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Month 6 Summary

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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

Month 5 Summary

Sifan 20131021Just got the automated call that tells me to pick up my next month’s supply of hormones from the pharmacy – must be the start of month 6 !

This last month saw a settling in, a becoming more comfortable and some ‘internal’ changes.

My inclination is to say “wow, five months already” and that is a true feeling.  I also vividly remember five months ago and how much anticipation I had and the amount of anxiety I had in starting this journey.  It’s strange how looking forward it seemed like forever and looking back it seems like it just happened, except that so much is packed into the ‘just happened’ space …  Here I am now, having those same feelings of anticipation and anxiety plus the feelings of how far I’ve come and how much has been accomplished.

I’ve had some clarification on the whole ‘gender/natal sex/internal sex’ conundrum.  I had used the term ‘body map’ to describe this previously.  I just read “Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity” by Julia Serano where she describes this as ‘subconscious sex’ which is very much where I was going.  Well, this is the subject of another post, see:  “Body Map“.

Comfort is a subjective thing of course.  In a lot of ways I’m more comfortable in public – exposure being out as a woman and time being in public help immensely.  That’s not to say I don’t get those moments when I still feel awkward or times I just do not want to go into a certain store (for example the car parts place…).  Which is a bit strange considering there are opposite situations as well – a couple cases in point from this last month:

We had the Maui Pride (LGBTQ) day this last month.  This was my first attendance.  My partner and I went and had a great time.  It was special for me of course.  I identify as both the ‘T’ (transgender) and the ‘L’ (lesbian).  It was wonderful to be accepted and we both felt it to be very freeing and loving.  We held hands and had arms around each other most of the time – we even kissed (in public!) under the gate as we left.

Last month I had purchased a halter swim suit top to ‘solve’ my beach ‘issues’.  Well, this month I purchased the matching bottoms!  So I now have a bikini !!  Now, timing in transition is everything – I would not have attempted this before (and well, I’m probably on the edge as far as doing this now).  But with my flatter tummy, budding breasts, slight curves, fuller hair (although not anywhere the length I would like yet) I am passable.  So, I did it.  The first time I went to the beach by myself (my partner was not feeling good that day).  The second time, my partner came with me.  She watched everyone else as I took off my beach dress, exposing myself in my bikini and sauntered down into the water – no one stared.  She noted that I probably look better than 20% of the woman on a Maui beach (tourists feel that being here on a beach is their one chance to wear a bikini – something they would not do back home).  She said I definitely ‘passed’ (yayayayayayay) and she felt good holding hands with another woman who was in a bikini as we strolled down the beach !

Wow, talk about getting more confident in public …. (and no, I’m not going to post those pictures).

Ok, changes this month:

I think my breasts look smaller (ack) !  There has been a lot of soreness.  It seems that they have shrunk but at the same time they are much more firm and solid.  On further inspection they seem to have also grown laterally, a larger circumference, but not outwardly.  I wear a support bra that ‘brings ’em in’ and gives me a nice profile, but without that I look flatter than I was before (from the side, from the front they have additional size – sideways).  The doctor had also recommended taking an over the counter progesterone that I might think about.  It’s suppose to ease some of the soreness as well.

My skin is softer – one of the effects is the generation of a subcutaneous fatty layer just under the skin.  Both my partner and I have now noticed that.  Along with that the hair on the rest of my body (not the face however) is starting to change:  softer, lighter and in some places not as much.  I am shaving my arms and legs about once a week, tummy and chest about once every two days, back about once a month.

I had my last facial hair laser treatment this month.  There was a different technician this time and she did a lot more and used a higher strength.  It was more effective but was a bit harder on me.  Still it was not beyond me – I would rate it a 3 or 4 on the scale of 10 for pain.  I could get away with shaving my face once every two days (and do sometimes) but depending on what I’m doing that day (like work) I’ll shave – this usually turns out meaning I shave everyday during the week but skipping a day on the weekend.  I checked out a hair electrolysis  place and will start that soon.  Most of the facial hair that is left is white – so only electrolysis will work.  This was my original intent – use laser to get rid of as much hair as possible and then ‘clean-up’ with electrolysis.

Ok, as usual, the largest perceived change for last – internal changes:

I read about this, others I know have talked about this – so I was ‘on the alert’ so to speak.  It sort of crept up on me slowly – imperceptibly.  I had mentioned before that others had noted I was moody at times now (and this is different than I was before).  Now I’m noticing other things:

I drove home from work and smelled someone cooking outdoors – a pleasant smell, nothing unusual.  Except that as I traveled the smell got a bit stronger – not much.  In total, I had noticed the smell almost 3 blocks before and about 2 blocks after.  I’ve never had a sensitive nose before.  By the way, it was not intense or out of the ordinary in any way.

About 3 weeks ago I started to notice the scent of the women’s restroom – ‘not’ a restroom smell but a female scent.  I notice this every time I use one now.  Unfortunately I can not compare this to a men’s restroom because I did not have this sense of smell then, so there is no way of comparing and I’m ‘not’ ever going back into one either!

The most lovely new ‘scent’ experience is the smell of my partners neck !  How wonderful it is to have this type of additional connection to the one I love.

My partner and I were at our therapists, I was talking about some of these latest internal changes and mentioning an increase in wanting to feeling textures when I caught myself running my fingers along the bottom hem of the blouse I was wearing !  I guess subconsciously I was proving my point,  I always appreciated color and texture but now I have this want or need to hold or touch things and feel their texture.

Before transition, I had mentioned (complained) that I felt I was behind a curtain that allowed maybe 1/10 of the surrounding sensations (some people call this ‘energy’) to come through.  In some ways it was like my former male self was protecting me from the rawness of the environment.  It’s hard to describe how I knew this – it’s like there were a number of clues that there was a lot more there that I was not able to receive or that what I was feeling/receiving was muted.

Well, ya – it was.  This is another one of these internal changes that came on slowly, imperceptibly – one that perhaps only hindsight sees clearly.   This now manifests in a number of ways.  One is being more sensitive and being effected by things that never bothered me before or that I just would not have paid any attention to.  Another is being a bit more critical of things or actions.  I would have either never noticed before or if I did, I would have instantaneously ‘written them off’ and not be bothered at all by them.  Now, I notice and I have to consciously  deal with it – whether I still ignore them or not – I now have to make that decision.

Whether all of these are effects of the hormones or not, I don’t know.  From my perspective it sure seems like it is.  One thing stands out very very clearly – hormones are very powerful – one really needs to be under the watchful eye of endocrinologists, therapists, and gp’s.

My perception of men has changed too.  I suppose it’s better to say that this transition has explained for me what influences I had been under and explains a lot of my behavior, feelings and actions before my transition.  Switching genders gives a person a huge perception into not only gender, but sexuality, society, politics and the list goes on.  Suffice it to say that I look at men differently now, with more understanding and acceptance actually.

Well, it’s been said many times that a transsexual really does not know how much they are what they are until they get a ways into their transition.  It’s at this time that we start to pull everything together and our lives become congruent – our ‘subconscious sex’, gender expression and societies acceptance of gender – start to match up.  Only then do we start to see and understand the depth of our previous disconnection and finally now be able to understand, to feel ‘right’, ‘connected’, happy and possibly the only word that comes close:  comfortable (again, I do not like that word because it has a connotation of ‘not something essential or necessary for life’ – in this case it is very essential – just look at the suicide rate for transsexuals).

For me, this is re-affirming of who I am and that I have finally solved a life long struggle.

With so much aloha,

Sifan

Body Map

human_body_large

From the research I’ve read regarding gender, natal development and social gender, I assembled my own personal summary or explanation that I use when talking to others that are trying to grasp what transsexualism is about.

I’ll post some of the research links below and they are listed in the ‘links‘ tab as well.

The concept is this: at about the sixth week natal development stage, natal sex differentiation occurs.  That is, we develop from a somewhat androgynous female precursor fetus into (normally) a male or a female depending on the constituent DNA (X’s and Y’s) expression.  At this time there is a rush of androgens plus the differentiation.  If the timing of these two events is correct, then it results in a ‘cis’  (the person’s natal-birth sex matches their internal idea of what sex they are) gendered fetus.  There is also evidence of an altered gene found in transsexuals that prevents or diminishes testosterone’s effect on the brain.

Intersex’ed  individuals occur when there are ‘extra’ X’s or Y’s in the DNA expression resulting in ambiguous or hidden sex organs.

But for transsexuals like myself, the theory is that this timing between differentiation and androgen rush is slightly off resulting in the body developing one way (male in my case) and the brain remaining female (not changing from the precursor female fetus).   One study shows that a lower region of the hypothalamus is statistically larger in women than in men and that a M2F (male to female) transsexual’s hypothalamus matches a woman’s.  And then there is a new study that found a particular gene in transsexuals that diminishes the male hormones effect on the brain – leaving it female.

Now, here is where I put a couple of things together ….

We are also born with a ‘body map’.  There are many accounts of people who have lost a limb and can still feel it.  Some can even articulate where their non-existent fingers or arm currently resides – as if it is still attached.  This map has been located – you guessed it – also in the hypothalamus, although I am not sure if in the same part of it.

I contend that this body map is much more than a ‘map’ of where the brain thinks everything is and what it ‘has’.  For sure it is a map of what it ‘believes’ it has.  For one thing, this explains why my male organ “down there” did not belong.  Even as a very young child (as one of my earliest memories) I knew that it did not belong on me.  It also helps to explain bodily feelings etc. that I had that were definitely ‘not’ male.  My partner is able to bring me to a ‘mild’ orgasm that is not centered there, is not male’ish but rather whole body-centered.  It is obvious enough to my partner that she would mention it and be somewhat amazed by it.

But I think this map is much more.  I think it encodes our general sense of who we are.  It can still be thought of as a map, but with it’s functionality extended to encompass our internal concept of what sex we are (and I’m sure a host of other things as well).  Notice I’m being very careful not to use the word gender ….

Gender is a very confusing term.  From what I’ve read and people I’ve conversed with, it seems most of us that are transsexual agree that gender is just not ‘it’.  We have a general feeling that gender is ‘not’ the defining ‘thing’ that differentiates a transsexual from a ‘cis’ (natal or birth sex matches their internal sense of what they are) person.

From Wikipedia: “Gender is the range of physical, biological, mental and behavioral characteristics pertaining to, and differentiating between, masculinity and femininity.  Depending on the context, the term may refer to biological sex (i.e. the state of being male, female or intersex), sex-based social structures (including gender roles and other social roles), or gender identity.”  It’s original use was to distinguish between biological sex and gender as a ‘role’.

In other words it’s a ‘role’ – a collection of traits, defined by society, that collectively on average define what it means to be either male or female.  This falls apart rather quickly if you investigate individual traits – suddenly none of them are all that unique – and there are too many exceptions to allow any consensus.  I found this out the hard way as I’m sure any transgender person does when they attempt to give example from their life history that would prove their situation.  I even had people use this to attempt to prove otherwise:  “Well, you fixed cars and are a scientist!”  I gently explained that one of the best mechanics I know is a women and that many of the scientists I work with are women …..

My transsexualism is not a role.  It comes from something inside, something deep that was always present.  I did not learn it.  It feels to me that gender is the match-up of how we express ourselves – it’s the cross between either our natal sex and society or our internal ‘body map’ and society or more likely all of the above.  Roles, traits and behavioral characteristics are all interpreted by society – usually in a very binary fashion (male or female).  Transsexualism is something underneath all that.  It manifests itself perhaps as gender, as what society sees and interprets as male or female, but the underlying cause or force behind this is intrinsic, what I call part of the body map.

I just read “Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity” by Julia Serano where she describes this as ‘subconscious sex’ which is very much where I am going with this.  Julia has an entire chapter devoted to explaining the subconscious sex. It’s worth a read for anyone interested.

Well, all I can say is that was a very re-affirming experience.  I hope this helps others understanding themselves and perhaps helps explain it to our friends, allies and families.

With much aloha,

Sifan

Gender Orientation: Intersex Conditions within the Transsexual Brain  

Sexual Differentiation of the Human Brain: Relevance for Gender Identity, Transsexualism and Sexual Orientation

Scientists Discover Transsexual Gene

 

Month 4 Summary

Sifan 20130912Wow, starting my 5th month already, it seems to be going faster and picking up speed …  I’m even reminiscing with my partner about how hesitant and timid I was when I first started.  How difficult it was for me in public and how I worried about everything and everyone.  Not that I’m completely over that now, but I have come a very long way.

One turning point was when I suddenly realized that I looked more like a woman that has ‘manly’ features than a man trying to be a woman.  This mostly came about as there were a number of times when a sales clerk would look at me sympathetically.  There were other situations as well.  All in all, mentally, for myself, it put me much more at ease knowing this.  Since then I have been much more comfortable and secure in public.  I have been shopping and walking and just being in public more often and without my security blanket (my partner).

I have started noticing guys, watching them a bit and realizing what they are doing or responding to and how they are.  And I realize: I never was one.  I also see and understand clearly the facade I was putting on and the how hard I was acting in order to pass as a man back then.  But more importantly I am so happy to not have to do that anymore.  Plus it also reconfirms who I am and that I’m finally on the path to be ‘me’.  I feel so relieved, such a weight lifted – I can now just express myself freely – not afraid to giggle when I need to giggle!  I’ll write a post detailing what I mean by maleness or at least what facade I see that I was wearing – if I can figure out how to express that in words (I need to translate my feelings at those times into words, for this, it might be difficult).

The first huge event this last month was flying to southern California to visit my partner’s brother.  The airline tickets were purchased long before I had my name changed and getting that resolved was interesting and wonderful.  I had to go into the airport to the counter for that airline to present my documents.  But because they are only open when a flight is departing, I had come back a few times.  When I did, I was helped by one of the managers.  At first, she was going to charge me for the name change and since it’s a different name I was also going to be charged for a flight change (didn’t quite get the logic of that)!  A number of calls to their HQ and finally she got the tickets changed to my new name plus their records changed to my new gender as well.  Finally after we finished (she could see how stressed I was with all of this), she congratulated me on my change and wished me well, but then came over the counter and gave me a hug (and she did not charge me at all)!

Going through security at the gate was no problem.  After being scanned I was waved over to an inspector (a female!) and she said “you are good to go ma’mm, have a great flight” – I was beaming ear to ear with the ma’mm!  Once in California, we met up with my partner’s two brothers and one sister in law (wife of one of the brothers).  They all accepted me from the start (we knew each other for a long time already, but they have not seen me since I started transition).  It was ‘classic’:  they held doors open for me, let me go in first, the guys talked to each other and we women talked among ourselves.  They would tell stories and try to top each others stories – typical.  I had no inclination to tell any stories or join in on their manly pursuits.  More interestingly, as I said above, I recognized these ‘traits’ and I felt so good not to have to join, or be expected to be a part of that ‘maleness’ – instead, it felt so natural to be in a group of women and expressing myself openly and freely and being accepted.

The Institute for Astronomy where I work was planning for their annual open house.  We all volunteer.  At the planning meeting one of the women in my department told about a wonderful presentation I had put together and basically ‘volunteered’ me to give one of the talks.  Ummm ….. I’ve been on HRT for 3.5 months, went 100% femme just 2 months ago, had not really practiced my voice that much yet …..  this was both daunting and a challenge.  The coordinator came up to me afterwards (he knew this was going to be a challenge for me) and asked if I really wanted to do this.  I told him this would be a good goal for me to attempt.  Oh girl —- it was challenging…..

I had researched voice lessons and had downloaded a few and tried them.  But the one I finally settled on (it cost about US$ 130) was:  http://30daycrashcourse.com/  It has excellent instructions and guide/practice videos.  It steps through one week at a time.  Its uses a spectrogram (can download free ones for your computer) that allow you to visually see your tones and resonance.  It is also structured to bring your voice along at a pace that will both be comfortable (and prevent you from stressing) and also to train and retain the ‘muscle’ memory of speaking with the proper tone and resonance.  Now, I still have a ways to go, but this really helped.

The big day finally arrived – I was so nervous and stressed.  The people at work expected that and helped me both physically and supported me emotionally.  My Maui-sista (a woman I work with that has taken me under her wing as a sister) was selected to do all the introductions for the talks.  It was so comforting to have her up there introducing me and being there as I started.  We had about 50 people from the area show up for the talk.  It was also broadcast to the web where about 100 people from around the world had tuned in.  I gave a talk on what/how the observers use the telescope.  I used a 3D simulated model of the observatory in a virtual world where I took my avatar and walked them through a tour of the facility, then went through all of the actions the observers do.

It went great!  This was my first time ‘massively’ in public and speaking as well.  A number of the professors came up after and congratulated me both on the talk but also on achieving this milestone.  I also heard from a number of people that watched this on the web.  Here is a link to the video.

After the open house, three college students came back to where I was and sort of milled around a bit, not really saying anything but just hanging around.  Once everyone else left, one of them asked “so what made you change”?  I was not sure where this was going and everyone else had left …  I had met one of the guys before and knew him to be a nice person, so I answered.  Turns out, all three identify themselves as ‘gender questioning’.  One was definitely square in the gender middle, the other two more transsexual like myself.  Later I noticed that the guy I knew from before had toe nail polish on!  Wish I would have seen that to begin with – it was have eased my anxiety a tad …  We had a wonderful talk – I was about 1.5 hours late getting home that night.  It was wonderful, for all four of us, to have met and had this conversation and possibly future support.  You just never know … perhaps I’m now a role model !

As for physical changes:  My breasts are continuing to blossom … about every other day I get sore and they fill out a little bit more each time.  I’m noticing some of my hairs are white and soft – not enough though and I still have to shave ‘everything’.  The laser treatment on my face has helped a lot – I have to shave about every other day and if I forget, it’s not really that bad.  My partner noticed that my cheekbones are getting more prominent and my face is starting to change.  My bottom is getting a bit more rounded but the measurements don’t really show anything except my breasts.

I finally got my ears pierced  – they did both at the same time – two women, one on each ear – 1, 2, 3, pop and it was over.  I would not describe it as painful at all.  Of course I was promised chocolate truffles after and I do admit that had a major effect on ‘pain management’.  My partner is doing my hair every morning – she loves my hair and wishes hers was fine and manageable like mine.  She also does my eye brows, shaping and coloring them.

I’ve pretty much filled out my wardrobe.  I have plenty of options for work, around the house and for  going out – both casual and more up scale.  Now I need some ‘dirty’ clothes:  ones for working in the yard, on the car, or when I have to go up to the summit and work at the observatory.

This next month we are eagerly awaiting the results of a special legislative session to address marriage equality here in Hawaii.  We are hoping it will pass as we are planning on being married next May.  It is so exciting to be a bride!

With much Aloha,

Sifan

Month 3 Summary

This was my most significant month so far as changes go.  So much occurred this last month!

Sifan 20130816

The largest change was starting my RLE (Real Life Experience) – living full time, everywhere as a woman.  The event that triggered this was picking up my partner when she returned home (see my post “A daring surprise for my partner“).  Having my eye brows shaped and my hair styled not only allowed me to more clearly see how I have evolved physically and could finally ‘see’ the woman in me starting to bloom on the outside, but it also gave me the confidence to go full time.

This coupled with the sensitivity training at work (see “The Girl Card” where I was asked to explain transgender terms to our entire staff) gave me the opportunity to fully come out to the rest of the people at work.  This of course led to the “Use the woman’s restrooms” post.  Another major ordeal was “getting legal“.  I’ve been busy posting this month too!

I had planned to start my RLE in November as that would have been 6 months HRT and from the research I had done, that seemed like the proper time for a lot of the physical changes to have occurred and theory was I would be more passable.

However, I did not count on these changes happening sooner.  So much so that I had somewhat the opposite problem:  I could not hide the changes that were occurring!  My hair is longer, my breasts are larger (they show even if I bind them) and my face and body shape are changing as well.   When I had my brows shaped and my hair styled – poof – I was over the edge.

Granted – I do not consider myself ‘passing’:  my hair has a long way to go, my face is better – very little black hair left because of laser (but now I can see the little white hairs) and I have a long way to go with voice training.  I am getting a lot of hugs and well wishes, as I mentioned in the “getting legal” post.

So, I’m 100% living as myself – a woman.  The change in my day to day feelings and my interactions with others, especially at work, are wonderful.  I’m able to let go of the male facade and just be.  It might seem silly, especially to someone that does not have gender issues and it’s hard to explain, but the type of freedom and exuberance I feel is so great.  It has to do both with me internally, but also with society and how I’m seen and for the most part accepted.  To authentically be one’s self and to be seen and treated as such (and in a number of my relations – to be admired for taking these step) is an awesome thing.  I am very happy and content that I undertook this and have come this far with so many wonderful people around me.

Ok, now for the details on what has changed in this last month – I’ll break this down into external and internal this time:

Externally there have been a number of significant changes.  Most obvious are my breasts.  One of the signs they are growing is that the tube dress I like (has optional straps) I can wear without the straps now – it stays up just fine.  But they are hurting as they grow (ummm more like soreness – not a really bad kind of hurting).  I will get spots that become sore and a day later I’m larger there.  I started on the outsides, then they grew above the nipples, then on the insides (I have cleavage now), and then on the bottoms.  Then they were very sore directly under the nipples.  Each starts with a hardness, almost a lump (got me worried – but my doctor said it was ok and expected) that was sore and that slowly softened over a few hours and by the next day I was larger in that area.  Right now I have this hardness deep under each nipple and this is the sorest I’ve been so far.

Another big change regarding my breasts are their – ummm, how to say this politely …., they are ‘stimulatable’ … as my partner aptly proved one day – I darn near levitated ….  I had no sensations there before, so this is a big and obvious change (obvious to me…).

I’ve been losing weight and that plus the effects of hormones are having an effect.  My tummy is flatter and my bottom is ever so slightly filling out resulting in the appearance of some small but noticeable curves.  My woman’s jeans and pants are fitting very nicely now and some tops are able to emphasize those curves!

My face is starting to change as well.  I can just notice a difference from before.  It is losing its hard masculine features and everything is getting much softer.

Shaving:  legs and arms I shave about once a week, tummy and chest about every two day and I shave my face about every two days as well – more often depending on what I’m doing that day.

I’m not using cosmetics except for filling in my eye brows, coloring the slight grey/silver hair in two small spots by my ears and sometimes I’ll wear lipstick.  Daily I will blow dry my hair in such a way to give it lift, style it a bit and set it with hair spray.

Internally this is the first month where I have noticed any changes and ummmm, others have too.  I was always over reactingautomatically accommodating – to a fault.  Since my problems coming out to my oldest son, I have eased up on that quite a bit.  I no longer accommodate but now will openly question situations.  My partner used the word ‘bitchy’ at one point and ‘your hormones are acting up’, but then explaining that I’m being more sensitive and at some times ‘touchy’, reacting more strongly than the situation would seem to warrant – and then she added: “like a woman having her period”!    Others at work have been more diplomatic but basically said that more often I’m discussing things, being more assertive, questioning more and not being overly accommodating as I used to be.

The other internal change is harder to quantify.  Before I could sense when I felt ‘male’ or did a ‘male’ type of thing.  That has completely gone away.  I suppose it’s one of those things that are best seen – perhaps only seen – with hind sight.  All I can say is that testosterone, like estrogen, is a very very powerful agent.  I’m not sure which of these or all of these internal changes are due to what, but I can definitely say it is such a huge relief being done with testosterone (more accurately:  being on a low to normal female level).  I’m having a hard time trying to find the words to describe this.  It’s like there is no longer this need or drive to be alpha, to know everything, to solve everything or to be the one everyone looks to.  I now feel like I can rest in my true nature – a supporter, a friend, a confidant and a nurturer.  I love being protected, being taken care of, having someone hold the door open for me and just the smiles and hugs of companionship with other women.  In one way, it is so much a load off my shoulders and in another it is just so wonderful to be accepted for who I am – my real authentic self.

With much aloha,

Sifan