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9 Month Summary

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sifan with skirt…. I think I’ve given birth to something! (What?  Don’t you think that’s a good way to start off the 9 month summary?)  I’m a bit late in posting this – it’s now almost 1/2 way through the 10th month.  So I’ll bring you up to date (the 10 month summary might be shorter)

Engaged!  This is my biggest news!  It was more a matter of ordering and waiting for the engagement rings and then finding the right circumstances.  We both ordered rings for each other but because of the uncertainty of when each would arrive and therefore when to officially propose, it was a bit awkward to know when to propose to each other.  My partner solved that problem.  She unexpected asked if I would like to go out to eat at this restaurant we had talked about but never tried.  We do not go out to eat that often and this surprised me (usually I’m the one twisting her arm to go out).  Well, she drove right past the place with the excuse that we were a bit early for our reservation and suggested we sit at a bench at one of the beaches close by.  We sat on a hill overlooking Polo beach.  We were just talking when I felt something being pushed against my leg.  I was almost going to complain to her about poking me when I looked down and noticed she was pushing a present to me!  It was a cloth clutch for carrying jewelry on trips (separate compartments to keep everything from tangling horribly).  I had been looking for one, so this was a nice surprise.  But then she said “open it and look inside” – there in a pouch was an engagement ring!  I had wondered if I would cry when she proposed to me – now I know – I did!  It was so beautiful and in such a perfect place and setting.  Then it was my turn:  so in one graceful motion, I pulled out her engagement ring, slid off the bench onto one knee and proposed to her.  It’s now official – we are engaged.  Oh, the restaurant – it was wonderful – shared the best wine – Greek cuisine – and had heart shaped chocolates from the shop next door!

The wedding day has been confirmed: May 4th, 2014.  I’m excited to be doing the wedding planning.  I have the officiate confirmed (Rev Kimo), it will be a Hawaiian ceremony.  We have decided on our flowers, the main outline of our ceremony (on the beach of course) and have formally submitted our marriage applications to the State.  I bought another dress – the other one was just a bit too much for a beach wedding.  My ‘sista’ at work sews and will tailor this if needed.  So far, with a little more weight loss, it should fit fine.  This one is a beautiful white dress with embossed white flowers.  It is a type of Hawaiian holoku dress.  It is prefect for Hawaii and for the beach.  I’ll be wearing a haku (head crown) and kupe’e (wrist and ankle) leis and a neck lei all of baby white orchids and Hawaiian ferns.  I found some white satin sandals that I have yet to buy.  I still have to decide on earrings, necklace and a cascading bouquet.  We are making our own invitations and will be printing and sending them out shortly.

We traveled back to southern California again – cleaning up and getting that house ready for market.  My partner had a number of ‘estate executor’ duties – lot’s of people to see and business to take care of.  We rented a large dumpster and before we left, we had it 1/2 filled.  Lots of moving furniture and hauling things around – just like when I helped move the data center here – lifting all that weight is building up the wrong muscles … don’t exactly want large upper arms!  Like our plane trip before, I’m getting used to being ‘massively’ out in public, I have a lot more confidence and am much more at ease in public, in airports, on the plane or just traveling in general.  I can look back and see how scared and uneasy I was before.  We’ll laugh about how it was at first (easy to do now – but oh boy, back then).

I’ve been expanding my wardrobe again (but of course, this woman loves to shop!).  I bought more shoes: very nice sandals, wedges and white comfortable flats.  My partner, my therapist, my ‘sista’ at work plus a number of others have been admiring my legs and twisting my arm to get shorts – short shorts, short skirts, etc.  Very seldom have I worn shorts before.  So I gave in – I bought short short jeans and also a skirt.  My partner loved the jeans and insisted I get a couple more – so I bought an even shorter one.  I do admit, I look better that I thought I would.  I also found this beautiful white print tank top.  It has a matching shorts and a hoodie.  I’m wearing the skirt, the tank top and my new sandals in the picture above.  Oh and just today my swimsuit bottoms came in: black skirted/ruched bikini bottoms.  I can’t wait to get to the beach this weekend – we are going to check out White Rock beach where we are going to have our wedding.

For valentines day I went around the house taking pictures of flowers, a Buddha statue, etc., then came up with romantic sayings for each one, printed these out (about 1/2 dozen) and then ‘hid’ them around the house for my partner to find (under her keyboard, in the fridge, next to her pillow, inside her book at the page she was reading …).  We had little ‘squeals’ all day long!  I had saved one for when we went out and snuck it into her menu.  Valentines day is my favorite of all the celebrations in a year.

I record and webcast our monthly astronomy talks.  At last months talk, a good friend of mine (he runs the local amateur astronomy club) came up as usual to say hi and chat.  We usually hug, but this time he turned and kissed me on the cheek!!!  He is awesome and I guess I’ve come a long way.  But I do understand why women complain about men having stubbly 5 o’clock shadows…..  Also the director of astronomy made a special trip to the back of the room where I was with the equipment just to give me a huge hug and make sure I was doing ok.  He has helped immensely in making my work transition go smoothly. What a guy, wow!

Each year at the end of May, I go down to Lihikai grade school for one day to teach basic astronomy to 8 classes of 3rd graders totaling about 250 children.  I was asked to do it again this year but felt I had better tell them about my transition and keep everything above board.  I offered to find them someone else who was enthusiastic and would do a great job.  This is the reply: “Good Morning! Thank you for giving me the heads up about this matter. Spoke to my principal this morning about your email. He is fine with it. We know that you are a professional and will carry yourself in a professional manner in the classroom. We have no problem with you coming! 🙂 The love that you have for astronomy is so special and valuable in educating the young minds of our students. We are looking forward to seeing you again in May! I will send more information about the day as they become available. Hope the rest of your week is great! Take care! Sincerely,”

I have started electrolysis at last.  I go once a week for one hour. I have heard so many people talk about their experiences, some very scary, some ok.  My laser treatment did take out some of the hair – but mostly it turned the rest white, which of course laser can not help (my hair was quite dark).  So I had no choice but to have electrolysis on the rest.  One good thing from the laser treatment is that the white hair is hardly noticeable and I can go without shaving for a couple of days.  So, in hindsight, if I would have known this, would I still have had the laser treatment – hummm – too close to call but I think so.  It is very important to have a good technician for electrolysis however.  I see a technician that is independent – not connected to a large organization.  I have heard lots about how organizations set policies on how much, how fast etc and this usually translates to either having hair grow back or having scars.  The person I go to will adjust the settings for the different skin areas and sensitivities.  She is well trained and good.  Mostly it feels like someone is ‘pulling’ on my face hairs (some describe it as a mild bee sting – it does not feel even that bad).  She uses a topical medication to numb the area – so no injections.  I barely feel the electrolysis needle going in, then a bit of a pull sensation as the current is applied and I usually do not feel anything when she pulls the follicle out.  For me, the hardest (and most sensitive) area is just under the nose.  She will only do a few at a time up there, then pull somewhere else, then come back … etc.  Now everyone is different, but perhaps if you were thinking of electrolysis this might help you.

My breasts are growing again, still have growing pains/tenderness now and then.  They are very firm now.  My partner even noticed the growth and said something to me.  They are also ‘bouncing’ a lot more – she commented on that too.  My only concern is that they are wide apart (wide cleavage).  I read this one web site where they had a questionnaire about your bra fitting and issues you had, then recommended the style and size of bra you should wear.  So, I need ‘side’ control: bras with wide side panels that contour and shape my breasts back to the front.

Other physical changes of note include my face changing again (it’s not as round), more noticeable curves (finally getting a waist and my bottom is a bit larger…).  My hair is longer, I love the little flip down by my shoulders.  I’ve had three stylings now and my hair is slowly taking shape.  My partner is jealous of my hair – it’s fine, straight and behaves well when styled.

Internally I have a lot more confidence in myself.  People that have known me before have made comments on pictures I’ve shared, about how much more relaxed and comfortable I seem, that I have a glow now.  I agree – life for me is very different than before.  I am at ease with everything.  Everything is what it is supposed to be for me now.  My day to day feelings, wishes, thoughts, conversations, the way I communicate and the way others see and treat me, are all how they are supposed to be.  Everything matches: my emotions, sensitivities, view of myself, perceptions of others and of myself – all congruent with who I am.  I’m slowly getting to the point where it doesn’t matter what others think – I’m getting my own confidence and liking how my body is starting to look.  I’m starting to accept.  Yes, there are things I want to change – but I see that what I would like is possible and within grasp.  It’s not a dream any more – it is real and becoming better each day.  Every now and then I see an old picture of myself.  He was a handsome guy.  But, I feel as if I never knew him or, that he was someone I knew long ago.  It’s very strange.  I am so different than that person.  Yes, I was inside that person but the layers that were worn in order to present as him are now very foreign to me.  It is very freeing to have this reaction …

Oh, and there have also been comments made about me being a bit emotional or too sensitive – comments about my estrogen levels.  Of course I don’t know what they are talking about …!

Last big bit of news is that I’ve finally made a decision as to which doctor/clinic I will have my SRS at.  I have chosen Dr. Suporn in Thailand.  My therapist has signed my letter authorizing my surgery and I’ll will be submitting that plus the medical questionnaire to his office later this week.  I’m look at scheduling this around late Sept. this year.

With much aloha,

Sifan

8 Month Summary

Sifan 20131213cLots happening – I’ve been very busy the last month.

My partner’s brother died a week or so after we got back home.  He had a rough night and then a peaceful 40 hours or so before he died.  He was asleep for most of those 40 hours.  My partner is the estate executor so she became very busy.  He had a business and it was a bit messy taking care of  that.  One of the employees quit, necessitating that we sell off the business right away.  Turns out the other employee (and the one my partner’s brother wanted to give the business to) wanted it (with the help of his relative).  We then found out that the employee that quit  was trying to steal the customers!  What a mess.  All that is settled now.  We will be going back to California next week to continue her executor duties.

Most of this month I have been working very hard at that secure Air Force computing facility.  We are now moving a 15 rack cluster to another building a couple of blocks up the street.  There’s one guy and three of us women lifting 100 pound systems out of the rack, into boxes, onto a truck then out of the truck, out of the boxes and back into the rack in the new location.  With anywhere from 8 to 20 in a rack – do the math – this is a lot of work.  They had estimated two days per rack.  We are doing 2 racks a day – 4 times faster then the estimate.  Of course I kid them that this is doing the opposite of what I wanted to do at this point in my transition – building arm muscles!!  At one point we were transporting a computer rack in a pickup truck.  We had it laying down (barely enough room) and three of us were sitting in the truck bed holding onto it.  I was in the back corner with one leg along the bottom and the other along the side of the rack (my legs were 90 deg apart) when suddenly the rack moved directly at me.  We all laughed and joked that this could save me the cost of my ‘operation’ ….. (these are close friends and we can have fun this way).  I am looking forward to our trip to California for a number of reasons – one of which is to have a breather from this heavy work.

I had my third hair styling with Karen.  She is great.  This time she also waxed my eye brows, plucked them and colored them.  She says I’m over the hump as far as the hair growing in and it will be easier now to keep a style as my hair fills out.  I am happy with my hair at last, but still can’t wait until it’s long enough to put in a pony tail or have other options.  I love my bangs.

I belong to a netgroup of older transgenders – mostly woman.  One of them started a thread discussing effects of being on HRT.  One of those effects was  that they no longer had this huge urgency to convert to a woman.  And it suddenly dawned on me – they are right – I don’t have the urgency and the angst that was there before.  Now, how much of this is due to being on HRT or to the fact that I’m living as a woman and being accepted as one.  After all, that was one of the most important aspects of this – to be able to be myself and have other accept me as myself.  Imagine that you have to put on an act – that people will not give you notice unless you do – you have to act and behave a certain way just to be able to live and get along.  But this is not who you are – you just want to be your self and have people accept you for that.  You want your natural tendencies of expression, emotion, body language, etc. to just come out, not to have to suppress them.  That’s what it was like.  And now, it’s beautiful – I am free to express, emote and be who I naturally am!

The pressure is not off completely …  For example, this does not mean I do not need bottom surgery (GRS).  One might ask “well, now that you are passing, you are a woman for all purposes, why do you need surgery – no one will know if you do or don’t”?  That is true, however it misses a very important point.  While being accepted by others as who I am is important, it is only 1/2 of the situation of being a transsexual.  I have written a lot on this blog about the external/sociological aspects of transsexualism and hardly anything at all about the internal/physiological aspects. I suppose partly because in my experience dealing with others, it is the sociological aspects that are always questioned or that are easier for others to understand and perhaps accept.

Me – I am a  woman – I was born with something that does not belong there.  My body was flooded by hormones that distorted me both physically, mentally and emotionally.  What is between my legs does not belong there, I never liked it:  I did not like what it did to me.  From my earliest memories as a child it did not ‘look’ right.  It was when my sister was born that I had my first real inkling of what I should have been.  This is the other 1/2 of being transsexual – me – my body – it is not what it is supposed to be.

Now please understand – I do not hate men – I do not hate ‘down there’ on men or myself.  That has nothing to do with this.  In fact, as a man I think I looked pretty darn good!  It’s just – that is ‘not’ who I am – that is not me.  Men are awesome (so are women), I’m just not a male.

So, the planning for gender affirmation surgery is in full swing.  Both my partner and myself are excited and are looking forward to … after I recover ….  I have narrowed it down to three surgeons: Montreal, San Francisco, and Bankok.  Lots of pro’s for each and very little cons for any.  Everyone I talk to that has had GRS with any of these three, all have glowing recommendations.  That makes this choice even more difficult!  I talked with GP doctor and she is willing to review them for me and give me her opinion – I’m grateful for that.  So I will be seeing her again next month to discuss this and  the pre-surgery requirements and tests.

I met with my endocrinologist this month too.  All my hormone levels are where they belong – mid-range typical woman.  I thought my testosterone levels were a bit high and wanted to increase my spiro dosage – but he pointed out that my levels are well within the norm for a woman and also, with surgery coming up – I won’t be taking spiro anymore!

Physically, I’ve added an inch to my bust line, my waist has reduced a bit and my bottom padded out a bit, giving me a bit more curves.  I still have soreness in my breasts, but perhaps not like before.  I started taking progesterone but stopped.  I’m not sure of it’s effect but I suppose I have not really tried it long enough.  I may start taking it again and see if it helps with breast soreness.  My endocrinologist was 50/50 as far as benefits of using it and totally left it up to me.  I bought something called “Happy PMS” that has the correct dosage of progesterone.

So here it is, end of January 2014.  It’s a year ago that transition suddenly became a critical life goal – the hair cut incident in my post about my history.  It is 6 months until my GRS and 3 months until our marriage.  Oh, I have to lose so much weight !!

With much Aloha,

Sifan

Month 7 Summary

Sifan 20131213bI’m a bit late posting this, so Mele Kalikimaka and Hau’oli Makahiki Hou!

There are a number of miscellaneous things that happened this month:

I had to work at a secure military site – we had to pack up and move about 6 tons of computer gear (our equipment).  This was the first time I had been there as a woman, so passing the security check with my new name was ‘daunting’ to say the least – especially because I had to show the before and after paperwork plus the supporting documents.  This resulted in the guards calling me ‘sir’ – but the next time I was in they got it right.  Because this was a secure site, we were under constant guard  We had an escort and we all had to stay together – even when we went to the restrooms!   It was hard work and hot (even though it was in an air conditioned computer room).  I had to take off my shirt (wore a tank top under it) and I caught the guards checking me out!  Our ‘team’ included two other women and one guy.  This was the first time I was in the woman’s restroom with others from my work.   When my partner and I use the public restroom we talk etc. but this was the first time with others where we carried on conversations and stood around fixing our hair, etc. – it was quite refreshing actually!

Just before Christmas my partner and I went out dress shopping.  I mostly wear jeans and tank tops (sometimes with shirts) both to work and around town, so I didn’t have very many dresses and I guess I wasn’t in any hurry to buy any.  Well, given this sale and the resulting prices and the wonderful selection …. ya, bought seven dresses including one long red dress and also a red top and red skirt, both for dressing up for Christmas.  A number of the other dresses are boho – and I’m starting to really love that style.  While we were in southern California, I wore a number of these dresses.  That seems to be a change for me:  before I would only wear a dress if it was a special occasion.  Now I’m starting to ‘want’ to wear a dress when going out, more often.

My partners’ brother is in the final phases of cancer.  He came down with a bad infection so we flew over to southern California to be with him over Christmas.  It was a time for me to be caring and nurturing both to her brother but especially to my partner.  We celebrated Christmas in his bed room.  He has recovered from the infection, so we are now back home.  (Update: he died today Jan 12 – we will be going back soon – my partner is the estate executor).

It’s a little colder in southern California than it is in Maui (ya, we are spoiled). All I brought with were flippa’s – my feet were freezing! So I went out and bought my first pair of stylish above ankle boots. Nice and comfy and ‘warm’ (good thing my jeans are boot cut).  But, as long as I was there … (giggles, you know where this is going):  well, they had this awesome pair of 3″ heels (my size) on sale – yup, my first pair of 3″ heels!  I needed something to go with my red Christmas dress.   Before buying them, I walked all over the store, back and forth in front of mirrors – making sure I could do handle these.  So far I’m doing ok – haven’t killed myself – not even a bruise yet. Only problem is I’m getting nose bleeds from this high altitude!   Lisa wanted to take a walk – so I did – went about a block – up/down stairs, over curbs, uneven pavements, dashed out of the way of a truck ….. feet are a just a little sore but the heels (and me) are working out great !  After we got back home to Maui we went out to a fancy restaurant and I had another change to wear my heels.

Opening the ton of mail after we got back home I found a Christmas card from my ex.  In it she wrote “how does it feel, your first Christmas as a woman?”  Wow, that was very nice of her.

I’ve been noticing an interesting occurrence:  a sweet type of smile from other women – store clerks, waitresses, in the mall or on the street or beach.  I’ve first noticed this when I started coming out as a woman in public.  But it happens a lot more now.  This ‘never’ happened when I was a male.  At first I thought nothing of it, they were just being friendly – and I’m always friendly.  But the more it happens the more I realize it’s something else.  Then I read this book where the transgender author also noticed this and called it “the secret smile”.  So I had a discussion with my partner about it and yes – there is such a thing as a secret smile a woman gives to another women – a sort of acknowledgement of being in this together.  I watch for it all the time now and make sure I return it.  As I progress in my transition I am noticing the secret smile more and more.

Friendships are another area where woman are very different from men.  There is an extra ‘level’ – what could be called the ‘3am friend’.  This is a friend that you can call or they can call you at 3am and talk – just because.  You can’t have very many of these – I count three in my life now and feel very grateful for them.

There was a huge surprise in the stack of mail when we returned home.  A package!  I couldn’t wait to open it and try it on – it was my special order wedding dress!!  And – it fit perfectly!  I’m so happy – now on to shoes, leis/haku/kupe’e, jewelry ……  Less than four months away – wheeeee!!

External changes:

I have noticed in comparing my face from before to now that it has changed to oval.  This one ‘snuck’ up on me!  My hair is growing out a lot more – I’ll be getting my third styling soon.  I’m wearing earrings everyday now, but I still put my studs back in at night for sleeping.  I have curves: 46-40-44 which also says I need to lose some serious weight.  My breasts are still growing (still having pains).  My partner told me she saw them ‘bouncing’ …

Internal changes:

I am starting to have the feeling of being over the hump – the secret smiles, the 3am girlfriends, more comfortable in public, so much more at ease and feeling of not being afraid of letting the real me out.  There was even a time when a waiter called me sir and I didn’t even care or get upset.  I am me and I know who I am and it just does not matter if they see me differently.  It’s not going to change how I feel.  I’m more confident of myself and of being a woman.  I’m getting so much affirmation – not just here in Hawaii (which is more open and accepting) but also on the mainland.  There is still a long way to go, but I have a feeling of having accomplished so much and am therefore much more at ease.

Ke mana’olana nei au e hau’oli wale no ‘oe (wishing everyone happiness),

Sifan

Ah – ‘Nothing’ at last …

when a woman says nothing to wearIn my youth I had figured out that a person is responsible for their own happiness – it is not something that is just out there or that anyone else can make for you.  It starts with a simple decision in each moment as to how you chose to interpret life or events and goes from there.  That simple knowledge ‘saved’ me back then and has been a foundation for me ever since.

Today I am seeking to be myself, to be able to interact with society and be understood as who I really am – to not having to put on this male facade any longer.  Since I started my RLE (Real Life Experience – one has to live a year as a female before you can have surgery), I’m seeing profound changes, especially with interactions at work and I am starting to taste and relax into just being me.  As some of my colleagues had commented:  they saw who I was long before I had said anything and it was easy for them to both accept and treat me as who I am.

There is an ‘alpha’ male at work – the only person I was worried about – that now treats me like a sister, helping and protecting me.  He is a staunch Christian and this is hard for him to understand but he has asked for material and keeps the dialog open (asking good questions) – a very good sign.  As in so many cases, it’s easy to demonize if you have never personally known someone like this.  Being that I am ‘educated’ (college degree), was the CEO of a corporation and am in a professional position – this presented a bit of a challenge to him.  I did not match any of the stereotypes!  He had to contemplate that perhaps, yes, this was just another facet of being human – just like having red hair or being short or tall.  He is still perplexed but at least he is more open-minded than before.

full closet - nothing to wear

Years ago my therapist had asked me what do I expect to feel like after everything is said and done – what will be different or changed?  My answer then is my answer now:  “nothing” – in the sense of finally being ‘normal’ to myself.  By that I mean that with congruence I will settle into a life where I am happy and being ‘me’ is the norm – the mirror on the wall shows the correct me (but its so much more than just an external vision ….).  It’s the same kind of ‘nothing’ that you experience having a right arm —– it’s just there.  Most people never have to even question this – they ‘just are’.  Well, that is what I mean by “nothing” – the nothing of not having to deal with a dichotomy.  As my therapist had mentioned, I have put in a lot of years working on the ‘internal’ transition – now it’s time for the external to catch up.  And my experience now, living full time as a woman is giving me the contentment and joy of just that – being myself!

These two transitions (internal and external) have to come together successfully.  From what I see, some people transition externally first and have issues afterwords, until they settle the internal as well.  By the way:  by internal I do not mean the “was always a women” type of thing – I mean dealing with all of life’s daily expectations in actually manifesting as your self, again this is something most people never experience or even question.

With much aloha,
Sifan

“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

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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