. I’ll start with some very mundane observations….
A rather cute observation: as a male, presenting as a male throughout my life, I am used to wearing a shirt/t-shirt etc with the collar or neckline in the back always up against the back of my neck. Even a lei will be worn by a man tight against the back of his neck (which is a bit uncomfortable as the leaves and some flowers can be prickly). However, watch a woman put on a lei or adjust one that someone else puts on her (usually a man) – she will immediately shift it down in the back, away from her neck. Similarly, most of the female clothes I have need to be worn back, away from the neck. I am constantly checking and re-adjusting as the perfect fit is to have them down further in the back, not up against the neck. It’s refreshing actually.
Here’s another mundane one: I was wearing a pair of flared corduroy woman’s’ jeans and had to use the restroom. This was at home and I had waited just a bit too long if you know what I mean. The most expeditious mode was to simply unzip ala male mode (standing). That’s when it became obvious that zippers on female clothing are only for ease of dressing – they are ‘short’ and not meant nor accomplish the same ‘functional’ purpose as zippers on pants for males. Lesson learned: while presenting as a woman – do (act) like a woman!
We drove around West Maui today. That’s a really bad road: 1,000 feet up a cliff, no guard rail, no shoulder (edge of road = 500 foot drop), gravel, single lane, 170 degree turns around ridges and steep valleys and two way traffic with idiots driving fast coming at you! My partner mostly drove and would take it slow, especially coming to a 170 deg curve in case someone was coming (occasionally honking the horn to warn them). But she would also drive very very close to the outside edge (where I’m sitting!). Normally this does not faze me. I’m used to climbing (technical climbing with ropes and equipment etc.) so heights never effected me before. We stopped to take pictures of this awesome canyon/valley emptying out to the ocean and I actually got scared of the heights! Of course 2 inches in front of my toes was a 600 foot drop …. but still, that never effected me before. I’ve been on HRT for only 1/2 month but I’m wondering if that has anything to do with my sudden lack of ‘height tolerance’? I have many friends that are natal female that are great climbers and shared the ‘no fear’ that I had, so this is a change in me personally.
In drying with a towel I found another very interesting difference. Like many other TS I shave my body and the hormones are making it very smooth. Interestingly it is now harder to dry myself after taking a shower. Even though my skin in softer and smoother, the towel drags. Before with hair, the towel would wipe smoothly and efficiently along. Now it drags and bunches up and I wind up patting myself dry. My partner smiles and says “welcome to the female world honey”!
I drank way too much tea the other day, so that night, actually very early in the morning, I had to get up to use the restroom and ‘recycle’ that tea. I live in the upcountry so it gets cold in the middle of the night. Usually its my feet that I first notice getting uncomfortably cold – but not any more. Now it’s a certain part of my chest! This morning I got out of bed and again it was cold. Those certain parts immediately, ummm, came to attention. This time my partner said “Welcome to the real world of women”!
Lifting heavy suitcases off the airport baggage conveyor belts, lugging them to the car and then trying it put them in the car while wearing a slim long dress can be a very harrowing experience! Regardless of how much upper body strength a person has or does not have – you have to rethink and redo your strategy on this one! It was an interesting experience.
Getting into and out of a car is also challenging in a dress like that. I quickly figured out I had to keep my legs together, sit and then swing the legs in together. I ‘am’ learning ….
Nasty and torturous ….. Getting a mosquito bite in the middle of your back, just where your bra band rubs all day is NO fun …. All day long for 2 days, anytime I moved it would earatate it. Even putting ointment on it didn’t really help.
Well I’m learning… One of the women at work took me aside, adjusted my tank top as the tops of my bra were showing, plus I had on a white bra that showed through. The other day, I had worn a shelf bra but put my push up under that minus the straps. In the middle of the day I went home and changed into a tank top but forgot to the the straps back on. Oh boy did I have issues the rest of the day with the bra sagging, almost flipping down and just sooo uncomfortable and embarrassing. Next time I’m just going to take the time to go back home and fix these things and not just put up with them!
Restroom etiquette is very different. In the men’s restroom – no one talks. You do your business, wash your hands in the sink and exit. No such thing as lotion etc. and the mirror is superfluous – perhaps a quick glance – but really, there is no need for a mirror in the men’s restroom!
The women’s restroom on the other hand – the mirror is an essential element. One might even describe the women’s restroom as a social meeting place – the equivalent of the water cooler. Of course we stand around and chat as we adjust ourselves and use lotion after washing. But, what took me by surprise is that we talked to each other even as we were sitting!!
By the way, the sounds men and women make are completely different – women are noisier ….
“The Secret Smile”: ever since I came out 100% presenting as a woman, I have noticed that other woman would give me this nice smile. I interpreted it as “you poor thing – must be hard for you because you look a bit like a man” kind of smile. It is kind of a sweet smile with a cocked head. Men do not smile like that and as a man, a woman never smiled to me like that. And I don’t ever recall seeing a woman smile like that to anyone. But I’m getting those smiles a lot.
I was reading a book by a college professor that had also transitioned. She described this ‘secret smile’ that women give to other women. A sort of “we’re in this together” kind of smile. So I asked my partner and my ‘sista’ at work and they both said “yes, of course, the secret smile”. So now I make sure I always return the secret smile as well as initiate it myself.
Who would have guessed – a hair dryer is ‘not’ for drying your hair (unless you are a guy)! Silly men… A hair dryer is for ‘styling’ your hair! Your hair can not be too wet, nor can it be too dry. It has to be in that just perfect state before you can take the ‘dryer’, curl up your hair with a large diameter brush just for this purpose and hit the base with the hot air. This will give a nice lift to the hair in that spot. Repeat and continue as necessary to give your hair a bouncy feminine look. As my partner said: a major distinction between a man’s hair and a women’s is the bounce or fluff. A man’s hair is flat, no puff or bounce. A women’s hair has depth and bounce (which requires just the right amount of hair spray in only certain places). Ack, I hate the wind …..
Lots of lessons on the differences and how, as a woman, I am supposed to do things now.
For example, fixing my hair. Always fluff the hair, especially in the center top of the head. Everyday I use a hair dryer and special brush to lift and fluff my hair just so. Also, for me, it’s important to tuck my front hair behind my ears.
Eyebrows are another big change. From not hardly knowing they exist to weekly pluckings, monthly waxing and daily usage of a brow pencil.
I do not clip finger nails any more. I exclusively use a nail file and shape them. Occasionally I will buff them as well. I don’t use nail polish.
It’s pretty much the same for toe nails too, except that I do color my toe nails. That is a monthly process consisting of using alcohol to clean them off, filing, polishing and then applying new polish.
Each day I pick out the earrings I want to wear – either to go with my outfit for that day or picking out an outfit to match the earrings I want – just depends on what I feel is most important that day – earrings or outfit! At night I have to make sure I put my studs back in. It’s easier the next day if I always keep something in the holes.
Sometimes it gets even more involved, especially when you throw shoes into the mix. There are days when I want to wear certain shoes, say flats or sandals or wedges. Then I’ll have to pick the dress and jewelry to match.
And of course getting ready is a whole new adventure! Showers are longer as I shave my legs (and just about everything else), then wash, shampoo my hair, rinse, then conditioner, letting that set as I luffa, finally rinsing clean and toweling off. I use a wide bristled brush to comb out tangles. I let my hair dry a bit as I pick out and put on my under garments and choose my earrings, necklace and bracelet for the day. Depending on how I feel, I might pick out my clothes first and then the jewelry to match or the other way around. Either way, I get dressed and then grab the hair dryer and a round brush to style my hair. I’ll use a different amount of hair spray depending on what I’m doing this day. I’ll use my hand to prevent the spray from hitting the bottom of my hair – that way it looks more natural, bounces and flows with the wind. Then I do my eye brows, filling them in and creating a bit more of an arch. Next I touch up shave and make sure all looks well. Then I pick out my shoes, put my phone into my purse and check that I have everything I need. I may put on lipstick depending on what I’m doing that day (I don’t wear it to work for example).
If it’s a special occasion, I’ll put on a foundation, some bronzing to hilite cheek bones and hide the jaw line, then loose powder over everything. I’ll finish off with lipstick but I usually put that on when I get close to our destination.
Having a larger and softer curvy butt is nice but it has it disadvantages. On long flights to the mainland and back, it gets hard to sit for that long – gets quite sore!
I just saw an excellent article on societal gender differences. One of the main points they make is that there is a finite window where transsexuals like me, that are mature, have a scientific background and have experience in both genders, will be available to give unique witness to how people treat men and women differently . People 40 or 50 yrs ago did not fully transition, young people now are taking puberty blockers and will never have the experience in the other gender. The time for the world to hear and record our stories is only now.
What this article points out and what I have been saying – is that I have experienced life as a male (and careful here, my bias is that I experience male birth sex BUT as a gender of woman). As they say, if you are living in a black and white world you have no concept of colors. Living as a man (gender) in a male (birth sex) body (what we term ‘cis’) – or vice versa – you are in a black and white world. Not that I and other transsexuals see beautiful brilliant colors – be we ‘do’ see colors and as this article points out, our perspectives and stories can be very helpful and constructive for everyone.
I’m going to include some of those societal differences below.